If man is not the master of his being, he is a slave




Prof Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

with the collaboration of others


Section II

Socializing Opinions Prepare the Ambience for “Agrarian Reform”: Exposition and Analysis

Preliminary Observations Goal of Section II

Section II of this Part does not consider the system of socialist ideas but more important opinions that prepare the environment (even in circles that see themselves as conservative and antisocialist) for some openness to reforms that socialize our socio-economic organization, including “Agrarian Reform.”

The socialist system, analysed in the previous Section, is now approached only on a secondary plane and under two different aspects:

  1. Since many of these opinions, usually born from secularism, sentimentalism, philanthropism and juridical positivism, are also found in socialism, though not exclusively, refutations will accidentally touch on some aspects of the socialist system, be it radical or moderate.
  2. In order to refute some of the opinions impugned in this Section II, we will use as an argument the simple fact that they are typically socialistic. The efficacy of the argument results from the proof given in the preceding chapter55 of the incompatibility between socialism and Catholic doctrine.

Confronting propositions

We confront each of these opinions with the opposed proposition inspired by Catholic doctrine. Such confrontation seems to be the most efficient means to emphasize the contrast between the traditional and Christian convictions of the Brazilian people and the socialist or socializing mentality blowing upon them.

Therefore, our aim here is not primarily to enlighten individuals who have already taken a firm position on the matter or to furnish a notion of it to someone entirely unfamiliar with it. The object of this confrontation is to give many readers who consciously or subconsciously still hesitate a lively sensation of the ideological transformation occurring in them without their noticing it, busy as they are with the thousand pursuits of daily life.


In general, propositions are followed by commentaries as summarized as possible. These do not cover everything in the propositions but only some of their more relevant points.

Pontifical texts

After the commentaries, we often quote texts from the immense and rich collection of papal documents: Encyclicals, Apostolic Letters, Allocutions, etc.

To avoid overextending the size of this work we refrain from publishing additional texts on the subjects dealt with herein. We picked some that affirm the great basic principles around which the whole “Agrarian Reform” controversy revolves. We also endeavoured to document with papal teachings some points of perhaps not capital importance but about which there seems to be much confusion in public opinion.

The propositions are presented in an organized way so that the solutions applied to the earlier ones essentially explain those that come later. Thus, papal quotations naturally become fewer as the propositions are expounded. Since chapter IV deals with a somewhat different matter, it includes particular papal texts that thus become more numerous again from page 111.

The headings preceding the texts aim to highlight some of their particular aspects while relating them with the topic of the proposition or commentary.

Division and concatenation of the propositions

Propositions are divided into five chapters. The first deals with questions more directly related to the legitimacy of the institution of private property, the family, social and economic inequalities, wage earners, etc., in light of the Church’s moral teaching and social doctrine.

In its various propositions, the second chapter deals with another problem: The fact that an agricultural structure can, in its constitutive principles, hinder factors that favour production. As we analyse the constitutive principles of our present rural structure in this light, we can show that they are good.

The third chapter deals with related but different material. It abstracts from the constitutive principles to consider only concrete facts. It presents, in the contested propositions, various traits of the picture of our rural situation distorted by socialist views. The affirmed propositions contain an objective description of that same reality.

Both charts pave the way for Part II, as they are arranged primarily in view of the problem of production: in the real world, are agriculture and cattle raising producing what the country needs for its prosperity and progress? Is the present agricultural structure to blame for the Brazilian crisis?

Part II contains a complete demonstration that the picture described in the affirmed propositions is accurate, while the one in the contested propositions is false.

This third chapter thus gives the link between the religious and social aspects of “Agrarian Reform” (Part I) and its economic aspects (Part II).

The fourth chapter analyses whether or not Catholic public opinion should speak up on the question of “Agrarian Reform.”

The subjects treated now are somewhat diverse.

