Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Catholic Entrepreneurship

THERE IS A POPULAR TENDENCY TO EQUATE the Church's social doctrine with economic socialism, which is a mistake of the first proportion. It is as if there are some Catholics who have forgotten Pius XI's succinct judgment in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno: "No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true socialist."*

For those inclined to this view, despite the words of Pius XI, a brief glance at sections 336 through 345 of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church should disabuse them of it. It is clear that, within certain moral constraints and requirements of the common good, the Church is on the side of private business initiative, of entrepreneurship. Her commitment to private business initiative is a necessary corollary to her teaching on economic freedom and private property, and her focus on the common good.

"The Church's social doctrine considers the freedom of the person in economic matters a fundamental value and an inalienable right to be promoted and defended." (Compendium, No. 336). One cannot get much clearer than that. "Everyone," the Compendium continues quoting the Catechism, "has the right to economic initiative." (Compendium, No. 336) (quoting CCC § 2429).

Indeed, not only is this a right, it may be a duty to those with particular talents in this area. Everyone, the Compendium continues adverting to Christ's parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-28), "should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all, and to harvest the just fruits of his labor." (Compendium, No. 336)

"Economic initiative is an expression of human intelligence and of the necessity of responding to human needs in a creative and cooperative fashion." (Compendium, No. 343) Economic initiative gives rise to a "sense of responsibility" which is both an individual virtue and a social virtue. Other virtues that build upon economic initiative include "diligence, industriousness, prudence in undertaking reasonable risks, reliability and fidelity in interpersonal relationships, as well as courage in carying out decisions which are difficult but necessary, bothy for the overall working of a business and in meeting possible set-backs." (Compendium, No. 343) (quoting John Paul II, Centesimus annus, 32)

Any power that squelches, discourages, curbs, and certainly punishes private economic initiative--even in the name of "an alleged 'equality' of everyone in society"--is condemned by the Church's social doctrine. Not only are such policies practically foolish, they militate against the dignity of human beings and their right to economic initiative.

[There are] negative consequences that would arise from weakening or denying the right of economic initiative: 'Experience shows us that the denial of this right, or its limitation . . . diminishes, or in practice absolutely destroys the spirit of initiative, that is to say the creative subjectivity of the citizen.' From this perspective, free and responsible initiative in the economic sphere can also be defined as an act that reveals the humanity of men and women as creative and relationship subjects. Such initiative, then, should be given ample leeway.

(Compendium, No. 336) (quoting John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 15)

In fact, in the Church's view, there is only one justification for limiting private economic initiative: if the particular initiative--either as a result of its subject matter or as a result of the manner in which it is undertaken--hurts the common good. (Compendium, No. 336) So, for example, no one could claim that he has an inalienable right to private initiative to start a prostitution ring, or trade in illegal drugs, or manufacture dangerous products.

Not only does this freedom allow humans the opportunity for creative self-expression and the building of virtue, there are also great economic benefits--wealth, efficiency, innovation, the meeting of human need--gained by allowing this freedom of business initiative, of entrepreneurship. More than even this, there is the growth in solidarity that is necessarily enhanced by the cooperation that is required for the success of any business venture.
Businesses should be characterized by their capacity to serve the common good of society though the production of useful goods and services. In seeking to produce goods and services according to plans aimed at efficiency and at satisfying the interests of the different parties involved, businesses create wealth for all of society, not just for the owners but also for the other subjects involved in their activity. Besides this typically economic function, businesses also perform a social function, creating opportunities for meeting, cooperating, and the enhancement of the abilities of the people involved.
(Compendium, No. 338)

Since any business venture is necessarily both an economic and a human endeavor, or, as John Paul II framed it, both a "society of capital goods" and a "society of persons," it must comply with both economic laws and moral laws.

"A business' objective must be met in economic terms and according to economic criteria," and this includes "the proper role of profit as the first indicator that a business is functioning well." (Compendium, 339, 340) Profit, of course, is an indicator that "productive factors have been properly employed," of economic efficiency. The Church recognizes the economic necessity that it not realistic "to try to guarantee the firm's future without the production of useful goods and services and without making a profit, which is the fruit of the economic activity taken." (Compendium, No. 340)

But profits are not the whole picture since "a business may show a profit while not properly serving society." The fact that Larry Flynt makes a profit by selling pornography does not justify his ventures. Similarly, profit may be artificially built upon the exploitation of workers. In such a case, the profit is not a reflection of the value of the enterprise, but rather is simply built upon the backs of the workers who are not properly compensated for their labor and so in a sense may be said to subsidize the venture. (Compendium, No. 340) Finally, profit may be the result of ecological irresponsibility, where costs associated with a venture are not internalized by the venture, but are pushed off to others or to future generations. An example of this may be a logging venture that devastates forests, or a company whose product produces dangerous waste by-products which it irresponsibly dumps.

Because profit as a measure of the economic value of a business venture and the moral rights and dignity of those who contribute to the business venture as well as the natural environment are all important criteria, they ought to be viewed as factors in the measuring the success of that business. "It is essential," the Compendium insists, "that within a business the legitimate pursuit of profit should be in harmony with the irrenounceable protection of the dignity of the people who work at different levels of the same company." (Compendium, No. 340) The Church describes this harmonious interlocking as one of "a community of solidarity." The harmonious interaction of the economic motive with the natural environment is what the Church calls "social ecology."

Those who manage the business have therefore a significant responsibility not only to the economic aspects of management, but also to the dignity of those who work in the venture, family life, and the natural environment in which the business operates:

Business owners and management must not limit themsevles to taking into account only the economic objectives of the company, the criteria for economic efficiency and the proper care of "capital" as the sum of the means of productions. It is also their precise duty to respect concretely the human dignity of those who work within the company. These works constitute "the firm's most valuable asset" and the decisive factor of production. In important decisions concerning strategy and finances, in decisions to buy or sell, to resize, close or to merge a site, financial and commercial criteria must not be the only considerations made.

The Church's social doctrine insists on the need for business owners and management to strive to structure work in such a way so as to promote the family, especially mothers, in the fulfillment of their duties, to accede, in light of an integral vision of man and development, to the demand for the quality "of goods to be produced and consumed, the quality of the services to be enjoyed, the quality of the environment and of life in general; to invest when, when the necessary economic conditions and conditions of political stability are present, in those places and sectors of production that offer individuals and peoples "an opportunity to make good use of their own labor."

(Compendium, Nos. 344, 345) (quoting JPII, Centesimum annus, 36)

*Pius XI, Quadragessimo Anno, 120.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Morality and the Economy

THERE HAS BEEN A MODERN TENDENCY to put a rift between economics and morality. This was not always the case, as moral sentiments had traditionally been seen as a foundational part of the economic science and an increase in the wealth of nations. Economics was viewed as a moral science.

Beginning with the 19th century, starting with such thinkers as David Ricardo (1772-1823) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) and in earnest in William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882)and Alfred Marshall (1842-1924), however, the science of economics was progressively divided from morality and came to be viewed as a stand-alone natural or physical science that was empirically based, so as to be something akin to physics or chemistry with their natural laws which have no regard for morality. There is no right or wrong in the laws of thermodynamics. Nor was there right or wrong in the laws of economics. The market was governed by rational self-interest, and not morals. Political economy became economics. Some have called this process the "scientification" of economics.*

In her social doctrine, the Church insists that this separation of economics and morals is wrong and unwise. She insists on the classical and traditional link between morals and economics not be forgotten. "The Church's social doctrine insists on the moral connotations of the economy." (Compendium, No. 330). While the Church recognizes that economics has "its own principles in its own sphere" which is separate from moral science, she also insists that it is "an error to say that the economic and moral orders are so distinct from and alien to each other that the former depends in no way on the latter." (Compendium, No. 330) (quoting Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 23). "The necessary distinction between morality and the economy does not entail the separation of these two spheres, but, on the contrary, an important reciprocity." (Compendium, No. 331)

As the Compendium puts it: "Just as in the area of morality one must take the reasons and requirements of economy into account, so too in the area of the economy one must be open to the demands of morality." (Compendium, No. 331) Economics must obtain values elsewhere than from economics. "[T]he purpose of the economy is not found in the economy itself, but rather in its being destined to humanity and society" since "man is the source, the center, and the purpose of all economic and social life." (Compendium, No. 331) (quoting Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 63)

The Church insists that there is something greater than economics. A "meta-economic order" exists. Man does not live by bread alone. (Matt. 4:4, Luke 4:4) This seems to be just plain common sense. It is remarkable how this common sense eludes so many modernly.

