Church, Economic Reform and Consolation – UPDATED

In the comments section of this piece, some appear to be wondering whether I am simply “dismissing” the Note on Financial Reform. I can’t do that, as I still have not read it.

I do think the church is, as ever, caught upon the same wire it has danced upon since its founding, with one foot poised for the next step, hovering between earth and heaven and trying to reconcile both to each other, and trying to do so in the language and sensibilities to which its churchmen have been formed. Some will always hate it, others will always be bewildered. And some will be over-anxious to embrace it. This is true of every single thing that comes down from Vatican Hill. And it is interesting to watch people grab on to what they love and say “This! This is the church being good!” and then push away what they do not like and say “This! This is the church being mistaken and bad!” We take nothing as a whole, because we are not whole, ourselves.

Even more interesting is to observe how readily the same people will call the church and its pronouncements “good” or “bad” based on instinctive ideologies that, really, our faith is supposed to transcend (but so rarely does — because, again, we are not whole, and we are always struggling toward wholeness.) But if we remember that the church is first and foremost always about Christ, and first and foremost about human people trying to both enter into the mystery of Christ and then bring that mystery to others, it becomes easier to understand some of what she says and does, and why she says and does it, and why sometimes it sits easy with us, and sometimes it does not.

And it seems to me that if people are unhappy with the quality of our churchfolk — if they feel the Curia is inept (I have been guilty of saying it because, well…occasionally it is) or if they feel it is not Christcentric enough, or they feel it is rather too mystical — if they take issue with the Taproot of Christianity and how it functions and fumbles and triumphs in a very complicated world — then they ought to become more involved in the church. Begin with some excellent adult catechesis to find out what they don’t know (which for all of us is usually “a lot”) and read from her 2000-year storage of knowledge, reason and faith and get involved.

Dare to suggest to your sons and daughters that they consider a life in service to the church, either within the priesthood, the religious life, the diaconate or in lay ministry. How often do we complain about the church (or praise it) or seek something from it, but do little-to-nothing to raise up a new generation to serve it?

If our kids are serving the church, they’ll never get rich.
And they will struggle daily on that wire between earth and heaven, along with the church — and sometimes they’ll slip because that struggle is maddening and certainly humbling — but they will grow a perspective of Eternity that will prevent their ever becoming slaves to a moment or a passing trend. They will understand the futility of building a society that is prosperous and over-materialistic but so profit-obsessed and spiritually bereft that an economic downturn leaves them all-undone and anxious.

They will understand that possessing MacPro’s but not the Master, being dependent on the iPhone, rather than the I AM, leaves nothing to fall back on.

They will have escaped the trap of finding their consolation in material things, because they will not have conferred upon their things the power to reassure and to affirm their self-hood.

Which means they will be free in ways that too many of us — and particularly our young — are not.

Our kids may love their things, but the things can’t love them back, and they can only affirm and reassure because they have become talismans. Outside of our dependence upon them, our gadgetry are powerless. And how many of us have run out to the store, to make sure our kids have the Next Big Thing (the next phone, the next game console, the next i-Anything) — and by our actions communicated to our children just how valuable, essential and necessary these “things” are — while neglecting to give them the One True Thing necessary; the thing that will free them from the enslavement of the money-chase and prevent them from the cluttered emptiness of the disposable-materialist mentality.

Which is the life in Christ.

Which is, ultimately, a life of service, not of acquisition.

Only in that life does true reassurance, the only affirmation, the lasting consolation abide.

I haven’t read the document; I may not find time to, today — I am already behind my schedule — but I know that it is a flawed, imperfect document trying to remind a world roiling from economic uncertainty that there is a path to reassurance, and that while means and methods may be debated, the path itself is clear, and it leads to a Cross, a Resurrection and a Eucharist.

::::UPDATE:::: Having read John Allen’s astute analysis,
I begin to think that the best way to regard this document is not as an “assault on American prosperity” as an “assault on poverty” in other lands. Do read the link to dotcommonweal, below as well.

::::ANOTHER UPDATE::::: Rod Dreher writing What I wish I had written, particularly his last point, toward the end.

:::::YET ANOTHER UPDATE::::: Rocco Palmo gives another perspective, this time from the North!

