Category Archives: socialism

“Pro-life, homeschooling committed Christians who abstain till marriage then stay married to the same person are freaks”

I tolerate a lot, maybe too much, when it comes to TV and movies, but I appreciate seeing the consequences of actions, even if the writers depict those consequences unwittingly.

20 years or so ago, when Ellen Degeneres and her eponymous sitcom came out of the proverbial closet, ABC said that LGBT were about 10% of the population and deserved to be represented on TV.  Now, most studies have said that even if those who have “experimented” to some degree or other are included, LGBT are at most 6% of the population, and really more like 3%.  Interestingly with all the propaganda in recent years, that number has risen a whole half a percent!  Amazing how the number of people who are “born” a certain way increases.

But, fine, 4%.  Yes, there are people who identify that way and yes they should be depicted *honestly*.

But a year or two after the Ellen controversy, when the Catholic League lead a coalition of pro-life, pro-family, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish organizations protesting Nothing Sacred, ABC said, “We can’t have what amounts to 10% of the population dictating to us.”  Yet *that* coalition represented the views of 50% of the population.

Close to 70% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal under at least some circumstances, yet to most TV shows, pro-lifers are a minority and freaks.

I read an article once about the unrealistic depiction of sexual relationships on TV that pointed out for example how many characters known on TV shows as “losers” who can’t find a girlfriend actually have more sexual relationships, particularly in a short time, than even relatively promiscuous people in real life.

How often, outside of sitcoms and a couple reality shows that may be exceptions that prove the rule, do you see couples who are happily married and stay married?

How often do you see people on any fictional TV show who are committed Christians and serious about their faith and love their faith?  Even The Middle and recently cancelled Last Man Standing depict religion as something important but still a kind of chore or ideology (though Mike’s monologues on Last Man Standing sometimes make up for it quoting the Bible and even the saints).  Characters who are in any way serious about religion are, again, freaks and weirdos (which, yes, many people who are serious about religion in real life are also, and should be, but not the way we’re depicted).

How often do you see families on TV with more than 3 kids that aren’t “blended”? (and yes, child labor laws come into play).

I could go on with examples, but if it’s a question of “equal representation,” all the demographics I listed are a higher percentage of the population than LGBT yet they hardly ever show up and are treated as weirdos and bigots when they do.

Meanwhile, in the inverted Natural Law, where Neuhaus’s Law is in full effect, sex is meaningless recreation.  People on TV don’t even wait for a commitment, much less marriage, sex is a “test”–and saying “I love you” is a big “event” that comes after a couple have already engaged in sex not as an act of consummation of love but as a fulfillment of desire.  And, yes it has been this way on television for decades, and in “real life” without the Biblical moral framework, but what strikes me is how, in recent years it hasn’t even been a semblance of concern for decency or depicting any kind of negative view of sexual promiscuity, but an overt sense of saying, “This is perfectly normal, and it’s Judeo-Christian morality that’s aberrant and bizarre.”gs5x4j0

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Pray and fast. And Fast.

When a mass shooter professes atheism or devil worship, posts anti-Christian and pro-abortion screeds online, considers himself a Democrat, etc., the media blame guns. If he’s Muslim, they blame guns and his victims, or say “workplace violence.” If he’s supposedly Christian, anti-abortion, and/or conservative, they blame Christians, abortion opponents and/or conservatives for “hate speech.”

What do all these inconsistent attributions have in common?

They never blame the evil in men’s hearts. They never blame the shooter himself (or herself) for just intending evil.

Why?

The foundation of liberalism (in all its forms) is the denial of original sin, promulgated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  For almost 400 years, people have been soaking in Rousseau’s teaching that people are born good and corrupted by society–without any real explanation of where corruption, then, comes from–that by giving people more education, more money, more this, more that, reforming this institution and getting rid of that one, somehow they can come up with the right formula for “curing” evil.

“We can end terrorism by doing X”
“We can prevent war by Y”

If a behavior, particularly a sexual behavior, *does* seem inborn and not learned, then the liberal insists that behavior must not be wrong.

Russell Kirk sees this as one of the basic lines of demarcation between what constitutions a “conservative” or a “liberal”: whether one believes in some form of “original sin” or one believes in Rousseau’s teaching that evil is learned.

Recently, I learned some background on Rousseau I’d never heard before by watching this Fulton Sheen rerun on EWTN:

When I did the VIRTUS training, something struck me: in the video about sexual predators, the “experts,” psychologists, law enforcement people, and most notably, the clergy, talked about psychology and “reasons” why they thought pedophiles hurt children.  Nobody mentioned the Devil.  The only ones who actually talked about evil were the convicted child molestors they interviewed: “People try to say this is about love.  It isn’t,” they said.  “I wanted to do evil.  I wanted to hurt these children.”

When I was in school, I forget whether it was the nondenominational school I attended in 6th grade or the Catholic high school, I remember a video featuring a former Satanist who said he set out to break every commandment in the worst way possible to gain admittance into a coven and gain magical powers.  An imprisoned would-be school shooter claims he was going to do it because he’s a Satanist, and that he had posted about it on a message board, that Satanists rank themselves and seem power from the Devil by murder.  Supposedly at least one of the recent shooters was involved in such a group.

Yet if you talk about the Devil, people claim you’re making excuses, when they’ll gladly blame guns or just about any other external “cause” than the person’s evil intent or demonic influence.

Pray and fast, and fast.

On Riots, Racism, and Standardized Testing: All you need is Love, and that means Christ

Our nation is in turmoil.  Everything distopian novelists and “crazy conspiracy theorists” have written about seems to be coming true.  Early in the Obama administration, for example, people said he’d create a national crisis to declare Martial Law and establish a dictatorship.  Well, the tensions are arising, and Obama  established aprogram under everyone’s noses to begin nationalizing local police forces.  Major cities keep erupting in race riots.  The Supreme Court is likely to overturn every state law on marriage and establish yet another fictious constitutional “Right.” Some people are being driven out of business for expressing thir Christian beliefs while other businesses are denying Christians their services.   Hillary Clinton says if (and when) she’s “elected” President, she wants to force all religions to accept abortion.

All of it just shows society’ need for Christ.   

Attempts to “fix” broken schools with more money and more legislative interference for 50-60 years have only made things worse.  All we have is a “race to nowhere” with high stakes standardized tests that demonstrate nothing about real learning, line the pockets of educational conglomerates, and cause students to burn out, or worse, from the stress.  When I was in elementary school, the teachers would say, discussing the differences between the US and Communist countries, taht Communists made students take tests that determined their entire lives.  When I was a young adult, a teacher friend went through a few years where a faculty member had a heart attack or stroke during standardized testing, because it was so stressful.  

We can’t fix something unless we know why it’s broken, and what’s broken is a lack of transcendent values.   
If the reason people riot is lack of advantage, or discrimination by police, what is served by looting or burning small businesses and charities?  One of the reasons the July 1832 revolt that Hugo immortalized failed was that most of “the people” were mad at the students for stealing their stuff.  But, at least they knew whom they were revolting against (a just, Catholic king who was popular for giving he people more rights than the “Republic” or Napoleon) and why (they believed that secular government could and should end poverty). I saw a meme pointing out how people riot over sports games, and implying that race riots at least have a point.  The way I see it, it’s equally meaningless: unbridled anger, expressed in random violence.  If revolution is ever effective or just–and the Church has always been wary of revolution, even in the case of the Cristeros–it needs to be focused on the right enemy.  

I often refer to Catechism 676, the passage that tells us to beware of any movement that claims to try and solve all the world’s problems through  secular means because that is the “spirit of Antichrist.”  This was the reason the Church condemned Freemasonry.  It’s what Pope Benedict XVI expounded on in _Caritas in Veritate_, saying taht charity must be from love and truth, both of which are personfied in Christ, and that since the Church is the arbiter of Christ’s teachings and the Natural Law, economic justice cannot be divorced from the Church.

Prayer, fasting and forgiveness are the only solutions to these crises.  The more we abandon Christ as a society, the worse thigns will get.  If as 1 Samuel warns us, we choose a “King” over God, the warnings Samuel gave to the Israelites will continue to be proven. 

Will it be _Humanae Vitae_ or _Mater et Magistra_?

In 1961, when Pope St. John XXIII issued his social justice encyclical Mater et Magistra, Garry Wills, then of National Review, and later author of Papal Sins (a book that perpetuates calumniation of Pope Pius XII in the name of promoting contraception), utteinfamous “Mater, si; Magisra, no” to William F. Buckley, Jr., who quoted it in his own column. In his spiritual autobiography, Nearer, My God, WFB expresses regret for the quotation.

The alleged “dissent” from the “Right” in the Church usually comes in matters of positive law. In Veritatis Splendor, Pope St. John Paul II says that negative law (“negative law”) is always absolute, but application of positive law (“thou shalt”) is relative. Nevertheless, the quote about dissent from the seemingly socialist Mater et Magistra (even though many of its suggestions have since been implemented and are now considered hallmarks of capitalism) has been dragged out both every time a “conservative” questions a Pope and every time a conservative challenges a liberal’s “dissent.”

Even Ralph McInerny traces the popularity of Wills’ assertion to the massive dissent that accompanied Humanae Vitae seven years later, and, though seemingly divided in the US political spectrum, there is certainly a connection–after all, as already noted, Wills opposed HV, as well.

Since the beginning of Pope Francis’s papacy, though many on both “sides” of the spectrum have insisted he is a radically new kind of pope, I have been struck by the parallels to Paul VI and the early John Paul II. I have said repeatedly that he will have his _Humanae Vitae_ moment.

It may be the Synod on the Family, or it may be his upcoming encyclical on “Global Warming.” The Left has been salivating about this announced encyclical for months–the “National Catholic Fishwraps'” Michael Sean Winters argued several months ago that “stopping global warming” must be a greater political priority than abortion because the possible passive death of all life on earth is supposedly a worse evil than the active and intentional slaughter of millions.

Now, as a conservationist conservative, I don’t see why anyone who believes in the Natural Law, preserving the status quo or economic efficiency should see a conflict between political conservatism and conservation of natural resources. I have always argued that the environment is one of the issues where liberals are right in principle but not practice, and where Republicans could get a lot of support if they just adjusted to promoting a localist, subsidiarist approach contra the Democrats’ use of environmentalism as an excuse for socialism.

That said, I hope the Holy Father does not take a definitive stance on “man-made Global Warming,” since, as Robert George is being lampooned as a hypocrite for pointing out, that is a science issue, not a theology issue. Centuries from now, if Global Warming turns out to be the hoax many of us think it is, Pope Francis risks this being ranked with Galileo and Columbus as one of the many times the Church allegedly was “against science.”

One of the memories I retain most vividly from elementary school is the picture from my second grade social studies book (1984-1985) of how, by the time we were in our thirties, we’d all be wearing gas masks and protective gear because of the acid rain an nuclear fallout. When I was in high school, I learned the chemical formulae that made acid rain inevitable. I did a science fair project on testing the pH of rain and various bodies of water in my town. I found little evidence of acid rain, and that same semester, a study was published saying the same thing.

Then people started talking about “Global Warming.” 20 years later, the climate is more or less the same, if not more like it was in the 80s to begin with. “Global Warming” has become “Climate change,” and there are debates over “man made” versus a matter of natural cycles–a theory I read in the late 90s. We hear from politicians, journalists and celebrities that the “science is settled,” that the “scientific community” is in agreement and the scientists who question “man made global warming” are unscrupulous, unreliable quacks. On the other hand, there are scientists, including a co-founder of The Weather Channel, speaking ut that it’s a hoax and that scientists have their careers threatened. It’s all based on mathematical models that leave out other factors, and there is little empirical evidence for it.

Does that make it OK to continue despoiling nature? By no means, but the Catholic Church risks humiliation if she gets on Al Gore’s bandwagon.

Either way, the way lines are drawn up, this encyclical will elicit the response of either Materi or HV.

Could somebody please explain to me what this “White Privilege” is, and where I can get some?

1. I understand completely that darker-toned people are often discriminated against, in subtle ways. I was told directly once when a police officer pulled me over (rightly, I admitted, I had experienced a perfect storm of circumstances and realized that I was driving way too fast right when he turned his lights on) that he had to prove I was “not an illegal immigrant or an Arab.” He said if I showed up in court with my license, he’d drop the ticket to the first offense minimum, since I was cooperative, which I did and he did. So, yes, I understand that police are sometimes harsher to people of darker skin. *However*, the person immediately before me in Court, who got the same deal I did, was an African American woman.
Meanwhile, there were plenty of white people having to talk to the judge.

2. This article tells me that a Jewish woman never realized she had “white privilege” till some liberal sociology professor browbeat her into it, yet she doesnt explain what it is.

So,

3. I really don’t get it. How do I, as a lower-middle class, disabled, “white” man of predominantly Irish and Slovak (the name means “slave”) descent enjoy more “privilege” than my socioeconomic pers of other so-called “races”? In my experience, the “privileged” whites are more willing to accept the socioeconomic hardship of “minorities” long as they have acceptable political views), and, like “racism,” “privilege” is a term the liberal social engineers have invented to shout down anyone with the “wrong” opinions.”
If I point out the many incidents I’ve experienced where I’ve been clearly been discriminated against because I’m “white,” that just means I’m “racist” or “privileged.” I don’t get it.

