DCST Session 1 of 8: Social Justice – God is Dead

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Table of Contents

  1. The Video
  2. Video Skeleton: Read Questions/Slides and Jump to them within the video
  3. Bibliography
  4. Lecture Notes by Peter Berkman

1. Watch the Video

3. Video Skeleton: Read Questions & Slides and Jump to them within the Video

0:00:00 Overview: “The 19th-century saw the rise of Electric technology, replacing Print as society’s psycho-environmental ground — while generating both socialism/communism and the robber barons.  In response, the Catholic Church invented the notion of “social justice,” attempting to reassert Natural Law while addressing the widely growing conflicts.  Hostile states responded by isolating the Church, launching “culture wars,” and ultimately fomenting revolution.  Nietzsche’s dramatic assertion underpinned a wide range of social movements — both on the left and the right.”

0:06:20 Question #1: What happened to the Roman Catholic Church in the “Modern World”?

  • Medieval institution in the modern age
  • Overwhelmed by the Printing Press
  • Freemasons and Reforming the Whole World
  • Reformation/Counter-reformation – Jesuits
  • Royal Society of London
  • Republics and Constitutions

0:12:30 Question #2: How did this confrontation accelerate in the 19th-century?

  • France — Revolution & Napoleon
  • Germany — Kulturkampf
  • Italy — Seizure of Papal States
  • Britain — Industrial Revolution
  • Church — Vatican I & Infallibility

0:19:20 Question #3: Was God Dead?

  • Nietzsche and Mythology
  • Disenchantment of the World
  • Psyche replaced by “Behaviorism”
  • World Parliament of Religions
  • Rediscovery of the East

0:27:05 Question #4: Why was “Social Justice” the Church’s response?

  • Communist Manifesto
  • Social Science & Social Engineering
  • Natural Law Tradition
  • Re-establish St. Thomas Aquinas
  • God’s Diplomats

0:34:05 Question #5: Who was Pope Leo XIII?

  • Jesuit trained then Academia dei Nobili
  • Launched research into Church history
  • Re-founded Vatican Observatory
  • Strengthened ties with many states
  • Forty-six encyclicals and apostolic letters

0:38:13 Question #6: What were the effects of Electricity?

  • Shift from visual “linearity” to acoustic “surround”
  • Art becomes “modern” and abstract
  • Systems replace Natural Law
  • Academia becomes specialized
  • Propaganda takes over mass media
  • Ritual “magic” and advertising

0:46:40 Question #7: How did the Church respond?

  • Pius X and Oath Against Modernism
  • Withdrawal from secular inquiries
  • Promotion of “mystical” experiences
  • Pius XI and the “Catholic International”
  • Vatican II & Nouvelle Theologie

0:51:30 Question #8: Will DIGITAL put an end to the Modern World?

  • manity confronts the Artificial
  • Systems science has failed to improve life
  • Crisis of meaning — return of causality
  • Theological virtues being widely remembered

0:57:54 Audience Questions : (Read the list of Questions in Lecture Notes by Peter below)

1:04:55 Answers to Audience Questions (Read the gist of answers in Lecture Notes by Peter below)

3. Bibliography

This is partial list of (mostly) recent books discussing the topics covered in Session 1 – pretty much one entry per bullet.  Each of these headings has a vast literature behind it, only portions of which I have personally read (although most of the listed books are in my library).  These have been selected largely because Amazon sells them, giving those interested a chance to get a “Look Inside” many of the volumes without having to purchase the book.  

Wikipedia often has entries on these topics, pointing to other resources.  In addition, many of these books have been scanned and can be downloaded from sites like Libgen.is. Our efforts are aimed at “autodidacts” – those teaching themselves – and the Internet is a remarkable cornucopia of research and references.  All we can do is help to wind-up the student and point them towards the knowledge that surrounds them.  And don’t forget to read the footnotes!

Question #1: What Happened to the Roman Catholic Church in the “Modern World”?

The Rise of Universities: Haskins, Charles Homer, Mommsen, Theodor E.: 9780801490156:  

The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Trans (Complete in One Volume): 9780521299558

Rosicrucian Trilogy: Modern Translations of the Three Founding Documents: 9781578636037: Godwin, Joscelyn, McIntosh, Christopher, McIntosh

The Jesuits: Malachi Martin: 9780671657161

The Magus of Freemasonry: The Mysterious Life of Elias Ashmole–Scientist, Alchemist, and Founder of the Royal Society: Churton, Tobias: 9781594771224

Question #2: How did this confrontation accelerate in the 19th-century?

