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Social Credit and the teachings of the Popes

Written by Alain Pilote on Monday, 01 May 1995. Posted in In This Age of Plenty (book)

In this age of plenty - Chapter 52

Pius XIPius XI Pius XIIPius XII John XXIIIJohn XXIII Paul VIPaul VI John Paul IIJohn Paul II  


Applied Christianity

Clifford Hugh Douglas, the Scottish engineer who founded Social Credit, once said that Social Credit could be defined in two words: applied Christianity. A comparative study of Social Credit and the social doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church shows indeed how wonderfully the Social Credit financial proposals would apply the Church's teachings on social justice.

Primacy of the human person

The social doctrine of the Church can be summarized in this basic principle: the primacy of the human person:

“The Church's teaching on social matters has truth as its guide, justice as its end, and love as its driving force... The cardinal point of this teaching is that individual men are necessarily the foundation, cause, and end of all social institutions.” (John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961, nn. 219 and 226.)

Systems at the service of man

Social Credit shares the same philosophy. Clifford Hugh Douglas wrote in the first chapter of his first book, Economic Democracy:

“Systems are made for men, and not men for systems, and the interest of man, which is self-development, is above all systems.”

And Pope John Paul II wrote in his first Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of Man, March 4, 1979, n. 16):

“Man cannot relinquish himself or the place in the visible world that belongs to him; he cannot become the slave of things, the slave of economic systems, the slave of production, the slave of his own products.”

All systems must be at the service of man, including the financial and economic systems:

“As a democratic society, see carefully to all that is happening in this powerful world of money! The world of finance is also a human world, our world, submitted to the conscience of all of us; for it too exist ethical principles. So see especially to it that you may bring a contribution to world peace with your economy and your banks and not a contribution — perhaps in an indirect way — to war and injustice!” (John Paul II, homily at Flueli, Switzerland, June 14, 1984.)

The bankers control money

Money should be an instrument of service, but the bankers, in appropriating the control over its creation, have made it an instrument of domination:

“This power becomes particularly irresistible when exercised by those who, because they hold and control money, are able also to govern credit and determine its allotment, for that reason supplying, so to speak, the lifeblood to the entire economic body, and grasping, as it were, in their hands the very soul of production, so that no one dare breathe against their will.” (Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931.)

The creation of money as a debt by the bankers is the means of imposing their will upon individuals and of controlling the world:

“Among the actions and attitudes opposed to the will of God, the good of neighbour and the «structures» created by them, two are very typical: on the one hand, the all-consuming desire for profit, and on the other, the thirst for power, with the intention of imposing one's will upon others.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Dec. 30, 1987, n. 37.)

Since money is an instrument that is basically social, the Social Credit doctrine proposes that money be issued by society, and not by private bankers for their own profit:

“There are certain categories of goods for which one can maintain with reason that they must be reserved to the collectivity when they come to confer such an economic power that it cannot, without danger to the common good, be left to the care of private individuals.” (Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.)

Unrepayable debts

The obligation of paying back to the banker money which he did not create, brings about unrepayable debts:

“Debtor countries, in fact, find themselves caught in a vicious circle. In order to pay back their debts, they are obliged to transfer ever greater amounts of money outside the country. These are resources which should have been available for internal purposes and investment and therefore for their own development.

“Debt servicing cannot be met at the price of the asphyxiation of a country's economy, and no government can morally demand of its people privations incompatible with human dignity... With the Gospel as the source of inspiration, other types of action could also be contemplated such as granting extensions, partial or even total remission of debts... In certain cases, the creditor States could convert the loans into grants.

“The Church restates the priority to be granted to people and their needs, above and beyond the constraints and financial mechanisms often advanced as the only imperatives.” (An Ethical Approach to the International Debt Question, Pontifical Justice and Peace Commission, Dec. 27, 1986.)

“It is not right to demand or expect payment when the effect would be the imposition of political choices leading to hunger and despair for entire peoples. It cannot be expected that the debts which have been contracted should be paid at the price of unbearable sacrifices. In such cases it is necessary to find — as in fact is partly happening — ways to lighten, defer or even cancel the debt, compatible with the fundamental right of peoples to subsistence and progress.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Centesimus Annus, May 1, 1991, n. 35.)

