DCST Session 2 of 8: The Encyclicals — Disenchantment of the World

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Table of Contents

  1. Video
  2. Video Skeleton: Questions, Slides, Jump to Answers
  3. Bibliography
  4. Lecture Notes by Peter Berkman
  1. Video

2) Video Skeleton

00:00:00 Introduction: Pope Leo XIII aggressively responded with encyclicals including “Aeterni Patris” (1879, retrieving St. Thomas Aquinas) and “Rerun Novarum” (1891, establishing Catholic Social Teaching).  Forty years later, Pope Pius XII expanded CST in his “Quadragessima Anno” (1931, a cornerstone of the Church’s anti-Marxist “Catholic International”).  On the 100th anniversary, Pope John Paul II issued his “Centesimus Annus” (1991, from which grew CAPP, the lay organization tasked to spread CST).  But few heeded the Church’s call.

00:03:15 Question #1: Why Did Pope Leo Bring Back St. Thomas Aquinas?

  • The Common Doctor
  • Aristotle and Plato
  • The Summas
  • Neo-Thomism/Scholasticism
  • Loss of Faculty Psychology

00:16:33 Question #2: What are the “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor”? (Rerum novarum, 1891)

  • Church must speak out on social issues
  • Market must be tempered by moral concerns
  • Labor: Perform duties, remain non-violent
  • Capital: Provide work, respect dignity
  • State to provide for the Common Good

00:21:38 Question #3: What was Distributism?

  • Who was Chesterbelloc?
  • What is the “Servile State”?
  • Social Market Economy
  • Cooperatives
  • Catholic Worker Movement

00:27:18 Question #4: What did the Church mean by “the reconstruction of the social order”? (Quadragesimo anno, 1931)

  • Christian reform of morals
  • “Liberalism” is the problem
  • Individualism/Collectivism — twin reefs
  • Freedom and the State
  • Law of Charity

00:32:01 Question #5: How did Pius XI back the “Catholic International”?

  • Commintern
  • Vatican Radio
  • Literature
  • Spanish Civil War
  • Catholic Action

00:37:25 Question #6: Why worry about “false opinions threatening” the Church (Humani generis, 1950)

  • Natural Law & Aquinas
  • Scientific challenge
  • Reason and Faith
  • Magisterium/progress
  • Return to the ancients

00:40:55 Question #7: How did “Marxism” undermine Human Dignity? (Centesimus annus, 1991)

  • Class society/struggle
  • Labor as commodity/dignity of work
  • Moral order/free will
  • Right to private property/socialism
  • False anthropology/element of system

00:46:55 Question #8: What is CAPP and what’s next?

  • Centesimus annus — Pro Pontifice (CAPP-USA.org)
  • Laudato si Chapter 3: The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
  • Romano Guardini: End of the Modern World
  • Digital Paradigm retrieves the Medieval
  • Digital Distributism

00:52:13 Audience Questions

00:55:48 Answers to Audience Questions

3) Bibliography: Coming Soon

4) Lecture Notes by Peter Berkman

Digital Catholic Social Teaching (DCST)

Session 2:  The Encyclicals — Disenchantment of the World

Sunday, 6 March 22, 3PM

This is meant as inventing a new medium to sort through for these far-ranging topics.

These sessions are meant as a resource for self-learners.

Meant as jumping off points for you to search these references out.

Materials available to anybody.

Pope Leo XIII aggressively responded with encyclicals including Aeterni patris (1879, retrieving St. Thomas Aquinas) and Rerum novarum (1891, establishing Catholic Social Teaching).  Forty years later, Pope Pius XI expanded Catholic Social Teaching in his Quadragesimo anno (1931, a cornerstone of the Church’s anti-Marxist  “Catholic International”). On the 100th anniversary, Pope John Paul II  issued his Centesimus annus (1991, from which grew CAPP, the lay organization tasked to spread Catholic Social Teaching).  But few heeded the Church’s call.

Catholic Social Teaching is a “hidden layer” of how the Church approaches social topics.

Not very well known by Catholics.


Aeterni patris, Pope Leo XIII 1879

Rerum novarum, Pope Leo XIII 1891

Quadrogesimo anno, Pope Pius XI 1931

Humani generis, Pope Pius XII 1950

Centisimus anno, Saint Pope John Paul II 1991

Question #1:  Why Did Pope Leo Bring Back St. Thomas Aquinas?   