Here is what Pope Benedict XVI, taking a question on economics while on his way to Madrid, had to say in August:

YouTube Preview Image

UPDATE: Some reactions to the document I still have not read:

Crisis Magazine: Right Diagnosis, Deadly Cure
George Weigel: The Pope is no Chaplain to OWS
Sandro Magister: The Pope, The OWS, The Barricades
Father Z: “howling like a loon”
DotCommonweal: A world authority not necessary

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://motherofthechurch.blogspot.com Patrick

    “We take nothing as a whole, because we are not whole, ourselves.” <– Love it! Will certainly be something I think about for a while.

  • Dan C

    The Church (and I) may be wrong on these matters, but the Vatican and the Pope differ from Acton Institute, conservative blog discourse, and the low-regulatory/low welfare support aspects of Republican politics now. It is this that should be the starting point of conservative understanding now. This would be honest as opposed to the highly-dogmatized language of conservative discourse which in religious blogs replaces the uber-patriotic language (“welfare is unpatriotic” etc).

    With this novelty acknowledged (instead of pretending the Pope and CST really are saying libertarianism is morally acceptable), the discourse can change and become productive.

    [American Catholics -- exposed to the very Calvinistic urgings of the "religious right" much more than to the Church Fathers or Doctors -- are becoming increasingly wrapped up in ideology and nationalism in a way that really is counter-intuitive to Catholicism. They're losing sight of the fact that nations end, continually, but the church does not -admin]

  • Mouse

    Yes, nations end. The nations that are the most committed to socialism (not communism) are also the nations that do not have even close to a replacement birth rate. The Church has failed in Europe – we can debate the reasons why until the Lord comes back, however the Church has not been able to get people to stop using birth control and stop having abortions so that they replace themselves in every developed country in Europe. Most of the men who came up with this reform were themselves formed in their economic thinking in those very dying countries. I would be very interested to see what the African and South American prelates (who are in a numeric minority) think about economic reform — their countries are at least having children enough to replacing themselves.

    [Then again, it's worth noting that even when the Church was much more influential on issues like, for instance, birth control, nations still ended -admin]

  • SKay
  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Nations end, it’s true.

    However, I see nothing in Christianity that states we have to encourage, or remain indifferent to, their demise, or that we shouldn’t repent, and take stock, when it looks as if our own actions are contributing to said demise.

    It is very sad, and does no credit to the Church’s teachers, that it hasn’t been able to curb abortion, or birth control, even among its own members (a problem it shares with other Christian denominations, of course, many of which also struggle with the scandal of high levels of divorce among their members.)

    [Gosh, RS, where did I suggest that we "shouldn't repent, take stock..." etc. I think this post is all about refocusing on what matters, and realizing that even patriotism and ideology can become as idolatrous as our materialism. And idolatry is a pretty big sin in and of itself -- the first commandment and all that. -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And, of course, the idea of some central power regulating finances, and deciding who’se worthy, and who isn’t, of largesse, is simply a bad idea.

  • Doc

    It is interesting that those who condemn conservatives for objecting to the modern welfare state ignore the actual historical results of the welfare state. Stated intentions don’t matter much when the results lead to fewer married mothers, more abortions, more dependency (on government, on drugs, on alcohol, on lustful pursuits) and the program depends on promotion of envy and sloth. Government programs are designed to grow, so a government program set up for the poor will require more poor people to grow. Bureaucrats in charge of that program quickly forget their stated mission and revert to the continuation and expansion of their own fiefdom. In the end, they care far less for the poor than do the “evil rich” who might actually hire the poor and permit them to escape the bonds of government dependency. Government depends on the poor remaining poor, or there is no more reason for the program and those who run it to exist and to remain employed and well-budgeted.

  • Dan C

    I think that more welfare is due currently. I do not agree with “world bodies” for finance.

    Increased welfare in European states seems to decrease social pathologies in lower classes compared to the US. Poor people are addicted, lack marriage structures, live violently in countries without welfare states too-so Doc’s implication that there is a relationship is faulty and in error.

  • Dan C

    As mentioned in a different post, many religious brethren will have trouble with this. We should be unfailing in explaining to Southern Baptists that their ways are not our ways and are in error, as one would explain about birth control in serious discourse about religions.

    I am unapologetic about this. I am expected to be a harsh defender of Catholic pelvic morality and much drama is always placed in conservative circles about such things as conscience clauses and their absence as marking the beginning of persecution of Catholics (and then some blogger always then brings up martyrs). However, in this hemisphere, Catholic defenders of the poor have been the one’s persecuted and killed-often by our own client states. We have the witness of Romero, the four churchwomen of El Salvador, and many others who have been persecuted for standing with the poor. This is what the witness has been and informs the universal Church, even if, perhaps due to our complicity with these murders, we have not embraced or even eschewed any thought of continuity with these men and women of our faith.

