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.)

The Heresy of Little g gods and Running Runners Who Run Away

SJNwebsitePruningRoses

Don’t be alarmed by defecting Christians.

It’s just the Holy Spirit, pruning the dead wood. 

Christianity in America suffers from a blight that is choking out the Word and covering up the Light of Christ. 

That blight is the heresy of conflating Christ the Lord with partisan politics. This has gone on so long and become so endemic that a lot of people actually think that they are following Christ by how they register to vote. 

Even worse, people who confuse Jesus with the R and the D always seem to end up lopping off parts of Jesus in order to make Him fit into the partisan box. If you’re an R, this has historically meant that the Sermon on the Mount is just jesus (little j) blather that comes from the First Century and doesn’t mean much. I’ve had the experience of using the phrase “If you’ve done it to the least of these, if you’ve done it to Me,” in debate and seeing the bored, patronizing expressions cross those Republican faces. 

They don’t want to hear it. 

Likewise, anyone who has ever gone into a Democratic Party what-not with the idea that gay marriage or abortion or any trendy social sin is not a “human right” is going to learn what the word “cut” means in the Victorian sense. They will cut you dead. And that’s if they’re in a good mood. 

My point, which I’ve made over and over again, and which I’ll keep on making until it’s no longer pertinent, is that the R and the D aren’t Jesus. Party platforms aren’t the Gospels. 

We are now living with the inevitable consequences of this decades-long heresy of political jesus. People are increasingly sick and tired of the heresy. They find — quite rightly — that it is a sham and a flam and that partisan politics jesus is a bogus god not worth their time. 

Many outspoken Christian leaders have maintained so loudly and for so long that this perversion of the Gospels that they’ve been preaching is, in fact, the true Gospels of Christ, that they’ve managed to convince not only their besotted followers, but the larger population, as well.

A lot of people believe that political jesus; political party apologist jesus, mean and heartless django jesus, is actually Our Lord.

Why do they think this?

Because Christian religious leaders and their followers have been telling them so for decades.

This group of disenchanted, disaffected-with-Christianity reactors to political django jesus, has grown to the point that they are now able to affect the outcome of national elections. Which means that they are now players.

That also means that the same political parties who’ve used and abused the name of Christ for so long are now trying to get shed of Him. The stampede for the exit ramps among politicians and professional Christians of every stripe has become such a crowded field that it is a parody of itself. 

STAMPEDE

The National Review published a whimsical essay today titled “A Form Letter for Defecting Conservatives.” This humorous article is an accurate representation of what is happening and the flabby, flimsy lies these runners are using to explain themselves. 

What interested me the most, however, is that the National Review’s title underscores the heresy I’m talking about. The “issues” these running rabbits are dumping are the same issues that traditional Christians have fought for these past decades. They are the issues that put the Rs in the winner’s circle. Hence, the use of the word “conservative” to describe these folks. 

However, what they are, are sham Christians who’ve used a faked fealty to Christ to win elections or build big careers in publishing, think-tanking or some other moneyed and powered endeavor. As anyone who isn’t wearing a mental blindfold can tell just by looking around, they haven’t done much good. But they have certainly done well. 

The reason they are hitting the door on these “issues” now is because they never believed them in the first place. I’m not saying that people can’t experience a change of heart, that they can’t be converted. But this mass stampede of political opportunists for the higher ground of a different take on traditional Christian teaching has nothing to do with conversion. It is pragmatic people being pragmatic and taking care of themselves. 

Runrabit

They never believed it in the first place, and whatever they tell you now, they don’t believe that, either. 

The heresy here is that none of this — none of it — has anything to do with Jesus. By conflating politics with the Gospels, we have corrupted politics and defamed the Gospels. These aren’t “defecting conservatives. ” The reason they aren’t is that issues like the sanctity of human life and marriage are not issues. They are truths. The sanctity of human life and marriage are not “conservative” values. “If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me,” is not liberal spin. 

These are the law and the prophets of God Almighty. They are the teachings of Christ the Lord. 

We are beginning to reap the whirlwind that we have sown by lying about the nature of God for political gain. 

My advice is don’t be alarmed or dismayed by all these recanting Christians and born-again nihilists. 

Let them go their way and don’t worry. 

The Holy Spirit is pruning the tree of life so that it can bloom anew. 

 

Here, from Monty Python, is an anthem for the runners.

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Pope Francis: Walking Past Lazarus on the Way to Hell

“Financiers, economists and politicians consider God as manageable, even dangerous because God calls man to his full realization and independence from any kind of slavery.” Pope Francis

Money is God

When money is your god, you are well on your way to creating a hell on earth.

We have gone so far down the road of making money our god in this society that we basically exempt any public policies that have to do with business or finance from moral scrutiny. Some of the most ardent Christians are the ones who enforce this heretical nonsense. 

The same people who go into a froth over abortion do not raise an eyebrow when it comes to limiting prenatal care or refusing to require businesses to provide safe work environments for their employees. There is no piece of legislation that limits access to care for the poor that these folks won’t support. They are the enemies of the welfare state … except when it comes to corporations. No deal is too special, no government hand-out too abusive to deserve a second look when it comes to business.