The imperialism of money

The Church condemns both liberal capitalism and Marxist communism. Note that it is not capitalism in itself that the Church condemns, but “liberal capitalism”, “a type of capitalism”. For the Church makes a distinction, in capitalism, between the producing system and “the calamitous system that accompanies it,” the financial system:

“This unchecked liberalism led to dictatorship rightly denounced by Pope Pius XI as producing `the international imperialism of money'. One cannot condemn such abuses too strongly, because — let us again recall solemnly — the economy should be at the service of man. But if it is true that a type of capitalism has been the source of excessive suffering, injustices and fratricidal conflicts whose effects still persist, it would be wrong to attribute to industrialization itself evils that belong to the calamitous system that accompanied it. On the contrary, one must recognize in all justice the irreplaceable contribution made by the organization and the growth of industry to the task of development.” (Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio on the development of peoples, March 26, 1967, n. 26.)

Private property

The faults the Popes find in present capitalism do not derive from its nature (private property, free enterprise), but from the financial system it uses, a financial system that dominates instead of serving, a financial system that vitiates capitalism. Far from wishing the disappearance of private property, the Popes rather wish its widespread diffusion to all:

“The dignity of the human person necessarily requires the right of using external goods in order to live according to the right norm of nature. And to this corresponds a most serious obligation, which requires that, so far as possible, there be given to all an opportunity of possessing private property... Therefore it is necessary to modify economic and social life so that the way is made easier for widespread private possession of such things as durable goods, homes, gardens, tools requisite for artisan enterprises and family-type farms, investments in enterprises of medium or large size.” (John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, nn.114-115.)

Everyone a capitalist

It would be possible for everyone to be a real “capitalist” and to have access to earthly goods with the Social Credit dividend, which would apply in concrete terms this other basic principle of the Church's social doctrine: the goods of this world are intended for all men:

“God intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of every human being and people. Thus, as all men follow justice and unite in charity, created goods should abound for them on a reasonable basis.” (Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Church Gaudium et Spes, n. 69.)

The Social Credit dividend is based on two things: the inheritance of natural resources, and the inventions from past generations:

“Through his work man enters into two inheritances: the inheritance of what is given to the whole of humanity in the resources of nature, and the inheritance of what others have already developed on the basis of those resources, primarily by developing technology, that is to say, by producing a whole collection of increasingly perfect instruments for work. In working, man also “enters into the labor of others”. (John Paul II, Encyclical Laborem Exercens on human work, Sept. 15, 1981, n. 13.)

The machine: an ally or enemy of man?

In the present system, only those who are employed in production can get an income, which is distributed in the form of wages and salaries. The income is tied to employment. But this is contrary to the facts, since, thanks to new inventions, technology, progress, there is less and less need for human labour, workers, to produce goods: it is computers, robots, that do the job in our place.

Is technology an evil? Should we rise up and destroy the machines because they take our jobs? No, if the work can be done by the machine, that is just great; it will allow man to give his free time over to other activities, free activities, activities of his own choosing. But all of this, provided he is given an income to replace the salary he lost with the installation of the machine, of the robot; otherwise, the machine, which should be the ally of man, will become his enemy, since it deprives him of his income, and prevents him from living:

“Technology has contributed so much to the well-being of humanity; it has done so much to uplift the human condition, to serve humanity, and to facilitate and perfect its work. And yet at times technology cannot decide the full measure of its own allegiance: whether it is for humanity or against it... For this reason my appeal goes to all concerned... to everyone who can make a contribution toward ensuring that the technology which has done so much to build Toronto and all Canada will truly serve every man, woman and child throughout this land and the whole world.” (John Paul II, homily in Toronto, Canada, September 15, 1984.)

Full employment is materialistic

But if one wants to persist in keeping everyone, men and women alike, employed in production, even though the production to meet basic needs is already made with less and less human labour on top of that, then new jobs, which are completely useless, must be created. And in order to justify these useless jobs, new artificial needs must be created, through an avalanche of advertisements, so that people will buy products they do not really need. This is what is called “consumerism”.

Likewise, products will be manufactured to last as short a time as possible, in the aim of selling more of them and making more money, which brings about an unnecessary waste of natural resources, and also the destruction of the environment. Also, one will persist in maintaining jobs that require no creative efforts whatever, jobs that require only mechanical efforts, jobs that could well be done by machines, jobs where the employee has no chance of developing his personality. But, however mind-destroying this job is, it is the condition for the worker to obtain money, the licence to live.

