Saturday, December 31, 2011

The economic freedom of the family...

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 Posted By  On June 18, 2011 7:20 PM 

... [D]estitution means nothing else than the absence of property. ... To be paid a sufficient wage is not the same thing as to own; for he who pays the wage controls him who receives it.
The whole meaning of property is the economic freedom which it bestows upon the individual or family possessing it. ... A man who lives in his own house exploits no one. A man possessing his share in the factory in which he works exploits no one. A man possessing national bonds, the proceeds of which are equivalent to the taxes he pays for the meeting of the interest of national bonds, exploits no one. ... Some will have more, some less. ... It is the few taxing the many that [creates a sense of injustice]. All the theoretical injustice of attaching to exploitation one class by another lessens and nearly disappears where property is fully distributed. Where it is only income that is well distributed men are still under the thumb of whoever or whatever pays that income....
Of course, an exact distribution of ownership would be an ideal, and therefore impossible, state of affairs: but a condition of society in which the greater part of citizens owned enough to be economically free is practicable, and possible of attainment. So far from being an imaginary Utopian scheme it has been accepted for centuries throughout societies numbering millions and is to be found peaceably and successfully at work over the greater part of the civilized earth at this moment. Only where men are living under the curse of Industrial Capitalism is well divided property unfamiliar. ... Well distributed property is its own guarantee of survival. ... 
Discovery and invention have, it is true, produced, much larger industrial units of production than our fathers knew—for instance in the way of ships, of land transport, and instruments and materials used for building. But discovery and invention also advantaged certain lesser units. There is no better example of this than the electronic motor and the facile distribution of electric power. These between them could have restored masses of small producers had they been taken advantage of in time.
... Where the nature of the new instruments makes small units impossible there is nothing to prevent those who work wit the large new units holding those units co-operatively as members of a Guild. ... The Guild is essentially an association of free owners who work co-operatively any instruments which is too expensive for separate ownership by a single member. ... 
Let it be remembered that this aim of ours for the restoration of private property among a determining number of the community, the distribution of property among the masses of citizens who should thus be made free, does not contradict state ownership of certain functions. What it contradicts is the false doctrine of general or preponderant state ownership, or what is worst of all universal State ownership. The State exists for the family and the individual; not these for the State.
... Any free and well ordered state includes a proportion of State ownership which is based upon private ownership in the hands of as many citizens and families as possible at any rate, of so many as to make the principle determining character of society. ... The function of distribution should also follow the same lines. Where there must be concentration in a large unit, that unit should be organized as a Guild; but in the vast majority of cases a small unit of distribution—the small store—is sufficient.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pagan Christmas?

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It's that time of the year again, when more people than usual come down with Danbrownitis, and we are reminded how the Church "stole" Christmas (and everything else!) from the pagans, in order to shore up their Constantinian theocracy, etc., etc. As a small antidote for seasonal Danbrownitis, then, I offer the following excerpts from some articles about the history of (the date of) Christmas.

1) "Calculating Christmas" by William Tighe, Touchstone Magazine, Dec. 2003.

[T]he choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals. … [T]he pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

The idea that the date was taken from the pagans goes back to two scholars from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Paul Ernst Jablonski, a German Protestant, wished to show that the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25th was one of the many “paganizations” of Christianity that the Church of the fourth century embraced, as one of many “degenerations” that transformed pure apostolic Christianity into Catholicism. Dom Jean Hardouin, a Benedictine monk, tried to show that the Catholic Church adopted pagan festivals for Christian purposes without paganizing the gospel.

In the Julian calendar, created in 45 B.C. under Julius Caesar​, the winter solstice fell on December 25th, and it therefore seemed obvious to Jablonski and Hardouin that the day must have had a pagan significance before it had a Christian one. But in fact, the date had no religious significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian’s time, nor did the cult of the sun play a prominent role in Rome before him.

It is true that the first evidence of Christians celebrating December 25th as the date of the Lord’s nativity comes from Rome some years after Aurelian, in A.D. 336, but there is evidence from both the Greek East and the Latin West that Christians attempted to figure out the date of Christ’s birth long before they began to celebrate it liturgically, even in the second and third centuries. The evidence indicates, in fact, that the attribution of the date of December 25th was a by-product of attempts to determine when to celebrate his death and resurrection. …

At this point, we have to introduce a belief that seems to have been widespread in Judaism at the time of Christ, but which … has completely fallen from the awareness of Christians. The idea is that of the “integral age” of the great Jewish prophets: the idea that the prophets of Israel died on the same dates as their birth or conception.

… The early Christians applied this idea to Jesus, so that March 25th and April 6th were not only the supposed dates of Christ’s death, but of his conception or birth as well. There is some fleeting evidence that at least some first- and second-century Christians thought of March 25th or April 6th as the date of Christ’s birth, but rather quickly the assignment of March 25th as the date of Christ’s conception prevailed … [and which gave rise to] the Feast of the Annunciation…. What is the length of pregnancy? Nine months. Add nine months to March 25th and you get December 25th; add it to April 6th and you get January 6th. December 25th is Christmas, and January 6th is Epiphany. …

Thus, December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.

And the pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians. The Christians, in turn, could at a later date re-appropriate the pagan “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” to refer, on the occasion of the birth of Christ, to the rising of the “Sun of Salvation” or the “Sun of Justice.”

2) "Whose Christmas Is It Anyway?" by Judith Weingarten

A recent doctoral dissertation by S.E. Hijmans at the University of Groningen (NL) takes a fresh look at … [the pagan background of December 25 and] Dr Hijmans is the first to have noticed that there is absolutely no evidence to show that the Games of the Sun founded by Aurelian ever took place on December 25th. On the contrary, no feast day for Sol is mentioned on that day until 80 years later in the Calendar of 354 and, subsequently, in 362 by Julian the Apostate….

In fact, the Calendar lists a festival of Sol that was celebrated in 354 AD from 19-22 October culminating in an unparalleled 36 chariot races (instead of the standard 12 or 24 races at this time) -- an extravagance which seems to suggest not an annual festival but a rarer quadrennial event; thus, these are likely to be the Games dating back to Aurelian. … So, if the Christians had wanted to take over Sol's most important festival, that should have been the multi-day games celebrated on 19-22 October.

At the very least, this new way of looking at the evidence casts doubt on the contention that Christmas was instituted on December 25th in order to counteract a popular pagan religious festival. Christ didn't have to trump Sol after all. Sol wasn't even in play.

3) "Notes on the Date of Christmas" by

[Citing an article by Professor Tommaso Frederici in Osservatore Romano, 24 Dec 1998:] "December 25 is explained as the 'Christianization' of a pagan feast, 'birth of the Sol Invictus'; or as the symmetrical balance, an aesthetic balance between the winter solstice (Dec. 21-22) and the spring equinox (March 23-24). But a discovery of recent years has shed definitive light on the date of the Lord's birth.