(Aeterni patris, 1879)

We are on the eve of St. Thomas’s feast day. (Monday March 7th 2022).

In general, St. Thomas is no longer taught.

TELEVISION environment brushed his work aside.

13th century theologian born into a noble Italian family.

— The Common Doctor

A rare honor

Previously the “angelic doctor” – became the “common doctor” through Pope Leo XIII

The universal doctor

— Aristotle and Plato

He became a warrior in the retrieval of Aristotle (Plato’s student).

Ancient papyrus work was lost. (Pounded-down plant leaves not an enduring medium.)

From leaves to animal skins: vellum.

13th century: retrieval of Aristotle by Islamic scholars.

Difference between Aristotle and Plato: on the topic of forms.

Human beings recognize forms subconsciously. (Aristotle)

Humans are born knowing forms ‘innately’, and the challenge is to remember. (Plato)

St Thomas Aquinas heavily promotes the Aristotelian understanding.

Faces great academic conflict for doing so.

— The Summa(s)

St. Thomas – twice-Chair at the University of Paris in the 13th century.

Summa Theologiae – thousands of articles.

A reference work full of questions.

  1. Reality. [Creation]
  2. Humanity. [Human Being and Human Action]
  3. The Divine. [The Incarnation of Christ]

— Neo-Thomism/Scholasticism

Pope Leo XIII elevated St. Thomas Aquinas and invented “neo-scholasticism”.

This transition from modern-medieval was fraught.

-20th century version of St. Thomas splintered into many different “Thomisms”

— Loss of Faculty Psychology

The attempt to found schools and programs did not catch. Leo’s first choice for a ‘dean’ was rejected. His second choice, Desire Mercier, invented “Criteriology” instead of dealing with the crucial aspects of faculty psychology – namely, how the immaterial and the material relate to each other in the human being.

Today, St. Thomas is still not at the center of the conversation. Only taught to specialists.

Outmoded by television… remoded in digital circumstances.

Peter’s note: Because, even within the Church, an understanding of the powers (and limits) of the human soul had been forgotten. Broadly speaking, St. Thomas’s understanding of Aristotelian “formal causality” had been lost. The soul is the form of the body.

Question #2:  What are the “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor”?  (Rerum novarum, 1891)

Pope Leo XIII is dealing with a ‘hot-button’ issue here.

Rights AND Duties: powers with corresponding responsibilities & obligations.

“What are you supposed to do with the freedom you have been given?”

— Church must speak out on social issues

This was not the case before—much had been ignored and attempted to be brushed aside.

Things had hit a breaking point where it could no longer be ignored.

— Market must be tempered by moral concerns

Concerns about present investment world etc

— Labor: Perform duties, remain non-violent

Labor has a moral obligation to perform what has been agreed to

— Capital: Provide work, respect dignity

Capital has a moral responsibility to respect the dignity of the workers

— State to provide for the Common Good

The state mediates between the “body politic”.

“One idea to drive home” — this is neither “left wing” nor “right wing”. We are dealing with the common good – which is more fundamental than any political position.

Peter’s notes: The Church emphasizes here that any political discussion has to be based on an understanding of humanity first. Every human being has a soul, and they shape things in accordance with it, including their children (which properly belong to a family first before a state). Pope Leo XIII writes that God commands humanity not to covet others possessions (implying the existance & importance of possessions to Christian life)— but also emphasizes the importance of the common good. The Church demands that “natural law” be met with the law of Charity—to, against the sin of greed, distribute excess goods to those most in need.

Workers should not be made to be the victims of force and injustice.

Freedom to agree must be a pre-condition of any employment.

Question #3:  What was Distributism?

— Who was Chesterbelloc?

G. K. Chesterton

Hilaire Belloc

They were public exponents, in-your-face, on Pope Leo XIII’s writing.

Went up against H. G. Wells and G. B. Shaw – Fabian Socialists

Dueling points of view

— What is the “Servile State”?