After reading the preceding chapters, the mind turns with particular interest to the problem, already broached in the Introduction, of the appropriateness of an intervention by the Church in matters relating to “Agrarian Reform.” 56 Along with this problem, important questions arise as to the timeliness of that intervention from the standpoint of the Church or the country. These timeliness issues can be summarized as follows:

  1. As it becomes obvious to public opinion that “Agrarian Reform” and Catholic doctrine are incompatible, what consequences will that perception have at the present stage of the campaign to implement “Agrarian Reform”?
  1. What consequences would the promulgation of “Agrarian Reform” bring to religious life in Brazil? Here a question of conscience arises.57

Once all propositions have been stated, it seemed appropriate to make a brief summary of them, which constitutes Chapter 5.


Chapter I

 Is the Present Brazilian Rural Structure Contrary as Such to the Principles of Justice?

Proposition 1

“Agrarian Reform,” which aims to divide large and medium-sized properties so that only small properties will exist in Brazil, is an intrinsically just measure. “Agrarian Reform,” which aims to divide large and medium-sized properties so that only small properties will exist in Brazil, is gravely unjust as such. Indeed, the existence of agricultural properties of unequal sizes is intrinsically just.
Reason shows us that men are all equal by nature. It is not just, then, for some to have a lot of land, others little, and others none at all. All active and honest men have an equal right to life, to physical integrity, to the enjoyment of sufficient, dignified and stable living conditions.

But it is just that the more capable, industrious and economical have, beyond this minimum, that which they produce thanks to their higher capabilities.

This legitimately gives rise to the differentiation of properties into large, medium and small, and perhaps to the existence of a class properly remunerated but

without lands



Denying the principles in the affirmed proposition is tantamount to declaring that the condition of slavery is inherent to man.

Indeed, if a man is master of his being, he is master of his work. If he is the master of his work, he is the master of the fruit of his work. And since the capacity to work varies from man to man from the standpoint of both quantity and quality, inequality necessarily results. On the other hand, as we will see below, this inequality has limits.

If man is not the master of his being, he is a slave.

Socialism leads us to this equality of slavery. As Leo XIII affirms, socialism subjects citizens to “an intolerable and hateful slavery.” 58

One might object that the Communists’ ultimate ideal is not complete equality since the USSR enforces the principle that one should take from each according to his capacity and give to each according to his need. It is up to the sovereign State to regulate the application of this principle. But that application has been made so that leaders do not eat the same food as workers. The latter, for example, cannot shop in stores reserved for Kremlin functionaries or sit at the table of engineers.

A preliminary reservation about this argument: It is very difficult to know with complete certainty what happens inside the USSR, and even if a given fact has proven true in a particular year, one cannot present it as certain in the following year.

Thus, while not presenting these facts as indisputable, we can admit that the regime extant in the USSR has not realized complete equality under many aspects.

This is probably due, in part, to abuses by power holders, but it is mainly also owing to another cause. Indeed, contrary to what the public at large imagines, the regime concretely existing in the USSR does not constitute the complete application of Marxist principles. The USSR lives in a state of transition to the establishment of integral Marxism. Consequently, much of what occurs there should be taken as an inevitable concession to a tradition of inequality more than a thousand years old, which can only be abolished in stages.

Thus, the fact that some inequalities continue to exist in that regime does not enable one to conclude anything against the strictly egalitarian character of Marxism, considered in its ultimate ends.

Furthermore, the very fact that even today, everything that intellectual or manual workers produce is destined for the collectivity, which regulates distribution according to its own criteria, subjects man to the condition of an anonymous cog in the wheel without any rights in the social mechanism. And where the absence of rights exists for all, all are radically equal.

* * *

The contested proposition is unilateral and leads to false consequences.

By nature, all men are equal in a sense; but in another sense, they are unequal.

They are equal as creatures of God endowed with body and soul and redeemed by Jesus Christ. Thus, by the dignity common to all, they have an equal right to everything proper to the human condition: life, health, work, Religion, family, intellectual development, etc. Thus, a just and Christian social and economic organization rests on a fundamental feature of true equality.

