A speech given
by Pope Pius XII to to the delegates at the Convention of the National
Confederation of Farm Owner-Operators in Rome on November 15, 1946
We always experience particular pleasure in welcoming representatives
of occupations that make up the economic and social life of a people.
We have added satisfaction on this occasion in greeting you, beloved
sons, delegates of a vast National Confederation, comprised of a large
number of owner-operator farmers. The lands that you cultivate are the
"sweet fields," "dulcia arva," so dear to the gentle Vergil (Eclogue,
1, 3). They are the lands of Italy, whose perennial and life-giving
healthfulness, whose fertile fields, sunny hills, and shadowy woods,
whose generous vines and olive trees, whose sleek flocks were exalted
by Pliny (Nat. Hist. 1. III, 5, n. 41). "O fortunatos nimium, sua si
bona norint, agricolas!" (Verg., Georg. II, 458-459). "O more than
happy husbandmen," exclaimed the great poet of the country, "did they
but know their blessings!" Hence We could not let this occasion pass
without speaking some word of encouragement and exhortation, especially
since we are all well aware how much the moral recovery of our whole
people depends on a class of farmers socially sound and religiously
Contact with Nature
More than anyone else. you live in continual contact with nature. It is
actual contact, since your lives are lived in places still remote from
the excesses of an artificial civilization. Under the sun of the
Heavenly Father your lives are dedicated to bringing forth from the
depths of the earth the abundant riches which His hand has hidden there
for you. Your contact with Mother Earth has also a deep social
significance, because your families are not merely consumer-communities
but also and especially producer-communities.2
Rooted in the Family
Your lives are rooted in the family—universally, deeply, and
completely; consequently, they conform very closely to nature. In this
fact lies your economic strength and your ability to withstand
adversity in critical times. Your being so strongly rooted in the
family constitutes the importance of your contribution to the correct
development of the private and public order of society. You are called
upon for this reason to perform an indispensable function as source and
defense of a stainless moral and religious life. For the land is a kind
of nursery which supplies men, sound in soul and body, for all
occupations, for the Church, and for the State.3
So much the more, then, must great care be taken to preserve for the
nation the essential elements of what might be called genuine rural
culture. We must preserve the qualities of industriousness, simple and
honest living, respect for authority, especially for parental
authority, love of country, and loyalty to traditions which have proved
a source of good throughout the centuries. We must preserve readiness
to aid one another within the family circle and amongst families, from
home to home. All of these qualities we must have animated with a true
religious spirit, for without such a spirit these very virtues tend to
degenerate into unbridled greed for profit. May the fear of God and
faith in God, a faith which finds daily expression in prayers recited
together by the whole family, sustain and guide the life of the workers
of the fields. Let the Church remain the heart of the village, the
shrine of the people. Sunday after Sunday, may it gather the faithful,
true to the sacred traditions of their ancestors. There may they lift
their minds above material things to the praise and service of God and
to supplication for the strength to think and live in a truly Christian
manner during the coming week.4
Farming has essentially a family character and is, therefore, very
important to the social and economic prosperity of the whole people. In
consequence, the tiller of the soil has a special right to a proper
reward from his labor. During the last century and even at the present
time there have been discouraging examples of attempts to sacrifice
farming to other ends. If one is looking for the highest and most
rapidly increasing national economy or for the cheapest possible
provisioning of the nation with farm products, there will be, in either
case, a temptation to sacrifice the farming enterprise.5
Duties to Soil and
It devolves upon you, therefore, to demonstrate that on account of its
family character farming does not exclude the advantages of other kinds
of business, and, furthermore, that it avoids their evils. Be
adaptable, attentive, and active stewards of your native soil, which is
to be used but never exploited. Let it be seen that you are thinking,
thrifty men, open to progress, men who courageously employ your own and
others' capital to help and supplement your labor, provided that such
expenditure does not endanger the future of your families. Show that
you are honest in your sales, that you are not greedily shrewd at the
expense of the public, and that you are well-disposed buyers in your
We know well how often it is possible to fall short of this ideal.
