110 – Plagiarism? Manipulation? Prestidigitation? Francis’ peculiar concept of private property (I)

One of the aspects in which Francis has caused most perplexity – especially in the western world – is his blatant aversion to capitalism, shown by criticizing the free market whenever he gets a chance, by his unconcealed partiality for a motley assortment of communist leaders, as well as by the transmission of messages of dubious content, which – if one has the heart to get to the bottom of them – contain unpleasant surprises.

One of the members of the Denzinger-Bergoglio network, a passionate theologian of the Social Doctrine of the Church just finished a study showing some surprising aspects of the Encyclical Laudato Si’ regarding private property. In observing the conclusions reached, at first we thought that he might be exaggerating, perhaps stimulated by a motivation far removed from the objectives of this page. However, in calmly examining his point of departure, basis, analysis and conclusions, we could not help but admire it, for our reader had pinpointed everything very well indeed… better than Francis himself in his controversial encyclical. So let’s get right to the matter at hand, part by part…

FIRST PART

Laborem exercens, source of inspiration (with nuances) for Francis

Francis begins Chapter 4 of the Laudato si’ with an eloquent subtitle; ‘The Common destination of goods’ and he further wrote in number 93:

The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a ‘golden rule’ of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order’ (John Paul II. Encyclical Laborem excercens, no. 19, September 14, 1981). (Laudato Si, 93)

In this paragraph, Francis cites the encyclical Laborem excercens of Pope John Paul II twice. Yes, that’s right, twice. Because the first reference: ‘The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods’ corresponds to a paraphrase of number 14, a fact that is not mentioned. The second reference, as is indicated in the text, has been cited from number 19.

Now, these two references, having been extracted and juxtaposed outside of their original context used by Pope John Paul II, transmit imprecise ideas to most people, and they may even provide a basis for sophisms. Let us examine one of them, which is a serious matter.

If on one hand it may be affirmed that private property is subordinate to a universal right – that is, to the right of all men to make use of goods; and if, on the other hand, it is also affirmed that this right is a ‘golden rule of social conduct’ and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order’, then, one could say that private property, being ‘subordinate’ to this ‘universal right’, should not necessarily be for individual use. Therefore, private property, in conceding its ‘private character’, in order to become ‘communitarian’ or ‘collective’, would fulfill more entirely its ‘universal destination’. Is it not due to this collectivization that it would be possible to alleviate its poorer brothers who have no possessions? This all sounds very well, doesn’t it?. But it is a mere sophism… as we shall see.

This gains strength when we read the second paraphrase that Francis subsequently presents. In it, once again the source of inspiration is omitted (Laborem excercens, no. 14) and besides, the doctrinal principle presented by its author, Pope John Paul II, is overlooked:

The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property’ (Laudato Si’ 93).

The reading of these three references obtained from the Laborem excercens, a direct citation from number 19, the two paraphrases of number 14 (moreover, from the same paragraph), together with the omission in indicating the author of the ideas [Note 1 – below] and the doctrinal context in which they are presented, oblige us to enter into an extensive clarification of the principles that Pope John Paul II taught, based on the Social Doctrine of the Church.

In light of these ‘lapses’ – let us denominate them in this manner….– a first point to clarify would be: In what doctrinal context did Pope John Paul II write these three references of the Laborem excercens, which are used within the Laudato si’ with such a surprising interpretation? What did this Pontiff teach regarding the right to private property in the referred number 14 of his encyclical Laborem excercens?

Reading the Laborem exercens in its context…

For the purpose of this analysis, the doctrinal aspects that Pope John Paul II recalled in number 14 of his encyclical Laborem exercens regarding the right to private property, may be synthesized in five points.

  1. The Holy Father presented a summary of the motives that brought Pope Leo XIII to publish his encyclical regarding the ‘Social Question’: Rerum Novarum. With this intent, a specific aspect referred to the contract verified between “those who do the work without being the owners of the means of production, and on the other side those [entre] who act as entrepreneurs and who own these means or represent the owners” (Laborem exercens, no. 14)
  2. Regarding this specific aspect, Pope John Paul II emphasized that the encyclical Rerum novarum, recalled and confirmed the doctrine of the Church regarding property and the right to private property, even when it treated of the means of production. Pope John Paul II drew attention to the fact that the same doctrine was taught by Pope John XXIII in his encyclical Mater et Magistra.
  3. In this regard Pope John Paul II affirmed: “The above principle, [the doctrine of the Church regarding private property], as it was then stated and as it is still taught by the Church, diverges radically from the programme of collectivism as proclaimed by Marxism and put into practice in various countries in the decades following the time of Leo XIII’s Encyclical.”
  4. Pope John Paul II also emphasized that: “At the same time it differs from the programme of capitalism practiced by liberalism and by the political systems inspired by it. In the latter case, the difference consists in the way the right to ownership or property is understood” (Laborem exercens, no. 14). Let us understand this point well. It is well known that the process of social changes generated by the Industrial Revolution from the second half of the 19th century onwards brought, as a consequence, unemployment and poverty to multitudes who, in emigrating from the countryside to the city were subjected to conditions lacking the most basic elements of hygiene, health and dignity. In this process, the ideologists, economists, and industrialists of the liberal schools, such as for example, that of Manchester, unscrupulously favored the accumulation of great capitals, based on the payment of an ‘unjust salary’. In the first item of his encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII firmly protested against this sin, which violates the seventh commandment of the law of God, and harms workers and their families.
  5. Having described the rejection that the Church manifested for Marxist collectivism and the program of capitalism practiced by liberalism, Pope John Paul II added the words that Francis utilized to compose the two paraphrases mentioned above. The first, which alludes to the ‘subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods’; and the second that emphasizes the ‘non absolute’ and ‘inviolable’ character of private property.

The great difference between the words of Pope John Paul II and Francis, are found in the following important doctrinal aspect: When Pope John Paul II addressed these topics he referred to the right that all people possess to use the goods created by God. In effect, the earth was given as an inheritance to all humans so that they might live from it. The economic liberalism of the 19th century, in denying workers a ‘just salary’, in practice disallowed them the possibility to form a patrimony for themselves and their family:

Christian tradition has never upheld this right as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone’ (John Paul II. Laborem Exercens, no. 14)

Incidentally, exactly this universal right, whether of the large, medium or smaller property owners, to use the goods of the earth, was the favorite target of the persecution of the ‘programme of collectivism as proclaimed by Marxism’ and brought about in numerous countries for decades, as Pope John Paul II himself emphasized in the same number 14 of the Laborem exercens, cited above.

That which the Polish pope strove to emphasize, Francis, on his part, by paraphrasing these ideas from the Laborem exercens, disregarding the historical contexts in which they were presented, and omitting a mention of its author and the doctrinal principles to which he alludes, inevitably presents paragraphs outside their original context. To facilitate its analyses, it is worthwhile to cite the second part, once again:

The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property’ (Laudato Si, no. 93).

Francis once again provokes doctrinal confusions, by presenting this paragraph with ideas as though they were of his own authorship, affirming that private property is not an ‘absolute’ or ‘inviolable’ right, and moreover, that a ‘social function’ weighs over it in any of its forms.

Francis and the ‘de-absolutization’ of private property?

What does it mean that this right (to property) was never recognized by ‘Christian tradition’ as absolute or inviolable?

We obtain a response by considering the historic and doctrinal circumstances exposed by Pope John Paul II in the Laborem Excercens, no. 14: ‘Within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone’. However, since in Laudato si’ Francis argues that private property was simply not recognized by ‘Christian tradition’ as an ‘absolute’ and ‘inviolable’ right, inevitably, some doubts arise:

  1. What historic facts or doctrinal teaching might be used to demonstrate that ‘Christian tradition’ never recognized the right to private property ‘as absolute or inviolable’?
  2. Was there at any time, within the context of ‘Christian tradition’, a ‘violation’ or a ‘de-absolutization’ of private property?
  3. Who has the power to ‘de-absolutize’ or ‘violate’ private property?
  4. For what motives may one ‘de-absolutize’ or ‘violate’ private property?

The affirmation presented in Laudato si’, having been written based on a paragraph that was taken out of context, and above all, having silenced the doctrinal foundation presented by its original author, does not offer to the reader a response to these questions.

Nonetheless, taking as a reference some surprising contributions that Francis has made to the Social Doctrine of the Church, which he proudly declares that he follows, some conjectures may be made regarding his innovative doctrine. Let us examine five:

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  1. Could it be possible that in Francis’ magisterium, private property could be ‘de-absolutized’ or ‘violated’ by the popular movements, ‘sowers of change’, whose ‘farm workers, laborers, communities and peoples’ want ‘real change, structural change’ since they live in a ‘system by now intolerable’ (Address by Francis to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, July 9, 2015).51d602de8c844
  2. Could it be possible that in Francis’ magisterium private property could be ‘de-absolutized’ or ‘violated’ by the governments of his particular liking, that is, by ‘governments which make it their responsibility to put the economy at the service of peoples’ in order to ‘promote the strengthening, improvement, coordination and expansion of these forms of popular economy and communitarian production’? (Address by Francis to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, July 9, 2015).15_1
  3. Could it be possible that in Francis’ magisterium private property could be ‘de-absolutized’ or ‘violated’ by the popular movements who ‘work tirelessly for the soil and crops of campesinos, for their lands and communities, for a more dignified local economy, for the urbanization of their homes and settlements; […] to build their own homes and develop neighborhood infrastructures and […] any number of community activities aimed at reaffirming so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three “L’s”: land, lodging and labor’ (Address by Francis to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, July 9, 2015).Nota_4_SDC6957_Alberto_Rodr_guez_San_Luis_Acatl_n
  4. Could it be possible that in Francis’ magisterium private property could be ‘de-absolutized’ or ‘violated’ by the ‘workers united in cooperatives and other forms of community organizations’ that ‘were able to create work where there were only crumbs of an idolatrous economy’, as for example, ‘recuperated businesses, local fairs and cooperatives of paper collectors’, testimonies ‘of that popular economy which is born of exclusion and which, slowly, patiently and resolutely adopts solidarity forms which dignify it? (Address by Francis to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, July 9, 2015).
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  5. So, it seems that Francis’ magisterium of private property really can be ‘violated’ or ‘de-absolutized’ by the ‘Agrarian Reform’ that he vehemently incited to put into practice by the groups of Marxist orientation who attended his address at the I World Meeting of Popular Movements. (Address at the First World Meeting of Popular Movements, Rome, October 28, 2014)

These are questions that don’t seem so farfetched, when we start putting together this confusing puzzle. But along with these concerns, there is another, just as perplexing:

The ‘social purpose of property’ according to Francis…

What are we to understand when Francis affirms that: ‘The Christian tradition (…) has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property’ (Laudato si’, no. 93)?

