MORAL THEOLOGY AS ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE FROM EAST ROMANS ,THE G(R)AEK KATHOLIK (4)


(being continued from  15/08/14)

B. Sheptyts’kyi and an Eastern Catholic View of Private Property89

Sheptyts’kyi’s pastoral letters represent the only attempt by a Ukrainian Catholic hierarch to address the contemporary social problems which face all Christians, with specific reference to Ukrainian Catholics, from an Eastern Christian perspective.90 His teaching on private property can be constructed from an assessment of these letters, and this section does that by dividing Sheptyts’kyi’s thought on that topic into justification and normative  content.

1. Justification: Natural Law
Two of Sheptyts’kyi’s pastoral letters—one written near the beginning of his tenure as Metropolitan of Galicia and one near the end—contain the core of his justification of private property: On the Social Question,91 written in 1904, was his response to the threat posed by socialism and sets forth the main lines of his social thought,92 and On Christian  Mercy,93 written in 1942, in which he discussed the various forms of the Christian duty of brotherly love and its practical implications.
In On the Social Question—which draws upon Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891), itself bringing attention to the pressing question of the condition of the working classes—Sheptyts’kyi addresses the endemic peasant poverty in Galicia that had led to economic unrest and massive waves of emigration at the turn of the twentieth century.94 The industrial revolution had created a new social order in which capital and power, concentrated in the hands of a few, took precedence over labour, causing hatred between social classes.95 An emergent secularism and socialist tendency faced the Church, and these fomented for a program of social change and more equitable economic relationships between the social classes; for Sheptyts’kyi, this was the social question.96 Yet he did not see a process of democratisation as being incompatible with the Gospel message, so long as it improved the lot of the poor and oppressed and did not descend into a disobedience of authority, which he referred to as a ‘theory of exaggerated freedom and absolute equality’, by which he meant socialism.97 Socialist agitators were exploiting the lack of  understanding among the Galician clergy and faithful of the difference between Christian social concern and socialism, a difference which for Sheptyts’kyi was very real.98
It was in this context that Sheptyts’kyi sought to steer his clergy and faithful onto a path of social action that was Christian; in relation to private property he did this in On the Social Question by distinguishing between Christian and socialist remedies to the social question.99 And while he considered capitalism no panacea,100 Sheptyts’kyi’s justification of private property is found in what amounts to a response and defence against the key objective of the socialists101 whom, he wrote ‘…aim[ed] to achieve the absolute economic and social equality of all people through the abolition of private property.’102 Without explicitly referring to Patristic Tradition, therefore, Sheptyts’kyi justifies private property in accordance with the teachings of the Church Fathers103 when he says that as against this  abolitionist stance of the socialists ‘[t]he first principle of Christian social action is the inalienability…of private property.’104 This does not refer to the inability of the holder of private property to dispose of it according to personal preferences, but rather, in Lockean terms,105 to a natural law justification that private property is an inalienable natural human right.106 Sheptyts’kyi confirmed this natural law justification of private property in On Christian Mercy, in which he wrote that rather than being the fruit of human injustice, as the socialists viewed it, according to Christian tradition private property is ‘a legitimate, natural and, therefore, essential institution.’107
Drawing upon Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum,108 but still firmly within the Patristic tradition, in On the Social Question, Sheptyts’kyi set out the six main premises of his justification:109

(i) that private property was a natural right historically confirmed by human customs and laws as well as by divine law;110
(ii) that the right to the permanent possession of things, as opposed to their temporary use, was derived from human rationality and the capacity to reflect on needs for future welfare;111
(iii) that a worker who cultivated land had a right not only to the fruits that were harvested, but also to the land itself;112
(iv) that the right to hold private property was linked to a father’s obligation to provide for the needs of his family;113
(v) that remuneration was not the only incentive to work because a worker is also entitled to the liberty of choosing how to spend wages, a liberty that would be lost through the abolition of private property;114 and

