Freedom Under God | Fulton Sheen’s Philosophy

Episode 19 January 30, 2024 00:57:14
Freedom Under God | Fulton Sheen’s Philosophy
Catholic Theology Show
Freedom Under God | Fulton Sheen’s Philosophy

Jan 30 2024 | 00:57:14


Show Notes

Who was Fulton Sheen and how did he advocate for authentic freedom? Today, Dr. Michael Dauphinais and Dr. James Patterson, professor of politics at Ave Maria University and scholar of Fulton Sheen, discuss Fulton Sheen’s seminal work, Freedom Under God, while exploring how Bishop Sheen was one of the most effective Catholic apologists in American history. 



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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: There's a short clip of Sheen with some really great language, like the choice before the world is not a humanitarian state in communism, but brotherhood in Christ or comradeship and Antichrist. They have chosen that being the Soviets, that particular comradeship. It is up for us as a free nation to choose the truth, to choose the good and affirm God and the freedom of the people of the world. [00:00:25] Speaker B: You welcome to the catholic theology show presented by Ave Maria University. This podcast is sponsored in part by Annunciation Circle, a community that supports the mission of Ave Maria University through their monthly donations of $10 or more. If you'd like to support this podcast and the mission of Ave Maria University, I encourage you to visit join for more information. I'm your host, Michael Doffiney, and today I am thrilled to be joined by James Patterson, a professor of politics at Avehamer University and a scholar of Fulton Sheen. Welcome to the show. [00:01:07] Speaker A: Thank you very much. It's wonderful to be here, doctor. [00:01:09] Speaker B: Right. So Fulton Sheen's kind of having a bit of a, I think a revival. Yes. I run into a lot of. Even I go around campuses, and if I'm giving talks with the thomistic institute or different things, a lot of students will be commenting on Fulton Sheen. His YouTube videos, I don't know how to put it, are gaining a whole nother generation of listeners and viewers. [00:01:33] Speaker A: Well, they don't make him like that. He was a one of a kind talent when it comes to television and radio. He had a way of delivering the word in a way that was convicting, yet also accessible. [00:01:44] Speaker B: Absolutely. And really one of the great theologian and probably one of the most effective apologists, perhaps, in the catholic american experience, I would say so, and certainly of the 20th century. So today, one of the things I wanted to talk about is Fulton Sheen spoke a lot about freedom. And there's John Eight has this beautiful line. Right. If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. Now, Fulton Sheen saw that this freedom that we were given was not merely an individual freedom. It wasn't just my individual freedom from sin, but it was a much larger vision for kind of a freedom, not just from constraint, but a freedom for excellence, a freedom for God, a freedom for one another. So he thought this freedom was properly religious and theological, but it also had political, economic ramifications. [00:02:55] Speaker A: Oh, 100%. [00:02:56] Speaker B: And to a certain extent, to strip religious freedom of its political and economic ramifications was to actually make it no longer religious right. And I think in our day, we have a hard time understanding this. We have a hard time kind of balancing these different things. We often think of religion and politics, and somehow in conflict, we somehow lowered religion. So now it's another political view. Whereas I think Fulton Sheen, because he sees religion and theology as so much higher, then it can reorganize political and economic liberties for human flourishing in a way that doesn't do violence to them. [00:03:38] Speaker A: That's right. Sheen had a very different view of religion, especially the catholic faith, obviously, because it's his faith, our faith, which is that you're right to say that it's high and that it is the end. Right. We seek God by way of the grace through his church. Also, religion provides the foundation, so it's under us. It provides us a steady support for understanding the world and as well as a source of commonality for us to appeal when we disagree on policy issues, but also the means to achieve the higher end by the grace that God gives us. And so this idea of a public and accessible and constant presence of religion is very different from a very privatized kind of consumer model of religion that we have today. And Sheen saw it coming and was not happy about it. [00:04:26] Speaker B: Yeah. So today we want to focus on this book we were talking with. And you've been studying Sheen, what, about 15 years now? [00:04:33] Speaker A: Yeah, that's right. [00:04:34] Speaker B: You wrote your dissertation in part on Sheen. You've written a book on Sheen and other american figures who have attempted to navigate. That's right. The world of both religion and politics. But when I asked you, you said, what's your favorite book? Freedom under God. [00:04:50] Speaker A: That's right. I'm a political scientist. Yeah. This is the one for me. [00:04:53] Speaker B: So freedom under God was published in 1940. [00:04:57] Speaker A: That's right. [00:04:58] Speaker B: Interesting. Right. World War II has already started in Europe. The United States had not yet entered. But before we talk about that, per se, I wanted maybe just for both our listeners in general, but know, just to kind of highlight, you've also done for Ave Maria, a short course for the pursuit of wisdom series focusing on Fulton Sheen. [00:05:23] Speaker A: That's right. [00:05:23] Speaker B: Right. Called taking Fulton Sheen seriously. So what were some of the key themes that you wanted to help your audience understand about kind of just Fulton Sheen's life? What makes him so significant? And then also, what do we need to learn from him today? [00:05:41] Speaker A: Yeah. So I open up with the comparison. People often think of Fulton Sheen in catholic theology. They think of Lawrence Welk in classical music. Right. Where it's good television. This is like Neil Postman's criticism of Sheen, where you had dumbs down Catholicism, and this could not be further from the truth. Sheen, of course, Irish Catholic, as you can tell from the name. Born in Illinois and rural Illinois in the 1890s, part of a large catholic family. His father originally was lapsed, but after his first wife died, his first wife was protestant. He marries a devout Irish Catholic, sort of rejuvenates his faith. Sheen's raised in a very faithful home, but also a very demanding home in terms of academic excellence. His brothers become professionals. He becomes a priest, incredibly gifted debater and speaker, goes to St. Viader