Three Prophetic Insights from Pope Leo XIII That Still speak powerfully 120 Years Later


A reader alerted me to an interesting and insightful analysis by Pope Leo XIII of three trends that both alarmed him and pointed to future problems. He wrote of these three concerns in 1893 in the Encyclical on the Holy Rosary entitled Laetitiae Sanctae (Of Holy Joy). The Pope enunciates these three areas of concern and then offers the mysteries of the Rosary as a necessary remedy. Lets look at how the Pope describes the problems and then consider too what he sees as a solution. His teaching is in bold, italic, black. My remarks are in plain text, red.

There are three influences which appear to Us to have the chief place in effecting this downgrade movement of society. These are–first, the distaste for a simple and laborious life; secondly, repugnance to suffering of any kind; thirdly, the forgetfulness of the future life. (# 4)

Problem 1 – The distaste for a simple and laborious life – We deplore….the growing contempt of those homely duties and virtues which make up the beauty of humble life. To this cause we may trace in the home, the readiness of children to withdraw themselves from the natural obligation of obedience to the parents, and their impatience of any form of treatment which is not of the indulgent and effeminate kind. In the workman, it evinces itself in a tendency to desert his trade, to shrink from toil, to become discontented with his lot, to fix his gaze on things that are above him, and to look forward with unthinking hopefulness to some future equalization of property. We may observe the same temper permeating the masses in the eagerness to exchange the life of the rural districts for the excitements and pleasures of the town….(#5)

One of the truths that sets us free is to simply realize and come to accept that life is hard. It involves trials, arduous work, and setbacks, along with some of the progress we can and do experience. Very few things of true values come to us without a significant cost. Simply put, life is hard. But, coming to accept this is a freeing thing for many of our resentments are minimized or removed by this acceptance. The fact is, many today expect that life should be peachy. And when it is not, there is resentment, anger, even threats of lawsuits. Many today think of happiness as a God-given right. Our Founding Fathers recognized the pursuit of happiness as a goal. But today many expect that happiness to be the norm and to be a sort of right. When it does not exist for them, there has been a failure of the system somehow. Many today expect to live lives where there is little danger, and where things come easily. This has been one of the factors that influenced the growth of government. For as insistence on a comfortable life grows and hard work seems unreasonable, we expect government to ease our burdens and provide increasing levels of comfort and happiness, and we are less willing to work hard for these things. Rather we see happiness and comfort as things to which we are entitled.

But unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments. And so, with often unrealistic expectations, people quickly grow resentful and even pout. It would seem that our ancestors who lived even as recently as 150 years ago had different notions. They looked for happiness alright, but largely expected to find that in heaven. Many of the old Catholic prayers bespeak a vision that this world was a place of travail, of exile, a valley of tears, where we sighed and longed to be with God. Most Catholics of those earlier times lived lives that were brutal and short. Most were peasants, and lived with far less creature comforts than we. There was no central air, electricity, running water, and medicines were few and far less effective. Entertainment was limited, houses were smaller, even tiny and transportation was far more limited.

We live so well compared to them. And though we are more comfortable, there is little evidence that we are happier. Indeed, we seem more resentful, because we expect more, a lot more. As the Pope notes, young people resent discipline and expect to be spoiled. The majority of parents seem willing to indulge them and shun giving correction since it raises tensions and causes difficulties.

The value of hard work and the satisfaction that comes from it seems lost on many today. Cardinal McCarrick used to counsel us priests that if we did not go to bed tired, something was wrong. We all need some rest and relaxation, sure, but hard work actually brings greater satisfaction to times of rest.

The fact is, high expectations of this world like we have today, breed discontent and resentments. For by it these unrealistic and high expectations, we really insist on living in a fantasy that this world is, or can be paradise. It cannot. A better strategy is to accept that life is difficult and, though it has its joys, it presents arduous difficulties to us that must be met with courage and acceptance. Though this is a hard truth it brings peace when it is accepted.

To the first error Pope Leo commend to our attention the Joyful mysteries and particularly a meditation on the implicit lessons of the home at Nazareth:

Let us take our stand in front of that earthly and divine home of holiness, the House of Nazareth. How much we have to learn from the daily life which was led within its walls! What an all-perfect model of domestic society! Here we behold simplicity and purity of conduct, perfect agreement and unbroken harmony, mutual respect and love….devotedness of service. Here is the patient industry which provides what is required for food and raiment; which does so “in the sweat of the brow,” which is contented with little….These are precious examples of goodness, of modesty, of humility, of hard-working endurance, of kindness to others, of diligence in the small duties of daily life, and of other virtues…., Then will each one begin to feel his work to be no longer lowly and irksome, but grateful and lightsome, and clothed with a certain joyousness by his sense of duty in discharging it conscientiously….home-life…loved and esteemed….(# 6).

