“Many believe in or claim that they believe in and hold fast to Catholic doctrine on such questions as social authority, the right of owning private property, on the relations between capital and labor; on the rights of the laboring man, on the relations between Church and State, religion and country, on the relations between the different social classes, on international relations, on the rights of the Holy See and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff and the Episcopate, on the social rights of Jesus Christ, Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord not only of individuals but of nations. In spite of these protestations, they speak, write, and, what is more, act as if it were not necessary any longer to follow, or that they did not remain still in full force, the teachings and solemn pronouncements which may be found in so many documents of the Holy See, and particularly in the those written by Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV.
There is a species of moral, legal, and social modernism which We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism.”
– Pope Pius XI, Ubi Arcano Dei –
The above quote from Pope Pius XI directs the traditionalist toward an important truth – social modernism is no less pernicious than theological and philosophical modernism.
The following quote take from the introduction of, Ethics and the National Economy, further elucidates the truth captured in Pope Pius’s quotation,
“Recent years have seen the appearance of numerous works attempting to address the general state of confusion into which the Catholic world was plunged following the Second Vatican Council. Leaving aside the question of what exactly went wrong with the Church and the world in the troubled 1960s, one can nevertheless appreciate attempts to reckon with the confusion, to address its causes, and to propose for its elimination.
What is certain, however, is that a strictly religious solution to the crisis of the modern world will be insufficient, if a ‘strictly religious solution’ is one that ignores temporal (as opposed to spiritual or ecclesial) life. No amount of theological speculation nor recovery of pious habits will solve modern man’s problem unless that speculation and those habits are made to influence his life as he is constrained to live it in the world. Protests against the ‘regime of novelty’ that according to some writers is entrenched within the Catholic Church will remain little better than useless if the same protest is not registered, in a persuasive and coherent way, against the novelty that the modern world embodies in its social, economic, and political setup, as against its venerable and wholly superior medieval predecessor.
Which observation illustrates an interesting point. An unfortunate tendency among some critics of ‘novelty’ within the Church is to ignore the novelty without. Their hopes for a restoration of faith remain pipe dreams as long as they refuse to admit that the organization of the world outside of the Church has at least as much, if not more, of an effect on souls as the organization within it.
The most conspicuous example of this tendency – to address the nefarious forms of ‘progress’ within the Church while ignoring their equally evil manifestations in temporal, extra-ecclesial life – is the habit of apologizing for Capitalism while demanding a return to the Latin Mass. There can be no doubt that the ancient and venerable Mass built western civilization; there is no less doubt that Capitalism, along with Modernism, is destroying it. And that work of destruction began long before the development of the Novus Ordo Missae.
Religiously ‘traditional’ and ‘conservative’ worshipers of Austrian economics find apparently little inconsistency in demanding that the clerical clock be turned back while cheering the triumph of European and American lassiez-faire. As a result the author of the following work, the Jesuit Father Heinrich Pesch – a brilliant Catholic economist and sworn enemy of Capitalism – has of late been singled out for some rather harsh criticism by these partisans of economic ‘freedom,’ in what seems a rather pathetic attempt to reassure the modern world that any retrogression in matters of ecclesiastical will not have any practical application beyond the Church’s threshold.
But there was a time when Truth applied to matters of social, temporal life as well as to those of private, personal, spiritual life. It is to that period that we must turn if we are to effect a lasting restoration of the Church and its earthly bulwark, the Christian world. And while a wistful glance back at the glories of the Middle Ages does not imply a rigid, technical imitation of all their forms of social life, it does entail a return to the principles that those Ages embodied, and a revivification of the present with the wisdom of that glorious past.
To that end we are pleased to present the work of this much-maligned Jesuit. Of all the 20th century sons of the Church who devoted themselves to the study of economics, none did so in a more comprehensive and coherent way than did Heinrich Pesch. And none was more correctly convinced that the solution to modern economic woes was to be found not in a servile acceptance of prevailing (and so-called) economic thought, but rather in an application of Christian, Thomistic wisdom to modern circumstances and conditions.
That wisdom provides the ‘Ethics’ of Pesch’s Ethics and the National Economy. And the ethical aspect specifically of Pesch’s treatise meets today’s dire need for an unapologetic reaffirmation – in the face of those who insist upon a return to the sane and healthy religious past while ignoring the social wisdom that such a past elaborated – of this fundamental truth: that economics is subordinate to ethics.
Such a notion was obvious both to the ancients and to the Scholastics, who understand that any science dealing with the free actions of man must be a subordinate (though distinct) component of the moral science. This latter deals with the question of what man ought to do in the highest and most systematic ways, and it follows that a study of what man ought to do in the production, consumption, and distribution of wealth will necessarily build itself upon truths established by that science which examines all of man’s actions in light of his obligation ever to lead himself towards his ultimate End.
The reader will find, therefore, in this short but illustrative treatise, a solid discussion of the nature of economic science and of its various aspects, in light of first principles known by reason and confirmed by revelation as absolutely true. For most, such a discussion will doubtless come as a refreshing and enlightening departure from the frequently sterile, clinical, ‘value-free’ presentations of economic science. For Catholics in particular, it will be a reminder of binding truths which form as integral a part of the Catholic Faith as do the more ‘spiritual’ dogmas treating of strictly supernatural subjects – and which, if implemented, would go a long way towards that wished for restoration of a Christian social order.”
– Lucas G. Westman