The 120 Days of Sodom: 9781604594188: Sade, Marquis de

Culture Wars: Secular-Catholic Conflict in Nineteenth-Century Europe: 9780521809979: Clark, Christopher, Kaiser, Wolfram

The Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy: 9780582369580: Beales, Derek, Biagini, Eugenio F.

Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages: Carlota Perez: 8601405606587

Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church: O’Malley, John W.: 9780674241404

Question #3: Was God Dead?

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One (Penguin Classics): Nietzsche, Friedrich, Hollingdale, R. J.: 8601417134900

Max Weber’s ‘Science as a Vocation’ (Routledge Library Editions: Social Theory): 9781138980600: Lassman, Peter, Velody, Irving, Martins, Herminio

A history of experimental psychology (The Century psychology series): Boring, Edwin Garrigues:

The World’s Parliament of Religions: The East/West Encounter, Chicago, 1893 (Religion in North America): Seager, Richard Hughes: 9780253221667

The Sociology of Religion: Weber, Max, Fischoff, Ephraim: 0046442042055

Question #4: Why was “Social Justice” the Church’s response?

The Communist Manifesto: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: 9780717802418

Nature & Human Nature Mans New Image Of: Frank, Lawrence K: 9781199088468

St. Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Tradition: Contemporary Perspectives: Goyette, John, Latkovic, Mark S., Myers, Richard S.: 9780813213781

The Medieval Tradition of Natural Law (Studies in Medieval Culture): Johnson, Harold J.: 9780918720818

God’s Diplomats: Pope Francis, Vatican Diplomacy, and America’s Armageddon: Gaetan, Victor: 9781538150146

Question #5: Who was Pope Leo XIII?

The master diplomat,: From the life of Leo XIII,: Quardt, Robert

The Life of Pope Leo XIII: From an Authentic Memoir: O’Reilly D.D., Fr. Bernard, Press, Mediatrix: 9781539769163

Question #6:  What were the effects of Electricity?

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man: Marshall McLuhan, Lewis H. Lapham: 9780262631594

Modern Art: A Very Short Introduction: 9780192803641: Cottington, David: Books

General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications: von Bertalanffy, Ludwig, Hofkirchner, Wolfgang, Rousseau, David: 9780807600153

4. Lecture Notes by Peter Berkman

Digital Catholic Social Teaching (DCST)

Session 1: Social Justice – God is Dead

Sunday, 27 February 22, 3PM

Session 1: Social Justice — God is Dead

The 19th-century saw the rise of Electric technology, replacing Print as society’s psycho-environmental ground — while generating both socialism/communism and the robber barons. In response, the Catholic Church invented the notion of “social justice,” attempting to reassert Natural Law while addressing the widely growing conflicts. Hostile states responded by isolating the Church, launching “culture wars,” and ultimately fomenting revolution. Nietzsche’s dramatic assertion underpinned a wide range of social movements — both on the left and the right.


The premise: The three principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST): Human Dignity, Subsidiarity, and Solidary take on a radically different expression under digital conditions.

Why was “Catholic Social Teaching” invented?

To set itself apart from other systems devised in years of technological development.

“Why the Catholic Church?”

“Our view is that the West sphere is in deep trouble.”

Shrikant: Why is the Catholic Church uniquely situated to provide a solution and how will it do it?

Mark: “Answer? The Catholic Church. Not Governments. Not NATO. Not the UN.”

Medieval leadership: sensibility and psychological. Scribal circumstance.

Asserting peace. Asserting theological virtues. 1.3 billion Catholics throughout the world.

Divine grace. Longevity. Queen of England will die any day. English monarchy will not accomplish the goals we’re talking about. Russia won’t accomplish this. NATO won’t accomplish this. The Chamber of Commerce won’t accomplish this.

This is a statement about a present opportunity, not a conclusion of what is going to come. This is not prophecy this is observation.

We’re going to Rome we may find out nobody likes what we’re doing.

1. Why the Catholic Church?

Globally-spanning, relatively unified, Western sphere medieval leadership.

2. By what authority?

I welcome help and your contributions in this on-going discussion.

I am versed in a wide range of disciplines (psychology, computer science, history, biology)

3. What are we trying to do?

We are trying to invent a new medium

“Digital” has gotten confused in many respects

SCRIBAL HYPERBOOK: Collaborative, ongoing, memory.

