Book Review: An Introduction to Catholic Social Doctrine
In Fr. Bourmaud’s book, we find a concise look at what Catholics should know about the social reign of Christ the King drawn from what the great minds of the ages have always taught.
To start, Father outlines in clear and bold brushstrokes the Church’s unique doctrine about “the relationship of individuals with society.” He begins with the often-denied but nevertheless true reality that man is composed of a material body and a spiritual soul. He then moves on to address man’s perfection, which is “the proper use of his properly human powers, the mental faculties and, among them, specifically his will because the will is what makes the saint and the scoundrel.” Christian perfection, however, takes this a step further and “consists in belonging totally to God by denying ourselves anything which is not God, and in using things of earth only in as much as God wants it.”
Moving on to society, it is “an order between men who work together to realize a common work for the same purpose.” In society, individuals must—by their discipline—have “intelligent and voluntary self-mastery against cupidity, passion, and pride” in order to practice social virtues and avoid total chaos!
For society to exist, authority must also exist, and this to command, to govern, and to educate. Those in authority must realize that—equal to the work over the minds of their subjects—is the movement of their wills. With this true authority comes true liberty.
Also worth noting is Father’s clear insight about parental authority and parental responsibility in education and how this compares to that of the State. Father gives details here that apply timeless principles to very current issues facing parents the world over.
Fr. Bourmaud also addresses the problem of labor and the economy from the Church’s standpoint, delineating the basic tenets of “an economy worthy of the name,” and explaining that it must be humane, at the service of the whole man, not existing merely to satisfy the “false needs” that marketing firms are so eager to promote! “The goal of a humane social economy is to offer, in a stable way, all members of society the material conditions required for the development of their cultural and spiritual life. It should insure a quiet and happy life with sufficient means of existence, ‘the greatest spiritual and material welfare possible in this life’.”
Father then moves along to address the social economy, including intermediary bodies such as professional organizations and their relationship with the State, before bringing the focus to political societies and diverse forms of government. He also outlines the proper relationship between Church and State, what the Church must do in less than ideal situations, and what the Christian must profess regardless of political environment: that Christ is first among men, He is the universal king of creation, and that “All power has been given to [Him] in heaven and on earth.”
Finally, Father exposes the false and anti-God agenda of the communists, the errors of the socialists, and the tyranny of the totalitarian regimes with which history is too familiar. Neither does he spare the Liberals, bent on their own personal gain and paying heed to neither fellowman nor the laws of God.
In short, Christians will learn from this book that Christ is King and that the Church teaches this to facilitate men’s entry into their heavenly home, where they will sing always and in unison: Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.