Problem 2 – Repugnance to suffering of any kind – A second evil…. is to be found in repugnance to suffering and eagerness to escape whatever is hard or painful to endure. The greater number are thus robbed of that peace and freedom of mind which remains the reward of those who do what is right undismayed by the perils or troubles to be met with in doing so….By this passionate and unbridled desire of living a life of pleasure, the minds of men are weakened, and if they do not entirely succumb, they become demoralized and miserably cower and sink under the hardships of the battle of life. (# 7)

Yes, today more than ever, there is almost a complete intolerance to any sort of suffering. This has been fueled by the fact that we have been successful in eliminating a lot of suffering.

As noted, we have many creature comforts that protect us from the elements, medicines that alleviate physical pain and bodily discomforts, appliances and technology that provide unprecedented convenience and make a lot of manual labor all but unnecessary.

This, as we have also noted, leads to expectations which are ultimately unrealistic. Namely, that all suffering should be eliminated. There is almost an indignity expressed when one suggests that perhaps some things should be endured or that it is unreasonable to expect government, or doctors, or science to eliminate every evil or form of suffering.

Further, we seem to refuse the notion that accidents sometimes happen or that unfortunate circumstances will just occur. Instead we demand more laws that are often intrusive and oppressive, and we undertake huge lawsuits that often discourage the very risk taking that makes new inventions, medicines and medical techniques possible.

We often hold people responsible for things they can do little about. Sometimes economies just have cycles, climates too. Governments, laws and politicians cannot be expected to solve every problem or alleviate every burden. Sometimes accidents just happen.

Not a Padded room – While we can and should undertake to fix unnecessary hazards and seek to ease one another’s burdens, life isn’t a padded room. Suffering, sorrows, accidents, burdens and difficulties are part of life in this valley of tears. Acceptance of this truth leads to a kind of paradoxical serenity. Rejection of it and indulgence in unrealistic notions that all suffering is unreasonable leads to resentments and further unhappiness.

Here too, Pope Leo commend to us the rosary, in particular the sorrowful mysteries:

…If from our earliest years our minds have been trained to dwell upon the sorrowful mysteries of Our Lord’s life…we [may] see written in His example all the lessons that He Himself had taught us for the bearing of our burden of labor– and sorrow, and mark how the sufferings…He embraced with the greatest measure of generosity and good will. We behold Him overwhelmed with sadness, so that drops of blood ooze like sweat from His veins. We see Him bound like a malefactor, subjected to the judgment of the unrighteous, laden with insults, covered with shame, assailed with false accusations, torn with scourges, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross, accounted unworthy to live….Here, too, we contemplate the grief of the most Holy Mother…”pierced” by the sword of sorrow…. (# 8 )

Then, be it that the “earth is accursed” and brings forth “thistles and thorns,”–be it that the soul is saddened with grief and the body with sickness; even so, there will be no evil which the envy of man or the rage of devils can invent, nor calamity which can fall upon the individual or the community, over which we shall not triumph by the patience of suffering….But by this patience, We do not mean that empty stoicism in the enduring of pain which was the ideal of some of the philosophers of old, but rather….It is the patience which is obtained by the help of His grace; which shirks not a trial because it is painful, but which accepts it and esteems it as a gain, however hard it may be to undergo. [Men and women of faith] re- echo, not with their lips, but with their life, the words of [the Apostle] St. Thomas: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John xi., 16). (# 9)

Yes, indeed, the cross is part of this life. But Christ has made it clear that the cross yields ultimately to glory if we carry it willingly and with faith.