"The relation between morality an economics is necessary, indeed intrinsic," continues the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, "economic activity and moral behavior are intimately joined one to the other." (Compendium, No. 331)

The fact that morality and the economy are intertwined does not mean that economic efficiency is not important. "The moral dimension of the economy shows that economy efficiency and the promotion of human development in solidarity are not two separate or alternative aims but one indivisible goal." (Compendium, No. 332). The term "economic efficiency" means a situation where it is impossible to increase general welfare from the available resources. In other words, any effort to make others better off will make others worse-off to the extent that the gains of one are offset by the losses of the other.

In fact, the Church recognizes that there is a moral duty to assuring "economic efficiency," as the "production of goods is a duty to be undertaken in an efficient manner, otherwise resources are wasted." The words "economic efficiency" quite clearly are a reference to the market economy or free economy. And yet "economic efficiency" has its limits. Economic efficiency cannot be sought in an immoral manner, "at the expense of human beings, entire populations or social groups, condemning them to indigence." (Compendium, No. 332) There is a moral limit to the cost/benefit analysis beyond which efficiency must not go.

So the Church gives its guarded approval of a market economy or free economy and even "capitalism" properly understood. Capitalism is a vague term, and so before approving of "capitalism," the Church defines what it understands as "capitalism."** "In the perspective of an integral and solidary development, it is possible to arrive at a proper appreciation of the moral evaluation that the Church's social doctrine offers in regard to the market economy or, more simply, of the free economy." "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 Church approves of capitalism. This form of capitalism the Church calls a "business economy," a "market economy," or simply a "free economy." (Compendium, No. 335)

While the Church does not begrudge self-interest insofar as it promotes the common good and is undertaken with justice and solidarity in mind, it does seek to distinguish that act from selfishness which seeks private benefit unjustly or in disregard of others. "The growth of wealth, seen in the availability of goods and services, and the moral demands of an equitable distribution of these must inspire man and society as a whole to practice the essential virtue of solidarity, in order to combat, in a spirit of justice and charity, those 'structures of sin' wherever they may be found and which generate and perpetuate poverty, underdevelopment, and degradation." (Compendium, No. 333) Simply put, we may not get rich at another person's expense.

"The economy has as its object the development of wealth and its progressive increase," and so the Church is not adverse--rather she encourages--economic activity. However, she rightly points out that wealth and its increase is something that is measured "not only in quantity, but also in quality." Wealth and progress are not reducible to "a mere process of accumulating goods and services." To be rich and vicious is not qualitatively wealthier or more conducive to happiness than to be poor and virtuous. There is wealth measurable in the specie of virtue.

To suggest that the measure of wealth is quantitative only, and not qualitative also, is an error, in fact is a "treachery" that can enslave us. It leads to a "civilization of consumption" or a "civilization of consumerism." We thus become "slaves of possession" and "slaves of immediate gratification." (Compendium, No. 334) (quoting John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 28) This is a life of vice, not virtue. It is a life of fools, as we should remember that possessions and gratification of the world's goods does not protect us from the fact that there will be one night where our soul shall be required of us. (Cf. Luke 12:20)

*A short synopsis may be found in James E. Alvey, "A Short History of Economics as a Moral Science," Journal of Markets & Morality 2, no. 1 (Spring 1999), 53-73.
**The Church does not approve of capitalism if it is understood to be "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." (Compendium, No. 335)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Puer Natus Est Nobis

Et filius datus est nobis,
Cuius imperium super humerum eius
Et vocabitus nomen eius,
Magni consilii Angelus.

Cantate Domino canticum novum
Quia mirabilia fecit.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
Et in saecula saeculorum.

A child is born to us,
And a Son is given to us:
Whose government is upon His shoulder:
And His Name shall be called,
The Angel of Great Counsel.

Sing ye to the Lord a new song:
Because He hath done wonderful things.

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be
World without end.

Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Our Lords the Poor

THE EARTH AND ITS FRUITS were made for men, and not for any one man. It is for this reason that all goods--even those legitimately and morally possessed by individual men through the institution of private property--have a "universal destination," one which orders them to the common good.

Christianity redeems and saves man entire, not just man in part. It therefore frees man from not only from his need, but also in his plenitude. This means that it redeems him with respect to his possessions. A Christian will possess his goods in a manner differently from other men, and a Christian society will view property differently from a non-Christian society.

There is, first and foremost, an awareness by spiritual writers that money and property present an intrinsic danger in that man's love of them may be disordered, inordinate, cupidinous. "For the love of money [φιλαργυρια, cupiditas] is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith." (1 Tim. 6:10) "Evil is seen in the immoderate attachment to riches and the desire to hoard." (Compendium, No. 329)

Though money and property are, in themselves good, they must be held and used in a manner that is fitting with the common good, with love of neighbor, and sub specie aeternitatis, under the light of eternity. Witness, for example, the warning of Pope St. Gregory the Great in his Pastoral Rule:

They, therefore, that make haste to an inheritance in the beginning cut off from themselves the lot of blessing in the end; since, while they crave to be increased in goods here through the iniquity of avarice, they become disinherited there of their eternal patrimony. When they either solicit very much, or succeed in obtaining all that they have solicited, let them hear what is written. What is a man profited, if he should gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?

St. Gregory the Great, Liber Regulae Pastoralis, Lib. III, Ad. 21, Cap. 20

St. Nicholas distributing alms to the poor

That the rich man's possession of goods is a channel for him to practice proper stewardship and charity towards his less fortunate neighbor is a central theme in Christian practice from its inception. "'How could we ever do good to our neighbor,' asks St. Clement of Alexandria, 'if none of possessed anything?'" (Compendium, No. 329).* St. Basil the Great reminds the rich in his flock to open the doors of their storehouses so that their "riches reach the homes of the poor."** In his Pastoral Rule, Pope St. Gregory the Great, admonishes those who inordinately hold on to their goods and ignore the plight of the poor:
Those who neither desire what belongs to others nor bestow what is their own are to be admonished to consider carefully that the earth out of which they are taken is common to all men, and therefore brings forth nourishment for all in common. Vainly, then, do those suppose themselves innocent, who claim to their own private use the common gift of God; those who, in not imparting what they have received, walk in the midst of the slaughter of their neighbors; since they almost daily slay so many persons as there are dying poor whose subsidies they keep close in their own possession. For, when we administer necessaries of any kind to the indigent, we do not bestow our own, but render them what is theirs; we rather pay a debt of justice than accomplish works of mercy.
St. Gregory the Great, Liber Regulae Pastoralis Lib. III, Ad. 22, Cap. 21

So the Old Testament prophets, the teachings of Christ, and the call of the Church Fathers all seem to coalesce into the same message: wealth is a great good, but presents an ever-present temptation to those who are in possession of it. It profits nothing for a man to have the whole world, and lose his soul. Wealth must be used in a manner that is properly ordered, underneath the auspices of the great and good God, the wise dispenser of all things. Above all, wealth in a rich man is a means for the practice of virtue, including that most sublime virtue of the poor for the love of God, of charity.

