The concept of a corporate society had some appeal to traditionalists, and especially in France where Leon Harmel set up a mixed corporation of owners and workers in the early 1870s. It was an admirable, but paternalistic, venture accepted by the right-wing La Tour du Pin and Albert de Mun, who saw in it the germ of a corporate regime which would become the state. They failed to recognise that a corporate state would be a sham democracy in which a powerful few would suppress deviation in a spurious desire to bring about a harmonious society.12
Theoretical considerations aside, it was rather the conditions of the workers witnessed by Catholics such as Franz von Baader, professor of philosophy at Munich from 1826, that inspired some of them to respond. A foundry manager in England, he had observed at close quarters 'the abyss of the physical and moral misery of the Proletariat'. This led him to condemn Manchester laissez-faire liberalism and call for the workers' right to form trade unions. Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, bishop of Mainz since 1850, saw Manchester liberalism as 'a form of State absolutism masquerading under liberal phraseology and administered by a bourgeoisie whose guiding ideal was that of rampant egoism'. Leo looked on Ketteler as his 'great predecessor', and Rerum Novarum elaborated on Ketteler's idea that the worker question could only be solved by combining state intervention and workers' associations.13
The relationship of the church to the state had long been a vexed question wherever the church had to struggle to maintain its rights in the face of absolutist states. This was especially so in France since the Revolution, and in Germany where Bismarck with his Kulturkampf had attempted to Prussianise the church and make it subordinate to his will. Understandably any talk of welcoming, or fostering, state intervention was mistrusted in Catholic circles, arousing anxieties expressed forcibly at the Catholic Congress of Liege in 1890. Conversely, Henry Edward Manning, archbishop of Westminster since 1865, insistently taught that, when masters violated the rights of their workers who were unable to defend themselves, the state had to intervene or there would never be a just outcome for the working classes: he regarded it as self-evident that 'between a capitalist and a working man there can be no true freedom of contract' and that capital would remain invulnerable as long as the worker had to continue to labour at a price decided by the employer. The Congress timidly called for an international convention to limit working hours. Manning called
12 Calvez and Perrin, The church and social justice, pp. 404-6.
13 Molony, The worker question, pp. 18-20.
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