I’m celebrating my anniversary today. That means no posts. I’ll be back in full form tomorrow.
And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Pope Francis is calling all of us to take up what Protestants call the Great Commission.
That is the direct command from Our Lord to Go and make disciples of all nations. The Holy Father is teaching in exactly the same way Jesus taught by advising us to cleanse ourselves of our own sins before we head off diagnosing the sins of other people.
This is an call to evangelize the world, but like the good pastor that he is, Pope Francis calls us first to evangelize our own hearts through genuine conversion to Christ. Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document. If you read it with an honest and open heart, it will convict you of the need to change your ways.
No one is more prey to the error of condemning others while wrapping themselves in a cloak of self-righteousness than politicians and bloggers. It is an occupational hazard.
Since I am a politician blogger, I get a double dose of the temptation to become a bargain-basement Pharisee. Blogging at the intersection of faith and politics is a location fraught with all sorts of annoyances and frustrations. It’s easy to lose track of the love and desire to do good that brought me here in the first place.
Evanglii Gaudium reminded me that the joy of Gospel, the freedom of the Gospel, the absolute certainty that everything I do matters to God, belongs to me. It is a free gift from a God Who loves me so much that He was willing to suffer the extremities of humiliation, public torture and a hideous death to give it to me.
When I focus on protecting my petty little sins, I toss those joys to the ground and turn to the bitterness and alienation of the lost people I claim I want to help.
That, in the final analysis, is the price for clinging to your precious little sins: Anger, bitterness, self-righteousness. The fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, are all lost to us and replaced by an angry obsession with what is wrong with other people.
As those of us in the West move more deeply into a post-Christian world, we are going to find that the only thing that sustains us is the Spirit, and that our call to follow Christ will either be sustained by these gifts of the Spirit, or it will fail.
The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a call to personal housecleaning. It is a diagnosis of how we have cast ourselves out of the garden all over again by biting into the bitter fruit of our own cherished sins.
Since Evangelii Gaudium is a call to the whole Church to evangelize the whole world, it focuses its diagnosis of sin on the corporate sins we commit against one another as part of groups. The Pope doesn’t go over the obvious. He doesn’t remind us of what we should very well know: That when we live our lives built on the cheats of greed, lies of adultery and the brutality of murder we are not God’s people and if we do not repent, we will not go to heaven.
He focuses instead on what the political power brokers and money changers of our times don’t want us to see. That is the vast corporate and social ways in which we commit these same private sins and the enormous price in human suffering that this behavior exacts on so many of the 7 billion people living on this planet today.
A few paragraphs in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium have raised the ire of the corporatist apologizers in the media. Most of this particular group has spoken out against abortion down through the years, along with gay marriage. They have not been so eager to condemn other forms of killing, ranging from embryonic stem cell research to wars of conquest, and, as has been revealed from time to time, many of them do not practice a private sexual morality that matches their public statements.
This has confused many good Christians who’ve been taught — by fallen clergy and these same corporatist apologizers — that economics is entirely outside the reach of the Gospels. They have exempted themselves from the piercing eye of Gospel teachings in matters of money, and a lot of good Christians have bought this deal because these same people condemn abortion.
But the same Jesus Who taught that every life is valuable to God sent the young rich man away and said, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.
It was Christ the Lord who drove the money changers out of the temple.
I would imagine that what some of these people are saying about Pope Francis would look mild and mannerly compared to what they might say about Our Lord.
Pope Francis is asking us to stop putting fetters on the Gospel and accept it in all its demanding power. He is asking us to throw off our chains of political fealty and approval seeking and step out on the ice and live the teachings of Christ as the transforming, Kingdom building powerhouse that they are.
Part of this is his condemnation of what he calls “the new idolatry of money.” The pope calls us directly and explicitly to work for economic systems that are based on the good of human beings.
Despite the media focus on these few paragraphs, they are a small part of the message of Evangelii Gaudium, and economic sins are just a few of the things the pope addresses.
He speaks eloquently about the challenges Christians face concerning Christian persecution (emphasis mine):
We also evangelize when we attempt to confront … the attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideology which has come about as a reaction to anything which might appear totalitarian.
… The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal … completely rejecting the transcendent. It has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin and a steady increase in relativism.
… As the bishops of the United States of America have rightfully point out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid of everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray these teachings as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights … the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom.”
… the negative aspect of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family.
Evangelii Gaudium takes an uncompromising position in support of the sanctity of marriage.
The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. The family … is the fundamental cell of society. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.
There is much more in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium. But I hope that you are getting the message. The document itself is a call to evangelize the world. The much-picked-over paragraphs about money are a small part of the message of the second chapter of the document.
The second chapter deals with the areas where we need to give ourselves, both as individuals and as a Church, a spiritual house cleaning. Money is a part of this. If economics have no moral requirements, then Jesus Christ Himself was a fraud, because that is certainly not what He taught.
People who attack the Pope for saying what has been Church teaching for two-thousand years and who try to subvert him when he challenges us to give up our greed and venality about money, are attacking the Gospels themselves.