The wealthy Christian will view the poor in the manner of Blessed Fra' Gerard, founder of the Knights of Malta. The poor are our Lords. Domini nostri pauperes. With his wealth he will serve them.
*Citing St. Clement's Homily "What Rich Man Will Be Saved?" 13 PG 19, 618.
**Compendium No. 329 (quoting St. Basil, Homilia in Illud Lucae, Destruam Horrea Mea, 5 PG 31, 271).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Internal Economy of Jesus

JESUS THE MESSIAH "takes up the entire Old Testament tradition even with regard to economic goods, wealth, and poverty, and he gives it great clarity clarity and fullness." (Compendium, No. 325) Christ's teachings regarding the goods of this world, wealth, and poverty usher in "a new manner of social life," one that ought to be reflective of the Gospel values of "justice, brotherhood, solidarity, and sharing." This "new manner," however, is not one that can be brought into being or enforced by extrinsic, positive law alone, as it is based upon and inner transformation brought about by "the conversion of hearts" and the "gift of the Spirit." (Compendium, No. 325) The "Kingdom of God" ushered by Christ is not one which people can point to and say, "Here it is," or "There it is." The reason for this is that the kingdom of God is within the believers. (Cf. Luke 17:21)

Christ seeks an inner conversion and an inner change in man thereby seeking to perfect "the original goodness of the created order and of human activity, which were compromised by sin." However, this inner transformation, a combination of human turning and spiritual gift, will manifest itself in external activity, in fruits.* And so "man is called to render justice to the poor, releasing the oppressed, consoling the afflicted, actively seeking a new social order in which adequate solutions to material poverty are offered and in which the forces thwarting the attempts of the weakest to free themselves from the conditions of misery and slavery are more effectively controlled." (Compendium, No. 325)

This is the elusive Kingdom of God which, though not "of this world," is yet, "at hand," and in a marvelously ambiguous Greek phrase, both within us, and among us, in our very midst, and within our very grasp (ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστίν). (Cf. John 18:36, Mark 1:5, Luke 17:21) That Kingdom of God is found personally in Christ, and continues in Christ's Church. The Kingdom of God, however, will not arrive in its fullness until the end of time when Christ returns and all creation will be truly "all, and in all." (Col. 3:11; 1 Cor. 15:28) (Cf. CCC 671, 782, 1042, 1060, 2816)

Nevertheless, it is manifest in Revelation that "economic activity is to be considered and undertaken as a grateful response to the vocation which God holds out for each person." (Compendium, No. 326)
And in your wisdom have established man to rule the creatures produced by you,
To govern the world in holiness and justice, and to render judgment in integrity of heart.
(Wisdom 9:2-3) It is clear that the world and its benefits are given to man so that it may be tended to, preserved, increased, and perfected. Adam's charge in the garden of Eden was therefore confirmed in Christ's parable of the talents, where the good servants invest the talents, not bury them, and thereby bring about an increase. (Cf. Gen. 1:26-30; 2:15-16; Matt 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27)

Christ Cleansing the Temple by El Greco

Yet at the same time we must recognized that it is harder for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to enter the eye of a needle. (Cf. Matt. 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25, and Luke 18:24-25) We are, moreover, not to put our trust in the uncertainty of riches (1 Tim. 6:17), for we know that he who puts his trust in riches will fall (Proverbs 11:28). Instead, we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and then, and only then, will all these things be added unto us. (Matt. 6:33) We must not forget that we cannot serve two masters, God and Mammon. (Cf. Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:13) Finally, there is a part in our life which must never be affected by utilitarian, monetary considerations. The temple must on occasion be cleansed of economic activity and monetary gain. (Cf. Mark 11:15-19, 11:27-33; Matt. 21:12-17, 23-27; Luke 19:45-48, 20:1-8) Therefore, even if wealthy, we are to be "poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3) so as to be "rich before God." (Luke 12:21)

Economic activity and wealth is not to be viewed as a private affair unrelated to the common good and unrelated to God. Rather, "[e]conomic activity and material progress must be placed at the service of man and society," that is, the common good. In fact, economic activity is not in any manner of speaking evil. Indeed, the economy itself properly ordered within the "faith, hope, and love of Christ's disciples" can be "transformed into places of salvation and sanctification." (Compendium, No. 326)

"Faith in Jesus Christ," the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church tells us, "makes it possible to have a correct understanding of social development, in the context of an integral and solidary humanism." (Compendium, No. 327) The Church's social magisterium, founded upon faith in Jesus Christ and grounded in natural law and the moral teachings and example of Jesus, is therefore a valuable guide to integral human development.

That social doctrine provides us guidance in the "task of collaboration" with others, in our "personal and collective effort to raise the human condition and to overcome obstacles which are continually arising along our way." It also warns us of sin, "which is always attempting to trap us and which jeopardizes our human achievements." At the same time, it assures us that sin is "conquered and redeemed by the 'reconciliation' accomplished by Christ. (cf. Col. 1:20)." (Compendium, No. 327) Economic or social development in a manner that contradicts the Church's social doctrine is bound to harm man, contradict the common good, and result in some sort of failure to render God his due.

*Christ's teachings in the area of wealth and poverty can be the source of confusion. Two things seem to be behind most misinterpretations of his teachings. The first is the failure to recognize Semitisms in the Gospel, particularly the Semitic penchant for contrasting with extremes. The other is the failure to distinguish counsels from precepts. An example of these kind of Semitisms may be found in Christ's Sermon on the Mount (e.g., Luke 6:20-29). Christ's teaching that one should offer the other cheek, and give one's tunic to one who takes one's cloak, if taken literally as preceptive would result in the abandonment of the right to self-defense and the right of ownership of property. If held normative, it would mean that the violent and the brigand would rule the world and could never be brought to justice. Christ is obviously not advocating a world where injustice is the norm and justice ought not to be enforced. Nevertheless, there is a point behind these teachings that ought not to be lost, and there are instances where literal compliance has brought much fruit. A fictional character that lives up to this is Bishop Myriel in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. Another marvelous, this time real, instance is St. Maximilian Kolbe's giving up his life in exchange for Franciszek Gajowniczek at Auschwitz. The lives of the Saints are full of such heroic and extraordinary application of Christ's words. The Precepts are rules that are binding upon all (e.g., you shall not murder). These are the irreducible minimum of the Christian life, and violation of these precepts are sinful, and, if they involve a grave matter and sufficient knowledge and consent, would be mortally sinful Counsels are proposed to those who desire to go beyond the necessary requirements and aim for perfection. They are not binding upon all, but are voluntarily taken by those who wish a more perfect union with, or greater imitation of Christ. Perhaps the most notable instance of this is the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16 ff.) who is asked what he should do to inherit eternal life. Christ states he must keep the precept of keeping the commandments. When the rich young ruler wants more, Jesus counsels him to sell all he has and give the proceeds to the poor and to follow him in the way of poverty. Sadly, the rich young ruler finds the evangelical counsel too burdensome, and loses--not his salvation--but his chance at a greater imitation of, and a deeper relationship with Christ, the God who had nowhere to lay his head. One of the three traditional evangelical counsels is a voluntary life of poverty. The other two are a life of celibacy and a life of obedience, which is to say, a voluntary giving up of one's freedom in submission to the legitimate will of religious superiors. Another instance of this might be the primitive "communism" or communal sharing of goods practiced by Christians and witnessed to in the Book of Acts. See Acts 4:32-35; 2:42-47 (Christians "shared everything they had" and "had everything in common"). As Tertullian put it in his Apolegeticum: "One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Poverty and Wealth: The Old Testament Tradition

THE BIBLE HAS A NUANCED VIEW on riches and wealth. It recognizes the benefit of abundance, of a flourishing economic life, and it recognizes wealth as a blessing from God, often one tied to obedience to His commandments and fidelity to His covenant. On the other hand, it recognizes the dangers attendant to wealth, and warns the rich to guard their soul, and to be quick not to abuse their wealth and instead use it for the benefit of the poor. The Scriptures absolutely condemn wealth that is ill-gotten--through oppressions, through fraud, or through immoral means such as usury.

Similarly, the Scriptures have a nuanced view of poverty. On the one hand, the Bible often points to poverty as being the consequence of the vice of idleness or lack of industry. On the other hand, it recognizes that the poor are often poor not because of vice, but because of the viciousness of those of the rich and powerful. Some poverty, it seems, is neither the result of vice or oppression, but part of the inscrutable providence of God. Finally, the poor man is often a symbol of how man's soul ought to be seen before God, and, to that degree, the poor are symbols of us all.

