Friday, August 14, 2015
The Social Doctrine of the Church from Chile: A centennial testimony
Reflexión y Liberación
August 10, 2015
I have felt called to record some facts and my insights. I am referring to the social doctrine of the Church developed over these last 100 years. They are at least points of view that can be weighed in our Chilean history.
The social doctrine of the Church has its well-marked starting point. It was the promulgation of Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891. The pope had been worrying a while about the "labor problem" or the "social issue." The situation of the working world tremendously depressed by the effect of the industrial revolution, particularly in Europe and North America. Two "schools" of Christian thought were looking for a solution to the crisis that this situation implied for the Church. It was the crisis of the abandonment of the Church by the working world. The Angers school sought the solution by way of charity; the Liege one sought it through the path of justice. Leo XIII had to face liberal positions that emphasized the norms of a liberal economy in the style of Adam Smith, Ricardo and Malthus who sought to set down the rules of "economic science." On the other hand, the socialisms were putting forward their rebel positions across the line of the industrial revolution: property is theft, the solution is proletarian world unity and revolution.
Leo XIII rejected any socialism on establishing the principle that property is a natural right. This right must be safeguarded in any solution, but he admitted and strongly condemned the abuses of ownership. The worker could claim his rights through a fair strike.
Leo XIII appeals to St. Thomas Aquinas to legitimize property rights, certifying that this property carries a mortgage -- serving the common good, contributing to the good of non-owners. God gave the riches of nature so that all humankind without exception might take advantage of them. It behooves the owners to contribute with their assets so that the poor might be able to share in the goods of creation. Leo XIII also speaks of this mortgage but not in terms of the obligation of justice but equivalently of charity. The language of the Church Fathers who declared that the superfluity of the rich was the property of the poor is not acknowledged by Leo XIII.
Let us now move on to the social Catholicism of our Chile. In those days, we witnessed the practice of the St. Vincent de Paul conferences by our Catholic forebears, estate owners who did charity in many ways without any scruples being raised about their property. But there was someone who harbored major concerns: Fernando Vives Solar.
I met Fernando Vives (1871-1935) as a Jesuit -- I, a student at Colegio San Ignacio and he as an old professor from the same high school. At his ordination, he had signed with his blood a commitment of dedication to the cause of social justice in Chile. His influence on the high school students disturbed a group of parents; they got his Jesuit superiors to send him away from the school and he was sent to Mendoza. Then they got his deportation to Spain, but Fernando was able do work in Chile in the years he had.
He founded the "needleworkers' union" in defense of the rights of women workers. He formed a generation of young priests who later were influential in the public life of Chile (in the journal Mensaje, one can find a good autobiography).
The encyclical Rerum Novarum was Fernando Vives' great work tool. Among the students of San Ignacio, Fernando left one forged in his ideas: Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga.
Alberto Hurtado became a Jesuit and entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1920. In 1936, he returned to Chile as a priest to perform social work among youth and priests. He founded ASICH (Acción Sindical Chilena - Chilean Trade Union Action) engaged in advocacy work for justice. Hurtado was an apostle of charity through Hogar de Cristo ("Home of Christ"), but in his later years, he was committed to justice through ASICH in support of the cause of unionism in Chile. In 1951, I was Hurtado's companion in this union work. In 1952, he died of cancer at age 52. ASICH could not survive five years after the death of Hurtado. The social and political context was tough and without him, we couldn't keep the movement going.
I've thought about it sometimes. If Hurtado had been able to survive 20 or 30 years...I've dreamed that the history of Chile would have been quite different. A Christian social movement like the one augured with ASICH would have allowed the Frei Montalva style government to have been able to project itself into power for several years; we would not have had a trial of "Chilean style" socialism or a military coup for decades. Anyway ... it's easy to dream.