Since according to Laudato si’, private property is a right which ‘Christian tradition has never recognized (…) as absolute or inviolable’, how are we to understand this ‘social purpose’? Would this ‘social purpose’ consist of a redistribution of the goods from those who have possessions with those who do not? If so, how would this redistribution be carried out if the owners do not wish to share their goods, since they are ‘standing up to an idolatrous system which excludes, debases and kills’? Should they be ‘liberated’ by ‘violating’ and ‘de-absolutizing’ their property by means of demonstrations or agitating the masses as is normally done by certain ‘popular movements’, directed by close friends of Francis, such as Juan Grabois of the ‘Workers Confederation of Popular Economy’ in Argentina and João Pedro Stédile of the ‘Landless Workers Movement’ in Brazil?

Juan Grabois – agitator with communist affiliations, promoter of the manifestations in the peripheries and industrial districts of Buenos Aires – great friend of Francis.

Joao Pedro Stedile, head of the ‘Landless workers movement’ (Movimento sem terra – MST), in Brazil.

Or could it be that the social purpose of property consists in it passing from its individual condition to a communitarian state through the governmental action of those leaders who have manifested a special ‘understanding’ toward Francis and vice versa, such as Evo Morales, Nicolás Maduro, Rafael Correa, Raúl Castro and other such representatives of socialism?mandatarios

This ‘social purpose’ in Laudato si’ is also not explained by Francis. Nonetheless, those who wish to examine the innovative vision contributed to the Magisterium of the Church with regard to private property, can read the addresses that he made to the Popular Movements (Rome, October 28, 2014/ Santa Cruz de la Sierra, July 9, 2015), which were the object of analysis of the Denzinger-Bergoglio (here and here). Let each one draw his own conclusions…

Having attempted to clarify these preliminary doctrinal aspects taught by Pope John Paul II regarding the right to Private Property, we invite you to the study of the other sections, which are no less important, regarding the reference that Francis made to his illustrious predecessor when he spoke of the “the common destination of goods”. Don’t miss the other parts of this series, for they bring many surprises…

SECOND PART

In the first part of this study, undertaken by our specialist in Social Doctrine, we examined the “peculiar” use that Francis made of some references from John Paul II’s Encyclical Laborem exercens. One of the points that still remains to be dealt with is regarding an affirmation of the Polish Pontiff: “the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone” – a fact that was brought up and taken advantage of by the current Bishop of Rome in his controversial Encyclical Laudato Si’.
Why did John Paul II indicate this as ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order’? The answers to this question is found in number 19 of the Laborem excercens. The doctrine presented by Pope John Paul II may be summarized in three points:

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  • The Pope explained that the ‘the principle of the common use of goods’ is established on the basis of ‘the fundamental relationships between capital and labor’, that is, in ‘wages’. In effect, he emphasized that the ‘remuneration for work, are still a practical means whereby the vast majority of people can have access to those goods which are intended for common use: both the goods of nature and manufactured goods. Both kinds of goods become accessible to the worker through the wage which he receives as remuneration for his work’.
  • For this reason Pope John Paul II added: “Hence, in every case, a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the justice of the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly. It is not the only means of checking, but it is a particularly important one and, in a sense, the key means.”
  • This ‘key means’ of verifying justice, analyzed from the perspective of the Social Doctrine of the Church, is of great transcendence. In effect, as Pope John Paul II himself affirmed: ‘This means of checking concerns above all the family. Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future.’

The splendid continuity of the Social Doctrine of the Church…until Francis arrived

León XIIIThere is actually something that had been affirmed previously in the great social encyclicals (a quick perusal of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum or of John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra suffices to observe this), and opportunely recalled by John Paul II, in harmonic continuity with his predecessors. Therefore, it is clearly affirmed, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, that denying the relation between ‘capital and work’ – whose foundation is established on a ‘wage’ – is the same as denying every worker his right to acquire property; whether goods of nature created by God, or those manufactured by man. This right is what permits the worker, as the years go by, to form a patrimony for his own well-being, and that of his wife and children. It is exactly this patrimony that would constitute the family inheritance in the future.materetmagistra

At the same time, in light of these considerations it becomes clear that this right to acquire private property, fruit of a ‘just wage’ is ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.’ In effect, it was precisely because of the attempt to destroy this ‘first principle’, that all of the Popes – with the exception of Francis – have consistently condemned and censured the collectivism promoted by communism and socialism. (see here, here, here, and here)

Francis – after having omitted that ‘work’ and ‘wage’ are the foundation of private property, and the key to understanding the concept of ‘the common destination of goods’ – once again cites Pope John Paul II, outside of the doctrinal context. The latter, on the contrary, recalled this doctrine with great emphasis, saying that ‘God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone’ (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus). Seeking to reinforce his argument, Francis did not utilize another citation out of context, but rather preferred to use rhetoric. By an adjectivization he attempts to touch the sentiments of his readers, declaring that the references that he had just cited from Centesimus annus, no. 31, are ‘strong words’.

The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property’. Saint John Paul II forcefully reaffirmed this teaching, stating that ‘God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone” (Encyclical Centesimus Annus , 31). These are strong words (Laudato Si’, 93).

‘Strong words’: John Paul II in favor of class struggle?

GPaolo_II_RNAg2Why does Francis affirm that the words of Pope Paul II are “strong”? Could it be because they speak of “excluded” and “favoring”? That is, of owners and non-owners? Of the rich and the poor? Is this the dimension that John Paul II refers to? What teaching did he present in number 31 of his Encyclical Centesimus annus, published in 1991, precisely to pay homage to Leo XIII for the 100 years of his magisterial Encyclical Rerum novarum?

As we can see, by de-contextualizing of the words of the Encyclical Centesimus annus, once again Francis passes over the same and important principle of the Social Doctrine of the Church, affirmed above: ‘private property’ and the ‘common destiny of goods’ have as their foundation man’s labor.

In effect, in number 31 of the Encyclical Centesimus annus, Pope John Paul II – having made a list of the teachings of the Church regarding the right to private property and the common destiny of goods, right from Leo XIII in 1891 to the year of 1991 – moves on to analyze: ‘the question concerning the origin of the material goods which sustain human life, satisfying people’s needs and are an object of their rights’. The important teachings of the Pope regarding this particular aspect may be summarized in three points:

  • Pope John Paul II affirmed that ‘The original source of all that is good is the very act of God, who created both the earth and man, and who gave the earth to man so that he might have dominion over it by his work and enjoy its fruits” (Gen 1:28).
  • After having presented this principle element of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pope John Paul II added the words cited by Francis: ‘God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone’.
  • Next, Pope John Paul II concludes with this significant clarification: ‘This is the foundation of the universal destination of the earth’s goods. The earth, by reason of its fruitfulness and its capacity to satisfy human needs, is God’s first gift for the sustenance of human life’.

When we consider the words of Pope John Paul II in their doctrinal context: What do they contain that may be labeled as “strong”? Is it not a basic point of justice that all who labor have the right to obtain private property for themselves and family members? Was it not private property itself – of large, medium or small land owners we insist once again – that became a favorite target of Marxist collectivism, which literally annihilated it with blood and fire? Consequently, it is not unusual that due to this fateful, undeniable historic reality, that Pope John Paul II has expressed quite a critical estimation of Karl Marx and his ideology, as is clear in various pronouncements of his pontificate.

But in a particular way, the criticisms that the Pope presented in this same Encyclical Centesimus annus, were consigned in number 41. What reaction would these censures proffered by Pope Woytila regarding Karl Marx’s ideology have received if read at the World Meeting of Popular Movements? What would Evo Morales or other important organizers of these two events, have declared? Would they have described them as strong words? Detestable expressions? Or unfortunate ones?

Marxism criticized capitalist bourgeois societies, blaming them for the commercialization and alienation of human existence. This rebuke is of course based on a mistaken and inadequate idea of alienation, derived solely from the sphere of relationships of production and ownership, that is, giving them a materialistic foundation and moreover denying the legitimacy and positive value of market relationships even in their own sphere. Marxism thus ends up by affirming that only in a collective society can alienation be eliminated. However, the historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.” (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus Annus, no. 41, May 1, 1991)marx_engels_lenin_stalin_1933evo-castro-maduro

At the same time, it is suggestive that in the same number 31 of the Encyclical Centesimus annus, cited by Francis, Pope John Paul II taught the same doctrine regarding private property that had been exposed almost 10 years before in the Laborem excercens, no.19. What is this doctrine? It may seem repetitive, however, it deals with the foundation of private property and the common destiny of goods, and is precisely the key doctrinal point omitted by Francis in Laudato si’.

The earth was given by God to all men so that they dominate it: it does not yield its fruits without a response from man: his own work

  • Pope John Paul II taught in the Centesimus annus, n. 31 that ‘the earth does not yield its fruits without a particular human response to God’s gift, that is to say, without work.’ In effect, ‘it is through work that man, using his intelligence and exercising his freedom, succeeds in dominating the earth and making it a fitting home. In this way, he makes part of the earth his own, precisely the part which he has acquired through work; this is the origin of individual property.’
  • In an attempt to create a just balance, the Pope adds: “Obviously, he also has the responsibility not to hinder others from having their own part of God’s gift; indeed, he must cooperate with others so that together all can dominate the earth.”
  • At the same time, in introducing number 32 of the Centesimus annus, he declares that ‘there exists another form of ownership which is becoming no less important than land: the possession of know-how, technology and skill. The wealth of the industrialized nations is based much more on this kind of ownership than on natural resources’.
    common-working-people-2-610x225

These teachings of Pope John Paul II permit us to determine the existence of natural inequalities that are become evident in man’s work, such as varying levels of intelligence, talent and knowledge, as well as working capacity and the quality of production. As such, it is basic justice that those who work harder, or are more talented and capable, obtain greater profit, benefitting themselves and their family, in the first place, their wife and children. This particular aspect concerning the distributive justice that the harder working and more dedicated men and women deserve, can never be sufficiently emphasized in these times of confusing ideas, demagogy and populism.