Problem 3- Forgetfulness of the future life – The third evil for which a remedy is needed is one which is chiefly characteristic of the times in which we live. Men in former ages, although they loved the world, and loved it far too well, did not usually aggravate their sinful attachment to the things of earth by a contempt of the things of heaven. Even the right-thinking portion of the pagan world recognized that this life was not a home but a dwelling-place, not our destination, but a stage in the journey. But men of our day, albeit they have had the advantages of Christian instruction, pursue the false goods of this world in such wise that the thought of their true Fatherland of enduring happiness is not only set aside, but, to their shame be it said, banished and entirely erased from their memory, notwithstanding the warning of St. Paul, “We have not here a lasting city, but we seek one which is to come” (Heb. xiii., 4). (# 11)

I have become increasingly amazed at how little most modern people think of heaven. Even Church-going believers talk little of heaven, priest preach little on it. Our main preoccupation seems to be making this world a more comfortable and pleasant place. Even in our so-called spiritual life, our prayers bespeak a worldly preoccupation: Lord, fix my finances, fix my heath, get me a better job. Almost as though we were saying, “Make this world pleasant enough and I’ll just stay here.” It is not wrong to pray for better health etc. It is not wrong to work to make this world a better place. But in the end, our home is in heaven and we ought to be solicitous of it and eagerly seek its shores. It should be a frequent meditation, and to be with God forever, the deepest longing of our soul. Instead we fear getting “older” and hide death away in our culture. It ought to be that we can’t wait to see God. Sure, it would be nice to get a few things done that we’ve started, but as heaven and being with God draw closer, we ought to be happy that the years are ticking by faster. Each day is one day, closer to God!

Here too, our prosperity and creature comforts have mislead us into a love of this world that is unhealthy. A friend of the world is an enemy to God (James 4:4). We are distracted and too easily dismiss that this world is passing away. The fact is, we are going to die. Only a proper longing for heaven can correct the absurdity that an obsessional love for this world establishes in our soul.

Meditate on heaven often! Read the scriptures, such as Revelation 1, & 4-5, 20-21. Ask for a deeper longing from God.

Pope Leo commends the Glorious mysteries of the rosary to our attention as a medicine for this absurd attachment to this passing world and our forgetfulness of heaven:

These mysteries are the means by which, in the soul of a Christian, a most clear light is shed upon the good things, hidden to sense, but visible to faith, “which God has prepared for those who love Him.” From them we learn that death is not an annihilation which ends all things, but merely a migration and passage from life to life. By them we are taught that the path to Heaven lies open to all men, and as we behold Christ ascending thither, we recall the sweet words of His promise, “I go to prepare a place for you.” By them we are reminded that a time will come when “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes,” and that “neither mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, shall be any more,” and that “We shall be always with the Lord,” and “like to the Lord, for we shall see Him as He is,” and “drink of the torrent of His delight,” as “fellow-citizens of the saints,” in the blessed companionship of our glorious Queen and Mother. Dwelling upon such a prospect, our hearts are kindled with desire, and we exclaim, in the words of a great saint, “How vile grows the earth when I look up to heaven!” Then, too, shall we feel the solace of the assurance “that this momentary and light affliction produces for us an eternal weight of glory beyond measure, exceedingly ” (2 Cor. iv., 17).

Here then are three diagnoses, and three remedies. It is interesting to see that the roots of them were already evident in 1893 and how they have come further to press upon us more than 100 years later. It is helpful to have a Doctor of Souls to help us name the demons that afflict us. For having named a demon, we have more power over it and learn its moves:

  1. Demon, your name is “laziness” and “distaste” for hard work. By the joyful mysteries of the Lord’s Life, be gone.
  2. Demon your name “refusal of any suffering” and an “resentment at the cross.” By the sorrowful mysteries of our Lord’s life, be gone.
  3. Demon your name is “forgetfulness of heaven” and “obsession with the passing world.” By the glorious mysteries of Lord’s life and our Lady’s too, be gone.

Photo: Orchard Lake via Creative Commons

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47 Responses to Three Prophetic Insights from Pope Leo XIII That Still speak powerfully 120 Years Later

  1. Toad says:

    “…In the workman, it evinces itself in a tendency to desert his trade, to shrink from toil, to become discontented with his lot, to fix his gaze on things that are above him, “

    “Things that are above him,” possibly being things like that big fat local bishop in his palace, waited on by grovelling, submissive nuns and doing diddly-squat all day, except getting fatter – or so some might say.

    Not Toad, of course.
    He’s not a Red.

    (Well, he certainly sounds like one, to me!)


  2. Toad says:

    ,Problem 1 – The distaste for a simple and laborious life – …impatience of any form of treatment which is not of the indulgent and effeminate kind. In the workman, it evinces itself in a tendency to desert his trade, to shrink from toil, to become discontented with his lot, to fix his gaze on things that are above him, and to look forward with unthinking hopefulness to some future equalization of property.”