But the primary injustice they are committing by focusing on these few paragraphs is that they are depriving the people of God of the convicting power of this document. If all you know about Evangelii Gaudium is what you’ve read in the press, then you know nothing about it all.
Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on the New Evanglization. The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on some of our most glaring social and personal sins. The Holy Father focused this second chapter on the sins that, as he says, damage or even destroy the ability of the Church and individual Christians to effectively evangelize the world.
He is calling us to reclaim for ourselves the joy of the Gospel by yielding up all our precious sins to the teaching, transforming power of the Gospels. He is calling us to conversion, to walk the walk of our Christian faith in the real world.
Powerful people hated this message two-thousand years ago. Powerful people hate it today.
Part of our job as Christians is to ignore them and follow our Christ. The teachings in Evanglii Gaudium help us do that.
To read part one in this series, go here.
Like every pope before him, Pope Francis brings his own history to the Papacy.
Pope John Paul II was deeply influenced by his experiences living under the Nazis and then the Communists. Pope Benedict XVI was influenced by his academic background as well as growing up under the Nazis and then living in a country divided into slave and free. These life experiences added human understanding and dimension to the way they lived their office.
Pope Francis comes from, as he said, “the ends of the earth,” which is to say a world far removed from the Europe of the mid-twentieth century. But like these two men, he has faced unjust governments. He has also pastored people who live in abysmal poverty, in a land where children of the poor search through dumps for the means of survival while the extremely wealthy live in a separate and rarified world.
One of the most powerful formative experiences of his life must have been the illness that cost him a lung. The book I Foretti di Papa Francisco, reveals that the Holy Father credits a nun who ignored doctor’s orders and increased his dosage of antibiotics with saving his life.
It’s a powerful story that tells us a lot about this holy man.
From The Telegraph:
In a new book, I Fioretti di Papa Francesco, (The Little Flowers of Pope Francis), Andrea Tornielli, a veteran Vatican journalist, the pontiff speaks of his gratitude to the nuns who worked in the hospital where he was ill as a young man.
“I am alive thanks to one of them,” Pope Francis said. “When I had lung problems in the hospital, the doctor gave me penicillin and antibiotics in small doses.
“The nun who was on the ward tripled that because she had an intuition, she knew what to do, because she was with the ill all day long,” the pope said.
“The doctor, who was very good, spent his time in a laboratory, but the nun was living on the front line and talking with those on the front line every day.”
The Immaculate Conception is the door opening on our salvation.
It is God the Father, preparing the way for the birth of God the Son by first preparing a holy mother for Him.
The idea that God chose to enter the world as a helpless baby, born to a young girl and her carpenter husband in a backwater province of a conquered nation goes against everything we know and believe about what makes a person important.
We live in a world where might makes right and the biggest and meanest get to make all the rules. This disregard for the little people of the world was even more pronounced in that long-ago day when Our Lady was conceived. This tiny spark of humanity, who was destined to become the bearer of the hope of all humankind, was, if possible, even less important to the worldly world than her baby son would be at His beginning.
She was, after all, a girl in a world that to this day regards little girls as less than worthless. She was that half of humanity which was often exposed at birth and left to rot. Even today in large swaths of what we call civilization, baby girls are aborted because they are girls, and if they are born, killed shortly afterwards. Girls in these cultures often get less food, little education and almost no support in their development as people. They are subjected to brutalities ranging from female genital mutilation, to child marriages, rape and battering.
And yet, God chose, with every possibility possible at His disposal, to come into our world through the motherhood of a young woman. God entrusted Himself to a mother from His conception to His eventual death on the cross. It was a woman who gave Him life and who nurtured, shaped and reared Him into young manhood. This does not take anything away from Joseph’s contribution. Fathers are just as important as mothers. But today we are considering the one person who was with Jesus from conception to grave, and who then was there at Pentecost when the Church was born.
Mary is the mother of us all, the essential human contribution to the undoing of the curse of the Fall. She was prophesied at the Fall and she will be there at the real end when Jesus comes again.
And it began with her conception, when God re-created the lost innocence of Eden in a new Eve who would give birth to the salvific Child to undo our transgressions. This great re-wind started then, in her Immaculate Conception. It was the long-awaited door opening. This feast day is our chance to go back and re-learn what has been given to us by a young girl who, conceived without sin as the original Eve had been, did not falter in her mission as that earlier Eve did, but remained sinless until her own death.
God gave us Mary, and Mary, through her obedience and faith, gave us His son.
She is not, as some traditions try to treat her, a mindless incubator we bring out for Christmas pageants and then forget the rest of the year. Our Lady is woven into the story of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Everything that is wholly human about Our Lord comes from and through her. She gave us her Son, first at His birth and then later at Calvary; and He in turn, gave us His mother.
The Immaculate Conception is a door opening on the end of hopelessness and death. It is a cell-sized point of light shining in the darkness of our own devices. Mary, Our Mother, began the way we all did, as a single cell made in the image and likeness of God.
Christ’s humanity is her humanity. Her dignity is our dignity. She is our mother for the ages.
This is a beautiful testimony of conversion to Jesus. In a way, it’s a rescue story.
