Pope Benedict XVI has stated: “The rural family must regain its place at the heart of the social order.”
“The Home is the Social Defence of Liberty and the Homestead is the Economic Defence of the Home.” Father McNabb, Dominican, Founding Father of CLM
Karyn asked asked me what I think about the Catholic Land Movement (CLM). I doubt
he she intended this Wall of Text response, but I kept reading and learning and writing. Hopefully it is useful. I had never heard of this concept, the group or its history. However it sounded very interesting and so I’ve done some reading (online and Flee to the Fields) and wanted to share some of what I found with this audience. The above quote from Father McNabb is very, very powerful. The Home is the social defense of Liberty and Tradition. This is why Progressives who want to “fundamentally change the society” so ruthlessly attack the traditional patriarchal family structure. Turn on the idiot box and you will see men in general portrayed as weak, fathers in particular are worthless, large families are evil. They intrude upon your home life through governmental schools which indoctrinate children into the progressive secular theology, T.V. and other Mass Media, and their promotion of single-mother homes. See what liberalism has down to the community of Americans of African descent, 70% + of children born without a father in the home, but the State, oh yes, the State is involved in the home. See your future, know your fate. The second line the Homestead is the Economic Defense of the home. If the family can independently make what it needs to live comfortably, then suddenly the entire balance of power between gross multinational off-shoring corporations, intrusive socialist government and the two big to fail banks which fund both is restructured.
There are many elements of the CLM that dove tail in nicely with the Redoubt political migration movements in general and the American Redoubt movement in particular. From what I can understand here is a quick history of the Catholic Land Movement (CLM). If I have this wrong, please correct me in the comments below. Like the American Redoubt is a form of political and religious migration the CLM is an religious and economical migration. CLM proposes both an economic model called distributism and a form of back-to-the-land model to implement the economic model.
First before we get into it, there is no modern, active Catholic Land Movement today. The Catholic Land Movement started in Scotland APR1929 and grew from there, but ended around 1940. Mr. Kevin Ford indicates “…We are in the beginning stages of re-forming the organization, but it will be a long road.” At one time there were five separate groups of CLM (as I said, we Catholics do not have a huge history of working on projects like this together well like the Amish). The first Catholic Society devoted exclusively to the work of settling Catholics on the land was the Scottish Catholic Land Association. The next group that formed, was in London and was called the English Catholic Land Association. The next that formed was centered in Manchester, and called the North of England Catholic Land Associations. Another was the Midlands Catholic Land Association setup on 01MAR1931. Eventually there were five separate and independent Catholic Land Movement organizations who all worked under a Standing Joint Committee. The CLM in generally failed. Some say the primary reason for its failure was the start of the Second World War, others say it was just ahead of its time, but in general the communities the various CLMs tried to start, did not last. The allure of urban life is strong.
Thus were several CLM organizations back in the 1920’s and ’30’s, but there is none active now. Kevin Ford, editor of Catholic Land Movement Organization and owner of Fiat Farms Community seems to be one of the most active voices trying to re-establish this concept in the modern world and talks about the New Catholic Land Movement (nCLM). There may be precedent to create multiple CLM organizations. Like Harold Robbins, a father of the CLM movement said, “…the watchword of the Movement is, and most remain, Decentralization. It is the official policy to work for a separate and autonomous Association in every Diocese…they are subject to no central control which might ossify the living work.” I don’t know in modern times this remains so, but it is interesting. I interviewed Kevin Ford, and that appears later in the article.
The Catholic Land Movement gain popularity during the massive depression in the U.K. at the turn of the last century, there was a movement to return Catholic families to a more rural setting and find a third way between capitalism and socialism. There are two concepts (from what I can find, again, please clarify for me if I get it wrong) that the Catholic Land Movement proposed. One is economical, and the second is the best way to implement that economical model with a strong attention to being able to live a more traditional Christian lifestyle. Economically they propose a system called Distributism. The method of achieving this in modern times is a “return to rural” or “flee to the fields” or the modern homesteading movement which is very similar to our political migration theory of politically conservative redoubt migration.
The Founding Fathers of the Catholic Land Movement felt that both laze fair capitalism and socialism had failed and had help destroy the traditional Christian values and the traditional family. The founding fathers of distributism are often agreed to be; Father Vincent McNabb, Ordinis Praedicatourm (Order of Preachers) a Dominican with a Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M), George Maxwell, a Third Order Dominican laymen, Harold Robbins a former socialist who converted to Catholicism and Reginald Jebb also a convert and Army veteran of World War I; “…He is an Army veteran he served in the 1914-18 war, winning the MC.” Father John McQuillan, Doctor of Divinity (Theology) D.D. Here is a short article written by Father McNabb spelling out the goals of the CLM.