In the Book of Proverbs we find a rich and multifarious understanding of poverty. Poverty can be the result of a lack of diligence, of irresponsible behavior, of a shirking of duty.
The slack hand impoverishes,
but the hand of the diligent enriches.
He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
(Prov. 10:4-5)

Labor is the source of wealth, and poverty is caused by idleness. Indeed, the poverty that is the result of lack of diligence, or idleness, is excoriated in Scripture. It is seen as a form of social theft. The Scriptures have a strong understanding of contributive justice. "The man who is slack in his work," the Book of Proverbs says, "is own brother to the man who is destructive." (Prov. 18:9)

All have a duty to work, to be frugal, to use their talents and labor to assure the flourishing of their self, their family, and their tribe. Using very strong language, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that "if any will not work, neither let him eat." (2 Thess. 3:10). And who can forget his words to Timothy which are harsh against those who fail in their duty of supporting those under their care: "And whoever does not provide for relatives [τῶν ἰδίων, one's own] and especially family members [οἰκείων = household] has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim. 5:8)

Some Scriptures link obedience to God to material blessing, and disobedience to God with poverty. In Scripture, belief in God and fidelity to his covenants and laws, including His injunction to care for the poor, is followed by blessings. (Cf. Deut. 15:4-8; 28:1-38-39; Prov. 22:9).
Nay, more! since the LORD, your God, will bless you abundantly in the land he will give you to occupy as your heritage, there should be no one of you in need. If you but heed the voice of the LORD, your God, and carefully observe all these commandments which I enjoin on you today, you will lend to many nations, and borrow from none; you will rule over many nations, and none will rule over you, since the LORD, your God, will bless you as he promised. If one of your kinsmen in any community is in need in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor close your hand to him in his need. Instead, you shall open your hand to him and freely lend him enough to meet his need.
(Deut. 15:4-8) Book of Proverbs links blessings with giving to the poor: "The kindly man will be blessed, for he gives of his sustenance to the poor." (Prov. 22:9)

It follows that disbelief in God and violation of God's moral commandments are often seen as calling forth a judgment from God that results in poverty. For example, in Haggai 1:4-6, the prophet suggests that the people's poverty is the result of their disregard of God's temple:
Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
Now thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways!
You have sown much, but have brought in little;
you have eaten, but have not been satisfied;
You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated;
have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed;
And he who earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it.

Not all poverty is of this kind. One cannot simply assume that one who is poor is idle, lazy, and suffers the judgment of God because of sin. The Scriptures recognize that poverty is often the result of unfortunate circumstances whose ultimate reasons are known to God's providence alone. In this sense "Rich and poor have a common bond: the Lord is the maker of them all." (Prov. 22:2) One might here profitably turn to the Book of Job, where--through no fault of his own--the righteous Job loses his family, his health, and his wealth. The unflappable Job suffers through the loss of all his blessings: Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit: sicut Domino placuit, ita factum est: sit nomen Domini benedictum. "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!" (Job 1:21)

There is a form of poverty that is neither caused by the lack of diligence, nor is the result of disobedience of God's commands and a life of sin, but is the result of oppression, of fraud, of injustice. "For there are among my people criminals," says God through his prophet Jeremiah," like fowlers they set traps, but it is men they catch."
Their houses are as full of treachery as a bird-cage is of birds; Therefore they grow powerful and rich, fat and sleek. They go their wicked way; justice they do not defend By advancing the claim of the fatherless or judging the cause of the poor. Shall I not punish these things? says the LORD; on a nation such as this shall I not take vengeance?
(Jer. 5: 26-29) The poor in these instances are the victims of injustice, and their oppressors are excoriated with very strong words.
Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work out evil on their couches; In the morning light they accomplish it when it lies within their power. They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and they take them; They cheat an owner of his house, a man of his inheritance. Therefore thus says the LORD: Behold, I am planning against this race an evil from which you shall not withdraw your necks; Nor shall you walk with head high, for it will be a time of evil.
(Micah 1:1-3)

The rich are constantly admonished to do justice to the poor and the afflicted. "Defend the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed." (Ps. 82:3; cf. Isaiah 1:17; Deut. 24:17) They are admonished to gain their wealth justly.
If a man is virtuous - if he does what is right and just, if he does not eat on the mountains, nor raise his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel; if he does not defile his neighbor's wife, nor have relations with a woman in her menstrual period; if he oppresses no one, gives back the pledge received for a debt, commits no robbery; if he gives food to the hungry and clothes the naked; if he does not lend at interest nor exact usury; if he holds off from evildoing, judges fairly between a man and his opponent; if he lives by my statutes and is careful to observe my ordinances, that man is virtuous - he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD.
(Ez. 18:5-9) But the rich are called to go beyond mere justice, and be generous to the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger among them.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unions and the Common Good

LABOR UNIONS PLAY A FUNDAMENTAL EVEN INDISPENSABLE ROLE in the advancing the interests of workers vis-à-vis their employers. Though--like any human institution--the history of unions shows they are the subject of abuse and misuse, their history also shows that they have the possibility of contributing not only to the good of the worker whom they represent, but to the common good as well.

The Church generally supported and supports the right of the workers to peaceful assembly and association. The Church's social doctrine therefore insists that workers have "the right to form associations or unions to defend the vital interests of workers employed in the various professions." (Compendium, No. 305)

Properly ordered, such association of workers, by independently and responsibly advancing the rights of workers and their interests, can contribute to the good of the worker and contribute to the common good as a whole. Properly ordered, then, unions then contribute to the general welfare of the entire population, increasing social justice and increasing its wealth and welfare.

The Church's support of unions must be understood within her vision of labor unions and their function. The function of unions must be understood within the Church's greater understanding of economic life as a whole. The Church does not accept the Marxist notion of a "class struggle," and any view of unions as being "mouthpiece for a class struggle which inevitably governs social life" is to be rejected.

Rather, the Church takes a more Heraclitean view of labor unions. According to Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus criticized the poet Homer who prayed that strife should perish among men, since Heraclitus insisted that justice required struggle.* In the relationship between worker and employer, there must be a similar struggle, a struggle for social justice.

It is inevitable that there will be struggles in the achievement for social justice if for no other reason than there are different interests involved between capital and between labor. And unions have a role towards implementing a tenuous peace between capital and labor, not in advancing internecine war.

"Properly speaking," the Compendium of the Church's Social Doctrine states, "unions are promoters of the struggle for social justice, for the rights of workers in their particular profession." (Compendium, No. 306) But the Church's understanding of struggle is nuanced. "This struggle," the Compendium continues quoting John Paul II's encyclical Laborem Exercens,** "should be seen as a normal endeavor 'for' the just good . . . not a struggle 'against' others."

This struggle--while of necessity adversarial--excludes any animosity, any hatred, any strict "us" versus "them" mentality. Any "hatred and attempts to eliminate the other are completely unacceptable." The struggle is one that is engaged in a spirit of cooperation, of solidarity, with an eye toward the common good. Unions must recognize that their rights and the rights of the worker are not absolute. Rather, they must recognized that "in every social system both 'labor' and 'capital' represent indispensable components of the process of production." The common good overrides the right of both employer and worker. (Compendium, No. 306)

Since social justice and not class warfare is the union's end, the union must view itself as an instrument of "solidarity and social justice," and any union ought to shun any misuse of the "tools of contention," such as strikes. (Compendium, No. 306) Indeed, ideally unions are to be disciplined and self-monitoring. They should "be capable of self-regulation," and they must always "be able to evaluate the consequences that their decisions will have on the common good." Unions ought neither to pit themselves against employers nor pit themselves against the common good.