But, in addition to this essential equality, there are among men accidental inequalities of virtue, intelligence, health, capacity for work and many others. Every organic and living economic and social structure has to be in harmony with the natural order of things and, as a consequence, must reflect that natural inequality. That reflection consists in this: that as long as all have what is just and appropriate, those who are well gifted by nature may, by their honest work and thrift, acquire more.

Thus, equality and inequality complete and compensate each other and play diverse but harmonious roles in ordering a just Christian society.

This rule is one of the most admirable traits of the universal order of things. All creatures of God have what is proper to them according to their nature, and He treats them according to this norm. Beyond that, the Lord gives very much to some, much to others, and to still, only what is adequate. These inequalities form an immense hierarchy where each degree is like a musical note composing a great symphony that chants the divine glory. Therefore, a strictly egalitarian society and economy would be anti-natural.

In this light, inequalities represent a condition of good general order and contribute to the advantage of the entire social body, helping both great and small.

In the plans of Providence, this hierarchical scale is a means to promote the spiritual and material progress of humanity by giving an incentive to the better and more capable. In contrast, with its inertia, egalitarianism carries stagnation and decadence, as every living being that fails to make progress deteriorates and dies.

This is how one explains the parable of the talents.59 God gives each one differently and demands a proportional return.

Pontifical Texts

 Socialist character of the contested thesis

Leo XIII: The socialists proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties.” 60

The equality of conditions is impossible

Leo XIII: “No matter what changes may occur in forms of government, there will ever be differences and inequalities of condition in the State. Society cannot exist or be conceived of without them.” 61

The equality dreamed of by socialists is anti-natural

Leo XIII: “It must be first of all recognized that the condition of things inherent in human affairs must be borne with, for it is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level. Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain. There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such inequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity for business and the playing of many parts; and each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition.” 62

The inequality of goods comes from the inequality of persons

Leo XIII: “the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate.” 63

The universe, the Church and civil society reflect God’s love of organic inequality

Leo XIII: “He who created and governs all things has, in His wise providence, appointed that the things which are lowest should attain their ends by those which are intermediate, and these again by the highest.

“Thus, as even in the kingdom of heaven He bath willed that the choirs of angels be distinct and some subject to others, and also in the Church has instituted various orders and a diversity of offices, so that all are not apostles or doctors or pastors (1 Cor. 12:27); so also has He appointed that there should be various orders in civil society, differing in dignity, rights, and power, whereby the State, like the Church, should be one body, consisting of many members, some nobler than others, but all necessary to each other and solicitous for the common good.”64

Nothing is as repugnant to reason as a mathematical equality

“In like manner, no one doubts that all men are equal one to another, so far as regards their common origin and nature, or the last end which each one has to attain, or the rights and duties which are thence derived. But, as the abilities of all are not equal, as one differs from another in the powers of mind or body, and as there are very many dissimilarities of manner, disposition, and character, it is most repugnant to reason to endeavour to confine all within the same measure, and to extend complete equality to the institutions of civic life.”65

The Church condemns the equality of rights and duties

Leo XIII condemned those who “proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties,”66 and branded as erroneous and naturalistic the thesis that “all men have the same right, and are in every respect of equal and like condition.” 67

Pius XI, in turn, reaffirmed that same principle: “It is not true that all have equal rights in civil society. It is not true that there exists no lawful social hierarchy.” 68 Later we will cite texts by Pius XII and John XXIII to this effect. 69

Equality and inequality in the plans of Providence

“… in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, the equality of men consists in this: that all, having inherited the same nature, are called to the same high dignity of the sons of God, and that, as one and the same end is set before all, each one is to be judged by the same law and will receive punishment or reward according to his deserts. The inequality of rights and of power proceeds from the very Author of nature, ‘from whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named’ (Eph. 3:15).” 70

The Church wants the existence of unequal classes in society

Leo XIII: “The equality that the Church proclaims preserves intact the distinctions of the various social classes, obviously required by nature.” 71