"As long ago as 1958, the Israeli scholar Shemaryahu Talmon published an in-depth study on the calendar of the Qumran sect, and he reconstructed without the shadow of doubt the order of the sacerdotal rota system for the temple of Jerusalem (1 Paralipomenon/ Chronicles 24, 7-18) in New Testament times.

"Here the family of Abijah, of which Zechariah (Zachary) was a descendant, father of John the herald and forerunner (Luke 1, 5), was required to officiate twice a year, on the days 8-14 of the third month, and on the days 24-30 of the eighth month. This latter period fell at about the end of September. It is not without reason that the Byzantine calendar celebrated 'John's conception' on September 23 and his birth nine months later, on June 24.

"The 'six months' after the Annunciation established as a liturgical feast on March 25, comes three months before the forerunner's birth, prelude to the nine months in December: December 25 is a date of history."

In other words, according to the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Sacred Scripture, our liturgical calendar is accurate:

[late] September - Zachary (Zechariah) "executed his priestly function" (Luke 1:8) according to his class. His wife, Elizabeth, conceived (the Church traditionally holds St. John's conception to have taken place on 23 September) just as St. Gabriel said (Luke 1:24) and hid herself away for 5 months.

25 March, the Feast of the Annunciation - In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy (Luke 1:26), St. Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her she is to have a child

24 June, the Feast of St. John the Baptist - Three months after the Annunciation, St. John the Baptist was born, at a time when the days were becoming shorter

25 December - Nine months after the Annunciation, Jesus was born, at a time when the days were becoming longer.

[This article, "Are Christmas and Easter 'Pagan'?", makes a good point in passing about another argument leveled against December 25:

Even the common argument that shepherds would not have been in the fields in December is inaccurate. That is the time of the year when sheep naturally begin giving birth ("lambing"), and the shepherds would typically stay with the sheep at night to take care of the newborn lambs. In fact, the lambing season would have been the only time of the year in which the shepherds would have stayed with the flocks during the night (see Luke 2:8).

4) "Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25?" by David Bennett:

This essay is not intended to address the issue of when Jesus was actually born, but rather, I am interested in exploring reasons why Christians chose December 25th to celebrate Christ's birth, although based on the theories below, it is certainly plausible that Jesus was actually born on December 25th. Basically, I want to provide an overview of recent historical scholarship regarding the origins of Christmas that suggests that the date of Christmas was chosen primarily for Christian reasons, as opposed to so-called pagan reasons.

[I]n the early Church, there was no fixed date for the celebration of Christmas across the entire Church, or even agreement as to when Jesus was born. The current date of the celebration of Christmas, like the final decision on the canon of Scripture, took hundreds of years to become established throughout the entire Church. … [T]he main reason early Christians chose December 25th for the date of Christmas relates to two significant and symbolic dates: the date of the creation of the world, and the vernal equinox. According to some Christians, both events happened on March 25th. …

There are other good, Jewish, Christian, and biblical reasons why Christians chose the date of December 25th. … So, we have multiple reasons why ancient Christians chose December 25th as the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And while we may not agree with the reasoning behind the choice of December 25th, nonetheless, there are no pagan conspiracies at work, and no evil machinations of the emperor Constantine, just solid Christian symbolic reasoning. This is not surprising, considering Christians of the time were very concerned about the influence of paganism, and took great pains (even giving their lives) to avoid worshiping or celebrating non-Christian gods. Besides, virtually every historical and Apostolic Christian church celebrates the birth of Jesus on December 25 (those using the Gregorian calendar that is), and it is highly unlikely every Church in every region caved into pagan influence so readily. …

This, of course, brings up the issue of the relationship between Christian feasts and pagan ones, and we must ask, "is there anything wrong with Christians borrowing some practices and concepts from pagan festivals?" The Catholic and Orthodox answers are "no." Did Christians put an end to every Saturnalia custom? Probably not. Did some Saturnalia customs become associated with the Christmas feast because the dates of the festivals were close to one another? Certainly. However, Christians took these customs, baptized them as Christian, and now these customs honor the true Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ.

5) An astute reader's comment from Dr. Weingarten's post (above) that sums of the matter nicely:

25 Dec is nine months after the feast of the Incarnation, 25 Mar. This was specified iirc because great prophets were believed to enter the world on the same day they departed. It is thus tied to Good Friday calculation. Since another calculation identified 6 Apr as Good Friday (and hence as the Incarnation) churches in the East celebrated Christmas on 6 Jan. The very fact that early Christians were celebrating Christmas on two different days in two different regions should indicate that they were selecting the date for their own reasons and not for any retrospective modern Realpolitick.

Merry Christmas to all!

Every economic decision has a moral consequence....

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The Trouble with Catholic Social Teaching

Posted By  On April 19, 2011 7:31 PM 

... There are people who think Catholic Social Teaching has something to do with homosexual rights or abortion rights or contraception rights. It doesn’t. Those things are not rights. They are wrongs. And the Church holds the line against them without compromise. Other people avoid Catholic Social Teaching because of what it really does mean. It means justice for the poor.
The Church has always emphasized the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the afflicted. But justice is distinct from mercy in that it means achieving something more permanent than relieving immediate suffering. It means, as Chesterton says, raising both the political and the economic status of the poor. ...
Chesterton ... says we once had the medieval concept of the Just Price. Then the simplistic “laws” of supply and demand. Now things are more complicated: we have a market where suppliers “demand a demand.... 
Anything that exploits the weaker side of man is, quite simply, evil. It is one of the reasons why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
The old economic models no longer work. In order to have a just society we need to act with principles other than economic profit. This is a theme repeated by Chesterton throughout his writings. It is also a theme repeated in the ... the encyclicals on Catholic Social Teaching. The latest installment is Caritas in Veritate (“Love in Truth”) from Pope Benedict XVI.
Mammon, the one real alternative to God, has always had a robust following, but never more so than in the modern world, where, as the new encyclical points out, the amount of overall wealth has increased but so has the disparity between the rich and the poor.
The Pope says, “Every economic decision has a moral consequence.” He echoes ... the social philosophy of Distributism, which was espoused by Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Fr. Vincent McNabb, and others. ... Benedict does not confine his treatment of social issues to mere economics. He touches upon technology, ecology, and education−the whole human person. ...
In a skeptical and materialistic age, the social encyclicals seem to garner the widest attention because everyone is interested in seeing how the Church will adjust to the trends of the modern world. However, it is arguable that there has never been a real surprise in any papal encyclical. The Pope simply affirms the truths the Church has always affirmed. The encyclicals are needed only because the world changes, not because the truth changes. The world needs to be refreshed by the truth. For instance, in 1968, the only surprise of Humane Vitae was that the Church was not going to give into the world. Lust is still wrong. Now, in 2009, the only surprise of Caritas in Veritate was that the Church was not going to give into the world. Greed is still wrong.
In both these encyclicals, the family is defended as the basic unit of society. We cannot have sexual arrangements that destroy the family. We cannot have economic arrangements that destroy the family. ... 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wall of separation…

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"[A]s Professor Médaille reveals, the Enlightenment’s wall of separation of the 'moral question and the economic question' compelled civilization to flirt with capitalism, socialism, Communism, Keynesianism, mercantilism, and even laissez-faire. And this last has, unfortunately, replaced the 'free' in free market with excess and fiscal libertinism.

