Action Alert!

For This We Stand

by Mons. L. G. Ligutti


An address delivered on Farmers' Day of the National Convention of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin, October 14, 1946. Ligutti stresses the goals of the NCRLC, that farming should be more scientific, but not highly impersonal industrial farming. The family, the person, society comes first.

Publisher & Date

National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC), 1946

Farming is a noble Christian profession; noble because it is a partnership with God, noble because it implies ennobling physical labor, noble because it requires intelligence for planning and executing its work. (Ligutti)

Of all the occupations by which a living is made none is better than agriculture, none more delightful, none more becoming to the dignity of a free man. (Cicero)

Ownership of Productive Property

Proper aims and methods in farming make possible the acquisition of at least a modicum of security through ownership of productive property, and this in turn favorably affects the human personality. Security must possess a stable base; high wages, the so-called sixty million jobs, or even social security by law are not so solid and secure a base for man's welfare as is ownership of productive property. These social measures are contingent upon too many conditions, chains of circumstances, political expediencies, and the vagaries of so-called free economic forces. The record of fading ownership even in the country but especially in the large cities is indicative of the results of industrialization, urbanization, and "social security."

Man, the Family, and the Community

It is most important to realize that instability and insecurity do seriously affect the development of human personality; and the family is closely allied to human personality. In the words of Pius XII, "Space, light, air, and property are necessary for the family." The family is a social and economic unit. The ideal living space is the farm home where a king, queen, and subjects live together, work together, play together, and pray together. The hour-to-hour life of the family determines the habits and virtues it will possess.

The Catholic family in the United States is suffering chiefly because of its predominantly urban character. Scattered and fragmentary reports on the healthy and exemplary situation of some Catholic families throughout the nation need not lead us into a complacent state of pleasing quietude and somnolence. We have too few Catholic families on the land. We must increase their number or we shall write "exit" to many of our proud boasts.

The National Catholic Rural Life Conference advocates the giving of the best possible care to our Catholic families living on the land. It believes in keeping on the land many of the young Catholic families whom we are losing now from the land. We think that we could settle more Catholic families on the land especially on a part-time basis particularly in the suburbs of our large industrial cities. We advocate the formation of Catholic land associations.

The stability of ownership is also the basis upon which the life of a parish is built. Parish life is not a series of well-scheduled meetings or largely attended Masses and novenas. The dialogue Mass is most important but does not constitute the whole picture of parish life and spirit. There is something intangible about a real parish that makes its life an important channel for the development of human personality. The spiritual unity begotten of Christian social equality and the stability of ownership that makes for neighborliness and a feeling of kinship in a parish are the bases on which men learn to be responsible for and interested in their own development and the welfare of others. Real parish life becomes a strong, visible manifestation of the Mystical Body of Christ. There is an interesting traditional word used in the Fox River Valley: it is "Congregation" or "Our Congregation." It relates to the flock and to the Shepherd: "I know mine and mine know me." That is a real parish.

Persons and families form communities. Communities help develop families and persons, build up traditions, foster progress, develop civilization and cultures. We have in the United States approximately 78,177 small towns and villages with a population of less than 2,500 each. There lies America's strength and there is the defense against the atomic bomb.

Rights and Duties of the Rural People

The farmer, his family, the rural parish, the small town and community must be the first to recognize the fundamental basic facts upon which the National Catholic Rural Life Conference takes its stand. If they do not recognize the facts and appreciate them, how can the world be expected to acknowledge them? It is most important, then, that the rural population study and understand its rights and duties. These are some of the most important ones:

The right to RELIGIOUS CARE and the duty to cooperate with the efforts of the Church go hand in hand. The rural church is the nursery of the city church. Any church that is weak in the countryside will eventually fade out of any important position it may possess in the city. The losses in human beings and wealth from the countryside have impoverished the cross-road churches. There they stand now unkempt and forlorn with broken windows and overturned tombstones amidst rubbish and tall brown grasses. The city church must assist the rural church—both out of justice and out of charity.

The farmer and his family have a right to be preserved from such EDUCATION, Catholic or public, which will lead children to the city or to inefficient and unappreciative rural living. The farm youth must desire and exercise the right to learn the duties and responsibilities of the stewards of the soil.

A just, equitable, and stable RETURN for the effort, investment, training required, and contribution made to society is due to the farmer. The reward should be neither too much nor too little. The farmer with a high-price complex works against his own interest. The farmer who wants $2.00 per hour, a six-hour day, and a five-day week puts himself on the low-work level of the mass-production, assembly-line proletarian. As true friends of the farmer we might well advocate less money but better living for the farm family. That is a very possible situation, for a better living cannot be bought; it must be created, even with a meager income. More money and higher prices may not mean better living even though it means more spending.

