We almost forgot to mention it, but before the paragraph that concludes his second “sketch,” wherein he confesses “acceptance” of modern industrialization, Mr. Ferrara inserts a solitary ejaculation: “Industry is evil, evil, evil!” (21) This represents one of nine “panic buttons” that Austro-libertarians, being the intellectual bankrupts that they are, push when faced with contrary evidence and argumentation. (Perhaps he regards this blog as one, long buzz of a panic button.) Just thought you should know.
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In his quantitative view of intellectual progress, Mr. Ferrara finds it “hilarious” that in six months we have covered less than two dozen pages of his book, but perhaps that is because he has overlooked the second part of this blog’s description. We are defining an alternative to what he proposes as the orthodox Catholic position on man, economy, and state. He took five years to finish his book; if we should take five to essay an integration of Catholic truth and Austro-libertarian thought using his book as a comic foil, so be it. His view of the matter is neither here nor there.
Part of that effort involves showing that the meaning of “Catholic Social Teaching” on which his propaganda trades is not stable enough to rule out Austro-libertarianism as an option for Catholics. In this post we will highlight a case in which “Catholic Social Teaching” for most of Church history failed what virtually everyone, including all current Catholic moral authorities, regards as a “no-brainer.”
You see, when it comes to slavery, everyone’s a libertarian.
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Our examination of his third sketch will allow us to comment on his second-sketch description of John Locke as the author of an Essay on the Poor Law (1697), an American colonial slave-owner (i.e., an owner of slaves who worked in the American colonies), and “early Father of capitalism.” (18)
3. The widespread use of slave and convict labor in capitalist enterprises.
The use of slave and convicts to provide labor for capitalist ventures was commonplace in post-Catholic Europe and in the American colonies and states until the mid-19th century. It should not be surprising that [John] Locke, the very author of the grand new theory of property rights that is libertarian political philosophy at its core, had investments in two slave-trading companies in the Carolinas for which he drafted the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, providing that “every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slaves of what opinion or religion whatsoever.” (21)
This is an odd opinion, even for Mr. Ferrara. It should be “surprising” that a theoretician of liberty was heavily invested in the slave trade, and that’s because slavery is the antithesis of liberty. He who defends liberty and slavery is either intellectually schizophrenic or hypocritical.
It should be no less surprising, however, yea, scandalizing, to find custodians and teachers of the Gospel of Christ—Who proclaimed liberty to the captives in his inaugural sermon (Luke 4:18, citing Isaiah 61:1-2)—justifying slavery as a “natural” institution, making fine distinctions between “just slavery” and “unjust slavery” and between “primary” and “secondary” intentions of the natural law (i.e., God never intended slavery, but it is a meet punishment for Original Sin, a punishment that benefits slaveowners and penalizes children). They did this for eighteen centuries before doing an about-face, pronouncing the whole sordid business intrinsically evil, and then white-washing it, pretending the rationalizations never occurred.
And so, for instance, Pope Leo XIII, in his 1891 Rerum Novarum (about which we will, of course, have much more to say), regarded human labor as “personal”
. . . since the active force inherent in the person cannot be the property of anyone other than the person who exerts it, and its was given to him in the first place by nature for his own benefit. (Quia vis agens adhaeret personae, atque eius omnino est propria, a quo exercetur, et cuius est utilitati nata.)
Only about a quarter-century earlier, however, on June 20, 1866, when Leo was known as Vincenzo Cardinal Pecci, one of his predecessors, Pope Pius IX, authorized the following Instruction of the Holy Office:
. . . slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons. For the sort of ownership which a slaveowner has over a slave is understood as nothing other than the perpetual right of disposing of the work of a slave for one’s own benefit—services which it is right for one human being to provide for another. From this it follows that it is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given. The purchaser should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the slave who is to be transferred to another’s possession.
Collectanea Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fidei, 1907, Rome, I, n. 230, 76-77. As cited in John F. Maxwell, Slavery and the Catholic Church: A History of Catholic Teaching concerning the Moral Legitimacy of the Institution of Slavery (London: Barry Rose Publishers, 1975), 78-79.
The year before his Rerum Novarum was published, Pope Leo XIII would have the faithful believe that
. . . almost nothing was more venerated in the Catholic Church . . . than the fact that she looked to see a slavery eased and abolished which was oppressing so many people . . . : she undertook the neglected cause of the slaves and stood forth as a strenuous defender of liberty, although she conducted her campaign gradually and prudently so far as times and circumstances permitted. . .; nor did this effort of the Church to liberate slaves weaken in the course of time; indeed the more slavery flourished from time to time, the more zealously she strove. The clearest historical documents are evidence for this. . . and many of our predecessors including St. Gregory the Great, Hadrian I, Alexander III, Innocent III, Gregory IX, Pius II, Leo X, Paul III, Urban VIII, Benedict XIV, Pius VII and Gregory XVI, made every effort to ensure that the institution of slavery should be abolished where it existed and that its roots should not revive where it had been destroyed.
Letter, Catholicae Ecclesiae, November 20, 1890. Leonis Papae Allocutiones, 1898, IV, 112. As cited in Maxwell, op. cit., 117.