Notwithstanding uprightness of intention and dignity of conduct upon
which many farmers may pride themselves, it is none the less true that
the present day demands great firmness of principle and strength of
will. You must prefer to earn a living in the sweat of your brow rather
than succumb to the diabolical temptation of easy gain, which would
take advantage of the dire need of a neighbor.6
Education for Rural
Another exhibition of selfishness frequently manifests itself through
the fault of parents who put their children to work too early in life
to the neglect of their spiritual formation, their education, their
scholastic instruction, and their special occupational training. There
is no more mistaken idea than the notion that the man who tills the
soil does not need a serious and adequate education to enable him to
perform the varied duties of the season in timely fashion.7
Sin, the Land, and
Sin did, in truth, render labor in the fields burdensome, but it was
not sin that introduced such labor into the world. Before there was any
sin, "God gave man the earth for his cultivation as the most beautiful
and honorable occupation in the natural order." In the wake of the
original sin of our first parents, all the actual sins of humanity have
caused the curse to weigh upon the earth with increasing heaviness. The
soil has suffered successive scourges of every kind-floods,
earthquakes, pestilence, devastating wars, and land mines. In some
places it has become sterile, barren, and unwholesome, and has refused
to yield to man its hidden treasures. The earth is a huge wounded
creature; she is ill. Bending over her, not as a slave over the clod,
but as the physician over a prostrate sufferer, the tiller lovingly
showers on her his care. But love, for all that it is so necessary, is
not enough. To know nature, to know, so to speak, the temperament of
one's own piece of land, sometimes so different from that of the very
next plot; to be able to discover the germs that spoil it, the rodents
that would burrow beneath it, the worms that would eat its fruits, the
weeds that would infest its crops; to determine what elements it lacks
and to choose the successive plantings that will enrich it even while
it rests—these and so many other things require wide and varied
knowledge and information.8
Besides all this, and quite apart from the rehabilitation made
necessary by the war, in many places the land demands that careful and
well-planned preliminary measures be taken before any reform can be
accomplished in the matter of land ownership and farm contracts.
Without such measures, improvised reform, as history and experience
teach us, would develop into sheer demagoguery. Therefore, far from
being beneficial, it would be both useless and dangerous, particularly
today when humanity must still fear for its daily bread. Quite often in
times past, the incoherent, deceptive vaunting of unprincipled orators
has made rural populations the unwitting victims of exploitation and
slaves to a domination from which they would have instinctively shrunk.9
City or Country
Because the farmer's life is so close to nature and based so
substantially upon the family, certain prevalent types of injustice
show up the more flagrantly in relation to that life. Such injustice
finds its most evident expression in the conflict between city and
country. What is the reason for this conflict, which, unfortunately, is
especially characteristic of our own time?
Modern cities, with their constant growth and great concentration of
inhabitants, are the typical product of the control wielded over
economic life and the very life of man by the interests of large
capital. As Our glorious Predecessor, Pius XI, has so effectively shown
in his Encyclical, "Quadragesimo Anno," it happens too often that human
needs do not, in accordance with their natural and objective
importance, rule economic life and the use of capital. On the contrary,
capital and its desire for gain determine what the needs of man should
be and to what extent they are to be satisfied. Therefore, it is not
human labor in the service of the common welfare that attracts capital
to it and presses it into its service. Rather, capital tosses labor and
man himself here and there like a ball in a game. If the inhabitant of
the city suffers from this unnatural state of affairs, so much the more
is it contrary to the very essence of the farmer's life.
Notwithstanding all his difficulties, the tiller of the soil still
represents the natural order of things willed by God. The farmer knows
that man, by his labor, is to control material things; that material
things are not to control man.10
The Flight to the
This, then, is the deep-seated cause of the modern conflict between
city and country; each viewpoint produces altogether different men. The
difference of viewpoints becomes all the more pronounced the more
capital, having abdicated its noble mission to promote the good of all
groups in society, penetrates the farmer's world or otherwise involves
it in its evils. It glitters its gold and a life of pleasure before the
dazzled eyes of the farm-worker to lure him from his land to the city
where he may squander his hard-won savings. The city usually holds
nothing for him but disillusionment; often he loses his health, his
strength, his happiness, his honor, and his very soul there.