(vi) that the abolition and collectivization of private property would produce a host of social evils: economic stagnation, harm to workers and to the poor, the loss of motivation and incentives for workers to apply their skills with diligence, which would in turn undermine the family, conferring on the state an illegitimate authority, opening the floodgates of jealousy, dissatisfaction and discord which would threaten social peace and security.115
Writing in 1940, in response to Soviet atheism and the apathy of the people towards work in the face of the communist collectivization of and wartime threat to the security of private property, Sheptyts’kyi strengthened his natural law justification in these terms:
It appears to you that this work, although essential, will bring neither any benefit nor any good. Perhaps that is truly so; the times of war in which we are living are times when no one is sure either of his life or his possessions. At any moment, the sad circumstances in which we find ourselves can place any one of us before God’s judgment, tearing us away from the present life and taking away an entire life’s earnings and all the possessions that a good father may have wanted to leave for his children.116
In other words, while war might bring a sense of futility about the necessity of work, this did not alter the reality that the fruits of one’s labour was private property, the ‘possessions’ and ‘earnings’ that one would leave to one’s children. For Sheptyts’kyi, natural and divine law still holds even in the most hopeless conditions: private property is a human right which flows from one’s productive labour.117
Still, again in conformity with Patristic teaching,118 Sheptyts’kyi places private property within a hierarchy of human rights which, while enjoying an elevated status within that hierarchy, was not a right that stood above the sanctity of human life. Rather, following the example of Christ, the duty to protect the sanctity of life even went so far as to place one’s own life at risk for the sake of another.119 Thus, private property, as a right, does not rank above the duty to preserve the sanctity of life.
Yet, while the right to private property may be an inherent natural right, the laws that put a system of private property into operation must flow from the state. Thus, Sheptyts’kyi moves from a natural law justification of the institution, to a proposition first advanced by Jeremy Bentham: private property and the rights which constitute it cannot exist without positive law, without state-sanctioned rules that protect the rights of the holder of private property to exercise them without interference from others. For Bentham, without positive law—human law—there is no private property.120 Metropolitan Andrei, in the context of setting out his Christian principles of sovereign authority in relation to nation-states, wrote that:

…[t]he aim of civil authority is to serve the public welfare and uphold the freedoms of its citizens, and it therefore enacts laws that are just (i.e., conforming to divine law and the common good) and establishes an impartial and independent judiciary that applies the general laws to specific cases and delineates the mutual rights and duties of citizens….121
And in criticizing the Soviet communist regime, Sheptyts’kyi elaborated this understanding of the role of the state in providing the legal environment for the existence of and protection for private property:
The aim of a state is to guarantee the happiness and welfare of families and individual citizens. [Ensuring] the security of life, property and every civic right—such are the basic duties of the state; without them, there is no state. What is called the Bolshevik state is so far removed from that aim that in no way can one detect any trace of the basic, primary functions of the state in the Bolshevik government. Its rulers do not even dream about the prosperity and happiness of the people. It is the source of an exploitation of human energy, health and life about which no one else has any inkling…. It is an atmosphere in which no organism can long survive. It is an atmosphere that follows from Marxism, which may be considered a system that turns a person into a machine and takes no account of his natural rights or needs.122
And, given that the state has the role and the duty to protect the inherent natural right to private property, divine and state law are in accord:
…the temporal, earthly goods that Divine Providence gives can be and are the property of those who have acquired them legitimately and who are their owners before the law…. Private property, [whether it is] acquired through inheritance or through thrift and hard work, is a right protected by divine law.123

(TO BE CONTINUED)

The Pastoral Writings of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi on Private Property

NOTES

89 This section relies upon the work of Metropolitan Andrei in his pastoral letters, English translations of which are not readily available. Professor Andrii Krawchuk, a leading scholar on the work of Metropolitan Andrei, notes that there are no readily available English translations of the Metropolitan’s pastoral letters: personal e-mail received by the author, dated Tuesday, 25 January 2005. This article therefore uses the translations and the analyses of those letters found in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine and in Krawchuk, ‘Sheptyts’kyi and the Ethics of Christian Social Action’ in Magocsi,Morality and Reality 247-268. Professor Krawchuk offers the first comprehensive scholarly study of these letters and as such represents the best available English translations.
90 Krawchuk, ‘Sheptyts’kyi and the Ethics of Christian Social Action’, 247. On the Eastern foundations of Sheptyts’kyi’s theological thought, see Bilaniuk, ‘Sheptyts’kyi’s Theological Thought.’
91 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question) as translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine. A full review of On the Social Question and Sheptyts’kyi’s ethics of Christian social action can be found in Krawchuk, ‘Sheptyts’kyi and the Ethics of Christian Social Action.’
92 Krawchuk, ‘Sheptyts’kyi and the Ethics of Christian Social Action,’ 247