College. Then he goes to Catholic University of America, gets his canon law degree, I think, and maybe his licensure there, I think. And then he goes and receives his phd from University of Leuvain, is in the Agrijay program there, which is kind of like a super Doctorate, receives highest marks there. Publishes this book with an introduction from G. K. Chesterton. The book's called God and intelligence, and it is nothing like life is worth living, and the divine sense of humor, this kind of more accessible stuff. It is a thomistic critique of the philosophy of science, and it's incredible, but it's not what you would expect, given all of the charisma and all of the passion and all the performative and rhetorical gifts that Sheen has. It's heavy stuff. And what this shows is that when Sheen was engaging in this kind of public form of prophetic witness of the catholic faith, he's doing so in a way that's deeply informed by the best of our intellectual tradition, but in a way that's not meant to intimidate or scare people off, in part because when Sheen's doing this, he knows he's with a very mixed religious audience. And so he's trying to find a way to reach out to more than just Catholics when he's doing this. And that sometimes is why people have this vision of him as a kind of, I don't know, silly or watered down version of Catholicism. But in the course, what we look at are the heavy hitting ideas about his. A little bit on the philosophy of science, but more on his visions of capitalism or economics, political freedom regime, all of which are very important to him, and we find fleshed out here in great detail. And freedom under God. [00:08:14] Speaker B: That's kind of fascinating, too, because that really is, in some ways, not only Fulton Sheen's own experience. It was kind of somewhat like the church's experience in that age, the prevalence of Irish Catholicism. It's somewhat deeply cultural and yet deeply evangelistic. [00:08:35] Speaker A: Right. [00:08:35] Speaker B: I mean, irish priests went all around the globe in different ways, and Irish Americans went all around the globe kind of preaching the gospel and communicating the faith, but also that deep intellectual tradition. Right. He is a thomistic philosopher and theologian of the highest order. [00:08:51] Speaker A: Right? Yeah. He went to Levain. That's what they did there. [00:08:54] Speaker B: Yes. And Levain is the catholic university of. He. I think you told the story, right, that when he passed his dissertation. [00:09:07] Speaker A: Oh, so there's this ranking. When you finish the agri, what they serve is a way of letting you know your score. So if you served, you served water, probably shouldn't have even bothered coming. If they served beer, then you kind of dragged yourself across the finish line. The most common service was wine, which means that you passed, you did fine. And then for excellent passage, you received champagne. And as Sheen says in treasure and clay, the champagne was particularly sweet that night. He crushed. [00:09:38] Speaker B: There you see both not only his intelligence, but also his right gift for storytelling. It is just kind of beautiful. And it's interesting, this treasure and clay, his autobiography. I was just looking it over and kind of preparing for this, and it's just beautiful. At the end, he describes the three stages of his life through three looks, right. And he says that every priest in some ways imitates one of the apostles, and he was Peter. And he said the first look of Peter was that when Jesus looked at him closely, when his brother had told him that he'd found the messiah, and he felt that call, and he followed that call and really consecrated his whole life to God. And there's that beautiful, almost strength that comes from saying yes to God, from seeing the look of Jesus closely. And then he looks at the second one when he says that Peter, after proclaiming Jesus to be the son of God, and Jesus saying in Matthew 16, right, that you are Peter, and on this rock I'll build my church, flesh and blood did not reveal this to you. But then a little bit later, Peter says, God forbid that you should suffer on the cross. And Jesus, very quickly, without hesitating, says, get behind me, Satan. And he says in that, too, he had to learn. He says at first he was a priest without being a victim. He himself didn't want to get on the cross. He wanted to be successful, effective as an apologist, as a preacher, as an evangelist, as a priest. Right. And it was later that he ended up kind of learning that he was not only called to be the priest offering the victim, but he had to become the victim as well. He had to learn to suffer. And then that last line is the third look where after Peter has denied, Jesus looks on him with love. And Peter weeps. And so he describes that in his final trial, the final sufferings, even including his open heart surgery, some of his struggles in the final appointment as a bishop. But this way that he sees his whole life through the three looks of Jesus to Peter, this deeply, just a life that's totally given over to his calling as a priest and totally given over to Jesus Christ and letting his entire life be determined by the various looks of Jesus at Peter and again at him. [00:12:26] Speaker A: His original name was Peter John Sheen. He took his mother's name, Fulton, and people forget that. Sheen goes off the air. Life was worth living in the 1950s, but he dies in 1979. Two failed reboots, big falling out with his superior and cardinal Spellman. A less than successful role as bishop of Rochester. Yeah, that's when he becomes a saint, is in those trials. And it's beautiful to finish those passages where you read about that discovery. [00:12:58] Speaker B: Wow, that's really amazing. Could you say more, too? He's a venerable now, is that correct? [00:13:05] Speaker A: That's right. So that was rapid his move from servant of God to venerable. We have everything that we need for a case for beatification except permission, and it's kind of unclear what that is for. There was some speculation had to do with his tenure as bishop at Rochester, which was only two and a half years. They wanted to make sure that everything was on the up and up there, but that was just a rumor. The reasons are usually kept pretty secret, sort of the way they do things. So I just wait patiently and pray that this will be resolved. [00:13:45] Speaker B: That's great to, for, say, for viewers or listeners who aren't familiar with. Are there. We've spoken a little bit about how his popularity on there certain. Where would you direct somebody who just wants to learn a little bit about Fulton Sheen in act or either a book or a video? Are there any YouTube videos that you might suggest? [00:14:17] Speaker A: Well, I mean, of course they should start with my short. The. [00:14:20] Speaker