An imprecise distinction can be made between the working poor and the poor; between episodic poverty and persistent poverty; between functional poverty and totally debilitating poverty. Matthew Desmond compelling portrays the downward slide from “stable poverty” to “grinding poverty” in his study of housing in Milwaukee, titled Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City [Read More…]

Consistent Solidarity

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (1928-1996) of Chicago urged his fellow Catholics to adopt a consistent ethic of life; to honor the inherent dignity of each person from conception to natural death. Some Catholic leaders harshly criticized him, arguing that some issues warranted more attention than others. “Bernardin deserves a fresh hearing,” writes Cardinal Blasé Cupich of [Read More…]


The living wage movement improves family life for targeted workers but has little spillover effect on wages, employment rates or poverty in the wider region, concludes researcher Benjamin Sosnaud in Social Service Review (1427 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637). In June 1993 BUILD (2439 Maryland Ave., Baltimore, MD 21218; www.buildiaf.org) launched what is considered [Read More…]

The Common Good

“Your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care,” says a former Congressman from Illinois. He has apparently forgotten the definition of insurance (a hedge or cushion against risk), which is normally achieved by spreading the cost of a problem (a car accident, a fire, a surgery) among [Read More…]

Secular City?

For the past 300 years or more the secularism thesis has said that science, individual freedom and other features of modernity make religion irrelevant. Or at best, religion is a private option with no particular public competency. “This thesis is not true,” Luke Bretherton recently told participants at a conference sponsored by Episcopal Charities of [Read More…]


Following each presidential election, a cottage industry of analysis appears—maps, tables, articles and books. This time around the industry is mansion-sized; it is huge, I tell you. Resentment is mentioned as a factor in some election commentaries. (Though written before the election, The Politics of Resentment by Jeremy Engels is particularly insightful.) Resentment is unrefined [Read More…]

Benign Neglect

Nearly every business leader agrees with the idea of corporate responsibility, said Stefano Zamagni at a Catholic Social Tradition conference held at University of Notre Dame late this March. To the extent that they know about Catholic doctrine, every Catholic business leader accepts our social doctrine. It would be the rare executive or board trustee [Read More…]

Lent Reading

St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday this year. Thus, several Illinois bishops (though not all) and other bishops elsewhere “granted a dispensation” so that the faithful could thereby have corned beef on the feast. (Is there any evidence that workaday Catholics are incapable of making such decisions on their own? I met no such [Read More…]

Urban Holiness

Children in a generally peaceful home can acquire virtue more readily than those in a disruptive home—though moral growth or sin are possible in both situations. The same is true of a city. A vigorous city makes holiness more likely; a chaotic and corrupt city requires extraordinary individual moral striving. Again, sinners can be found [Read More…]

Chicago Neighbors

Nearly 250 people, including a fair number of high school students, filled St. Barnabas church on Chicago’s southwest side for an early March conversation on neighborliness with particular focus on immigration and refugees. It was a unique event because Christians, Jews and Muslims participated. There is general assent to the importance of neighborliness in our [Read More…]