What is distributism? Distributism is nothing more than an economic system in which private property is well distributed; in which “as many people as possible” are in fact owners. In addition the family or family homestead is the basis of economic production. The Catholic foundation for distributism can be partly found in the justification of private property that the popes have made is always tied, at least as an ideal, to ownership and work being joined. Thus Leo XIII: “The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many people as possible to become owners” (Rerum Novarum, no. 35), and this teaching is repeated by Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno (nos. 59-62, 65), by John XXIII in Mater et Magistra (nos. 85-89, 91-93, 111-115), and by John Paul II in Laborem Exercens (no. 14). If “as many people as possible…become owners,” then that fatal separation of ownership and work will be, if not removed, at least its extent and influence will be lessened. It will no longer be the hallmark of our economic system, even if it still exists to some extent.” This system is what Father McNabb, Mr. George Maxwell and Mr. Harold Robbins proposed. An implementation of distributism is that families own small holdings, farms and trades.
“The Home is the Social Defence of Liberty and the Homestead is the Economic Defence of the Home.” Father McNabb
Another explanation of distributism can be found at Wikipedia and reads According to distributists, property ownership is a fundamental right and the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of the state (socialism) or by a few accomplished individuals (laissez-faire capitalism). Distributism therefore advocates a society marked by widespread property ownership.
Distributism sees the family of two parents and their child or children as the central and primary social unit of human ordering and the principal unit of a functioning distributist society and civilization.
Distributism puts great emphasis on the principle of subsidiary. This principle holds that no larger unit (whether social, economic, or political) should perform a function which can be performed by a smaller unit. Pope Pius XI, in Quadragesimo Anno, provided the classical statement of the principle: “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.”
Now a separate, but related concept of distributism is how to implement it. Essentially the method the CLM tried is moving Catholics from (what would be currently cubical life) in the cities to a more rural environment where people can provide a significant portion or the majority of their needs or subsistence farming. This would suggest owning your own land or home; being able to provide your own energy and being able to provide the majority of your own food. After your shelter, energy and food is provided for, you create trades, stand alone business, no matter if it software developers, web hosting, carpentry or what not that you can work on from your remote location. After individual families become more self-sufficient families then begin to trade with one another forming local networks. One method is the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This is basically where small generally family run farms produce organic grown produce locally. It is a movement that appears to be gaining traction.
Here are some links I’ve found going into this deeper: A BLOG spot dedicated to the Catholic Land Movement. Another information site dedicated to the Catholic Land Movement. Although the CLM itself does not exist, the problem of a shrinking rural environment is in the news often.
“Why is it that we don’t have a farm bill?” said Vilsack. “It isn’t just the differences of policy. It’s the fact that rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it.” Read more here:
One very active blogger in the Catholic Land Movement is Kevin Ford, editor of Catholic Land Movement Organization and owner of Fiat Farms Community Supported Agriculture farms found here From South Central Kansas Fiat Farms feeds over 67 families locally organically produced fruits and vegetables. Mr. Kevin Ford is very active as the “New Catholic Land Movement. Here is an interview Kevin Ford gave, so you can hear directly from him. The interview ends abruptly, but it has a good start on Mr. Kevin Ford’s views in his own voice.
Thus the Catholic Land Movement is a mix of distributism, back-to-the-land movement with focus on traditional Catholic faith. BTW, I have found several other interesting Catholic groups that are related. One is the Plain Catholics community. It is a version of the CLM but strives to be as technology simple and independent as possible, thus often described as Amish Catholics. Not only Plain Catholics do they (apparently) believe in distributism and back to rural lifestyle, they believe in using basic and simple tools.
Now some of the bad stuff. First the entire original Catholic Land Movement failed. It did not attract massive followers nor did it make self-sufficient villages that lasted. There are many reasons given for this, one is that many of its leaders died soon after starting the movement. Another is World War II broke out and that changed everything in the world and specifically in Great Britain. Another issue is that CLM has attracted some radical socialist who didn’t think socialism didn’t go far enough. In addition some people who claim the mantel of Catholic Homesteading have apparently created … basically cult communes that apparently create strange and non-Christian or Catholic environments.