B: Yes. And that's, by the way, is available at the pursuit of with. [00:14:27] Speaker A: Actually, that course was built out from an article I wrote for first things called taking Fulton Sheen seriously. There's a wonderful book called America's Bishop that's on Fulton Sheen. And then there's Fulton J. Sheen, Life of a Catholic. It's by Kathleen Riley. Those are two wonderful books. Treasure and clay. It's like a religious autobiography. It's meant to be didactic. Still, for the reader. America's bishop and the Fulton J. Sheen biography by Riley are both more sort of third person accounts that are more historical and critical. And I forget the name of the priest who wrote the preaching that Sheen did, although that's like 100 pages long. I'm not sure if you have show notes, but I could maybe get you to link those. But it's a lovely book on that. And then there's selling Catholicism, which isn't as cynical as it sounds, which is a lovely book. It's a little more academic, though, so if you don't mind a little bit of academic theory sprinkled in there, these are wonderful places to look. But when it comes to what things you should watch by Sheen, my favorite is the one that he did called the glory of being american, which is a shocking thing to say. Most people don't feel like being american is all that glorious, but it is a catholic defense of the american project, and it is gripping. [00:15:53] Speaker B: Wow, that's my favorite one. I've read a very short homily by Fulton Sheen on the mystery of Christmas, and I believe it's from a recording, and I think you can watch it online. And again, it's one of those things that I think is just kind of riveting. He says at the beginning that in every religion, every earth, human religion and philosophical tradition, man is seeking God. But only in Judeo Christianity does God seek man. [00:16:23] Speaker A: That's right. [00:16:23] Speaker B: And in Christianity, God seeks man so fully that he becomes a child. Right. And that's what makes kind of Christianity different. And in that one instance, that little image, one he's able to say there's going to then be much truth in all earthly philosophies and religions, because those are the best of human beings thinking and seeking God. [00:16:45] Speaker A: Yes. [00:16:46] Speaker B: And at the same time, you have the utter distinctiveness of the gift of God in Jesus Christ, the mystery of Christmas, that only in Christmas does God seek us out. So you have a great sense of both the appreciation for this broad tradition of world philosophies and religions and at the same time, a disclosure of the definitive distinctiveness of Jesus Christ. [00:17:09] Speaker A: Yeah, we're saying this during advent, and he wrote a lovely sort of preparatory advent reading that you would do over the course of. I've done it with my family before they get to. And all the stuff that Sheen wrote and spoke about on Christmas is really fantastic. [00:17:27] Speaker B: And is it true that you have a friend that came back to the catholic faith or converted to Catholicism by watching Sheen on. [00:17:37] Speaker A: Teaching? I went to the University of Virginia I was teaching a summer course, and it was on american religion, so I just had them watch. I think I had them watch Gloria being american. I think, actually, I became his confirmation sponsor. I'm not sure. People. People listening to this may not know, but the University of Virginia has an incredible catholic community. So he converts and reverts, really, and then it gets confirmed. But he's, like, welcomed into this community that's run by Dominicans. It's an incredible place. So it's so important to have those kinds of catholic institutions at places like the University of Virginia so that they can have a home to go to. [00:18:15] Speaker B: That's beautiful. And I guess we do need to then put a little, like, I don't know if we should have a warning. Just be careful. If you start watching Fulton Sheen, you may draw closer to the Catholic Church. [00:18:26] Speaker A: It was a bit of a scandal. People would get involved with Sheen, and they'd convert to Catholicism at a time when being Catholic wasn't necessarily. Well, you know, an early in Sheen's career, when people would be seen with Sheen, they'd be immediately under suspicion to the point that Sheen had to meet with some people in private, including Claire Booth Loose, who he brought into the church. These were secret meetings. And she decided not to run for Congress again for her district in Connecticut, and she wouldn't say why. And then she comes out, says that she's converted to Catholicism. It was Fulton Sheen that helped do it, and she reasoned she wasn't running when she didn't want to deal with all the anti Catholicism she knew she'd face. Even today, long after his passing, he's still doing it. [00:19:13] Speaker B: Yeah. Also for people who may not be as familiar, Fulton Sheen had a huge radio show, correct, in the 30s. Was that about maybe, like, 15 years or so? And then transitioned to tv. So he also mastered two genres. [00:19:29] Speaker A: Right. The National Council of Catholic man ran a show called the Catholic Hour. Sheen wasn't its only guest, but he was one of their most prominent. And there's a few modern publications of these things. Most of them are in these really ratty paperbacks. CuA archives. Catholic University of America archives has all of them, but there's one called justice and charity that the Chesterton Society published. That's very good. The Chesterton society is big in an economic theory called distributism. So this is like their effort to show that Sheen was on their side. But it's worth reading beyond their causes for it, because Sheen's view on these things is really good. But that is where he cut his teeth. Yeah. The reason why he was so good when he got on television, the reason he won the Emmy, is that he had 15 years of media experience already. He was not coming in new to the game, as it were. And he was just fortunate to have as compelling an appearance as he did a voice. They referred to his dark set eyes. [00:20:29] Speaker B: Yeah. And when he. I also read that he would give. I think these were, the tv shows were maybe like 27 minutes or something. It was like a 30 minutes window, but not as many commercials as we have today. [00:20:42] Speaker A: Admiral television sponsored the whole thing. Not television, admiral refrigerators. So he had some extra minutes. [00:20:47] Speaker B: Yes. But I also heard that he would prepare the talk and then he would translate it into, like, italian and then practice giving it in italian and then trans. So he would spend about 30 hours every week preparing. So even though these don't necessarily, I mean, they look simple, he really used not only his knowledge of the tradition, but also his knowledge of