Not even a potpourri of references to social encyclicals, taken out of context and magically woven together can convince us of this:

 

I am sure that I haven’t said anything more than what is contained in the Church’s social teaching. (Francis, in-flight press conference from Santiago de Cuba to Washington D.C., September 22, 2015)

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THIRD PART

We have already analyzed four (distorted) references of Pope John Paul II made by Francis in the text Laudato si’.

Now we will examine a different text of the Polish pontiff, this time extracted from the Encyclical Solicitudo rei socialis, no. 33, which figures, once again, in the famous number 93 of Laudato Si’:

[Saint John Paul II] forcefully reaffirmed this teaching, stating that ‘a type of development which did not respect and promote human rights – personal and social, economic and political, including the rights of nations and of peoples – would not be really worthy of man’ (Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 33). (Laudato Si’, 93)

This citation has served as a basis for another three references that allude to Private Property; specifically, regarding the cultivation of the earth as a gift of God in benefit for all men. Once again, here we observe the importance of reading the documents that are cited within their historic context; above all when it is a magisterial work presented with the character of an encyclical. In this particular case, the words that Pope John Paul II directed to the indigenous and country people of Cuilápam de Guerrero, Oaxaca, during his first trip to Mexico in 1979:

He [Saint John Paul II] clearly explained that ‘the Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property, but she also teaches no less clearly that there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them’ (Address to Indigenous and Rural People, Cuilapán, Mexico, 29 January 1979, 6). (Laudato Si´, 93)

In this paragraph two basic points of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and a third of socio-politico order, are emphasized. The latter is deduced from the historical context in which these words were pronounced. First of all we will analyze two basic points.

The legitimacy of the right of property and the ‘social mortgage’ that weighs over it

In this passage, Pope John Paul II has emphasized with precision that ‘the Church defends’ ‘private property clearly’ since it is a ‘legitimate right’. This is an important aspect to emphasize, for, as a ‘legitimate right’, private property is made accessible to all men through work, inheritance or donation as the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches.

At the same time, Pope John Paul II emphasizes that upon this legitimate right, weighs a ‘social mortgage’. What does this mean?

  1. The duty of justice of the property owners in relation to the workers

To adequately respond it is necessary to clarify an elemental aspect: What is a mortgage? As the economics manuals explain, mortgage is the right that weighs upon certain assets so as to guarantee the payment of a debt or the fulfillment of an obligation. In this way the owner of the asset that was mortgaged does not lose the right to its use. Therefore, when Pope John Paul II made use of this concept of ‘social mortgage’, as he himself explained, he wanted to emphasize this fundamental principle of the social Doctrine of the Church that assets should serve ‘the general purpose that God gave them’.

sollicitudoIn effect, the Pope repeated this doctrine when, in his Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, no. 42, he reflected about the ‘social responsibilities’ and ‘use of goods.’ In this number 42 he explains that this ‘social mortgage’ is based in the fact that private property ‘has an intrinsically social function, based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods.’ And then he added this important observation: ‘In this concern for the poor, one must not overlook that special form of poverty which consists in being deprived of fundamental human rights, in particular the right to religious freedom and also the right to freedom of economic initiative.

The words of Pope John Paul II recalled the teachings imparted in the Rerum novarum by Pope Leo XIII and years later summarized by Pope Saint Pius X. In this summary composed of seven points, the obligations of justice that property owners of the goods of production should employ in relation to their workers, are indicated. (Pope Pius X, Motu proprio Fin dalla prima (“social Sillabus”), December 18, 1903).

The first and most important of these obligations was regarding the payment of a ‘just wage’ agreed upon with the worker. Pope Leo XIII strongly insisted upon this point (cf. Rerum novarum, no. 3.15, 32-33), since “to defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. ‘Behold, the hire of the laborers…which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth’ (Jas 5:4) (Rerum novarum, no. 20).”

With regard to the rest of the obligations it is necessary to emphasize that more than 130 years after the publication of the Rerum novarum, they were all introduced in the labor legislations of western nations. Naturally, we refer to the nations that were not, or are currently not subjugated by socialist and communist regimes. In effect, within the regimes of Marxist orientation the legislation blocked, and continues to critically reduce, the ‘just wage’, ‘private property’ and other elemental rights of the workers.

Jesús R. Mercader Uguina

A perfect example of such injustice is Cuba. In this Caribbean nation, as Jesús R. Mercader Uguina, Chaired Professor of Labor and Social Security Law of the University Carlos III of Madrid demonstrated, the recent reforms to the Cuban Labor Code continue violating numerous principles and international norms with respect to labor rights in an inflexible manner (See: ‘The Latest Labor Reforms in Cuba, (2009-2014)’ – in Spanish only, especially pages. 27-28).

English DzB addition: Similar studies are also available in English on the same site. for example, “Cubans still do not anticipate any positive changes to their situation in the near future. […] Cubans remain preoccupied by economic concerns, and many have trouble meeting basic, daily needs”   (See the study: Real change for Cuba: how citizens view their country’s future, especially the Conclusions on p. 30).

These appear to be the same type of violation to human rights which Pope John Paul II pointed out in the cited passage of number 42 of his Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis. In effect, we recall that the Pope denounced the ‘special form of poverty which consists in being deprived of fundamental human rights, in particular the right to religious freedom and also the right to freedom of economic initiative’ (Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, no. 42).

As such, the recent Apostolic journey of Francis to Cuba could not help but awaken new perplexities among millions of Catholics. His silence with respect to the grave violations of human rights committed by the Castro brothers during almost half a century became notorious. This Apostolic journey constituted a paradigmatic testimony to the constant omissions that the Bishop of Rome Jorge Mario Bergoglio incurs in historic, philosophical and theological dimensions, according to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church. It is most remarkable how these lamentable omissions always end up favoring all of those who have never hidden their hostility and rejection toward the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

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  1. The duty of charity of those who possess material goods and most especially the goods of the spirit

389_001A second aspect related to the ‘social function’ and the ‘social mortgage’ of those who possess more material goods, refers to the obligation to help the brothers and sisters in need. This obligation has its foundation in the virtue of Christian charity practiced by the Church for two thousand years. With respect to this dimension, Pope Leo XIII observed a balanced criteria: “True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, ‘for no one ought to live other than becomingly’ (S. Th. II-II, q.32 a.6). But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. ‘Of that which remaineth, give alms’” (Lk 11:41), (Rerum Novarum, no. 22).

The same Pope Leo XIII explained these duties as not belonging to the ambit of justice, and therefore except in cases of extreme necessity, they may not be demanded by law:

“But the laws and judgments of men must yield place to the laws and judgments of Christ the true God, who in many ways urges on His followers the practice of almsgiving – ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’;(Acts 20:35) and who will count a kindness done or refused to the poor as done or refused to Himself – ‘As long as you did it to one of My least brethren you did it to Me’ (Mt 25:40). To sum up, then, what has been said: Whoever has received from divine bounty a large share of temporal blessings, whether they be external and material, or gifts of the mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the perfecting of his own nature, and, at the same time, that he may employ them, as the steward of God’s providence, for the benefit of others. ‘He that hath a talent,’ said St. Gregory the Great, ‘let him see that he hide it not; he that hath abundance, let him quicken himself to mercy and generosity; he that hath art and skill, let him do his best to share the use and the utility hereof with his neighbor” (Saint Gregory. Homily on the Gospels, 9, no. 7), (Rerum novarum, no.22).

In this section we have attempted to clarify the intricate concepts related to the ‘social function’ and the ‘social mortgage’ that binds private property. We consider it important to emphasize the argument presented by Pope Leo XIII with respect to spiritual goods. In this respect, may we speak of a ‘social function’ and of a ‘social mortgage’ that weighs over the ‘spiritual goods’? Without a doubt, the response is affirmative, however with a certain clarification to be emphasized. Since spiritual goods are of a superior character than strictly material goods, such as private property, they demand greater obligations of those who possess them, in favor of their brothers and sisters in need. Hence the importance of insisting with respect to the spiritual works of mercy: ‘Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2447).

Returning to the presentation of the topic, ‘private property’, presented by Francis in the Laudato si’, we now pass on to a third, important topic which the cited discourse of Pope John Paul II directed to the farm workers and indigenous Mexicans in 1979, permit us to analyze.

Mexico 1979: The agrarian reality of the indigenous peoples and farm workers

mexicoreformaIn order to profoundly understand the words of Pope John Paul II, carefully extracted and woven together in the Laudato si’, it is worthwhile to situate them within their historical context. What was the socio-political scenario in which this discourse of Pope John Paul II took place? Who were the governors of Mexico in the year 1979? Did the Mexican state, promoter of a process of Agrarian Reform that had already been in effect for 54 years, grant its benefactors (farm workers and indigenous) the right to private property of the lands for their cultivation? What was the situation of agriculture and the life of the Mexican indigenous peoples and country people at this point in history? We shall now analyze some unquestionable historical facts.

The political revolutionary forces have always boasted that the first Socialist Agrarian Reform of History (1915) was implanted in Mexico. With the objective of consolidating this bloody revolutionary process, and at the same time attempting to regroup all of the political forces that encouraged them, The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was founded in 1929. The directors of this group, from that time until the year 2000, exercised the political power of the Mexican nation without interruption. During these decades they continued carrying out the process of socialist Agrarian Reform, culminating only in 1992.

