2013 Favs: News Flash: The Pope Attacks Capitalism! (or not)

Mammon worshippers have gone after Pope Francis lately, calling him a “marxist,” among other things. It might help us to gain perspective to remember that less than a year ago, they were doing the same thing to Pope Benedict XVI.

The moral? Maybe Jesus was onto something when He said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Here is a post I wrote on January 2 of last year defending Pope Benedict from attacks from the money changers. A few months later, I had to write similar posts defending Pope Francis from the same crowd. 

 

Have you heard the news?

Various outlets are blasting it out there that the Holy Father spoke against “unregulated capitalism” in his homily New Year’s Day.

In their rush to hype, they ignore a number of things that I want Public Catholic readers to think about.

1. This is nothing new. I’ve read Papal Encyclicals calling for economic justice going all the way back to Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII. The message Pope Leo gave in that Encyclical has been reiterated by Pope after Pope since then, including a passionate Encyclical issued by Pope John Paul II on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum called, aptly enough, Centesimus Annus: On the 100th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum. I urge you to read both these encyclicals if you are interested in what the Church teaches concerning economic matters.

The Holy Father was simply reiterating what has been the consistent teaching of the Roman Catholic Church concerning economics.

2. The statement that the press has headlined was one line in the middle of a much longer homily, and even then it is part of a list of problems in the world today. That doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant. It certainly doesn’t mean that the Holy Father isn’t serious about what he said. But it does mean that the statement was part of a larger teaching on a number of topics and not the headline piece that these various articles would make you think it was.

I am not a theologian or a priest. So anything I say is always subject to argument and disagreement. Given that caveat, my take on these encyclicals is that they apply the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount to our economic life. I think they do a masterful and inspiring job of that. The bottom line to Church teaching in this matter (at least so far as I understand it) is that economic systems should serve people, not the other way around.

If an economic system does not allow people to earn a living that sustains the physical well-being of the wage earner and their family, and if it does not do this in a way that does not exploit, enslave or degrade them, then that economic system is in need of reform.

I hear echoes of Jesus’ statement “The Sabbath was made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath.” all through these encyclicals, only applied to something far less significant than God’s law that we should rest on the sabbath. Economic systems are human devices. They are not holy. They should serve us.

I am not writing this to attack capitalism, which I think is the best economic system people have come up with so far. But I am saying that capitalism should never become a false idol that we put ahead of the well-being of other people or the clear teachings of the Church. When that happens, what you get is corporatism, which is, by definition, never just and downright harmful to vast numbers of people.

Now that I’ve stirred this economic pot about as much as I can in one post, I’ll add the Holy Father’s homily so you can read it yourself and form your own opinions. I am going to reproduce it in whole to help you do that. The sentence that the press has focused on is in boldface. This emphasis is mine.

Here, from the Vatican website is the homily:

(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict celebrated mass in St Peter’s Basilica on New Year’s Day, marking the feast of Mary and the Church’s World Day of Peace. In his homily the Pope urged people to look to God and to his son Jesus for true peace in a world fraught with problems, darkness and anxieties.

Listen to the report by Susy Hodges:

Below, please find the English translation of the text of Pope Benedict’s homily:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, “May God bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” We proclaimed these words from Psalm 66 after hearing in the first reading the ancient priestly blessing upon the people of the covenant. It is especially significant that at the start of every new year God sheds upon us, his people, the light of his Holy Name, the Name pronounced three times in the solemn form of biblical blessing. Nor is it less significant that to the Word of God – who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14) as “the true light that enlightens every man” (1:9) – is given, as today’s Gospel tells us, the Name of Jesus eight days after his birth (cf. Lk 2:21).

It is in this Name that we are gathered here today. I cordially greet all present, beginning with the Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. I greet with affection Cardinal Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Turkson, with all the officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; I am particularly grateful to them for their effort to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace, which this year has as its theme “Blessed are the Peacemakers”. Although the world is sadly marked by “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism,” as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that “the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Mt 5:9)” (Message, 1). This beatitude “tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort … It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation” (ibid., 2, 3). Indeed, peace is the supreme good to ask as a gift from God and, at the same time, that which is to be built with our every effort.

We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today’s liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7), many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.