Thus, for him and a multitude of wage-earners, the meaning of their jobs comes down to this: they go to work to get the cash to buy the food to get the strength to go to work to get the cash to buy the food to get the strength to go to work... and so on, until retiring age, if they do not die before. Here is a meaningless life, where nothing differentiates man from an animal.

Free activities

What differentiates man from an animal is precisely that man has not only material needs, but also cultural and spiritual needs. As Jesus said in the Gospel: “Not on bread alone does man live, but in every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3.) So to force man to spend all his time in providing for his material needs is a materialistic philosophy, since it denies that man has also a spiritual dimension and spiritual needs.

But, then, if man is not employed in a paid job, what will he do with his spare time? He will spend it on free activities, activities of his own choosing. It is precisely in his leisure time that man can really develop his personality, develop the talents that God gave him, and use them advisedly.

Moreover, it is during their leisure time that a man and a woman can take care of their religious, social, and family duties: raising their family, practising their Faith (to know, love, and serve God), and help their brethren. Raising children is the most important job in the world. Yet because the mother, who stays at home to raise her children, receives no salary, many will say that she does nothing, that she does not work!

To be freed from the necessity of working to produce the necessities of life does not presume growing idleness. It simply means that the individual would be placed in the position where he could participate in the type of activity which appeals to him. Under a Social Credit system, there would be a flowering of creative activity. For example, the greatest inventions, the best works of art, have been made during leisure time. As C. H. Douglas said:

“Most people prefer to be employed, but on things they like rather than on the things they don't like to be employed upon. The proposals of Social Credit are in no sense intended to produce a nation of idlers... Social Credit would allow people to allocate themselves to those jobs to which they are suited. A job you do well is a job you like, and a job you like is a job you do well.”

Poverty amidst plenty

God put on earth all that is needed to feed everyone. But because of the lack of money, goods cannot meet the hungry; mountains of goods pile up in front of millions of starving people. It is the paradox of poverty amidst plenty:

“It is a cruel paradox that many of you who could be engaged in the production of food are in financial distress here, while at the same time hunger, chronic malnutrition and the threat of starvation afflict millions of people elsewhere in the world.” (John Paul II to the fishermen of St. John's, Newfoundland, Sept. 12, 1984.)

“No more hunger, hunger never again! Ladies and gentlemen, this objective can be achieved. The threat of starvation and the weight of malnutrition are not an inescapable fate. Nature is not, in this crisis, unfaithful to man. According to a generally accepted opinion, while 50% of cultivable land is not yet developed, a great scandal catches the eye from the huge amount of surplus food that certain countries periodically destroy for lack of a sound economy which could have ensured a useful consumption of this food.

“Here we are broaching the paradox of the present situation: Mankind has an incomparable control over the universe; it possesses instruments capable of exploiting its natural resources at full capacity. Will the owners of these instruments stay paralyzed in front of the absurdity of a situation where the wealth of a few would tolerate the persistent extreme poverty of many?... One cannot reach such a situation without having committed serious errors of orientation, be it sometimes through negligence or omission; it is high time one discovered how the mechanisms are defective, so as to correct, put the whole situation right.” (Paul VI at the World Conference of Food, Rome, Nov. 9, 1974.)

“It is obvious that a fundamental defect, or rather a series of defects, indeed a defective machinery is at the root of contemporary economics and materialistic civilization, which does not allow the human family to break free from such radically unjust situations.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Dives in Misericordia on Divine Mercy, November 30, 1980, n. 11.)

“So widespread is this phenomenon (poverty amidst plenty) that it brings into question the financial, monetary, production and commercial mechanisms that, resting on various political pressures, support the world economy. These are proving incapable either of remedying the unjust social conditions inherited from the past or of dealing with the urgent challenges and ethical demands of the present... We have before us here a great drama that can leave nobody indifferent.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, n. 16.)

Reforming the financial system

The Pope denounces the tight-money dictatorship, and calls for a reform of the financial and economic systems, the establishment of an economic system at the service of man:

“Again, I want to tackle a very delicate and painful issue. I mean the anguish of the authorities of several countries, who do not know how to cope with the fearful problem of indebtedness... A structural reform of the world financial system is, without doubt, one of the most urgent and necessary initiatives.” (John Paul II, Message to the 6th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Geneva, September 26, 1985.)

“One must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 16.)