Notice this young man’s discussion of his friends who led him to Christ by their example, witness and loving invitation. That is a potent form of evangelization. It is what Pope Francis is trying to teach us. The question is, do we have the ears to hear?
The core assumption of abortion is that the laws we write have the power to determine who is human.
It leads to the secondary assumption that if our laws say that a whole segment of the human population is not human enough to be worthy of the most basic human right of all human beings — the right to life — then that is, because the law says it, true.
This is a lie, and on this lie abortion builds its house.
This is basically what Pope Francis teaches about economics in Evangelii Gaudium.
There is nothing “Marxist” about it. It is basic Gospel teaching that every serious Christian should seek to follow.
It comes from an Oklahoma Southern Baptist family, talking about their business. This is the brave Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby.
This is my favorite Advent Hymn. I love its haunting melody and plaintive cry for our savior. It makes me think of all the lost people who are crying out for Him, even, sometimes, with their angry attacks on Christianity.
At heart, so much of this culture’s anger toward our faith is a cry of unrequited love from people who don’t know that God loves them.
It’s time for a break. Nothing amuses me more than my favorite YouTube videos, Convos with My Two-Year-Old.
Watch for Dad’s reaction at the end. It’s priceless.
It qualifies him for food stamps, medicaid and government housing.
Thanks to a lawsuit brought by our friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a legislating-from-the-bench judge, the courts are now going to have to decide if priests and other clergy should pay income taxes on the privilege of living in the Church rectory. Judge Barbara Crabb issued a ruling that would require clergy of every type and denomination to have their stay in church rectories taxed as income.
That means my priest would have to pay income taxes on the rectory.
Of course, since Father’s grandiose salary qualifies him for free government housing, we could always just move him in there. It’s not too cushy, but there is an exciting mix of truly needy people, drug dealers, ex-offenders and pimps. He’ll have to learn how to sleep through the nightly gunfire and the screams and shouts from daily assaults, but he did a tour in Viet Nam before he entered the priesthood, so he’s trained for it.
Maybe Father can stop wasting his time saying mass and funerals, hearing confessions and administering our parish and turn his attention to the mission field of his new neighborhood. That will leave the parish somewhat forsaken. But it’s all about Freedom From Religion anyway, so what’s the beef?
My parish will now be free from our religion.
If this ruling is upheld in higher courts, I am wondering if the next move will be to make members of religious orders pay income tax for the privilege of living in their convents and monasteries. How about those military chaplains who live in base housing? This ruling doesn’t just apply to Catholics. It takes in protestant ministers, rabbis, imams, Native American shamans, and probably witches, as well.
The last time I checked, deciding who gets tax exemptions is the business of legislative bodies. Not only did this judge, who has ruled previously that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, set off across the uncharted seas of lawmaking by judicial fiat, she is attempting to shift the taxing powers of the elected representatives of the people to the judiciary.
There is a reason that the framers of the Constitution placed taxing power and budget matters squarely in the hands of elected representatives. The reason is simple. The people can retire their elected representatives to private life at the next election.
But we’re stuck with judges. The trouble is that a lot of judges aren’t judges anymore. They seem to view themselves as appointed monarchs who can use their position to make anyone they don’t like, in the words of Henry VIII, “shorter by a head.” Or, as in this case, they can make them shorter by a rectory.
These judges have left the bench behind and taken on judicial dictatorship. They rule according to their personal prejudices in order to make law with a rap of the gavel. This has become so widespread that it is, in itself, something of a challenge to our democracy.
One of the problems is that judges stay on the bench too long. The purpose of giving judges a life-long sinecure was to create a judiciary that was free of political pressures. It was a balance of power. The elected representatives would appoint judges and the judges themselves would not have to stand for election, but would be able to rule without the pressure to heed passing public moods.
It worked quite well until the 20th Century when the Supreme Court woke up and realized, hey, we can do anything we want.
There has been a considerable (if you will pardon the phrase) trickle down from the Supreme Court to lower courts of this understanding that the judiciary is not required to follow the laws of anyone and can, in fact, make law according to its whim, prejudices and personal vendettas. If a judge gets a hate-on going for a particular part of the populace, like, say, religious people, then you’d better get back Loretta. Those nutty, individualistic and flat-out discriminatory rulings will start popping up like popcorn in the microwave.
We’re having trouble in this country with the second-rate people we’ve got at the top. Whether it’s elected officials (of both parties), the judiciary (appointees of both parties), or the people who are running our finance, media and corporate wings, they appear to be all about changing the face of this country into something that serves their greed, prejudices and various venalities.
How should we respond to these challenges?
Pope Francis is showing us the way. We should respond with love, faithfulness to the whole Gospel of Christ and by walking the Christian walk without being afraid of our critics or changing our message to suit them.
If Father has to move to government housing, we won’t despair. We’ll just say mass there and do what we should have been doing anyway, which is to work to convert the drug dealers and pimps to follow Him, along with us.
From Huff Post:
(RNS) A federal judge has ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that allows clergy to shield a portion of their salary from federal income taxes is unconstitutional.
The clergy housing exemption applies to an estimated 44,000 ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and others. If the ruling stands, some clergy members could experience an estimated 5 to 10 percent cut in take-home pay.