I have nothing to lose, so I’ll say it:
I graduated from the South Carolina Honors College in 1997, when I was 20, a year after open heart surgery. I spent my first two years at USC Sumter. I got my Master’s from Valdosta State in 2003. Afterwards, I began applying for jobs in the USC system, particularly in 2006, when I had a few years of part time teaching experience and had been working as an admissions counselor. Then both my non-teaching dream jobs came up in a matter of months. First, two full time academic counseling jobs opened up at the Honors College. They were advertised as “entry level,” and I had more than the required credentials. I applied, did not even get an interview, and when the new bios were posted of the hirees, they were an African American male and a white female. One, IIRC, had a Master’s. At least one had no graduate degree. Neither had any teaching or academic administrative experience–both had worked in retail-type jobs. A few months later, a position opened up as director of advising at USC Sumter. I won over even the most skeptical committee member, a liberal psychology professor who never had me as a student but remembered me. I was all but told I had the job. Perhaps too eager because I had (and wanted) to move to take the job, I checked a couple times, to finally be told that HR at the main campus selected another candidate. When the job was filled and the person was added to the campus website a month or so later, it was the same woman who’d been hired over me at the Honors College.
We moved back to SC a few months later, anyway, and I continued to naively apply for jobs at USC. I applied for well over 40 positions in 2 years, trying to get a full time job, with nary an interview. The last time I bothered, I even threatened to sue them for discrimination against the disabled in my last cover later if I did not at least get an interview. Still nothing. Of course, I couldn’t afford a lawyer to carry through on the threat.

So, tell me, where is my “privilege”?

I’m not angry or bitter–at least not as much as I used to be–I am grateful for God’s providence in leading me where He wants me to be and where is best. If you want to tell me I have “privilege” as an American that I should be grateful for and try to help others with, I believe that, and I do. I know very well I’d be dead if i’d been born in just about any other country in the world, even those the liberals claim have “better” health care than we do.

However, it infuriates me to be told that I enjoy more advantages than my socioeconomic peers of other “races,” when so often the look down on me and my family for not having “nice enough” material possessions, and so often I’ve seen minorities receive advantages for which I was equally or more qualified.

Will the real Fatima.please stand up?

It dawned on that, everywhere I look, I see people who need Fatima’s message, yet even most who “promote” it get it wrong.
For many, Fatima is “about Vatican II,” when, if anything, Vatican II was about Fatima.
For many, it was and is about a magical formula for the “consecration of Russia” that will lead to the magical “conversion of Russia,” and in turn to an “era of Peace.” Those prophecies are open to interpretation until they can be seen through the lens of history. Sr. Lucia said St. John Paul fulfilled it. If he didn’t, it’s too late, anyway.
Russia’s errors have spread through the world: not just the Communism that is encroaching on the US thanks to so many money-hungry “Catholics” voting for Obama, but also abortion (the USSR was the first country to legalize it).
The reason we have not seen mass conversions and world peace is not because the Pope failed to say the right words at the right place and time with the right bishops. It’s because laity, priests and religious fail to answer Our Lady’s call to conversion of heart:
sacrifices (in the manner of the Little Way);
true contrition and monthly (at least) Confession;
Frequent, sincere and meditative praying of the Rosary;
Devotion to and respect for the holy Eucharist
Wearing the Scapular or Miraculous Medal.
How many people do these practices at all, much less with the depth and sincerity Our Lady called for.
Francisco didn’t see her the first few times. He was below the age of reason and yet she still said he was guilty of too many sins and needed to say many Rosaries to see her and to avoid Purgatory. Yet we presume we’ll all be instant Saints.
She showed them souls falling into Hell like snowflakes, yet we hold to a watered-down universalism.
She said souls go to Hell mostly for sins of the flesh, which are as disgusting to the Devil as they are to God, and that, “Fashions will be introduced that will offend my Son greatly.” Yet we fall right into the filth with the rest of the Culture of Death.

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The Day Before Spy Wednesday

How will you be celebrating Lenin’s Birthday–oops, I mean “Earth Day”– on Tuesday, April 22?

“I’m a little tea pot . . .”

Who is Really “Marginalized” in the Church?

The resignation of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has led the media to engage in one of their favorite passtimes: berating the “controversial” teachings of the Catholic Church, and expressing hope that the Church will “listen to” allegedly “marginalized” Catholics who “have no voice” in the Church by changing controversial “policies” such as teaching the objective truths that male gender is a material requisite for the priesthood, or that abortion, contraception and homosexual behavior are intrinsically evil.

This idiotic article is just one more example of this claim. What struck me about this particular authress’s screed is that she talks of nuns who complain about being “marginalized,” and that really ticked me off.

It is a popular meme of liberal Catholics that Jesus “embraced those who were marginalized.” Like most lies, that’s partially true. However, Jesus also *called* on His followers to *become* marginalized. The fundamental difference between an orthodox and a liberal Christian is our *reaction* to marginalization. The orthodox believer recognizes that we must be marginalized by the world in order to live out the Evangelical Counsels, that marginalization is the path the holiness. The liberal believer sees marginalization as a bad thing, and fights against it.

But whatever they want to say about the “official” teachings of the Church, these people have been running things for quite some time.

I have been “marginalized” by liberal Catholics my entire life.

Every liturgical document from Sacrosanctum Concilium to Liturgiam Authenicam to Redemptionis Sacramentum to Summorum Pontificum has emphasized the importance of Latin as the official liturgical language of the Roman Rite. When B16 called the world synod of bishops shortly after his accession, they voted by a huge majority to promote the use of Latin and to mandate that multilingual congregations offer Mass in Latin as opposed to the vernacular. The documents all say Mass should be primarily in Latin. Where Vatican II gives options, the preference is supposed to be on the more “traditional” option. And as B16 noted in Summorum Pontificum, the Tridentine liturgy was never “suppressed,” so it never should have required an “indult.” Strange that Vatican II options which were *supposed* to require indults–reception in the hand, use of lay ministers of communion–have become commonplace and are considered almost obligatory, yet there has been every effort made to suppress the Traditional Latin Mass. Who is voiceless and marginalized?

I have never heard homilies in favor of Latin or of traditional liturgical practices at “ordinary” Ordinary Form liturgies. I have heard such homilies frequently at extraordinary form masses, or ordinary form Masses in Latin, or Eastern liturgies–situations where the priests were literally “preaching to the choir.” I have never heard an “ordinary” priest give a homily at a vernacular Mass trying to explain why traditional liturgical forms are good. I *have*, however, heard priests preach from the altar that they wished traditionalists would all die off and stop bugging everyone. I have heard priests say from the altar that they “hope this pope will die so we can get a new pope who will get rid of all the rules” (this back in the days of John Paul II). I have heard priests say from the pulpit or other public venues that Latin is to be discouraged because it scares people away and people don’t understand it. I have heard priests preach about how wonderful all the changes “Vatican II made” supposedly are, even though many of the things they’re talking about were never mentioned by Vatican II and actually defy the explicit teachings of the Council.

Speaking of which, I’ve heard and read the claim that the Society of St. Pius X is “heretical” or schismatic because one must accept all the teachings of the Council to be Catholic, even though Pope Paul VI said otherwise and Pope Benedict has frequently critiqued certain aspects of the Council. Yet if that is the case, then why is there no action taken against liberal Catholics who openly defy express teachings of the Council, such as S.C.’s order that the Church provide classes in Latin to all laity?

Then there are the moral issues? Who’s really marginalized when Catholics with “large families” are mocked by their fellow Catholics, openly, and even at or after Mass? When I got engaged, and asked my pastor about NFP classes, he scoffed, and said, “I only know 2 families in the parish who are into that stuff. It’s not that important. You can just use birth control; it’s OK. If you really want to, I can give you the numbers of those couples, because I wouldn’t know anything about it.” At the same meeting, he told me he helped *design* his diocese’s Engaged Encounter Program, yet he claimed to know nothing about NFP! (Thankfully, a lot has changed since then, and many diocese in the SE are using Family Honor, but I’m not sure if it’s part of the official pre-Cana process yet). I was grateful he told me we could do it in any diocese we wanted, since we were a long-distance engagement, so long as we provided the parish with a certificate. So we did our Engaged Encounter with the Diocese of Arlington, where about 1/3 was Theology of the Body and about 1/3 was NFP.

My wife once went to a lecture by the diocesan interfaith coordinator, shortly after the publication of _Dominus Iesus_, in which this priest insisted that then Cardinal Ratzinger was trying to “tie the hands of John Paul’s successor”! What a surprise for him that Cardinal Ratzinger *was* John Paul’s successor.

I have rarely been able to attend any parish meeting, adult class or spirituality group, or whatever, without grinding my teeth in frustration at the heterodoxy and dissent that are openly discussed, sometimes by people who have been educated in heterodoxy for so long that they don’t even know they’re material heretics! They *think* that traditionalists are the heretics who “don’t follow Vatican II,” and yet, if they actually took the time to read Vatican II, and compare the teachings of “both sides,” most Catholics would be shocked to discover that the Society of St. Pius X is far more in line with what Vatican *actually* teaches than what the habitless nuns and cassockless priests have told them for decades about the “spirit of Vatican II.”

This is why, when I read articles such as the one in the _Detroit News_, I get infuriated. And I get infuriated that, when traditional and conservative Catholics *express* their frustration at such articles, people say, “See?! That just proves traditionalists are vindictive and hateful!” During the Mother Angelica-Cardinal Mahony feud, Bishop Thomas Tobin, then of Mother’s hometown Youngstown, OH, wrote a fantastic piece (which I can’t find, so I have to link this article about it) in which he tried to play diplomat, but he observed that perhaps there is some justification in the anger of conservative Catholics who have been routinely shouted down and mocked since the Council.

Liberals run the religious ed programs and schools. They run the liturgy committees. They run most of the seminaries and diocesan vocation programs and–as many ex or would be seminary candidates, along with a few brave vocations directors and bishops have attested to–they specifically reject candidates they deem “too conservative” while promoting candidates who are at least friendly to liberals. Then they beat them down in the seminary with liberal indoctrination. And the religious houses have done the same thing, dwindling their numbers as they come to look like gay and lesbian communes, while the more orthodox communities are thriving. Yet as they get grayer and grayer, the “progressives” continue to insist they speak for “young Catholics.”

Where? Where are these “young Catholics” they claim to speak for? Why aren’t these “young Catholics” flocking to join liberal convents and liberal monasteries? If there are all these women who are supposedly “called the priesthood,” why aren’t they joining the LCWR affiliated convents in droves while they await their “dream pope” who will do all this for them?

And why is there no connection made to the fact that the Cardinal who *most* supported their “progressive” agenda has been completely disgraced as perhaps the worst offender when it came to covering up for sex-abuser priests–so much that other bishops knew he was the easy go-to man for re-assigning sex offenders to his diocese? Why is no one acknowledging that it was precisely Roger Mahony’s “liberal” attitudes towards homosexuality and sex that led him to support these priests?

But, no, liberals have no voice in the Church at all. Bloody hypocrites.

My latest Publication: _Les Miserables_ and the Index

The Rift in the Church: Who has the better argument?

Certainly, there are many factions within Holy Mother Church, and always have been. That’s what the seven letters in Revelation Chapters 3 & 4 are all about, not to mention numerous admonitions in the letters of St. Paul. Indeed, while there are tens of thousands of Protestant denominations, one could argue there are just as many “Denominations” of Catholicism.
However, it’s perfectly clear that, in the contemporary West, particularly in America, there are two principle divisions, out of which several smaller divisions permeate. These are often described by political terms, since the people who tend towards one side or the other tend to share common political ideologies as well. Another term that has been used by some commentators is “American Catholics” versus “Roman Catholics,” with the odd caveat that “American Catholics” generally tend to be pretty hostile to America as such, while “Roman Catholics” tend to be patriotic or even jingoistic conservatives. That these divisions exist should be patently obvious to anyone with a modicum of understanding of the situation in the American Church.

Each “side” of the division believes its vision is authentically Catholic and that the other side’s vision is precisely un-Catholic. There are also those who attempt to straddle the “middle ground” and say that both sides have strengths and weaknesses in their arguments. This is a position which Dietrich von Hildebrand declared untenable in that one cannot pick and choose from modernist political ideologies and peace together an authentically Catholic vision. The idea of treating ideology as a puzzle or a recipe and picking and choosing ingredients that one prefers out of various “options” flies in the face of political philosophy as it ignores the need for first principles.