After the land has been so abandoned, capital hastens to make it its
own; the land then becomes no longer the object of love but of cold
exploitation. Generous nurse of the city as well as of the country; it
is made to produce only for speculation—while the people suffer hunger;
while the farmer, burdening himself with debts, slowly approaches ruin;
while the national economy becomes exhausted from paying high prices
for the provisions it is forced to import from abroad. This perversion
of private rural property is seriously harmful. The new ownership has
no love or concern for the plot that so many generations had lovingly
tilled, and is heartless towards the families who till it and dwell
upon it now. Private ownership, even though it sometimes leads to
exploitation, is not, however, the cause of this perversion. Even in
those instances where the State completely arrogates capital and the
means of production to itself, industrial interests and foreign trade,
characteristic of the city, have the upper hand. The real tiller of the
soil then suffers even more. In any case, the fundamental truth
consistently maintained by the social teaching of the Church is
violated. The Church teaches that the whole economy of the people is
organic and that all the productive capacities of national territory
should be developed in healthy proportion. The conflict between country
and city would never have become so great if this fundamental truth had
To Each His Share
You farmers certainly do not desire any such conflict; you want every
part of the national economy to have its share; however, you also want
to keep your share. Therefore, you must have the help of sensible
political planning and sound legislation. But your principal help must
came from yourselves, from your cooperative unions, especially from
your credit unions. Perhaps, then, the recovery of the whole economy
may come from the field of agriculture.13
A Community of Labor
And finally a word about labor. You tillers of the soil form within
your families a community of labor. You and your fellow-members and
associates also form another community of labor. Finally, you desire to
form with all the other occupational groups a great community of labor.
This is in keeping with what has been ordained by God and nature. This
is the true Catholic concept of labor. Work unites all men in common
service to the needs of the people and in a unified effort towards
perfection of self in honor of the Creator and Redeemer. In any case,
remain firm in regarding your labor from the point of view of its
essential value. You and your families are contributing to the public
welfare; such labor protects your fundamental right to an income
sufficient to maintain you in accordance with your dignity and cultural
needs as men. It implies also your recognition of the necessity of
uniting with all other occupational groups who labor for the various
needs of society. Your labor therefore, embodies your support of the
principles of social peace.14
A Parting Blessing
With all Our heart, dear sons, We invoke heaven's choicest blessings on
you and on your families. The Church has always blessed you in a
particular manner, and in many ways has brought your working year into
her liturgical year. We invoke these blessings upon the work of your
hands, from which the holy altar of God receives the bread and wine.
May the Lord give you, in the words of Holy Scripture, "the dew of
heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, abundance of corn and wine!"
(Gen., XXVII:28) May your lands, like the fertile Etruscan fields
between Fiesole and Arezzo, so greatly admired by Livy, "be rich in
grain and cattle and an abundance of all things," "frumenti ac pecoris
et omnium copia rerum opulenti" (Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 1. XXII, cap.
3). With these sentiments and these wishes We impart to you and to all
those dear to you Our paternal Apostolic Blessing.
POPE LEO XIII SPEAKS
FIFTY-FIVE YEARS EARLIER
Values of Land Ownership
". . . If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining
a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast
wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective
classes will be brought nearer to one another. A further consequence
will result in the greater abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men
always work harder and more readily when they work on that which
belongs to them, nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in
response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an
abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to
them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of
the earth and to the wealth of the community is self-evident. And a
third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country
in which they were born; for no one would exchange his country for a
foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and
happy life . . ."
Leo XIII, "Rerum Novarum," May 15, 1891.
1. Catholic Rural Life Objectives First Series: O'Hara, Most Rev. Edwin
V., "A Spiritual and Material Mission to Rural America," pp. 3-6.