The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation on grounds that the housing allowance violates the separation of church and state and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The group’s founders have said that if tax-exempt religious groups are allowed a housing subsidy, other tax-exempt groups, such as FFRF, should get one, too.
U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb on Friday (Nov. 22) ruled in their favor, saying the exemption “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”
The case, decided in the District Court for the Western District Of Wisconsin, will likely be appealed to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the states of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.
The housing allowances of pastors in Wisconsin remain unaffected after Crabb stayed the ruling until all appeals are exhausted. Crabb also ruled in 2010 that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional; that ruling was overturned the following year.
More than 10,000 young people have signed a birthday card for Pope Francis.
The Holy Father’s birthday is December 17.
After reading this, I decided to send the Pope a Happy Birthday greeting by means of Pontifex, which is his Twitter account. You can find Pontifex here. My suggestion: Go thou and do likewise.
From Catholic News Agency:
Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 6, 2013 / 02:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 10,000 young people have signed a giant birthday card for Pope Francis, offering their prayers and well-wishes for the Holy Father’s 77th birthday on Dec. 17.
“We wanted to give the Pope a gift he would truly appreciate; something he would be proud of,” said Mark Nelson, founder of Catholic to the Max, the Ohio-based arts and gifts outlet company behind the initiative.
The 4-foot-tall card consists of a tri-fold plaque featuring an image and prayer of one of the Holy Father’s favorite Marian devotions, “Mary, Un-doer of Knots.” After collecting both physical and digital signatures, Catholic to the Max intends to send the card to the Pope later this month.
Nelson said that the idea to give the Holy Father gifts of prayer and service came from the Pope’s first “Urbi et orbi,” when he asked that the faithful pray for him before he imparted his blessing.
“From day one, he has asked all of us to pray for him and to serve the poor. This is our response,” Nelson said.
The card traveled to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis last month and acquired signatures from more than 10,000 young people.
Now that the card is back in Steubenville, Ohio, it has been gathering signatures at local Catholic parishes and Franciscan University.
I’ve been the voice of a large number of people in government for 18 years.
During those years, I have voted many times on economic issues. I have a couple of beliefs about government that inform those votes — as well as the others I cast.
1. I am the voice of the people I represent. I must put their interests ahead of all others. At the same time, I feel that their interests are always best served by a just and stable government, because
2. A just and stable government is always the greater good. Look around the world and you will see the human suffering and death the comes from unjust and unstable governments. My constituents deserve a representative who works toward a just and stable government, because that one thing will predicate for better lives for them, all by itself.
3. Government should serve the people, not itself and not special interests. Most elected officials today are beamed into office on a beam of special interest money. These elected officials, represent the special interests who paid for their elections and put them in office. Even though this is legal, it is corrupt. It is also diametrically opposed to the premise I stated: Government is meant to serve the people, not special interests.
These are the parameters I use to decide how I vote. I have a master’s degree in business management, which means that while I am not deeply educated in economics, I do have a passing acquaintance with how economics works in real life. Despite that, I do not place any economic theory at the head of my list in how I vote on issues, including economic issues.
The reason for this is that I consider all economic theories to be tools that are useful so long as they work for the good of the people. They are not a holy grail and they should never be put ahead of the greater good of a just and stable government.
I also believe that Capitalism, as well as all other economic systems, is amoral. Not, notice, immoral. It is an economic system, not a moral system. As such, it stands behind the Gospels and the teachings of the Church in my considerations. I don’t judge the Gospels or the teachings of the Catholic Church by economic theories. I judge economic theories by the Gospels and the teachings of the Catholic Church.
That leaves a lot of room for individual ideas and understanding about economic issues. The teachings of the Church are not a 1, 2, 3 blueprint that we must follow as we craft our solutions to the economic problems that beset us. They are rules about what we should place first in our considerations. The teachings of the Church tell us how to get to heaven. Their first rule about economics is that if we want to go to heaven we should put the good of people, of human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God, in first place.
That will not lead us to the same conclusions. On the contrary, it opens the way for fruitful discussion and creative thinking. Two good people who are both committed to Christ and who both are trying their best to do the right thing can look at the same situation and come up with diametrically opposed ways of dealing with it. That does not make either one of them wrong. It also does not make either one of them evil. It makes both of them human.
I believe that the best solutions in government and in life come about when we remember this and listen to one another respectfully and try to find a middle way between our competing ideas. I can change my mind, and if you can change your mind, we can learn from one another and come up with solutions that are far better than either one of us would find on our own.
The thing that is lacking in our current debate on almost every issue, including economics, is a mutual commitment to the common good rather than the good of whatever viewpoint or special interest we are espousing. The thing that is lacking in the economic theorizing of some Christians is a proper reverence for Jesus Christ as Our Lord.
There are Christians, both on the left and the right, who have left the Gospels and made a false god of this or that economic theory. Instead of judging their economic ideas by the Gospel, they are judging the Gospel by their economic theory. Many of them (again, on both the left and the right) have cherry-picked the Scriptures to find verses and admonitions which they then use to deify their ideas. This is idolatry. It is also heresy.