The Gospel passage finishes with a mention of the circumcision of Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, eight days after birth, baby boys were to be circumcised and then given their name. Through his messenger, God himself had said to Mary – as well as to Joseph – that the Name to be given to the child was “Jesus” (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31); and so it came to be. The Name which God had already chosen, even before the child had been conceived, is now officially conferred upon him at the moment of circumcision. This also changes Mary’s identity once and for all: she becomes “the mother of Jesus”, that is the mother of the Saviour, of Christ, of the Lord. Jesus is not a man like any other, but the Word of God, one of the Divine Persons, the Son of God: therefore the Church has given Mary the title Theotokos or Mother of God.
The first reading reminds us that peace is a gift from God and is linked to the splendour of the face of God, according to the text from the Book of Numbers, which hands down the blessing used by the priests of the People of Israel in their liturgical assemblies. This blessing repeats three times the Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time it is linked to two words indicating an action in favour of man: “The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (6:24-26). So peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favour, in which he turns towards us the splendour of his face. For sacred Scripture, contemplating the face of God is the greatest happiness: “You gladden him with the joy of your face” (Ps 21:7). From the contemplation of the face of God are born joy, security and peace. But what does it mean concretely to contemplate the face of the Lord, as understood in the New Testament? It means knowing him directly, in so far as is possible in this life, through Jesus Christ in whom he is revealed. To rejoice in the splendour of God’s face means penetrating the mystery of his Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of his interior life and of his will, so that we can live according to his plan of love for humanity. In the second reading, taken from the Letter to the Galatians (4:4-7), Saint Paul says as much as he describes the Spirit who, in our inmost hearts, cries: “Abba! Father!” It is the cry that rises from the contemplation of the true face of God, from the revelation of the mystery of his Name. Jesus declares, “I have manifested thy name to men” (Jn 17:6). God’s Son made man has let us know the Father, he has let us know the hidden face of the Father through his visible human face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, he has led us to understand that, in him, we too are children of God, as Saint Paul says in the passage we have just heard: “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal 4:6).

Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons in the Son, and thus of having, on life’s journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace – “peace with God” – which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as Saint Paul tells the Christians of Rome (cf. Rom 5:2). Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (5:5). May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen! (For more stories like this, go here.)

Illegitimate Pleasures

Ravi Zacharias on the most precious things in life.

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Pope Francis: Christ Transforms Death Into the Dawn of New Life

The second day of Christmas — today — is St Stephen’s Day.

Why would the Church remember the first martyr, a Deacon who was stoned to death for his faith, in the middle of this most joyous season of the year?

I think that St Stephen’s martyrdom is a reminder to all of us that we are crowned with eternal life, but that crown has thorns. In this world, the peace and joy of Christmas are blunted by reminders of the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters, as well as the challenges to religious liberty and freedom of conscience here at home.

We no longer live in a Christian nation. We live in post Christian America. This is a fact we all need to absorb. The more you speak for Jesus, the more you will be attacked. Do not let that deter you from taking a stand for Christ. Remember that you are an immortal soul who wears the crown of eternal life. Know that whatever people may try to do to you, Our God will find a way to use it for the good of His Church.

Pope Francis spoke of this great hope that sustains us, as well as the sobering reality of present-day Christian persecution in his St Stephen’s Day homily. St Stephen was the first martyr. Christian martyrs of the 21st Century join him every day.

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Seek Him this Christmas

The true meaning of Christmas.

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The Reason for the Season

This is the second day of Christmas, which is not too late to reflect once again on the Reason for the season.

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Pope Francis Visits Children’s Hospital for Christmas

Pope Francis repeated a 2005 visit by Pope Benedict XVI with a Christmas visit to a children’s hospital in Rome.

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Merry Christmas 2013

Christmas joy to all of you!

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Pope Francis Visits Benedict to Wish Him a Merry Christmas

We are blessed to have both these men.

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Not Exactly a Christmas Carol …

Not exactly a Christmas carol. But it fits the way I feel.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

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Faith Challenges of 2013: Repenting of My Self-Sufficiency

This has been the year of two living popes.

It’s been a year of new mass shootings, government shutdowns, spies turned whistleblowers and the revelation that our government is doing everything but looking up our skirts and down the fronts of our blouses in its efforts to spy on and criminalize the entire American populace. I’m not ruling the skirts and and blouses part out, but we have no confirmation of that.

It’s been the year when the Supreme Court drop-kicked DOMA and took gay marriage off the leash, the year when we the people actually got our fill of senseless war and stopped the bombing in Syria. It was the year when the economy rotated in place and a big piece of my part of the world was blown to smithereens.

There’s been the flop of the Obamacare start up; the push for gun control and a nervy stand-off in Texas over a commonsense pro life bill that would simply require abortion clinics to provide the same levels of safety to their patients as any other free-standing surgery clinic.

My brother-in-law died, leaving my sister as one of the walking wounded. My mother has been in and out of the hospital.

And me, I’ve just kept on passing bills and writing blog posts. I still haven’t lost weight and I still can’t make my hair do one single thing that it doesn’t want to do. I have taken up piano lessons, and I am the proud possessor of a new camera.

Life, as they say, goes on.

One surprise to me has been how hard it is to blog about matters of faith and still keep my religion. I’ve spent years dealing with that very thing as a legislator. The process of getting whammed around because of my beliefs has toughened my faith and made it stronger. But I’ve also found, as I’ve started writing about it, that it has made me more than a little impatient with people who aren’t as willing to go out there on the ice for Jesus as I am.

I’ve forgotten how I was before the pro abortion people made me the target of an orchestrated campaign of character assassination. They forced me to choose over and over between them and Jesus, between the Democratic Party and Jesus, between having friends at work and Jesus, between anybody even speaking to me on the job and Jesus. I’ve forgotten what it was like back in the days when I hadn’t been called every ugly name I can think of.