  • Fr. Allen

    Hmm. With all due respect, the best way to regard the document is to regard it as one that you have read!

    It’s easy to get bogged down in discussions of liberal and conservative thought. And the document does sagely warn of the fracturing as at Babel, rather than being united in a spirit of Pentecost. (That’s about it for Biblical allusions.)

    What I find truly lacking in the document is breadth of perspective. It’s history is rooted in post WWII collectivism, it gushes enthusiastically on about globalism, supra-nationalism, the coming growth out of national sovereignty, the submission of the individual to the common good, et cetera. But other views on all of these issues do exist, and they do have a place in the discussion. And, why the urgency?

    I understand the authors have different opinions, different perspectives. The rise of Islamic states, the prospect of a united Caliphate, communist China, secularism, and the rampant greed of speculative capitalists are obviously causes for concern. The note however, is uncritical in it’s high regard for it’s heroes. It’s as if the tide of global government is coming in, and they’re surfing the wave to demonstrate that their prowess in understanding of these issues is right on the money.

    We desperately need to help the unfortunate in realizing their dignity in creation; we most need to help those who do not know Jesus Christ. An uncritical push towards world government and a hurried demise of the sovereign nation state is not necessarily helping either of those goals.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    We do need to help the poor.

    However, are collectivism, and centralized authority really the best way to do this?

    I think the dispute is not with the need to help alleviate poverty, but the methods being suggested.

  • Dan C

    Mr. Suderman: Agreed. The document changes the dynamic of the discourse enormously, though. The Church thinks otherwise than the writers at NRO.

    I disagree with Joh Allen. The global South has always had a significant Church presence and the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s demonstrated that money, guns, and power can stop certain lines of thinking very rapidly in Church life. This may be the latest assessment by the Church in voicing economic concerns for the poor, it is not the first.

  • Thomas R

    It’s difficult for me to say this, but it kind of struck me as one of those things that say a Cardinal will write about economics that sounds really idealistic and kind, but also completely divorced from any kind of reality.

    I’d like to think this isn’t because I’m nationalist or influenced by the US Christian Right. I don’t believe in unrestrained Capitalism and I’m not entirely opposed to some kind of global Confederation. I used to object to saying the Pledge of Allegiance as I deemed it to be too “narrow nationalist” and even now I’d only say it to be supportive of soldiers who believed in that stuff.

    It’s just at times some Vatican groups seem to indicate economics, bureaucracy, or psychiatry are much more advanced than they are in reality. So we no longer need execution, ever, because penal science or psychiatry is so advanced no one is ever really dangerous anymore. And a well-intentioned series of regulations that favors the poor will work because we’re so advanced now we know how to make that happen.

    I really hope I’m being unfair to them. And I really hope this doesn’t make me too “bad” of a Catholic. There was some of it I like. I like that subsidiary deals with the concerns of a too powerful state. And I am supportive of things that will help the truly poor, but I don’t know…

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Thomas R., no, I don’t think you’re being a bad Catholic for questioning the methods suggested here—isn’t that why God gave us reason?

    And you make a very good point about things that sound idealistic and kind, but are actually divorced from reality! The sad fact is, we aren’t that advanced! We don’t know how to fix poverty, or how to “cure” evil. If we did, we wouldn’t need this document in the first place, because we’d all be living perfect lives, and there would be no poor anymore!

    Certainly, the history of the past, 20th Century should have taught us the folly of relying on centralization, collectivism and grand, over-arching political schemes to achieve supposedly idealistic goals.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    There’s also the folly of suggesting that the United Nations—a thoroughly corrupt, ineffecient organization—be allowed to control anything! I don’t think it’s being idolotrous, or overly nationalistic, to think that giving it more power is not a good idea.

  • Dan C

    I suggest a change in vocabulary. Collectivism is not on the agenda in this Curial office. It is an inflammatory word that is used only by conservatives at this point and does not add to any level of the conversation.

    Collectivism of the Soviet Union is not in anyone’s mind. That is collectivism. This is not suggested and the definition of collectivism in conservative arlance seems to be “a return to progressive income tax rates of the 1990′s.” This makes conversations ridiculous and participants variously inflamed.