Put Jesus back on the throne and look at your politics as one way you live out your call to follow Him. Do the same with your ideas about economics. If people would do that, we’d find solutions to all our problems and get this nation back on track. If they don’t, we are going to continue our spiral down.
To get back to me, if you look at my votes, I think you will see that I am basically an Oklahoma populist in matters of economics.
I believe that capitalism is the best economic system people have come up with so far. However, I don’t think that capitalism, as some people who get worked up about it see it, exists outside of a few on-line chat rooms and the definitions of economic systems in intellectually shallow textbooks. It’s a bit like absolute vacuum; a good working construct that does not exist outside of theory.
Capitalism as it is practiced in America — and in any working government that I know of — is a hodgepodge of competing interests, each of which is trying to use the government to gain an advantage over their competitors. I think that most people believe that legislative bodies spend their days debating great questions of human life such as abortion or gay marriage or some such.
What we do in real life is spend most of our time passing laws for business interests that allow them to gain an advantage over their competitors. Almost all the “pro business” legislation that I have seen in the past 18 years was of this type. Likewise, the tax cuts that I have voted against in the past few years were all weighted to give tax cuts to the people at the top of the column and not those at the bottom.
I would have voted for most of these bills if the people I represent had actually gotten a tax cut from them. However, they did not. That has been true of tax cuts at the federal level, as well.
How does that jibe with my idea that a just and stable government is always the greater good? First of all, tax cuts that only favor those at the top are unjust by definition. I also do not believe that they are good economics.
There are a couple of economic theories, both of which are capitalist in origin, about how to generate growth in an economy with tax cuts. One, which I do not subscribe to, is that if you enrich the small segment at the top of the economic ladder, their wealth will “trickle down” to those below. (I am aware that the trickle down theory applies to far more than tax cuts.) The other is that if you put money in the pockets of those in the working and middle classes, they will buy more goods and generate growth through their purchasing power.
I am personally persuaded that, in terms of economic growth and taxes, many people at the bottom end of the working class have become so close to subsistence level that they place any extra monies on survival items such as getting their utilities current or fixing the broken window in their car.
What I am saying, (and this is a frightening prospect in economic terms) is that a large section of the working class of our economy, who are gainfully employed, many times working several jobs, is verging on being unable to generate growth of the larger economy because they are too poor. That, in itself, is an indictment of our economic policies of the past few decades.
So far as generating economic growth with tax cuts is concerned, my personal feeling is that the most economic stimulus will come if the tax cut benefits the people in the middle class and the upper working class. Sad to say, the lower working class is verging toward the unemployed in that they need assistance to survive and as such don’t generate much growth with their purchasing power.
Given all that, I guess you could say that I am a bit of a trickle up person in my economic beliefs.
This goes back to my ideas about a Christian approach to economics. It also broadens the discussion beyond the question of tax cuts. I think that a Christian approach to economics has to be based on the same premise as the one I use to make decisions about the sanctity of human life. Those decisions are based on the idea that people are more important than any other consideration.
Government exists for people. Economics exists for people.
Government and economics (you cannot have modern economics without government) exist to serve the people. As such, a respect for the rights of private property is a basic delimiter of good government. People need and want their own things about them. They need homes that are theirs and a place in the world that belongs to them.
The means of making a living, be that a computer, a car, a sewing machine or an 18-wheeler, are a form of private property that people should also have. When those means become factories and patents and vast corporate enterprises, the same rules of private property that apply to individuals also apply to them.
But when this basic right to private property becomes a means of depriving vast numbers of people of their own homes and their own ability to make a living, then it has to be moderated by regulation and tax structures that provide a hope and a future to everyone. I am not talking about attacking capitalism. I am talking about a more level playing field that allows everyone to be a capitalist.
Capitalism, when it becomes a vast corporate hegemony that is linked to the power of government that works at its behest, is no longer capitalism. It is fascism. Look it up in your economics 101 text book.
Capitalism that has morphed into corporate fascism, which is the wedding of government and corporate power so that government no longer serves the people, must be dealt with as the unhealthy thing that it is. There is no place in a just and stable government for corporate fascism.
This has nothing to do with free markets or the right to private property. It is the antithesis of them, since it concentrates the entire mechanism for earning a living and all the wealth of a society, as well as the power of government, in a few hands.
I think government should serve the people. I think that a just and stable government is always the greater good.
Corporate fascism, or as Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II called it, “corporatism,” does not do these things. It serves the corporations and it tends toward instability in government. It is unjust by definition.
These are the parameters I use for trying to apply economics in a Christian way. I am writing this so that those of you who feel so strongly about these issues can tear into me, instead of the Pope. I can’t abide people attacking Pope Francis on this blog. But you can go at me and it doesn’t upset me so much.
Have at it friends.
I doubt that they’re interested in what I think, but I want to send a message to the charlatans out there in the blogosphere. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me standing with the Pope.
If you are a Catholic, and you have been joining in the orgy of Pope bashing that is coming from the right wing of American politics, then you need to get in line right behind Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and all those other Catholics you love to hate. Because you are one of them. Get yourself a cafeteria card and get that baby punched.