It’s as if Jesus never said a single word about “the least of these” except as it applies to abortion. You would think that it was a moral imperative to drain the public coffers dry and hand the money over to a few corporations and wealthy campaign donors who sit at the top of the social pile. These Christians never consider whose money it is in the first place when they take it from the many and give it to the few. 

According to them, people are poor because they are lazy, stupid and deserve what they get. On the other hand the wealthy are rich because they are industrious, productive and deserve all they can get. 

Government has become a wholly owned subsidiarity of the rich and shameless. In the hands of these moral Christian politicians, government is a method for funneling the wealth of generations into a few hands and impoverishing the rest of our society. 

This particular form of sinfulness is committed by those who are usually the most vociferous in claiming their loyalty to Christ. They are “pro life” and they usually support “traditional marriage,” so in their little minds that means that everything else they do is, by definition, righteous and holy. You would think that we are saved, not by the cross, but by checking off the right boxes on candidate surveys by a couple of political support groups. 

When money becomes your god, you are well on your way to creating a hell on earth. I would guess that you are also well on you way to going to the actual hell one day, as well.

Money is a human invention. Wealth and poverty are symptoms of our fallen nature. There is nothing divine or holy about either one of them. That is not to say that they are necessarily evil. They are, simply, tools and reality. Money is a tool. Disparity of wealth is a reality.

But greed, graft and government corruption are sins. When we carry them to the point that they impoverish millions while enriching a few beyond the dreams of avarice, they are deadly sins, both in this world and the next. 

Luke16 24RichManinHell

It’s a simple equation, really. Do not walk past Lazarus; not if you want to go to heaven one day. 

Pope Francis spoke about this concept of money as a means rather than an end today when he addressed the new ambassadors to the Holy See from Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, Luxembourg and Botswana. 

Pope francis

“Money has to serve, not rule” he told them … wanting power and possession has become limitless … the sprawling of corruption and tax evasion has gone global.

“The Pope urges a return to the unselfish solidarity and ethics in favor of man in financial and economic reality,” he said. “The Pope loves everyone rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. This would take a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders … I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations. 

The excerpts of his discussion below are from CNA:

“The joy of living is decreasing, indecency and violence are the the rise and poverty is becoming more evident,” said Pope Frncis.

“You must fight to live and often to live in a non-decent way … We have created new idols, the ancient worship of the golden calf has found a new and ruthless image in fetishism of the dictatorship of the economy without purpose nor a truly human face,” he said. 

“It reduces man to one of its demands, consumption and even worse, the human being is today considered himself as a commodity that you can use and then throw away … Financiers, economists and politicians consider God as manageable, even dangerous because God calls man to his full realization and independence from any kind of slavery …” (Read the rest here.) 

They’ll Know We are Christians

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

How tragic for us if that is not true.

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Archbishop Chaput on Politics, and a few reflections from me

This is an interesting video, and well worth watching.

I think Archbishop Chaput is correct when he says that the reason the Democratic Party has become the party of abortion is that Catholics within that party didn’t hold it accountable. However, I don’t agree with his prescription that they should have left the party.

Many people have left the Democratic Party over abortion, and the result has been that the party has become more, not less, pro abortion. This is the effect of distillation of viewpoints.

This distillation of viewpoints and the extremism it nurtures are what created a climate inside the upper echelons of the Democratic power structure that allowed something as monstrous as the HHS Mandate to come about. When you only talk to a few people who agree with you, you inevitably move toward hubris and its corresponding bad judgement.

What could have changed things is if, back in the day, the pro life people within the Democratic Party had stood up and refused to give on the issue. Instead, they compromised their pro-life views out of existence, or they left the party outright. What is interesting is how completely people become what they do. The longer those pro life people who stayed in the party compromised themselves, the more they believed that what they were doing is right.

They changed alliances — from Christ to the Democratic Party.

The Archbishop is correct when he says that we can’t reply on the Republican Party to be pro-life in twenty years. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that we can’t rely on them to be effectively pro-life now. I’ve seen the Republican Party kill pro-life bills using the same arguments and tactics as the Democrats have for decades. This wasn’t rogue Republicans. It was the Republican elected leadership.

Everything I’ve said about the Democrats is also true of the Republicans. The Christians within the Republican Party have compromised the Sermon on the Mount to the point that they’ve begun to treat the actual words of Christ the Lord as if they were a heresy.

Anytime you remind these outspokenly political Christians of the words of Christ concerning justice and compassion, their eyes film over and they tune you out. This is the indifference and hardness of heart Jesus condemned so absolutely, and it is being practiced in order to fit the Gospels to the Republican Party Platform.

They do this because this compromise of their faith is the only way they can avoid standing up against the in-the-bag for the corporations corporatism of their party. Along they way, they’ve started making excuses for Republicans when they kill pro life bills.

I can’t emphasize enough that we need to stand and fight within our parties to change things. You can not build a culture of life with half the people. It can not be done.

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