    As far as this document, twinned with “Truth in Love,” it “outs” the thinking of the Vatican. Conservatives now have their homework cut out.

    “Limited government” is not in the historical Catholic vocabulary, and conservative need to begin to make a case for it. Conservatives need to make a case for a weak central government and strong private sector-taking into account the experience of, say, Africa, which has weak central government and strong private interests that are “outed” in this document as ultimately destructive. Conservatives need to figure out how to protect the poor beyond its routine call for “limited government,” “subsidiarity,” and “second amendment rights.”

    It is not that I consider these Catholics “bad” or even “dissenting”, but they are not “with the Church” on these matters and in order to continue the conversation, the short-cuts and judgementalism needs to end and they have to do some homework. The poor needs to be cared for.

    This paper provides a refutation to the conervative point that capitalism has been a boon to the third world also. This is not an isolated meme.

    This paper has criticizable elements but both specific and broad teaching points. This paper does target specifically American Catholic conservative views, which, with Raymond Burke and other neo-con supporting prelates in the Vatican, are well-represented, also.

  • LisaB

    Mr. Dan C, you may not be in agreement with conservative economic philosophy however, if you’d like a reasonable discourse I would recommend you stop with the veiled accusations that conservatives do not care for the poor, are bad people and are dissenting from Church teaching all because they disagree with your economic philosophy. This document is a “white paper” from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and, as several people have noted, it is not from the Holy Father’s Ordinary Magisterium.

    I’ve read the document. You’re correct, it will and has changed the dynamic of the discourse. It will get people thinking whether they really want a one world oligarchy utopia – or not.

  • Doc

    Dan, I never stated or implied that addiciton, failing marriages, and violence would cease among the poor without the modern welfare state (straw men sure are easy to knock down, aren’t they), but rather that the modern welfare state makes all of them worse by diminishing the concept of personal responsibility. Charles Murray lays out the facts that make this case in Losing Ground. These facts have been available since the early ’80s when that book came out.

  • Tom T

    Dan C, I don`t know how to break this to you, but this paper carries no
    weight of the Vatican and it comes from one of the most liberal Pontifical Councils that exist in Rome and it comes without the blessing of the Holy Father. You must be aware that what the paper suggests is already in existance and a complete failure, in crisis mode with an economic meltdown that is taking place right before our very eyes. The ECB and the IMF as well as the countries that have a substantial financial stake in Greece and Italy, Spain and portugal are on the brink of financial collapes and no real solutions in sight. Conservatives are not to blame for this mess. Socialistic economies that provided for the poor and all the rest of the population and wound up with, Greece for example, with 200% debt ratio to domestic GDP while Italy has 120% of debt to GDP, are to blame. The European Central Bank has no idea, nor dose anyone else for that matter, where all the bailout money is going to come from. The paper sent to G20 from the Pontifical Council, which is, by the way only one of several left wing Pontifical Councils that issue from time to time meaningless papers on various world subjects with cherry picked lines from Caritas In Veritate orchestrated by liberal and influencial Jesuits in the Vatican is, as one poster noted outside of reality and accomplishes nothing except to further divide an already bitterly divided Church. Frankly the paper, and yes I did read it, smacks of Marxism. The Central European Bank which controls the EU
    and all the member nations is about to fold like a deck of cards and it is not a question of will it, just a question of when. So much for centralized banking. Pax

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    One problem with centralized banking is that when the central bank goes—who bails them out?

    And people should be able to have differeing views about what works, and what doesn’t work, economically and politically, without being accused of being bad Christians, or un-Catholic.

  • Dan C

    Tom T, Europe is not the world.

    “Limited government” rationales exist in many contexts outside of the US and Europe and afflict the majority of Catholics.

    Western-owned transnationals impose frightful conditions on many Catholics, yet are often defended in conservative blogdom.

    I am not a proponent of OWG, yet the conservative movement has yet to address critiques of “limited government” and its abject failures in the face of dominating capitalism. Conservativism, specifically libertarian-disposed conservative thought, is on trial. Great! Conservatives are to do their homework! I am looking forward to listening.

    If one believes that neo-con economic theory is not well-represented in the Vatican, one has not considered either Burke or Levada’s influence.

    And the Vatican news twitter feed took time to highlight this paper, by the way. It doesn’t highlight everything that happens, but this made the cut.

    This paper demythologizes the theological support libertarian-disposed conservative economic theories embrace. I think this paper is more an intellectual gauntlet, and is not far from “Truth in Love” in its expositions.