Mural

warmanArthur Warman Gryj, anthropologist and ex-Minister of the Agrarian Reform in Mexico, affirmed that during a period of 77 years (1915-1992) 100 million hectares was granted to 3.5 million farm workers, that is to say, the equivalent of more than half of the actual Mexican territory and approximately two thirds of the total rural property of the country. Naturally the directors of the Revolutionary Institutional Party gave all governmental support to this Agrarian Reform; however, it was never able to achieve the goals of economic and social well-being promised. The concrete facts indicate that as the years went by, the farm workers fell into the most extreme poverty. And what is worse and most dramatic in this situation is that neither they nor their descendents were property owners of the lands granted by the Mexican government for their cultivation! (FAO, La reforma agraria mexicana: una visión de largo plazo [The Mexican agrarian reform: a long-term visualization] by Arturo Warman in ‘Land Reform, Land Settlement and Cooperatives’)

Note: The ownership of the land, according to the process of Mexican Agrarian Reform, was communitarian. As Arturo Warman Gryj explains: ‘The lands that had been granted in usufruct remained as a property of the nation for concession to a civil corporation: the ejido or the community. […] The parcels that were granted for personal use to the ejido- title-holder were subject to restrictive conditions: the land should be personally cultivated by the owner, it could not be maintained inactive, sold, leased nor used as a guarantee; it was inalienable but could be inherited by a successor chosen by the titular as long as it had not been fragmented. The fulfillment of these conditions implied sanctions that annulled without compensation the rights of use of the parcel and the ownership of the ejido’.

Observing this historic and socio-political background, it can be observed that the agrarian ejidosystem based on the ejido [which translates loosely as ‘common land’ or ‘cooperative’] — and fully active in Mexico during the year of Pope John Paul II’s visit — was clearly socialist. In the first place, the Mexican State had confiscated an immense agrarian patrimony from legitimate property owners, violating the 7th and 10th commandments of the Law of God. In the second place, through this expropriation, the Mexican State became the greatest landowner of the nation; and having subdivided this agricultural capital into ejidos in order to destine them to farm workers and indigenous peoples, it committed a second injustice. In effect, as the ejidatario was not the owner of the land, and therefore prohibited to sell, lease or use it as a guarantee, he was obliged to unite to a cooperative subsidized by the State. Therefore, the Mexican ejidatario, obliged to work the earth and depend on a State cooperative, was nothing other than a simple worker of the State. In other words, the farm workers and indigenous ejidatarios lived imprisoned within a clearly socialist agricultural regime.

Private property according to the Social Doctrine of the Church

On the contrary, as the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches, , the earth was given by God to be dominated by all men through their work. In other words, the earth was not granted by the Creator so that a political organization would confiscate, control and administer it in an absolute manner through a absolute leader and the followers of a faction or single political party. The earth was also not given to men so that a clique of associates, unconditional devotees of Marx, Lenin, Fidel, Mao, Ché Guevara and Chávez, as well as other politicians and ideologists, self-proclaimed owners and lords of a territory within a nation, would thus restrict its use relegating its dominion to particular individuals, either through excessive taxes or arbitrary confiscation.

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As Pope John Paul II emphasized, the “Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property” because it is in accord with justice and natural right. In effect, as the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches, since man is owner and lord of his own acts, he shall be the owner and lord of his work. Once the fruit of this work is accumulated, it becomes his own private property, for the personal benefit of the worker, as well as that of his family. Teaching this principle, Pope Leo XIII affirmed with great wisdom that assets are the same “wages [of the worker] under another form.” Therefore, the private property acquired by the worker should be of his dominion in the same way as the wages earned with his work (Encyclical Rerum Novarum, no. 5).

Here is an important paragraph of the same encyclical:

It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages in remunerative labor, the impelling reason and motive of his work is to obtain property, and thereafter to hold it as his very own. If one man hires out to another his strength or skill, he does so for the purpose of receiving in return what is necessary for the satisfaction of his needs; he therefore expressly intends to acquire a right full and real, not only to the remuneration, but also to the disposal of such remuneration, just as he pleases. Thus, if he lives sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings in land, the land, in such case, is only his wages under another form; and, consequently, a working man’s little estate thus purchased should be as completely at his full disposal as are the wages he receives for his labor. But it is precisely in such power of disposal that ownership obtains, whether the property consist of land or chattels. Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life. (Encyclical Rerum Novarum, no. 5 ).

100 years after the failure of the Mexican Agrarian Reform: a message for Francis

Consequently, the remembrance of the first centenary in 2014 of the first Agrarian Reform in History — the failed Mexican Agrarian Reform— categorically confirms the perspicacity of all of the Popes from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI, who affirmed that economic ruin, misery and oppression are the typical fruits of communism and socialism. (see: here).

Thus, the words that Francis pronounced during his discourse at the I World Meeting of Popular Movements, in Rome on October 28 2014, encouraging in a surprising manner the promoter of Agrarian Reform, brought up some serious questions (see: here):

Francisco saluda a Evo Morales durante el I Encuentro de Movimientos Populares. Roma, 28 octubre de 2014

Francisco saluda a Stedile, líder del “Movimiento de los sin Tierra” del Brasil, durante el I Encuentro de Movimientos Populares. Roma, octubre de 2014

  • Is this Agrarian Reform promoted by Francis conformed to the Social Doctrine of the Church?
  • What are the countries that Francis mentioned in a generic way and which of these, according to his criteria, should be submitted to Agrarian Reform?
  • Consequently, what is the successful model of Agrarian Reform that Francis can propose for its application within such countries?
  • Do these successful models of Agrarian Reform really exist?
  • Are there foundations for conjecture that the model would be that of the Cuban Agrarian Reform initiated by Fidel Castro in 1959, and recycled in 1993, since it has been maintained until the present day?

Regarding this last question: judging by the ‘sentiments of special consideration and respect’, as well as the friendship that Francis manifested toward Fidel Castro in honoring him with a visit to his very residence in Habana, one is inclined to opt for an affirmative response. But could this be possible? Who can respond, if not Francis himself?

Clearly, this apprehension will linger on, just as the other uncertainties and perplexities that Francis never ceases to provoke day after day with his gestures, attitudes and innovations. However, perhaps the most serious consequence consists in the profound disorientation, conflicts and problems of conscience that Francis creates for the faithful in omitting truths and essential principles consistently taught by the Magisterium of the Church. The sad reality of this pontificate…

VIDEO: The cordial meeting…

FOURTH PART AND THE TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM ON PRIVATE PROPERTY

After having analyzed the references made by Francs in his Encyclical Laudato Si’ regarding the topic of private property (see parts I, II and III of this study) – using for his end certain citations of John Paul II, the meaning of which were deliberately left unclear – perhaps a doubt has arisen for our readers. In light of the facts that these studies have demonstrated, what intention does Francis have with all of this?

We also had this question after analyzing the unusual investigation of our specialist in Social Doctrine. Could it be that it reveals a hidden intention? Perhaps an answer can be found by examining the context of the text used in the encyclical…

In closing the controversial number 93 of Laudato si’, Francis once again weaves two citations of Pope John Paul II together. The first corresponds to a direct reference extracted from a homily that the Pope directed to the farmers in Recife, Brazil (July 7, 1980, no. 4); and the second is an indirect citation from the Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, no. 8:

Consequently, he [John Paul II] maintained, ‘it is not in accord with God’s plan that this gift be used in such a way that its benefits favor only a few’. This calls into serious question the unjust habits of a part of humanity(Laudato si’ 93).

As may be observed, by juxtaposing these words and references of Pope John Paul II, proffered before diverse publics and social contexts, Francis wishes to transmit a message: John Paul II criticizes those who selfishly use their goods for the practice of unjust habits. Consequently, the reading of the paragraph containing these citations brings up a question that remains unanswered: Who are those who practice such unjust habits? Who are these selfish people?

Once again, applying his praxis of combining de-contextualized citations, in number 94 of Laudato si’, Francis insinuates the answer, this time using biblical texts:

The rich and the poor have equal dignity, because ‘the Lord is the maker of them all’ (Prov 22:2); ‘He himself made both small and great’ (Wis 6:7) and ‘he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good’ (Mt 5:45).(Laudato si, 94)

Having added the passage of Matthew, without any connection to the topic at hand, to the citations of the Proverbs and the book of Wisdom, Francis seems to insinuate an answer: These egoists are the ‘rich’, the ‘great’ of society, that is, they are the ‘evil’ ones.

Is this insinuation based on Catholic doctrine? Are all the rich evil and selfish? It is enlightening to ascertain that we have access to true doctrine in the same address of Pope John Paul II cited by Francis, when read in its context. In effect, in illustrating his teachings with respect to the necessity of being generous and practicing works of charity, Pope John Paul II commented upon the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus:
51c0ef9f09eb3_350x0.pngIn this parable, Christ does not condemn the rich man because he was rich, or because he dressed luxuriously. He severely condemned the rich man who did not take into consideration the situation of Lazarus’ poverty, who merely wished to nourish himself with the crumbs that fell from the banquet table. Christ does not condemn a simple possession of material goods. Rather, his most severe words are directed against those who use their riches in an egoistic manner, without preoccupying with their neighbor who lacks the indispensable” (John Paul II. Homily for the farmers in Recife, Brazil, July 7, 1980).

What a difference! What a contrast! To conclude his teachings regarding private property, Francis then cites a Pastoral letter from the Paraguayan Bishop’s Conference: ‘El campesino paraguayo y la tierra’ [The Paraguayan campesino (farm-worker) and the land, June 12, 1983].

This has practical consequences, such as those pointed out by the bishops of Paraguay: ‘Every campesino has a natural right to possess a reasonable allotment of land where he can establish his home, work for subsistence of his family and a secure life. This right must be guaranteed so that its exercise is not illusory but real. That means that apart from the ownership of property, rural people must have access to means of technical education, credit, insurance, and markets’” (Laudato Si’, 94)

As we see, these words of the Paraguayan bishops had the objective of confirming the right to private property. Moreover, the original text of this Pastoral letter invoked the Constitution of the Republic of Paraguay itself to favor this right, and to support it juridically. The exact version presented by the Paraguayan Bishops, is the following:

This right (established in our same National Constitution) should be guaranteed so that its practice be not illusory but real’ (Paraguayan Episcopal Conference, June 12, 1983).

Francis would have been coherent with his own words, as the defender of ‘the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged’ (Speech to II World Meeting of Popular Movements, Bolivia, July 9 201)), if, during his recent pastoral journey to Cuba, inspired by the very words of the Paraguayan bishops, he had shown his solidarity with the Cuban people, pronouncing this paraphrased discourse: “Every Cuban campesino and every Cuban has a natural right to possess a reasonable allotment of land where he can establish his home, work for subsistence of his family and a secure life. This right (which is not established in your National Constitution) must be guaranteed so that its exercise is not illusory but real. That means that apart from the ownership of property, rural people must have access to means of technical education, credit, insurance, and markets.” It is a pity that he did not say this….

