The Bishops’ Message–Quotations and Comments

[These excerpts from the Bishops’ Message of 1934, with Peter Maurin’s comments, were published in the Catholic Worker of May, 1934. The quotations are printed here In Roman type and Peter’s comments in italics.]

In tracing the remote causes
of the present misery of mankind
we must listen to him
who as a loving father
views from an eminence
all the nations of the world.
Quoting St. Paul, our Holy Father says:
“The desire for money
is the root of all evil.”
From greed arises mutual distrust
that casts a blight
on all human beings.
From greed arises envy
which makes a man
consider the advantages of another
as losses to himself.
From greed arises
narrow individua1ism
which orders and subordinates everything
to its own advantage.

People looking
for a rainy day
have put so much money
into business
that they have brought about
an increase
in producing power
and a decrease
in purchasing power.
So there is a rub
between the rich
who like
to get richer
and the poor
who don’t like
to get poorer.

In common with other nations
we have brought about our present
unhappy conditions
by divorcing education, industry, politics,
business, and economics
from morality and religion
and by ignoring for long decades
the innate dignity of man
and trampling on his human rights.

We have taken religion
out of everything
and have put commercialism
into everything.

That we are an industrial nation
is our public boast.
Industry is considered to be of more
than the moral welfare of man.
The lord of all is Industry.
“Save Industry!” is the cry.
“Put business on its feet
and all will be well
as it was in the past.”

We are beginning to learn
that to put big business
on its feet
does not necessarily
put the forgotten man
on his feet.

The philosophy which has ruled govern-
ments, groups, and individuals
for the past three hundred years
has not taken as its guide
the moral law,
has not considered the rights of men.
Money, not men,
bas been the supreme consideration
and the justifying end.

When people care
for money
they do not care
for culture.
And when people
do not care
for culture
they return
to barbarism.

That philosophy permits individuals
to accumulate as much wealth as they can
according to unfair methods
of modern business
and to use such accumulated wealth
as they see fit.
This extreme of individualism
has led to the extreme of Communism.
We rightly fear its spread in our country
and see an especial menace
in its insidious presentation
of fundamental troubles
for its own destructive ends.

When modern society
made the bank account
the standard of values
people ceased
to produce for use
and began
to produce for profit.
Rugged individualism
leads to
rugged nationalism,
which leads to
rugged collectivism.

The brotherhood of man
is loudly proclaimed.
Energetic protest is made
against injustice
done to the working class.
The abuses of the capitalist system
are vigorously condemned.
It is insisted
that man shall not exploit his fellow man
and that all shall be dedicated
to a life of service.

In a capitalist society
where man
is inhuman to man
people cannot
keep from dreaming
about a society
where man
would be human
to man.

A program of social reform
couched in such language
and with such aims and purposes
is unassailable
because it is distinctly Christian in origin
and purport,
but in the hands of the Communists
it is merely a snare
to allure those who are oppressed
by the prevailing economic maladjustment
into accepting the iniquitous social and
religious tenets
of Lenin and Stalin.
There is a very grave and subtle danger
of infection from Communism.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas
man is more
than an individual
with individual rights;
he is a person
with personal duties
toward God,
and his fellow man.
As a person
man cannot
serve God
without serving
the Common Good.

Special efforts are being made
to win Negroes
who are the victims of injustice.
The Communists have as their objective
a world war on God
and the complete destruction
of all supernatural and even natural religion.

The Negroes
are beginning to find out
that wage slavery
is no improvement
on chattel slavery.
The Communists say
that Christianity is a failure,
but it is not a failure
for the very good reason
that it has not been tried.