A new form of dialogue & knowledge acquisition –

Aimed at people who ‘teach themselves’.


Established in three papal encyclicals.

1891 Rerum novarum, Pope Leo XII

1931 Quadrogesimo anno (“40 Years On”), Pope Pius XI

1991 100 years (“100 Years On”), Saint Pope John Paul II

It is based on three pillars: two lectures of each of these.

HUMAN DIGNITYMean something radically different before the advent of artificial humans. Now the human soul and its dimensions are emphasized.

SUBSIDIARITY It meant one thing in ELECTRIC. It means something radically different under DIGITAL conditions. We have all kinds of brand new affordances to organize society. How we organize ourselves – how we delegate responsibility. Responsibility is the point. Some things we are not responsible for and shouldn’t be expected to be.

SOLIDARITYHow do we all live together in peace? Our differences can’t be swept under the rug. We live in different cultures in a polyhedral globe. This question has never arisen before.


Question #1 What Happened to the Roman

Catholic Church in the “Modern World”?

‘Modern world’ = Print environment (16th c. in Europe)

This did not happen in the east sphere.

-Medieval institution in the modern age

Despite the churches efforts to ‘modernize’.

Pope Francis is a monarch (synodal)

-Overwhelmed by the Printing Press

“Oh great – we can automate the jobs of the scribes writing indulgences!”

-Freemasons and Reforming the Whole World

Alternative ‘hierarchies’ develop – dedicated to changing the world c. 17th century.

-Reformation/Counter-reformation – Jesuits

Not an effective response.

-Royal Society of London

Scientists replaced priests. and then psychologists replaced priests

Church no longer had a monopoly on knowledge, no longer the vanguard

-Republics and Constitutions

The rise of the republics.

Treaty of Westphalia 1648.

Peter’s notes:

It was set aside as, almost unnoticed, it’s SCRIBAL feet were cut out from underneath it by the new PRINT environment. It’s response was combat against the modern world and subsequent decline.

Question #2: How did this confrontation

accelerate in the 19th-century?

Widespread decline.

-France – Revolution & Napoleon

Napoleon – Church was his principle rival

Limiting their educational effect inside France

French constitution enshrines “Laicite” in the first article of the constitution

-Germany – Kulturkampf

Origin of “Culture war”

Taxes, Catholic education – resented & undermined

Removing the Church from any serious responsiblities in politics & education

-Italy – Seizure of the Papal States

In order to unify kingdoms into an Italian Republic, the papal states were seized.

The Church ceased to be a state and land-owner in 1870.

Relationship between the Vatican and the Italian state was hostile.

Churches response: “Non Expedit”: “Don’t participate in the government”

-Britain – Industrial Revolution

Most significant challenge

‘Software communism’

-Church – Vatican I & Papal Infallibility

The Church’s reaction was: ‘stay alive’ without making progress.

Peter’s notes:

Constitutional republics solidified their own existence, built on the basis that the Church no longer needed to be involved – not only in political life – but in the education of children.

Question #3: Was God Dead?

-Nietzsche and Mythology

Son and grandson of Lutheran [PRINT] pastor

Undergraduate Nietzsche retrieved something much older – “the archaic”: mythology

Even older than the Catholic Church – “authority”

Philology in Germany: shot-through with mythology

Koitscher?? Author… [????????]

-Disenchantment of the World

Weber fascinated with philosophy of religion

Sociology: study something social that pre-dated Christianity

-Psyche replaced by “Behaviorism”

Greek word for “soul” – psychology without a soul

‘Cognitive psychology patterns humans on computers’ – dominant today

Process began in the late 19th century

-World Parliament of Religions

Organize a replacement?

Hinduism? Jainism? Bahai? Theosophical Society?

Chicago 1893. -No Catholics participate

Esperanto grew from this

-Rediscovery of the East

By European imperialists

Colonialists – particularly British expansion

Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism all food into the Anglophonic world

No need for a Christian God – we had something older and more significant

Broad sweeping rejection of Catholic beliefs and the virtues that accompanied them

Peter’s notes: “God is dead” was an ELECTRIC perception that the Newtonian, clock-maker PRINT God was no longer relevant – and that new games, new images, new myths – new ‘gods’ must be invented instead.

Question #4: Why was “Social Justice” the Church’s response?

Charity. Commitment to peace.