rhetoric to internalize these. [00:21:17] Speaker A: Yeah. So people often are so unfamiliar with public speaking, they don't know how to even get started. When we teach students at Ave Maria, they have to do oral presentations, and this is usually the first time they've ever had to do it. And so they're shocked. They don't think about what we do. Right. We're often lecturing, sometimes without notes. And the way that Sheen did it, he always taught without notes, and it was because he rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed and the way that good homoletics would require. You always have things that are ready to go if you need to include them on something or if something doesn't seem to be working. So that was what he was doing. He was practicing what are called set pieces. And there's a short clip of Sheen. I don't recall which episode it's from. I've looked for it in a few places, but it's just called on YouTube. It's just like Fulton Sheen condemns communism, and he's going for, like, seven minutes. I've memorized the whole thing because I've watched it so many times. But at a certain point when he's talking, he goes, it's 26 40. Is it time for me to quit? He's keen on the time, and it turns out that the time was wrong and it was 25 40. So he says, oh, 1 minute yet? And then he just looks right at the camera. He goes, I just get so rattled, and everyone laughs. And what's funny is you can hear in the background when he says, at 26 40, is it time for me to quit? You hear people gasp and say no. And then he wraps it up. But it was perfectly timed because, in a way, he was getting people so amped that it was too much. So he lets the steam off a little bit and then he finishes it off with some really great language, like the choice before the world is not a humanitarian state in communism, but brotherhood in Christ or comradeship in Antichrist. They have chosen that being the Soviets, that particular comradeship. It is up for us as a free nation to choose the truth, to choose the good and affirm God and the freedom of the people of the world. [00:23:14] Speaker B: Yes. I'd heard also that he would have the last. And this sounds like a good example of that. He'd have, like, say, his closing paration. His closing was precisely memorized. [00:23:25] Speaker A: Right. Yeah. [00:23:25] Speaker B: But then sometimes in between, almost like a brilliant jazz musician, he could move in different ways. [00:23:33] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:23:34] Speaker B: But it's not extemporaneous in the way we often think of it. [00:23:38] Speaker A: Right. [00:23:38] Speaker B: It's because he's practiced all of these elements so much. Right. I don't know, maybe something. It sounds silly to talk about this, but I think just at least for contemporary listeners who know, like Tom Brady or something, Tom Brady practices, it looks. It looks spontaneous, but nothing spontaneous. [00:23:59] Speaker A: No. [00:23:59] Speaker B: Right. And I think this element of this dedicated craft of public speaking, the dedicated craft of homiletics, it was really at a peak, I think, in Fulton Sheen. [00:24:13] Speaker A: That's right. Yeah. And the reason for this is that there used to be considerably more religious and, like, high toned religious media. There's a lovely book by a man named Farley that compares Sheen to a lutheran minister who was active at the same time and was just as well trained in lutheran theology. And it just goes to show that this is like a kind of thing that still could be done if we wanted to do that. We have people know Bishop Barron that does this sort of thing. But a big reason for this is that back in the early days of mass media, one of the earliest adopters were religious organizations because they were trying to do this kind of electronic or electric. He was called the electric priest. Sometimes electronic forms of evangelization. [00:25:08] Speaker B: Yeah. And you also, even in one of your books, you compare him to Martin Luther King, who also has a very rich rhetorical, biblical style of speech that's really outside the scope of Arc. Temporary. If you read his letter from a Birmingham jail or listen to his I have a dream speech, the level of rhetoric is really phenomenal. [00:25:32] Speaker A: The thing about being an irishman. And people forget this now, is that you were kind of considered dumb. And so Sheen had to prove that he wasn't dumb, and he could do that by engaging in incredibly sophisticated arguments. And king's doing the same thing. He's a black man in a country that thinks very poorly of black men, and so he has to show them that he's got his chops. And so in the letter from Birmingham jail, he's responding to a letter written by white clergy, and he's like, oh, so we're going to have this conversation, are we? And so he uses protestant theology for the Protestants. There's a catholic priest who signed the letter. He speaks catholic theology to them, and he does jewish theology to the rabbi. And that's part of the letter that I think people miss, is that he's showing that he can play on their level and win. And he does. I mean, we don't read the other letter. Who reads the letter written to king? Right. It's actually kind of embarrassing to read. When you read it, you're like, oh, my goodness, why did you say this? [00:26:32] Speaker B: Yeah, it is. And that's beautiful to see. He quotes Augustine, quotes aquinas, so it is beautiful to see that. And I think just to kind of maybe learn to recover. Bishop Baron, as many people have seen him, as kind of a contemporary Fulton Sheen, I think, in our contemporary age, certainly the most prominent one, who's deeply theologically, intellectually sophisticated, and at the same time very effective at communicating with a broad audience. But I think it's something that we can all learn. This is a practice. This is a habit. Yes, some people are more naturally gifted at it, but at the same time, we can learn and we can grow in our ability to communicate in a broader environment. [00:27:17] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:27:18] Speaker B: So we're going to take a break now, and when we come back, I really want to dive into the book the freedom under God. And especially, I think, sheen's ability to be such a staunch critic, unrelenting critic of communism, and again in 1940 and in the 30s, when as a whole, the west was rather appreciative of Stalin and communism, even Orwell, who writes animal Farm in 46, becomes somewhat, is one of the beginning things to kind of, like, undo the west somewhat love of communism. So Fulton Sheen was way ahead of that. Way ahead. But at the same time, Fulton Jean's also a very strong critic of this kind of individualistic liberalism, of kind of extreme capitalism, both of which he sees as not proper to write the dignity of the human