(Revisiting Catholic Social Teaching in the Spanish Speaking World)

Timothy J. Cullen

The weekend of November 13th and 14th saw impressive stirrings of Catholic action in the Spanish speaking world. In Madrid, clergy and members of the Spanish National Catholic Confederation of Parents of Students took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration of their disgust with Spain’s new Organic Education Act, the law which will exclude the teaching of religion in Spanish public schools. Depending upon the source, marchers numbered as many as two million and as few as 406,757. The higher estimate coming from the marchers, the lower from the national government; the “county” government put the number at 1,524,000.

The Argentine Episcopal Conference, meanwhile, released a document warning of “social violence,” or, to be exact: “violent demonstrations on the part of those sectors excluded from the world of work, demonstrations that could degenerate into dangerous social confrontations.” Relations between the Church and the Argentine government of Peronist President Nestor Kirchner have not been of the best, and the release of this document does not auger well for their improvement. But no one can accuse the Church of silently sitting by while social conditions deteriorate ever further in what was once one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

Spain’s “socialist” government is in fact a secular materialist, somewhat leftist government that has followed the lead of France in attempting to distance the state ever more from its Catholic history and roots. The previous “socialist” candidate for prime minister, who lost the election to Jose Maria Aznar’s “Popular Party” some years ago, was last seen attending a Bilderberger Group conference along with the Queen of the Netherlands, David Rockefeller, Lord Rothschild and other “flower power” folk well known for their belief in sharing the wealth. The label “socialist” these days simply means the group that favors ever-greater state intervention in the destruction of private property and private initiative while busily secularizing the society in line with the desires of the modernists who wish to impose their “New World Order” by eroding the moral and religious base of Western society.

It is heartening to see that there are still Spaniards loyal to the Catholic tradition of their nation, loyal enough to step out on a Saturday and stand up to be counted. Apparently there are still many parents less than enthusiastic about an educational system that abandons the teaching of religion in favor of subjective “ethics” programs that insist on the need for tolerance of homosexual marriages and all the rest of the multi-cultural twaddle that even Catholics have been subjected to in the name of a “civilization of love” such as that which Mitterrand the Mason brought to France, lately in the news for that love fest between its non-European inhabitants and French police.

The bishops of Argentina are implying that what is taking place in Paris could be repeated in Buenos Aires. In fact, Msgr. Carmelo Giaquinta, apostolic administrator of the Resistencia (no pun intended) diocese and president of the Pastoral Social Commission, stated a week ago that he wouldn’t hesitate to call Christians to participate in civil disobedience if the government lost its bearings with respect to health and educational matters.

“Social Doctrine”

The Argentine bishops issued a document entitled: “A Light For Rebuilding the Nation” on November 11th, hoping that it will stimulate interest in deeper study of Catholic Social Teachings, or “Social Doctrine,” as is now the vogue. The document is “Argentina-centered,” but is based upon the recently published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The Argentine bishops chose to concentrate on what they perceive as the five “basic principles of Catholic Doctrine: the common good; universal distribution of goods; subsidiarity; participation (socialization) and solidarity.”

The latter two “principles” are post-Vatican II concepts and therefore of relatively recent origin. They are also representative of a significant difference in concept between pre and post Vatican II Catholic thinking with respect to the role of the Church in the world, something that sadly comes as no surprise. The post-Vatican II surrender to modernity is evident throughout the thought and wording of the social teaching encyclicals drafted since 1961.

The Compendium, theoretically designed for clergy, is listed by with a reading level of “young adult,” a designation that gives one pause. And, too, it is interesting (and somewhat relieving) to note that the cover art is a reproduction of a medieval art work, not a Marc Chagall mural. It appears that someone somewhere understands the underlying allure of artwork from the Age of Faith: the Power and the Glory of the Church during the creation of Christendom, the original “European Union.”

The Argentine bishops repeatedly cite the Compendium in their paper. The phraseology is steeped in humanistic platitudes lacking the precision of the great encyclicals that defined Catholic Social Teaching: Rerum Novarum, Diuturum Illud, Libertas Praestantissimum (all by Leo XIII), along with Divini Ilius Magistri, Quadragessimo Anno, Mit Brennender Sorge (all by Pius XI).

The Compendium has this to say about the common good: “From the dignity, unity and equality of all persons derives, primarily, the principle of the common good, to which every aspect of social life should refer…”. The bishops add that “This is the sum total of values and conditions that make possible the full development of man in society, including his spiritual development.”