Book (1912)

Recent Japanese translation

Much of these books have come to the public domain

[Archive.org, YouTube, etc]

LibriVox Audiobook: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jElTv4MvkgA&t=6s

— Social Market Economy

Rival presentations…

Communism, Fascism, Socialism, Capitalism – reductive alternatives

— Cooperatives

An expression of distributism

— Catholic Worker Movement

Dorothy Day (highlighted by Francis)

Peter’s notes: Distributism was one public expression of Pope Leo XIII’s thought in England, led in public by G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

Question #4:  What did the Church mean by “the reconstruction of the social order”? (Quadragesimo anno, 1931)

Pope Pius XI – 40th anniversary of Rerum novarum

Leo XIII was not forgotten.

He was continuously promoted.

1931: Russian revolution. Communist international. Many proposals.

— Christian reform of morals

We have lost our “moral compass”

— “Liberalism” is the problem

— Individualism/Collectivism — twin reefs

See also: Guardini’s “death zones” in oppositions, extreme poles where dialogue ends.

— Freedom and the State

— Law of Charity

Peter’s notes: Human dignity, subsidiarity, solidarity elaborated as the principles on which to actively construct, and to guide conduct in all political and social matters.

Question #5:  How did Pius XI back the “Catholic International”?

— Commintern

This was not ‘cold war’ – evident in the 1930s.

Marshall McLuhan at Cambridge in the mid-1930s, went to see G. K. Chesterton speak. Signed up for the Distributist League. Invited Belloc to speak to his class.

“In the 1930s at Cambridge: you either became a Marxist or you became a Catholic.”


— Vatican Radio

Most powerful station on earth at the time

[BBC has brought back shortwave broadcasting to bypass internet blockages.]

— Literature

Catholic literary journals (Renascence: where Marshall McLuhan landed)

Contests with prizes

Novels being written, plays being written

— Spanish Civil War

Things tended to get slippery, though not right/left.

— Catholic Action

Very much an aggressive practical matter.

Proto-Fascist “Action Francaise” banned in 1926 by Pope Pius XI


Peter’s notes: Pope Pius XI’s approach was to promote many angles and approaches around the world, jumping into the fray of various “media” spheres. Start a Catholic radio station. Start a Catholic newspaper. Start a Catholic literary journal. Start a Catholic publishing house.

Question #6:  Why worry about “false opinions threatening” the Church (Humani generis, 1950)

Pope Pius XII

The setup that was prelude to Vatican II

— Natural Law & Aquinas

vs. modern science – how they align and how they do not

— Scientific challenge

— Reason and Faith

JPII’s “fide et ratio”, written by Benedict XVI

— Magisterium/progress

Enduring truths that take on different expression in changing reality

— Return to the ancients

No opportunity to leave them behind.

Arguments & disputes, search for common ground

Peter’s notes:

Question #7:  How did “Marxism” undermine Human Dignity? (Centesimus annus, 1991)

100 years later. 1991.

Saint Pope John Paul II

— Class society/struggle

Are you working class? Are you capital class?

Are you a human being? Do you depend on each other?

— Labor as commodity/dignity of work

Human resources

Every one of us expresses our soul in our work

Reduction of humans to cogs in machine

— Moral order/free will

“Behaviorist psychology” – driven by desires/instincts (animal, not human)

— Right to private property/socialism

[AOC? DSA? Not sure I understand]

— False anthropology/element of system

Peter’s notes: “Rerum novarum” 100 years later in light of television, globalization, multi-national corporations, etc.

Question #8:  What is CAPP and what’s next? (Laudato si’, 2015)

Centesimus annus — Pro Pontifice (CAPP-USA.org)

Founded by St. Pope John Paul II in 1993

The American branch of it – Robert Nalewajek


Laudato si’ Chapter 3: The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis

Chapter 3 introduces the phrase “technocratic paradigm”

— Romano Guardini: End of the Modern World

Footnoted in Chapter 3. 

Guardini was the topic of Francis’s unfinished PhD thesis.

— Digital Paradigm retrieves the Medieval


Much more medieval, much less modern

(Not hypermodern, not post-modern, not metamodern)

How did the medievals, before the printing press, deal with these questions?

— Digital Distributism

How does CST, introduced under electric conditions, transform under digital conditions?

Peter’s notes: CAPP is a formal church organization started by Saint Pope John Paul II dedicated to discovering ways to live out Catholic Social Teaching and actively applying them worldwide. There is a branch in the US named CAPP-USA that awards certificates in CST.


Robert Pan: Church has an obligation to speak on social issues? Where do they sit on population control?