person as he sees that catholicism opens up. [00:28:19] Speaker A: That's right. [00:28:20] Speaker B: So I'd love to talk about that when we return. [00:28:22] Speaker A: All right. [00:28:30] Speaker C: You're listening to the catholic theology show presented by Ave Maria University and sponsored in part by Annunciation Circle. Through their generous donations of $10 or more per month, Annunciation circle members directly support the mission of AMU to be a fountainhead of renewal for the church through our faculty, staff, students and alumni. To learn more, visit slash join. Thank you for your continued support. And now let's get back to the show. [00:28:59] Speaker B: Welcome back to the Catholic Theology show. I'm your host, Michael Doffiney. And today I'm joined by James Patterson, professor of politics at Avimmer University and scholar of Fulton Sheen. And so today we are going to talk about freedom under God, his 1940 book. And so I'd love just to. You said this is your favorite book. [00:29:20] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:29:21] Speaker B: Tell us why. [00:29:22] Speaker A: So freedom under God, published in 1940 at a time when the world is in conflict but also the church is in conflict. The church internally has been dealing with a lot of problems, specifically with the rise of both liberalism in the 19th century, which is a problem for the church, but also socialism as a kind of successor ideology to liberalism. And the way that a lot of people look at this period in history is that you have a kind of liberalism fighting against fascism, and then liberalism, after the war is over, second world war is over, fights against communism. And Sheen wants nothing to do with this way of thinking about this because he sees both as problematic. [00:30:11] Speaker B: And could you just know, just explain exactly what you mean by liberalism? [00:30:16] Speaker A: Absolutely. [00:30:17] Speaker B: Fascism and communism. [00:30:18] Speaker A: Yeah. So the idea is that behind liberalism, as Sheen understands it, is the idea that the individual sets whatever the good is and that the role of the state is either to get out of the way of the individual pursuit of that good or to provide the material assistance in pursuit of that good. And so there is no objective sense of the good to which we're obliged. And sheen regards this as not just itself an error, but also an unstable ideology. And what he says is that it necessarily leads people to prefer something like socialism, because liberalism can never, as a system, provide this material assistance or enough freedom for the person to be happy, and so they'll seek an even more radical version of it and the state control of the means of production to provide this for everyone. And more importantly, because no one can be happy under this system, then at least they want to prevent other people from seeming happy. So there's this kind of, like, viciousness that's unleashed this is why he says what? Liberalism sold at retail, socialism sells at wholesale. [00:31:29] Speaker B: Wow. So it's really focused in a way. Liberalism is on an individualistic, material good of each individual's choosing. So then the society cannot have a common or shared good, but really just a collective interest. Lots of individuals that are trying to make money and be happy in a way, because, of course, you can't ever do that, and the government can never make everyone have more stuff. Then it will almost kind of naturally collapse into this call for all the individuals who don't have enough or get frustrated with the society's inability to give other people enough, will then just say, kind of like, okay, well, the state should take over everything. [00:32:12] Speaker A: Exactly. And so he doesn't just do this from the position of charting intellectual history. That wouldn't be enough. He illustrates this by appealing to different kinds of governments that emerge that are constantly attempting to accommodate these ideological demands and how they become increasingly repressive in order to suit them. And while they're doing this, they're repudiating the Catholic Church in order to make this better. The Catholic Church is in a difficult position in Europe as well, because during the 19th century, with this liberal sort of materialist ideology, they're also attempting to defend older regimes that they had been more comfortable with, like monarchies. And so the church is stressing obedience much more than it is liberty. And what's funny is this actually puts the American Catholic Church out of step with Europe. European Catholics are trying to prevent what they see as liberal and socialist revolutions. Right? They'd had Napoleon before that. They had the other problems with the French Revolution. They have the 1848 problems. There are all these things that have surfaced. And in the United States, Catholics are dealing with anti Catholicism, but they're benefited from actually engaging in political liberty. And so what's funny about this period in the late 19th century is that the Catholic Church actually condemns some of the things that the american church is doing because of the problems that they're dealing with in Europe. And then when the problems in Europe get so bad, they actually kind of come back to America and say, well, maybe we were a little hasty. Right. And so this is the condemnation of Americanism, and sheen comes out full force and freedom under God defending Americanism. So how is it that sheen is defending a heresy? The answer is that it wasn't really the heresy he was defending, but this is the curiosity of this thing and freedom under God is this major step forward in the way Catholics in the United States get to think about their faith in a way that's different from trying to work within the european framework. [00:34:16] Speaker B: One of the things that really impressed me in reading over freedom under God by Sheen is that I think, let me put it this way. When I hear a lot of people today, sometimes in the church, but, or outside the church, who criticize capitalism, they almost always want to propose a statist solution, right? So they're criticizing something in capitalism and then having this idea that if the state takes over this, it'll somehow solve the problems, which always just seems to me to be, bizarrely, if human beings aren't trustworthy in capitalism, why human beings would be trustworthy to run everything as a state when the state can't actually, then you have really the collapsing of power, both political and economic, not just into the general oligarchy that's going to happen between wealthy and powerful people, but actually just all one group of people. How that would solve the problem, I've just never understood. But what Fulton Sheen does that I think is just so unique is he just constantly keeps harping