The social doctrine of the Church in Chile was substantially that of the encyclical Rerum Novarum. It was carried on the wings of a movement -- the Falange, then a party -- the Christian Democrats. It was enriched by the philosophy of Jacques Maritain -- Christian personalism. The latter gave it political significance with the concept of "person" that allowed overcoming the primacy of the individual over the social. This social doctrine was strengthened through the predominance of Christian Democracy, which ousted the radical party as a centrist party and replaced the Conservative Party as the party preferred by the Catholic Church. This Christian Democratic Party maintained a radical position against socialism and Marxism. This opposition was at the root of its division into several tendencies that have weakened it politically -- as we have insinuated -- at the end of the Eduardo Frei Montalva government.
Indeed, Christian democracy gave birth to party choices like the Izquierda Cristiana ["Christian Left"] and MAPU. One sector joined the Christians for Socialism movement. Candidate Radomiro Tomic didn't gather the required majority and the democracy that had triumphed so widely was overcome by its contenders. My interpretation is that the social doctrine maintained by the Christian Democratic Party didn't adapt as it could have with Vatican II (1962-1965). The social doctrine remained in line with papal teaching inaugurated by Rerum Novarum and continued later by Quadragesimo Anno (1931), Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963) that subsequent pontiffs would maintain with the series Octogesimo Anno ["Octogesima Adveniens"], Centesimus Annus, and did not adopt the new methodological lines of Vatican II.
I've had major differences with Pierre Bigo and François Francou, known masters of Christian doctrine in many Latin American centers of the Church. I think that just as movements like JOC ["Juventud Obrera Cristiana" - "Christian Working Youth"] were greatly prejudiced by the Church's lack of openness to doctrinal and sociological changes, so too has Christian social doctrine by not being able to renew itself.
Many of these disputes between Christian democracy and socialism were practically overcome during the 20 years of co-government that followed 1990. But earlier, the years in which Cardinal Silva Henriquez occupied the Santiago see, the divergence between the social doctrine he sponsored and Vatican II were negative for the renewal of that doctrine.
The Cardinal maintained that the Church wouldn't participate politically in the affairs of state, relying in part on Cardinal Pacelli's 1933 statement. A radical mistrust of communism and its practices and analysis was maintained. The same attitude was held by his successors, Cardinal Fresno and Cardinal Oviedo. Cardinal Raul Silva, notwithstanding the above, was noticeably more of an adept of the Council's positions than his successors and his Roman authorities. Immediately after the Council there was a wave of mistrust and regression from the positions taken in the Council. The Latin American conferences that followed the Council after the first one at Medellin were battlefields between regressive positions and conciliar renewal.
Another argument for our thesis: the divergence between the social doctrine welcomed by the popes and the Second Vatican Council would be the following. Our thesis is that the social doctrine of the Church that dominates our Church isn't the doctrine of Vatican II. Our argument is that the figures of our six martyrs have not so far been accepted complacently by our hierarchy or by the dominant ecclesiastical circles. Yes, we're speaking generally about six martyrial figures in our Church. Five include Gerardo Poblete, Antonio Llidó, Miguel Woodward, Juan Alsina and Wilfredo Alarcon. Only André Jarlan has been taken up in our Church circles and this is because his death was accidental due to a stray bullet. The acceptance of the martyrdom of Arnulfo Romero by Rome will probably change these attitudes, which I think are significant.
At this point we would have to ask the basic question: What is the contribution or change that Vatican II ought to have given to the "social doctrine of the Church" to guide its progress?
The answer is the concept of what the Church is. Nothing more and nothing less than the definition of the Church of Christ. The Church is the community of faithful gathered together and called because of their faith in Christ to work for the Kingdom of God. The Church persists in each community but together they constitute the Christian Church as a whole.
We must be aware that this definition of Church differs notably from the one that has officially prevailed until now. So far the Church has been defined as a perfect society constituted by Christ with a hierarchy that heads it and the faithful who complete the body. The Council decided that the faithful together with the whole hierarchy are the Church the people of God. Among this people emerge authorities, ministries, services, a Magisterium that guides the work of the community, the doctrine itself that is to enlighten it.
Speaking today about the doctrine of the Church, we have to think that "the subject itself of the Church" has changed. There are also new concepts that must guide the thought of that Church and its teachings. The Church guided ultimately by the Spirit should learn from the "signs of the times". This docility to the Spirit leads to the often recommended practice of see, judge, and act.