LaFarge, John, S.J., "The Church and Rural Welfare," pp. 37-41. Bishop,
W. Howard, "Agrarianism, the Basis of the New Order," pp. 49-52. Third
Series: Ciognani, Most Rev. Amleto Giovanni, "Address of the Apostolic
Delegate," pp. 9-11. Muench, Most Rev. Aloisius J., "The Catholic
Church and Rural Welfare," pp.15-19. Sheen, Fulton J., "Challenge to
Our Democracy," pp. 99-102. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter VIII, The
Rural Pastorate, pp. 35-38. Chapter IX, Rural Church Expansion," pp.
39-42. Agricultural Handbook for Rural Pastors and Laymen, Thomas E.
Howard, pp. 44-52. For This We Stand, L. G. Ligutti. Standing on Both
Feet, Patrick T. Quinlan. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p .1. The
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2. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Third Series: Cram, Ralph Adams,
"What Is a Free Man?" pp. 35-42. The Rural Homestead, Decade of
Homesteading, Patrick T. Quinlan. Pioneering Today, C. W. Couture.
Catholic Benedicta, Thomas C. Duffy, C.S.C.
3. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Kalven, Janet, "Woman
and Post-War Reconstruction," pp. 25-28. Salm, Martin L., My Family
Cooperative," pp. 77-82. First Series: Baker. O. E., "The Church and
the Rural Youth," pp. 7-29. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter I, "The
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Hynes. Population Trends, L. G. Ligutti. The Bottom of the Barrel, Can
We Survive, Patrick T. Quinlan. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p. 2.
4. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Berger, Leo, "Caring
for the Spiritually Underprivileged," pp. 57-59. Urbain, Joseph V.,
"Catholic Rural Communities of Tomorrow," pp. 52-56. Schimek, William,
"What Can the Rural Pastor Do?" pp. 60-64. Third Series: Boyle, Most
Rev. Hugh C., "The More Abundant Life," pp. 13-14. Pitt, F. Newton,
"Youth Problems in Rural Areas," pp. 53-59. Taylor, Carl C., "The
Restoration of Rural Culture," pp. 83-91. Treacy, John P., "Will Youth
Be Served?" pp. 103-109. Mother Mary of the Incarnate Word.
"Evangelizing the Disfranchised," pp.111-121. Willmann, Dorothy J.,
"Reading in the Rural Home," pp. 163. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter
VI, "Catholic Culture in Rural Society," pp. 26-28. Speaking of
Education Sister Helene, O.P.. "Rural Life and Art," pp. 13-17. Land
and Life for Woman Buckley, Mary Imelda, "Christian Culture and Rural
Life." pp. 1-4. Rogations at Maranatha, Josephine Drabek. Rural Life in
a Peaceful World, pp. 4, 13-16. Catholic Rural Life Songs.
5. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series: Walster H. L.,
"Backgrounds of Economic Distress in the Great Plains," pp.101-109
Rural Life in a Peaceful World, pp. 9-10.
6. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series: Schmiedeler, Edgar.
O.S.B., "The Status of the Laborer in Agriculture," pp.81-89. Kenkel.
Frederick P.; "The Economic Disfranchisement of the Share-Cropper," pp,
91-100. Manifesto of Rural Life Chapter XI, "Rural Social Charity,"
pp.47-51. Chapter XII, "The Farm Laborer," pp. 52-54. Rural Life in a
Peaceful World, p. 6.
7. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Muench Most Rev.
Aloisius J., "Education for Rural Life," pp. 19-21. First Series:
Johnson, George, "The Professional Preparation of Teachers for Catholic
Rural Schools," pp. 53-56. Second Series: Christensen Chris L., "The
Place of Youth in Agriculture and Rural Life"pp.19-26. Gillis, Michael
M., "The Adult Education Movement in Nova Scotia," pp. 73- 80. Third
Series: Johnson, George, "The Federal Government and Education for
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Planning," pp. 71-81. Strittmatter, Denis, O.S.B., "Vocational Training
for Colored Youth" pp 123-126. Byrne, Francis J., "Problems and
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18-22. Chapter V, "Rural Catholic Youth," pp. 23-25. Agricultural
Handbook for Rural Pastors and Laymen, Howard, pp.107-111. Speaking of
Education Nutting, Willis D., "What Parents Think," pp. 1-12 Sister M.