on the basic idea of, you have communism as a, it's a robust ideology. He thinks it's false, but he thinks it's a coherent, or at least it's a consistent view of doing something that he's constantly criticizing. And then at the same time, he's also criticizing this liberalism and extreme capitalism as also focused only on the property or like, the individual's ability to own more stuff, get more profit. So whatever the solution that Catholicism is offering is not a statist solution. And I think this is something that I think almost because of the triumph in a part of liberalism and socialism and communism, we're not even aware that there's a non statist option. [00:36:09] Speaker A: Right. [00:36:09] Speaker B: And so could you talk a little bit about what does he mean in terms of his critiques of these two? And how is it that Catholicism offers this third way? [00:36:19] Speaker A: Yeah. So in Europe, the third way had been often described as a kind of keeping national, the state, as a kind of guarantor of material well being. And so you had socialism and you had nationalism, so you had national socialism. Oh, I don't like the sound of that. Right. And, in fact, the problem that the church dealt with is that it had to sometimes negotiate with them. Sometimes it was the worst option. Besides communism were people like Francisco Franco. And so that was the third way you got there. And what Sheen wants to give you in freedom under God is a third way that doesn't require that kind of third way. And that third way is one in which the first thing you do is recognize that the path to communism is actually to begin making concessions to liberalism, wherein we assert that the good is primarily material. And the problem that you run into as soon as you start demanding that the material is the good is that you're dealing with a problem of limited access as well as limited number. So the state then becomes the arbiter of distribution of these material goods. And as far as Sheen is concerned, this sort of zero sum outcome is not necessary, because what Catholicism provides as a definition of the good is something that is not zero sum. It's infinite in God, right? And it's universally accessible through his church. And so this sounds like a dodge, right? Because there are material problems in the state. But his response is that the way that we deal with those material problems is by first consulting with the wisdom of God and receive his grace. And what we will see is that the proper organization of institutions as free institutions is more easily understood when we lower the stakes of material goods, because now we're no longer dealing with the only thing that matters. Now we're dealing with something that is merely a means to a superior end. And by lowering the heat on this dispute, now you're no longer dealing with like, oh, no dictatorships. Oh no communism, right. Now what you're dealing with is disagreement on what to do when going forward on an issue. And the common ground that the church provides is so useful for this because you don't have to do it all by yourself. [00:38:42] Speaker B: Yeah, it's really fascinating way you describe that, because, yes, you're right. If the only goods are material goods, property that's external that I can own or money that I can have, or toys or things like, or even food, right. These sorts of things, then necessarily those are scarce. Where if I can raise up to the idea, wait a second. What about love? What about familial bonds? What about worship? What about music? I mean, just so many other things that can be understood, cultural goods, religious goods, familial goods, friendships, ways of life. He even talks about the importance of the dignity of work working as a sense of pride, as a certain sense of ownership that I have a kind of ability to make a contribution. All these goods, if these are seen as the higher goods, both on the human level and then even on a religious level, it is interesting that really does then make. So it is going to be hard to figure out how to balance profit sharing. He writes a lot about profit sharing and trying to get, but he also talks about that you need both capitalists and labor labor on its own is going to be just as corrupt as capitalists are going to be corrupt. Every human being is going to be corrupt and not want to share. So I think it's a fascinating way of trying to raise that. And it's interesting he does, and this is page 42 and 43. I just wanted to share this with, because I think the way he sets it up here is both intellectually rich, but also kind of. It's like, rhythmically, it's like fun to listen to, almost. Right. He talks about property is helpful for freedom. So property is not. Again, he doesn't say the material possessions are unimportant because the ownership of external things is the sign of freedom. The church has made the wide distribution of private property the cornerstone of her social program. There are three possible solutions to the problem of property. One is to put all the eggs in a few baskets, which is capitalism. The other is to make an omelet out of them so that nobody owns, which is communism. The other is to distribute the eggs in as many baskets as possible, which is the solution of the Catholic Church. Or to characterize them differently. Capitalism is selfish possession. Communism is personal dispossession with collective selfishness. Or Catholicism is diffused possession. [00:41:16] Speaker A: Yeah, you can see why distributists, people who are in favor of this idea of diffused possession, look to Sheen. And Sheen's very concerned about this, because as we see in this chapter called the economic guarantee of liberty, he believes that this is just simply, it is impossible to live in a republic, which is what the United States has in its constitution, without the people who live in that republic possessing a certain minimum standard of living. And so what he's attempting to do, as you see, like throughout the chapter, he's applying catholic social teaching. We got quadragisimo. I can't say this ano cited throughout the whole thing to kind of make this case, but in order to have that quality of life necessary to engage in political freedom, you need property. You need something to call your own. You need something that you want to defend. You need something that is the basis for taxation that you will cultivate in order to assure its maximum value. But if you make the law concerning property too beneficial to elite interests, what you end up with is the dispossession of the poor in favor of the rich who control the capital. What does that render the poor? It renders the communists right, because now they have nothing, they have no stakes. And the defense of private property instead, it is purely something that is external to them. And they want it back. [00:42:49] Speaker