What a just equality among men consists of

Leo XIII: “Life on earth, however good and desirable in itself, is not the final purpose for which man is created; it is only the way and the means to that attainment of truth and that love of goodness in which the full life of the soul consists. It is the soul which is made after the image and likeness of God; it is in the soul that the sovereignty resides in virtue whereof man is commanded to rule the creatures below him and to use all the earth and the ocean for his profit and advantage. ‘Fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth’ (Gen. 1:23). In this respect, all men are equal; there is here no difference between rich and poor, master and servant, ruler and ruled, ‘for the same is Lord over all’ (Rom. 10:12).” 72

The Church loves all classes and harmonious inequality among them

“The Roman Pontiffs have always taken care to equally protect and ameliorate the lot of the humble, and to support and augment the honour of the upper classes. For they carry on the mission of Jesus Christ, not only in the religious order, but in the social order as well. And if Jesus Christ wished to spend his private life in the obscurity of a humble dwelling and to be considered the son of an artisan; if, in his public life He took pleasure in living in the midst of the people, doing good for them in every way, He nevertheless wished to be born of a royal race, choosing Mary for his Mother and Joseph for his foster father, both chosen descendants of the race of David. Yesterday, on the feast of her betrothal, we could repeat with the Church the beautiful words: ‘Mary shines to the world, born of a royal race.’

“For this reason the Church, while preaching to humanity of the universal filiation from one Father in heaven, recognizes as being equally providential the distinction of classes in human society; for this reason, does she impress upon her flock that only in the mutual respect of rights and duties and in charity to one another lies the secret of just balance, honest well-being, true peace, and flourishing peoples.

“Thus We too, in deploring the present disturbances troubling peaceful human society, have turned Our gaze repeatedly to the lowest classes, the ones most perfidiously menaced by iniquitous sects, and have offered them the maternal succour of the Church. Repeatedly, We have declared that the remedy to their ills will never be a subversive equalization of the social orders, but rather that brotherhood which, without disparaging the dignity of rank, unites the hearts of all in a single bond of Christian love.” 73

Collectivist egalitarianism is harmful to the worker

“Socialists, therefore, by endeavouring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life.” 74

To defend property is to love the people

Leo XIII: “The main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.” 75

Socialism: equality in misery and nakedness

Leo XIII: “The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home. And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery, citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation.76



55 Section I, Title II, Chapter III.

56 Proposition 31.

57 Cf. Section III.

58 Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum, May 15, 1891 no. 15 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html.

59 Matt. 25:14-30.

60 Leo XIII, Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris, December 28, 1878 no. 1 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_28121878_quod-apostolici- muneris_en.html.

61 Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum, May 15, 1891 no. 34 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html.

62 Ibid., no. 17.

63 Leo XIII, Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris, December 28, 1878 no. 9 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_28121878_quod-apostolici- muneris_en.html.

64 Ibid., no.6.

65 Leo XIII, Encyclical Humanum Genus, April 20, 1884 no. 26 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_18840420_humanum-genus_en.html. 66 Leo XIII, Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris, December 23, 1878 no. 1 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_28121878_quod-apostolici- muneris_en.html.

67 Leo XIII, Encyclical Humanum Genus, April 20, 1834 no. 22 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_18840420_humanum-genus_en.html.

68 Pius XI, Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, March 19, 1937 no. 33 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19031937_divini-redemptoris_en.html.

69 Cf. Pontifical Texts of Proposition 2

70 Leo XIII, Encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris, December 28, 1878 no. 5 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_28121878_quod-apostolici- muneris_en.html.

71 Leo XIII, Encyclical Parvenu, March 19, 1902 – Editora Vozes Ltda., Petrópolis, p. 16 [our translation].

72 Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum, May 15, 1891 no. 40 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html.

73 Leo XIII, Allocution to the Roman Patriciate and Nobility, January 24, 1903 in Leonis XIII Pontificis Maximi Acta, Vol. 22, p. 368).

74 Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum, May 15, 1891 no. 5 at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html.

75 Ibid., no. 15.

76 Ibid., nos, 14-15.