Because of all this, it's understandable that our native social doctrine should have undergone major changes when assimilating, even if partially, the concepts that originated in Vatican II. The social doctrine of the Church proclaimed by Pierre Bigo and his team throughout Latin America and disseminated through his publications was not developed with Vatican II in mind but was the magisterial teaching of the Roman pontiffs, of Leo XIII and his followers. From Rerum Novarum to Centesimus Annus a century later.
It's clear that we can't blame the men of the Church of that time for not having adopted the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council. We can't blame them for not recognizing the signs of the times when we have not currently adopted these changes and are still so far from doing so, but there could have been greater openness to grasping the final message of the Council contained in the phrase "the joys and hopes, problems and sorrows of the world are the joys and hopes, problems and sorrows of the Church, nothing human can be foreign to us."
The same decree Gaudium et Spes leaves us a moral code that might be called a social doctrine, but this code is transcended by the general pattern. The joys and sorrows etc. of the world are our joys and sorrows, nothing human should be alien to us. Therefore I would say that more than a social doctrine, we are left with a social openness to the Spirit we have to translate into effective contributions, into an effective contribution to the kingdom of God in this world, guided by the signs of the times.
Before concluding, we will talk about the successive currents that have visited us and have built our criteria for spiritual discernment of God's ways.
1. The Magisterium of the Church that continues to operate in the traditional style in its encyclicals from Rerum Novarum up to the current Laudato Si' by Pope Francis.
2. The collective pronouncements of the Latin American Bishops particularly at their Latin American conferences: Medellín, Puebla, Santo Domingo and Aparecida.
3. The Second Vatican Council itself (1962-1965) is presented largely as a guideline to be carried out for changes in the Church.
4. The "liberation theology" developed by Gustavo Gutierrez which has been so welcome on the American continent and still has influence today. (That work appeared in installments in Chile in 1967. The first edition of the book happened in the early years of the 1970s).
5. A sign of our times that we have to assume as an integral part of the gestation of our ecclesial task. Both José Comblin and Cardinal Ratzinger have spoken to us about 1970 as the year of a cultural upheaval that has affected the Catholic world, especially the youth. It was cultural change, rebelliousness of youth, pushing everything backwards or forwards.
6. The call of Juan Caminada on his passage through Chile when wanting to update the Christian message in Chilean politics (1970-1973).
7. This updating would take shape during the socialist government and later the military dictatorship that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1989. (Cf. Yves Carrier, La teología práctica de la liberación en el Chile de Salvador Allende, Ediciones CEIBO, Santiago, 2014)
8. New continental currents of liberation theologians (José Comblin, Brazilian bishops, Jon Sobrino and Salvadoran theologians) that have influenced Chile.
9. The Centro Manuel Larraín.
10. The canonization of Oscar Arnulfo Romero -- The martyrdom of Msgr. Oscar Romero and now his canonization that have stirred up a wave of reflection and an updating of his message.
11. Finally, Pope Francis and his messages Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si' as messages imbued with involvement in the current world situation and the poor.
All these things are a handful of messages that form a substitute for the old Catholic social doctrine. A task for the Church that should be built in community to realize the dream of God projected in Christ and his proclamation of the Kingdom.
Finally, we can ask ourselves what the social doctrine of the Church currently is.
First of all, we would respond that we should no longer speak of "social doctrine." Let's say "social message" because Vatican II taught us to put the thinking of the Church in a different dimension.
Therefore we must say that the social doctrine of the Church must express the sensus fidelium, the sense of the people of God. But how and through what tools do we capture this sense?
The papal Magisterium has been an important -- but not the only -- instrument that expresses and makes us discover the sensus fidelium of the Church. It has continued the teaching of Rerum Novarum and its commemorative encyclicals but has completed and firmed it up at the beginning of the 21st century.
Pope Francis has made explicit two aspects of this sensus fidelium. One aspect that reflects the wisdom of Christian and non-Christian humanity and one aspect that reflects the wisdom of simple and cast-off people.