Why didn’t Francis pronounce a speech in this line of thought, to favor the suffering Cuban people?

Would it be because – as he said in his discourse to the Popular Movements, while defending himself – ‘an explanation [of his words regarding the Social Doctrine of the Church] gave the impression of being a little more ‘leftist’? (Press conference on the plane from Santiago in Cuba to Washington D.C., September 22 2015).

Just because of an explanation? If it were only that! For thousands of Catholics, the doubts and the perplexities that Francis has brought up with ‘his doctrine’ continues in crescendo, despite the fact that he claims that he can pray the Creed to demonstrate his orthodoxy…

So it would be a opportune to recall what true Catholic doctrine has defined regarding private property.

Francis

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Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter in the various parts of our study

ContentsAuthors
I – Private property according to the Sacred Scripture
II – According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
III – The Magisterium of the Church teaches the legitimacy of the right to Private property
IV – The denial of the right to Private property: Communist and Socialist objective

I Private property according to the Sacred Scripture


Sacred Scripture

Seventh and tenth commandments: You shall not steal, you shall not covet your neighbors goods

You shall not steal.’ You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.’ (Ex 20:15 – 17)

Moses gives testimony that the Decalogue was given by God himself

‘You shall not steal. You shall not bear dishonest witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not desire your neighbor’s house or field, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything that belongs to him.’ These words, and nothing more, the Lord spoke with a loud voice to your entire assembly on the mountain from the midst of the fire and the dense cloud. He wrote them upon two tablets of stone and gave them to me. (Deut 5:19 – 22)

The book of Leviticus establishes the legitimacy of private property

This fiftieth year you shall make sacred by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when every one of you shall return to his own property, every one to his own family estate. In this fiftieth year, your year of jubilee, you shall not sow, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth or pick the grapes from the untrimmed vines. Since this is the jubilee, which shall be sacred for you, you may not eat of its produce, except as taken directly from the field. In this year of jubilee, then, every one of you shall return to his own property. Therefore, when you sell any land to your neighbor or buy any from him, do not deal unfairly. (Lev 25:10 – 14)

The earth belongs to God, and still Leviticus establishes the legitimacy of private property and its usufruct

‘The land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine, and you are but aliens who have become my tenants. Therefore, in every part of the country that you occupy, you must permit the land to be redeemed. When one of your countrymen is reduced to poverty and has to sell some of his property, his closest relative, who has the right to redeem it, may go and buy back what his kinsman has sold. If, however, the man has no relative to redeem his land, but later on acquires sufficient means to buy it back in his own name, he shall make a deduction from the price in proportion to the number of years since the sale, and then pay back the balance to the one to whom he sold it, so that he may thus regain his own property. But if he does not acquire sufficient means to buy back his land, what he has sold shall remain in the possession of the purchaser until the jubilee, when it must be released and returned to its original owner. ‘When someone sells a dwelling in a walled town, he has the right to buy it back during the time of one full year from its sale. But if such a house in a walled town has not been redeemed at the end of a full year, it shall belong in perpetuity to the purchaser and his descendants; nor shall it be released in the jubilee. However, houses in villages that are not encircled by walls shall be considered as belonging to the surrounding farm land; they may be redeemed at any time, and in the jubilee they must be released. (Lev 25:23 – 31)

The levitical privileges established with respect to private property

In levitical cities the Levites shall always have the right to redeem the town houses that are their property. Any town house of the Levites in their cities that had been sold and not redeemed, shall be released in the jubilee; for the town houses of the Levites are their hereditary property in the midst of the Israelites. Moreover, the pasture land belonging to their cities shall not be sold at all; it must always remain their hereditary property. (Lev 25:32 – 34)

God legitimizes the right to inherit private property

‘But why should our father’s name be withdrawn from his clan merely because he had no son? Let us, therefore, have property among our father’s kinsmen.’ When Moses laid their case before the Lord, the Lord said to him, ‘The plea of Zelophehad’s daughters is just; you shall give them hereditary property among their father’s kinsmen, letting their father’s heritage pass on to them. Therefore, tell the Israelites: If a man dies without leaving a son, you shall let his heritage pass on to his daughter; if he has no daughter, you shall give his heritage to his brothers; if he has no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his father’s brothers; if his father had no brothers, you shall give his heritage to his nearest relative in his clan, who shall then take possession of it.’ This is the legal norm for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses. (Num 27:4 – 11)

God does not hate the rich

The administrator of Abraham’s properties testifies the richness of his master to Laban: But when the table was set for him, he said, ‘I will not eat until I have told my tale.’ ‘Do so,’ they replied. ‘I am Abraham’s servant,’ he began. ‘The Lord has blessed my master so abundantly that he has become a wealthy man; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, and camels and asses.’ (Gen 24:33 – 35)

Blessed by the Lord, Isaac became richer and richer all the time

Isaac sowed a crop in that region and reaped a hundredfold the same year. Since the Lord blessed him, he became richer and richer all the time, until he was very wealthy indeed. He acquired such flocks and herds, and so many work animals, that the Philistines became envious of him. (Gen 26:12 – 14)

Abraham and Lot: two rich men loved by God

[Abraham] received flocks and herds, male and female slaves, male and female asses, and camels. […]Then Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and all that belonged to him. (Gen 12:16 – 20)

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold. (Gen 13:2)

Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support them if they stayed together; their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. (Gen 13:5 – 6)

Jacob grew prosperous with his work and talent

Thus the man [Jacob] grew increasingly prosperous, and he came to own not only large flocks but also male and female servants and camels and asses. (Gen 30:43)

Job recompensed by the Lord with great riches

Thus the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his earlier ones. For he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses. (Job 42:12)

In the parable of the vineyard, the landowner had the perfect right to usufruct his property

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Mt 20:1– 6)


II According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church


Catechism of the Catholic Church

The seventh commandment

You shall not steal. (Ex 20:15; Deut 5:19)

The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world’s goods to God and to fraternal charity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2401)

The tenth commandment

You shall not covet […] nor anything […] that belongs to him. (Ex 20:17)

You shall not desire your neighbor’s house or field, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything that belongs to him. (Deut 5:21)

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Mt 6:21)

The tenth commandment unfolds and completes the ninth, which is concerned with concupiscence of the flesh. It forbids coveting the goods of another, as the root of theft, robbery, and fraud, which the seventh commandment forbids. ‘Lust of the eyes’ leads to the violence and injustice forbidden by the fifth commandment. Avarice, like fornication, originates in the idolatry prohibited by the first three prescriptions of the Law. The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart; with the ninth, it summarizes all the precepts of the Law. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2534)

We should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us

The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods: When the Law says, ‘You shall not covet,’ these words mean that we should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us. Our thirst for another’s goods is immense, infinite, never quenched. Thus it is written: ‘He who loves money never has money enough’ (Sir 5:8). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2536)

Catechism of Trent

Theft

2) THE GRIEVOUSNESS OF THE SIN OF THEFT is sufficiently seen by the light of natural reason alone, for it is a violation of justice which gives to every man his own.
The distribution and allotment of property, fixed from the beginning by the law of nations and confirmed by human and divine laws, must be considered as inviolable, and each one must be allowed secure possession of what justly belongs to him, unless we wish the overthrow of human society. Hence these words of the Apostle: Neither thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God.
The long train of evils which this sin entails are a proof at once of its mischievousness and enormity. It gives rise to hasty and rash judgments, engenders hatred, originates enmities, and sometimes subjects the innocent to cruel condemnation.
What shall we say of the necessity imposed by God on all of satisfying for the injury done? Without restitution, says Saint Augustine, the sin is not forgiven. The difficulty of making such restitution, on the part of those who have been in the habit of enriching themselves with their neighbour’s property, we may learn not only from personal observation and reflection, but also from the testimony of the Prophet Habacuc: Woe to him that heapeth together what is not his own. How long also doth he load himself with thick clay? The possession of other men’s property he calls thick clay, because it is difficult to emerge and extricate one’s self from (ill­gotten goods). (Catechism of Trent, 3700. The Seventh Commandment: Thou shalt not steal)


III The Magisterium of the Church teaches the legitimacy of the right to Private property


Leo XIII

The Church insist that the right to private property is maintained intact and inviolate

For when Socialists proclaim the right of property to be a human invention repugnant to the natural equality of man, and, seeking to establish community of goods, think that poverty is by no means to be endured with equanimity; and that the possessions and rights of the rich can be violated with impunity, the Church, much more properly and practically, recognizes inequality among men, who are naturally different in strength of body and of mind; also in the possession of goods, and it orders that right of property and of ownership, which proceeds from nature itself, be for everyone intact and inviolate; for it knows that theft and raping have been forbidden by God, the author and vindicator of every right, in such a way that one may not even look attentively upon (al.: covet) the property of another, and ‘that thieves and robbers, no less than adulterers and idolators are excluded from the kingdom of heaven’ (cf. 1Cor 6:9 f.). (Denzinger-Hünermann 3133. Leo XIII Encyclical Quod Apostolici muneris, December 28, 1878)

Private property is a natural right and using this right is not only licit but necessary

The chief and most excellent rule for the right use of money is one the heathen philosophers hinted at, but which the Church has traced out clearly, and has not only made known to men’s minds, but has impressed upon their lives. It rests on the principle that it is one thing to have a right to the possession of money and another to have a right to use money as one wills. Private ownership, as we have seen, is the natural right of man, and to exercise that right, especially as members of society, is not only lawful, but absolutely necessary. ‘It is lawful,’ says Saint Thomas Aquinas, ‘for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.’ But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? The Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: ‘Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need. Whence the Apostle with, ‘Command the rich of this world… to offer with no stint, to apportion largely’ (STh II -II, q. 65, art. 2). True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, ‘for no one ought to live other than becomingly’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas II-II, q. 33, a.6). But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. ‘Of that which remaineth, give alms’ (Lk 11:41). (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 22, May 15, 1891)

The right to Private property should be considered as inviolate and the laws should favor that the workers obtain this right as a fruit of their work

If a workman’s wages be sufficient to enable him comfortably to support himself, his wife, and his children, he will find it easy, if he be a sensible man, to practice thrift, and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a modest source of income. Nature itself would urge him to this. We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners. Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 46 – 47, May 15, 1891)