The failure of the movement was not only with regard to the loss of Chesterton, Belloc, and Fr. McNabb, but also for various other reasons. A large part had to do with the lack of support from Bishops especially who saw it as unneeded or possibly before its time. There was also a lack of financial support for the running of the farms. However, let me give a little history lesson and others who might know can fill in the blanks. After WW I there was a huge increase in industry in England and many people fled to the cities in search of the ever elusive material prosperity promised by working in industry. Many farms sat completely abandoned and the land was unused as Industry meant trade and England imported most of its food, whic is never a good idea. The wretchedness of the city was awful and often families lived in squalor never dreamed of by country folks who provided their own food. This gave rise to various land movements including the Catholic Land Movement, which sought not to create farms that sold lots of goods, but rather family farms on small plots of land whose primary motive was to provide for themselves and then sell whatever was excess. Training farms were set up and attempts were made to get families on the land and communities started. in the late 30’s Chesterton and Fr. McNabb both died. Hilaire Belloc suffered a debilitating stroke a couple years later and the movement faltered and failed by the end of the 30’s. Oddly enough the government began programs soon after to get people farming again in aid of England’s national defense as U-boats made shipping in all their food rather hazardous. Well as we all know WWII came and went and the allies won, but Europe never really recovered. It has really been on a path of economic and societal suicide ever since not to mention a massive loss of faith. Europe along with the rest of the West became highly industrialized and thus with the slightest tremor the whole system can be brought to its knees. (The Amish never noticed a stock market crash) The rest of the history is really not that important. The situation has just become worse and the world is more intoxicated with materialism than ever. I think the movement failed primarily because it happened before anyone believed materialism was bad. Now many are sick with this illness and are looking for a cure. They need only to know how to cure this disease and the rest hopefully will follow. – Kevin Ford
My opinion. To me, I see the CLM “back to the land” aspect as either a Amish Catholic work, or … a Catholic lead 4H work. The objective of the initial CLM was to train families in agricultural skills, like 4H. Imagine a 4H that was sponsored by the Parish. Start small, think globally, but act locally to borrow a phrase from our liberal friends. One thing is, I don’t believe in communes. I believe each individual family should have their own property and form communities, which the CLM seems to support. I will give you an example. I often see suggestions of “lets put our money together and buy a 40 acre plot. I would not participate. I would consider a scheme where we all buy 40 acres, legally sub-divide it, and then each have our own plots next to each other. This is what I mean by the difference between commune and community. Now with that, I do have friends I would feel comfortable working together in an emergency. I don’t have a problem working with any person or group that is focused on the same or similar goals. However to me that is a little different, then having my family living in a jointly owned space. I am not saying that the CLM is a commune, but it is something to ensure that it does not become. We Catholics don’t have the history of working as a group like the Amish, but it may be a worthy goal. With that said, I think if you wanted to do something like the nCLM you could start by going to and interviewing the Amish, and the Plain Catholics. These are people who are doing it. Get their wisdom when trying to create something new. I also think there is still the same potholes that doomed the first movement, too few leaders, no funding, not enough support from the Bishops, not enough people making the move, a lack of Priest to support small rural communities, there is not even enough Priest to support the large parishes. And the basic problem of all rural life that requires hard work, the allure of an easier lifestyle in the city.
I asked Kevin Ford about several of these issues, and he responded “We will be seeking benefactors for the organization in the future. Some of the men who will be on the board have a history working in Catholic non-profit groups and are familiar with getting benefactors on board. We hope also through our publishing to bring in income as well. Finally, the financial viability of small-scale sustainable farming is better now than any time in history.” Maybe, but I don’t see the organization plan (or business plan), so I really can’t say how much you would need to raise to do what you want to do. However I did share with Kevin some ideas on how I would start putting this together. Start small, see what gains traction. It also seems that Kevin is working on Bishop support “…We have contacts for several bishops whom we believe will show much support for the movement.” That is good.
Even with all of the challenges, I think there is great value in this concept of the Catholic Land Movement. No matter if you flee to a redoubt for economic, religious or political reasons, I think the common objective of moving out of the large cities to smaller communities is something that the Redoubt and the Catholic Land Movement may be able to cooperate on. Although a valuable concept, it is always the execution that is challenging, the devil always works his dark magic in the details of any endeavor.
For those who don’t see the political (liberty and the Constitution under assault), economic (distributism or economic freedom) or religious value (traditional Christian values) in rural migration think on this. As the large corporations and the government continue to off shore good paying manufacturing and white-collar jobs, so that we are competing with the lowest cost labor world-wide, and continue to bring in limitless cheap immigrate labor to drive down wages of blue-collar workers, what will be left for Americans eventually?
A good book, which is a collection of essays from the founders of the original CLM is called Flee to the Fields. I hope this was useful, please let me know what you think in the comments below.
Viva Cristo Rey