Note that “spiritual development” is included as an afterthought, while emphasis is placed on the humanistic idea of “man in society” (the bishops will likely be chastised for sexism for using “man” instead of “person,” but old habits die hard, thank God).


The latter-day preachers of the development of “man in society” seem to have forgotten (or perhaps never been exposed to) the words of St. Pius X, written in 1910: “In these days of social and intellectual anarchy, it must be energetically repeated that one cannot build the earthly city otherwise than God has built it. Every day our task is to build and rebuild it on its natural divine foundations in the face of the continually renewed attacks of unhealthy utopianism [emphasis mine], revolt and defiance of God.”

Nearly all post-Vatican II Social Doctrine documents are infected with unhealthy utopianism and internationalism—one-worldism—and the highly subjective language that accompanies it.

“The common good embraces the sum of those conditions of social life by which men are able to achieve the perfection [emphasis mine] proper to them with greater fullness and facility.” This citation from Dignitatis Humane, the 1965 declaration of Vatican II, sounds like a U.N. resolution rather than a Church document, or at least any Church document dating from the previous one thousand nine hundred and sixty years of Church history. Nothing specific, simply platitudes. Yet it reappears practically verbatim in the Argentine bishops’ paper, which cites it as Compendium 164.

Compare the amorphous objectives cited above with what was set forth in Quadragessimo Anno: the common good includes the production of goods and their protection, but its principle concern is the just distribution of those goods among individuals and families. Quite straightforward, quite simple: “individuals and families.” There we have it: everyone.

But that sort of minimalist language simply won’t do for the “up-to-date” Church of John XXIII. No, in Mater et Magistra we learn that we must also concern ourselves with the various sectors of society and even other nations, though in fact all “sectors of society” and all nations are made up of individuals and families, and thus this additional wording is in any case redundant. But it does serve the purpose of subtly emphasizing the internationalist agenda that seems to have taken control of Church hierarchy.

Relativism enters into modernized definitions of the common good. Summarizing Gaudium et Spes: 78, we see in a 1988 article by Canon Law professor Javier Hervada that “The correct requirements of the common good are intimately related to the social conditions prevailing at various times. Since these conditions are subject to constant change, the requirements of the common good change with them.”

Just what makes requirements “correct,” and with what degree of intimacy they relate to the constantly changing conditions prevailing from one moment to the next is not explained, nor is it explained just who it is that sets the requirements, but it all sounds sweeping and profound. Once upon a time, all God’s children needed shoes; now they may need sandals, sneakers or combat boots depending upon the requirements of the constantly changing conditions of the common good.

Universal distribution of goods, the Argentine bishops second “basic principle,” is viewed by the Compendium as follows (translation mine): “Among the various implications of the common good, the principle of the universal distribution of goods stands out: God intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of all men and all peoples. Thus, created goods must reach all in an equitable manner under the aegis of justice accompanied by charity [caritas].”

The bishops then add: “This principle of Social Doctrine of the Church, formulated of old by the Holy Fathers, was frequently relegated to oblivion.”


The literary criticism technique of “close reading” is useful in examining the preceding statement. Note the words “formulated of old by the Holy Fathers.” The translation (mine) is not literal, but it is accurate. The reader is left with the impression that the “Holy Fathers” referred to are not Leo XIII, Pius X and XI, but rather the Holy Fathers of yore, the “primitive” Christians. And who was it, exactly, that “relegated to oblivion” this time-honored principle? Could it have been those nasty ol’ popes of the “triumphalist” Church who hadn’t gotten the message that we’re all one, big happy family down here on Planet Earth and that what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable?

This lapse in awareness brought about by those benighted relagators may have occurred because sometimes it wasn’t understood that “property is never absolute, but must always be subordinated to the common good.”


Well, yes, because they failed to understand that private property is “a solidification of the universal distribution of property rather than its negation.”


How odd that they failed to understand this glaringly obvious proposition!

Just in case there are still a few antediluvian dullards out there who need things explained somewhat more concretely, the bishops add: “That is, all members of the community—not just some—have the right to own the necessary.”

Necessary for what?

Does this refer to shelter, food and clothing, and the means to produce them, which were for nearly all the history of this planet the fundamental necessities of life? And the word “own” eliminates a very large percentage of humankind, unless mortgage holders truly qualify as owners, a qualification which definitely disappears on the day they can no longer meet their monthly payments. We are now far in any society from seeing a just distribution of arable land, of self-built homes, so the means to produce mere food (the most humble of goods) no longer exists. Even water, the primordial necessary good, is not freely obtainable unless payment can be made. Fuel to keep the shelter habitable? Not a chance.