"Absent distributive justice, we cannot speak of supply and demand. [Economics] isolated from the external truths of the higher sciences ... is insufficient and disconnected from truth. ... Indeed, this 'free' market called capitalism is a system of privatized profits and socialized losses. Deregulatory and 'free' market policies have led us to higher debt, more centralized economic power, and larger government. ...

"The author suggests certain steps are needed to achieve a free market. Corporate tax subsidies must be eradicated so that the collectivizing of production and the strong political power of corporations can be eliminated."
-- "Toward a Truly Free Market: A Review" -

Unless we first reclaim ourselves...

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 Posted By  On October 17, 2011 6:54 AM 

(For Part I, click here.)

The widespread distribution of productive property is the primary goal of Distributism; however, other principles also inform Distributism’s pursuit of this goal. The first of these is the principle of subsidiarity... [which is] the simple notion that  
[J]ust as it is a crime to take away and hand over to the community those things which can be done with proper struggle and industry by single men, so also it is an injury, a grave fault, and a disruption of right order to summon to the larger and higher society those things which can be done and excelled by smaller and lower communities.35 
... [W]hatever can be done by a smaller unit should not be done by a larger one ... [which] clearly leads to the greater distribution of productive property. There is no reason for much of our production of wealth to be so concentrated; Distributism would encourage this overconcentration to be remedied, spreading ownership of productive property more broadly throughout the populace. 

It’s important to remember that this principle works both ways. Pius XI notes that “it is rightly argued that certain types of goods must be reserved to the republic since they bear such great power with them, [power] so great that it cannot be permitted to private men by a sound republic.”36 ... Subsidiarity does not exclude higher authorities from all functioning in society; it simply ensures that lower authorities are not deprived of their rightful role. Distributists respect both sides of the subsidiarity coin....  

It is true that modern industries are often not amenable to wide scale distribution in the traditional sense; after all, an aircraft factory is not a shoemaker’s shop. But this does not mean that the workers in such factories cannot become owners. ... Spain’s Mondragon37 and the many cooperatives in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region38 have proven to the world that worker-owned cooperative production can be just as successful, or even more successful, than the highly centralized production that has unfortunately characterized the industrial age. ... 

The other vital principle which forms Distributism’s pursuit of widely distributed productive property is solidarity ... [which] is the recognition that a state is a single whole that is possessed not only of many individual goods, but also a single common good.39 It recognizes the fundamental precept of traditional and Catholic social thinking that the man “who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity; he is. . . either a beast or a god.”40 ... The organization entrusted with ensuring that particular goods are kept within proper limits and directed toward the common good is the state.42 Therefore, keeping in mind the principle of subsidiarity, the state guides economic life, including its subsidiary corporations (such as workingmen’s associations43), toward the common good, while individual corporations pursue their own particular goods within that framework. This notion of many particular goods subordinated to and cooperating toward a single common good is what we mean by solidarity.

Solidarity has many repercussions in economic thought. ... [C]ompetition, though just within certain limits,44 cannot serve as the basis for a just economic order45; in other words, whatever benefit that businesses seek to obtain by competition cannot come at the cost of the public good. Truly, this is anathema in an age when corporations routinely justify their butchering of the national and even international economies by their obligations to make profits for their shareholders.... 

Furthermore, what has traditionally been known as the preferential option for the poor follows directly from the notion of solidarity. Leo XIII stated that “when there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration…[, hence] wage-earners, since they mostly belong in the mass of the needy, should be specially cared for and protected by the government.”46 ... [S]pecial care should be taken by the whole for those parts which are least able to help themselves.

So how is a Distributist society to be established? That question is impossible to answer generally. ... Means for encouraging widespread ownership of productive property, always respectful of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, will vary by place, condition, climate, economy, culture, government, and innumerable other variables. Catholics need to dedicate themselves to consideration of these measures in their own areas and situations, tailoring them to specific conditions. One condition, however, will be the same always and everywhere, a condition identified by Pope Leo well over a century ago:
[S]ince religion alone, as We said at the beginning, can avail to destroy the evil at its root, all men should rest persuaded that [the] main thing needful is to re-establish Christian morals, apart from which all the plans and devices of the wisest will prove of little avail.48
We cannot reclaim society for Christ unless we first reclaim ourselves. To that task, first and foremost, distributists, like all men, must devote all their strength.