That said, I think many people choose where they stand on the Catholic spectrum largely by what their mothers or grandmothers taught them. Some people’s mothers and grandmothers taught them to live in fear of the spectre of anti-Catholicism, the problem of “fitting in” back before the Council when Catholics supposedly were so different. Their mothers also taught them that, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Their understanding of Catholicism is very akin to so-called mainline Protestantism: Jesus was a nice guy who taught some nice stuff and ultimately wants everyone to be nice to each other. Whatever their “personal views” of various Catholic moral teachings (which they often think are open to question), they generally do not believe morality should be publicly enforced, partly because they realize that enforcement of morality necessarily implies nforcement of some religious view, and their ancestors came here fleeing religious persecution only to find more religious persecution. Indeed, their ancestors often came here fleeing European monarchies (even the Catholic ones), and tended to accept a Masonic mistrust of the Church along with Masonic mistrust of monarchy. They rightly emphasize the Church’s “preferential option for the poor,” but wrongly emphasize it at the expense of public morality. While they theoretically oppose authority, they seem to welcome authoritarianism when it comes to economics. They see a kinship between the socialist’s concern for the worker and the Catholic’s concern for the worker, even though 19th Century Catholics and Socialists alike understood their interests to be opposed rather than allied. They think that the proposals of _Rerum Novarum_, which were radical when compared to the established aristocratic and capitalists classes of Europe and America in the late 19th Century, mean the Church endorses the economic radicalism of Democrats today, in spite of the numerous encyclicals written to update the Church’s teaching to suit advances in economics. Finally, like the Catholics who willingly voted for Hitler and Mussolini because they promised economic security, jobs and universal health care, these Catholics willingly vote for people like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in spite of the various warning signs.

On the other hand, we have the Catholics whose mothers emphasized good behavior, moral uprightness, and daily devotions. They follow a model of general obedience to the Church, except when obedience to local hierarchs means disobedience to Rome. Some of them see the flaws of the American system in general and choose to work towards a return to the days of Christendom, while others to varying degrees accept the Republicans as the lesser of two evils. Both those sub-groups fight amongst each other but generally recognize that they’re all in a common fight for some level of traditional Catholicism. They are baffled why the other side puts economics above morality. They themselves sometimes compromise Catholic principles in their alliance of convenience with the American Right. Catholics of the “Right” tend to have an approach that’s more akin to Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants. We emphasize the documents.

Nobody’s perfect, but what gets to me about the “Left” is its attitude towards Rome. I blogged recently about badly catechized Catholics–Catholics who are not ignorant of the Church’s teachings but have been taught to look at the Church from a distorted lens of Masonic principles, which they mistakenly believe are Catholic principles. I compared liberal Catholics to mainline Protestants: like mainline Protestants, their view of Catholicism boils down to “what Father So-and-so says.” They are at least consistent in their views. The “We Are Church” mentality leads to the conviction that if a Catholic believes something, a Catholic *can* believe that, whether for good or bad. So, like a secular anti-Catholic (the very anti-Catholics they claim to fear but kowtow to), they’ll point to Catholics who supported the antebellum South, or Catholics who supported Hitler (even though those Catholics agreed with them that “social justice” trumps morality), or Catholics who committed atrocities during the Crusades, and they try to say that those Catholics, even if they were criticized by their Popes, somehow represented the teaching of the whole Church. Conversely, if they can find some random Catholic bishop or priest who supported homosexuality or abortion or socialism in the past, they’ll take that person’s opinion as authoritative Catholic teaching. They care far more about the opinions of Hans Kung, Charles Curran or Karl Rahner than they do about the opinions of John XXIII or Paul VI.

And then there’s the whole “Spirit of Vatican II” thing. Many of us have heard the argument that what happened after Vatican II was not the intent of the Council, that the people who “implemented” the Council went against what the Council Fathers actually said and manipulated the interpretation of the documents. I’ve looked at the documents many times over the years but mainly in a “research” capacity. Certainly, those readings have confirmed that view. Lately, I’ve been actually reading them, straight through, per Pope Benedict XVI’s call for us to seriously study the Council Documents for its 50th Anniversary in this “Year of Faith.” Well, guess what? That argument is true in spades. I read Sacrosanctam Concilium, the Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy, and what that document describes is nothing like what happened. Indeed, the collected documents of Vatican II volume we have has a note after S.C. that says how the reason it’s so different is that there were a bunch of other documents that came out after the Council closed that decided to go with more radical reforms and ignored what S.C. actually said (i.e., its requirements that all laity be taught Latin and that priests and religious continue to say the Office in Latin). It struck me as ironic that SSPX-ers are told they must 100% assent to every word of the Council Documents because it’s a Council and it’s binding, yet the people who “implemented” the Council ignored those very documents.

So, the “Left” has its popular refrain of “Vatican II got rid of that,” or that anything deemed “too conservative,” whether in devotions or liturgy or politics is “not in keeping with Vatican II.” Advocates of a hermeneutic of rupture make much of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement that the Council was a kind of “anti-Syllabus” or “counter Syllabus,” referring to Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors that condemns many modernist ideas. Yet he was referring to the approach, not the content of the Syllabus. Vatican II simply changed how the Church deals with the world. First, where official documents have traditionally been addressed by the Vatican to the bishops, expecting the bishops to relay it to priests who in turn relay it to the people, Vatican II and subsequent Vatican documents have generally been addressed to *everyone*, and not just to Catholics but to *everyone*. I think part of this is precisely that the Vatican *did* recognize the widespread infiltration of the priesthood and episcopacy and that that priests and bishops could not be relied upon to spread the message. Also, the “Vatican II approach” is to invite people to explore the wonders of the Catholic faith rather than presuming people are Catholic and condemning them for not getting it (arguably, there’s something to be said for both approaches). Even so, the content of the Syllabus has been in many ways reaffirmed since Vatican II–for example, by Pope B16 in _Caritas et Veritate_, which in many was is just an explication of what Pius IX says in the Syllabus.

And that gets to the thought that inspired this post, which I may have blogged before, but it bears repeating: who has the better “case” for their “view” of what Catholicism fundamentally is? The main argument the “Catholic Left” has in its favor is the “spirit of Vatican II,” a notion that is easily discredited, combined with the teaching of Bishop X (Arius was a bishop), and “my great grandfather was a Catholic, and he voted for FDR”.

The Catholic “Right” has as its argument that its positions are backed up by the actual documents. It has a general favorability of the Popes towards its positions (i.e., while the Popes acknowledge the failures of Catholicism–Bl. John Paul II in his encyclical on the 100th Anniversary of _Rerum Novarum_ argued that we should distinguish between a truly “free market” and laissez-faire Capitalism–they acknowledge that capitalism is far closer to what the Church calls for than socialism is, and that at least Capitalism gives people the freedom to implement privately what the Church teaches). If one looks at most pre-Vatican II Catholic figures, including “anticipators” of Vatican II like Dorothy Day and Josemaria Escriva, one sees a general favorability towards conservatism over liberalism, even if it’s not entirely the “conservatism” of the contemporary GOP.

It’s not that Republicans are perfect, by any means: I have always questioned whether a Catholic can be 100% comfortable in a country founded on Masonic principles. It’s just that it’s really hard, as I see it, to argue that the Democrats are “right” vis-a-vis Catholic teaching. And *we* have a legitimate explanation for why we believe the Catholic Left went off track: the systematic infiltration of the Church by Masonic and Communist agents, an infiltration that is often dismissed as a conspiracy theory, yet it has been well documented by no less than Dietrich von Hildebrand, the “20th Century Doctor of the Church,” and testified to by Communist agents during the McCarthy hearings. The Left doesn’t have a legitimate reason to explain why “we”– Catholics who lean towards either a conservative view of Vatican II or a traditionalist or radical traditionalist approach — are collectively “wrong,” other than taking that usual liberal attitude that we’re just angry, hate-filled people. Besides that, the best they can muster is that “neoconservative” Catholics are falling prey to the influence of Evangelical converts like Scott Hahn, whom they consider “infiltrators.” They see no contradiction in dismissing Right Wing talk of Left-wing infiltration of the Church as a crazy conspiracy theory while openly discussing their own conspiracy theories about Right wing infiltration of the Church.

So, whatever our differences on the “Right,” we generally have the documents on our side, and we have the backing that the Left’s view has been distorted by corrupt prelates. They back their position up with emotionalism, appeals to non-Papal “authorities,” and dismissing actual Catholic teaching as “hateful rhetoric” and “judgementalism.” So who has the more solid case?

“At The End of the Day,” this is the best movie I’ve ever seen. Or, as Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, put it, “This is the Gospel.”

29 years ago, give or take, I heard Barry Manilow sing “Memory,” and it changed my life. 21 years ago, I heard Barry Manilow sing another song from a musical, and it also changed my life. That song was “Bring Him Home,” and it inspired me to go out and get a _Les Miserables_ soundtrack. When I was 6 years old, but already quite worn and worldly from 6 years of pain, “Memory” spoke to me. Given similarity of style and popularity, _Les Miserables_, by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, Herbert Kretzmer, and Trevor Nunn (who also wrote the lyrics to “Memory”), is often grouped with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows. After all, Cameron Mackintosh produced all the great Broadway/West End “hits” of the 80s: _Phantom_, _Cats_ and _Les Mis_. Trevor Nunn directed both _Cats_ and _Les Miserables_ and contributed to incidental lyrics of both (as well as winning the competition to write “Memory,” beating out Tim Rice and Richard Stilgoe).

Where “Memory” embodies my deep loneliness and hope for a better life in Heaven, “Bring Him Home” has always symbolized my constant shadow of mortality. For my parents, it represented their fear of my passing and hopes for me to experience a fuller life in this world–Mom used to always say, somewhat facetiously, “I hate this song.” For me, I would think of my little nephews (now grown up), and how I didn’t expect to make it past my teens. Today, it represents my hopes for my own children’s future as I face my mortality in a more impending way than ever.

So, today, I sat in a theater with my two oldest girls, who have watched the two concert videos with me several times, and I tried to hold the tears in. They burst out when we heard Hugh Jackman singing “Bring Him Home,” and I grabbed Allie’s hand.

Back in 2004, I said _Phantom of the Opera_ and _Passion of the Christ_ were the two best movies I’ve ever seen. THIS is, hands down, the best movie I’ve ever seen, and combines the best qualities of both those films, plus some. As Sr. Rose Pacatte put it, “this is the Gospel.” I kept crossing myself, saying Kyrie’s, saying Reqiuem aeternams, etc., while I was watching it.

For a movie that ought not to have much room for spoilers, there are a couple big ones. Here’s a hint: my dad’s favorite line from the novel is Cosette saying, “Should we call a priest?” and Jean Valjean, looking at the candle sticks, says, “No need. I already have one.”

There’s an addition of a symbolic flagpole that comes to represent the Cross. It is arguably the most Catholic movie I’ve ever seen. They amp up, rather than downplay, the religious themes of the book and the stage musical. The candlesticks have a wonderful symbolic role. Javert’s suicide is exactly how it’s described in the book, save for the quotation from Victor Hugo’s narration I love: “How to turn one’s resignation in to God?” It’s right at this whirlpool in front of Notre Dame.

I stand by my original assessment from the previews and the album that Russell Crowe’s Javert reminds me of Glenn Close’s Norma Desmond: he’s not *bad*, and acting wise he’s quite good, but his singing is weak, and they obviously changed many of his parts to suit his voice. Hugh Jackman is AMAZING.

As I expected, lots of people applauded, live-theater style, both when the credits began to role and as the names flashed on the screen. There was a roar when Colm Wilkinson’s name popped up, even though it was at the end of the credits.

I was upset that, just as they amplified the religious themes, they amplified the political themes. It would be nice if they acknowledged that the July 1832 uprising didn’t get any support because the vast majority (upwards of 75%) of the French population realized they were better off under monarchy, and they didn’t want to see a repeat of the Reign of Terror.

They work in a lot of the stuff the stage musical leaves out: Marius’s grandfather (he even has a couple singing parts!), young Eponine being spoiled, and most importantly Valjean and Cosette hiding out in the convent. I don’t remember where Hugo identifies the convent as being, but the nuns are clearly Daughters of Charity, which would make it Rue de Bac, St. Catherine Laboure’s convent.

In the book, Valjean picks up Cosette on St. Nicholas Day, which is made obvious in the movie obviously to make it a “Christmas movie,” but unfortunately not as positive a view of St. Nicholas Day as the book uses. In the book, Eponine and Azelma (who is still absent–in the book, Azelma is the only Thenardier kid who survives, and she and her father go off to America and strike it rich as slave traders) get a coin and piece of fruit in their shoe every year, and Cosette gets a lump of coal. He also describes the toy store across the street. In the book, he stays overnight at the inn, and in the morning of St. Nick’s Day, Cosette gets a very expensive coin and some gifts, and Eponine and Azemla have coal! And then when Valjean picks her up, he takes her on a shopping spree at the toy store.