    In other words, shut up peasants, and keep slaving.
    Reflecting on these words from a pope, it strikes Toad that here we might derive some sort of insight as to why, later on, churches would be burned and priests, nuns and bishops shot.
    Or maybe not.


  3. Toad says:

    “This, as we have also noted, leads to expectations which are ultimately unrealistic. Namely, that all suffering should be eliminated. There is almost an indignity expressed when one suggests that perhaps some things should be endured or that it is unreasonable to expect government, or doctors, or science to eliminate every evil or form of suffering.”

    Has anyone on CP&S, or indeed – anywhere on earth – ever heard any moderately sane person say that they expect suffering to be eliminated from the planet?
    I think it’s reasonable nowadays to expect it to be alleviated. wherever possible.


  4. Toad, I think when we criticize other’s writings, we need to bear in mind an important principle of generous reading: given the choice between an interpretation that is easy to refute, and another that is harder to refute, one should presume the opponent meant what is more difficult to refute.

    The word “expect” can have a mere predictive meaning (I live in Florida and thus expect it will rain tomorrow), but it can also have a normative meaning, as in “Teachers expect their students to behave.” Sometimes, “expectations” are spoken of which a person may not predict will be fulfilled. I think this is what the Monsignor means: People see no value in suffering, and thus, will not tolerate it if they believe it is possible to dispense with. The normative principle that suffering ought to be alleviated, takes on such a disproportionate significance that other forms of harm are overlooked. Were it possible, many people would eliminate their suffering and create a soft, effeminate Brave New World for themselves.

    Your first two objections evince the ideological method of analyzing social relations, invented by Marx and Engels. I have some material on my blog addressing ideology here (particularly the first three posts), if you care to read:


  5. golden chersonnese says:

    And any thoughts on Popper, theintrepidpage?

    Might I say also that I have had a very pleasant time reading your blog. I am astonished to find that you are a “young person” (anyway, younger than Toad).


  6. Old Shep says:

    Are you a supporter of Hayek, Mr Intrepid?


  7. Old Shep says:

    Here, I criticised, in a polite and evidenced fashion Msgr Pope for, among other things, his poor grasp of English. A glance at his personal history also shows he has no place lecturing others on economics and certainly not in the role of Monseigneur.

    My posts were removed. Is this an outcome of Hayek’s ‘limited democracy”?


  8. Frere Rabit says:

    Old Shep, I am not surprised your comment was deleted: it was direspectful to a valued contributor. If you are going to compete with Toad for the role of rood and norty court jester, then you take the knocks that come with the job. One wise teacher once told me, remarking on my desire to play the fool without heed for the consequences, “Stick your neck out too far and you get your head chopped off.”


  9. Old Shep says:

    If Msgr Pope is a ‘valued contributor’ then all is lost. I see you did not take issue with what I said, perhaps fearing to ‘stick your neck out’.

    So no matter who contributes, however bad it is, all must get in line and sing his/her praises. Does it ever occur to you that this is one reason for the abyss the Church is in? Can I say that without fear of auto da fé?

    Perhaps if I had called for “witch hunts” and had proposed “giving homosexuals a good kicking” that would have been fine. Evidently it is, for those posts remain.


  10. Frere Rabit says:

    Dear me, if you are going to be a successful court jester you will need to gain a sense of humour and take the rough with the smooth, chap.


  11. Old Shep says:

    Gosh! I feel the only clown is you. If you object to other points of view; relax a bit, put aside fear and your ‘government of the tongue’. . I do take the rough with the smooth, old bean, but I’m also going to uphold the point of blogs, which is to discuss, and not to relish violent assaults on minority groups. Unless you were just clowning around.

    What on earth is “norty”? Is it some kind of gangsta slang? Should I also call you ‘Bro’?


  12. golden chersonnese says:

    There’ll be a zizzing of paws shortly, Shep, if we are not particularly circumspect.


  13. Frere Rabit says:

    Shep, if you want to change the subject, that’s a matter for you, but I will stick to the subject if you don’t mind. You seemed mystified about being moderated, and yet you were commenting harshly on a recognized long-term contributor here. If you had been around since the start, you would know what rood and norty means. Settle in gradually and enjoy, but don’t moan when your roodness meets justified editing.