Mark: the Pope didn’t have to sit at the russian embassy to remind us of the moral responsibility. We will also talk about Victor Gaetan’s work on Vatican diplomacy. It is a long-standing, in particularly in diplomatic fields — the abuse scandal puts into perspective – the moral responsibility for the Church rises to the top. [REWATCH AND EDIT THIS TRANSCRIPT]

The descent in the maelstrom (Edgar Allen Poe).

A maelstrom is an upside-down tornado. Real & dangerous.

A ship trapped in a maelstrom, how do you survive?

We’re all having the same question – how do you survive the apparently chaotic world in which we live?

Situation is “FUBAR’d”.

This is not a papal infallabilty situation here… they tend to be ignored.

But there is a track of history [this is a small bit] which should provide us with some clues.

What we are all trying to do here is try to answer the question: how are we going to survive the maelstrom? These encyclicals are one set of guideposts.

Joseph Bullock: Liberation theology (left-wing) has been adopted by some, right-wing approaches have been adopted by others… is that a problem for the Church moving forward?

Mark: CST is the ‘greatest secret’ of the Catholic Church. People are reluctant to not ‘pick a side’. LT a huge force in Latin America. Pope Francis was smack dab in the middle of all of that stuff. The film “The Two Popes” is about the encounter between Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Francis.

He had come to Rome to resign. That was rejected.

He was disgusted fighting the battle in Argentina.

Francis didn’t pick a side. Everybody hated him.

TELEVISION conditions forced you to “represent”. Francis refused.

Politics has been detached from reality.

Peter: When we say not left wing, not right wing – are we saying that Church promotes a “centrist” approach, or are we saying something else?

Mark: No. It is not trying to compromise with everybody. Rather, a breakthrough is needed. The medieval sensibility is not in the center of anything modern. It doesn’t fit in the chart. It is not on the spectrum. The sensibility here is going to wind up with a ‘new version’ of a left and a right wing.

Shrikant: I like the term common ground. What is it that Aquinas adds to the debate? He is directign our attention to hte fundamental nature of human beings. So instead of talking at the level of political and social conflict as we do tooday – he asks what kind of creatures are human beings? Going back to the core of who we are as human beings and as a community, and starting back from there.

Mark: That’s right. You can’t compromise your way out of a maelstrom. You have to look at something that is not on the map. The common nature of humanity and it’s social relation is something that has largely been set aside by modern social science.

CSDL website – digitallife.center — on the about us tab there is a Mission section. We are in a paradigm shift and therefore we need new sciences. Not only do we need new psychology – we need new sociology, a true anthropology (as described in the encyclical) — all of this will wind up overturning a lot of apple carts. To return to a sensibility we are describing – an understanding of human beings & society — that is not something you will find on the current spectrum.

It is not the center of two poles.

We are describing the work of Aristotle.

Aristotle’s politics will go on the Bibliography. He did not describe the correct or best political situation as being in the center – but perhaps, more a question of “moderation”. The toning down of the extremes. The recognition of the extremes as mad fantasies — the recognition that we have been driven to quite useless descriptions of the situation — and, in the DIGITAL SPHERE, proposed dangerous solutions — because we have forgotten what it means to be human. We are looking for a balance

I would suggest that the notion of balance is something we need to explore more.

We must distinguish “balance” from what appears to be the “center”.

Cris: I was converted through these things. Are these encycials the best medium to teach us to respect people you disagree with? To help us to see the differences and come to truth through those moral things? Also — as this is concerned with machine learning — will this technology learn and uncover everything we’ve already uncovered in the modern age?

Mark: In a strange way, yes. [CRIS: REALLY????]

Machine learning, in many fundamental ways, forces us to remember.

The shift from a paradigm based on fantasy which has all of these extremes – left right and other dimension,s including human and post human etc – the imbalance associated with all of that — is giong to need to be addressed here.

In fact – machine learning drives human beings to remember what it means to be human.

Are the robots going to replace the humans? No.

Machines are dead. Machines have no soul.

We are not going to be uploading our consciousness into immortal machines, that is not going to happen.

What I believe is going to happen is —

I don’t know how much $ is being spent on this topic, but if you take the major militaries of the world and their efforts to replace human soldiers with machines — lots of this is probably classified — there is a superpower conflict underway now in how to replace human beings with machines.

