Contrast: Pope Pius XII Address to Farmers: Tillers of the Soil
Important CFN Introduction:
Pope Francis’ Ecology Encyclical is presented not really within the framework of the Catholic Faith, but within the context of the questionable science of Climate Change alarmism, joining hands with non-Catholics and even pro-abortion neo-pagans to “make the world a better place.”
The Catholic elements appear to be photo-shopped into the ecology encyclical here and there (especially at the end) to provide cover for the primary motive of Francis’ document, which is to influence a major UN gathering. this December. The National Journal writes, “The timing of the encyclical is no mystery—Vatican officials have said the document is meant to influence the United Nations climate talks in Paris this year. Francis repeatedly calls on governments to fight climate change, both domestically and through international agreements.”
Contrast this humanistic approach with Pope Pius XII’s magnificent and little-known Allocution to Farmers, which dealt not on the level of an avalanche of details, as does the Laudato Si, but on the level of perennial Catholic principles regarding farming and the land; with strong emphasis on the family. Pius’ text is permeated with the Catholic Faith through and through, and with Christ and His Church, not dialogue with the world, as the framework by which man must operate.
It is important to read Pius XII’s document to avoid following the false dichotomy of neo-conservatives who tend to see everything in terms of Communist (bad) vs. Capitalists (good). Though Communism and socialism are profound evils, unbridled capitalism does not escape legitimate criticism. Pius XII warns, “Finance-capital hastens to take over the deserted countryside, and the land then becomes not an object of loving care, but of cold, calculating exploitation. The land, generous nursing-mother of the city no less than of the country, no longer produces except for speculation, and while the people suffer from hunger, and the tiller of the soil, weighed down by debt, is gradually ruined, the country’s economy is exhausted in the effort to procure from abroad, at high prices, the supplies it needs.”
Also noteworthy, because Pius operates more at the efficient level of Catholic principle, his text has a word count of 2700, whereas Francis’ ponderous document weighs in at over 40,000 words. – j. vennari
Pope Pius XII Address to Farmers: Tillers of the Soil
A Truly Catholic treatment of land, farm and family
Complete Allocution of Pius XII to the Italian Farmers Federation, on the occasion of the National Congress in Rome, November 15, 1946.
We experience a particular pleasure every time an opportunity is afforded to Us of extending a welcome to the representatives of the different professions, whose varied activities constitute the social and economic life of a people. Over and above that pleasure, there is on this occasion the additional satisfaction that We feel in greeting you, Beloved sons, the delegates of a great national federation, for you represent a vast body of farmers, who with their families cultivate lands that are either their own property or have been entrusted to them by their owners in virtue of a contract.
These are the pleasant lands so beloved of the gentle Virgil throes lands of the Italian countryside, of which Pliny praised the perennial salubrity, the fertile fields, the sunny hills, the shady woods, the fruitful vines and olive trees and the well-nourished flocks. “How truly fortunate are husbandmen” exclaimed the great poet of country life, “if they realize the advantages which they enjoy.”
Importance of Family Life of Countryside
We would not, therefore, wish to allow this occasion to pass without addressing you a word of encouragement and exhortation, all the more so because We well know how much the moral recovery of the whole people depends on the steadfast faith and social integrity of the tillers of the soil’
More than others, you live in permanent contact with nature: in material contact, by the fact that your life is passed in places al yet far removed from the excesses of an artificial civilization and is also wholly directed towards producing from the soil, under the beneficent rays of Our Heavenly Father’s sun, the abundant riches that His loving hand has hidden therein, in contact that is profoundly social also, because your families are not only communities of consumers but, more especially, communities of producers.
From the fact that your life-work is so profoundly and at the same time so generally and completely based upon the family, and therefore so fully in conformity with the order of nature, arises the economic strength and, in critical times, the capacity for resistance, with which you are endowed, and also your oft-demonstrated importance in the development of justice and order, public as well as- private, throughout the whole people.
Finally, the stability of your family life is the reason of the indispensable function you are called upon to exercise as the fount and bulwark of unsullied moral and religious life, as well as the reservoir of men, healthy in mind and body, for all the professions for the Church and for the State.
Characteristics of Genuine Rural Civilization
Accordingly every possible care should be taken to preserve for the nation the essential elements of what may be termed genuine rural civilization. These are: love of work, simplicity and uprightness of life; respect for authority, especially of parents; love of country and fidelity to traditions that have proved fruitful for good down the centuries; readiness to give mutual help, not only on the part of members of the same family, but also on the part of neighboring families and homes; finally, the factor without which all the others would lack consistency, would lose all their value and would give way to an unbridled desire for gain, namely, a truly religious attitude of mind. Fear of God, trust in God, a lively faith that finds its daily expression in the common prayer of the family, may these rule and guide the life of those who labor in the fields: may the Church remain the heart of the village, the holy place where Sunday after Sunday, in accordance with the sacred traditions of their forefathers, the inhabitants come together to raise their minds above material things in the praise and service of God, so that they may obtain the strength to think and live as members of Christ all the days of the ensuing week.