While generally supportive of unions, the Church's social doctrine also promotes the notion of "right-to-work laws" which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that would make membership, the payment of union dues, a mandatory condition of employment and which require workplace to be a closed shop. Unions, the Compendium states, must resist "the temptation of believing that all workers should be union members." (Compendium, No. 306)

Unions ought to be more than mere advocates, "defending and vindicating" the rights of the worker. They ought also to have a greater appreciation for their role in greater society, in promoting not only the parochial or private interests of the workers, but the "proper arrangement of economic life" of the nation. They also should play an educative function, "educating the social consciences of workers so that they will feel that they have an active role, according to their capacities and aptitudes, in the whole task of economic and social development and in the attainment of the universal common good." (Compendium, No. 306)

Though unions ought to have a social role and a political voice, they are not "political parties," ought to avoid the quest for political power, ought not to be "too closely linked" to political parties, and at the same time ought not to be forced to submit to the "decisions of political parties." They ought to be independent from the political process, and never "become an instrument for other purposes." Their role is to make the political arena "sensitive to labor problems," and--in a manner independent of partisan spirit--help the political process include the rights of workers as part of the political mix. (Compendium, No. 307)

If unions become instruments of political parties, or if political parties become instruments of unions, there will necessarily be imbalance. Unions in such cases "easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society." (Compendium, No. 307)

Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 1235a25; Heraclitus: DK22B80. The poet was Homer. See Iliad 18.107.
**John Paul II, Laborem exercens, 20.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Right to a Just Wage

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WORKERS and their employers is one that is based or ought to be based upon convention--a free and uncoerced agreement between employer and employee. But the relationship is not only conventional, it is also one that has an underlying nature, and so has a natural law and justice associated with it which the convention ought to reflect and certainly not contradict. The convention is based upon the natural relation of employer and employee, is meant to implement it. And just like a conventional law that is unjust is no law at all (lex iniusta non est lex) so is an agreement between worker and employer no agreement at all if it is unjust (contractus iniustus non est contractus).

At its most simple, that employment relationship is between two human persons, and justice is what ought to govern that relationship. Modernly, more often than not, however, the employer is an impersonal institution, an organization, a corporation, a fictional person. Also, the possibility always lurks of a disparity in bargaining power between a monied employer and an unmonied employee. These can affect that relationship adversely, affect the parties' relative bargaining powers, and lead to injustice.

Unfortunately, between bureaucracy and power disparity the human element in the relationship is often lost and abuse and injustice becomes possible. Most often, it is the worker who is at a disadvantage, and it is often a "sad fact" that workers are "underpaid and without protection or adequate representation." Conditions of workers, especially in developing countries, are often so inhumane that they are an offend the dignity and health of workers. to For this reason, the Church has focused on the rights of the worker as against the employer, though the worker certainly has reciprocal rights owed to his employer. The rights are not all one-way.

In order to protect the relationship of justice that ought to exist between the employed and the employer, the Church has been quite insistent on worker's rights, and has been so since she first addressed the social question. "The rights of workers, like all other rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on his transcendent dignity." (Compendium, No. 301) This is to say that the rights of workers as the Church understands them are part and parcel of the natural moral law. These rights are based upon the nature of the employment relationship and the fact that such relationship is one that involves a person.

Though the rights of the worker are based upon the natural law and so immutable, their application in contingent circumstances might vary. (We are dealing largely with determinations of principles, here, not first principles.) For example, how these rights operate in the concrete would be different if we are looking at the employment relationship between one tribesman and another in the village of Mpintimpi in Ghana or the employment between a laborer and his employer in the heart of Milan, Chicago, Birmingham, or Hamburg. They are also historically conditioned. What was appropriate in medieval Paris is not necessarily appropriate in contemporary Paris.

There certain rights of workers that the Church in her social doctrine has identified, and we may aggregate them into what might be called a worker's Bill of Rights. It should be understood, however, that these rights as enumerated in the Compendium presuppose a very advanced economy, and so not all of them may apply or they may not apply in the same way in simpler employment conditions. Some of these rights are more quantitative, while others are more qualitative. Finally, not all of them are the responsibility of the employer, as some are the responsibility of the society at large, or intermediate social or charitable institutions, or of the local, regional, or national governments. Some of these could even be the individual's responsibility to implement (e.g, purchasing insurance and saving money to provide for retirement).
  • The right to a just (or living) wage
  • The right to rest
  • The right to safe and morally acceptable working environments and manufacturing processes
  • The right to have one's conscience and personal dignity respected
  • The right to appropriate subsidies necessary for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families
  • The right to pension and to insurance for old age, sickness, and work-related accidents
  • The right to social security in connection with maternity
  • The right to assembly and to form associations such as unions
(Compendium, No. 301)

One of the central features of the relationship between employer and employee is remuneration. Remuneration is the entire package of recompense to the worker in exchange for his labor to the business enterprise. There must be justice between worker and employer, and "remuneration is the most important means for achieving justice in work relationships." When that remuneration is just,that is, when it conforms to natural justice, the Church refers to it as a "just wage." Sometimes it is referred to as a "living wage."

There is a rich Biblical tradition which underlies the Church's insistence that it is a "grave injustice" to "refuse to pay a just wage" or to refuse to give a just wage "in due time and in due proportion to the work done." (Compendium, No. 302) The insistence is found both in the Old and New Testaments. "You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer." (Lev. 19:13) "Behold," says the Apostle James in his epistle echoing the Law and the Prophets, "the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts." (James 5:4) It is a deeply traditionalist and conservative spirit behind the Church's insistence that the employer ought to pay a just wage. We are dealing with a moral injunction which trumps economic motive or justifications.

The worker's labor is what allows him to "gain access to the goods of the earth." It is what allows him "the means to cultivate worthily his own material, social, cultural, and spiritual life and that of his dependents." Failure to pay him a just wage shuts him out of this endeavor. It is for this reason that mere agreement between laborer and employer is not an assurance of a "just wage."

Convention is not sufficient if the underlying justice is violated. Unquestionably, free agreement (convention) is an important element of assessing a "just wage." A wage that is forced upon two parties acting in good faith is not just. But agreement, while a necessary condition for a just wage, is not a sufficient condition for a just wage. A wage "must not be below the level of subsistence," and if it is, "natural justice precedes and is above the freedom of the contract." (Compendium, No. 302) (quoting Leo XIII, Rerum novarum).* An unjust wage implies that there has been an unjust distribution of income. Either the employer (through greater profit) or society at large (through cheap goods) has obtained income unjustly.

The economic well-being is not measured exclusively by the quantity of goods it produces but also by taking into account the manner in which they are produced and the level of equity in the distribution of income, which should allow everyone access to what is necessary for their personal development and perfection. An equitable distribution of income is to be sought on the basis of criteria non merely of commutative justice but also of social justice that is, considering, beyond the objective value of the work rendered, the human dignity of the subject who perform it. Authentic economic well-being is pursued also by means of suitable social policies for the redistribution of income which, taking general conditions into account, look at merit as well as the need of each citizen.

(Compendium, No. 303)

There will always be disputes between employer and employees that need resolution. It is a consummation, devoutly to be wished, that those disputes be resolved amicably, fairly, without resort to violence. There are times, however, were resolution through preferred means does not work. In those times, "'when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit,'" and "when every other method for the resolution of disputes has been ineffectual," the Church recognizes the moral legitimacy of striking. (Compendium, No. 304**) Striking is therefore a "kind of ultimatum," and it must remain peaceful.

Striking is defined as "the collective and concerted refusal on the part of workers to continue rendering their services, for the purpose of obtaining by means of such pressure exerted on their employers, the State, or on public opinion either better working conditions or an improvement in their social status." Striking must not be used, however, to coerce the employer into an unjust bargain. It must not be used as a tool to achieve objectives "not directly linked to working conditions or that are contrary to the common good." Therefore, strikes that expose the public to danger or serious inconvenience (e.g., by policemen, air-traffic controllers) may not be legitimate. Likewise, using strikes as a form of "blackmail" to exact unjust recompense are against the common good.

Striking is therefore a last-means by which the workers obtain by pressure something owed to them by justice. But the morality of striking does not end there. Striking itself becomes "morally unacceptable when accompanied by violence" or if carried out unjustly. It would be morally unacceptable, for example if the strike involved violence against employer representatives, if it involves destruction to property, if it threatens the very viability of the employer, if it seriously inconveniences the public, or when unwilling workers are forced to participate in the strike through threats of violence or other coercive techniques.