1 St. Luke 10:7.
2 Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Peter Kirby, trans.; 2001), available at
3 Id.
4 A superb example of such thinking is St. Thomas Aquinas, De Regimine Principumvel De Regno, available at
5 See, e.g., Dr. William Luckey, The Intellectual Origins of Modern Catholic Social Teaching on Economics: An Extension of a Theme of Jes us Huerta de Soto 9 (speech given to the Austrian Scholars Conference at Auburn University, 23-25 March 2000) (arguing that given research “which ought to have been available to [the pope],” “it is hard to excuse Leo XIII”).
6 See, e.g., id. at 1; see also Rev. Maciej Zieba, O. P., From Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum to John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus 5:1 Journal of Markets & Morality 159 (Spring 2002) (arguing that part of Rerum novarum‘s “tendency is brought to a halt and partly turned around in the first two social encyclicals of John Paul II”).
7 Pope St. Pius X, Singulari quadam (24 September 1912) (“[i]taque primo loco edicimus catholicorum omnium o cium esse. . . tenere rmiter pro terique non timide christian veritatis principia, Ecclesi catholic magisterio tradita, ea pr sertim qu Decessor Noster sapientissime in Encyclicis Literris Rerum novarum exposuit”). All translations from the Latin in this work are the author’s, unless otherwise noted.
8 Leo XIII, Rerum novarum, no. 47 (teaching that “[t]he right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man”). All citations from Rerum novarum are from the English translation available at
9 Id. (teaching that “the State has the right to control its [private property's] use in the interests of the public good”).
10 Id. at no. 45.
11 Id. at no. 20 (teaching that “before deciding whether wages [are] fair… wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful… that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profi t out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine”); see also nos. 43{45.
12 Id. at no. 37.
13 Id. (teaching that “[t]he richer class have many ways of shielding themselves,… whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own… for this reason [ ] wage-earners, since they mostly belong in the mass of the needy, should be specially cared for and protected by the government”).
14 Id. at no. 39.
15 Id. at no. 41.
16 Id. at no. 3.
17 Id. at no. 42.
18 Id. at no. 45.
19 Id. at no. 3.
20 John M edaille, Neo-Feudalism and the Invisible Fist in The Distributist Review, available at
21 Duane D. Stanford, InBev to Buy Anheuser-Busch, Gains Top Market Share in Bloomberg (14 July 2008), available at http://\-www.\-bloomberg.\-com/\-apps/\-news?pid=newsarchive\&sid=aDm1PPbwrdHc.
22 Tom Daykin, InBev looks at SABMiller in JSOnline (May 29, 2008), available at
23 Dmitry Krasny, And Then There were Eight: 25 Years of Media Mergers, from GE-NBC in Mother Jones (March/April 2007).
24 James Niccolai, Intel grabs server market share from AMD, says IDC in Network World (19 August 2010), available at
25 Leo XIII, Rerum novarum, no. 3.
26 Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State (The Liberty Fund, 1977).
27 Id. at no. 62.
28 Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea in The Basic Works of Aristotle 1003 (Benjamin Jowett trans., Richard McKeon ed., Random House 1941).
29 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Ia, Q. 21, Art. 1 (“secundum quam aliquis gubernator vel dispensator dat unicuique secundum suam dignitatem”).
30 Leo XIII, Rerum novarum, no. 33.
31 Id. at no. 46.
32 Id. at no. 47.
33 Id.
34 Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State (The Liberty Fund 1977).
35 Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, no. 79 (“sicut qu a singularibus hominibus proprio marte et propria industria possunt per ci, nefas est eisdem eripere et communitati demandare, ita qu a minoribus et inferioribus communitatibus e ci pr starique possunt, ea ad maiorem et altiorem societatem avocare iniuria est simulque grave damnum ac recti ordinis perturbatio”.
36 Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, no. 114 (“Etenim certa qu dam bonorum genera rei public reservanda merito contenditur, cum tam magnum secum ferant potentatum, quantus pravatis hominibus, salva re publica, permitti non possit”)
37 See, e.g., Dr. Race Matthews, Mondrag on and the Global Economic Meltdown in The Distributist Review (6 June 2010), available at
38 See, e.g., John Restakis, The Lessons of Emilia Romagna (30 April 2005), available at les/BolognaVisits Lessons ER.pdf.
39 For a lengthier discussion of this, see the author’s Individualism and the State (23 July 2010), available at
40 Aristotle, Politics 1131{32 (Benjamin Jowett trans.) in The Basic Works of
Aristotle (Richard McKeon ed., New York: 1941).
41 Leo XIII, Rerum novarum, no. 51.
42 Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, no. 49 (“[o] cia vero h c singillatim de nire, ubi id necessitas postulaverit neque ipsa lex naturalis pr stiterit, eorum est qui rei public pr sunt”).
43 Leo XIII, Rerum novarum, no. 49.
44 Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, no. 88 (“[a]t liberum certamen, quamquam dum certis nibus contineatur, quum sit et sane utile”).
45 Id. (“rei conomic rectus ordo non potest permitti libero virium certamini”).
46 Leo XIII, Rerum novarum, no. 37.
47 Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, no. 25 (“in ipsis protegendis privatorum iuribus, pr cipue in rmorum atque inopum rationem esse habendam”).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So, you ask, what's all this about economics and social ethics lately?

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A few things:

0. I'm not a communist! I'm a capitalist... with qualms. My tentative thesis: capitalism rests on the free-market mechanism (FMM), but is self-defeating as soon as it is applied in a necessarily limiting social context (i.e., capitalism requires market-external intervention), whereas distributism protects the FMM but in a radically different form (i.e., the ecological analogue of 'distributed cognition/processing'). Since both theories consist in the FMM, there cannot be a clash between them, unless/until the former rejects the structure of the latter in favor of politically abetted concentration, a concentration which denatures the 'neural' tissue of the FMM. Capitalism emphasizes the mechanism of the FMM at the expense of a sustainable structure, while distributism emphasizes the structure of how the FMM can persist.

1. I don't capitalize "distributism". It's too tendentious/pugnacious, otherwise. Marxism, Darwinism, Georgism, etc. Okay. But let's stick to socialism, capitalism, distirbutism, institutionalism, solidarism, etc.

1a. Georgism and distributism, dear cousins!

2. Even mentioning "distribution" scares otherwise receptive conservative/traditionalist minds, so distributism needs a new name. I propose: "[Darwinian] niche capitalism" or "radically parallel-process capitalism" or "ecomodular capitalism".

3. I'm not a bought-and-sold distributist. Not yet, anyway. I really am just reading in all directions, and basically making up for a mediocre economic education along the way. I'm a big fan of the free market and, as an American, I'm hugely biased towards capitalism. I am gravely dissatisfied, however, with the historically regular and increasingly manifest link between "capital concentration" and "political centralization" (and vice versa!) If, however, the Magisterium indicates that neoclassical liberalism (NL) is heresy, let NL burn.

4. As John Médaille argues, economic reform is only possible after political reform, and political structure follows economic dynamics. The rise of federal hegemony over states' rights is a parallel development of the corporatist centralization of capital in the USA. Likewise, the dismantling of federal debt and welfare statism can only come by (re)distributing the political power to the states, cities, and boroughs of the USA. In turn, once these local (!) powers regain their power, they will regain their revenue responsibility in the republic. Away with kicking problems upstairs to Uncle Sam!

4a. There is a crucial link between states' rights and truly free markets, since (classical) federalism is just political distributism. This is why I believe the "Austrian–distributist" debate among Catholics is a new kind of De Auxiliis for the Church. If they are ever going to find each other (as kissing cousins, indeed), Austrianism and distributism will do so in the domain of states' rights, at least in the USA.

Trying this on for size…

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"[T]he essence of distributism is a decentralized (often agrarian-based) system of widely distributed property that is a bulwark of liberty precisely because it relieves men from dependence on the state[,] thus checking the power and growth of the state. This is its best selling point. Prescient distributist thinkers such as Dorothy Day and Schumacher understood the poison of the welfare-warfare state, which in the corporatist context is usually based on militarism, jingoism, and anti-semitism."
-- Anonymous, on a blog I can't recall

A false idea of freedom…

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"Hell consists in man's being unwilling to receive anything, in his desire to be self-sufficient ... to stand entirely on his own feet.... Hell is wanting-only-to-be-oneself."
-- Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (Ignatius, 1990 [1968]), p. 239.

"[N]othing ... is greater to one than one's self is."
-- Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (1855), no. 48.

"The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order or society. He is at all times willing, too, that the interest of this order or society should be sacrificed to the greater interest of the state or sovereignty, of which it is only a subordinate part. He should, therefore, be equally willing that all those inferior interests should be sacrificed to the greater interest of the universe, to the interest of that great society of all sensible and intelligent beings, of which God himself is the immediate administrator and director."
-- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), VI, ii, 46.

"Even as one's liberty is not lessened by one being unable to sin, so, too, the necessity resulting from a will firmly fixed to good does not lessen the liberty, as instanced in God and the blessed. Such is the necessity implied by a vow, bearing a certain resemblance to the confirmation of the blessed."
-- Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 88, art. 4, resp. 1.