Father Maxwell comments (summarizing materials documented earlier in the book):
With the greatest respect to Pope Leo XIII this is historically inaccurate. In his earlier letter of 1888 he had made selective use of a number of documents written by these same 12 Popes to suggest that there had been a constant “anti-slavery” tradition in the Catholic Church. But a number of other conciliar and Papal documents, as well as canons of general Church Law, are simply ignored; all these 12 Popes who are given especial commendation had only condemned what they and contemporary moral theology held to be unjust methods of enslavement or unjust titles of slave ownership. Five of the Popes mentioned were the authors of other public documents which actually authorized enslavement either as an institution or as a penalty for ecclesiastical crimes or as a consequence of war. The historical inaccuracy of writing that these five Popes “made every effort to ensure that the institution of slavery should be abolished where it existed and that its roots should not revive where it had been destroyed” is proved as follows:
Pope Alexander III with the Fathers of the Third General Council of the Lateran in 1179 authorized the penalty of enslavement for captured Christians who had assisted the Saracens, and Pope Innocent III did the same with the Fathers of the Fourth General Council of the Lateran in 1215, (v) (2) above; and Pope Gregory IX repeated this enactment in a letter to the English in 1235. Pope Leo X in 1514 followed the example of three of his predecessors in authorizing the Kings of Portugal to invade and conquer the newly discovered territories of the New World, to reduce the non-Christian inhabitants who lived there to perpetual slavery and to expropriate their possessions, (vi) (2) above. Finally Pope Paul III in 1535 sentenced King Henry VIII of England to the penalty of being exposed for capture and enslavement by the Catholic Princes of Europe, (v) (2) above, and in 1548 gave full permission for all persons, clerical and lay, to own, buy and sell slaves in the City of Rome, and abrogated the privilege of the conservators of Rome to emancipate Christian slaves, (vii) (2) above.
Finally there was no condemnation by any of the Popes mentioned of the capture and enslavement of Moslem prisoners of war by the galleys of the Pontifical squadron in the innumerable naval actions which are well documented from about 1500 to about 1800, (vii) (3) above.
The significance of these two letters of Pope Leo XIII [in 1888] is that it was no longer individual Catholics, whether lay or clerical who were expressing “anti-slavery” sentiments, it was the Pope himself. For the Popes who were held up for especial praise were those who (whether historically accurately or not is here irrelevant) had “made every effort to ensure that the institution of slavery should be abolished where it existed and that its roots should not revive where it had been destroyed.” No distinction was made between just and unjust enslavement; it was the institution as such which was equivalently condemned.
Pope Leo XIII offered no explanation for this change of theological attitude. He did not indicate in these two letters whether it was a correction of Scriptural exegesis, or the beginnings of the movement for revision of the canon law of the Church, or a correction of the philosophical analysis of the very nature of slavery, or a growing awareness that economic and social circumstances and conditions in many countries had completely changed, or a realization that rationalist humanists and Protestant Christians could have been assisted by the Holy Spirit. Clearly, this was already about 100 years too late to be of any effective value in the anti-slavery campaigns and civil wars and revolutions of the nineteenth century; the lay reformers and abolitionists had won their campaigns without much effective help or moral leadership from the teaching authority of the Catholic Church which had hitherto consistently refused to condemn the institution of slavery or the practice of slave-trading as such.
Maxwell, op. cit., 117-119. Emphasis in the original. Internal references, e.g., “(v) (2) above,” are to earlier sections of Slavery and the Catholic Church.
As Father Maxwell’s unsung,* herculean scholarship shows, the “use of slave and convict labor” for imperial ventures, regularly and duly rationalized by learned theologians, was a standard feature of Catholic Europe, and by no means an accidental one. Some theologians, to their credit, protested especially dehumanizing features of the peculiar institution in the name of the slave’s personhood, but never the institution itself until the late 19th century. Manuals of instruction for seminarians offered justifications of the institution as in accord with nature up to the time of Second Vatican Council.**
It would be otiose for Mr. Ferrara or his comrades to suggest that what the highest levels of Church authority taught so consistently for so long about slavery, of all things, did not reflect “Catholic Social Teaching” in any normal sense of those words, or was regarded as anything less than an expression of the Ordinary Magisterium than are the papal encyclicals of the last 120 years. (“No more slavery, starting . . . now!”) This reality yields the following trilemma for Mr. Ferrara:
(a) Modern Catholic Social Teaching on the intrinsic evil of slavery is true, but previous editions of “Catholic Social Teaching,” i.e., those that countenanced certain “just” forms of this intrinsic evil, were false; or
(b) slavery became intrinsically evil when “Catholic Social Teaching” declared it to be so; or
(c) there was no such thing as “Catholic Social Teaching” before the late 19th century, and therefore whatever any pope or Doctor of the Church may have written about slavery over the previous eighteen centuries does not count as “Catholic Social Teaching.”
Mr. Ferrara, not content to criticize the labor policies and practices of global corporations, whose employees he deems “wage-slaves,” elected to complicate his case by raising the complex, and emotionally charged, topic of genuine, non-metaphorical slavery. He has thereby invited inquiry into the Catholic theory and practice thereof—arguably germane, even without his invitation, to an assessment of the meaning of “Catholic Social Teaching”!
He has opened that door, but he will not willingly walk through it—the historical reality of Catholic slavers and apologists for slavery is thoroughly occluded for him. He must be prodded, if not pushed.
By all means, let’s discuss what contemporary Catholic authorities mean by “the just wage” on its merits. Perhaps we will be forgiven, however, if we do not suffer lectures about “wage slavery” from representatives of “Catholic Social Teaching.”
To Be Continued
* It is dismaying that this book has been out of print for many years and that second-hand copies are hard to come by. These days the text can be posted on the Internet, however, and we will undertake that task if no one else beats us to it. Until then, we make no apologies for lengthy quotations from it. [That day has come.--Anthony Flood, September 20, 2011]
** The chronologically last example that Father Maxwell cites is M. Zalba, Theologiae Moralis Compendium, published in 1958. Maxwell, op. cit., 88, n. 173.