If you are a Catholic, and you are not outraged by the river of slime being dumped on our Pope by vicious right-wing pundits, then you need some spiritual smelling salts.
Wake up Catholics. Stand with your Pope.
American politicians and their minions in the media love to bash the pope.
Remember the attacks from the left wing against Pope Benedict XVI? They couldn’t/wouldn’t stop cracking their verbal knuckles over what this 80-year-old man had been forced to do against his will when he was a boy. The same crowd that calls foul if you hold any of their heroes accountable for what they said or did five minutes ago, wanted to proclaim that the entire sweep of this Godly man’s life was worthless because of something that had happened when he was a child.
Remember the bullets raining down on Pope John II? They were fired from a gun held by a paid assassin.
Politicians envy the moral voice of the Pope because, alone of all the great religious voices of our day, his is the one they cannot control. Left or right, it doesn’t matter; they all hate and fear the Pope.
That is because he is not one of their toady religious leaders that they have co-opted for their own purposes of gaining and keeping power. The Pope is not answerable to politicians, including American politicians, American politics or America’s self-deified tin gods of the media.
That enrages them.
Politics in this country has endeavored for the past four decades to slice and dice, buy and sell Christianity. It has, with the eager help of its pet clergy, narrowed the revolutionary message of the Gospels down into neat, easily-controllable little sound bites that it can use in campaign ads.
Christianity in America has become a politicized, bastardized mumbo-jumbo of apologetics for both right and left wing politics. Religious leaders have cut the Gospels into political shapes that do not in any way resemble the Gospel that has the words that lead to eternal life. Instead of leading their flocks on the Narrow Way, they are misleading them along the political way.
I have seen these religious leaders bow down before political power. I have witnessed them change their positions when their political masters yank their chains, even on issues of grave moral concern such as abortion. They have bartered Christ in the political marketplace. The fact that at least some of them were paid considerably more than 30 pieces of silver does not change the nature of the transaction.
Political power brokers in the media have not hesitated to use religious language to condemn the political opponents of the power column that is paying their salaries. Toady preachers have not hesitated to back them up. This has become such an unadulterated heresy that large segments of the Christian believers of this nation actually think that following one or the other political party and its “teachings” is tantamount to following Christ.
How did people come to this heretical viewpoint?
They came to it because their religious leaders sold out the Gospels to political power brokers and used their prophetic and moral voice to go whoring for either the Rs or the Ds. They have sold not only the Christian message but themselves in the bargain. They have become the things of the politicians and when they occasionally try to exert themselves as if they were actual men and women of God, they are quickly told to sit down and do as they are instructed, and they do it.
I have witnessed these things and argued in vain with some of the religious leaders, urging them to grow spines and stand for what they say they believe. I have heard their excuses. I have also seen how whipped and meek they are in their dealings with these politicians.
I’ve seen them back off and back down about the one issue they claimed was number one with them: The issue of abortion. I’ve even had pro-life leaders lie to me in a failed attempt to try to keep me from taking a stand against legislative initiatives that were enabling abortion rather than shutting it down.
These political leaders are the religious leaders’ masters, and they are not at all shy about yanking back on the reins if the religious leaders forget this.
I believe that this prevailing relationship of religious corruption and political abuse has created an expectation on the part of right-wing leaders in all venues, including the media, that religious leaders are under their thumb. This public adulation of a Christ-less christianity of the political is coupled with a private contempt for its practitioners that has become so rife in American politics that they aren’t hiding it anymore.
The Pope is the great exception to this. He is not owned or dictated to by either the minions of the right or minions of the left.
The Catholic Church does not trim its teachings to suit the fancy of American politicians. For all their arrogance and power, these political forces and their operatives cannot control or dictate to the Pope.
There is nothing more frightening and enraging to political power brokers than a genuine man or woman of God. They are no different in that than the political power of the first century. Their instincts, which are always honed in the service of getting and keeping power, go ding-ding-ding like a fire alarm when they encounter a religious leader they can’t buy-bully-destroy.
That is why they are attacking our Holy Father today. They can’t control him. They can’t make him teach a two-sin Christianity that deifies them and their politics. They can’t get him, as they have so many other religious leaders, to comb through the scriptures to find verses that will exempt their actions, particularly their actions concerning economics, from moral scrutiny.
That is why the right-wing blogosphere has been littered the past few days with attacks from Breitbart, Limbaugh, Fox News, et al; all claiming that Pope Francis is a Marxist, or something worse, an Obamaist. They use ridiculous headlines such as Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control, (Breitbart) Pope Francis’ Latest Document is Pure Marxism (Limbaugh) Pope Francis is Giving Obama an Orgasm (Limbaugh again), Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s Obama. God Help Us (Fox News) and CNN’s entry from the left, The Pope as Marxist: Is Limbaugh Right?
These people have become so arrogant that they think they can talk to the Pope the way they talk to their toady political religious leaders that they’ve bought and own. Since they can’t even get an audience with the Pope, they are going directly to their cult-like following among their readers and listeners and are doing their best to get them riled up into a froth of Pope-hating.
These attacks on the pope serve a two-pronged political purpose. First, they are an attempt to weaken the Holy Father’s moral leadership in America. Second, they are a method of damage control among the pundits’ Protestant followers.