Also, one theme neither the musical nor the movie express is how Valjean in in the book is always sincere in his promises to Javert. At first, he takes Fantine’s word that the Thenardiers are caring for Cosette, and he plans to give them all his money, then turn himself in. When he finds out Cosette’s being abused, he decides he must care for her, and that’s why he breaks his promise to turn himself in. So he keeps hoping to get to where he can be sure Cosette’s safe, and plans to turn himself in. When they move in the convent, he poses as her father and as the groundskeeper’s brother, and pays for her tuition at the school. He hopes she’ll grow up to become a nun, and plans to turn himself in when she enters the convent. Instead, when she turns sixteen, she says she wants to see the city, so he buys a house and they start the life we see in the second half of the musical. Thus, in the book, he’s not jealous of Marius as the musical depicts but happy that Marius represents a chance to fulfill his promise to Fantine so he can then fulfill his promise to Javert. He’s quite sincere when he tells Javert where to find him, but Javert at that point is moved by compassion, confronts his conscience over realizing God values mercy more than justice, and obviously offs himself.

They use my favorite instrumental (“Bring Him Home,” when the stage version shows all the bodies) and use it for an original scene about Javert that is deeply moving.

There *was* some graphic content that made me wince, but thankfully the girls didn’t understand it. The sewer scene was a little too graphic, and I was not the only person who audibly gagged, but horribly symbolic, as well.

While I hope to see it again with Mary Hathaway tomorrow, it was special seeing it with Allie and Gi. I started crying during “Bring Him Home” and hardly stopped. I started clinging to Allie’s hands.

I had forgotten that Valjean’s alias is “Monsieur Madeleine,” since it’s never used in the stage musical. When I *did* know that, I didn’t know that “Madeleine” is French for “Magdalene.”

Two scenes struck me as cinematic allusions to _Passion of the Christ_: Valjean carrying the flagpole at the opening (which was a clear Christ-reference in general but struck me in its grittiness), and the women scrubbing the blood off the street in “Turning,” which reminds me of the BVM & holy women scrubbing the Precious Blood off the torture room floor in _The Passion_.

I kept thinking of John of the Cross and the whole seeing from God’s eyes/Crucifix from up above thing. Every time Valjean or Javert was praying, most of the shots were either from above or deep close ups or whatever so you were looking on him from God’s perspective.

What do I think of Guns and Gun Control?

1) I HATE THE ISSUE. It is such a non-issue, on both sides. It’s absurd. Yes, the Demonocrats want gun control so they can establish a grand Communist tyranny. Yes, Republicans oppose gun control because they want a grand Libertarian anarchy. It’s a complex issue, with various complex moral layers, and each side tries to drastically oversimplify it, stating the problems in the other side’s position without seeing the problems in its own.

2) As far as the Second Amendment goes:
a) It says “well-regulated Militia” Much has been made of how people in Switzerland have lots of guns and very low violent crime in recent weeks, but it was pointed out to me the other day by a FB friend who lives in France, the people in Switzerland have to undergo yearly tests to retain their gun ownership rights.
b) It can be amended.
c) If we are to take the Founding Fathers’ word that it is to protect the people *against* the government, we must also remember that they were Masons, with an attitude of opposition to traditional forms of government.

3) Catholics like to quote Catechism 2265:

Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.[66]

Without including its qualification in 2264:

Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
“If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful…. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.[65]” (emphasis added)

So when someone says, “I wish they’d have shot that guy dead before he even got into the school, they are not following Church teaching regarding legitimate self-defense. The Mississippi shooter who has been discussed as a parallel case–who killed his own mother before coming to a school but was stopped in progress and later said he did it as part of a Satanic cult–was stopped by an assistant principal using a private handgun. And that assistant principal never fired a bullet. Indeed, in many of these mass shootings, the shooters stopped when confronted by either a private citizen, security guard or police officer with a gun–and either surrendered or killed themselves.

It may not even be necessary to fire a gun to stop an assailant. More on this later.

Here are some other passages from the Catechism that gun fanatics ought to consider. First, the passage from _EvangeliumVitae_ which led to the _Catechism_ being almost immediately revised:

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
“If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
“Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.’ [68]

While 2265 is taken by some as saying there’s a moral obligation to use violence, 2306 offers a different perspective:

Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death.[103]

Again, when “pro-gun” people speak with glee about the notion of killing a would be assailant, they’d do well to remember these passages:

2302 By recalling the commandment, “You shall not kill,”[93] our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.
Anger is a desire for revenge. “To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,” but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution “to correct vices and maintain justice.”[94] If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.”[95]

2303 Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

And the following passages, while specifically applying to war, should be taken into consideration by those who “stockpile” weapons, especially in “preparation” for a hypothetical societal collapse or government oppression:

2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations;[110] it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.

2316 The production and the sale of arms affect the common good of nations and of the international community. Hence public authorities have the right and duty to regulate them. The short-term pursuit of private or collective interests cannot legitimate undertakings that promote violence and conflict among nations and compromise the international juridical order.

4) I never understand what a gun can do that a knife, a sword, an arrow, a spear or a throwing star cannot. Indeed, in terms of the Church’s teaching on disabling rather than killing an opponent whenever possible, these weapons would be far more effective.

5) I also do not understand why Christians are not more eager for the opportunity to try and convert a would-be assailant, to confront someone obviously in the grip of the Devil with holy water, prayer and preaching, and the power of Sacramentals, and not with violence.

6) The situations in my life where I’ve been most afraid for my life, having a gun in the house wouldn’t have helped, and may have actually allowed the individuals the opportunity to kill someone.

7) I know a lady who has lived for many decades in an older neighborhood where because of trees, sidewalks, etc., there are a lot of prowlers. On several occasions, she has protected her house merely by the threat of having a gun (yelling, “I have a gun, and I’m going to shoot you” at prowlers whom she could see but could not see her). This on the one hand shows how actually having a gun is not necessary and, again, killing the criminal is not necessary. It also shows how having the *ability* to own guns protects people.

8) Criminals by definition don’t follow laws: if they want guns or any other weapons, they’ll get them.

9) There are several websites that discuss the Texas “concealed carry” law and how many crimes have been committed by people with concealed carry permits, how many crimes have been committed by people *without* concealed carry permits, and how many crimes have been prevented by people with concealed carry permits:

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba324
http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/index.htm

Note, however, that by definition “concealed carry” is a form of “gun control”: requiring licenses to own weapons is a form of gun control, and is the form of gun control I support.

10) I think gun control has been a contributing factor to the mass murders of the past 20+ years, because gun control advocates have convinced families to keep guns away from their children. So children in households *with* guns, who used to be raised to hunt and to know how to use a gun and how to respect it, have been taught that their parents’ guns are a mysterious taboo waiting to be explored. On the other hand, they watch violent movies, and mommy says, when the person dies on the screen, “You know that’s just pretend, right? And he’s coming back. He’s not really dead.” They play video games and get to “kill” people and monsters, and have them “come back,” and if they get “killed” in the video games, they get to “start over,” and for certain kinds of personality types, this can be very damaging.

11) Just as with guns as such, blanket suppression/condemnation and blanket permissiveness of TV/movies/video games are equally to blame. Instead of parents telling their kids “this is OK to watch/play, but this isn’t,” and explaining *why* the “not OK” is “not OK,” parents either ban everything or permit everything. A while back, a nice lady on Facebook was concerned that her kids were invited over to a friend’s house to play _Super Smash Bros_. “It sounds horrible” she said. I explained that, while I’ve never seen or played it directly, the game is really no more harmful than _Wii Boxing_: it’s just basically a boxing game featuring a mix-up of classic video game characters, particularly from the Mario franchises. Parents ought to have such basic, minimal knowledge about TV, movies and video games, especially when it’s as simple as looking something up online. If they really don’t know this stuff, then they’re not participating in their kids’ lives. And THAT is the thing to be concerned about in terms of societal causes.

12) People who want to do evil will do evil. As several Facebook memes are pointing out, Timothy McVeigh did it with fertilizer. The guy in China stabbed a classroom full of kids with a knife. The 9/11 terrorists used plastic knives. As my wife pointed out this evening, in the past few days, while she was driving the kids to school, two different idiots tried to kill her and them with automobiles. What ultimately infuriates me about the gun control “debate” is that it’s about epiphenomena.

You can ban and round up every legally owned assault rifle, and criminals who want assault rifles will get them (and apparently with the help of the Obama Administration). You can put TSA agents at every public venue, and strip search everyone, and those with wicked designs will find ways to get around it.

Unless you directly take on evil, all the rest of it is useless. More on that later.

“The Poor Will Always Be With You”

One point I have always made on the topic of “Social Justice,” particularly when arguing against liberals, is that Jesus Himself said, “The poor will always be with you” (Mark 14:7), a point echoed in Catechism 676, which says the spirit of Anti-Christ is found in any political movement which promises to solve humanity’s problems through secular means. Thus, while so many “Christians” on the political “Left” insist that Christ would want us to vote for people who want to “end poverty,” Jesus Himself says we will never end poverty, and the Church says that any promise of ending poverty is actually the spirit of Anti-Christ. Indeed, as the recent election has given particular heat to debates among Catholics about the economic applications of Catholic Social Teaching, Leo XIII, the very pope who originated modern Catholic “Social Justice” teaching explicitly condemned the approach of the “Left”.

Of course, as I often note, Dietrich von Hildebrand says it is wrong to try and force either capitalism or socialism into conformity with Catholicism because both economic systems are based upon wrong notions of the human person, and Bl. Fulton Sheen often taught very similar notions (he often liked to say that capitalists want Christ without the Cross, while Communists want the Cross without Christ).

The Compendium on Social Doctrine makes it perfectly clear that governments must provide a basic “safety net” for the poor, and that some sort of redistribution of wealth is appropriate–in particular the Compendium, pulling together the teachings of Leo XIII and subsequent Popes through to John Paul II, advocates redistribution of land, *precisely* because every person has a fundamental right to personal property (a policy which GK Chesterton named “distributism”).

Nevertheless, as I noted in my previous post, it is individual charity Christ cares about most, because charity is supposed to represent love. Voting for a politician who wants to tax some people to supposedly help others (while that politician and his cronies, and a bunch of bureaucrats in between, get most of the benefits and the poor still get the scraps) doesn’t satisfy the demands of love. Giving a few bucks to a foundation is helpful but still isn’t necessarily an act of Caritas. Giving a homeless person a peanut bar and a Powerade, with a kind word to boot, can be an act of infinitely greater merit than donating a fortune anonymously to a food bank (though both are necessary).

But what baffles me most about liberals’ insistence that Jesus wants us to end poverty is that Jesus *praises* poverty: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). He praises the poor widow who gives her last coin to the Temple.

Jesus wants us to SACRIFICE. I’m often told when I say this that it doesn’t apply to everyone, that it’s wrong to say that we are all called to follow the Counsel of Poverty, but nowhere does Jesus say that. He is constantly saying to give up everything for the kingdom. “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21).

My objection to both capitalism and socialism is that they are both materialistic. The following passage from Flannery O’Connor’s _Habit of Being_, in a letter from 1959, circulated Facebook recently in the form of a scanned page:

The Church’s stand on birth control is the most absolutely spiritual of all her stands and with all of us being materialists at heart, there is little wonder that it causes unease. I wish various fathers would quit trying to defend it by saying that the world can support 40 billion. I will rejoice in the day when they say: This is right, whether we all rot on top of each other or not, dear children, as we certainly may. Either practice restraint or prepare for crowding…

When Catholics on both “sides” talk about economics, they always emphasize which economic philosophy will bring greater “prosperity” to individuals and to the nation as a whole (of course ignoring that there are more than two economic philosophies available), yet they never stop to consider the question of why people who are supposed to be focused on the next life are obsessing about prosperity in *this* life!

“But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. ” (Mt 6:20). “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mk 10:29-30).

Yes, in this passage, Our Lord promises material reward in this present age, but His whole point is that we are to live on Providence. He promises that if we give up everything for the Kingdom, He will give us what we need in this life and eternal life in the next. So that verse can hardly be used to justify either a capitalist or socialist attitude. Jesus calls us to *sacrifice*, not to “save.”

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. 30Even all the hairs of your head are counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ” (Mt 10:29-31). “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39).

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. 23For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. 24Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!m 25Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? 26If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? 27Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.n 28If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 29As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. 30All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. (Luke 12:22-31)

Where, in these teachings, do people get the idea that God wants people to engage in accumulation of money, on the one hand, or that God wants us to obsess about taxing the rich to “end poverty,” on the other?

But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.* (Luke 12:20-21).

No servant can serve two masters.* He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The Pharisees, who loved money,* heard all these things and sneered at him. (Luke 16:13-14).

When I hear a Unionist say, “We were mad that the bosses got a raise, so we went on strike,” I hear someone serving money. When I hear a capitalist say, “I earned my money, and I have a right to keep the money I earned,” I hear someone serving money. When I hear a liberal talk about taxation, I hear someone serving money.

Then there’s this key teaching:

Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” 16They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” 17So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him. (Mk 12:15-17)

Caesar makes money in his own image. God made *us* in His own image. That’s what Jesus means: WE belong to God. Money doesn’t exist. It’s a figment of Caesar’s imagination. We are real. If God can raise up descendants to Abraham from the stones (Luke 3:8), then Jesus can produce money from the mouth of a fish (Matthew 17:27).