We must demand JUSTICE FOR THE FARM LABORER, native or imported. That means living family wages, decent housing, and at least the minimum Christian requirements for health and sanitation. The family-type farmer who pays low wages to his hired he]p is cheating himself and his family. He brings his own reward to lower levels.

The farm family has the duty of SELF-SUFFICIENCY. It is a duty which is also a privilege, and it is paramount to the very existence of the family. It does not mean social aloofness and lack of cooperation. The family's food needs must be kept out of the tax and profit cycle. In 1938, for instance, the California Tax Payers Association listed some hidden, indirect taxes as follows: on every loaf of bread there were 52 hidden taxes: on canned fruit, 32 hidden taxes: on beef, 127; and on soap, 154. Let the rural family raise the food it needs and a little extra for the pastor. Well-planned self-sufficiency by and for the family strengthens the family itself. It makes it a real cooperative economic unit. The productive home furnishes the material means for the acquisition of family virtues. A filling station is not a home, and a trailer house is the most efficient anti-family instrumentality. No space, no light, no air, no property, no stability, no family. Virtue cannot be exercised in a vacuum. A home on inflated tires will deflate very quickly.

SELF HELP by the farmer on a COOPERATIVE basis in credit, production, and consumption goods will do more to give him a parity price than all government subsidies. Furthermore, if united, the farmers can furnish real competition to any cartel or corporation. We are not against profit enterprises but neither they nor cooperatives should have a monopoly. If you can do it yourselves do not yell for help. In the long run it will cost you more to have others do it for you. Instead, the farmers must learn how to work cooperatively to control the prices of products and of consumer goods.

The farmer should join a recognized FARM ORGANIZATION. In these days of pressure groups and "squeaky wheels getting the grease" it would be fatal for farmers to remain unorganized and voiceless. It is the farmer's duty to examine the tenets and legislative records of the various farm organizations, to consider their leadership, and then to join the one of his choice. Farmers should be active participants in the formation of the policies of the organizations; they should be workers for the cause; membership should be a give-and-take proposition.

The farmer as producer of those things most needed by all human beings must be conscious of his DUTY TO SOCIETY. Healthy soil, good farming practices, quality production not merely for profit but for service as well, should be his aims. As long as a just reward is actually paid to the producers it is positively unethical and certainly unsocial to hold back products when human beings need them. Farmers have obligations towards society. Before going on strike against the American public they should prove that prices of farm products are unjust. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference advocates more family-type farms where greed and money-earning would be less, and where a sense of the social obligations of justice and charity would be greater.

Another evident duty of the farmer is a CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE towards his fellow human beings the WORLD OVER. In the international field there must be no isolationalism, no selfishness. The voice of the farmer reached only across the rail fence a few years ago, but now it marches across the world faster than light. We are nearby-farmers (neighbors) to the world. During the war we spent destructive dollars. Now we are spending charitable dollars. They are gone never to return. We advocate investing constructive dollars on a world-wide basis. The world can be rebuilt, but not on the foundation stones of narrowness and selfishness. Sound investments can be made to pay back principal and interest. The farmers of America must exhibit an understanding and a sensible sympathy lest they should suffer bitterly in the days ahead.

The farmer and his family have duties as well as rights. If properly instructed, advised, and directed, in spite of other trends or passing fancies, the sensible farm family will follow the right path.

Duties of Leaders

It is not easy, however, to analyze dangerous philosophies and trends or to point out shoals and pitfalls parading under sugar-coated and attractive dress. Hence, it is up to the leaders who are trained in history, logic, economics, sociology, philosophy, and theology to analyze and refute on scientific grounds that which we know and recognize as erroneous and misleading. The daily fight of the farmer is against the world, the flesh, and the devil. But there is also a fight against "principalities and powers." They are dressed-up devils who frequent the best social circles. Let us bring them up on the stage and hear their pleas:

First, there are the soft-spoken "holier than thou" preservers of the status quo. In certain regions where a few have everything, and the many have nothing, we hear it said, "Let us preserve the existing order." That which they call order may be complete Christian disorder, with rampant injustices to the children of God on earth. Why preserve a so-called order when it is really a disorder?

Others will plead the cause of being conservative, of patching up here and there. They will point out the awful dangers of attempting something new. Fundamentally the real reason back of this rationalization is selfishness and vested interest. They stand to lose if there is a change.

Another group would have us believe that there must be a struggle between the various classes of people, that a revolution is the only way out. According to them the farmer must try to circumvent the city man, and the city slicker must, of necessity, take in the dumb farmer. Theologically that is a heresy—it is Marxism pure and simple. Original sin did leave in man tendencies to evil, but the graces of Redemption enable man to overcome these evil tendencies. The struggle of the classes is not a necessity because there are no classes in a Christian economy.