*Though it might be argued that a laborer is better with some wage than none at all, it seems that that avoids the greater question. First, paying workers non-subsistence wages is hardy a long-term solution and is inhumane since by definition it means that the laborer is condemned to a life of misery. Second, it would suggest that the enterprise has not fairly assessed the value of the labor to the enterprise, or if it has, it means the enterprise is not economically warranted. If the enterprise cannot afford to pay an above-subsistence wage and make a profit, it would appear that the enterprise is either inefficiently run or is producing a product the demand of which does not justify the continuation of the enterprise. It is unjust to expect the worker to absorb this managerial or economic inefficiency through wages that are non-subsistence.
**The Compendium cites to Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 68; John Paul II, Laborem exercens, 20; and the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2430.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Right to Work

THE CHURCH HONORS HUMAN WORK, and sees it as a fundamental good of man. She recognizes it as both a duty and a right. The reason work is both a duty and a right stems from the fact that work is necessary and that it affirms the human person.

Work is necessary for a variety of reasons. It is needed to form and support a family. It is a necessity to support one's right to property. It is needful because it contributes to the common good and to civil peace. The relationship between work and the common good is so intrinsic that the Church views unemployment as a "real social disaster." (Compendium, No. 287) (quoting John Paul II, Laborem exercens)

The Church therefore urges governments to aim, as part of a mandatory objective required by both justice and the common good, to the "full employment" of their citizens. Governments ought to avoid economic policies which frustrate this goal and which result in the denial of, or thwarting of, employment. (Compendium, No. 288)

Governments should also aim to assuring that there be adequate access to education and training. The role of education becomes even more important as the society becomes technologically mature. Also, with the "fluid economic context that is often unpredictable in the way that it evolves," retraining or on-going education is an essential requirement. (Compendium, No. 289, 290)

Finally, there ought to be special solicitude to those who have difficulty in obtaining employment and yet who have both the duty and the right to work: the young, women, less-specialized workers, those with disabilities, immigrants, ex-convicts, the illiterate. (Compendium, No. 289) Special concern should be women, whose "feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society." (Compendium, No. 295). Also, there is frequent exploitation of foreign or immigrant workers to which the State ought to be vigilant to prevent. (Compendium, No. 298) Finally, the exploitation of children and child-labor is a blight that needs to be overcome. (Compendium, 296)

The Church therefore puts a large responsibility upon the shoulders of the State in the area of the employment of its citizens. But her social doctrine ought in no way to be interpreted in a manner suggestive of socialism or Soviet-style central planning. The Church is not advocating by any means politburo-employment. "The duty of the State does not consist so much in directly guaranteeing the right to work of every citizen, making the whole of economic life very rigid and restricting individual free initiative." (Compendium, No. 291)

Rather, the duty upon the State is one of sustaining "business activities by creating conditions which will ensure job opportunities, by stimulating those activities where they are lacking or by supporting them in times of crisis." The principle of subsidiarity is here of critical importance. (Compendium, No. 291) Employment is to be the result of "an open process" and not government dictates, a process essentially free yet responsible, which does not forget the solidarity among men. There is room here for private, for-profit initiative, and for non-profit, volunteer-type arrangements, the so-called "third sector" between private enterprise and public authority.

With the increased globalization of the world's economy, there is a role also to promote international cooperation among the several nation States "by means of treaties, agreements,and common plans of action that safeguard the right to work." International organizations and labor unions also "must strive first of all to create 'an ever more tightly knit fabric of juridical norms that protect the work of men, women, and youth, ensuring its proper remuneration." (Compendium, No. 292) Whether chronic unemployment is in Yuma, Arizona, or in Harare, Zimbabwe, or in Madrid, Spain, all of us are in some manner hurt.

There is an intrinsic connection between work and family life. Indeed, the Church sees that work is "a foundation for the formation of family life." (Compendium, No. 294) (quoting JP II, Laborem exercens) This is one reason why the Church is so concerned in assuring employment. Work allows marriage and family to flourish. It is needed to sustain the family and to allow for its principle end: the raising and education of children.

It is this intrinsic connection between work and family life, that ought to cause a re-appraisal of the relationship between employer and employee. The employment relationship cannot only be thought of in economic terms or in terms of a private contract, though it has those dimensions. But every employment decision has a familial dimension that ought not to be forgotten. So the Church asks everyone involved in the employment process, "businesses, professional organizations, labor unions, and the State," to "promote policies that, from an employment point of view, do not penalize but rather support the family nucleus." (Compendium, No. 294)

The Compendium also addresses the issue of agricultural labor, which requires a specialized or individualized treatment. In many countries, agricultural labor is particularly important to the national economy. In some countries, particularly in Latin America, land ownership is excessively centralized in what are known as latifundia or huge landed estates. The latifundia system is an inefficient, unproductive, unjust system, repeatedly condemned by the Church as immoral. It is closed to the free market, to wide-spread ownership of private property, to ready alienation of property. It requires attention and, in some countries, "a redistribution of land as part of sound policies of agrarian reform" is a moral imperative. (Compendium, No. 300)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lord! Give Us Holy Leisure!

THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF ACTION, states Aristotle, is leisure. This is because, in Aristotle's view, leisure is the purpose of all lack of leisure, of all activity, of all busy-ness.* For Aristotle, busy-ness is not an end in itself. This is the classic and Christian view of things. As important as it is, activity, busy-ness, leisurelessness does not take precedence in human life; rather, it is leisure that ought to take precedence. Leisure is the keystone of the arch composed of the voussoirs of busy-ness.

This is the approach to work and to leisure (which the Compendium of the Church's Social Doctrine calls by its biblical name, rest). The Compendium teaches that, as the untiring God rested after creating the world, so must men and women who are created in His image (but who tire) rest. For this reason, the Compendium insists that men and women are to structure their lives to assure that they "enjoy sufficient rest and free time that will allow them to tend to their family, cultural, social, and religious life." This obligation is both social and individual.

It is therefore incumbent upon public authority to see that its citizens are not deprived of their proper rest, and that they are not deprived from their time for divine worship "for reasons of economic productivity." (Compendium, No. 286) Employers also are under an obligation to assure that their employees have an opportunity for rest and divine worship. (Compendium, No. 286) Indeed, "Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord's Day." (Compendium, No. 286) (quoting CCC s. 2187)

For us moderns, the authentic notion of rest or leisure that the Compendium insists upon escapes us. We are perplexed at Aristotle's statement which the philosopher Josef Pieper translates as "We are not-at-leisure (ascholoumetha) in order to be-at-leisure (scholazomein)."* Why, we moderns ask ourselves, is the Sabbath day to be kept holy, and why are we to abstain from servile work?

We have lost the ability to understand these matters because we understand leisure or rest as mere lack of work, a "down time" which is used for relaxation, or entertainment. This superficialization of leisure or rest occurred because we have lost the link between leisure and culture, that is the culture of celebration, worship, sacrifice to God (what Pieper calls the divine "cult"). This cult of the divine is intrinsically part of the notion of leisure as Aristotle understands it or rest as the Scriptures understand it.

Pieper attributes the modern inability to understand the concepts of work and leisure and their relationship to the cult of God to an altered conception of the human person and human existence. This changed understanding of who man is and what he is for changed the ethos under which man moves and breathes and has his being. It is this ethos typical of modernity--which Pieper calls the ethos of "total work"--that is responsible for our inability to understand the role of work, its relationship to leisure or rest, and the link leisure and rest have to divine worship.

The modern ethos of "total work" has changed both the meaning of work and the meaning of leisure. And it has completely written God out of the picture in regard to both work and rest. So we cannot follow Aristotle on leisure, nor, more importantly, can we follow the significance of the Biblical concept of rest until we regain something of the pre-modern notion of leisure and rest.

Briefly and simplistically, the way the modern ethos of "total work" came about is this. The Catholic Church, drawing upon the Greek concept of schole, upon such Biblical sources as the story of Martha and Mary in the Gospel of Luke, and the experience of monastic life, divided the Christian life into two: the vita activa, the active life, and the vita contemplativa, the contemplative life. Without deprecating either, the Church gave precedence to the contemplative life over the active life.