In vain is your earlier rising,
your going later to rest,
you who toil for the bread you eat,
when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. (Psalm 127:2).

Stop looking to Wall Street for your salvation. Stop looking to Washington for your salvation. God does not want us to cure poverty, and He does not want us to be “prosperous.” Indeed, the Bible shows time and again that God does NOT want us to be prosperous, either individually or as a society, because whenever people are prosperous, they forget God (Genesis 11:1-9).

He wants us to love one another and provide each other with basic dignity and justice, but “prosperity” is a lie with the face of Caesar stamped on it. That’s why I reject both dominant political/economic philosophies of the world. That’s why I do not understand how the “Christian Left” can justify itself.

“Daddy, can we have a Kia Sedona?”–The Pros and Cons of PBS

Back in the early 2000’s, Kia was one of the main sponsors of CBS’s Saturday morning-line-up. My 2 year old used to turn to me every Saturday and ask, “Daddy, can we get a Kia Sedona?”

There are several arguments for the existence and federal funding of PBS:

1) PBS Kids provides commercial free, educational programming for kids to watch. Supposedly, this saves them from the “dangers” of non-educational, purely fun shows (as if adults don’t watch non-educational, purely fun shows!) and from being influenced by advertisers. It also supposedly helps low-income children learn and develop a love of learning.
2) PBS provides cultural programming that supposedly won’t do well in a commercial, ratings-based environment.
3) Local PBS stations, which get the majority of federal funding, provide an important source of local programming.

They tell us that PBS is a “commercial free” network, yet for quite some time PBS shows, including PBS Kids shows, have had what used to be considered “advertising”: corporate sponsors. For years, _Masterpiece Theater_ was called _Mobil Masterpiece Theater_, for example. Watch _Sesame Street_, and you’ll see how _Sesame Street_ is sponsored by “Beaches” resorts. Even McDonald’s is a “sponsor” of PBS Kids shows. So when it comes to advertising, PBS Kids is actually behind the “Kids” networks on cable: Disney Jr., Nick Jr. and Boomerang all have policies against product advertising, though they *do* advertise the programs on their sister networks.

Now, back in the 1990s, when Republicans raised the issue of defunding PBS, they argued that Cable showed that commercial television could do what PBS does. At the time, A&E still stood for “Arts & Entertainment” and “TLC” stood for “The Learning Channel.” A&E, Discovery and TLC had fine arts programming and documentaries. TLC and Discovery had truly educational children’s programs during the day.

These days, however, some of that has been negated. While many Disney & Nick shows are comparable to a lot of the kids’ shows on PBS, there are still more overtly educational shows on PBS, while even the Discovery Kids network is now The Hub: co-owned by Hasbro, it’s an enjoyable network but competing with Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and other sister networks in the Disney family.

One thing I do not understand about PBS is why, after 40+ years, they need *new* shows. The only reason is “kids are different,” which is a big lie. Kids are always the same. The problem with *both* PBS and the cable “kids'” channels is that they’re just as much about indoctrination as education. Conservatives rightly complain that PBS indoctrinates kids to liberal ideology, but so do Disney & Nick, a network whose primary purpose is to facilitate kids to watch MTV.

Sesame Street has been on for 40+ years, and other than the fact that Carroll Spinney is on track to beat Helen Wagner as the longest actor on a TV show in history, there’s no real reason that the previous 40+ years of programming aren’t more than enough to educate toddlers for generations. Sesame Street has aired over 4240 episodes: enough to air it back-to-back, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for almost half a year–or once a day every day for 11 years–without repeating an episode. Then there are all the decades of _Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood_ (though the amount of programs he produced per year dwindled as he got older) and [ugh] _Barney & Friends_. _Cyberchase_, _Wild Kratts_ and the sadly cancelled _Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman_ are superbly educational but so are the original _Electric Company_, _321 Contact_, _Reading Rainbow_ and _Mathnet_. Yes, some of these programs may represent obsolete technology or scientific understanding, but there are still plenty available. How much money could be saved if they stop developing needless new shows and just show “classic” PBS shows? It’s not like ratings are going to drop! After all, isn’t the argument for PBS that they don’t need ratings?

Speaking of older shows, Discovery and PBS co-sponsor a fantastic website called “United Streaming” that provides old kids’ series from PBS and Discovery as well as non-broadcast educational videos. It’s *wonderful*. I don’t know how much it costs, but I imagine that a worthy compromise would be to cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, support United Streaming, and maybe give a tax break for high speed internet for families with young children.

Apparently, from a cursory Google search, the operating budget of PBS is in the mid-$400 millions, with about 20%, max, of that coming from federal money. However, the federal money accounts for 40% of the budgets of local PBS stations. We’re told that this would provide a desperate hit to local stations, but perhaps if localism is the issue, then maybe local stations could get local funding to promote local programming?

While PBS occasionally promotes “fine arts” programs, a great deal of its prime-time content really just rehashes BBC programming–which BBC America exists to show. The argument that high culture programming is available on cable (these days only on channels like Ovation that are available only in top tier plans in most markets and satellite plans) doesn’t really make sense coming from Republicans who complain about lower class Americans having cable to begin with. Nevertheless, just as Thomas Sowell once called PBS “welfare for the affluent,” just as with Discovery Streaming, there are a variety of avenues for people to obtain this kind of programming: online streaming and DVD among them. Indeed, when PBS asks for a $200 donation so you can get a concert DVD that costs $20 or less at the mall, it doesn’t make sense to pay tax money to support PBS, does it?

All of that said, this discussion must be handled delicately. Polls show the majority of Americans oppose cutting PBS funding, even though it seems like an obvious way to save some of the federal budget.

When Republicans oppose something like PBS, flat out, it comes off as reinforcing the worse stereotypes of political conservatives. While what Mitt Romney said in the debate was actually a nuanced argument, House Republicans and many pundits, not to mention online commentators, often come off as anti-intellectual, a matter I’m going to discuss in another post.

“Why Would Anyone Work So Hard?”On the

A common argument from those who try to worship both God and Mammon is that if any checks are put on unbridled capitalism, whether from a Distributist, Keynesian or Socialist model, “Why would anyone work hard if he can’t make a fortune?”

This past weekend’s reading from the letter of St. James (which, of course, the heretic Luther wanted to excise from Scripture) hit on two key points of Catholic Social Teaching:

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers
who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance (James 5:1-6).

I have bolded what I think are the key points. As always, there can be just as much “cafeteria Catholicism” on the political Right as on the political Left. Our society insists on everyone participating in its false dichotomy of two parties, and it refuses to allow a position that is nuanced or, in the case of Catholic Social Teaching, completely different. Dietrich von Hildebrand explains in _Trojan Horse in the City of God_ that Catholic social teachings cannot be explained in any way that conforms with modern political ideologies, because all modern political ideologies are based upon false conceptions of the human person and his relation to society. Further, it must be noted of course that no political or economic system will ever be “perfect”: the Church condemns all utopian political systems as the spirit of the Anti-Christ (Catechism 676), offering on earth a kind of perfection that can only be achieved in Heaven.

Lastly, it is clear, as I have noted many times on this blog, that the “social encyclicals”–which, prior to B16’s Caritas et Veritate, were compiled in the _Compendium of Social Doctrine_ promulgated by Bl. John Paul II as the political equivalent of the Catechism and as doctrinally binding as the Catechism—primarily list principles Catholics must consider. We are given freedom in how best to apply these principles to our own societies, but we must consider *all* of them, and we must above all be charitable in dealing with other Catholics.

At issue the past few days was the term “redistribution,” and I pointed out several passages in the _Compendium_ which mention “redistribution”. The Church expresses preference for *voluntary* redistribution of wealth but also commends governments for engaging in “redistribution.” The Church then prefers redistribution of *land* (distributism), since land is the source of true wealth and independence (180, 300). Yet the Church also calls for income redistribution, including involuntary wealth redistribution by governments in cases of severe need (302-303).

This is, fundamentally, the case I was making, and I was being told, as others have said, that the Church does not support this, even though the documents clearly refer to government redistribution. People try to say that charity must be voluntary, but that gets to the difference between justice and charity.

Again, because “social justice” is a charged buzzword that used to raise my rankles as well, people got hotheaded about “justice.” I explained Plato’s definition of justice, and one interlocutor charged that since we are Christians, we don’t need to listen to Plato (a position I’ve been known to volley in the heat of an argument). Yet again, the Compendium states:

Justice is a value that accompanies the exercise of the corresponding cardinal moral virtue[441]. According to its most classic formulation, it “consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbour”[442]. From a subjective point of view, justice is translated into behaviour that is based on the will to recognize the other as a person, while, from an objective point of view, it constitutes the decisive criteria of morality in the intersubjective and social sphere[443].

The Church’s social Magisterium constantly calls for the most classical forms of justice to be respected: commutative, distributive and legal justice[444]. Ever greater importancyee has been given to social justice[445], which represents a real development in general justice, the justice that regulates social relationships according to the criterion of observance of the law. Social justice, a requirement related to the social question which today is worldwide in scope, concerns the social, political and economic aspects and, above all, the structural dimension of problems and their respective solutions[446].(201)

So, my simple point was, to begin with: many Republicans and “economic conservatives” (and American “economic conservatism” is really just a form of liberalism from the original definition of “liberal”) complain about “redistribution” and complain that “taxation is stealing” and complain about people who receive various welfare programs, and whether they’re just exaggerating for rhetorical sake or actually believe it, it sure sounds a lot like they’re worshipping Mammon.

Another common charge when I raise these issues is that I’m envying the rich–yet when I talk about abortion, the same people don’t accuse me of envying women who have abortions!

One of the key verses in the passage of Luke, though, pertains to the concept of “Just Wage,” which is addressed in the Compendium quite extensively (302). A just and living wage means that a worker should be paid with consideration for the cost of living in his society *and* the amount of people he has to support. A married father of 8 who’s caring for his elderly parents objectively needs and deserves more money than someone who is single. The Compendium even addresses the right to strike (304). Certainly, I’d agree that many of today’s unions are too powerful and corrupt and get away from what the Church means by a “union.” I’d also agree that striking because they envy someone else’s raise is wrong.

What I don’t agree with my conservative allies about is that I think it’s overly greedy for workers to strike simply because the bosses get a raise, but I also think it’s greedy for the bosses to get themselves a raise, unless in either case the raise is to address some huge change in cost of living.

Again, one of my interlocutors insisted that workers should accept the wages they “agree to.” I tried to explain that most workers do not “agree” to their wages but merely accept what they can get because they’re happy just to work. I know someone who had recently started a job, and a colleague of equal rank but who had been with the employer 1 more year mentioned his salary. This person mentioned her salary, which was considerably lower–and she had ten years more overall experience than her colleague. He said, “Didn’t you negotiate?” She said, “I didn’t know I *could* negotiate.”

One of the principles of CST and Distributism is that if a worker is paid a just wage, other forms of redistribution are unnecessary. Logically, if a worker is paid so his dependents are provided for and don’t have to work, and if dependents can include disabled or elderly family members, then they won’t need any other assistance. In Chesterton’s teaching, the comcomitant position is that no one should work more than he or she needs to to support the family, so that there are jobs available for other people.

In the 1960s, two documents inspired the revolution that became the “Spirit of Vatican II”: _Mater et Magistra_ and _Humanae Vitae_. Many trace Vatican II “cafeteria Catholicism” to the response to _Mater et Magistra_ published in _National Review_: “Mater Si, Magistra No.” Since these words were uncredited in the magazine, they have traditionally been attributed to its editor and founder, William F. Buckley, Jr. In his spiritual autobiography, Buckley says that the words were actually spoken by Garry Wills, who would later go on to dissent against _Humanae Vitae_ as well, and to be one of the calumniators of Pius XII.

Other than a lot of particulars about different fields (such as observations that contraception was a grave threat to economic order), one of the main general principles that M&M introduces to the tradition of “social encyclicals” started by _Rerum Novarum_ (but not to Biblical or Saintly teaching) is that there is a *limit* to the right to property. Yes, the Church affirms the right to property, but much as with what Chesterton says about jobs, the right to property ends with the amount necessary to provide for one’s family. This is expressed biblically in the teaching of John the Baptist: “Let he who has two cloaks give away one.”

“You cannot serve both God and Mammon.” My problem with both sides of the secular political debate are that they both seem to worship Mammon. So the objection is raised with which I started this piece: “Why should anyone work if he’s just going to get his money taken away?” The answer is “To feed his family, to serve other people, and to do ‘something beautiful for God.'” The whole problem with our system is that “success” is defined by money, not by love of a profession. Our whole system presumes people work for greed and not for success.

This is proven wrong by various studies that indicate workers work harder for non-monetary rewards. For example, much was made a few years back of a study that showed men performed better at their jobs when shown pictures of beautiful women as a reward: certainly an indication of the link between both work and sex and endorphines, but also demonstrating that other motives are stronger than money. The only reason a person should be working for money is knowing that the money supports his or her family.
Of course, more money *can* be a motivator, because we must remember that all Catholic moral teaching is a consistent whole. As John Paul II says, “love that does not grow decays,” or something like that. It’s been a while since I read that. Love must multiply, and families must always be growing, so certainly the Head of Household would have motive to make more money if he is biologically fathering more children, adopting more children, or bringing in other disabled adults to care for.