“I appeal to those in positions of responsibility, and to all involved, to work together to find appropriate solutions to the problems at hand, including a restructuring of the economy, so that human needs be put before mere financial gain.” (John Paul II to the fishermen of St. John's, Newfoundland, Sept. 12, 1984.)

“An essential condition is to provide the economy with a human meaning and logic. It is necessary to free the various fields of existence from the dominion of subjugating economism. Economic requirements must be put in their right place and a multiform social fabric must be created, which will prevent standardization. No one is dispensed from collaborating in this task... Christians, wherever you are, assume your share of responsibility in this immense effort for the human restructuring of the city. Faith makes it a duty for you.” (John Paul II to the workers of Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 3, 1980.)

The duty of every Christian

It is indeed a duty and an obligation for every Christian to work for the establishment of justice and of a better economic system:

“Anyone wishing to renounce the difficult yet noble task of improving the lot of man in his totality, and of all people, with the excuse that the struggle is difficult and that constant effort is required, or simply because of the experience of defeat and the need to begin again, that person would be betraying the will of God the Creator.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 30.)

“Such a task is not an impossible one. The principle of solidarity, in a wide sense, must inspire the effective search for appropriate institutions and mechanisms... This difficult road of the indispensable transformations of the structures of economic life is one on which it will not be easy to go forward without the intervention of a true conversion of mind, will and heart. The task requires resolute commitments by individuals and peoples that are free and linked in solidarity.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, n. 16.)

“These attitudes and «structures of sin» are only conquered — presupposing the help of divine grace — by a diametrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one's neighbour...” (John Paul II, Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 38.)


“All of you who have heard the appeal of suffering peoples, all of you who are working to answer their cries, you are the apostles of a development which is good and genuine, which is not wealth that is self-centered and sought for its own sake, but rather an economy which is put at the service of man, the bread which is daily distributed to all, as a source of brotherhood and a sign of providence.” (Paul VI, Encyclical Populorum Progressio, n. 86.)

Principles and implementation

Some will say that the Popes never publicly approved Social Credit. In fact, the Popes will never approve officially any economic system, since it is not part of their mission: they do not give technical solutions, but only set up the principles upon which any economic system that is truly at the service of the human person must be based. The Popes leave the faithful free to apply the system that would implement these principles in the best way.

To our knowledge, no other solution than Social Credit would apply the social doctrine of the Church so perfectly. That is why Louis Even, a great Catholic gifted with an extraordinary logical mind, did not hesitate to bring out the links between Social Credit and the Church's social doctrine.

Another one who was convinced that Social Credit is applied Christianity, that it would apply wonderfully the Church's teachings on social justice, is Father Peter Coffey, a Doctor in Philosophy and a professor at Maynooth College, Ireland. He wrote the following to a Canadian Jesuit, Father Richard, in March, 1932:

“The difficulties raised by your questions can be met only by the reform of the financial system of capitalism along the lines suggested by Major Douglas and the Social Credit school of credit reform. It is the accepted financing system that is at the root of the evils of capitalism. The accuracy of the analysis carried out by Douglas has never been refuted. I believe that, with their famous price-regulation formula, the Douglas reform proposals are the only reform that will go to the root of the evil...”

In 1939, the Bishops of the Province of Quebec, in Canada, had entrusted a commission of nine theologians to examine the Social Credit doctrine in the eyes of the Church's social doctrine, to determine if Social Credit was tainted with socialism or communism. The theologians concluded that there was nothing in the Social Credit doctrine contrary to the teachings of the Church, and that any Catholic was free to support it without danger. (See Appendix A for the full text of this study of the nine theologians.)

The Financiers were not pleased with this report of the theologians, and in 1950, a group of businessmen asked a Bishop of Quebec (out of respect for his memory, we won't mention his name) to go to Rome and get from Pope Pius XII a condemnation of Social Credit. Back to Quebec, this Bishop said to the businessmen: “If you want to get a condemnation of Social Credit, it is not to Rome that you must go. Pius XII said to me:`Social Credit would create, in the world, a climate that would allow the blossoming of family and Christianity'.”

All those who thirst for justice should therefore start to study and spread Social Credit, by soliciting subscriptions to the Michael Journal!

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About the Author

Alain Pilote

Alain Pilote

Alain Pilote has been the editor of the English edition of MICHAEL for several years. Twice a year we organize a week of study of the social doctrine of the Church and its application and Mr. Pilote is the instructor during these sessions.