Based upon a misapplication of Scripture and the narrow principle of sola Scriptura, however, the Protestant reformers deprecated the contemplative life. From a practical perspective, the Protestants' intense dislike of the vita contemplativa can be seen by their suppression of the monastic orders (and convenient seizing of their properties) wherever they had the the reins of civil power. The Protestants also held a distrust of any holy day and feast day, and so suppressed the whole series of holy days and the celebrations, liturgical and popular, associated with them, freeing these days up for work. The Protestant reformers, then, if they even recognized the vita contemplativa, certainly overemphasized the important of the vita activa. There developed a disdain of leisure and an emphasis on work. The sociologist Max Weber called this ethos the "Protestant work ethic," and the name stuck.

As an example of the Protestant work ethic, Josef Pieper points to a statement by the Lutheran hymn writer Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf quoted by the sociologist Max Weber in his book The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: "One does not only work in order to live, but one lives for the sake of one's work." Indeed, in Count Zinzendorf's view not to be working would mean--not leisure or rest, but suffering and death.** This notion--where work is life and life is work--is the notion of "total work," "total work" under God, but still "total work."It would not have been uttered by one schooled in the Catholic spirit. This concept was imported to the Americas in the form of the black-dressed and dour Puritan, and so it is also called the Puritan work ethic.

Once this Protestant ethos became secularized in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and the evolutionary and materialistic theory of Darwin in the 1800s, the already weakened tie to God of work and rest was completely rent. When this happened, we entered into the world of what Pieper calls "total work" without any reference to God. In a world of "total work," work becomes more the preeminent. It becomes absolute.

With the Puritan ethic becoming secularized, it has become even more vicious. Pieper calls this attitude, found in Socialism and Capitalism alike, the attitude of proletarianization. This attitude of work without God and work without bounds speaks of the "inner impoverishment of the individual" who, wed to the notion that--as stated with horrible irony in the gate into Auschwitz--Arbeit macht Frei, work makes one free, he literally works himself into a form of slavery, sort of like someone slowly lapses into alcoholism. In fact, we even call someone who displays this attitude of total work in its extreme a workaholic, suggesting a sort of moral disease.

Insidiously, this notion of "total work" even infiltrated the intellectual life. Traditionally, human knowledge was seen as composed of two distinct ways of thinking, one active and discursive (called ratio), the other receptive and intuitive (called intellectus). This latter form of knowledge was viewed as a sort of intellectual vision, a knowledge gained by "merely looking" as Pieper calls it.*** The notion of intellectus is perhaps most beautifully captured in a fragment of Heraclitus which Pieper translates as the "listening-in to the being of things."† This form of knowledge was viewed as approaching angelic and divine thought. Prior to the Reformation and Enlightenment, it was highly prized by philosophers and theologians both.

As part of his great great Copernican revolution of philosophy, Immanuel Kant rejected any sort of intellectual vision, any "listening-in to the being of things." "The understanding cannot look upon anything," scoffed Kant.†† Kant was not one to exercise the Heraclitean "listening-in to the being of things." All thinking for Kant was labor, and all thought was acquired or produced as if it were a commodity, by raw intellectual effort applied to concepts. In Kant, the notion of "total work" had crept into his head as it were a cancer. And where the notion of "total work" crept in, there was only room for activity, and no room for receptivity. Grace was no longer admitted into thought's realm.

Kant might be called the Pelagius of the intellect. His concept of the intellect was one where there is no need for grace, just self-effort. When everything is built upon self-effort, we become hardened, and develop what Pieper calls a "stoniness of heart," an intellectual quality of "not-being-able-to-receive," and indeed not being able to play.††† One not able to receive and not able to play will find it impossible to celebrate, and celebration is at the heart of the divine service.

The ability to contemplate which is at the heart of the intellectus is not discursively achieved, but is achieved passively by the "leisure of contemplation," the otium contemplationis. This sort of thought is more like play. It is a participation in the Divine Wisdom which "plays all the time, plays throughout the world."‡

The emphasis of the via activa over the via contemplativa, the emphasis on ratio and not intellectus even changes the concept of time. The Greeks distinguished between two kinds of time: chronos and kairos. Kairos was a sense of time which had a sense of opportuneness. It was a qualitative notion, and had an air of indeterminacy, measured by events: the time for harvest (cf. Matt. 21:34), the time for figs (cf. Mark 11:13) Chronos, on the other hand, was quantitative, determinate, discrete. It is the concept we are most familiar with: the sequential, the tick-tock of the clock. The term kairos was used in the New Testament to refer to that opportune time, the fullness of time, when God acts. Kairos is the concept of time invoked by Jesus when he first announces the Gospel. For example, in Mark 1:15, Jesus proclaims, "The time [ho kairos] is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel." This notion of time is imported into the Eastern liturgy when the deacon proclaims to the priest invoking the words of Psalm 118 (119): 126: Kairos tou poiesai to Kyrio, "It is time for the Lord to act." The notion of kairos is entirely gone from modern life. Chronos reigns supreme.

The Gospel sees things differently than Kant who took contemplation out of human thought. It sees things differently than the neurotic and frenetic Puritan who linked material success and work with proof of his predestination into heaven, and so by a doctrinal and practical error, took worship out of leisure and put worship into work. It is, as we have seen, more concerned with kairos than with chronos.

The locus classicus of the relative merits of the vita contemplativa and the vita activa, of intellectus over ratio, of kairos over chronos, is the Gospel story which sets forth the way God looks at the relative importance of activity to leisure is the story of Martha and Mary, the sisters of his friend Lazarus. (Luke 10:38-42) Christ, one might remember, decides to stay at the home of Martha and Mary. How do the two hostesses respond to the divine guest? In their response, they are types for us. One type to avoid. The other type to follow.

Almost heedless to her responsibilities, Mary is preoccupied with just one thing: the Unum Necessarium, the divine guest before whose feet she sat. She is contemplation. She is the vita contemplativa. She is intellectus. She is being schooled by Christ. She is at worship. Time for her is kairos.

On the other hand, Martha, in her effort to make Christ welcome, becomes preoccupied with many things. Martha is activity for activity's sake. Martha is the via activa. She is ratio. She is stuck in chronos. She is "total work." In her busyness, she passes right by Christ. Martha was like the harried young postulant who was stopped by Blessed Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and told she was leaving God behind in her great hurry.‡‡ In her state, she cannot worship.

Martha's preoccupation with her work is complete, consuming. She cannot rest. This preoccupation distracts her attention away from the divine guest in her presence. Pontius Pilate would have Christ in his presence and would ask, "What is Truth?" Martha has Christ as a guest and in her frenetic activity does not even have the time for Truth that is under her roof.

Don't both Pilate's skepticism and Martha's "total work" both effectively prevent a confrontation with Truth?

It is important to see not only that we misunderstand the purpose of work, we also have to see that we misunderstand the notion of leisure or rest. It is a modern folly to look at leisure as mere the "lack of work," something we fill exclusively or even principally with entertainment. The Christian is not give the Sabbath so that he can go to the circus with the Pagan. "Believers," the Compendium tells us, "should distinguish themselves on this day too by their moderation, avoiding the excesses and certainly the violence that mass entertainment sometimes occasions." (Compendium, No. 285)

It is also wrong to look at leisure as equivalent to relaxation, something to re-charge the batteries so we can get back to work refreshed.

Leisure must also distinguished from idleness. The leisure the Church and Pieper have in mind is not the leisure of the "leisure class" excoriated by Thorstein Veblen in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class, or the "idle rich" in Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.

The leisure or rest the Church has in mind is a holy leisure, what the Cistercians called otium sanctum.

Indeed, this holy leisure is the worlds apart from idleness, mere relaxation, or entertainment. It requires a devotion, discipline, and effort of its own. This more rugged form of holy leisure is what the Cistercian Thomas Merton appears to be grasping for when he wrote: "I, for one, realize that now I need more. Not simply to be quiet, somewhat productive, to pray, to read to cultivate leisure--otium sanctum! There is a need of effort, deepening, change and transformation."‡‡‡ St. Bernard of Clairvaux spoke of a negotissimum otium,§ a very busy leisure, one that in Merton's words required "effort, deepening, change, and transformation."