This, by the way, answers another objection: “Who would give to charity if wealth were limited?” Well, the answer is another favorite adage of economic conservatives: “charity begins at home.”

But perhaps most ghastly and naive is the notion that corporate executives “work.”

Yes, there are some great entrepreneurs who build their companies from scratch and work hard, and there are “American dream” stories like Speaker John Boehner who was born in poverty, the only member of his family to go to college, started off as a janitor and worked his way up to president of his company, retired & ran for the House. But for every Boehner or Tom Monaghan there are dozens of Bill Gateses and Warren Buffets.

“Well, Bill Gates works hard.” How, exactly? Or how, exactly, did Steve Jobs “work hard”? Both of them happened to pioneer some aspects of personal computing, of which others at the time were also doing similar things. They just happened to be the ones who were most business-oriented. The guy who actually invented the personal computer and hired Gates & Allen to program it sold his patents and went to med school. On the one hand, people complain about Bill Gates not really innovating anything but just buying other people’s patents and intimidating competitors out of business. On the other hand, they say he’s an example of a hard working CEO. What about all his employees? They use him as an icon of capitalism even though he’s a registered Democrat.

Jobs is pretty much the same thing only he was also a cultish motivator who created brand loyalty by mass brainwashing techniques and then charged way more for his products than was necessary by making everything proprietary (another part of economic justice in Catholic teaching is not overcharging, see again _Mater et Magistra_).

Or Warren Buffett: I won’t say he hasn’t worked a day in his life. He came from a middle-class background and saved his money made from kid-type jobs instead of spending it. Then he began investing once he had enough saved up to invest with. Buffet has been nothing but an investor for 7 decades, making money off other people’s labor and not adding any value to the economy.

The passage from James raises a few other issues, I think, as well, but I just really cannot understand Christians who promote a money motive for anything. “You cannot serve both God and Mammon.” “Why do you toil for the bread you eat when He pours gifts on His beloved while they slumber?” “You fool! Don’t you know this very night, your life will be demanded of you?!”

Who’s your Pope?

Tracy: “So what’s your religion, Liz Lemon?”
Liz: “I pretty much do whatever Oprah tells me.” –_30 Rock_

“His heart was moved to pity for them, for they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” –Mt 9:36

The Catholic Church is often attacked over the concept of Papal infallibility, yet one of the ironies is that people long for “infallibility.” There is a reason the Bible is constantly comparing people to sheep: sheep are, as a priest once pointed out in a homily I heard, stupid. This is a controversial point, I know, but most people really are stupid. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”: our great excuse at personal and final judgement day will be, as the Catholic Church teaches, stupidity (Catechism 1793).

So we seek out people to guide us, like Israel begging Samuel for a king (1 Sam 8). Yet, just as when Samuel warned Israel that a King would become a tyrant (and all the kings of Israel fulfilled that warning, so too do the little kings we create for ourselves inevitably fail, because all are human.

In a previous post, I explained the limits and extents of Papal infallibility. Infallibility is, in one sense, a very limited concept, though it includes a general sense of obedience to the Pope. A traditional notion of anti-Catholicism holds that the Pope somehow micromanages the Church. The “Kennedy Doctrine” is heretical because, as Vatican II documents, Bl. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI all teach, the State *must* listen to the Church. However, in one sense, Kennedy was right in trying to dispel a common notion that Catholics all get secret personal marching orders from the Pope.

Papal infallibility only plays a big part in my life because religion plays a big part in my life. As I noted in the earlier post linked above, a Pope’s personal opinions are just that: opinions, and even his prudential judgements about matters of great import, and whether the Church’s teachings are properly being applied, are just that, prudential judgements. A Catholic owes a certain deference to the Holy Father, but Catholics are free to make up our minds on such matters, provided that we give them due study.

The principle of subsidiarity that the Church teaches in politics and economics applies in the Church as well. The Pope oversees 2 billion Catholics and does quite a lot but relatively little. A few thousand people work at the Vatican to oversee those 2 billion Catholics, and the proportion of Vatican employees to worldwide Catholics is far less a percentage than the staffs of most secular corporate or government headquarters.

Then there’s the local bishop, who oversees hundreds or thousands or even millions of parishioners. Again, the bishop’s authority is relatively minimal and mostly managerial. Most practicing Catholics only see their bishops on rare occasions, such as Confirmation or Ordination masses, or special events. I was a parishioner in my diocese’s cathedral as a kid, and I remember even *there* that the bishop making an appearance was a special event.

Then comes the local pastor, who *ought* to be involved intimately in each of his parishioners’ lives, but in practice this rarely happens. So the Church in general, in terms of Her human agents, doesn’t play that big a role in the average person’s life. I care about my pastor’s views on theology, morals, liturgy, church discipline and even politics. I don’t care about my pastor’s views on music (except liturgy or moral issues), sports, movies (except moral issues), etc.

The Pope doesn’t tell me what to watch on TV, though he may give advice on what to consider from a moral aspect when choosing a TV show.

However, people in general look for “infallible authorities” to give them simple answers. They balk at the notion of an established and official hierarchy, but they create one for themselves by seeking out little gurus, the way the fictional Liz Lemon “worships” Oprah.

Look at the way certain Protestant televangelists rake in the dough and the adulation, and people hang on their every word. Look at the range of issues where people would seek advice from James Dobson. Look at the followers of Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura or Martha Stewart, the modern-day Sophists.

then add to that the polarization of society, and people’s basic need to separate everything in to “good” versus “evil.” So once a particular “guru” has been established as a “good guy,” then everything that person says *must* be good, and if anyone criticizes that person, watch out.

So the followers of Fr. Corapi, myself still one of them when his troubles started, reacted in his defense when he announced that he’d been suspended. Anyone who raised a sign of caution that there might be validity to the allegations–especially since he based his entire ministry on his allegedly sordid past–were attacked as agents of Satan.

Look at what happened when some people raised questions about the ethicality of Lila Rose’s “undercover” operations at Planned Parenthood.

Even questioning one aspect of a “good guy’s” behavior is offensive to the “follower” because the “good guy” is bestowed a kind of personal infallibility that goes far beyond the scope of the infallibility of the Pope–and often the person doesn’t have any real claim to such authority.

I raise this issue because, back in 2004, Catholic Answers, which is a wonderful apologetics organization, issued a “Catholic Voter Guide” was basically geared towards saying it’s wrong to vote for the Democrats. Interestingly, the content of the Guide itself favors voting for a third party candidate, but it has been manipulated to support the Republicans.

This “Voter Guide” was issued right around the same time as the leak of the “private letter” that then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger sent to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, clarifying the prioritization of “life issues” in voting, and in various reports, the content of the Catholic Answers “Voter Guide” got conflated with the Ratzinger letter.

The Catholic Answers Voter Guide introduces a concept of “Five Non-Negotiables”: abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, cloning and gay “marriage.”

Now, it’s true that these are “non-negotiable” in Catholic teaching. This refers to the fact that the economic documents always emphasize the freedom of Catholics to determine how to apply them, and it refers to how in matters such as war and the death penalty, the Church discourages them and gives strict guidelines for their application but still gives the State the right to use them when necessary.

The whole point of the Catholic Answers Voter Guide is this:

Candidates who endorse or promote any of the five non-negotiables should be considered to have disqualified themselves from holding public office, and you should not vote for them. You should make your choice from among the remaining candidates.Candidates who endorse or promote any of the five non-negotiables should be considered to have disqualified themselves from holding public office, and you should not vote for them. You should make your choice from among the remaining candidates.

Do not reward with your vote candidates who are right on lesser issues but who are wrong on key moral issues. One candidate may have a record of voting exactly as you wish, aside from voting also in favor of, say, euthanasia. Such a candidate should not get your vote. Candidates need to learn that being wrong on even one of the non-negotiable issues is enough to exclude them from consideration.

Eliminate from consideration candidates who are wrong on any of the non-negotiable issues. No matter how right they may be on other issues, they should be considered disqualified if they are wrong on even one of the non-negotiables.Eliminate from consideration candidates who are wrong on any of the non-negotiable issues. No matter how right they may be on other issues, they should be considered disqualified if they are wrong on even one of the non-negotiables.

These posts would seem to advocate voting for a third party candidate because the voter is encouraged to eliminate anyone wrong on one of these “five non-negotiables”. This is affirmed by the teaching of John Paul II, who said it was more important to vote for the candidate that’s morally correct than to worry about who would win. See “John Paul II on Incrementalism”.

The Voters Guide, on its own merits, is a helpful document. However, there are several problems that have arisen from it because of tribalism and party politics:

1) Because Catholic Answers has a reputation for “orthodoxy,” they are “good guys” in the above calculation, so they are, according to the reasoning, beyond reproach, and on the other hand, anything Catholic Answers issues gets elevated to Magisterial teaching. So even though this is a voter guide issued by a lay apologetics group, many Catholics speak of the “Five Non-Negotiables” as if the concept was an ex cathedra papal statement.
2) There are more than five non-negotiables in Catholic teaching, and the Catholic Answers staff were misrepresenting papal teaching to suit their own accomodation to American politics. This is my big beef with the document. The Voter’s Guide is used to argue why ESCR, abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and cloning are always evil, but the Church also says many other things are always evil: contraception, in vitro fertilization, etc.
3) it has become confused and conflated in the public mind, which isn’t the fault of Catholic Answers. A woman once insisted to me that there are only “five intrinsic evils,” and she listed CA’s “five non-negotiables.” I quoted the passage in the Catechism (2297) which defines intrinsic evil, itself quoting Vatican II:

“Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator”

Now, the lady in question told me that I wasn’t a Catholic for thinking that the Catechism, _Veritatis Splendor_ and _Gaudium et Spes_ superseded Catholic Answers and “defriended” me on Facebook. Surprisingly, she didn’t block me, and we run into each other periodically on other groups and pages.

But her confusion and tribalism represents a typical problem. In 2008, things were complicated by the war and ESCR. The “Catholic Left” argued that torture should be a “non-negotiable” since the above passage lists it as equally evil to abortion. That would be fine if Bush had been running for re-election, but the fact was that most of the Republicans running in 2008, and the third party right wing candidates, all opposed waterboarding: IIIR, only Giuliani (who’s also pro-abortion) and Thompson specifically supported it: Dr. Paul, Mike Huckabee, Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr (pro-abortion) and especially John McCain all opposed “enhanced interrogation” for one reason or another, and so torture should have been a non-issue. Ironically, all the Catholics who voted for Obama because of “enhanced interrogation,” illegal detainment and other intrinsic evils of the Bush Administration, along with the questionable justification of the war in Iraq, elected a president who has been far worse for these evils and who has gotten us into several very clearly unjust military actions, such as Libya.

Meanwhile, Catholic conservatives continue to blindly vote Republican the way Catholic liberals have blindly voted Democrat. Even though the CA Voter Guide itself encourages voting third party if possible, Catholics have used the CA Voter guide to justify milquetoast Republicans over Democrats because “abortion is a non-negotiable!”

Well, the problem is that John McCain supported ESCR, and suddenly ESCR became a “negotiable” — NRLC even dropped it as a priority issue (and let’s not forget that Bush authorized it so long as the babies were already dead). Now, we have Mitt Romney, who passively legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts, passed a healthcare mandate law in Massachusetts (and convinced Obama to go with a mandate over total socialization), ignored a Catholic protest in MA to his own contraception mandate, gave money to Planned Parenthood, made money off two abortion-related companies (one that produced abortion pills and another that handled “disposal” of aborted fetuses), and was outspokenly pro-abortion and for changing the GOP platform.

We are supposed to believe that social liberal Mitt Romney has undergone a total change in his views since being governor of Massachusetts. We’re supposed to believe he’s pro-life, even though he’s skipped every pro-life event this year, including events that all his opponents in the primary attended. We’re expected to believe he’s opposed to a health care law he helped write.

We’re supposed to believe that he’s pro-life and pro-family because of his stay-at-home wife (in whose name the Planned Parenthood donations were made) and his 5 kids–one of whom is having his own children through “surrogate motherhood”–even though the Romneys had their kids in the 1970s, and their kids were grown before their father did his worst anti-life and anti-family actions. The fact that the Romneys were already Mormons with a big family when they supported PP and contraception mandates, etc., before they opposed them, they makes them far worse.

And for some reason people are buying this garbage and getting mad at those of us who don’t. They insist Romney’s going to be better than Obama and change things, but he’s not. He’s going to say “Ha, Ha!”

I remember the arguments of Catholics–from died in the wool liberals to people like Doug Kmiec–who argued that if Obama knew a lot of pro-lifers voted for him, maybe he’d change his mind. Yeah, right. How did that work out for *them*?