93 Sheptyts’kyi, ‘Pro myloserdia’ (‘Tsile dilo…’) as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 224-227.
94 Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 2.
95 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 7, paras. 14-15, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 3, n 3.
96 Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 3.
97 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 3, paras. 1, and 68-69, para. 227, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 4-5, nn. 9 and 10.
98 Ibid, 18 para. 52, 22 para. 67, 15 para. 43, 13 para. 39, 12 para. 33, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 5-6, nn. 11, 12, 19 and 21.
99 Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine , 6; Krawchuk, ‘Sheptyts’kyi and the Ethics of Christian Social Action,’ 247.
100 Krawchuk, ‘Sheptyts’kyi and the Ethics of Christian Social Action,’ 249.
101 Ibid, 247-248.
102 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 18, para. 52, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 5, n 11.
103 See Harakas, Living the Faith, 139-157. It would be wrong, in any case, to conclude that Sheptyts’kyi’s thought is inconsistent with the Church Fathers on this issue. Rudolph Brändle, John Chrysostom: Bishop – Reformer – Martyr (John Cawte, Silke Trzcionka, and Wendy Mayer, trans., Strathfield, N.S.W.: St Pauls Publications, 2004), 39-40, notes that while amongst all the Church Fathers, St John Chrysostom was the most trenchant critic of wealth and private property, he was by no means a socialist or a revolutionary. For Brändle, it would be a mistake to consider that fundamental societal change was even on St John Chrysostom’s horizon, or, for that matter, on that of any other thinker in late antiquity. If St John Chrysostom stood at the front of the Church Fathers when it came to critiques of private property, without going so far as to advocate its abolition, then it is safe to conclude that rather than being socialists or revolutionaries in relation to this issue, the Church Fathers saw private property as a given. Drawing upon St John Chrysostom, then, the concern of the  Church Fathers was with the social aspect of private property and not the institution itself. As such, it can safely be said that while not referring specifically to the Church Fathers, Sheptyts’kyi’s thought was in line with Patristic Tradition.
104 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 29 para. 93, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7 n. 23.
105 On the theory of John Locke justifying property according to natural law, see John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, ch. II. See also Pipes, Property and Freedom, 34-37.
106 Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7.
107 Sheptyts’kyi, ‘Pro myloserdia’ (‘Tsile dilo…’), para. 26, 172, and para. 24, 171, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 224-225, nn 103-104, and see also 227.
108 Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, 15 May 1891, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html, accessed 8 January 2005, paras. 5-13.
109 As enumerated by Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7. See also Krawchuk, ‘Sheptyts’kyi and the Ethics of Christian Social Action,’ 249.
110 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 22, para. 68, 24, para. 76, 26, para. 81, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7, nn 25-27, and see also 15. And see Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), paras. 6, 9 and 11.
111 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 22-24, paras. 69-74, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7, n 28. And see Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), paras. 6-7.
112 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 24, para. 74, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7, n 29. And see Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), paras. 7-10.
113 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 27, para. 85, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7, n 30. And see Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), para. 13.
114 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 20, paras. 60-61, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7, n 31. And see Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor), para. 5.

115 Sheptyts’kyi, O kvestii sotsiial’nii (On the Social Question), 18, para. 53, 21, para. 61, 28, para. 92, 18-19, paras. 53-55, 28, para. 90, 92, 28, para. 88, as cited and translated in Krawchuk,Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 7-8, n. 32.
116 Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, ‘Pro nebezpeku zanedbannia potribnoi pratsi’, Mytropolychyi Ordynariiat (documents issued from the Archeparchial Chancery Office), No. 48 (February-March 1940), in Pys’ma-Poslannia Mytropolyta Andreia z chasiv bol’shevyts’koi okupatii, Biblioteka Lohosu, vol. 24 (Yorkton, Saskatchewan: Redeemer’s Voice Press, 1961), 22-28, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 160, n. 28.
117 Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 160-161.
118 See Harakas, Living the Faith, 139-157.
119 Sheptyts’kyi, ‘Pro myloserdia’ (‘Tsile dilo…’), paras. 29-30, 173-174, and para. 47, 179, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 212, nn. 58-59.
120 Jeremy Bentham, Principles of the Civil Code in C.K. Ogden, ed., Jeremy Bentham, The Theory of Legislation (London, England: Kegan Paul, 1931), pt. 1, chs. 1-12.

121 Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, ‘Idealom nashoho natsional’noho zhyttia…,’ Decree of the Sobor of 1942 to the clergy (L’viv, 1941), paras.10-11, 2-3. Offprint, National Archives of Canada (Ottawa). Andrii Zhuk Collection, vol. 129, file 4, cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 216, n. 70.
122 Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, ‘Slovo Mytropolyta Andreia pro bol’shevyzm’ (6 October 1941) in Milena Rudnyts’ka, ed., Zakhidnia Ukraina pid bol’shevykamy, IX.1939-VI.1941 (New York, 1958), 9-10, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 216 n. 70.
123 Sheptyts’kyi, ‘Pro myloserdia’ (‘Tsile dilo…’), paras. 25-26, 172, as cited and translated in Krawchuk, Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine, 225 n. 105.

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