1 Corinthians letter and its significant promotion of caritas

Social justice is the natural charitable response to heated confronations

-Communist Manifesto

Karl Marx (obvious), Friedrich Engels (afterthought)

Engels far more important

Engels grew up in Barmen, Germany – the ‘buckle’ of the fundamentalist ‘Bible Belt’ in Germany.

-Social Science & Social Engineering

The Church chose to step forward, not simply withdraw.

-Natural Law Tradition

Relying on this.

-Re-establish St. Thomas Aquinas

The highest component of this.

Aeterni patris 1879

-God’s Diplomats

The diplomatic role of social justice

Victor Gaetan – God’s Diplomats

Vatican Secretary of State highly important

A few days ago Pope Francis visited the Russian embassy in Rome
A long-standing Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

The role that the Church began playing re: peace & social justice — a natural place, then & now.

Peter’s notes: Applying the Gospel in changing times, and wildly different political & social circumstances, some common principles for humanity needed to be asserted.

Question #5: Who was Pope Leo XIII

Important to understand the biographies of people involved.

Pope from 1870s-1903

b. 1810 d. 1903

-Jesuit trained then Academia dei Nobili

The training ground for Vatican diplomats

Carefully hand-selected

-Launched research into Church history

 Opened the Vatican Secret Archives

Re-centered St. Thomas Aquinas (Aeterni patris 1879)

-Re-founded Vatican Observatory

 Mending the relationship with science

-Strengthened ties with many states

-Forty-six encyclicals and apostolic letters

Rerum novarum

Aeterni patris

Peter’s notes: The individual who set the course for the potential to not only combat, but rather lead in topics of science.

Question #6: What were the effects of Electricity?

Our approach via McLuhan: understand history through the dominant communications paradigms of the time.

Oral World -> Scribal World -> Print World -> Secondary Orality -> Secondary Scribality

-Shift from visual “linearity” to acoustic “surround”

Inside goes outside

-Art becomes “modern” and abstract

Figurative to the interior landscape

-Systems replace Natural Law

How do we organize the world?

“Distributism” is a “system” based on Catholic Social Teaching

Fascism | Communism | Many other systems | “Ism-ism”

Early 20th century filled with “isms”

Constructed by humanity

“Ism” = System

Technocracy on & on & on

-Academia becomes specialized

1930s – Psychology was in “philosophy” at Harvard

PhD a German invention – “The Leipzig Connection”

-Propaganda takes over mass media


-Ritual “magic” and advertising

Oral sensibility

Carl Jung

Mass Media advertising is entirely an expression of ritual magic

Aleister and Adolf – Douglas Rushkoff

Deliberately used ‘magic’ in their broader social impact

Question #7: How did the Church respond?

-Pius X and Oath Against Modernism

Every priest, every seminary teacher must sign & file an oath against modernism

-Withdrawal from secular inquiries

 -Promotion of “mystical” experiences

Inward turn

Phenomenology – Martin Heidegger (wanted to a Jesuit)

Doctors of the Church 1920s onward – mystics made Doctors

-Pius XI and the “Catholic International”

Built the structures into which Marshall McLuhan later fit

Culmination of this is Vatican II

-Vatican II & Nouvelle Theologie

Leo XIII set aside

The Church is still struggling with the result

Question #8: Will DIGITAL put an end to the Modern World?

We no longer live in the modern world.

Wizard of Oz – “we no longer live in Kansas”

-“Inner Senses” shift from Fantasy to Memory

Dianoetikon Vol I.

-Humanity confronts the Artificial

Artificial humanity forces us to reconsider what it means to be authentic humans

Remember what it means to be human

-Systems science has failed to improve life

New “systems” sciences must be invented

-Crisis of meaning — return of causality

Won’t be tolerated. Causes eliminated in the 20th century won’t stand anymore.

-Theological virtues being widely remembered

Faith | Hope | Charity

Prudence | Justice | Temperance | Fortitude

How can we generate build and design robots that have “compassion”?

AI Ethics is not the same thing as AI Morality

Not the same thing as AI Compassion

Why is it the humans?

Are humans compassionate?

Arthur: Different universalist movements?

DLJ: Has been working in AI & Ethics. Bit missed: why the Catholic Church? New unifying force? What is the role? World is falling apart, new unifying force? Why should it be the Church?

Hugh: Is the way God has been imaged in our minds changing?

Geng Tan: Jordan Peterson also suggests the Church. This is not a possible solution in China.

Joseph Bullock: How the Church would serve as a unifying force going forward? Decline in vocations to the priesthood. Decline in their membership. How is this going to be strategized?

