FOR THIS WE STAND
by The Right Reverend Monsignor L. G. Ligutti
The National Catholic Rural Life Conference
4625 Beaver Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50310-2199
An address delivered on Farmers' Day of the National Convention of the
National Catholic rural Life Conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin. October
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. "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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC RURAL LIFE CONFERENCE
Acts as a liaison between the eighty-seven RURAL LIFE DIRECTORS who
represent their dioceses and their religious communities and aids them in
the conduct of their local activities.
Organizes and sponsors RURAL INSTITUTES AND SCHOOLS.
Provides STUDY CLUB MATERIAL for the study clubs of seminaries, educational
institutions, and lay groups.
Through its SPEAKERS BUREAU provides speakers for deanery meetings of
priests, gatherings of sisters, and for Catholic and non-Catholic groups of
Promotes devotion to ST. ISIDORE, the Patron of the Farmers.
Has established a RURAL RETREAT BUREAU to recommend qualified retreat
masters and to suggest possible programs and schedules.
Handles a great amount of CORRESPONDENCE and lists references for further
reading in answer to letters requesting information concerning land
settlement, homesteading, and other rural subjects.
National and International Contacts
Through its own representatives, experts in the various fields, keeps in
constant contact with Catholic and non-Catholic groups interested in rural
life, cooperatives, sociology, economics, family, youth, press, art,
recreation and science.
Holds an annual National Convention to call world-wide attention to the
importance of its program to both the urban and the rural populations.
Contacts both state and federal officials of the government and maintains
friendly relations with them.
Watches legislation in rural matters and examines proposed laws in light of
Catholic Rural Life philosophy and also appears before committees of
Congress and contacts congressmen through Bishops, Rural Life Directors,
Maintains correspondence and exchanges speakers with other Catholic rural
groups throughout the world.
Provides a RURAL LIFE COLUMN for publication in seventy Catholic weekly
Distributes FREE LITERATURE which helps to promote the principles of
Prepares and sells at cost PAMPHLETS AND FOLDERS which serve to encourage a
better family way of living and the ownership of private property in
accordance with the teachings of the encyclicals.
Edits LAND AND HOME, the official quarterly publication, in an effort to
make known to the Catholic and non-Catholic world the sound principles of
THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC RURAL LIFE CONFERENCE
4625 Beaver Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50310-2199