The Distributist Review (DR) is back after a two-year hiatus with a new piece by Daniel Schwindt, “While We Were Out.” In it, Schwindt offers a quick survey of where distributism “is at” and findins hope for distributism’s future in Pope Francis’s pontificate. That’s far from certain, however. As I have noted elsewhere, one of the central problems with Francis’s socio-economic instruction is that it rends to lack refinement and is often buried under needless rhetoric. Moreover, due to the Pope’s penchant for issuing wobbly statements on various points of doctrine, his critics—including Catholics—feel quite at ease ignoring what he has to say on Catholic social teaching. This is not to say that there aren’t important passages in documents such as Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si; it’s just that they aren’t always easy to tease out. Even so, Schwindt is optimistic about the prospects for distributism under this pontificate. I pray that he’s right.
Distributism needs a shot in the arm. More than that, it needs to be more firmly tethered to the Church’s social magisterium than it has been in recent years. This means looking not only to classic social encyclicals like Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno, but the magisterial documents issued by Pius VI, Blessed Pius IX, and St. Pius X as well. Catholic social teaching must be read holistically, not selectively like the liberals enjoy doing. Distributism could also use some theoretical refinement. Hopefully the return of the DR proves to be a gateway toward that end.