Today’s Hysteria-Inducing Headline

Today’s Hysteria-Inducing Headline December 3, 2014

Pope urges activists to struggle against ‘structural causes’ of poverty

Cuz no pope has ever talked this Komminniss stuff like that before:

The Church’s wisdom has always pointed to the presence of original sin in social conditions and in the structure of society: “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals”[85]. In the list of areas where the pernicious effects of sin are evident, the economy has been included for some time now. We have a clear proof of this at the present time. The conviction that man is self-sufficient and can successfully eliminate the evil present in history by his own action alone has led him to confuse happiness and salvation with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action. Then, the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from “influences” of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.

Of course, that’s one of the parts of Caritas in Veritate that George Weigel, who is totally not a cafeteria Catholic, told us to ignore.

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  • Dave G.

    I think the Pope is calling us to a radical rethinking of how we’ve been living our lives. Actually doing something radically different. Not just saying how awesome it is that it should be radically different. Exciting and frightening at the same time.

  • Andy

    Imagine, the pope asking us to live our faith, to have solidarity with the poor and not just moan about subsidarity. It is I think most frightening because of the personality that Pope Francis has – he is in our faces, in a “grandfatherly way”.

    • Stu

      Subsidiarity and Solidarity go together. You won’t truly get one without the other.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        I believe that was Andy’s point…

        I await your next long post on the value of solidarity.

        • Stu

          I don’t believe it was at all, nor do I believe he would disagree. But we can let him speak for himself.

          But since you are interested in more on the subject, I offer “More Thoughtful Goodness from Father Robert Barron” on the topic.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            ” to have solidarity with the poor and not just moan about subsidarity.”

            Pretty straightforward. I suppose if you begin from a position of doubt, not trust, you can warp some other meaning from it, but that hasn’t any impact on the objective meaning.

            • Stu

              So who here is simply “moaning about subsidiarity?” Anyone?
              And whenever anyone does bring subsidiarity up, I suppose if you begin from a position of doubt, not trust, on their motivation…

        • Andy

          Thank you – that was indeed my point.

      • chezami

        Very true. But in libertarian St. Blog’s, that usually works out to saying “Subsidiarity and Solidarity go together–especially subsidiarity. And have you heard what Rush said about our Marxist Pope? Sure showed him!”

        • Jonk
        • Stu

          To this day, I still have no idea what “St. Blog’s” is. Nor can I comment on Rush Limbaugh who has no authority within the Church.

          I can however, point out that when we talk of these thing that if we don’t talk of them together we will fail. Sure, the “your chocolate is in my peanut butter/your peanut butter is in my chocolate” debate is just great fun in term of internet arguing, but I don’t think it’s productive. If you want to counter “St. Blog’s” then I would say confront them not with the “either/or” paradigm but rather the “both/and.”

      • Andy

        They must go together – but the other day on this very site and talking about helping the poor the discussion degenerated into the need for subsidiarily and the evils of the government. There was nary a mention of subsidiarily. That is what Mark is referring to below.

        • Stu

          Of course that is going to happen. People are reacting to years of the Federal Government getting larger and the problems they set out to solve don’t seem to get any better. People naturally tend to oversteer in the opposite direction if it looks like they are going to run off the road.
          Seems to me then the answer isn’t then to oversteer back the opposite way but rather advocate the middle of the road.

          • Andy

            You say of course that is going to happen. Why does it need to happen? The reaction of people to the federal government getting larger is rather strange – people like it larger when it is their “pet belief” system and don’t when they disagree. The middle road requires reflection which I haven’t seen practiced here in America in a long time. It requires respect for the other side (conservative vs.liberal) and look at yesterdays thread about an execution in Texas and the continued diatribes agains those who are considered “liberal”. Without those actions we are lost as a country.

            • Stu

              Well, I suspect both us agree that it shouldn’t happen. But it’s human nature. Just like in an earlier thread on this blog a few days ago when the mere mention of subsidiarity brought charges of crypto-Calvinism.