The Argentine bishops assert that “dignified and stable employment” somehow belongs among the goods to be universally distributed. Although they do not propose it directly, it appears that they advocate some sort of statist solution like the New Deal’s public works program. This in a nation bankrupted by external debt.

They mention as a secondary “situation” the “difficult access to the land, which is the first gift God gave man to provide for his sustenance.” And they ask if it might be a good idea to “design a demographic policy that reverses the great exodus toward greater Buenos Aires and the provincial capitals.”

A “demographic policy”? Once again, the power of the state is being called upon. One wonders if the bishops saw “The Killing Fields,” which dealt with the execution of a “back-to-the-land” demographic policy instituted in Cambodia in the mid 1970s.

The Distributists

The bishops might benefit from reading Catholic Social Teaching classics from the last century penned by the “Distributists” Belloc, Chesterton, Fr. Vincent McNabb and others, whose works are once again available in English, though not in Spanish. These authors offer a compelling case for the rural life, particularly for Catholics, and the Church would be well advised to promote more widespread knowledge and distribution of these works, whose arguments depend upon persuasion and what would amount to a limited amount of confiscation and redistribution of immorally acquired real property, rather than a system of forced relocation to what would certainly be “communal” farms.


As to subsidiarity, all that needed to be said on the subject was said by Pius XI in Quadragessimo Anno: 79: “That most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy. Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the social body, and never destroy or absorb them.”

It would be of great value to every society if this principle were more often articulated and obeyed. A self-sustaining family was the cornerstone of the civil edifice that was Christendom and can only be recovered when finance capitalism is overturned in favor of a civil society of small proprietors. The introduction of monopoly central banking in the United States, in violation of its Constitution, has brought about the destruction, indebtedness and spiritual impoverishment of the one-time yeoman republic. All that has been obtained by means of financial jiggery-pokery and fraud can and should be redistributed to create a perhaps less efficient and utilitarian society, but certainly one in which Catholicism could flourish as man’s eternal destiny is once again seen to outweigh his comfort here on earth.

The latter two “basic principles of Catholic Social Doctrine”—socialization and solidarity—did not by name form part of Catholic Social Teaching, nor were they ever conceptualized therein.

We are told in the Hervada article that “If we understand by ‘socialization’  the active participation in management of all [emphasis mine] who form a part of public and private corporations, it is surely desirable.” The Church authority for this statement is given as Mater et Magistra: 91-93 (1961, John XXIII) and Laborem Exercens: 14 (1981, John Paul II). The Argentine bishops assure us that “participation” (as the Spanish word connotes) in community life is “one of the pillars of all democratic orders as well as one of the best guarantees of permanence for democracy.” Thus by implication the modern Church sanctions “democracy” as the only acceptable form of government. Modernism will permit nothing else, and the post-Vatican II Church wishes above all else to be perceived as “modern,” “up-to-date,” on the cutting edge of making God’s city on Earth as fine a place as Walt Disney’s Fantasyland, the “most wonderful land of them all.” Utopia.


“Solidarity” according to the Compendium (192), is something which places particular emphasis on the “intrinsic sociability” of the human person, on the equality of all in dignity and rights, on the common road of men and peoples toward a unity of ever-greater conviction. We are also informed that these interdependent relationships “are in fact forms of solidarity” and that when all is said and done, solidarity should be seen as the ordering social principle of institutions (192, 193). This is not-very-well concealed Masonic one-worldism and would never have been admissible as part of pre-1960 Catholic Social Teaching. The Church was not intended to be all things to all men, nor will it ever succeed in becoming so, save that all men (persons!) become Catholics, an unlikely event if the new Social Doctrine is swallowed by the ever-more-confused Faithful whose access to solid Catholic Social Teaching is seriously limited.


Spanish Catholics want religion taught in schools. But of what will that teaching consist? There is even less reliable Social Teaching material available in Spanish than in English, if my research provides any reliable indication.

A 2004 article in The Catholic Social Science Review, by Stephen Sharkey, provides a critical review of best-selling textbooks in Catholic Social Teaching. The article is available on-line ( and merits reading. It’s conclusions are chilling.

There are stirrings in the Catholic community, stirrings which are an encouraging sign. What is now needed is a concerted effort by Traditional Catholics to make sure that sound Catholic Social Teaching is made as widely available as possible and that serious thought and action be taken to implement it as widely as possible.