Now we have Catholics arguing on the Right that if they vote for Romney, and he knows they voted for him because he claims to be pro-life and claims to be pro-marriage,

I argue with the “Catholic Left,” and they say that abortion is a settled issue, and it’s futile to keep fighting it, and it’s never going to be illegal, so it isn’t worth considering it as an issue.

Then I argue with Catholic conservatives about issues like contraception, and they say that contraception is a settled issue, and it’s futile to keep fighting it, and it’s never going to be illegal, so it isn’t worth considering.

The odds are I’m going to be dead before the election. My concern is primarily with peoples’ individual souls–including the candidates’–and not with what actually happens in the election. It’s better to vote third party, and know that you vote for someone who represents your conscience, than to vote for a major candidate by compromising your beliefs. It’s fine to vote for a “lesser of two evils” if you really think that’s necessary, but don’t try justifying the evil.

C. S. Lewis warned about “Christianity AND”. The Vatican censured the Action Francaise because its leaders referred to the Church as a tool to achieving the monarchist cause, rather than the opposite.

Shape your politics to your religion, not your religion to your politics.

More importantly, remember that human beings are flawed. The fact that you happen to like a lot of the things a particular writer or organization puts out doesn’t make that writer or organization infallible. You don’t have to 100% agree with someone. Decisions like whom to vote for are incredibly complicated, and any attempt to simplify the decision is going to be problematic.

And stop assigning absolute infallibility to people just because you generally agree with them. Let God be God.

Infallibility and You

I am formulating a post related in part to apologetics of papal infallibility, but got side tracked on a long explanation of infallibility per se. I’m posting that explanation here so that if and when I post the other argument, I can simply refer back to it.

Infallibility is a very strict thing, though the term “infallibility” technically applies to three different things.

In its most proper sense, “Infallibility” simply means that a pope cannot make a mistake in matters of faith and morals. It does NOT mean that a pope can’t make a mistake in terms of his personal faith or morals. Protestants point to the immorality of the Borgia Popes; radical traditionalist Catholics point to the questionable ecumenical behaviors of John Paul II. Both claim that the alleged sins of the Popes negated their office. Yes, my radtrad readers will no doubt object, as they often do in online debates, that the alleged acts of John Paul II (kissing the Koran, alleged participation in pagan rituals, etc.) constitute apostasy or defection from the faith or de facto heresy. However, I don’t see how kissing a Koran as a sign of politeness could be an act of apostasy but murdering people and keeping mistresses isn’t.

In any case, infallibility has nothing to do with the Pope’s actions, and it has nothing to do with his every day comments. Benedict XVI has even made a point of distinguishing things he writes as “Benedict XVI” from things he writes as “Josef Ratzinger”, to distinguish his personal opinions from his papal teachings. I think he does this, in part, because of the way people have exalted all the writings of Karol Woytyla to merit the authority of the pope.

Infallibility means that the Pope can’t make an error in matters of faith and morals, but his personal opinions are just that. If the pope expresses an opinion on sports or a *particular* political issue (i.e., whether a particular war was “just” or not), that isn’t “covered” by infallibility. That’s called prudential judgement. A Pope *is* infallible when he states the principles a Catholic should follow in making political decisions.

Another aspect of infallibility pertains to what Dietrich von Hildebrand calls “incomplete truth.” Sometimes, a particular aspect of Catholic teaching might be emphasized to deal with a particular issue, such as when social justice was emphasized to fight the horrible working conditions of the Industrial Revolution era, or how abortion is emphasized today. This is also shown in the history of the ecumenical councils: one council would define a truth to denounce one heresy, but then another heresy would arise at the opposite extreme, claiming the previous council as its validation (i.e., Vatican I’s definition of papal infallibility is one of the major legs of those who reject Vatican II; after the notion that Jesus was two persons consubstantial in one body was denounced, those who denied there was any difference between Jesus’ human and divine natures came to the forefront, and the Church said, “No, He is two natures in one Person”, and so on0.

So a particular papal document may emphasize the obligation of the state to listen to the Church on matters of Natural Law, denouncing “freedom of religion,” but then another pope comes along later and promotes “freedom of religion”: an apparent contradiction, but both are attacking the same problem from both ends. The Communists call for “freedom *from* religion”, and that is what Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII spent so much time denouncing–usually in documents condemning socialist governments in particular countries. On the other hand, Leo XIII preceded John Paul II in praising the kind of liberty promoted in the United States: again condemning the notion that the government should be totally free from the Church but praising the notion of not coercing people to adopt a religion. Then Vatican II comes a long and promotes “freedom of religion,” as a way of fighting the efforts of Communism, Islam and Western Secularism to crush such freedom altogether.

This is the same thing that happens with the Bible: when passages in the Bible seem to “contradict” each other, it’s almost always because a different audience, issue and historical context are involved. So in one passage, for example, St. Paul says it’s OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but in another passage he advises against it if it’s going to cause scandal.

So even on matters of faith and morals, the Popes must be understood in their historical contexts, and the audiences they were addressing.

The second sense of “infallibility” is what’s called “assent of religion.” This speaks to the Pope’s authority in matters of Church discipline, such as clerical celibacy or fish on Fridays. It also speaks to the matters of personal opinion mentioned above: even though a Pope’s personal opinion is not infallible, Catholics are obliged to follow the Evangelical Counsel of Obedience, so great care and caution should be taken before questioning a Pope’s judgement.

The third meaning of “infallibility” is when the Pope speaks “ex cathedra,” “from the Chair.” The Hebrew religion had the same principle. The New Testament, particularly Acts, makes reference to it in various places where the High Priest’s words are given a special authority, and the High Priest is shown as being sometimes inspired by the Holy Spirit in spite of his opposition to the early Christians.

The power of the Pope to speak ex cathedra means that he can define a matter of faith or morals as dogmatic and binding on all Christians without the need for a Council. This “power” has only been exercised a maximum of four times by Popes since Vatican I, and two of those are disputed: Blessed Pius IX’s definition of the Immaculate Conception; Venerable Pius XII’s definition of the Assumption; Bl. JPII’s definition of life beginning at conception; and Bl JPII’s definition that women cannot be ordained.

The last one has been debated mainly because an early Church Council already defined that dogmatically, and the Pope was just reiterating what they said, but he was using the formulations that Vatican I & II require for an ex cathedra statement. It is also unclear whether he was calling for a dogmatic definition or a matter of “assent of religion”; in any case, Avery Dulles’s elevation to Cardinal is often accredited to his defense that the Apostolic Letter _On the Ordination of Women_ was infallibile. However, even if the encyclical was not “ex cathedra,” it was certainly “infallible,” precisely because it was restating something a Council defined.

Similarly, there is debate about _Humanae Vitae_ because Paul VI came close to officially making it ex cathedra, and there are two arguments given why he didn’t. The so-called “Catholic Left” tries to insist that Vatican I & II said something they didn’t say: ex cathedra is precisely the power of the Pope to speak unilaterally. However, liberal Catholics try to insist that it’s only permitted if the Pope conducts a sort of “long distance Council.” So liberals try to say that Paul VI consulted all the bishops, and since the theological commission set up to investigate the “Pill” had found in favor of it, and since most of the bishops were in favor of it, liberals argue that Paul VI wasn’t able to speak ex cathedra. On the other hand, conservatives argue that the same principle as _Ordinatio Sacerdotalis_: contraception in all forms (herbal contraceptives having been used in all cultures throughout history) has been clearly condemned by the Church throughout history. Natural Family Planning, usually referred to as “selective abstinence” in Church documents, had been officially approved already in Pius XI’s _Casti Connubii_, so that wasn’t new, but he broadened its permission. The only thing novel in Humanae Vitae was the definition of marriage has having both a unitive and procreative purpose, where the prevailing Thomistic view had limited it to procreative (there’s that “incomplete truth” thing again).

One of the issues with both Catholic “Left” and “Right” is an inability to see the big picture of the Church: there are tons of documents produced by hundreds of Popes and dozens of Councils over the centuries, most of them buried in archives at the Vatican and other places, and most of them written in Latin and never published. Most of us don’t have any idea what the historical teachings of the Church are, so questioning the judgement of a Pope and saying it contradicts Church teaching (on the one hand) or that the Pope’s teaching is not dogmatically binding (on the other) is to claim that you’ve read *all* that, plus all the Doctors, early Church Fathers, etc., whose writings help make up the Magisterium. It’s a complex matter.

If only more Bishops were Pro-Life, or “How Islam Gave Us Nancy Pelosi”

We all know that there was a concerted effort by many bishops, priests and theologians in the 1960s to tell everyone the Pope would soon permit birth control (even though Bl. John XXIII condemns it in _Mater et Magistra_). What is lesser known is that some bishops actually *squelched* efforts by *Democratic* Catholic politicians to fight contraception. I once read how Chicago’s legendary mayor Daley organized a movement against legalization of contraceptives–till the archbishop of Chicago told him to stop because supposedly the Church was going to permit contraception. Then there’s how “Fr.” Drinan told the Kennedys to adopt a pro-choice position (I always forget if this infamous meeting took place during JFK or RFK’s campaign, but it’s well-documented).

Fr. Bing Arellano can be a bit of a “nut,” but when I went to a conference he gave in Atlanta a few years ago, before the stuff about the USCCB and the Canadian Bishops’ funding of pro-abortion organizations became a public issue, he claimed evidence that back in the 1980s, the US Bishops were giving millions to pro-abortion groups (turned out they were doing so more recently than that).

It was of course another Archbishop of Chicago, Joseph Bernardin, who gave us the “seamless” garment notion that blurs the prioritzation of “respect life” issues, even to the point of putting racism and health care on par with abortion or the death penalty. Regardless of whether people agree that the “death penalty” is a “pro-life” issue (and Bl. John Paul II, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, and even Fr. Frank Pavone all say it is), I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s a difference between directly killing someone and something like “racism” or health care–unless, of course, you’re the kind of person to believe the “Mitt Romney killed my wife” ad.

Ever since I finally read (or perhaps reread, as I think I read it in high school) Etienne Gilson’s classic _Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages_, I’ve wanted to write a piece called “How Islam Gave Us Nancy Pelosi.” When Greek wisdom was re-introduced to the west after centuries of “Dark Ages”–which were really a time of great Christian enlightenment, where the Greek “wisdom” was just considered irrelevant to the spiritual journey–it came via Muslim translations and commentaries, of Greek to Arabic and back to Latin, or even of Greek to Latin to Arabic and back to Latin . So there was some translation error, and since these translations were done as commentaries by Avicenna and Averroes (Latinizations of their names), their commentaries colored the texts.

Aristotle was, at the time, end and all and be-all of what we now call “science,” and Aristotle’s “science” contradicted Scripture–for example, Aristotle said the universe is eternal (a question about which scientists still debate). How did you reconcile Aristotle with “Creationism”?

Averroes attempted to answer this question first, in turn borrowing from Avicenna and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides before him. “Eastern” and “Western” thought is separated primarily by the question of paradox versus the law of identity. Aristotle, building on Socrates and Plato, established the principle of identity and the principle of non-contradiction: a thing is what it is. Something cannot be BOTH A AND B. It cannot be BOTH A AND -A. Two objects cannot co-exist in the same space. This principle (which I once tried to illustrate using symbolic logic on an Aristotle exam, prompting the professor to write “Uncle!” in the margin) underlies all Western thought, but is alien to many non-Western cultures.

Islam is an eastern religion, and relies on many things that Westerners would consider paradoxes. For example, the Bible is to be honored as the Word of God, but recognized as also corrupt. Jews and Christians are “People of the Book,” but there’s the ambiguity about whether we are “Infidels” or not. Meanwhile, Plato had taught his famous notion of the “noble lie,” that “mythology” is a “noble lie” taught to the people because they cannot understand philosophy. Plato said that myths and philosophy teach the same concepts, but mythology allegorizes them to be palatable to the public’s level of intelligence.

To a certain extent, Catholic philosophy even adopts that notion–as even Augustine and some of the other early Fathers recognized a level of allegory and symbolism in Genesis.

However, Averroes took it to a new level and said, basically with Plato, that the Bible and Aristotelian science didn’t *have* to be reconciled. A person could believe *both*. He took Plato’s argument that the Bible is just a symbolic expression of the truth’s of philosophy, and that religion is subservient to philosophy, just a menas of expressing philosophy to the people, but he departed from Plato in that Plato’s philosopher kings are supposed to acknowledge that *to themselves*. Averroes held that people had to believe *both* the “noble lie” of the Bible *and* the philosophy of Aristotle, but in the fashion of Eastern logic, he argued that these truths could be confined to different spheres of life.

So it was Averroes who gave us the concept of the “secular world,” that we can hold one set of beliefs in our religious lives but an entirely different set in our “secular” lives. This idea set in in the Universities in France. The work of Scotus, Aquinas and Bonaventure was a reaction against this trend in philosophy.

However, as Gilson explains, Aquinas and his fellow Scholastics in some ways failed. Averroeism remained entrenched in Catholic universities for centuries. So while we may rightly condemn Masonry, Modernism, etc., for the problems in the Church, they also date back 800 years.