There are those too who place all of their confidence in a managerial society, but such a society, whether in a capitalistic system or in a collectivistic state, is based upon the error that only a few have the ability and possibility of organizing and managing human affairs. These spokesmen for the "principalities and powers" are denying the nobility of every human personality.

Let us see what the "trend economists" have to say. It goes about this way: "The trend is to bigger farms, to absentee landlordism, to mechanization and motorization of farming, regardless of the effects on man, family, and society. It's going in that direction—you can't stop it." If that is true no one should have been condemned at Nuremberg because the trend was quite one-sided in Hitler's Germany. They said, "You can't stop it; so let's join it." Were they right? If we have a free will we can and must stop trends which are contrary to the well-being of man, family and society.

At the opposite extreme we have our own spiritualists who very honestly but erroneously say that the Church is not interested in material things. Human beings have, however, the right to the enjoyment of the fruits of both Creation and Redemption. The use of both is needed for salvation. The supernatural must be built upon the natural and must co-exist with it in man. We cannot divorce the surroundings and the work of man and his family from their salvation process. There are moral implications in the operation of machines by human persons, and there are ethical questions connected with commercialized farming. Cracking a safe is a highly skilled and efficient economic enterprise. That does not set it outside the realm of ethics. How can a Christian claim that economics and ethics do not cross paths.

Still another "principality" presents his case: "We are interested in high quality and efficient production and the marketability of the products." That seems to be the sentiment voiced in pamphlets issued by the United States Chamber of Commerce. The greatest end-product of industry or agriculture is not the gadget or the vegetable. It is the human person who produces, the partner with God, the worker with Christ. If the producer's personality is debased or his family life is disrupted, what will it avail man and society to eat the loveliest of the fruits of the earth or enjoy sweet music from a box? Can real cultural values be said to arise from the debasement of human beings? Does the end ever justify the means?

Others relegate agriculture to a very remote corner or put it out of the picture as if it were very unimportant in this modern industrial era. In the famous Pabst postwar employment-award essays one looks in vain for any suggestion of the share agriculture may take in the reconstruction period. I do not want to be around when a robot butler will serve me a synthetic baked potato in the form of a pill. Agriculture is and will always be important.

In some of the essays published by the Journal of Agricultural Economics we find the following expression: "Promote human mobility in agriculture; get rid of excess labor resources in agriculture." That means dumping human beings into the cities, for where else can the dispossessed go? Shall we have urban "Grapes of Wrath" again? If these prize winners are expert economists, how about their figuring out a way for the landless and the homeless to possess the land and improve their social and economic status? Of course, the poor on the land are very poor, but if every sick person visited by a doctor is ordered to the cemetery, what must we think of our physicians? The same strain of proposals is sounded by land-grant-college reports and by Department of Agriculture booklets. A peasant came to the Barber of Seville. "I have a wart on my nose," said the peasant. "Cut off the nose," said the Barber of Seville. The Barber of Seville could be teaching agricultural economics as it is taught now.

A very universal and supposedly sacred belief is prevalent today: "Present land use and methods of agriculture have reached the acme of perfection." But have they? What about the soil? And what about the quality of food for human health?

This somewhat conceited notion of high efficiency is counter-balanced by the equally unscientific statement that a saturation point has been reached in land use within the United States, and the equally inaccurate statement that the world is too small for the human beings living now. Two books published lately try to prove such a thesis: Population Roads to War and Peace by Burch and Pendell and The World's Hunger by Pearson and Harper. We need to prove on scientific and accurate grounds the error of their assertions. But, mind you, our immigration policy, our handling of the displaced persons problem, our failure to solve the problem of a real population pressure in certain portions of Europe is based upon these inaccurate and unscientific statements.

Need I add more to this imposing list of fundamental errors which need analyzing and refuting? There are social minded people and leaders, and even farm organizations, who are most praiseworthy in what they advocate but are consistently illogical in their actions and legislative programs. Add for good measure the apathy of the righteous and your litany of "powers and principalities" is almost complete; so the need for leaders to guide the thought in the right channels is clear.

For This We Stand

It is our contention that there is room for more full-time family-type farmers on a highly efficient; high-quality, scientific, remunerative basis. There is no room for more farmers if farming is continued along present trends. We believe that farming should be more scientific, that it should employ the latest inventions and the best producing, processing, and marketing practices. But through it all, FARMING MUST SUBJECT ITS STEPS TO THE TEST OF HUMAN WELFARE—persons, family, and society—not merely as soulless economic units, not as material, mechanical impersonalities, but as men gifted with body and soul, created by God, a little less than the angels, redeemed by Christ, destined for Heaven.

© 1946, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 4625 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50310.

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