Private property is nothing other than wages under another form

It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages in remunerative labor, the impelling reason and motive of his work is to obtain property, and thereafter to hold it as his very own. If one man hires out to another his strength or skill, he does so for the purpose of receiving in return what is necessary for the satisfaction of his needs; he therefore expressly intends to acquire a right full and real, not only to the remuneration, but also to the disposal of such remuneration, just as he pleases. Thus, if he lives sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings in land, the land, in such case, is only his wages under another form; and, consequently, a working man’s little estate thus purchased should be as completely at his full disposal as are the wages he receives for his labor. But it is precisely in such power of disposal that ownership obtains, whether the property consist of land or chattels. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 5, May 15, 1891)

As master of his acts and under the power of God, man may legitimately exercise his dominion over the earth and its fruits

For man, fathoming by his faculty of reason matters without number, linking the future with the present, and being master of his own acts, guides his ways under the eternal law and the power of God, whose providence governs all things. Wherefore, it is in his power to exercise his choice not only as to matters that regard his present welfare, but also about those which he deems may be for his advantage in time yet to come. Hence, man not only should possess the fruits of the earth, but also the very soil, inasmuch as from the produce of the earth he has to lay by provision for the future. Man’s needs do not die out, but forever recur; although satisfied today, they demand fresh supplies for tomorrow. Nature accordingly must have given to man a source that is stable and remaining always with him, from which he might look to draw continual supplies. And this stable condition of things he finds solely in the earth and its fruits. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 7, May 15, 1891)

The fact that God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race can in no way be a bar to the owning of private property

The fact that God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race can in no way be a bar to the owning of private property. For God has granted the earth to mankind in general, not in the sense that all without distinction can deal with it as they like, but rather that no part of it was assigned to any one in particular, and that the limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by man’s own industry, and by the laws of individual races. Moreover, the earth, even though apportioned among private owners, ceases not thereby to minister to the needs of all, inasmuch as there is not one who does not sustain life from what the land produces. Those who do not possess the soil contribute their labor; hence, it may truly be said that all human subsistence is derived either from labor on one’s own land, or from some toil, some calling, which is paid for either in the produce of the land itself, or in that which is exchanged for what the land brings forth. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 8, May 15, 1891)

Private property is pre-eminently in conformity with human nature

For the soil which is tilled and cultivated with toil and skill utterly changes its condition; it was wild before, now it is fruitful; was barren, but now brings forth in abundance. That which has thus altered and improved the land becomes so truly part of itself as to be in great measure indistinguishable and inseparable from it. Is it just that the fruit of a man’s own sweat and labor should be possessed and enjoyed by any one else? As effects follow their cause, so is it just and right that the results of labor should belong to those who have bestowed their labor. With reason, then, the common opinion of mankind, little affected by the few dissentients who have contended for the opposite view, has found in the careful study of nature, and in the laws of nature, the foundations of the division of property, and the practice of all ages has consecrated the principle of private ownership, as being pre-eminently in conformity with human nature, and as conducing in the most unmistakable manner to the peace and tranquility of human existence. The same principle is confirmed and enforced by the civil laws – laws which, so long as they are just, derive from the law of nature their binding force. The authority of the divine law adds its sanction, forbidding us in severest terms even to covet that which is another’s: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife; nor his house, nor his field, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his’ (Deut 5:21). (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 10 – 11, May 15, 1891)

To alleviate the condition of the masses, the inviolability of private property is necessary

The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 15, May 15, 1891)

The right to possess private property is derived from nature

These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man’s means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 47, May 15, 1891)

Pius X

The teachings of Leo XIII regarding the social question synthesized by Pope Pius X. In the Motu proprio Fin dalla prima (The ‘social Sillabus’)

Just as a body human society is composed by unequal members

I – Human society, as it was established by God, is composed of unequal elements, just as unequal as are the different parts of the human body; to make them all equal is impossible, and would mean the destruction of human society (Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris).

The equality existing among the various social members consists in all being creatures of God and subject to judgment, reward or punishment

II – The equality existing among the various social members consists only in this: that all men have their origin in God the Creator, have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, and are to be judged and rewarded or punished by God exactly according to their merits or demerits (Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris).

The rich and poor, great and simple should be all united by the bonds of love

III – Hence it follows that there are, according to the ordinance of God, in human society princes and subjects, masters and proletariat, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, nobles and plebeians, all of whom, united in the bonds of love, are to help one another to attain their last end in heaven, and their material and moral welfare here on earth (Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris).

Man has the right to the goods of the earth

IV – Of the goods of the earth man has not merely the use, like the brute creation, but he has also the right of permanent proprietorship and not merely of those things which are consumed by use, but also of those which are not consumed by us (Encyclical Rerum Novarum).

The right of private property, fruit of labor, is a natural right

V – The right of private property, the fruit of labor or industry, or of concession or donation by others, is an incontrovertible natural right; and everybody can dispose reasonably of such property as he thinks fit (Encyclical Rerum Novarum).

Justice and charity heal the breach between rich and poor

VI – To heal the breach between rich and poor, it is necessary to distinguish between justice and charity. There can be no claim for redress except when justice is violated (Encyclical Rerum Novarum).

The obligations of justice are binding upon labor affairs

VII – The following are obligations of justice binding on the proletariat and the workingman: To perform fully and faithfully the work which has been freely and, according to equity, agreed upon; not to injure the property or outrage the person of masters; even in the defense of their own rights to abstain from acts of violence, and never to make mutiny of their defense (Encyclical Rerum Novarum).

The seven obligations of justice binding capitalists in relation to workers

VIII – The following are obligations of justice binding on capitalists: To pay just wages to their workingmen; not to injure their just savings by violence or fraud, or by overt or covert usuries; not to expose them to corrupting seductions and danger of scandal; not to alienate them from the spirit of family life and from love of economy; not to impose on them labor beyond their strength, or unsuitable for their age or sex (Encyclical Rerum Novarum).

IX – It is an obligation for the rich and those who own property to succor the poor and the indigent, according to the precepts of the Gospel. This obligation is so grave that on the Day of Judgment special account will be demanded of its fulfillment, as Christ Himself has said (Mt 25), (Encyclical Rerum Novarum).

X – The poor should not be ashamed of their poverty, nor disdain the charity of the rich, for they should have especially in view Jesus the Redeemer, who, though He might have been born in riches, made Himself poor in order that He might ennoble poverty and enrich it with merits beyond price for heaven (Encyclical Rerum Novarum).

XI – For the settlement of the social question much can be done by the capitalists and workers themselves, by means of institutions designed to provide timely aid for the needy and to bring together and unite mutually the two classes. Among these institutions are mutual aid societies, various kinds of private insurance societies, orphanages for the young, and, above all, associations among the different trades and professions (Encyclical Rerum Novarum).

XII – This end is especially aimed at by the movement of Christian Popular Action of Christian Democracy in its many and varied branches. But Christian Democracy must be taken in the sense already authoritatively defined. Totally different from the movement known as ‘Social Democracy,’ it has for its basis the principles of Catholic faith and morals especially the principle of not injuring in any way the inviolable right of private property (Encyclical Graves de Communi). (Pius X. Motu proprio Fin dalla prima, Social syllabus, December 18, 1903)

Pius XI

The Magisterium of the Church has never put Private property in doubt

First, then, let it be considered as certain and established that neither Leo [XIII] nor those theologians who have taught under the guidance and authority of the Church have ever denied or questioned the twofold character of ownership, called usually individual or social according as it regards either separate persons or the common good. For they have always unanimously maintained that nature, rather the Creator Himself, has given man the right of private ownership not only that individuals may be able to provide for themselves and their families but also that the goods which the Creator destined for the entire family of mankind may through this institution truly serve this purpose. All this can be achieved in no wise except through the maintenance of a certain and definite order. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadregesimo anno, no. 45, May 15, 1931)

Commutative justice demands sacred respect for the division of possessions

In order to place definite limits on the controversies that have arisen over ownership and its inherent duties there must be first laid down as foundation a principle established by Leo XIII: The right of property is distinct from its use [Encyclical, Rerum novarum, no. 35]. That justice called commutative commands sacred respect for the division of possessions and forbids invasion of others’ rights through the exceeding of the limits of one’s own property; but the duty of owners to use their property only in a right way does not come under this type of justice, but under other virtues, obligations of which ‘cannot be enforced by legal action’ [Encyclical, Rerum novarum, no. 36]. Therefore, they are in error who assert that ownership and its right use are limited by the same boundaries; and it is much farther still from the truth to hold that a right to property is destroyed or lost by reason of abuse or non-use. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadregesimo anno, no. 47, May 15, 1931)

The natural right of owning goods privately and of passing them on in inheritance ought always to remain inviolate

Therefore, public authority, under the guiding light always of the natural and divine law, can determine more accurately upon consideration of the true requirements of the common good, what is permitted and what is not permitted to owners in the use of their property. Moreover, Leo XIII wisely taught ‘that God has left the limits of private possessions to be fixed by the industry of men and institutions of peoples’ (Encyclical, Rerum novarum, no. 14). That history proves ownership, like other elements of social life, to be not absolutely unchanging, We once declared as follows: ‘What divers forms has property had, from that primitive form among rude and savage peoples, which may be observed in some places even in our time, to the form of possession in the patriarchal age; and so further to the various forms under tyranny (We are using the word tyranny in its classical sense); and then through the feudal and monarchial forms down to the various types which are to be found in more recent times’ (Allocation to the Convention of Italian Catholic Action, May 16, 1926). That the State is not permitted to discharge its duty arbitrarily is, however, clear. The natural right itself both of owning goods privately and of passing them on by inheritance ought always to remain intact and inviolate, since this indeed is a right that the State cannot take away: ‘For man is older than the State’ (Encyclical, Rerum novarum, no. 12), and also ‘domestic living together is prior both in thought and in fact to uniting into a polity’ (Encyclical, Rerum novarum, no. 20). Wherefore the wise Pontiff declared that it is grossly unjust for a State to exhaust private wealth through the weight of imposts and taxes. ‘For since the right of possessing goods privately has been conferred not by man’s law, but by nature, public authority cannot abolish it, but can only control its exercise and bring it into conformity with the common weal’ (Encyclical, Rerum novarum, no. 67). (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadregesimo anno, no. 49, May 15, 1931)