Peter Berkman: What is Catholic Social Teaching? What is Digital Catholic Social Teaching?

Lora Shapiro: How do you do this minus the Church?

Shrikant: There is a problem

Geng / Lora – spirituality is lost and needs to be recovered.

“Okay but can’t we do (whatever you’re going to suggest) without Catholicism?” 🙂  I’d have the same question, if I knew what you were going to suggest.

Mark: Individuals are going to have to recognize this crisis and examine their own conscience on this. The kids are going to decide how this all turns out. They’ll understand the causal factors involved.

How is the image of God changing?

Leaving ELECTRIC environment. Entering DIGITAL environment.

How do human beings deal with that transition.

It is impossible for them to continuing to answer them in the same way.

We are going to move away from “images”.

Images are a significant part of the problem.

In general: China will not adopt Christianity as an answer.

But: there are Chinese people in the “western sphere”.

From images to understanding. Understanding will require remembering.

Faith is not a matter of images.

It’s not a psychological sleight-of-hand.

Bill Frezza: How many in the leadership believe it’s their job to lead us to a digital promised land in this life?

Mark Krugmann: There is a strong rejection of Francis. Presumption of the Church holding together as opposed to a significant schism?

DLJ: Why not Islam?


Can we do this without the Catholic Church?

I understand the effectiveness of the electric media environment, and particularly television, in denigrating the Catholic Church. Today it is completely gone in terms of consideration. I understand that. That may turn out to be true. However: it is an ELECTRIC attitude, quite deliberately brought to us by a paradigm that has itself now collapsed. So the question like all the rest need to be posed to the extent we can from the standpoint of underlying assumptions in the media – even if we have personal knowledge about – abuse by priests and so forth – the question is whether those premises will continue, whether they will hold.


Premises on important matters like this change dramatically under new paradigm conditions.

The difficulty throughout this series – GLOBALISM IS GONE.

If globalism worked there would have been no invasion of Ukraine. Otherwise we would have pursued bringing Russia into the fold.

They illustrate that the old paradigm has collapsed in a dangerous way.

Nuclear forces on high alert.

This is not a success. This is a failure.

I suspect the view will be different 10 years from now.

Does today’s Catholic leadership believe they need to take this leadership role?

WESTERN SPHERE: The least confident of themselves (compared to EAST and DIGITAL). The least secure. The most concerned. The most likely to continue to fail. Can that be sustained? Can we wind up with China taking an even more dominant role? The west doesn’t have to persist forever. 

“Nobody likes Francis.”

Church is divided only superficially: the false perception that ‘Francis’ is liberal’, ‘BXVI is conservative’.

DLJ: East, West and Digital… have you been to China recently?  It is already digital. 😉

Who can come up with a proponent of leadership in that vacuum?

Vatican II ecumenical council.

Spirit of Vatican II will be sustained through these changes it is the recognition that Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daosim, these are not going to be ‘converted’ – these are going to be brought together in ecumenical discussions.

Moral leadership will be enormously important as we go forward.

Not political leadership. Not economic leadership.

Polyhedral globalism. Not a ping-pong ball. A soccer ball.

It’s interlocking shapes that are all sewn together. They make up a globe, yet they’re distinct from each other.

This sensibility is mandatory going forward.

SHRIKANT: Why is the Catholic Church uniquely situated to provide a solution and how will it do it?

Asserting peace. Asserting theological virtues. 1.3 billion Catholics throughout the world.

Divine grace.


Queen of England will die any day.

English monarchy will not accomplish the goals we’re talking about.

Russia vs. NATO

Russia won’t accomplish this.

NATO won’t accomplish this.

Chamber of Commerce won’t accomplish this.

Opportunity. Not conclusion. This is not prophecy this is observation.

We’re going to Rome we may find out nobody likes what we’re doing.

Jacqueline: i spent the last 2 years studying art in belgium and the basis of my final project was my Christian experience in the USA growing up, my professors were far less receptive to the influences and enthusiastic about the religious premise. my work was much more well received by peers my age (18-25), partially i think because of the “loss of spirituality” in culture due to tech, but these are also young people more strongly drawn towards other mythological influences like astrology, because it seems more welcoming and less intimidating. how is it that the church can combat the negative reputation it has (at least in Europe), particularly amongst youth, in the face of mythology that seems much more appealing to young people right now?

Mark: Church will ignore the Electric views. Smart 20-somethings. There is already a massive battle

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