Works By John Courtney Murray, S.J.
To THE EDITOR:
I hope I may take advantage of the fact that I get an advance look at the material you publish? My immediate wish is to thank Dr. Furfey for the measure of agreement he gives to some views expressed by myself. His disagreements, so courteously phrased, are likewise valuable. These few comments are ventured with a view, not to controversy, but to the clarification of my own position.
First, I must clarify my assertion that an immediately necessary, though not in itself adequate solution for today's spiritual crisis in the temporal order lies in a common agreement on certain principles that would form the basis of a religio-social unity. Not only do I think that this idea can be squared with papal teaching; I am also convinced that it is an important part of the papal teaching today. As such I proposed it, though without chapter and verse. Assuredly, I was not thinking of common agreement on the partial, vague, and unsatisfactory principles of some interconfessional code. (Interesting how, when co-operation is mentioned, the idea of vague interconfessional codes, sentimental fraternity, etc., comes to mind. Is it that, as Dr. Furfey implies, so many of our concepts are taken uncritically from our milieu? Yet there is, I think, a Catholic concept of co-operation, to be derived from our own sources. It has nothing to do with confessional neutrality, nor is it apt to encourage that conformism on the part of Catholics with prevalent ideas of which, as Dr. Furfey rightly suggests, we have had too much.) As a matter of fact, I was thinking of the four sets of five points which Pius XII has proposed for "the order and pacification of human society," in his successive Christmas allocutions. I was thinking, too, of the large section of the Summi Pontificatus in which the disorders of our times are analyzed in terms of the natural law.
I think that these sets of points were explicitly proposed for common agreement, and that we were commissioned to seek agreement on them by their intelligent and patient explanation. It has often been noted that none of these points derives explicitly from divine revelation as such; they are all of what we call the natural order. Obviously, in proposing them for common agreement, our Holy Father was not
tacitly consenting to keep in the background any portion of Catholic truth; nor in issuing a call to unity of action on the basis of them was he discounting the primary value of Catholic Action. His position is wholly affirmative: "Today the common good of mankind and the natural bases of human society are imperilled; to meet the peril, a common agreement in a spirit of truth, justice, and love is imperative; on these points there can and should be agreement; were they made directive of thought and creative of social institutions, human society would be essentially conformed to the standards of divine law in its regard; much more would remain to be done, but something essential at the moment would have been done." It was this wholly affirmative, forward-looking, non-exclusive point of view that I was at-tempting to adopt.
A second comment concerns the Singulari Quadam. My examination of the document had one major purpose—to discern the underlying principle that motivated the tolerari posse et permitti given to Catholic co-operation with Protestants in the labor field, in spite of the dangers and imperfections in the procedure. I considered that I found this principle in the papal concern for the common good. This principle permits generalization—otherwise, as Dr. Furfey rightly says, illegitimate—from the Singulari Quadam. My argument did not move from a case to a case, but from a particular solution to a principle of solution, which might be applicable to other cases. As a matter of fact, the same principle has been applied to our contemporary case—we have been told that the common good of humanity is menaced on a greater scale than ever before. And a necessary counter-measure has been pointed out—a union of all religious forces in social action for the common good. (I thought I had made clear that this union would supplement and be subordinate to an intensification of Catholic prayer, study, and organized action. So far from inhibiting, it would stimulate the latter, as its premise and inspiration.)
Admittedly, this union would have its dangers, and it would not be an adequate or ideal agency of social salvation, especially in the family field, wherein, as a matter of fact, we think and work rather alone. Nevertheless, when these facts have been admitted, the issue is not exhausted. One must, I think, avoid a certain simplisme in argument, caused by a too exclusive pre-adhesion to certain values, which are primary indeed, but not all-embracing. One hears the enthymeme: "Co-operation is a danger to Catholic faith; therefore let us have none of it." But, first, the antecedent is vague, till the meaning of co-operation is exactly defined; and secondly, the consequent hardly follows. The so-called Catholic Liberals once argued: "The union of Church and State has always been a danger to the spiritual independence of the Church; therefore let us have no more of it." But that dialectic was rejected as too simple.
These last remarks, of course, are not pertinent to the discussion between Dr. Furfey and myself. At that, I do think that his allegation of the incident of Le Sillon was too briefly done to furnish a basis for fair argument. The intercredalism of the movement in its latter phase was indeed condemned. But again, one may not argue from case to case. It is most important to study the theory
behind the intercredalism. (Incidentally, the mode of argument of the Sillon's later leaders was very muddy and arrogant; I should not like to think that mine had any resemblance to it.) Actually, the primary reason for the condemnation, developed at much greater length in Notre Charge, was the false social theory into which the movement had slid: it "based its city on a theory contrary to Catholic truth, and falsified the essential and fundamental notions which govern social relations in the whole of human society" (AAS, II, 1910, 615). And its radical error was "a false idea of human dignity" (p. 620). Furthermore, the intercredal policy of the movement was a development subsequent to, and indeed consequent on, its inner degeneration. It had fashioned its erroneous concept of what it called "democracy," and it had cut itself off from ecclesiastical obedience before it sought membership outside the Church. These facts are important, I think, in estimating the full contemporary pertinence of Notre Charge. It cannot be too much emphasized that there are various kinds of co-operation, and that judgment on any one of them must be passed according to its supporting theory—that is the decisive factor.
I shall not comment on Dr: Furfey’s central contention—that the papal documents are to be understood as calling for "parallel co-operation"—because I do not fully grasp it. The concept of parallel co-operation is difficult. At first sight, it seems to be a contradiction in adiecto. "Co-operation," Dr. Furfey rightly says, "implies in practice agreement on principles." Yet it would seem that his parallel co-operation implies no such agreement, in any conscious or deliberate sense. At most, it would seem to imply some apparently casual coincidence of practical programs. For my part, I do not think that this would do justice to the papal idea. The Holy See speaks (for example, in the Sertum Laetitiae) of a "union of thought and policy" between Catholics and non-Catholics—a union that will be "salutary," that is, so real as to be socially effective. It does not, of course, specify the organizational form of the union, since so much depends on local circumstances. (Incidentally, in the United States I do not think a single organization with general mixed membership would be practicable or advisable; our people are not educated up to that. Formal contacts would have to be made by a committee of leaders, whose membership would have to be—unfortunately—largely clerical.) But the Holy See, as I understand its position, does require that the union be deliberately constituted, as the result of formally sought and consciously arrived at agreement on principles—the principles, I mean, of the natural law in their social application. The concept of parallel co-operation would hardly permit an essential part of the papal program, namely, a respectful but vigorous educative action on the thought, attitudes, sympathies, etc. of our separated brethren, with a view to persuading them that our social doctrine and program does appeal to the collective conscience of mankind, and can command their honest assent. This is the imperative thing. How much common action would thereafter ensue is a matter for prudent judgment.
JOHN COURTNEY MURRAY, S.J.
Woodstock College, MD.
1943e. "To the Editor." Theological Studies 4 (September): 472–74.