"[I]n democracies of the more extreme type there has arisen a false idea of freedom which is contradictory to the true interests of the state. ... In such democracies every one lives as he pleases, or in the words of Euripides, 'according to his fancy.' But this is all wrong; men should not think it slavery to live according to the rule of the constitution; for it is their salvation."
-- Aristotle, Politics, Book V, ix.

It's illegal to prosper…

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"[M]y observation is that it is typically illegal for low income people to do the things they used to do to increase the quality of food in their diets. You can’t raise pigs and chickens in your back yard anymore. OK, maybe we’re seeing some small evolution in some areas on chickens, but not a lot. Nobody is keeping a milk cow in cities and selling the milk and cream to their neighbors. And everywhere, there is a war on the territory presently occupied by low income people. … [P]oor people also can’t build their own housing anymore. That’s against the law too."

Knives out in Florida…

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Florida v. Dept. of Health and Human Services. 
The focus is on the 5th Amendment and the Individual Mandate in the ACA ("Obamacare"). 
Interestingly enough, John Médaille's latest book, which I recently finished, is cited twice in the brief.

This dispute could be a 'De Auxiliis' controversy in our day…

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"The Austrians err when they claim that the Distributists are a bunch of ignoramuses who simply don’t understand economics. Refer to the academic qualifications of men in the Distributist camp, like John Médaille, Thomas Storck, Race Mathews, Richard Aleman, etc. I would remind folks that Lew Rockwell’s degree is in English and Tom Wood’s degree is in history. The Distributists err when they claim the Austrians are a bunch of heretics. In Catholic Social Doctrine there is the principle of the 'Autonomy of the Temporal Order'. The Church does not mandate we embrace a specific economic (or political) model. The Church has been critical of both Socialism and Capitalism in the past, but also recognizes that we live in a global economy today. The prudential application of moral principles can be applied in both a Distributist and Capitalist economic model."  

All striving against nature is in vain…

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"[I]t is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level. Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain. There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences … in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such inequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity for business and the playing of many parts; and each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition."

–– Pope Leo XIII, De Rerum Novarum (1891), §17.

The limits of human action…

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"The only way in which one can increase one’s share of wealth on the market is by increasing one’s marginal productivity. … Economics cannot tell the ethician [sic] or the theologian what to do and what not to do. All it can do is to set forth the limits of the possibility of human action. If good intentions are to bear good fruit, they must take account of these limitations."

The opiate gag…

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A Communist nation mourning like hired Jews for Kim Jong Il… and Marx tells me religion is the opiate of the masses?

Making our ultimate end immediate…

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"The missing element [in our age] is the philosophical and moral foundation that society needs overall, including in its economy. … [N]either making the greatest profit, nor getting the best deal, is the most important thing. Until we … put our ultimate end as the primary factor in all of our actions our society will continue to decline no matter how prosperous it may become. Unfortunately, the prevailing economic model separates morality from economics, and the most well known alternative [viz. socialism] seeks to correct the injustices … with even greater injustices."

-- David Cooney, "The Missing Element", The Distributist Review

You keep using that word, but I don't think "free" means what you think it means…

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"Vulgar libertarian apologists for capitalism use the term 'free market' in an equivocal sense: they seem to have trouble remembering, from one moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually existing capitalism or free market principles. So we get the standard boilerplate … [argument] that the rich can’t get rich at the expense of the poor, because 'that’s not how the free market works'--implicitly assuming that this is a free market. When prodded, they’ll grudgingly admit that the present system is not a free market, and that it includes a lot of state intervention on behalf of the rich. But as soon as they think they can get away with it, they go right back to defending the wealth of existing corporations on the basis of 'free market principles.'"
–– Kevin Carson, Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, p. 142

Finding the flood…

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"Evidence shows that what is now the Persian Gulf was flooded by the waters of the Indian Ocean around 8,000 years ago. Dr. Rose thinks the new colonists may have come from the heart of the Gulf to escape the rising water levels that plunged the once fertile landscape beneath the water."

These aren't the errors you're looking for…

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Nor are these the cells you're looking for. 
"In saying that the use of embryonic stem cells in experiments is 'immoral', they are tacitly claiming that such cells are taken from human beings, since that is the only possible grounds on which one could object to their use in experiments. And yet, at the same time, few on the Court seem to oppose abortion, which also involves the destruction of an embryo. So there is an error of judgment involved here, just not the one the editors of Nature imagine."
-- Dr. Scott Carson on the article below  

A warning to all you "info junkies" out there…

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And to the three of you who still read my blog here.
"[According to Ellul,] modern propaganda cannot work without 'education'; he thus reverses the widespread notion that education is the best prophylactic against propaganda. On the contrary, he says, education … in the modern world … is the absolute prerequisite for propaganda. In fact, education is largely identical with what Ellul calls 'pre-propaganda'––the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior purposes and posing as 'facts'…. Ellul follows through with by designating intellectuals as virtually the most vulnerable of all to modern propaganda, for three reasons: (1) they absorb the largest amount of secondhand, unverifiable information; (2) they feel a compelling need to have an opinion on every important question of our time, and thus easily succumb to opinions offered to them by propaganda on all such indigestible pieces of information; (3) they consider themselves capable of 'judging for themselves.' They literally need propaganda."
–– Konrad Kellen, Introduction (Feb. 1965) to Propaganda by Jacques Ellul, p. vi.

Economics is not a value-free science…

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“The Church's social doctrine has always maintained that justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity, because this is always concerned with man and his needs. … Thus every economic decision has a moral consequence. … Perhaps at one time it was conceivable that first the creation of wealth could be entrusted to the economy, and then the task of distributing it could be assigned to politics. Today that would be more difficult, given that economic activity is no longer circumscribed within territorial limits, while the authority of governments continues to be principally local. Hence the canons of justice must be respected from the outset, as the economic process unfolds, and not just afterwards or incidentally. Space also needs to be created within the market for economic activity carried out by subjects who freely choose to act according to principles other than those of pure profit, without sacrificing the production of economic value in the process. The many economic entities that draw their origin from religious and lay initiatives demonstrate that this is concretely possible.”
–– Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate (2009), §37.

"Only Black Sabbath can rhyme masses with masses."

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Every life is a sermon...

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[A talk given to the UK League of the Kingship of Christ by its Treasurer, Michael Hennessy, at St Georges House, Wimbledon, on Saturday 15th June 2002]

"Every minister of holy religion must bring to the struggle the full energy of his mind and all his powers of endurance."

If there is one thing, one single line of text, that could be said to have motivated the tireless apostolic work of Father Vincent McNabb, it is this line from the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII. This great papal "call to arms", issued by Holy Mother Church just weeks before Father McNabb was ordained as a priest in the Dominican Order at the age of 23, illuminated all of his work and action: after Holy Scripture and the works of St Thomas it held pride of place in his heart. 

