I was browsing through the issues of Social Justice for 1938 and discovered that Fr. Coughlin had commissioned a year-long weekly series by Hilaire Belloc, “The Way Out” — a Catholic examination of the social, political and financial crises and the Church’s prescription for creating a just society.The first of this series was published February 28, 1938. Here is a major excerpt from a Belloc writing that I never new existed before, as timely now as it was 72 years ago:
“….When a man suffers injustice he will combat with all his strength the evil done to him. This is so evident that men have in all times and places made laws, and set up tribunals, in order to enforce justice and thus prevent conflict.
“When the sense of injustice done to them is aroused in great numbes of men, there is peril of general conflict. When that sense is acute and extends to the masses of the State, all social order is threatened, and, unless the wrong is righted, a whole civilization may perish.
“That is the situation we have reached today in the old and the new world alike. Very great and increasing numbers of citizens feel that grievous injustice is done them by the social arrangements under which they live. This injustice they feel to be intolerable. Hence there is peril for all. The work of the world cannot be done in such an atmosphere. The strain is deathly. Unless it is relieved it will destroy us. Such is the first, the most immediate business at hand. But there is another and deeper consideration. Justice is of the nature of the things. It is the Will of the Creator, and those who resist that Will are broken at last. Order is not the end of social life. Order through Justice is the end of social life. Only in Justice can the souls of men repose. Therefore, apart from the immediate danger to be met there is a permanent solution to be sought and established. We seek Justice not only, nor even mainly, because we ourselves suffer from its absence, but because, when very many others suffer so, their strong grievance poisons the moral air we breathe. A common fundamental duty lies upon all men today, to examine, to understand, to deal with, and to redress the iniquity of our time….
“The sense of injustice, now almost universal, is most violent in the factory and in transport, but in varying degrees it is present everywhere and that sense of injustice is sound: for Justice demands human conditions of life for human beings — ‘Our Daily Bread.’ This is not for sustenance; it is human dignity; it is a certain proportion of leisure; it is the enjoyment of beauty and something more, (continually forgotten) variety. All these can be had under subjection to the advantage of other men, but they are then all imperfect, warped, stunted and diseased for one thing is lacking; and that one thing is freedom. The Will of Man is created free, and must be exercised, if man is to live a life fully human. Choice of occupation and of things is part of ‘Daily Bread.’ Today most men have no such choice, and go hungry for it. Their lives are ordered in spite of them, and that, for one reason only: the do not possess the soil or the unencumbered instruments of their trade. Another possesses them, and through his possesion and their indigence arises this bitter sense of oppression.
“To the question, ‘Why do men suffer thus?’ the common answer is is that the cause of all the evil is ‘Capitalism:’ that is, the exploitation of the destitute many by the few who control the means of livelihood. That answer is misleading. It states as a fact but does not explain it. It is also a half truth, and half truths are the most dangerous of falsehoods. If it were true that Capitalism was the source of our evils, the destruction of Capitalism, no matter how, would suffice as a remedy. But it should be evident that an attempt to destroy Capitalism by a wrong method is no remedy. To a man with a toothache the whole cause of his troubles seems to be the teeth in his head, but it is no remedy to cut off his head. The real cause of our troubles is not Capitalism but the condition on which Capitalism depends: the destituion of the many…..
“Men cannot live as free citizens, capable of free contract, enjoying economic liberty, feeling their lives secure, unless they have property. By such laws as shall put property into many hands, until at last a determining number of citizens own, can society be saved. In no other way can it be saved, unless we call a return to slavery salvation.
“The family is the true unit of the State, and is more important than the State. The State exists for the family, not the family for the State. In a proletarian society the family decays. Property is necessary for normal and healthy living….
“A society built on ownership, and therefore on freedom, with ownership safeguarded by corporate rules, will restore to us our ‘Daily Bread’ which we have lost. Immediate necessities must be relieved for the moment; but our aim should be a stable society in a contented world.”