  14. These three modern illusions (a happy life cannot be simple and laborious, suffering must be avoided at all costs, and heaven is best forgotten) are becoming more and more deeply embedded in the consciousness of many people. However, our society may soon reach the point at which these illusions can no longer be maintained. One wonders what will happen then. Will there be widespread despair? Or will there be a widespread rediscovery of the existence of God and of everything that that existence implies? We can only pray and do what we can for the realization of that second alternative.


  15. Denise Beaudoin says:

    Thank you for your wonderful post with your help to understand what Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical on the Holy Rosary entitled Laetitiae Sanctae (Of Holy Joy). I will pray the rosary’s mysteries remembering those three particular demons.


  16. Gertrude says:

    Just a quick word on moderation. I have looked into any recent deletions, and, suprise suprise, there have been none. Moderation here is extremely light, and, in the interests of debate, rarely implemented. If a comment in any way contradicts the teaching of Holy Mother Church, then, it is removed. There are other sites folk who wish to make such criticisms might go – CP&S is not one of them.

    If ‘Old Shep’ feels one of his comments have been deleted, then perhaps he should look for another reason why. It was certainly not deleted by any of the author’s here.

    As for ‘norty’, well, you would have to be an ‘old timer’ to understand the origin of both that word and the ‘zizzing of paws’ as Rabit has already said. 😉


  17. To answer your question Shep, my views on Hayek are complicated. On one hand, I appreciate his insight that economics is not a quantitative science in the same manner as physics (a lesson the monetarists and others should learn). I also think he is right that “social” is often a “weasel word” that empties other words of their meanings, though I would dispute with him over how frequently this is the case. However, I still don’t count myself as a supporter of Hayek. He fails to integrate a teleological picture of the bona vita into his notions of political life. This is one of the most destructive “scientistic” tendencies. My most extensive comments on Hayek are here: A brief overview of my economic point of view is here:

    Thank you for your kind remark, golden chersonnese. To answer your question, I really don’t think highly of Popper. A lot of philosophers of science point out that his falsification criteria does not really reflect how science works in real life (scientific theories, they will say, are not “hypothetico-deductive” systems).


  18. golden chersonnese says:

    The remark was sincere, intrepidpage, I spent hours reading your blog and even your earlier blogsite. Sheer pleasure such that I will now have to wash and iron the lounge-room curtains tomorrow instead of today as previously scheduled (yes, that was intended as a compliment, which you’d understand if only you could see the current state of my curtains).

    The main reason I inquired upon your views of Popper was to discover your reflections on his “Open Society” (and its enemies!). I detect in your blog that you have a strong interest in social philosophy but you do not probe there the Popper’s offerings in the field, (though, as you say, you have indeed referred to Hayek).

    A penny for your thoughts? Toad, I suspect, might also enjoy it as Toad is a bit of an old philosophe himself à la M. Voltaire. At least, that is the impression we have somehow gained.


  19. Roger says:

    I see that Toad and Shep have been here?
    Problem # 1 Lets start with a Carpenter and His Son ?? a Simply and laborious life? Oh and raised in Nazareth!
    Problem #2 Repugnance to suffering? Well St Francis stigmata is very insensitive and distastful to contemplate! St Pio is another stigmata. I mean after 2000 years to keep reminding of the butchery of Calvary! How repugnant to modern taste! But consider that this suffering is perpetuated in ever Mass every celebrated!
    Problem #3 Forgetfulness of Future Life? Well lets follow the precept Do What Thou Will Is The Law! I mean why consider Heaven , Hell and Purgatory.
    When Leo XIII wrote the Society at that Age knew nothing of television, radio, flying, submarines world wars? But right now there is a massive global problem of a young generation with NO work, this is a literate generation raised on education and high aspirations!
    Criticism is made of Leo XIII grasp of economics.
    But this economics that is followed especially the theory of Money has become a noose around the worlds neck! Todays problems and woes were yesterdays scientific advances! We can say this very confidently including yesterdays economics and money theory. Right now you are living out the Fatima message! Why do I say this? Well because of the Persecution of the Faith, because of the Evils of Social athiest engineering that were experimented with in Russia in 1917.
    If you can’t understand and relate to the Truths in the mysteries of the Rosary and also understand that inequality is the stability of Social Order. That a credit debt fuelled Global banking crisis (based on economic money theory) is responsible today for the economic and social austerity and the fueling of wars is not because of Religion BUT because of Man actually playing God!