Evangelii Gaudium does not say anything new in terms of Catholic teaching and economics. But its total lack of obeisance to the political powers in one wing of American politics both affronts and angers them. The Pope is a problem.
The last thing the political powers that be want is for religious leaders to start behaving as if Jesus Christ was actually the arbiter of their teachings. The scary thing about Pope Francis’ independence and total unconcern about them and their power is not only that tens of millions of American Catholics might follow him, but worse, that their toady religious leaders might consider preaching the Gospels of Christ instead of political expedience along with him.
Courage breeds courage. There is just the glimmer of a possibility that these had men of the fallen collar class might decide to become real men of God and start standing for Christ. What would happen if, instead of bending over and apologizing to their political masters for disagreeing with them, the religious leaders these political parties depend on for their moral cover actually stood for Christ?
Thus we are being treated to the sorry spectacle of tawdry attacks on the Vicar of Christ by people who have made their excellent livings promoting fealty to political christianity.
The pope attackers are trying to use the same thing that President Obama has used in pushing the HHS Mandate. They are counting — probably correctly — on the latent anti-Catholicism in our society, in particular in certain conservative Protestant circles.
Not only do these outlandish slanders against the Pope feed them red Catholic blood to whet their anti-Catholicism, they demonstrate what can happen to those who don’t do what they are told. The Pope might be able to shrug off their insults, but lesser clergy would have their reputations and careers wrecked by an onslaught like this.
In short, since they can’t bully and coerce the Pope, they will try as much as possible to isolate him and render his moral teachings insignificant among those religious leaders they can bully and coerce.
That is what is causing the outrageous attacks on the Pope. The claims that these pundits are making about Evangelii Gaudium are baseless lies. I’ve read the document and I can tell you that it is consistent with Catholic teaching on economics going back at least to the 19th century. I know this because I’ve also read the encyclicals of previous popes on this subject.
The Pope is a Marxist??? If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.
In case I haven’t made myself understood, I’ll explain this caterwauling and attacking of the Holy Father in outline form:
I’m going to go over what the Pope actually said in a series of Cliff Notes posts. I’ve done one already. But I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this economic issue for the simple reason that it’s not that important to the overall message of Evangelii Gaudium. You can either take it from me, or read the document for yourself. These attacks on the Holy Father are absolute garbage.
From some of the comments I’ve seen, I would guess that a number of Public Catholic readers are drinking this Pope-hating Kool Aid. This is the small first test in what is coming people. If you allow these crude and vulgar attacks to shear you away from your Church, then you are the lowest of the low hanging fruit on the apostasy tree.
As for me, I am a Catholic woman. This is a Catholic blog. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me standing with the Pope.
I thought when I began work on this post that I would have a lot to say. But the more I read, the less I understood.
My first thought was that the nudity of some of the women protesters might link the riot in the video above to the activities of Fenem in Europe. That may be true, but I can’t find anything that says one way or the other.
Fenem is a small group of young women who began their activities in the Ukraine and have since moved to Paris. They show up nude from the waist up at various public events, and are known for doing outlandish things such as tossing water in an Archbishop’s face and urinating on photos of the Ukrainian president.
I’ve looked at their website and their Facebook page and I can’t find anything that explains what they are doing. If they have a manifesto or a philosophy or even a set of demands, I can’t find them. On the other hand, I did find a listing of things they oppose on Wikipedia, and I have to admit, I agree with them about some of these things.
According to Wikipedia, Fenem began in the Ukraine under the leadership of Anna Hutsol. The group opposes legalizing prostitution, sex tourism and human trafficking. These are all things where I agree with them.
Fenem is also evidently pro abortion and strongly in favor of gay rights, although I am not sure what particular form this support of gay rights takes.
I don’t have any idea what the point of stripping to the waist and tossing water in people’s faces is about. I do get the message in urinating on the president of the Ukraine’s photo. I’m just think there are better, more effective and less vulgar ways to make the statement.
Does Fenem have any connection to the riot in the video at the top of this post? I don’t know.
I haven’t had much luck finding press coverage of the incident recorded in the video. According to the articles I did find, the rioters gathered for the National Meeting of Women in San Juan de Cuyo, Argentina. Evidently, this group has a history of these kinds of “excesses” which have been documented in other videos.
Prior to the attack on the Cathedral, the rioters marched through the city, painting anti-Catholic slogans such as “burn the churches” or “set fire to the churches” on signs and homes. They then moved to attack the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, which, based on the things they were painting on signs and buildings, they probably intended to burn.
Some of the female rioters stripped to the waist, but the rioters were not just women. It also wasn’t a feminist demonstration, at least not as I would think of it. While Fenem does at least talk about legitimate feminist concerns such as human trafficking, sex tourism and prostitution, this group of about 1500 men and women seems to have been focused almost entirely on attacking the Church. The only issues raised that I read anything about were homosexuality, gay marriage and abortion.
However the real issue appears to have been the Church itself.
After tormenting and degrading what appear to be mostly young men who formed a human chain to protect their church, the rioters burned Pope Francis in effigy, dancing around it while it burned. Local law enforcement refused to protect the Cathedral or interfere with the vandalism.