              What I like about Father Barron’s short video is how parallels the Church’s preferential treatment for the poor with the Church preferential desire for things to be handled at the lowest possible level. It’s a one-two punch and as Catholics we should always be speaking of these things together like peanut butter and jelly.

  • From the article, Pope Francis mentions “the empire of money”. I have no idea what that means. Viscerally, it sounds socialist but being charitable, I have no idea. When Pope Francis’ papacy started and he said if we wanted to know his economic position we should read the Aparecida document, I did read it. In there was a like phrase, the “despoliation of the poor”. I had no idea what that meant but it sounded like socialist BS viscerally. So I chased it down on the theory that the Pope probably isn’t a fool and Peter’s seat deserves enough respect that I give the man sitting there a chance. It was not socialist BS. It is a common sense statement that is right and proper that the property protections that society provides should not only extend to the rich but to the poorest of the poor as well, stopping those with more power from stealing the poor’s few possessions.

    Perhaps the empire of money is a similar case, a reasonable term that doesn’t sound reasonable to many people who have been surrounded by too many socialists and not enough christians in their lives.

    So what is the empire of money?

    • petey

      you really are pavlog’s dog, aren’t you

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        That’s your response? Your brother in baptism admits a chink in his knowledge, and how he addressed that chink by studying in good faith through confidence in the Petrine office, and you name call?

        Seems to me it’d be better to embrace him, especially after he gave a reasonable definition for fascism.

        Very disappointing, petey, very disappointing!

    • Ken

      Here’s a more detailed link that expands on the term Empire of Money. He seems to be talking about all of the forces that come down on the most poor when they are displaced or used by forces that are using money in a sinful and unlawful way.

      • Do you mean this”It is to confront the destructive effects of the ‘Empire of Money:’ forcible displacements and migrations, human and drug trafficking, war, violence, and all of these realities that many of you suffer and that we all are called to address and transform.”?

        If that is an accurate transcription, it is indeed an unexpected definition and one that is going to predictably be greeted with significant suspicion on the right in the US. Forcible displacement and migrations translates easily to insufficiently protected property rights for the poor and regularization of acquired rights by occupation. What is the underlying principle that puts together that, human trafficking, drug trafficking, war, violence, and that vague catchall at the end? I just don’t see it yet.

        I believe in Genesis. But it is certainly a great deal easier to carry that belief forward to non-Catholics since the development and acceptance of the Big Bang theory in science. I do not have a fundamental problem with having unexplainable mysteries of faith but learning how to explain and translate into more familiar terms makes the work of sharing the faith easier.

    • Mrs. Webfoot

      Wouldn’t he be talking about the kind of values the Christian Democrat Party represents? Isn’t this what Karl Marx rejected in his Communist Manifesto? That’s how I have understood Francis’ statements on the economy.

      As far as I understand, he is criticized by the liberationists in Argentina.

      • I do thank you, you’ve given some food for thought. It’s not sufficient though.

        What I’m seeking to do is to figure out what Pope Francis is advocating enough to debate it, that is, understand it well enough that I can put a winning argument for or against it based off a coin flip. There is a pan-european christian democrat political grouping but there’s enough variation between them that even if this description is accurate as far as it goes, it isn’t specific enough for my purpose.

        I was aware that he’s not held in high regard by the liberation theologists.

        • Mrs. Webfoot

          Ah. Sounds interesting. Are you familiar with the Christian Democrat party in Chile? The Peronistas have dominated Argentinian politics for decades, now, but I don’t know what influence they might have had on Francis. It’s kind of in the water – or wine? – they drink over there, I think. Anyway, thanks for responding to my comment.

    • Willard

      I really don’t understand why so many people have such difficulty with what the Pope’s have taught for centuries on economic matters.

      It’s easy to test yourself. Do I believe that the state has the right and duty to, for example, forbid stores like Walmart from opening on Christmas so as to give the workers time to be with their families. If you accept that the state has such a right, you’re a Catholic. What’s so hard about this?

      • The state has a right to have blue laws. The state also has the right to have Blaine amendments. Do not be so confident that the exercise of such rights is an unalloyed good. Historically that has been a mixed bag.