B: Yeah. And so how, then again, if we hear his consistent refrain that we need more diffuse ownership of property, how do we avoid then the communist solution? Or basically what she calls the dispossession of the person, you lose the person, you lose the eggs, and you end up with an omelet. Right. And so you end up with a state control of everything. And he describes as just collective selfishness. So what is the option in a way that he really puts forward that he thinks will actually help people discover a higher mode of liberty? [00:43:36] Speaker A: So people have property in their labor. This is why, as you were saying before, he stresses so much on the dignity of labor. And the reason he stresses this, we have to remember he's writing in 1940. A lot of what you're seeing here is the product of work that he's been doing, the late 1930s. So we're looking at the Great Depression as strongly informing him on this. Sheen also comes from an agricultural background. One of the things he disliked the most about going to events was he would eat these chicken dinners, and he hated chicken dinners because all he did as a kid was ring chicken necks at agricultural, at a poultry farm. But he is aware of how this labor can sometimes feel undignified by having property and labor. What you are possessing is something that God has given you. And because it has this divine gift component to it, the obligation is now on people who employ labor to treat those people as persons, not as individuals. The individual is a liberal conception here, meaning that anyone is indistinguishable from the next right, where you can lay some people off, get new people in. There's no difference among them. And for Sheen, they're person. So they have distinctiveness, they have personality, both literally like their persons and personality in a more conventional sense, that they have their own sort of quirks and habits and virtues, and so they should have, by virtue of these gifts, participation in the organizations they work within. And what's funny is that this sounds like he's describing unions, but it's not quite that. He has what we almost would call a more german way, because this is how the Germans do it, where there's, like internal labor governance over the corporation, right down to the fact that he wants them to have an hour in which during the day they can go to religious services, which is one of the more, at the time he's saying, this just doesn't sound that radical. But now it sounds like one of the most radical recommendations you could make, let alone a moment of silence. Now you have a whole hour to go to mass. [00:45:40] Speaker B: Yeah. On page 131, as he talks about labor, he says there are three choices before it. Number one, to work for a boss, which is capitalism. Two, to work for the state, which is communism, or three. And by the way, I just love the fact that he always just kind of like. He just goes so much out of his way to remove the illusion that somehow communism is like. He just goes through everyone's poor. Human beings are always poorer under communism. They starve more. They have fewer stores, are not open. There are not enough stores. There are lines he just goes through every time. So this fantasy that people have that somehow if the government takes over running everything, it'll work. It just won't. So I love the fact he just says, you're just going to be working for the state and getting less toys and less food. Or he says, three, to work for himself in the sense that he shares in some way in the profits, management and ownership of industry. The church begs labor to take a long view and to work for copartnership and industry. The solution of the church is the golden mean between a capitalism, which emphasizes only the individual aspect of labor, pays a wage, and ignores its social contribution, and communism, which emphasizes only the social side of labor and ignores man's personal rights. The church insists that both suffer from the same fallacy. They look upon man only as a consumer. [00:47:16] Speaker A: I mean, it is really powerful stuff. This is 100% true. And by looking at man as consumer, what you're looking at man as is a person who the state or the boss can exploit. Right. By using their consuming role. But it's also dehumanizing. Right now, people are only human insofar as they continue to consume. And so achien when talking about the dignity of labor. This is not rhetorical flourish. This is theological understanding of the human person. These are people made in the image of God, who are related to one another within their families and extended families. They have a role to play in this world. They have virtues to cultivate and they have obligations to discharge. And if they're treated as consumers, they won't be able to do that as well, and they won't be habituated to doing it in the first place. [00:48:10] Speaker B: Yeah. So he really is one of the first ones to not just diagnose consumerism, but to see how that consumerism is at the heart of both capitalism and communism. [00:48:19] Speaker A: Right? And we are very familiar with those criticisms of capitalism today, right? Like, how many different kinds of oreos do we really need? Do we need a pumpkin spice Oreo. But in the case of communism, this is really what Sheen's most worried about. This is why he's talking to labor here, which is that you have communists within the labor movement advocating for communism as a solution for working people to get basically revenge on their bosses and then their bosses money. And so the reason why it's so important for him to talk Turkey about how this will actually just make everyone poorer in the state more powerful is really essential because it's not obvious to people in 1940 to 1939. He needs to bear witness to this fact. [00:49:05] Speaker B: And it seems it's not obvious to a lot of people today. I think a lot of probably it's pretty close to probably half of the voting population in the US might. I don't know, who knows? But certainly a number of people would vote for a know socialist communist solution to these elements. The idea that the government ought to take over, redistribute things around whether or not it's to address issues with identity politics or identify or solve problems of wealth inequity and racial inequity and these other things. Interestingly, younger people seem even more. But it's interesting. Every group that has experience of communism hates it. But why is it in a way that people still always find this idea that communism might be like, it's better than the problems we have, just like, let's tear down the system. It's unjust. Why do you think people have that tendency today? And what does Fulton Sheen have to say to them? [00:50:15] Speaker A: So I always like to remind people that often who you're dealing with when you