This should perhaps not be so surprising since he was a Dominican working for a large portion of his life in the slums of England, and Rerum Novarum was written - it is said - by Cardinal Zigliara, a noted Dominican scholar, in collaboration with the Pope, and was undoubtedly influenced by the life and work of the great English Cardinal Manning. Yet certainly no priest, no religious in England was as indefatigable as Father McNabb in his desire -- in his work -- to see the blue-print of Rerum Novarum put into action. 

Indeed, those Dominican students he taught while at Hawkesyard Priory remembered being instructed to keep a copy of the encyclical beside their beds: and his biographer (-of-sorts), Father Ferdinand Valentine, recalled being told to memorise the paragraph which Father McNabb thought was most central to Pope Leos work:
"There is general agreement that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient working-men's guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organisation took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hard-heartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is ... still practised by covetous and grasping men. ... [T]he hiring of labour and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the labouring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself."
It was to those living in the slums and decaying tenements and to those working in the factories and sweat-shops of London that Father McNabb brought these words of the Vicar of Christ: and as a priest he brought to them Christ's power to inspire and to heal.

+ + +

It is evident that Father McNabb is hardly known amongst Catholics today. ... Some may be aware that he is associated with that set of ideas known as Distributism (for which he was the principal inspiration); some that he was a well-known Dominican friar who frequently spoke at Parliament Hill and at Speakers Corner to the motley London throng; some that he was at one time a friend of Eric Gill and was connected with his community at Ditchling; perhaps most of those who have heard of him stumbled across his name while reading about Hilaire Belloc or G K Chesterton. All these mental associations are indeed aspects of the man, of the priest; yet he would, I think, like best to have been known for championing Rerum Novarum.

Father McNabb was -- with some notable exceptions, principally within his own Order -- held in high esteem by his contemporaries, even by those such as George Bernard Shaw or the Webbs, founders of the socialist Fabian Society, who could have most been expected to dislike him. During Father McNabb's life, G K Chesterton wrote of him, in the introduction to ... Father McNabb's book, Francis Thompson And Other Essays:
"Now I am nervous about writing here what I really think about Father Vincent McNabb for fear that he should somehow get hold of the proofs and cut it out. But I will say briefly and firmly that he is one of the few great men I have met in my life; that he is great in many ways, mentally and morally and mystically and practically... nobody who ever met or saw or heard Father McNabb has ever forgotten him."
Hilaire Belloc, who was in many ways temperamentally similar to Father McNabb, wrote this about him after his death in the Dominican journal Blackfriars in 1943:
"The greatness of his ... character, of his learning, his experience, and, above all, his judgement, was altogether separate from the world about him... the most remarkable aspect of all was the character of holiness... I can write here from intimate personal experience ... I have known, seen and felt holiness in person... I have seen holiness at its full in the very domestic paths of my life, and the memory of that experience, which is also a vision, fills me now as I write - so fills me that there is nothing now to say."
... Monsignor Ronald Knox, who was, in many ways, Father McNabb's temperamental opposite, wrote, when asked for his opinion on the move - in the 1950s - to start a process for Father McNabb's beatification:
"Father Vincent is the only person I have ever known about whom I have felt, and said more than once, He gives you some idea of what a saint must be like. There was a kind of light about his presence which didnt seem to be quite of this world."
But perhaps my favourite tribute to him from his famous contemporaries - in one way at least - comes from the pen of Maurice Baring and through the eyes and ears and reflections of an unbeliever. To give some background: Cecil Chesterton, G K Chesterton's brother, died in 1918 from trench fever caught while serving at the Front: he had converted to Catholicism in 1913. Before joining up, he had been a pugnacious journalist who had fought against financial and political corruption in Parliament, had been successfully but wrongfully sued by the Isaac brothers for revealing their part in the Marconi Scandal, and was in Belloc's view the more able of the Chesterton brothers (a view that, I have to add, no-one else seems to have held, the humble G K Chesterton aside). Father McNabb preached at Cecil Chesterton's funeral: sadly, no copy of the sermon survived (Belloc referred to it as the greatest piece of sacred oratory he had ever heard) but Maurice Baring published a poem in the 1943 August issue of Blackfriars inspired by the comments of an unbeliever friend and poet who had accompanied Baring to the funeral:
A poet heard you preach and told me this:  
While listening to your argument unwind 
He seemed to leave the heavy world behind; 
And liberated in a bright abyss 
All burdens and all load and weight to shed; 
Uplifted like a leaf before the wind, 
Untrammelled in a region unconfined,He moved as lightly as the happy dead....

... [Vincent McNabb] was born Joseph McNabb, at Portaferry near Belfast on 8th July 1868. He was thus - I think importantly - senior to both Belloc and Chesterton, by two and six years respectively. His father was a sea captain whom he seldom saw: his mother was just that, a mother, and - in his eyes - all the more blessed for being 'just' that.... She was the mother of eleven children in total, Joseph McNabb being the tenth. In his later years he wrote a book, almost an autobiographical study of his early years, called Eleven, thank God! which he dedicated to his mother and which stands as a great apologia pro familia magna. Family always held a central place in Father McNabb's world, as it indeed holds a central place in Rerum Novarum.

Although born in Ireland, by the age of 14 he had moved with his family to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on account of his father's work. ... Curiously, what appears to have been the principal human motive behind Father McNabb's vocation was the same thing that drove Chesterton into the Catholic Church - fear of Hell. As he put it: "I dont want to go to Hell; I think I'll go to the Novitiate!" ...

As we have seen, Father NcNabb was ordained in September1891, shortly after his 23rd birthday, and in the year of Rerum Novarum. He was the most brilliant scholar of his year in the novitiate, although the following years were to see some greater academic minds entering the Order. ... 

For the next 26 years, Father McNabb was sent hither and thither as holy Obedience demanded. ... 

+ + +

... Now let us look in more detail at the work and thought of Father McNabb. ... It was not until he finally settled down at St Dominic's Priory ... at the age of 52 that he found a context for his work and contacts with those able best to assist him in his work and so - per accidentem - became a national Catholic figure. His preaching at Parliament Hill and Speakers Corner with the Catholic Evidence Guild were instrumental to this growing renown.

... I would like now to cite some quotations from his own works to throw light on what he was saying to those contemporaries.

This first piece is from the introduction to the book, Old Principles and the New Order, published in 1942, which was a collection of his essays printed in Catholic journals over the previous twenty years:
"This book rests upon certain dogmatic and moral principles, certain undeniable facts, and it makes certain practical proposals. 
The first principle is that there is a God, our Creator, Whom we must love and serve; and Whom we cannot love and serve without loving and serving our fellow creatures. 
The second principle is that the Family is the unit of all social life; and that therefore the value of all social proposals must be tested by their effect on the Family. 
The third (psychological) principle is that from the average man we cannot expect more than average virtue. A set of circumstances demanding from the average man more than average (i.e. heroic) virtue is called an Occasion of Sin. 
The fourth (moral) principle is that the occasions of sin should be changed, if they can possibly be changed, i.e. they must be overcome by flight not fight. 
The great observed fact, of world-wide incidence, is that in large industrialized urban areas (and in town-infested rural areas) normal family life is psychologically and economically impossible; because from the average parent is habitually demanded more than average virtue.... 
From this observed fact that the industrialized town is an occasion of sin we conclude that, as occasions of sin must be fled,... Flight from the Land must be now be countered by Flight to the Land."
... The occasion of sin which Father McNabb was particularly - but not exclusively - referring to was the temptation placed before poor families living in poor conditions to resort to methods of birth control ("no birth and no control" as G K Chesterton so famously put it - "race suicide" as McNabb put it rather more grimly).