It is a tremendous task to learn how to be receptive, how to empty oneself. In fact, the original word from which we derive the word vacation is Latin vacatio, which means to empty oneself out. Monastic writers speak of the need to vacare Deo, to vacate oneself for God. Indeed, this notion is scriptural. The Psalms speak of it: Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 45(46):10) The word "be still" is (in the Vulgate) vacate and in the Greek Septuagint scholasate, a form of the very word the philosophers used to describe leisure.§§ This notion is outside the pale of modern life, and this is why T. S. Eliot in his poem "Ash Wednesday" includes the prayer, "Teach us to sit still." It is what moderns need.

There is, of course, a time and place for entertainment and for relaxation, perhaps even for idleness, but they are not the heart of leisure. Leisure, as the classic study of that subject by the German Thomist philosopher Josef Pieper put it, feeds culture. "Culture," Pieper tells us, "depends for its very existence on leisure, and leisure, in its turn, is not possible unless it has a durable and consequently living link with the cultus, with the divine worship."

The very words used by the Greek and Romans betray the importance of rest, of leisure over the busy-ness of politics, of commerce, of servile labor. Leisure--in Greek schole, in Latin otium--is the root concept. Schole is the word from which our word school is derived, suggesting that leisure is a schooling of sorts. Busy-ness on the other hand--in Greek ascholia, in Latin negotium--is the opposite, the negation of, the absence of leisure. It is something that takes away from, subtracts from, detracts from the root which is one of the introspection of self and the cult of God.

Of course, activity is not to be regarded as evil though it is ordered to leisure. We have a duty to work. And work has a tremendous dignity of its own. Sometimes even activity is the prerequisite to grasping truth. In a letter to William Sessions, Flannery O'Connor seized on a story about Gerard Manley Hopkins who wrote the poet Robert Bridges who asked how he could learn to believe, and was told to quit thinking about it and "give alms."§§§ Here, it was right to recommend action over thinking. If one's work is properly ordered and subordinated to leisure, then one can pray along with the Benedictine (in a spirit entirely different from Count Zinzendorf), laborare est orare, to work is to pray. St. Augustine, in his De civitate Dei seems to grasp the balance: Otium sanctum quaerit caritatis veritatis; negotium iustum suscipit necessitas caritatatis. "The love of truth seeks a holy leisure, but the urgency of love undertakes the work that is due." XIX.19

All this reflection is necessary to understand what the Church means when she says in her Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church "Rest from work is a right." (Compendium, No. 284). Within this short statement is included the entire notion of the primacy of leisure or rest over work, of the via contemplativa over the via activa, of intellectus over ratio, of kairos over chronos, of the intrinsic connection between leisure and rest and the divine worship, and of the "urgency of love that makes us undertake the word that is due."

The Church has institutionalized rest, and seeks to have its value recognized in our social life. The "Lord's Day," the Christian Sabbath, is a time specifically set apart for rest. Holidays--as the original word "Holy Day" attests--were the additional days set apart for rest, for the divine cultus. For this reason, the Christian faithful are urged to "refrain from 'engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.'" (Compendium, No. 284) (quoting CCC s. 2185) "The Lord's Day should always be lived as a day of liberation that allows us to take part in the 'festal gathering and the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven' (cf. Heb. 12:22-23), anticipating thus the celebration of the definitive Passover in the glory of heaven." (Compendium, No. 285) "Sunday is an appropriate time for the reflection, silence, study, and meditation that foster the growth of the interior Christian life." (Compendium, No. 285)

Finally, the Church recognizes that it is proper sometimes to act--to give alms and quit thinking, even in those days especially set apart for leisure or rest. The Church has learned the lesson of her Lord that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, "[f]amily needs and service of great importance to society constitute legitimate excuses from the obligation of Sunday rest." But even then, the exception must not swallow up the rule, but most prove the rule, as the exception "must not create habits that are prejudicial to religion, family life, or health." (Compendium, No. 284) And yet, Sunday in particular, "should be made holy by charitable activity." The end of the worship God--ite missa est--should lead to the service of our brother. Therefore, time should be devoted to "family and relatives, as well as the sick, the infirm, and the elderly."

It is in the hopes of recapturing this entire lost world that the Church urges that "Christians, in respect of religious freedom and of the common good of all, should seek to have Sundays and the Church's Holy Days recognized as legal holidays." But legality alone will not transform our culture of "total work." For that we must pray: Dona nobis Domine otium sanctum! Lord give us holy leisure!

This rejection of the world of total work, the recapture of leisure over work and its relationship to divine worship, of intellectus over ratio, of the vita contemplativa over the vita activa, of kairos over chronos is essential. For only then shall we leave the false gods we worship and be able to receive the God who is Love.

Must bus'ness thee from hence remove?
Oh! that's the worst disease of love;
The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.
He which hath bus'ness, and makes love, doth do
Such wrong as when a married man doth woo.

(John Donne, "Break of Day")

*Aristotle, Politics 8.1337b (αὕτη γὰρ ἀρχὴ πάντων μία: καὶ πάλιν εἴπωμεν περὶ αὐτῆς. εἰ δ᾽ ἄμφω μὲν δεῖ, μᾶλλον δὲ αἱρετὸν τὸ σχολάζειν τῆς ἀσχολίας καὶ τέλος, ζητητέον ὅ τι δεῖ ποιοῦντας σχολάζειν.) See also Nicomachean Ethics, 1177b4-6 (ἀσχολούμεθα γὰρ ἵνα σχολάζωμεν, καὶ πολεμοῦμεν ἵν᾽ εἰρήνην ἄγωμεν.) "We do business (ἀσχολούμεθα) in order that we may have leisure (σχολάζωμεν), and carry on war in order that we may have peace." Pieper translates it thus: "We are not-at-leisure in order to be-at-leisure." Pieper, 4, 6. (Of course, Pieper wrote his great work on leisure, Muße und Kult, in German. The version I use is the translation by Gerald Malsbary published by St. Augustine's Press as Leisure, the Basis of Culture.
**"Man arbeitet nicht allein, daß man lebt, sondern man lebt um der Arbeit willen, und wenn man nichts mehr zu arbeiten hat, so leidet man oder entschläft."
***Pieper, 10-11.
†Pieper, 11 (fragment 112, Diels-Kranz)
††Pieper, 10 (quoting Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft) "In Kant's view, then, human knowing consists essentially in the act of investigating, articulating, joining, comparing, abstracting, deducing, proving--all of which are so many types and methods of active mental effort. According to Kant, knowing . . . is activity, and nothing but activity."
†††Pieper, 14.
‡Pieper, 18 (citing St. Thomas, Super Sent., lib. 1 d. 2 q. 1 a. 5 expositio textus) (Ludens, propter otium contemplationis sapientiae.) "Play, according to the leisure of contemplation of Wisdom." and citing to Wisdom 8:30 [sic]. The cite is actually to Proverbs 8:30 (cum eo eram cuncta conponens et delectabar per singulos dies ludens coram eo omni tempore) "I [Wisdom] was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times."
‡‡See The Canonization of Jeanne Dugan, Testimonials,
‡‡‡Thomas Merton, The Other Side of the Mountain: the End of the Journey (New York: Harper Collins, 1998), 113.
§Kenneth Leech, True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1995), 60.
§§The Vulgate iuxta Hebraeos reads: "Cessate et cognoscite quoniam ego sum Deus exaltabor in gentibus exaltabor in terra." The Vulgate iuxta Graecos reads: "Vacate et videte quoniam ego sum Deus exaltabor in gentibus exaltabor in terra." Understanding leisure in the manner that Pieper does, we can translate this verse as "Be at leisure, and know that I am God."
§§§Letter to William Sessions (July 8, 1956) in Letters of Flannery O'Connor: The Habit of Being (Sally Fitzgerald, ed.) (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1979) , 164. The advice was even more severe. It was to give alms "to the point of sensible inconvenience" under the theory that there is a "difference between paying heavily for a virtue and not paying at all." Bridges misunderstood the advice, responded testily to it, and it was the subject of additional correspondence between the two. See Paul L. Mariani, Hopkins: A Life (New York: Viking, 2008), 211.