    Quite frankly, it posits one important prime supposition, that there is a preferential option for the poor, and that current conservative economic theories want in their approach to this. They posit attempted solutions, all criticizable.

    Their view extends beyond Wall Street, Berlin, and London, however.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Also, Dan C., historically speaking, it looks like capitalism has proved better for economies than socialism, and more likely to help the poor.

    Also, capitalist societies are less likely to produce the nightmarish modern “Monster” state, with its attendant gulags, re-education camps and secret police. This is not to say they’re perfect—but no system run by fallible human beings is ever going to be perfect, and capitalism offers less opportunities for abuse by a dictator, or an oligarchy, than socialism does. Centralizing power is a dangerous thing; simply “changing the vocabulary” doesn’t change that.

    And, as LisaB points out, insulting conservatives, and implying they’re bad Catholics because they don’t agree with your economic views, is not a good way to carry on a political debate. Trying to shame your opposition into agreeing with you by insults—not good.

  • Dan C

    Mr. Suderman,

    With you on the matter of accusing folks of “bad Catholics,” I agree.

    I think, though, we should indicate there is moral right and wrong in this matter of “prudential judegement,” that the Church is noting one way, including the highest levels of the Church, and that American interests are not looking that way.

    Then I think the case needs to be made for or against limited government with an eye to controlling transnationals who are criticized as amoral dominant beasts in third world countries. But, there have been short cuts taken on this intellectual journey without reflection and more propaganda than honest reflection.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Dan C., who are these western-owned transnationals who are imposing frightful conditions on Catholics? What are their names? What awful conditions are they making Catholics suffer, and what methods are they using to impose them? Can you describe these a bit more? Got any links?

    Again, given the history of the 20th Century, it isn’t limited government that has to explain, and defend itself; it’s centralized, running-every-aspect-of-daily-life government. Where have such governments, whether they call themselves Marxist, Facist or socialist, succeeded? Where have they actually succeeded in helping the poor? No, Europe is not the entire world (whoever said it was?) but the fact that its socialist economies are collapsing is instructive.

    The poor in America have iphones and ipods (I’ve seen them, when I volunteer to feed the homeless.) They have cars, most of them, and T.V.’s; their clothes might not be fancy, but they are dressed. We have problems in the U.S., yes, and we probably aren’t helping all the people we could’ but is centralized banking, and government, the right way to address these problems? (Let alone, God help us, centralized banking and government under the auspices of the U.N.? Give me a break!)

    As for other, non-American countries. . . what if they desire to keep their own banks, and their own governments, thank you very much, and don’t want any outside assistance, or some central authority telling them what to do? What are we supposed to do then? Force them to accept this? (For their own good, of course—heh!)

    You do realize, by the way, that this is primarily a Catholic blog, not a Libertarian one? Many libertarians are also opposed to, or uninterested, in religion, and don’t like “social conservatives” (i.e, the more religious sort of conservative); if you want to debate them, you’d have to try a libertarian blog. And again–accusing conservatives of being evil, uncaring people, if they don’t go along with your political/economic theories, is no way to debate. You seem to have decided they’re just bad from the get-go, and you don’t really need to make a case.

  • Dan C

    LisaB,

    I have been noted as being in violation of the “thou shalt not covet” commandments and a promoter of the vice “envy” because I suggest a return to the income tax regime of the 1990′s.

    That conservatives read “bad Catholics” when they read “not thinking with the Church” is part of the problem. The conservative economic theories were presumed to be coupled as “with the Church” with a presumption that “orthodox” Catholics espoused them. This constituted the large part of the imprimatur given these theories.

    I am all for the discussion. I do not attribute “bad” Catholic with not thinking with the Church on this matter. I think we have to derive proper lessons from this and Benedict’s encyclical (which has been ignored for years on conservative blogs). I have stated these assessments are “value-free” from my point of view, it just defines the work that has to be done. And redirects judgementalism of “envy” etc when one is discussing a mildly progressive income tax, for example (which compared to this white paper looks closer to Milton Friedman than the Vatican).

    This is a splash of cold water that began when a pundit from the Hoover Institution noted that, really, Benedict was his intellectual opponent on matters of economy.

    This is for the better. If the conservative “limited government/free markets ‘rock’” approach to economics turns out to be more moral (recognizing as Mr. Suderman notes, humans will still rule these systems)-it will be because the approach was better and intellectually informed by the Church who includes a majority poor populace.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Well, if you agree with me—you’ll stop doing it! Thanks!