When America arose, it gave Averroeism within the Church a new impetus: it became known as “Kennedy Doctrine,” though in turn it can be found in the writings of John and Charles Carroll, as well: religion is a private business, to be kept private and at church, and civic virtue is another matter. The “heresy of Americanism,” condemned by Leo XIII, kind of covers a lot of things, but one of the things it covers is the relegation of religion to a private sector in return for a secular virtue in public.

I don’t know if Gilson ever explained in another work how this entrenchment operated from the 11th to the 18th century, but it’s clear how it manifested itself in America. Then came the infiltration of the Church, and the Masonic and Communist infiltrators used the existing foundation of Averroeist philosophy to teach priests and bishops to hold the same view.

And it was these priests and bishops who went around in the 1960s and told Catholics both that it was OK to use contraception and that not only should they not fight efforts to legalize contraception, they should *support* those efforts.

What Economic System Does Catholicism Promote?

Short answer: None.

The ongoing debate among Catholics in America, highlighted by the two Catholic candidates for Vice President, is whether Catholics should support “capitalism” or “socialism.” There is a long-held misconception among many Catholics that the Church supports “socialism”, and proponents of this view cite Leo XIII’s groundbreaking encyclical, Rerum Novarum. However, Leo XIII explicitly condemns socialism, a direct condemnation repeated over and over by the Popes.
From Rerum Novarum, Paragraph 15:

Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found

Indeed, paragraph 676 of _The Catechism of the Catholic Church_ identifies the Antichrist with any ideology which proposes to solve all humanity’s problems, and the context of the document quoted therein is an explicit statement that Communism is the AntiChrist.

The fact that Rerum Novarum elevates the dignity of the worker, and promotes labor unions, seemed to many to promote “socialism,” just as Bl. John XXIII’s declaration in _Mater et Magistra_ that the right to property is limited also seemed to many on the poltical Left and Right to be an endorsement of socialism.
Often, in political dialogue, several concepts get lumped together as “capitalism” and several others as “socialism,” when there are really several separate approaches:

Let me propose, as I suggested metaphorically the other day, that we use the following categories
1) Capitalism: an economy driven by stock ownership, by the notion that money necessarily reproduces itself
2) Free Market: the notion of letting people compete freely in the economic market
3) Liberalism or “Social Justice”: Taxing the upper portion of the population to support the lower portion, since experience has proven that the upper portion are not going to do it voluntarily.
4) Socialism: The government owning some or all aspects of the economy and providing those services for “free.”

Now, Distributism is the Church’s “third way.” The primary considerations of distributism are:

1) The fundamental right to property
2) The *limitation* of the fundamental right to property (Mater et Magistra), in that property reaches a point where it damages the individual (“Blessed are the Poor in Spiirt” and all that).
3) The “common good” or “solidarity”–the need of people to work together.
4) Subsidiarity–the principle that society exists for the protection of the family, and power should be as localized as possible to avoid the corruption that entails with higher power.
5) The inherent dignity of work.
6) The right of workers to own their own labors.

The major social justice encyclicals are Leo XIII’s _Rerum Novarum_, Pius XI’s _Quadragesimo Anno_, John XXIII’s _Mater et Magistra_, Paul VI’s _Populorum Progresso_, Bl John Paul II’s _Laborem Exercens_, JPII’s _ Sollicitudo Rei Socialis_, JPII’s Centesimus Annus, and Benedict XVI’s _Caritas in Veritatae_.

These encyclicals cover a *lot* of topics, so the Church released a _Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine_.

Anyone interested in these issues ought to at least read the Compendium.

Because of the nuanced way the Popes address these issues, and because of the insistence of society on “polarizing” all issues, people understandably get confused. Plus, there is the question of how times have changed: often because what the Popes called for early on has been implemented, and there are now new problems (that’s why so many of the encyclicals are written precisely to commemorate anniversaries of their predecessors).

One example of this is “employee stock plans.” As a way of promoting the dignity of work and the rights of workers to own their labor, one of the Popes (I think it was Pius XI) proposed the notion of corporations sharing their stocks with employees. Stock sharing plans were originally condemned by many on the “Right” as a “socialist” notion, yet today they’ve become an ordinary part of business. Back in the late 1990s, Francis Cardinal George famously gave an address to a conference sponsored by _Commonweal_ where he said that liberal Catholicism is essentially obsolete: not that it’s bad, but it’s served its purpose. Both within the Church and in terms of the Church’s action in the world, what was considered “liberal Catholicism” 100 years ago has both done its job and sufficiently filtered through the Church at most levels, and to continue insisting on “liberalization” of the Church is to go beyond what was originally intended.

And while it seems so because of the television networks and the internet, “Polarization” is nothing new: I often use the example of St. John Bosco. The Socialists hated Don Bosco because he was teaching his boys religoin and pacifism. The Aristocrats hated Don Bosco because they thought he was in league with the Socialists by giving the poor food and shelter and education (this also shows why “liberal Catholicism” or “Catholic liberalism” was necessary at the time: even in Catholic countries, Catholic Aristocrats did not recognize their obligation to support the poor).

So, the Church gives us various principles to apply and consider. However, She gives great freedom in *how* we consider them. The Social Justice Encyclicals all emphasize that so long as Catholics are seriously trying to apply these principles, we have to apply then in context of our societies. This is important, because we may often disagree with how our Catholic brethren apply these teachings, but if they’re citing the principles, we have to presume their goodwill in trying to follow the Church’s teachings.

This is why some people speak of “non-negotiables”. Abortion, for example, is black-and-white. The Church says abortion is wrong in every and all circumstances, and governments are obligated to make it illegal. However, there are other areas like “social teaching” or Just War Theory where the Church gives principles and leaves it up to governments to apply them. So it’s important to recognize what the Church says in these matters. However, many Catholics try to argue that since issues like economics and war have room for interpretation, teachings on issues like abortion should also have room for interpretation.

Now, part of “room for interpretation” is the recognition of the particular issues facing particular countries, as well as the existing political and economic structures of those countries. Sometimes, the Vatican will address a problem with concern about what’s going on one place and it gets misapplied to other countries. For example, Pius XII and Leo XIII gave various documents and speeches where they condemned Socialism/Communism, and they were clearly addressing countries where Socialis or Communist revolutions were happening. In condemning secular regimes which sought to sever Church and State and free the State from the Church, they condemned “religious liberty.” Some have taken this as a condemnation of the “religious liberty” practiced in the US, but both those Popes also praised the kind of liberty promoted in the US (so long as the government recognizes it must listen to the Church on matters of Natural Law).

Well, the Church assigned national episcopal councils with the task of determining how best to apply Catholic Social Teachings in their countries. That’s why the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will occasionally issue a document like _Faithful Citizenship_ from a few years ago.

In the US, however, we have a problem that our episocopal conference is tied to a vast bureaucracy. The major pre-Vatican II Catholic organizations, such as the Legion of Decency (which used to practically control Hollywood but is now the milquetoast USCCB “Film Office”), into one bureaucracy in DC called the “United States Catholic Conference,” and the bishops were, collectively, the “board of directors” of that organization. Then there was the “National Conference of Catholic Bishops,” which met annually to decide on the application of Church teachings and liturgical norms to America. Since the NCCB was technically the Board of Directors of the USCCB, they finally merged into the USCCB, so now the lay employees of what used to be USCC (some of whom aren’t even Catholic) can issue documents that now seem to have the authority of “The Bishops.”

So just as the public and the media do not understand the difference between some priest at the Vatican issuing a statement, the Vatican newspaper writing an article, a Vatican Congregation issuing a document or the Pope issuing a document, so too any statement that comes from “The USCCB” is treated as having the authority of an entire vote by the Bishops. And even if the Bishops collectively vote on something, it still has little technical authority because each bishop is sovereign in his diocese, and any individual bishop has the right to opt out of a USCCB “decision.”

So something comes up like the “USCCB condemns the Ryan Budget,” and that becomes “common knowledge,” even if the USCCB never technically said it. In terms of the Paul Ryan debate, I have not researched deeply enough to know where the alleged “USCCB condemnation” comes from but it is clear that Ryan considers Catholic Social Teaching in his thought, and Ryan himself has made the argument that the “common good” cannot be served by a bankrupted government.

Throughout the world, socialist governments are going bankrupt. The states with the worst economic crises right now in the US–California, PA, etc.–are the most socialist. The “democratic socialist” governments of Europe are collapsing just as the Leninist governments did 20 years ago. Yet, somehow, people keep insisting socialism works, that socialism is the answer to the world’s economic problems, etc.

Meanwhile, though the Church has critiqued certain aspects of capitalism, none of the Popes have condemned capitalism. Rather, because capitalism promotes the right to property, the Popes have said time and again that capitalism is the best context for building a society more based upon CST. Refer back to the example of stock sharing plans.

Subsidiarity says that ownership should be de-centralized. The late conservative philosopher Russell Kirk argued that capitalism and socialism are “two sides of the same coin” because both promote centralization. Neither laissez-faire capitalism nor socialism is in accord with the principle of subsidiarity because one gives the majority of power to the rich, and the other gives the majority of power to the government. Distributism is about distributing the power to produce wealth evenly among the people.

Solidarity is about the common good, but the common good is not served by socialism any more than laissez-faire capitalism. However, as conservative Christians often argue, in a society that promotes economic freedom, individuals have the freedom to use their money for good (though, again, a baseline safety net is necessary because history has shown individuals will not do that). That is what “social justice” means–moderating the injustices of society using the government.

We cannot have a truly “free market” without some level of government regulation. A market dominated by monopolies is no more free than a market dominated by the government.

The Popes promote a notion of “living wage,” which has filtered through society but become corrupted as many such notions tend to be. So people hear “living wage” and think “socialism,” but living wage means paying each employee what he or she is worth given human dignity. It is a principle that goes back to at least Aristotle. In Catholic teaching, “living wage” also refers to considering a person’s family size and obligations so that each individual has enough money to support those he or she needs to. This is not the same as a “minimum wage,” which insists on a baseline pay for all workers, at the same rate. The problem witha “minimum wage” is it encourages inflation. “Living wage” both recognizes the true value of all individuals while avoiding the notion of overpaying someone.

The CST encyclicals are also consistent in noting the limitation of wealth. No individual should have too much wealth or economic power. We can debate about how much is too much or how to regulate it, but the Popes give multiple explanations of why it is wrong for any individual to have too much wealth, yet many Americans, including by a Protestant and Masonic worldview rather than a Catholic one, would insist that this is “unChristian.” People have a blind eye to Luke 12 and Matthew 5, and the numerous other places where Jesus condemns wealth as such (camel and the eye of a needle and all that).

However, whatever the Church’s critique of capitalism, none of the proposals in the CST encyclicals amount to or endorse Socialism: socialism takes away the dignity of the worker. Ask any government employee if he or she has ownership in his or her work, and you’ll have your answer on that one.

Distributism is about giving each family just enough means to produce a living, and then letting them be free to do so. It’s about limiting the capacity of any one agent in society to make too much money–Chesterton proposes this be done by guilds or unions: i.e., a particular profession’s guild determines the just wage for that profession and apportions the zones for each member to work without competing with others). We are so addicted to the drug of “progress,” however, that we don’t want to accept an economic system that promotes subsistence rather than “prosperity.”

We’re so worried about “debt,” an artificial construct based upon “funny money,” espeically in our modern age, that we refuse to accept the notion of letting people start from scratch. Once again, however, forgiveness of debt is a recurrent theme in both the Old and New Testaments and in papal teaching: in the Old Testament, God *requires* forgiveness of all debt every 7 years, and Scott Hahn argues that the fact Israel ignored this Commandment was a major reason for the Babylonian Exile (which lasted for as many years as the Sabbath years the Israelites failed to obey).

Chesterton famously said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting but found difficult and not tried. The same is true of Distributism and Catholic Social Teaching: if we *really* followed what Jesus teaches in the Gospel–and CST is really nothing more than an expansion of Matthew 5 and Luke 12 to modern issues–it would be difficult. It would require breaking down our entire way of looking at economics and society, and reforming from the ground up. This is why many Catholics argue capitalism and a libertarian approach, for now, is best, because of the “accepted” models, it’s the only way to work our way up from the bottom. At least those systems, as the Popes have acknowledged, respect the fundamental right to property, which socialism does not.

So I never get the notion, common among Catholics, that the Church’s preference is for socialism, and the alliance with Capitalism is just an alliance of convenience.

Economic Theories Explained, via Fishing

Liberal: Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day
Capitalist: Teach a man to fish, then charge him for the use of your lake and someone else’s fishing pole, or hire him to fish for Fishing Incorporated and make enough money to buy himself a quarter of a fish when all is said and done.
Socialist: Teach a man to fish, then tell him he can fish for “free” at The People’s Lake, using the People’s Fishing Pole, and that he has to give back 50% of anything he makes to “the People.”
Distributist: Teach a Man to fish, then give him rod and a piece of land by the lake and designate an area of the lake that his exclusive area to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.