Samuel, O.S.F., "The Rural Elementary Teacher," pp.18-27. Sister M.
Mark, O.S.F., "The Rural High School Teacher," pp.34-39. A First Born
Grows Up, Olive M. Biddison. Cultural Erosion, L. G. Ligutti. A
Practical School of Agriculture, Paul Sacco. Dear Sister, Sister M.
Gerald, S.S.J. Training a Land Queen, E.L. Chicanot. Rural Life in a
Peaceful World, pp. 16-17.
8. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Jansen, Cornelius H.,
"The Role of the Scientist," pp. 22-24. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter
X, "Rural Health," pp. 43-46. Land and Life for Woman McNally,
Patricia, "Health and Rural Living," pp. 8-10. Drabek, Josephine,
"Nobility of Rural Work," pp. 10-13. Health from the Ground Up,
Jonathan Forman. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p. 17.
9. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Lissner Will, "Natural
Law and Human Rights," pp. 13-18. Taeusch, Carl, "What Can the Catholic
Church Do?" pp. 37-42. First Series: Williams, Michael, "The Green
Revolution," pp. 31-36. Rawe, John C., S.J., "Life, Liberty and the
Pursuit of Happiness in Agriculture," pp, 35-45. Miller, Raymond J..
"The 'Quadragesimo Anno' and the Reconstruction of Agriculture," pp.
47-56. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter XVI, "Rural Taxation." pp.66-70.
Agricultural Handbook for Rural Pastors and Laymen, Howard, pp.55-66;
127-141. Man's Relation to the Land.
10. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series Fichter, Joseph H.,
S.J., "A Comparative View of Agrarianism," pp.111-116. Speaking of
Education Sister M. Canice, S.S.N.D., "From Urban Teacher to Rural
Teacher," pp 28-33. Rural Life in a Peaceful World, p. 18.
11. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series: Baker, O E, "Will
More or Fewer People Live on the Land?" Third Series: Briefs, Goetz;
"The Back to the Land Idea," pp.93-98. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter
III, "Rural Settlement," pp.13-17. I Am a Country Pastor, Figures Speak
for Themselves, Patrick T. Quinlan.
12. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Second Series: Crowley, Francis M.
"Absentee Landlordism in a New Form," pp. 27-34. Manifesto on Rural
Life Chapter II, "Farm Ownership and Land Tenancy," pp.8-12. Chapter
XV, "Agriculture In the Economic Organism," pp. 63-65. Rural Life in a
Peaceful World, pp. 6-7.
13. Catholic Rural Life Objectives Fourth Series: Ryan, Most Rev.
Vincent J., "State and Reconstruction," pp. 29-36. First Series:
Kenkel, Frederick P "The Ethical and Religious Background of
Cooperation," pp. 43-47. Second Series: Michel, Virgil, O.S.B., "The
Cooperative Movement and the Liturgical Movement," pp. 13-18.
Schmiedeler, Edgar, O.S.B., "A Review of Rural Insecurity" pp. 43-52.
Matt Alphonse J., "Economic and Social Justice for the Negro, pp.
61-69. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter XIII, "Farmer Cooperatives,"
pp.55-59. Chapter XIV, "Rural Credit" pp. 60-62. Agricultural Handbook
for Rural Pastors and Laymen, Howard, pp.27-38, 69- 88- 91-102;
105-107; 115-122. Catholic Churchmen and Cooperatives. St. Paul to the
Galatian Farmers, Most Rev. Joseph H. Schlarman. Rural Life in a
Peaceful World, pp. 5; 10-13; 19-20.
14. Manifesto on Rural Life Chapter VII, "Rural Community," pp.29-34.
15. The Land and the Spirit, Most Rev. Peter W. Bartholome. Land and
Life for Woman Wickes, Mariette, "The Unfolding of the Christian
Seasons," pp. 4-8. Agriculture and the Liturgical Year, Benedict
Ehmann. St. Isidore—Patron of Farmers.