While the state in which so many of his contemporaries lived and worked filled him with grief and anguish ... it was largely amongst these people that he worked, and to these people he ministered and preached. Despite his popularity, and its usefulness to his mission, he was consistent in urging his congregation, his audience, to leave him and to leave London. He encouraged all those who could to desert the Babylon of London - 'Babylondon', as he often referred to it - and vowed to remain behind to serve those who could not, or would not, leave.... [T]his flight to the Land was no foolish idea: towards the end of Father McNabb's life the Government was itself was in the face of war to encourage a return to the land, so as to increase agricultural produce from a degraded and untended land. ...

Of course, the primary reason for Father McNabb's detestation of squalid and degrading urban conditions was the effect they had upon family life. The family is the prime unit of Christian society - indeed of any society - and precedes the State in every respect. Father McNabb knew that all economic, social, and political acts ... [should be judged by their effects] upon the family.... The family was what he called "the Nazareth measure". As he wrote in his book, The Church and the Land:
"All our personal and social building, to be lasting, must be trued by the measures of that little school of seers whose names are the very music of life - Jesus, Mary, Joseph! ... [L]et no guile of social usefulness betray you into hurting the authority of the Father, the chastity of the Mother, the rights and therefore property of the Child."
... In his book, Old Principles and the New Order- a title that sounds quite prophetic to our own ears - he writes about charity, poverty, and obedience:
"[E]ven Catholics have sometimes come to think that the three virtues behind these religious vows were only for religious, whereas the three virtues are binding upon all individuals, and in some measure, upon that grouping of individuals... which we moderns...confusedly call the State.."
... Father McNabb is pointing out that these three virtues should be as much a daily call to arms as they are to the religious who have professed vows. ... Moreover, Father McNabb added:
"[I]t need hardly be pointed out that the poverty of work and thrift, the self-control of virginal and conjugal chastity, the obedience to rulers and to law, are of the greatest social value and need."
In many articles Father McNabb traced the decadent and withering effect of the State upon society to its neglect of poverty -- through reckless expenditure, financial mismanagement, usurious practices -- to its neglect of obedience -- by going against the natural moral law and the laws of revealed religion -- and to its neglect of chastity -- by permitting, even encouraging, activities that undermined sexual or conjugal morality. Just as every individual should strive to be poor, chaste, and obedient, so too the State should aim to adhere to these three cardinal virtues.

One of Father McNabbs hardest lessons to his own and to our generation concerns poverty. ... To Father McNabb poverty meant having enough for your duties of state but no more: having no excess, no extravagance, no luxury -- always giving, as Christian charity dictates, to those less fortunate what you yourself or those for whom you are responsible do not need. Certainly, what constituted "enough" in Father McNabb's eyes would be considered as much too little by most of our contemporaries and even by most of us. But he was not recommending that we all become mendicants or fall into a life of helpless wretchedness and pauperism - only that we attempt to be self-sufficient, restrict our desires, limit our needs, and give from any over-abundance we possess. 

Many Catholics throughout the ages have fallen into complacency on this point by retreating behind the wall of "spiritual poverty", by allowing themselves anything and everything on the basis that they are poor in spirit. Father McNabb of course realised the importance of spiritual poverty ... [but] he also realised the dangers of riches, the difficulty of achieving spiritual poverty when surrounded by excess - and he also realised that the demands of justice and especially of charity required people to have less than they would probably like or would naturally have. Furthermore, he saw the embrace of poverty as a means of defeating the increasing materialism and destitution of the world about him. ... 

+ + +

... Father McNabb would never claim originality or even ingenuity for any of the things about which he taught or preached. His great pride - if we are permitted to use that word in this context - was that he taught only what the Church taught: in particular that he taught almost exclusively from Holy Scripture and from the works of the Angelic Doctor. ... 

Interestingly, the very first book for which Father McNabb was responsible was an edition of the decrees of the First Vatican Council: his first printed pamphlet, entitled Infallibility, was a version of a lecture he had been asked to give to the Anglo-Catholic Society of St. Thomas of Canterbury. Father McNabb showed great interest in the possibility of the Anglican Church re-uniting with the Catholic Church.... He also took an interest in the poor Jews of Whitechapel and East London in general, and was held in great affection by the Jewish community there. ... 

+ + +

... Even amongst his fellow Dominicans, as yet untainted by modernism and its laxities, Father McNabb was considered to be an ascetic. As Prior of Woodchester, Hawkesyard and Holy Cross he had developed a reputation for being hard on others, but certainly no harder than he was on himself: and he could always lend someone a sympathetic ear, something he never seems to have had for himself! He ate sparingly - he blamed his "Protestant stomach" - and his face and body demonstrated the hard self-denial of his religious life. He slept on the floor of his cell - which floor he scrubbed daily - and his bed lay unused even through illness and his final death-pangs. He had no chair in his room until the last days of his life when - still refusing to lie on his bed - he finally consented to be seated in a chair. When writing, he knelt at a table surmounted by a crucifix and small statue of the Blessed Virgin: on the table lay his only books, a copy of the Vulgate, his Breviary, and the Summa Theologica. ... 

Everything he wrote was hand-written: he abominated most machinery and had particular a vehemence for type-writers! Hilaire Belloc, who shared many views with Father McNabb, always had a fascination for machinery and considered the type-writer - and the telephone (something else Father McNabb loathed) - as a great boon (Belloc's handwriting was notoriously slovenly: Father McNabbs was habitually neat and legible). It would no doubt have been both interesting and amusing to have been a fly-on-the-wall as they discussed the desirability of the automated writing machine!