    The problem with ascribing morality to a particular political view, or economic view, is that it becomes, de facto, the approved, “Holy” one, and all those who disagree with the “Holy” viewpoint must, hence, be doing so out of sheer wickedness, not because they have actual problems with a given system, or think it’s unworkable; hence, they become “Heretics” and “Infidels”, and the “Holy” system can’t be questioned, no matter what flaws it might contain. This is not a good way to approach economic, or political, questions. These are man-made systems, and should be open to criticsim, not blindly accepted. I am not a Catholic myself, but I do think the Church has been unwise in its approach here.

    Again, given the history of the 20th Century (speaking as an amateur historian, not as a conservative, or a neo-whatever), it’s large, centralized governments which must defend themselves, not limited ones.

  • Dan C

    Limited central governance exists in Africa, and existed in the Wild West of our history. These are hardly ideal models.

    I like the idea of limited government, but how does one defend themselves against the corporation that dumps in my neighborhood (I lived out that wonderful experience in my youth in New Jersey) without an EPA? How does one control unfair labor practices? Or just “let the market” sort them out?

  • http://workingonmyrewrite.blogspot.com/ bob c

    man of man, Elizabeth, that is one incredible spin on a document that is rich & complex.

    I tend to agree with conservative blogger Rod Dreher:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/2011/10/24/what-the-vatican-document-says-and-doesnt-say/

  • Revert Al

    “assault on American prosperity”?
    “assault on poverty”?

    Now that a bit of the dust has settled and
    more intelligent people than myself
    have put it in context, I
    consider it “an assault from a teapot” in the same
    sense as a tempest in a teapot. Not an assault
    against a trivial thing, but an assault that
    comes from such a low level of the vatican
    with such narrow thinking
    (I thank John L Allen from identifying what
    hemisphere the thinking comes from, but
    it doesn’t excuse its narrowness) that
    we should fully expect major conceptual
    problems to be inherent in it and ignored by
    it.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Dan C., you deal with illegal dumpers and unfair labor practices through the rule of law—i.e., when these people break the laws, they should suffer the penalties.

    With a business, a corporation, an individual, when they break the law, you can have the government go after them. What do you do when the government itself, is the lawbreaker? Who do you call to go after it?

    (By the way, regarding your remarks about the Old West—really, it wasn’t all that violent, or lawless, a place; I know Hollywood and pulp fiction writers have painted it as a place of never-ending gunfights, cattle rustlers, scarlet women, two-fisted he-men, etc., etc., etc.—but it really wasn’t like that. The most violent city during that era wasn’t Dodge, or Tombstone, but New York.)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    bob C., I agree with Dreher’s take, too.

    I didn’t realize quite how utopian this article is! Dangerous stuff.

  • dry valleys

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/10/26/the-irony-of-being-told-i-dont-deserve-benefits/

    [What is the solution, then, DV? Governments are crumbling under the weight of social programs they can no longer afford. Maybe the answer is what the church has been talking about for a long time, subsidiarity. Let communities take care of communities -- via local governments, local employers and yes the churches -- rather than the big daddy bureaucracy? What is the solution? Does anyone know? It's so easy to lead with feelings and sentiment, but that fades when demands increase and the workers begin to feel put upon to the extreme. What is the solution? -admin]

  • Doc

    Dan…really…which African country is based on limited government based on classical liberalism? I think you’re smart enough to know the difference between limited government as envisioned by our founders and anarchy. In fact I’m sure of it.

  • Tom T

    Rhinestone Suderman, I also agree with Rod Dreher`s take on the paper and he correctly points out one of the major problems, in that the
    average Catholic has no idea of the source of the dangerous and decidedly disconected from reality idea came from and so whose view
    may actually be expressed here or, how relative to the faith it actually is. That misrepresentation in view dose more damage than the paper itself. Now rather than dive into the endless discussion of liberal views of capitalism, economics, governments and political views, allow me to point out from a great deal of experience that arguing with a liberal is a little like wrestling with a pig in the mud. After a while you come to realize that the pig is actually enjoying it. Pax.

  • Dan C

    A couple of important points: subsidiarity is a “me-centered” event- not an organization. Leo’s encyclical is clear on this-the individual is where it starts. This is not just for families-but “the stranger” as noted in, for example, the story of the good Samaritan. Its not an organization or a committee- its the Catholic Worker-type “Christ room.” That is the core meaning of subsidiarity.