The legitimacy of increasing one’s fortune in a just and lawful manner

Those who are engaged in producing goods, therefore, are not forbidden to increase their fortune in a just and lawful manner; for it is only fair that he who renders service to the community and makes it richer should also, through the increased wealth of the community, be made richer himself according to his position, provided that all these things be sought with due respect for the laws of God and without impairing the rights of others and that they be employed in accordance with faith and right reason. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadregesimo anno, no. 136, May 15, 1931)

Neither capital can do without labor, nor labor without capital

For what else is work but to use or exercise the energies of mind and body on or through these very things? And in the application of natural resources to human use the law of nature, or rather God’s will promulgated by it, demands that right order be observed. This order consists in this: that each thing have its proper owner. Hence it follows that unless a man is expending labor on his own property, the labor of one person and the property of another must be associated, for neither can produce anything without the other. Leo XIII certainly had this in mind when he wrote: ‘Neither capital can do without labor, nor labor without capital’ (Encyclical, On the Condition of Workers, Rerum novarum, no. 28). Wherefore it is wholly false to ascribe to property alone or to labor alone whatever has been obtained through the combined effort of both, and it is wholly unjust for either, denying the efficacy of the other, to arrogate to itself whatever has been produced. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadregesimo anno, no. 53, May 15, 1931)

Those who declare that a contract of hiring and being hired is unjust of its own nature are in error

First of all, those who declare that a contract of hiring and being hired is unjust of its own nature, and hence a partnership-contract must take its place, are certainly in error and gravely misrepresent Our Predecessor [León XIII], whose Encyclical not only accepts working for wages or salaries but deals at some length with it regulation in accordance with the rules of justice. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadregesimo anno, no. 64, May 15, 1931)

Pius XII

By defending private ownership the Church pursues a lofty ethical-social aim

By defending private ownership the Church, therefore, also pursues a lofty ethical-social aim. She does not intend to protect in principle the rich and the plutocrat against the poor. On the contrary, ever since its origins the church has always protected the poor and the weak against the tyranny of the powerful and has always championed the just claims of workers against any injustice. The aim of the church is to render the institution of private ownership such as it should be in accordance with the plans of Divine wisdom and the dictates of nature: one of the elements of the social order, a necessary premise of human initiative, an impulse to labor for the advantage of the temporary and transcendental aims of the goal, the prize of freedom and dignity of man, who was created to the image of God and to whom was assigned, ever since the beginning, domination over matter. (Pius XII. Radio Message, September 1, 1944)

Private property is a natural fruit of labor – a product of man’s activity for own existence and that of his family

The Church has always acknowledged the natural right to property and the handing of this. It is not less true that private property is a natural fruit of labor, a product of intense activity of man, acquired through his energetic determination to ensure and develop with his own strength his own existence and that of his family and to create for himself and his own an existence of just freedom, not only economic but also political, cultural and religious. (Pius XII. Radio Message, September 1, 1944)

Christian conscience cannot admit as right a social order that denies the natural right to ownership

Christian conscience cannot admit as right a social order that denies the principle or renders impossible and useless in practice the natural right to ownership of commodities and means of production. Nor can it accept systems that acknowledge the right to private ownership according to an altogether false conception and that are opposed to a true and healthy social order. (Pius XII. Radio Message, September 1, 1944)

The hope to acquire some personal property is a natural stimulus for hard work

If a worker is deprived of hope to acquire some personal property, what other natural stimulus can be offered him that will inspire him to hard work, labor, saving and sobriety today, when so many nations and men have lost everything and all they have left is their capacity for work? Do we, perhaps, intend to perpetuate economic conditions of wartime, whereby in certain countries the State controls all means of production and provides for everybody and everything at the cost of severe discipline? Or are we to submit to the dictatorship of a political group that, as a ruling class, will control the means of production but will lack bread and therefore the will to work of individuals? (Pius XII. Radio Message, September 1, 1944)

The property owner of the means of production is lord of his economic decisions

The property owner of the means of production, regardless of who he is – private property owner, association of workers or foundation – should, always within the limits of the public right of the economy, be the master of his economic decisions. It is evident that his remuneration is higher than that of his collaborators. But it happens that the material prosperity of all of the members of the people, which is the end of social economy, imposes on him, more than the others, the obligation of contributing with his savings toward the increasing of the national capital. As it is necessary, on the other hand, to not lose sight of the fact that it is extremely advantageous for a healthy social economy that this growth of capital come from the most numerous sources possible, therefore, it is highly desirable that the workers may also, with the fruit of their savings, participate in the constitution of the national capital. (Pius XII. Speech to the International Union of Catholic Employer Associations, no. 2, May 7, 1949)

John XXIII

The right to private property is a guarantee of the dignity of the human person

As a further consequence of man’s nature, he has the right to the private ownership of property, including that of productive goods. This, as We have said elsewhere, is ‘a right which constitutes so efficacious a means of asserting one’s personality and exercising responsibility in every field, and an element of solidity and security for family life, and of greater peace and prosperity in the State’ (Mater et Magistra, AAS 53 (1961) 428). (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem in Terris, no. 21, April 11, 1963)

The right to private property is a part of the natural order

What, then, of that social and economic principle so vigorously asserted and defended by Our predecessors: man’s natural right to own private property, including productive goods? Is this no longer operative today, or has it lost some of its validity in view of the economic conditions We have described above? This is the doubt that has arisen in many minds. There is no reason for such a doubt to persist. The right of private ownership of goods, including productive goods, has permanent validity. It is part of the natural order, which teaches that the individual is prior to society and society must be ordered to the good of the individual. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, no. 108-109, May 15, 1961)

As Pius XII affirmed, the Church is striving after an important ethical-social end in defending the principle of private ownership

Accordingly, We make Our own the directive of Our Predecessor Pius XII: ‘In defending the principle of private ownership the Church is striving after an important ethico-social end. She does not intend merely to uphold the present condition of things as if it were an expression of the divine will, or to protect on principle the rich and plutocrats against the poor and indigent. . . The Church aims rather at securing that the institution of private property be such as it should be according to the plan of the divine Wisdom and the dispositions of Nature’ (Broadcast message, September 1, 1944). Hence private ownership must be considered as a guarantee of the essential freedom of the individual, and at the same time an indispensable element in a true social order. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, no. 111, May 15, 1961)

It is strange that the innate character of the right to Private property should ever be called in question

Moreover, in recent years, as we have seen, the productive efficiency of many national economies has been increasing rapidly. Justice and fairness demand, therefore, that, within the limits of the common good, wages too shall increase. This means that workers are able to save more and thus acquire a certain amount of property of their own. In view of this it is strange that the innate character of a right which derives its force and validity from the fruitfulness of work should ever be called in question–a right which constitutes so efficacious a means of asserting one’s personality and exercising responsibility in every field, and an element of solidity and security for family life and of greater peace and prosperity in the State. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, no. 112, May 15, 1961)

John Paul II

Ownership of the means of production, whether in industry or agriculture, is just and legitimate if it serves useful work. It becomes illegitimate when it serves to impede the work of others or incurs illicit exploitation

In the light of today’s ‘new things’, we have re-read the relationship between individual or private property and the universal destination of material wealth. Man fulfils himself by using his intelligence and freedom. In so doing he utilizes the things of this world as objects and instruments and makes them his own. The foundation of the right to private initiative and ownership is to be found in this activity. By means of his work man commits himself, not only for his own sake but also for others and with others. Each person collaborates in the work of others and for their good. Man works in order to provide for the needs of his family, his community, his nation, and ultimately all humanity. Moreover, he collaborates in the work of his fellow employees, as well as in the work of suppliers and in the customers’ use of goods, in a progressively expanding chain of solidarity. Ownership of the means of production, whether in industry or agriculture, is just and legitimate if it serves useful work. It becomes illegitimate, however, when it is not utilized or when it serves to impede the work of others, in an effort to gain a profit which is not the result of the overall expansion of work and the wealth of society, but rather is the result of curbing them or of illicit exploitation, speculation or the breaking of solidarity among working people. Ownership of this kind has no justification, and represents an abuse in the sight of God and man. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 43, May 1, 1991)

The obligation to earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow also presumes the right to do so - ownership morally justifies itself in the creation of opportunities for work and human growth for all

The obligation to earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow also presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace. Just as the person fully realizes himself in the free gift of self, so too ownership morally justifies itself in the creation, at the proper time and in the proper way, of opportunities for work and human growth for all. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 43, May 1, 1991)

The wise equilibrium of Pope John Paul II: The legitimacy of capitalism based on private property and the free market. The illegitimacy of capitalism when it endangers ethical and religious valued

Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress? The answer is obviously complex. If by ‘capitalism’ is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a ‘business economy’, ‘market economy’ or simply ‘free economy’. But if by ‘capitalism’ is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 42, May 1, 1991)

The Church recognizes the positive value of the market and enterprise when oriented towards the common good

The Church has no models to present; models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another. For such a task the Church offers her social teaching as an indispensable and ideal orientation, a teaching which, as already mentioned, recognizes the positive value of the market and of enterprise, but which at the same time points out that these need to be oriented towards the common good. This teaching also recognizes the legitimacy of workers’ efforts to obtain full respect for their dignity and to gain broader areas of participation in the life of industrial enterprises so that, while cooperating with others and under the direction of others, they can in a certain sense ‘work for themselves’ through the exercise of their intelligence and freedom. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 43, May 1, 1991)

The clarity of Leo XIII in defending Private property

Two things must be emphasized here: first, the great clarity in perceiving, in all its harshness, the actual condition of the working class – men, women and children; secondly, equal clarity in recognizing the evil of a solution which, by appearing to reverse the positions of the poor and the rich, was in reality detrimental to the very people whom it was meant to help. The remedy would prove worse than the sickness. By defining the nature of the socialism of his day as the suppression of private property, Leo XIII arrived at the crux of the problem. His words deserve to be re-read attentively: ‘To remedy these wrongs (the unjust distribution of wealth and the poverty of the workers), the Socialists encourage the poor man’s envy of the rich and strive to do away with private property, contending that individual possessions should become the common property of all…; but their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that, were they carried into effect, the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are moreover emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community’ (Encyclical Rerum Novarum no. 99). The evils caused by the setting up of this type of socialism as a State system – what would later be called ‘Real Socialism’ – could not be better expressed. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 12, May 1, 1991)