Of course, as a religious, indeed, as a Catholic, prayer was central to his life. His profound attachment to Holy Mass and the Office aside, Father McNabb devoted much of his energy to praying and to encouraging others to pray the Holy Rosary. As a man of formidable intellect and deep learning he had nothing but impatience for those who claimed that the Rosary was a prayer, a devotion, for simple beginners, for the unlettered, for those who have not yet ascended to the sublime heights of spirituality. Such people rendered Father McNabb almost speechless with indignation. "The Rosary", he would say, "is the safest and surest way to union with God through mental prayer". ... Again and again he would say: "Most of the contemplatives I have met are in the world, and these have found union with God through the Rosary." Devotion to the Rosary, he insisted, should be fundamental to a Catholic's prayer life. As he said during a sermon on Rosary Sunday on 1936:
"The Incarnation is the centre of all our spiritual life.. One of the means by which it is made so is the Holy Rosary. There is hardly any way of arriving at some realisation of this great mystery equal to that of saying the Rosary. Nothing will impress it so much on your mind as going apart to dwell in thought, a little space each day, on Bethlehem, on Golgotha, on the Mount of the Ascension."
... Although he was not averse to rail travel, or public transport in general, he usually refused to travel by car or by cab: the long distances he had to cover in London from St Dominics Priory to the various convents to which he was chaplain, to Speakers Corner and to Parliament Hill, he managed on foot and at a startling pace. Hilaire Belloc, who astonishingly still holds the time record for walking between London and Oxford, was full of admiration for Father McNabb's speed and endurance: indeed, he gave him advice on how to follow his own route from Toul to Rome, famously walked and recounted in The Path to Rome. Father McNabb's superior would not however allow him the vacation time to accomplish this walk, which he had so wanted to do - at the age of 68 (Belloc had been 31!) - to celebrate the golden jubilee of his profession in the Dominican Order.

... I touched earlier upon Father McNabb's homespun habit. When one was worn out he received another - and the donor from 1917 onwards was the Ditchling Community, an artistic variant of the back-to-the-land movement which Father McNabb supported throughout his life. Eric Gill and Hilary Pepler had been the two talents behind its genesis in 1907. Father McNabb acted as the Community's chaplain - many of the its members became Third Order Dominicans - but nonetheless fault-lines soon appeared. Its attempts to live off the land faltered - most of its members were artists and had little aptitude for real land-work - and gradually it became an artistic rural retreat rather than a self-sufficient community with an artistic bent. Father McNabb was disappointed that the members of the Community had not applied themselves more to the primary thing - to working on the land. On this matter he did not see eye-to-eye with Eric Gill. Eventually, Gill departed for Wales in 1924. Thereafter, despite his enthusiastic advice to all who asked for it to return to the land, to strive for poverty and self-sufficiency away from the stink of the cities, Father McNabb never again attached himself to any particular project as he had to Ditchling.

Indeed, Father McNabb was always concerned with the primary things and saw any work or activity that moved even one stage away from the primary thing as less worthy and possibly less virtuous. As a result he loathed international finance which was as far removed from reality and the primary things as it was possible to go. As he put it, cuttingly:
"Some men wrest a living from nature. This is called work. Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature. This is called trade. Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature. This is called finance."

+ + +

Before I move on to describe Father McNabbs death, I feel I must offer up a few examples of his wit in order to derail any growing impression that Father McNabb must have been a miserable fanatic. Father McNabb certainly had a way with words. He was particularly adept at dealing with hecklers. On one occasion during a long disquisition on sin at Speakers Corner an Irish woman shouted out: "If I was your wife I would put poison in your tea!". Grinning, Father McNabb replied: "Madam, if I were your husband I would drink it!". On another occasion he famously compared hearing nuns' confessions to being pecked slowly to death by ducks. On a more serious note, he once attended a public meeting on the subject of the Mental Degeneracy Bill then passing through the House of Commons. After listening to various medical experts explaining how they would certify as degenerates, and as a result sterilise, many types with whom Father McNabb was familiar in his pastoral work, the good friar stood up and, having been called to speak by the chairman of the meeting, bellowed: "I am a moral expert and I certify you as moral degenerates!" He stormed out of the meeting to rapturous applause and the meeting broke up in disarray.

+ + +

If it is true that it is possible to tell a lot about a person's life from the manner of their death then it seems only appropriate that we should now turn to the last long weeks of Father McNabbs life and to his eventual death.

On 14th April 1943, as he was drawing to the end of his seventy-fifth year, Father McNabb was told by his doctor that he had only a short time to live. That same day he wrote to his niece, Sister Mary Magdalen, a Dominican sister, "Deo Gratias! God is asking me to take a journey which everyone must sooner or later take. I have been told that I have a malignant incurable growth in the throat. I can, at most, have weeks to live." ... 

It was to be approximately nine weeks before Father McNabb finally died - and these last two months were as busy a period for him as any that had gone before. ... 

When the press - Catholic and secular - found out that such a popular figure was about to die they hounded the Dominican Community at St Dominics Priory. Father McNabb was determined that his death should be as much a sermon as his life as a Dominican had been. He knew that the last weeks would be difficult. He had been told that he would effectively die slowly of starvation, and may well experience some severe breathing troubles, as the passage of his throat narrowed and finally disappeared. While his strength was still with him he continued to preach and speak across London, marching along its dreary streets in his habit and hob-nailed boots with his heavy McNabb-sack over his shoulders. He went to all his choir duties until a few days before his death: although he was able to speak to the end, and his breathing problems were slight, he was not able to eat for about a week, and could not swallow any liquids for three days, before he died. In the end, he collapsed one morning at Prime, on Monday 14th June.... The next day he received the Last Rites and slowly deteriorated until the morning of Thursday 17th June when he summoned Father Prior to his cell.... Father McNabb sang the Nunc Dimittis for the last time, confessed his sins to Father Prior, and renewed his vows. He then became unconscious for half-an-hour, sneezed, and died.

Crowds of people, young and old, rich and poor, but especially old and poor, came to see him, pray for him, and touch his habit as he was laid out in the Lady Chapel at the Priory for three days. The Requiem Mass took place on Monday 21st June: the Church was packed, principally with Catholic luminaries - the streets outside were thronged with the poor from the tenements he had so often visited. ... Truly, his last sermon, his death, was what reached his greatest audience. As his Prior, Father Bernard Delaney, said at his funeral:
"All that he [Father McNabb] said, all that he did, all that he was, were the expression of his burning love for his Master, Jesus Christ Our Lord. The cause of God was his consuming passion - the glory, the justice, the truth of God. He was a great Friar Preacher, but he was something more - he was a living sermon."
... Although some aspects of Catholic social teaching which he championed would certainly be enthusiastically cheered by elements amongst the typical May Day anti-capitalist and anti-globalization protesters, and some aspects would be limply applauded at ghastly Justice and Peace hand-holdings across the country by the polo-necked pseudo-Dominicans who sadly today often pass for St Dominic's sons, much of what Father McNabb stood for - integral, upright, unapologetic, strong, fervent Catholicism - is of course now out of favour. There can be no doubt that Father McNabb would have been desolated by what passes for Catholicism in so many churches ... today. ... 

I will conclude this piece with some more of Father McNabbs words, and with a prayer of his:
"Some people say, I do not like sermons. ... They do not realise that every deed done in the sight or hearing of another is a preached sermon. The best or the worst of all sermons is a life led. God made every man and woman an apostle when he made them capable of dwelling with their fellow men and women. The best argument for the Catholic Church is not the words spoken from this pulpit but the lives lived in this Priory and in this parish. We should measure the words by the life, not the life by the words." ...