    The Church is noting the following: its not just about “workers or the middle class” and their needs. The poor are central. Perhaps an important lesson of this document is that the Church thinks preferentially about the poor.

    How does a system burden the poor or alleviate their burden? Unfortunately, untruths about the role of welfare, handouts and various supports would suggest that these increase social pathologies like violence or addiction. That is untrue and may even be the opposite.

    Also, and I never thought I would write this, but I long for the taxation and regulatory structures of the Reagan era. Governmental revenue demands on the populace (taxes, for example) of that era would assist and offset much of the debt.

    What this document does, though, is tone down the rhetoric from stating that such a tax increase is “class warfare” (really? Such nonsense.) and de-theologizes arguments from the right. This and “Truth in Love” sit well, side-by-side, and insist on demands of alternate economic ideologies, which, from the beginning, need to promote human flourishing and attend to the preferential option for the poor (which is why its called “preferential”-the poor are thought of first-not as an afterthought or accident of an invisible hand or whatever).

    And I want to throw a big smoocher to that gentleman, Tom T, from the pig. Nice chatting with ya!

  • http://www.debatingobama.blogspot.com Greg Metzger

    http://debatingobama.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-are-vatican-and-elizabeth-warren.html

    I finally had a chance to read the document and really wish George Weigel had shown respect for it. In the link above I defend the Vatican’s efforts and connect them to Elizabeth Warren’s work and to the awful bipartisan consensus formed by Phil Gramm and Charles Schumer, among others, over the last two decades that justifies the Vatican’s rage at the banking powers in US.

  • Thomas R

    I do “struggle” a bit with the Church’s economic views. I’m not very comfortable with labor unions. I think bosses should just treat workers right or laws should require they treat them right or even that companies should be “worker owned” when possible. To me unions seem to adversarial, but I know the Church supports them. And I’m also skeptical of government power being as good as it, at times, the Church seems to see government power as being. Sure Scandinavia really does have less poverty and crime, but they’re also irreligious and Sweden’s abortion rate is quite high. I fear letting a central government take over roles I think communities and churches should do. I don’t think economic equality is possible or even fitting with Church history.

    However I don’t believe in classical liberalism or libertarianism either. I take government money due to my disability. Traditionally I might be tougher on monopolies and trusts than many Democrats are. I favor government money going to programs for upward mobility and was kind of annoyed Obama made cuts on Pell Grants. I’ve argued against libertarians on things like the FDA or Minimum Wage. I’m good with anti-discrimination laws in the workplace and protections or programs for pregnant workers. I didn’t even really favor privatizing Social Security. However I do think some government programs discourage marriage and that it’s better for most people to try to be independent. I think there are problems with trying too hard to redistribute wealth, such as what happened in Zimbabwe. I favor a “mixed system” like what we have now, with some adjustments, not pure Capitalism. And many charitable actions I think should be the doing of the communities or individuals not the state.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Tom, yes—liberals do seem pretty set in their views. I see that some have shown up, to defend the paper, and dencounce those who are uncomfortable with it as “Conservatives.”

    I do have to ask Dan C., though—where are on earth do you get the idea that welfare has no negative impact on the people who receive it? Have you actually looked at the violence and drug addiction—which are rampant—among the underclass who have been on welfare, sometimes for more than one generation? Have you taken a look at the problems with Section 8 housing? Children growing up in single-parent homes, and what happens to the family when the state becomes the “Father”? Are we really supposed to see what’s happened with welfare as good for those it subsidizes?

    Well, no more pig wrestling for the moment. Pax to you too, Tom!

  • Tom T

    Guess what guys? There is no utopia here on earth and I think, although, I could be wrong, is what we are all looking for has already been found by the Benedictines. Balance, always balance. A mix of both views, care for the poor and the less fortunate, which by the way we already do in our Parish, complete with a food bank, free dental care for
    those with no insurance, clothing for those who need it, and yes, if they can`t get there, the Knights of Columbus will bring it to them. What we need of course is less government with regulation of banks and investors who game the system, protection for consumers, fair labor laws, a level playing field for entrepreneurs, cheap medical care for all and on and on. Aint gonna happen folks. Maybe in the next life, till then, we will make it to the next life if we don`t destroy ourselves pursuing our own idealistic agendas in our myopic view of the world. Balance, always balance. Pax to all.


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