  20. Toad says:

    You flatter Toad, Golden.
    But he does not mind a bit..
    And yes, as a fully paid-up Secular Liberal Fascist – Toad naturally has a soft spot for M. Voltaire. Who makes him laugh.

    (He, too will read Ms.(?) intrepidpage asap. After the Kentucky Derby.)


  21. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes, dear Toad, quite a giggle from what glonde can see from what gendlo has read (mainly Candide, ou l’Optimisme and not a few quotes from him). An excellent dinner party must-invite guest.

    But, Toad, M. intrepidpage is most definitely an M.. rather than a Mdlle. and, in gondle’s view, a very gifted one.


  22. johnhenrycn says:

    “Kentucky Derby”
    The question is – how did Toad pronounce “Derby” the last time he was in Kentucky? He says, and I accept, that he’s a Brit; but I hope he managed to go down market in Louisville. What say Ye, Auld Shep?


  23. johnhenrycn says:

    Well no, that’s not the real question. Just kidding. The real question is – Is Heaven For Real?


  24. golden chersonnese says:

    Ah, johnhenry, such a video reminds us that you still owe us a report on the presentation about God that you will attend that was given by an atheist woman who died a while back. Well?


  25. Toad says:

    It is of no interest whatever on CP&S, or anywhere, for that matter – JH – but in all his 16 enjoyable years in The Great Satan, Toad pronounced Derby as Darby.

    This impressed the credulous natives. Who gave him money.

    His selection tonight is Verranzano, the probable favourite.

    So that’s him well stuffed before the gates open.


  26. johnhenrycn says:

    Golden, I’m not sure that she was an atheist, but she was an abortion supporter. I shall report back about that on Pentecost Sunday.


  27. johnhenrycn says:

    …and GC seems to have been the first CP&S groupie (aside from me) to twig that the woman I refer to had a near death experience. This should be on the April 19th ++Nichols thread, I guess.


  28. johnhenrycn says:

    Tut, tut, Toad – it’s “Darh-beh”, not “Dar-bee”. Thanks be to God, some of us still recognise Received Pronounciation, even if we don’t speak it.


  29. johnhenrycn says:

    I remember once, making fun of insufferable Harry Mount’s attempt at Estuary English with this:
    Oi! Wha-ah-law-ah-i-oh-ye-ow-bah-ows!!


  30. This wonderful article reminds me of some of the writings of Charles Peguy, whose modest, extremely hardworking mother (especially his mother) inspired his courageous and eloquent socialism, and caused him to hold a view of poverty which would be difficult to share today. He saw, in the lives of french labourers, both a dignity and a right- if they held to their innate virtue of hard work, they were at least guaranteed a minimum of security, and Pride. He saw the modern world as destructive of this security: it was no longer enough to want to work well and consistently- the restlessness and change in early 20th century circumstances/expectations attacked people in their deep traditions and transgenerational consciousness. He celebrated their strength and collectivity, their wisdom and even holiness- and an almost mystic relationship to their patrimony. He criticised what he saw as a poor substitute- the growth of acquisitiveness, and loss of real groundedness (allowing for manipulation and loss of identity). He became that rare thing: a socialist with an appreciation of the truth of religion. For him, the deeply revolutionary person was the one with an interior life.


  31. johnhenrycn says:

    Charles Péguy: Your comment mentioning that great man, who died too young, reminds me of Flannery O’Connor, another Catholic, who died too young. What follows is not the definitive essay about Péguy, but I thought you might enjoy it:–2090


  32. Old Shep says:

    Thanks Mr Intrepid for your ” my views on Hayek are complicated. ” I’ll have to take that as qualified support.

    What are the key points in Herr Hayek’s ideas which sit well with your views on “conservative Catholicism”? What is it that attracts you?


  33. When I think of Hayek, there are two achievements of his that really stand out in my mind. First, his demonstration that prices are necessary for the transmission of information. Second, his warnings regarding the totalitarian tendencies of the welfare state. John Paul II condemned the “social assistance state” in Centessimus Annus, in part because of its usurpation of liberty.

    However, my overall stance toward Hayek is really one of qualified opposition, rather than support. Hayek is a (classical) liberal, through and through, and I am a traditionalist. His economic theories rest on an atomistic, reductionist vision of society. Also, surprisingly, he even denies the equality of men. In “The Constitution of Liberty” he writes, “As a statement of fact, it is just not true that ‘all men are born equal.’ We may continue to use this hallowed phrase to express the ideal that legally and morally all men ought to be treated alike. But if we want to understand what this ideal of equality can or should mean, the first requirement is that we free ourselves from the belief in factual equality.”