Who was I back then?

I honestly can’t remember.

All I know is that talking about these things with you good people here at Public Catholic and witnessing your attempts to work through them yourself has acquainted me with the simple fact that I’m different now than I was before these things happened to me. I see the world differently than I did before I chose Christ in an active way during adversarial politics.

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a forum where we can work through the process of finding our voice in the face of the often daunting ugliness of attacks on the faith in this post-Christian society of ours. It’s ironic how often the blog and I get targeted by people who make it their business to attack Christians and Christianity. That can be disruptive to what I’m trying to accomplish here, but it is, in its own backhanded way, a great privilege.

Whenever anyone targets me for personal attacks and vendettas because of my stand for Jesus, I am blessed.

But this blessing leads me to the faith challenge that has troubled me most of this past year. It is easy to get caught up in these attacks and start feeling besieged. Instead of drawing me closer to Christ, that kind of thinking can build a barrier between me and Him.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of regarding these things as being about me. It’s also easy to fall into the parallel trap of trying to deal with them on my own.

One of the surprising pitfalls of blogging about faith is that I can spend too much time talking about Jesus and cheat myself of time spent talking to Him. It seems some days that the more I talk about Jesus the less I talk to Him.

This tendency to talk about Christ without talking to Christ is a dangerous road to take. I think it would lead me inevitably down the path of becoming my own little g god. I could eventually come to a point where I lose my relationship with Jesus and begin to lecture and hector about Him without any guidance or input from Him. These attacks from the Christian-bashing peanut gallery — and my own temper — push me hard down that path.

That would be disaster, not for you who read the stuff I write, but for me. I can not allow anything to come between me and my relationship with Christ, even if that thing is my attempt to stand for Christ. I can’t because to lose Christ is to lose life itself and all that matters.

The only way I know to avoid this is by retreating. I don’t mean by not writing this blog. I mean by not making the writing of this blog into what passes for my relationship with Christ. The life of a Public Catholic should be mostly Catholic and only a little bit public.

What I mean is that any public statements or actions about my faith should be the outflow of a fruitful walk with Christ that is mostly hidden and that is nurtured, sustained and informed by the quiet times of simply being with Him. If most of my faith is what people see, then it is an anemic and ultimately destructive excuse for real faith. The way to achieve this kind of fruitful walk with Christ is not by pushing on, but by making regular, nourishing retreats away from the public part of life.

This is similar to the lesson that I learned in how to live a real life while in public office. I had to withdraw and go home to my real life. You have a real life by living one. By the same token, you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ by spending time with Him.

I am not talking about going to mass, although going to mass and partaking of the Body and Blood of Our Lord is essential. I am talking about spending time in prayer, and by that I mean mostly just being with God. I certainly don’t mean dumping out a laundry list of wants and needs and then going back to your busy-busy life. Prayer is, or it should be, mostly companionship. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a wonderful way to get some alone time with God. But it’s not necessary, if it’s not do-able.

I experienced the profound conversion that changed my life while I was driving my car on the way to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. God is with you, always. You only have to start talking to Him.

I’m still learning the blogging ropes. At the same time, I’m also trying to learn how to live my first vocation, which is simply and always to love Jesus and let Him love me. The challenge to my faith in 2013 has been the surprising reality that I need to learn how to speak about Jesus in a public forum and then just go home to Him the rest of the time.

I think talking about this on this blog is highly appropriate. It is, after all, called Public Catholic and is dedicated to helping all of us, you and me both, learn to live our faith in the public side of our lives. We live in a society where the public debate, the media and most educational institutions are dominated by an anti-Christian viewpoint that is not the least bit ashamed to engage in Christian bashing that rises to a discriminatory level. We have reached the point where at least in some quarters verbal abuse and hazing directed at Christians is considered a form of righteousness.

Every one who stands for Jesus is going to pay a price.

The only way this blog can help to empower Christians to find their voice for Christ in the face of that overt and ugly resistance is if we talk honestly to one another. We need, all of us, to base our efforts to speak for Jesus on a real faith that is nourished and sustained in the private side of our lives.

Nobody told me this rock was out there under the blogging water when I began doing this. I did not realize that I would learn that I had to repent of my self-sufficiency. I had to hit the rock of spiritual dryness and feel the unpleasant thunk all on my own.

For all I know, the other Christian bloggers here at Patheos have never come up against this. I tried a few months ago to talk to a priest about it because I thought that, of all people, a priest who has to go out there and wear his faith on his collar all the time would understand. He just stared at me like I was speaking Klingonese.

I decided then that I was on my own with this, or, rather, I was on my own with Jesus. But that’s how I became a Christian in the first place; just me and Jesus.

What that means for me is making time for the simple things: Pray the Rosary, read the Bible, go to mass. I can leave the heavy lifting to the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to sustain my relationship with Christ by my actions. All I need to do is stop ignoring Him in my zeal to defend Him and simply talk to Him. I am a child of God, and like all true parents, He will always answer when I call.


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