Saturday, April 16, 2011

Excerpts: The Mystery of Iniquity and Social Problems

“Excerpts” is a feature of Sky View which takes passages from old and dusty books because of some insight they offer or light they shed on current events.

Since in societies the State is best able to coerce, there follows a drift towards State regimentation with its logical culmination in the totalitarian State. Once materialism is granted as a premise, totalitarianism follows as a necessary conclusion.

Catholic social thought is dominated by the fact that man is destined for heaven. Society itself or the problems of society cannot be understood without taking this fact into account...We are to reproduce here as perfectly as we can the life of the blessed in heaven. The latter is our true life; heaven is our fatherland. On this earth we ought, like homesick exiles in a strange environment, strive to practice the type of common life by which our fatherland is characterized.

Nevertheless, the mystery of iniquity is at work. It's activities does not usually appear on the surface of events; rather, it operates through secondary causes. Therefore, when one traces the causes of social problems, one finds that the immediate reasons for these problems are quite natural and understandable by human reason. It is only by following the chain of causation back far enough that one is led to suspect the workings of the Evil One.

The Catholic approach on social problems must take both natural and the supernatural factors into account. Catholics must be concerned with natural factors underlying the evils of society and to meet these they must use natural methods suggested by experience. For this reason the Church favors social legislation, effective law enforcement, public health activities, efficient social work, and other up-to-date methods of meeting social problems. In this respect Catholic social teaching shows a strong but superficial resemblance to the thought of non-Catholic writers.

But mark this difference carefully!

Whereas these techniques are the sole solution of the unbelieving sociologist for all social problems, in the eyes of the Catholic they are only a sort of symptomatic treatment. The Catholic sees deeper and realizes that far beneath the immediate causes the mystery of iniquity is at work and that his real solution is to attack the latter. The unbelieving social scientist is like a physician who gives a sedative to a patient suffering from a brain tumor and does nothing more. The Catholic, on the other hand, is like a physician who gives the sedative indeed but then proceeds to the difficult and delicate operation which brings a permanent cure.

Only the Catholic has a fundamental remedy for social problems, for only the Catholic diagnosis the basic cause, which is the mystery of iniquity. To attack this he must use supernatural means. Therefore he must rely on such methods as prayer, the sacraments and the practice of the Christian virtues.

We Catholics have a precious possession in our doctrine of the mystery of iniquity. In it we have the key to the solution of many problems which torture our weary world. Realizing as we do that the mystery of iniquity is the basic cause of these problems, we can attack them at their source by the use of supernatural means. Herein lies the hope of victory.

On the other hand, unbelievers have the devices of human prudence on which to rely, and these are bound to fail. They might as well try to sink a battleship with spit balls as to attack the great problems of society with such puny means. When we cast to the winds all the mean counsels of of a purely worldly prudence, when we accept quite literally with childlike faith these precious revealed truths, and when we put aside all concern for the opinion of materialists, then we shall begin to make progress against the mystery of iniquity. Until that day we shall only be marking time.

-By Father Paul Furfey, The Mystery of Iniquity, 1944
Former Professor and Head of the Department of Sociology at the Catholic University of America