A BRIEF examination of Catho lic Social teaching, with particular reference to the Papal Encyclicals appeared one day last week in the Communist Party organ, the Daily Worker. It was addressed to Catholic workers but had, of course, nothing to do with preparations for the celebration of Reruns Novarunt Sunday, May 23.
The purpose of the article, it made clear, was to combat what it described as " the present antiCommunist drive by the Catholic Church."
But the Communist daily's switch from mere abuse to even a biased examination of Catholic teaching is significant. Its political aricles are obviously carefully chosen with a view to giving its readers guidance on the outstanding problems with which they are confronted.
We see this development as a hopeful and encouraging sign; it is an indication that the positive alternative to Communism which the Church is actively putting before the people to-day through the clergy and the organisation of the laity is having its effect and has not escaped the notice of those most affected by it.
Particular reference is made in the article to the recent activities of Catholic trade unionists and " some prominent members of the Labour and trade union movement."
The infant ACTU and the Catholics in the Parliamentary Labour Party should be suitably encouraged. We hope also that the Labour Party officials at Transport House who have sometimes looked with suspicion on both will also take due note and show the same degree of understanding. But the Catholics within the movement are the best equipped of any for this work for they alone represent something which is, and always has been, utterly opposed to Communism and the ideas it represents, a fact which some, at least, among the Labour leaders arc now coming .to understand.
Our Responsibility UPON the rank and file Catho
lie trade unionists to-day fa% a special responsibility. The Communist Party in Britain is numerically weak but it has entrenched itself in the unions in such a way as to give the appearance of a disproportionate strength, so much so that Communists in leading trade union positions have been able to bluff, and when necessary to threaten, on the basis of the supposed support of the membership who returned them to those positions.
But it has been apathy of the non-Communists rather than the strength of the Communists themselves which has all too often been responsible for their return. Now Catholic trade unionists are beginning to face up to their responsibilities and to assist in running the organisations of which they are members and who speak in their name.
With new and touching concern for Catholic trade unionists the Daily Worker wrote: " Many Catholic workers are genuinely disturbed about the additional tasks they are now asked to perform It is not sufficient that they accept the doctrines of the Church, obey the Commandments, attend Mass and carry out other accepted religious duties. They are now expected to attend meetings of the Labour Party, trade unions and the Co-operative movement, not with the intention of helping these organisations, but to defeat progressive proposals and to combat the Communists."
The suggestion, of course, is that when a trade unionist or co-operator uses his organisation to assist the Communists and promote their policies he is a good member, helping the Labour movement; when he opposes them he is a bad one. It is this typically cynical Marxist reasoning which, expressed in the trade union branch or executive meeting has often blackmailed the vacillating member into supporting persons and policies for which he has no real sympathy.
The Catholic trade unionist must, himself, be equipped and organised for the job he has to do. Those clergy who through ACTU meetings are for the first time hearing the views of their parishioners on current political and industrial questions are often amazed at the degree to which they absorb Cornmunist and pro-Soviet propaganda during recent years. We must ex amine our own position and have' some practical answers to the everyday problems as they crop up.
Practical Programme THISTHIS again brings to the fore question of a practical Catholic Social programme. It is not the job of the Church to detail the means by which. in any particular set of circumstances the ends of social action are to be obtained in conformity with the principles laid down in Catholic teaching as a whole and in particular in the great Social Encyclicals.
But if the action of the associations of Catholic Trade Unionists and Catholic Employers is to be effective in the larger associations of which they naturally form part then obviously the time will come when concentration on the present task of cleaning the trade union executive committees of the Cornmunists and the fellow travellers will no longer be necessary. Then, as the various problems arise, the ACTU and ACE ought each in their own milieur be giving the same answer to the question when there is involved a point on which the principles of Catholic Social teaching permit a definite answer. Such questions might be the living wage, the upper limit of private property, of private profit from industry and commerce, the right of the craftsman to own the tools of his trade. etc. Other points which could with advantage now he defined are the points in which the action of the state might be deemed excessive and against its own natural end to protect the rights of its citizens.
Some part of this work has been attempted by individual Catholic scholars but so far no comprehensive catalogue, codex or programme has been drawn up to which any Catholic body has given an assent. Where there is a possibility of divergence in the answers there is cbviously reason why the answer favoured for instance by the associations of Catholic Employers should not differ according to their prejudices and interests from that to which the ACTU gave its assent. Until some such definite code is prepared the work of the ACTU and ACE must of necessity at lest seem destructive, negative, prohibitive rather than constructive, positive and progressive.
Mr. Attlee on Communism ONEquestion which the same article raises and which is at the present moment receiving very different answers on the continent is " is there such a thing as Christian Socialism?" On the continent at least in Germany and France the question is being faced squarely and there are eminent Catholic theologians and social teachers on each side. The one averring that it is possible to have a Catholic Socialism in fact that it can alone be the true socialism. The other that Socialism is not the word to be used at all and that the phrase Catholic Socialism is a contradiction. The question is not an academic one but a practical and even urgent problem, and here in England where there did indeed grow up a movement of the working class which set out to right the wrongs in the social system which was not in fact based on the materialistic and atheistic analysis of Karl Marx we are, perhaps. in a better position to approach the problem unhindered by the past history of the mass movements of social reform. It is for this reason that the pronouncement of Mr. Attlee on Saturday last is of special importance and deserves special praise. " In a very wide range of human activity the Communists are extreme reactionaries. This has come about through the fact that the Communist creed itself an extremely narrow and perverted variant of Socialist theory, has found its home in the most backward part of Europe and has there acquired the characteristics of its surroundings. The Communist thesis, which seeks to explain all life in narrow economic terms, is in itself a most inadequate creed." said Mr. Attlee. If to this brief indication of what the Socialist State is not Mr. Attlee could add some positive statements that the Socialist State to which he hopes to lead us is: (1) not an end in itself but a means to an end; (2) that the end is the social justice, political, religious and personal freedom of its citizens, and (3) that this end can only be envisaged in a Christian philosophy which alone guarantees to the individual the sanctity which these ends presuppose then we might have, here and now, a practical answer to the problem on which the socialists of the continent are divided.