see people that are advocating for some kind of like, 21st century reinvention of socialism, is that the people making those positions often see themselves as running the state. They don't see themselves as benefiting from the state. They don't see themselves as the ordinary citizen receiving state benefits. They see themselves as designing the programs to distribute those state benefits. They see themselves as running the numbers on cost benefit analysis of what benefits to extend. In other words, they're justifying their position of authority within that system. And Sheen was well aware of this tendency and talked about the betrayal of the intellectuals who, because intellectuals will see themselves in that position, will justify that regime because it'll elevate their own station. And what he explains is that this happens a lot in the build up for some kind of revolutionary activity, because they're useful for the propagation of favorable coverage for communist ideas. But these people, because they're independent sources of political influence, will eventually find their way in the camps. [00:51:28] Speaker B: Yeah. So kind of, in a way, the elites. And this is why you see, know, you were at Uva, I was at Duke. All these different schools, all the people that come out of these schools are kind of gravitate to being seemingly this kind of rather strong sense that there'll be some kind of helpful socialist communist would be a good thing, is in part because they presume that they're going to be in the party. They're going to be in the party manipulating the levers of power. And what they don't realize is that no one is in the what? This is what Fulton Sheen says. Stalin claims that it's a democracy, but it's a democracy, but you can only vote for one ticket for the party. And he says, right. In the party, they have no authority because they're under the dictator. And he goes through, actually lists all the different people that have been shot, because when you have a disagreement with a boss in the party, you get shot because it's a crime to disagree, in a way with the party or the dictator. And so therefore, he really kind of unmasks it. But it's interesting. I think that's a great way of putting it. It's like people don't see that today because, again, they imagine themselves being the ones to decide who gets what. [00:52:46] Speaker A: Yeah. In 1949, he publishes the bestseller communism in the conscience of the west, where he does this. And what's incredible is that it competes with what was the man's name, the man who wrote Paul Blanchard, who wrote american democracy and catholic power. And what he argued, what Blanchard argued was that if you're opposed to communism, you need to be opposed to Catholicism, because they're basically the same thing and how they operate and what they recommend. And they competed for their position in the New York Times bestseller list, with Sheen eventually winning out. But what's funny about that, about Blanchard is that he was nominally, he was a congregationalist minister, but he later becomes an know says it was all just something he was doing to drum up opposition to the church, which he thought had too much influence in society. And the influence that it was having was it was explaining to people what the real track record was with communist revolutions. We know how bad fascism was. Communism is no different. Just because it uses different colors and slogans. It's still just as dehumanizing and brutal. [00:53:46] Speaker B: Yeah, it's really kind of chilling in some ways to see that. [00:53:49] Speaker A: And he got in trouble for it. Sheen did he actually, during an aside that was clearly not part of the rehearsed thing he actually says when he's condemning communism. He says, I was not allowed to say these words during the war. So it takes direct aim at the late Franklin Delano Roosevelt. [00:54:05] Speaker B: Yeah, well, thank you so much for walking us through freedom under God. What a beautiful book. And I love the fact, too, that in some ways, if we are dealing with human persons, then the solution has to be personal. Yes. If we're dealing with consumers and all there are are material goods, then the solution can be material. I can get a policy, a redistribution, and therefore it will feel like I've solved the problem. Of course, all I've done is destroyed and dehumanized people. I think what people sometimes don't like is that the personal solution, dealing with human beings, it's not as breathtaking, because you can't, so to speak, force human beings to be generous, to profit share. You have to encourage, you have to do these things because the personal solution, it doesn't mean you can't have certain laws or different things like that. But again, you have to have things that belong, in a certain sense, to the proper dignity of the worker, the proper dignity of the owner, and that you are recognizing that personhood and therefore calling on that person to exercise their freedom in a proper way that recognizes their duties and obligations to other human beings and ultimately to God. [00:55:26] Speaker A: And when you see that the other orientation to the person is that you won't be so concerned with your own elevation because of your sort of control over material, you know, it's worth noting that the devotion to this was something that sheen constantly advocated. He talked about 1 hour before the blessed Sacrament were feasible. And of course, that's where Sheen died. He died in adoration of the blessed Sacrament. [00:55:52] Speaker B: Wow. I knew that he did the, he was first priesthood, spent an hour a day in adoration, but I didn't know that he died during adoration. [00:55:59] Speaker A: That's where they found him before. That's amazing. [00:56:01] Speaker B: Private adoration again, James Patterson, thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for helping to really make Bolton Sheen known to another generation. And that's a real great gift for listeners who are interested. One of the earlier episodes that came out in November 15 of 2022 was who was Bishop Fulton Sheen. And I sat down with Dr. James Patterson at that time as well. Also, people who are interested look up the short course that Dr. Patterson offers with Ave Marias under the pursuit of wisdom. Short courses on taking Fulton Sheen seriously. Thank you so much for being on the show. [00:56:45] Speaker A: Thanks, Dr. Daffon. [00:56:48] Speaker C: Thank you so much for joining us for this podcast. If you like this episode, please rate and review it on your favorite podcast app to help others find the show. And if you want to take the next step, please consider joining our Annunciation circle so we can continue to bring you more free content. We'll see you next time on the Catholic Theology show.

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