Machine learning will not solve that problem…

But – there are many attempts at breakthroughs. Other approaches that might somehow get us past these limitations.

It is that pursuit and its public expression therefore its recognition in a wider audience what is going on here – by no means thorough yet – Henry Kissinger has recognized this as a 98 year old man. He now knows we live in an Age of AI. Many around him do not know that — i. e. David Brooks.

So yes – Machine learning is a significant part [ an alarm bell ? ] of how we will get out of here.

Shrikant: What is the range of social issues? Does it include population control? What is the role of encyclicals going forward?

Mark: The term in Quadrogesimo anno is “social order”, “moral order”. How does moral order apply to this situation, that situation? This is not situational ethics. The answer is, not, well, it depends. It’s not, let’s take a vote. Moral order is natural law. It applies under all circumstances.

The Church’s stance on human dignity – the topic of the next two sessions – is enormously focused on the question of abortion. Population control – abortion is probably the most significant possible tool use to limit population growth – with China as a major example with their one-child policy. [Now, it is 3-children policy. -Geng Tan]

Overpopulation? Human life begins at conception – not always the view. Not the view of St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Anthropocene: Are we in danger of running out of food? Running out of land? 

Mark suspects not. We will probably wind up leveling off.

We will probably level off around 9 billion people, hopefully without all poisoning ourselves.

My advice, especially for young people: it’s up to you now, have some babies. I hope there are some people here on this call who have made that decision as well.

Next is human dignity – we will put it in perspective.

Then subsidiarty.

Then solidarity.

First: what are the fundamentals?

Second: how is this uniquely modified under digital conditions?

Human person. What it means to be a human (not a machine)?



Without knowing I would be exposed to Mark’s presentation and masterful understanding of the Vatican’s understanding of social order stmeming from natural law, and the function of vatican diplomacy which is morality through discernment and reality — to me, it is a reassurance that I attempted to do the right thing by publishing this book.

I don’t feel lonely anymore — at times, different reviewers were asking me the same question: how did you come to take a stand against the United States? More recently: why isn’t Pope Francis criticizing Putin and Patriarch Kirrill? 

No Pope has criticized a tyrant.


That is not the function of a pontiff.

The function of a pope and his diplomacy is the assess, to bring reality – in order to make some kind of engaged dialogue with the tyrant – is very clearly Pius XI as he engaged into dialogue with Mussolini in order to sign the Latern Treaty which recognized the state of Vatican City which allowed them to continue their diplomacy – which they had done even without a recognized state.

What did it take for Francis to be accepted into Russian territory, the embassy at the Vatican?

First: he had to be invited by the Russian state. 

Second and as importantly: be invited by the Patriarch, Kirill.

The Church and the State had to agree to permit Francis to Russian territory to talk to the ambassador to the Holy See.

That meant that both Putin and the Patriarch were willing to listen to the Pope.

And they did. He stayed for more than one hour.

What did Francis do after coming out from the Russian embassy?

He called President Selensky of Ukraine.

Why did he take the Pope’s call? Knowing he just came out from the Russian embassy?

Because he wanted to hear the Pope’s presentation, his encouragement.

The Vatican is not to take sides. Not even to get in the middle – a so-called “centrist” view.

But to listen. And to express it’s centuries-long thinking which stems from natural law.

I believe that that is a lesson, or should be another listen to the diplomats from the secular states which engage in condemnations and insurrections and weapons — exaclty what the [] Catholic church has always been criticizing.

Even Francis, before he became Pope — he was criticizing the military armament, the military-intelligence complex — and now he is facing it straight on.

These are very difficult times, as Mark so clearly presented. We are entering a different era which is somehow unavoidable. There will be different laws. Different psychology. Different sociology.

Mark’s comment: That is extremely helpful, and I”m sure many people here have been drawn into many conversations about the horrendous war situation as well as it’s various predicates and so forth – but it really is a pleasure Victor to hear a very clear view about how the situation and many others, I think we will be facing, need to be dealt with. 

Book recommendation – buy it and review it!

God’s Diplomats https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Diplomats-Diplomacy-Americas-Armageddon/dp/153815014X

Jeff [in chat] Mark—as you move through these topics, it might be helpful if you could regularly address the question: Are there any examples you could mention—that you project might be relatively easy for most people to accept, to illustrate the “giving up of extremes” and the “balancing” of diverse orientations?

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