The fact that the working of a farm has an eminently family character makes it of outstanding importance for the social and economic prosperity of the whole people and confers on the tiller of the soil a special claim to a decent living from his labors. Doubtless, if one were to aim exclusively at the maximum gain for the, national economy in the shortest possible time or at supplying the nation’s requirements in the earth’s products with the minimum of expense, one might thus be tempted to sacrifice family-farming in a greater or lesser degree. The last century and our own times afford numerous instances of this tendency, instances that are certainly not reassuring.
It is for you to show that family farming, precisely as such, enjoys all the real advantages of the other modes of land cultivation, while avoiding the evils attendant on them. Accordingly, be ever adaptable, vigilant and active trustees of your native soil, which should be always carefully tended, never impoverished. Show yourselves men of balanced minds, frugal in expenditure, yet ready to employ methods that represent a real progress compared with the past, men who will courageously invest their own capital and that of others in whatever is a help to farming and agriculture and does not prejudice the future of the family. Act always honorably in the sale of your products, and do not behave as greedy speculators to the detriment of the people. When in your turn you come to buy, make your purchases in becoming fashion in the home market of your country.
Lack of Right Ideals
We are well aware that these ideals are often sadly lacking. Many farmers can proudly boast of right intentions and honorable conduct, but it is nevertheless true that there is need at the present day for inviolable attachment to principles and great strength of will. These qualities are indispensable if farmers are to continue to gain a decent livelihood by honest toil rather than succumb to the diabolical temptation to get rich quickly, by ignobly taking advantage of the neighbor’s needs.
For this lack of right ideals parents are often to blame, because they put their sons to work too soon and neglect their spiritual formation and education, or it may be due to lack of the necessary instruction, especially professional instruction. There is indeed no greater mistake than to believe that the tiller of the soil does not need a serious and adequate formation in order to accomplish the varying tasks which mark the seasons in their yearly course.
Magnitude of the Task that Confronts Farmers
It is true that sin has made work a on the soil painful and laborious, but sin did dot introduce the cultivation of the soil into the world. Before the Fall, God had confided to man the cultivation of the earth, as the finest and most honorable occupation in the natural order. Continuing the work of the sin of our first parents, the actual sins of the human race have caused the malediction of Eden to weigh ever more heavily on the earth.
Stricken in succession by every scourge – floods, earthquakes, pestilential exhalations, devastating wars – the soil, become in places a sterile unhealthy desert, and now serv.ng as a hiding-place for deadly engines of destruction insidiously lying in wait for victims, is refusing to yield up its riches to man spontaneously. The earth is the chief wounded sufferer, the great invalid. Bending over it, not like a slave at his task, but like a doctor at the bedside of a patient, the cultivator tends it lovingly. But love and affection, though indispensable, are not enough. To get acquainted with the nature and so to say, the temperament of his own plot of land, sometimes very different even from that alongside, to find out the germs that are harmful to it, the rodents that burrow in it, the grubs that devour its fruits, the weeds that infest the crops grown therein, to discover in that constituent elements it is deficient to select the rotation of crops best calculated to enrich it, for these and ever so many other matters, vast and varied information is necessary.
In addition, in many places, even rescinding from the injuries inflicted by the war, there is need for accurate and carefully calculated solutions of agrarian problems, before a reform of the conditions of the holding of property and of contractual relations can be introduced. Without this preliminary work, as experience and history testify, an improvised reform in this domain would be a purely demagogic venture, which would prove useless and injurious, instead of helpful, especially at the present time when mankind has to fear for its daily bread.
It has frequently happened down the ages that the silly slogans of schemers have made the populations of the countryside slaves of a regime to which they were completely opposed thus delivering them up to exploitation and impoverishment.
Reason for Opposition Between City and Country
The evil consequences of such disorder and injustice to the farming community are the more deeply to be deplored in view of the fact that farming is based upon the family and the order of nature. This disorder manifests itself most clearly in the opposition between city and country, which is so characteristic of our day. What is tie true reason for this opposition?
Modem cities with their continual growth in size and their agglomerations of inhabitants are the typical product of the domination of large-scale finance-capital over economic life, and not only over economic life but over human beings themselves. As Our Illustrious Predecessor, in his Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno, has effectively shown, it happens only too often that human needs no longer regulate economic life and the employment of capital according to their objective importance in the natural order, but, on the contrary, finance-capital and its desire for gain, determine what needs are to be satisfied and in what measure. Accordingly, it is not human labor, destined for the common good, but draws capital to itself and places it at its service, but finance-capital moves productive labor and men hither and thither like tennis-balls.