        If there is any criticism of papal teaching on economics that I would sign on to it is the gap that the popes have allowed to grow between how professional economists speak of the economy and the words used by the papacy. It increases the chance of misunderstanding. This holistic approach to economics does fit the papal job description better but there is a desperate need for a translating dictionary. Specialization of the field is simply not going away anytime soon.

    • wineinthewater

      If it is a formally defined term, I don’t know the meaning. But if I were to hear a Christian, especially the Pope, socialism would be one of the furthest things from my mind. A term like that evokes mammon. It connotes a kingdom, actual or effective, ruled by money and greed.

      I think the fact that it viscerally evokes socialism for you should be a red flag. It doesn’t matter if you are surrounded by too many socialists and not enough Christians, when the pope speaks the context is the faith. If you are immediately jumping to the ideologies of the world for context, then perhaps the problem is not who surrounds you, but what preoccupies your mind.

  • Jonk

    Regarding the CinV quote, I think we’re far more likely to encourage most folks to act in a “moral character” within their own actions than we are to get those few who seek and acquire great power to make laws and rules that are “influences of a moral character” on 330 million people at once.

  • Ken

    Pope Francis isn’t speaking of the science of economics. He’s talking about injustice that can and does occur in an economy.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Sounds familiar:

    “[Rerum Novarum] is no less forceful in criticizing a concept of the State which completely excludes the economic sector from the State’s range of interest and action. There is certainly a legitimate sphere of autonomy in economic life which the State should not enter. The State, however, has the task of determining the juridical framework within which economic affairs are to be conducted, and thus of safeguarding the prerequisites of a free economy, which presumes a certain equality between the parties, such that one party would not be so powerful as practically to reduce the other to subservience.” — Centesimus Annus §15

    “Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching.” — Quadragesimo Anno §88

  • AquinasMan

    It’s not about socialism. The moral question is whether the flaws of any economic system prevent a segment of the population from having rightful access to food, clothing, shelter, education, jobs, etc. I read the entire transcript on Zenit, and Francis speaks quite critically of the welfare state, specifically:

    “welfare plans or solutions that never come or, if they do come, they arrive in such a way that they go in one direction, either to anaesthetize or to domesticate.

    He doesn’t say prosperity is a bad thing. The free market will always have winners and losers. But the winners need to make sure that the losers are not losing to the point that their human dignity is compromised or destroyed. If they are, there’s a problem, and it’s up to those of us who’ve benefited to show solidarity with the materially poor. Subsidiarity merely calls for us to do it as locally as possible, without the “help” of cold, disconnected bureaucrats in state and global capitals.

    Full transcript of the speech is here:

    • D.T. McCameron

      “they arrive in such a way that they go in one direction, either to anaesthetize or to domesticate.”


      “But Higgins is a Heathen,
      And he drives the dreary quill,
      To lend the poor that funny cash
      That makes them poorer still.”

    • wineinthewater

      The thing about subsidiarity is that solutions being as local as possible does not rule out less local solutions. Sometimes, state, federal or even global action *is* the most local action that can be effectively taken. Unfortunately, our society seems to jump to the federal or global level without really trying more local solutions.

  • Alex

    “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals”

    Does any one know the nature of these “popular movements” that the current pontiff was addressing?

  • Alex

    Salutary remarks by JPII:

    Having said this in the clearest and most unequivocal way, one must add at once that there is one meaning sometimes given to social sin that is not legitimate or acceptable even though it is very common in certain quarters today. This usage contrasts social sin and personal sin, not without ambiguity, in a way that leads more or less unconsciously to the watering down and almost the abolition of personal sin, with the recognition only of social guilt and responsibilities. According to this usage, which can readily be seen to derive from non-Christian ideologies and systems — which have possibly been discarded today by the very people who formerly officially upheld them — practically every sin is a social sin, in the sense that blame for it is to be placed not so much on the moral conscience of an individual, but rather on some vague entity or anonymous collectivity such as the situation, the system, society, structures or institutions.