    That anthropology is nearly as flawed as a socialist one.


  34. Old Shep says:

    Yes, Hayek claims that when central planning matures, it tends to create dictatorship, and he may have a point – not about a wise and planned ecomomy but about its ossification. Yet he very much approved of the murderous dictatorship of Pinochet and its US backers such as the sinister Kissinger. Pinochet as you know murdered around 40, 000 in the first ‘9/11’ and was a friend of the notorious Thatcher who approved of him. Many ultra right figures like(d) Hayek, and that tells us much. He was an advocate of ‘limited dictatorship’, no doubt reserving himself a place among those not dictated to. I think you and I, Mr Intrepid, would not be among the chosen few.

    His attacks on ‘social justice’ were of course a figleaf for the avarice of the rich and the wealth appropriators; the sort of parasites that Christ opposed. Hayek attributes civilisation to private property, when the opposite is true. Community is the highest form of civilisation. In the Church, it reached its height in the monastic productive orders. Thatcher notoriously proclaimed that ‘there is no such thing as society’ – what barbarism! Don’t you think?

    Hayek’s “prices are necessary for the transmission of information” meets with your approval. It reminds me of Carlyle who condemned the ugliness of ‘the cash nexus between man and man”. I find it deeply unChristian to be frank. Hayek of course was an agnostic.

    The notion that some men are superior to others recalls Nazi ideals. A titanic struggle was waged against such evil, or we would not be chatting today, don’t you think? It is interesting that Herr H, an Austrian, shares a common initial with that other Austrian, Herr H.

    You say ” I am a traditionalist.” – what does that mean? I honestly don’t know. Didn’t Hayek comment on loosely defined terms?

    Thank you for your response – I felt that here was much in Hayek which you previously did not speak of, such as his approval of dictatorship and denial of community. .


  35. Old Shep says:

    Erratum..” I felt that THERE was much in Hayek “


  36. His denial of community is part of what I mean by atomism- I should have been more clear. I am a communitarian- like Aristotle, and in the tradition of the Church, I do believe the community is prior to the individual in many respects. And just to clarify, I was citing Hayek’s disbelief in equality as one of the reasons I oppose his philosophy.

    When I speak of the role of prices in transmitting information, I am not talking about normal human interaction- I’m not sure what you think I mean.

    I am referring to the fact that, in a large command economy (that does away with prices) the elites cannot possibly have the relevant information for giving “appropriate” commands, because the information itself is dissolved when the price system is abolished. That is why (to give a common example), the Soviet Union could not figure out how many nails or shoes or whatever it needed to produce. When the economy is simply commanded from above, with virtually no freedom from below, the healthful role of prices as “incentives wrapped in knowledge” is abolished. That is Hayek’s point. I think you would agree with it.

    I would say that civilization is distinguished by culture, and that culture is rooted fundamentally in cultus- reverence or worship. However, it is the case that private property is indispensable for the advancement of civilization, even though it is not the most important component. In the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas cites two external goods that are necessary for man’s happiness in this world: friends and property. If happiness is the teleological end of civilized living, then any respectable civilization will feature property.

    The monastic and mendicant orders are responsible for a great deal of the civilizational achievements of the Church, to say the least- the former, of course, own private property (albiet, in common rather than individually); the latter also own property in common in many cases. When they do not, they make provision in their constitutions to allow the use of property, but not its ownership- thus, still affirming and relying upon the institution of property.

    Property is so important because it allows individuals or institutions to have the space they need to fulfill their duties. On the extreme end, this is obvious: if property were abolished, so that I did not have special jurisdiction over anything, it would be impossible for me to earn income, run an apostolate, give to the poor, etc. It is true that property is indispensable for civilized living.

    The trouble with Hayek and other libertarians, is that they promote a notion of property that is wrapped up with radical individualism. In the long run, this has a corrosive effect on civilization. What we need is to restore a traditional view of property- one that is communitarian because it recognizes “noblesse oblige.” Property entails rights to a responsible freedom, compatible with the “universal destination of goods,” not an arbitrary “freedom” that ignores it.