If the city-dwellers suffer from this unnatural state of things, a fortiori, it is opposed to the very essence of the countryman’s life. This is necessarily the case, since, notwithstanding all the difficulties, the tiller of the soil still represents the natural order willed by God, namely, that man should by his labor dominate over material things, instead of material things dominating over man
This is, therefore, the profound reason for the present-day opposition between city and country. It takes its rise from the fact that they form men of different mentalities. And the opposition becomes the more accentuated the more financial capital, abdicating its noble mission of promoting the good of society in each of the families that compose it, enters into the world of the tillers of the soil and involves them also in the same evils. It holds before the dazzled eyes of the country-worker the bait of money and of a life of pleasure, in order to induce him to abandon the land and squander in the city, which mostly brings him only deceptions, whatever savings he had laboriously set by, and not infrequently also, health, strength, you, honor and life itself.
Finance-capital hastens to take over the deserted countryside, and the land then becomes not an object of loving care, but of cold, calculating exploitation. The land, generous nursing-mother of the city no less than of the country, no longer produces except for speculation, and while the people suffer from hunger, and the tiller of the soil, weighed down by debt, is gradually ruined, the country’s economy is exhausted in the effort to procure from abroad, at high prices, the supplies it needs.
This perversion of privately-owned landed property is extremely harmful. Motivated by neither love for, nor interest in, the fields on which so many generations have lovingly bestowed their labor, it is likewise without feeling or sympathy for the families that cultivate them or have their homes there.
Those evils, however, are not the result of the institution of private property as such. Where the State takes over complete and exclusive control of capital and the means of production, the interests of industry and foreign commerce, which are peculiar to the cities, are favored. The true farmer then suffers still more. There is complete disregard for the fundamental truth, which has always formed part of the social teaching of the Church, namely, that the economy of a people is an organic whole, in which all the productive possibilities of the national territory should be developed in sound harmonious proportions. The opposition between city and countryside would never have become so great, if that fundamental truth had been borne in mind.
You, Tillers of the Soil, do not approve of such opposition. You desire every section of the national economy to be given that is its due, but, of course, you yourselves wish 1e 6rrin what is rightfully yours. A rational economic policy and sound juridical order should, therefore, be in existence to help you. The principal aid, however, must come from yourselves, from your Co-operative Union, especially in regard to problems concerning credit. Perhaps recovery in the agricultural sector will be the beginning of complete economic recovery.
Work Considered as Fulfillment of Function by Members of Christ
In conclusion, a word about work. You, farmers, form with your families a working-community. With your companions and associates you form a working-community. Finally, with all the professional or vocational groups of the whole people, you constitute one big working-community. This is in accordance with the order of God and of nature: it is the true Catholic concept of work. Thus men are brought together to work for the needs of the people and to perfect themselves by their united efforts, to the honor of their Creator and Redeemer.
At all events, continue to esteem your work according to its fundamental value, namely, as your contribution and that of your families to the public weal. On this is based your right to a return sufficient to enable you to live in a manner befitting your dignity as men and adequate also to provide for your cultural needs. It is moreover important that you should recognize the necessity for union with all the other professional or vocational groups that are supplying the various needs of the people, and thus signify your adherence to the principle of social peace.
We heartily invoke the choicest favors of heaven upon you, Beloved Sons, and upon your families; as the Church has always blessed you in particular, and has it many ways introduced your yearly round of labors into her Liturgical Cycle. We invoke them on the work of your hands, from which God’s altar receives the bread and wine for the Holy Sacrifice.
May the Lord bestow on you, in the words of Holy ‘Writ, “the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth, abundance of corn and wine!” May your lands, as of old the fertile Etruscan fields, which Livy admired between Fiesole and Arezzo, be rich in corn and cattle, and be blessed with abundance of all things!
In these sentiments and with these good wishes, We bestow you and on all those who are dear to you Our Fatherly Apostolic blessing.
 CFN note: English translation taken from The Church and Farming by Father Denis Fahey. Translated from the original Italian as contained in Acta Apostilicae Sedis, Dec. 21, 1946. The subtitles were added by Father Fahey.
 Translators note: Eclog., I, 2. The Latin expression dudica arva, added by His Holiness after the Italian, dolci terre, which I have translated by pleasant lands, signifies: pleasant cultivated lands.
 Nat. Hist, L. III, 5, n.41.
 Virg., Georg. II. 458-459. O fortinatus nimium, sui si bona norint, agricolas!
 Genesis, 27:28.
 Livy, Ab urbi condita, L.XXII, cap. 3. Frumenti ac percoris et omnium copia rerum opulenti.
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