A person who is deprived of something he can call ‘his own’, earning a living, has difficulty in recognizing his own dignity as a person

Continuing our reflections, and referring also to what has been said in the Encyclicals Laborem exercens and Sollicitudo rei socialis, we have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property. A person who is deprived of something he can call ‘his own’, and of the possibility of earning a living through his own initiative, comes to depend on the social machine and on those who control it. This makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community. In contrast, from the Christian vision of the human person there necessarily follows a correct picture of society. According to Rerum novarum and the whole social doctrine of the Church, the social nature of man is not completely fulfilled in the State, but is realized in various intermediary groups, beginning with the family and including economic, social, political and cultural groups which stem from human nature itself and have their own autonomy, always with a view to the common good. This is what I have called the ‘subjectivity’ of society which, together with the subjectivity of the individual, was cancelled out by ‘Real Socialism’. (John Paul II. Encyclical Centesimus annus, no. 12, May 1, 1991)


IV The denial of the right to Private property: the communist and socialist objective


Leo XIII

The abolition of private property to favor collectivism, goal of socialism

It aims at putting all government in the hands of the masses, reducing all ranks to the same level, abolishing all distinction of class, and finally introducing community of goods. Hence, the right to own private property is to be abrogated, and whatever property a man possesses, or whatever means of livelihood he has, is to be common to all. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Graves de communi, no. 5, January 18, 1901)

By endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individual, Socialists strike every wage-earner depriving him of his liberty to better his condition

Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 5, May 15, 1891)

The Socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property

To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 5, May 15, 1891)

The community of goods: main tenet of socialism that must be utterly rejected. It injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit and is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind

And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the leveling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 5, May 15, 1891)

Neither justice nor the common good allows any individual to seize upon that which belongs to another or to lay violent hands on other people’s possessions

Here, however, it is expedient to bring under special notice certain matters of moment. First of all, there is the duty of safeguarding private property by legal enactment and protection. Most of all it is essential, where the passion of greed is so strong, to keep the populace within the line of duty; for, if all may justly strive to better their condition, neither justice nor the common good allows any individual to seize upon that which belongs to another, or, under the futile and shallow pretext of equality, to lay violent hands on other people’s possessions. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Rerum novarum, no. 38, May 15, 1891)

Pius XI

The abolition of the right to private property would result, not to the advantage of the working class, but to their extreme harm

Venerable Brethren and Beloved Children, you know that Our Predecessor of happy memory strongly defended the right of property against the tenets of the Socialists of his time by showing that its abolition would result, not to the advantage of the working class, but to their extreme harm. Yet since there are some who calumniate the Supreme Pontiff, and the Church herself, as if she had taken and were still taking the part of the rich against the non-owning workers certainly no accusation is more unjust than that and since Catholics are at variance with one another concerning the true and exact mind of Leo, it has seemed best to vindicate this, that is, the Catholic teaching on this matter from calumnies and safeguard it from false interpretations. (Pius IX. Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, no. 44, May15, 1931)

Communism denies any kind or Private property

Communism, moreover, strips man of his liberty, robs human personality of all its dignity, and removes all the moral restraints that check the eruptions of blind impulse. There is no recognition of any right of the individual in his relations to the collectivity; no natural right is accorded to human personality, which is a mere cog-wheel in the Communist system. In man’s relations with other individuals, besides, Communists hold the principle of absolute equality, rejecting all hierarchy and divinely-constituted authority, including the authority of parents. What men call authority and subordination is derived from the community as its first and only font. Nor is the individual granted any property rights over material goods or the means of production, for inasmuch as these are the source of further wealth, their possession would give one man power over another. Precisely on this score, all forms of private property must be eradicated, for they are at the origin of all economic enslavement. (Pius XI. Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, no.10)

Those who conserve the integrity of the teaching of the Church define the nature and limits of property do good; those who seek to destroy it are mistaken and in error

Those, therefore, are doing a work that is truly salutary and worthy of all praise who, while preserving harmony among themselves and the integrity of the traditional teaching of the Church, seek to define the inner nature of these duties and their limits whereby either the right of property itself or its use, that is, the exercise of ownership, is circumscribed by the necessities of social living. On the other hand, those who seek to restrict the individual character of ownership to such a degree that in fact they destroy it are mistaken and in error. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, no. 48, May 15, 1931)

It is an error to affirm that the fruit of labor belongs only to the worker

For they are greatly in error who do not hesitate to spread the principle that labor is worth and must be paid as much as its products are worth, and that consequently the one who hires out his labor has the right to demand all that is produced through his labor. How far this is from the truth is evident from that We have already explained in treating of property and labor. (Pius XI. Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, no. 68, May 15, 1931)

Pius XII

The hope of personal property is a natural stimulus to hard work

If a worker is deprived of hope to acquire some personal property, what other natural stimulus can be offered him that will inspire him to hard work, labor, saving and sobriety today, when so many nations and men have lost everything and all they have left is their capacity for work? Do we, perhaps, intend to perpetuate economic conditions of wartime, whereby in certain countries the State controls all means of production and provides for everybody and everything at the cost of severe discipline? Or are we to submit to the dictatorship of a political group that, as a ruling class, will control the means of production but will lack bread and therefore the will to work of individuals? (Pius XII. Radio Message, September 1, 1944)

Distributive justice does not demand the co-participation of the workers in the company’s property, nor in the earnings obtained

One would no longer be in the truth by wanting to affirm that every private enterprise is by nature a society, in such a way that the relations between the participants would be determined by the rules of distributive justice, such that all indiscriminately – whether owners or not of the means of production – would have the right to their part of the property, or at least of all the profits of the company. Such a conception emerges from the hypothesis that every company enters by nature in the ambit of public law. An inexact hypothesis: whether the company be constituted in the manner of foundation or association of all the workers as co-owners, or it be private property of an individual who signs with all of his workers a work contract, in one case as in another, it depends on the private juridical order of the economic life. (Pius XII. Address to the International Union of Catholic Associations, May 7, 1949)

Social Catholic Doctrine conscientiously defends the right to individual property and rejects the right of co-property of the worker in the capital of the company

The solution of class struggle for a reciprocal organic ordination of the patron and the worker, for class struggle may never be a Catholic social ethical goal. The Church has always known that She is responsible for all classes and levels of the population. Further, [it involves] the protection of the individual against the current that threatens to carry it toward total socialization, in whose extreme it would become a frightening reality of the terrifying image of Leviathan. The Church will carry out this struggle until the end, for this concerns lasting values: the dignity of man and the salvation of the soul. That is why Catholic doctrine defends the right to individual property so conscientiously among other things. Here also the more profound motives of why the Popes of the social Encyclicals, and We ourselves, deny to deduce, be it directly or indirectly the right of co-property of the worker in the capital of the company from the nature of the contract of work, and, in consequence, the [so-called] right of co-direction. Such a right must be denied because behind it another greater problem is raised. The right of the individual and of the family to property is a direct consequence of the essence of the person, a right to personal dignity – certainly a right charged with social duties, but it is not exclusively a social function. (Pius XII. Address to the National Convention of Austrian Catholics, September 14, 1952)

Justice does not demand that the workers participate in the co-managements of the company

Such a danger is also present when it is required that the employees of a company, have the right of economic co-management, especially when the exercise of this right depends, in fact, directly or indirectly on organizations directed from outside of the company. In that case, neither the nature of the work contract, nor the nature of the company, necessarily comport, by themselves, a right of this kind. It is indisputable that the employee and the employer are equally subjects, not objects of the economy of a people. (Pius XII. Address to the participants of the International Congress for Social Studies, June 3, 1950)

John XXIII

History and experience testify that in political regimes which do not recognize the rights of private property freedom is suppressed

Moreover, it would be quite useless to insist on free and personal initiative in the economic field, while at the same time withdrawing man’s right to dispose freely of the means indispensable to the achievement of such initiative. Further, history and experience testify that in those political regimes which do not recognize the rights of private ownership of goods, productive included, the exercise of freedom in almost every other direction is suppressed or stifled. This suggests, surely, that the exercise of freedom finds its guarantee and incentive in the right of ownership. (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, no. 109, May 15, 1961)

John Paul II

The principle of Private property explained in the Encyclical Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII diverges radically from the program of collectivism as proclaimed by Marxism

The Encyclical Rerum Novarum, which has the social question as its theme, stresses this issue also, recalling and confirming the Church’s teaching on ownership, on the right to private property even when it is a question of the means of production. The encyclical Mater et Magistra did the same. The above principle, as it was then stated and as it is still taught by the Church, diverges radically from the programme of collectivism as proclaimed by Marxism and put into practice in various countries in the decades following the time of Leo XIII’s Encyclical. At the same time it differs from the programme of capitalism practised by liberalism and by the political systems inspired by it. (John Paul II. Encyclical Laborem excercens, no. 14, September 14, 1981)

When the early Christians had all in common it did not mean that they rejected private property

The Acts also states: ‘Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart’ (Acts 2: 46). Even though at this time the temple of Jerusalem was also a place of prayer, they celebrated the Eucharist ‘in their homes’ uniting it to a joyful repast in common with all. The meaning of communion was so intense that it encouraged each one to put his own material goods at the service of the necessities of all: ‘No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.’ This does not signify that they held the rejection of personal (private) property as a principle; but it only indicated a great fraternal sensibility in face of the necessities of the others, as the words of Peter demonstrate in the incident with Ananias and Sapphira (cf. Acts 5:4). What can be clearly deduced from the Acts, and of other New Testament sources, is that the early Church was a community that encouraged its members to share their available goods with one another, especially in favor of the poorest. This is even more true with respect to the treasure of truth received and possessed. This concerns spiritual goods that should be shared, that is, communicated, spread and preached, as the Apostles taught with the testimony of their word and example: ‘It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20). For this they spoke, and the Lord confirmed their testimony. In effect, ‘Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles’ (Acts 5:12). (John Paul II. General audience, no. 2-3, February 5, 1992)


Note 1: In accordance with a study presented by the Stanford University of California, plagiarism includes much more than just copying someone’s work. Though it may be unintentional, quoting, paraphrasing or adapting material, and presenting someone else’s idea, opinion, or theory as your own, are all examples of plagiarism.

 

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