I can hear the young men on the video, praying the Rosary while they are being attacked. I think we owe these young men a great debt. I am proud of their courageous and non-violent defense of my faith. We should be grateful to them.
I imagine they will have bad dreams about this for long time. Many of them described the experience afterwards as a “satanic attack, with demonic figures” and as “part of an anti-Christian world revolution.”
“I think that this goes beyond religious discrimination,” Bishop Juan Martinez of Posadas said. “If this had been done to a synagogue, everyone would have condemned it as anti-Semitism. They do this against Catholics and many people look the other way.”
This is a new kind of movement, in that it does not appear to have any real purpose or plan. I saw spiritually sick people in that video. It was disturbing on many levels to watch it.
I think the world needs Christ and that, whatever else we eventually decide about all this, our call to evangelize is appallingly clear.
Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document.
If you read it with an honest heart, you will be moved by it to ask God’s forgiveness and to deepen your prayer life.
That’s exactly the effect it had on me. I dropped into prayer numerous times as I was reading Evangelii Gaudium. It brought me face to face with my own spiritual drift and self-absorption. It is a convicting document, if you let it be a convicting document.
It can also be a damning document if you read it with a self-righteous heart. You can deprive yourself of the Gospels if you chose to cling to your pet sins and condemn the Pope for pointing them out to you.
A good number of very devout Catholics are settling for a faux faith whose repository is in various web sites run by pundits with collars and pundits without collars, all of whom preach a narrow, self-satisfying Gospel focused on other people’s sins.
If we confine the Gospels to thou shalt nots about abortion and same-sex marriage, it’s easy for people who are not tempted to those sins to feel like their only sin is uttering a curse word when they accidentally hit their heads on the cabinet door while cooking dinner. By the same token, if we confine our fidelity to the Church to an exaggerated obsession with our disagreements with priests, bishops, and lately the Pope himself, we will miss our blessing entirely.
Some Catholics seem to have become the mirror image of those who judge God by whether or not He agrees with them. We live in a culture that refuses to repent of its sins and that demands that the Church validate its sins or be labeled a heartless bigot.
Sadly, more than a bit of this attitude has crept into the pews and behind the altars of the Church itself. There is a large segment of the Catholic faithful who refuse to accept the teaching authority of the Pope when he teaches something that disagrees with their politics, (either of the left or of the right, it doesn’t matter) or their private view of things.
The abortion issue in particular has led a lot of Catholics to assume that if the politics are right-wing, they are also righteous. Pope Francis, by pointing out that all politics, either of the left or the right, must be judged by the true compass of the Gospels, has shook these people to the core.
As I said in an earlier post, this business of slicing one or two sins out of the Gospels and using them to condemn political opponents while twisting and perverting all the rest of the Gospels to suit secular political goals, is heresy. It is not the Word of God that leads to eternal life.
Pope Francis is preaching and teaching the whole Gospel of Christ in all its radical, game-changing power.
Some Catholics judge the Pope by whether or not he teaches a Gospel that affirms them in their condemnation of others. They want him to do this without disturbing them by calling foul about their own pet sins. These unhappy folks are throwing away the blessings of faith with both hands. They are outraged and enraged by that gasbag in Rome who is telling them that they are in need of conversion just like everyone else.
The Pope goes from His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ who they follow because they are “loyal to the magisterium” to that illiterate and uneducated-in-the-ways-of-the-real-world meddler in the Vatican who should be ignored and even condemned. How dare he tell them what they don’t want to hear about things that they don’t want to change?
I think that a number of the pundits who are calling the Pope names like “Marxist” never read Evangelii Gaudium. I would guess that they either thumbed through it until they sighted the buzz words they wanted, or they had someone else do it for them. I know for a fact that the criticisms I’ve read of Evangelii Gaudium are untrue, self-serving and predictable.
I am flummoxed by devout people who want the Church to affirm them in their sins. Their hearts are so hard, their self-assertion so grim. Is that all Christ means to them? Does their “faith” in the teaching authority of the Church end where their politics or self-interest begins?
The teaching of the Church is a doctor that helps us diagnose our spiritual ills so that we can get well. Pope Francis is calling each and every one of us to the incredible joy of laying down the lead weight of darkness that comprises our false allegiances to the things of this world. He is calling us to follow Jesus without reservation. He is showing us how to be saints.
I, for one, want that. I want the joy of Christ. I want the true freedom of the Gospels. I want to follow Him.
Because I know the pit of sin and death He saved me from. Because I know the price He paid to do it. Because I know that the freedom of following Him is absolute and the joy of living and walking in His Heart is beyond words.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to follow Jesus because I love Him.
Pope Francis wrote a convicting document when he penned Evangelii Gaudium. It is a road map to evangelizing the world. In the Christian way, it asks each of us to begin this journey of evangelization by cleaning out our own souls first. It asks us to give up our pet sins for Jesus.
My advice to those who are willing to hear it is to stop following false popes who teach a self-satisfied self-righteousness and the bitterness that comes with it, and follow the real Pope.
You know who I mean: His Holiness, Pope Francis.
Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.