    I call myself a “traditionalist” in politics because a lot of times the word “conservative” is even more misunderstood. I mean that I oppose both classical and egalitarian liberalism. I am an Aristotelian, and my principle inspirations are medieval, or the moderns who are most influenced by medieval thought.


  37. Old Shep says:

    “It is true that property is indispensable for civilized living.”, you assert.

    “The monastic and mendicant orders are responsible for a great deal of the civilizational achievements of the Church, to say the least- the former, of course, own private property (albiet, in common rather than individually); the latter also own property in common in many cases. When they do not, they make provision in their constitutions to allow the use of property, but not its ownership- thus, still affirming and relying upon the institution of property. ”

    This is …remarkable…. If 6 were 9!

    I’ll only say this – communal or individual property? Need before greed? Christianity before consumerism?

    Thank you for clarifying some aspects of your views. The links you gave above to your blog were mainly descriptive rather than your own views, and left so much in ambiguity.

    I find that academia even at entry level can be such a labyrinth. It’s good to meet the world as you are doing.


  38. Old Shep says:

    “I found”….


  39. johnhenrycn says:

    Intrepid and Shep make interesting chemistry. Pay attention, Roger!


  40. Johnhenrycn thank you for this article on my hero, Peguy (much due to the excellent musee de Charles Peguy in Orleans). By the way, it is the grande fete de Jeanne d’Arc May 8th in Orleans -and elsewhere in parts of France.
    It is interesting to see that both Prudhon and Peguy were socialists with a deep love of their land – mystique- esprit religieux (even Prudhon), and humility- groundedness- which contrasts with Marx. Socialism would be so different if they had dominated, perhaps? (Marx was scathing about Prudhon, despite spending a year benefitting from his company and ideas!)


  41. Toad says:

    Very interesting, Piliasdelaterre, (Tempted to call you ‘Pil’, but no.)

    Toad knows little or nothing about Prudhon, except thought he was an Anarchist, and believe he said, “Property is theft,” which is certainly incendiary.

    Maybe I should read more on him. What book might you suggest?


  42. Toad says:

    ..And must also thank JH for the excellent piece on Peguy.
    Unless I’m in error, the translater, Dru, was the character on which Anthony Powell based Pesnnistone in the “Music of Time” series.
    Noted authority on Kierkegaard, a difficult man (K, that is, not Dru, As far as I know.)

    “Eliot noted in passing that Péguy was “a remarkable example of a writer who managed to influence many people, largely because he had so confused a mind that there was room for everything in it somehow.”
    Toad would like to think the second half of the quote above is a fair description of himself.


  43. Toad, I was urged to read Henri de Lubac. SJ, and thus came to his excellent biography of Pierre Joseph Prudhon (the only one of his – mostly theological- works translated into English in my local library!). He was of course a major player in influencing the ‘esprit’ (if not the consequences) of Vatican 2, and I was fascinated to see a real admiration in Lubac for this very serious opponent of the Church (and God!). Some of his valiant (later Freemasonic) criticisms of the Church might just have inspired a tiny bit of the ‘reforms’ …
    Prudhon was a fiercely honourable worker and scholar, with a kind of awkwardness in self expression. I found in him much to admire. It is wrong of me to lump him with Peguy because despite his devout Catholic mother, and his nostalgie for the ‘genie’ of mother Church, he entertained a profound suspicion for the collective force of the Church, and was certainly aware that political activism and religious faith were incompatible back then (a spiritual child of the Revolution). He was not proud like Marx, and quite self critical, but oh so valiant!


  44. Toad says:

    “I was fascinated to see a real admiration in Lubac for this very serious opponent of the Church (and God!). “

    It strikes Toad, that to be a “very serious opponent of God”, you would have to believe in him. Probably struck you too, Piliers.
    I will follow up Prudon.
    “…he entertained a profound suspicion for the collective force of the Church, “
    …because I can readily ‘relate’ to that.


  45. P.s. Christopher Ferrara wrote a refutation of Hayek in The Church and The Libertarian – in 2010 (and consequently a defence of Pope Leo). Insofar as I can follow a sophisticated analysis of economic theory (not at all), I would hazard a guess that it is a wonderful book.


  46. Toad- Prudhon was a good man (whatever that means), and no doubt is in heated debate with God as we speak (all the while believing in Him). If I were God, I would not care for sycophantic yes-men on my side, in any case.


  47. Toad says:

    A comforting thought, indeed, Piliers.

    (Though my money would be on God. It’s his train set.)


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