Salazar and Catholic Social Teaching
Posted by shane
From the Irish Press, February 21st, 1940:
“Encyclicals Basis Of Salazar Plan”
Socialism does not raise the proletariat: it reduces all to proletarians and makes all just robots in an inhuman State machine, crushing out personality and destroying individual liberty, said Rev. P. J. Gannon, S.J., in the course of a paper on “Salazar and His Work,” at the second session of the Catholic Social Week, in the Mansion House, Dublin, last night.
Portugal, he went on, had the honour of presenting them at the moment with the most successful attempts yet made to solve the problems which were troubling all people simultaneously and menacing their very civilisation. In many respects Ireland and Portugal resembled each other. Yet, they must not overlook the points of difference either.
PAYING THEIR WAY
Salazar had reacted strongly against the older policy of mortgaging the country to obtain money in order to take over ever-recurring emergencies. For that reason he had increased taxation. Taxation was now heavier, yet still light per capita, compared with other countries, even with Ireland.
One of the guiding principles of the new finance was that a nation should pay its way as it went along, like any individual, and live within its income, not upon ever-mounting overdrafts.
Salazar was so insistent on this that he preferred to postpone even the most desirable reforms rather than encumber the exchequer by tackling them on borrowed money. He had now for 12 years given solvency to a State which not known real solvency for a century. He knew that only by strengthening the economy of the country could he hope to stabilise finance. Here, too, they did not detect anything novel.
WAY TO TOTALITARIANISM
Father Gannon went on to say that if the corporative scheme were imposed from above, the result might easily be “statism,” which led logically to Totalitarianism, and this was perhaps the worst political heresy of our day.
Salazar saw the danger; and for that reason both repudiated energetically the totalitarian concept and sought to evolve the corporative society out of existing conditions and past traditions, rather than to enact it by Statute and impose it by police measures.
Referring to Salazar’s attitude towards protection and self-sufficiency, Father Gannon said that he had clearly condemned as fatal to the revival of world prosperity the universal craze for self-sufficiency and the erection of high tariff walls isolating the nations of the globe.
In the Papal Encyclicals, he continued, they had the social principles which Salazar had made the basis of his programme. They could be adapted to any reasonable mechanism of Government, and any wise constitution.
Referring to Socialism, Father Gannon said that they should not embrace it, even when it was offered them in the very mitigated form — stripped of its atheism and amorality — which even the nobler adherents of it to-day propounded. Its basic principles were unsound, and that must make itself felt in the fullness of time, no matter how well-intentioned be the original leaders of the movement.
“We do not question the good intention nor deny the abuses they harp upon,” said Father Gannon. “We assert only the incompatibility of Socialism with human liberty and human progress.”
Social reform, however, was another question, and was absolutely essential. Something must be done to ease the stress now felt everywhere. But what? The answer was extremely difficult; the problem poignantly baffling. Salazar was just so reliable because he realised that, and moved with extreme caution.
Having outlined the Constitution of the New Portugal, Father Gannon said that he did not ask anyone to approve or disapprove of it. It might seem as if it let too much depend upon the character of the ruler. Yet, ultimately in all forms of government this was true. And the Portuguese system did give effective government, whereas the old simulacrum of the British gave one of the worst governments that ever brought a people low. Whether the new one would continue to deliver the goods or not, time alone could tell.
But the system was not so bound up with the personality, ability and prestige of its founder as was the case in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. It had a better change — he said no more — of surviving the shock of the death of its creator than either of the other two systems.
It got rid of the strife of parties, yet did not institute a one-party regime. Salazar has no party of his own — no Blackshirts or Brownshirts, no Gestapo or Ogpu — still less a group of gun-men to silence criticism and take rivals for a ride as was the case before 1926.
In slum clearance and the rebuilding of the homes of the poor, Salazar exemplified the same caution as in education. Even in pursuance of the noblest aim, regard must be paid to the power of the national purse. He aimed at giving the workers employment before giving them new abodes. Consequently, he had very little unemployment on his hands. Meantime the new homes were appearing, steadily and progressively.
Salazar was above all things a Christian and a Catholic. Yet, for the revival of religion or the restoration of the Church he had done so little positively that some foreign observers had even taken scandal thereat. General Franco, who in so many ways resembled him, had done much more in 12. Why this? Some had attributed it to timidity. But Salazar was not timid. His personal influence had been exerted to its utmost for religion.
If then, he had moved so slowly there must have been grave reason. Salazar felt that State patronage exercised against the present disposition of important sections of opinion, would not help to anchor the Church in the hearts of the people.
He thought it wiser to give the Church freedom and let it rebuild from the base upwards upon new and better foundations than could be laid by any statesman setting it up as a department of the new State. In giving the Church liberty and equality before the law he had already done much.
WEATHERED THE STORM
Professor B. F. Shields, M.A., who proposed a vote of thanks to Father Gannon, said that, as a result of Salazar’s careful planning and successful administration, Portugal had weathered the storm of the great world depression. Personally, he (Professor Shields) agreed with the corporative system as an auxiliary arm for an administration, such as Salazar had it. The success of the corporative system would depend upon the spirit in which it was worked, but if the old “laissez faire” methods permeated industry as it did today, it would not be successful. He thought that their economic text-books should be impregnated with Catholic moral principles.
Mr. P.P. Curry, editor, “The Standard,” seconding, said that Father Gannon had pointed out how public confidence had been restored under Salazar, and how money came back to the country. Could anybody here try to imagine the degree of public confidence in this country that would be necessary to bring back the 250 millions of money that we had invested in Great Britain, and which was in danger of death by violence at the present time? Salazar did not allow people to make money in Portugal and export it for investment abroad.
That, he thought, was the essential difference between Portugal and Ireland. There was no magic formula in Portugal; there was only logic, and figures and hard work. Credit would not be made available to build a super-cinema with its back up against a slum; and one had to go far to see that happen.
Portugal’s big problem was a genuine religious revival. Freemasonry still was the big enemy.
Right Rev. Monsignor Boylan, M.A., D.D., P.P., V.G., Dun Laoghaire, presided.