Category Archives: Distributism

Please help us get a new van.

In 2008, I got my first motorized wheelchair, and we were blessed with an opportunity to buy a twice used 2000 Chevrolet Express 3500 wheelchair van, which was first a prison van and then a medical taxi (I call it our “Paddy Wagon,” since the expression came from stereotypical Irish cops collecting groups of stereotypical Irish drunks in police vans).
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The van has served us well for almost 9 years as our primary vehicle.  “We’ve” had to put some money into it to keep it going, but when it all adds up, it was less than we’d have paid even for a regular van in payments, much less for a handicapped van that can fit our family.

Me and kids at Roper

Me and my kids in 2013, after my aortic graft surgery

Our economic situation simple: we make a little less than enough to get by in modern America.  Unless I should obtain the time and inspiration to write a best-selling book, we strike the lottery or get a really good  investment, we’ll never make much more than we do now.
So when a major expense arises, we need help.
Every few months, something malfunctions in the van.
We had to purchase a second vehicle, using up the small amount of room we had in our budget to add another monthly payment, so we only have to use the van when we need the power chair and so we have a backup when it fails.  The very day we went to pick up the “new” car, the lift stopped working.  When my abdominal aneurysm ruptures or requires surgery, if I survive, I will most likely lose my ability to walk completely.  In the meantime, I need to be able to keep strain off my aorta to delay that surgery as long as possible.
It won’t be long before our eldest daughter has to use a scooter or power chair–technically she already should because she subluxes her ankles every time she walks very far, but we can’t get insurance to pay for one.
As communities, Muslims, Mormons and Evangelicals seem to be very good at rallying around their members.  We Catholics, as a community, need to show the same generosity with ourselves as we do with strangers, to provide the “safety net” that keeps people from falling completely into destitution.  On an individual basis, we have many wonderful Catholic friends who have helped us more than we can ever thank them for.  We know someone out there can afford to help us.
We’re hoping to get a used, 2015 or 2016 Ford Transit Wagon XLT 350, medium height, for around $25,000.  I figure we can modify it ourselves for around $3000-5000.
So accounting for fundraising fees, taxes, etc., we’re trying to raise about $30,000-35000 just for that, though if a generous benefactor wants to help with about $80000 in other expenses we expect to face in the near future, we’d be very grateful.  If someone out there reading this happens to own a car dealership or know a car dealer (I recently heard a rumor that a major Catholic donor in our state owns a dealership), I’m going to be bold and ask if, in the name of Our Lord, you could please donate a van directly?
Please share this post. Please share the link to our fundraiser.  Most of all, please pray that God opens people’s hearts to share, and that He profoundly blesses all those who have helped us.

Please click here to donate.

The Real Problem

One of the claims that gets floated around in the internecine disputes of the Catholic blogosphere is that So-and-so is attacking “good Catholics” or “good pro-lifers.” Supporters of the American Life League/Human Life International approach argue (as I do) that the incrementalist approach of the National Right to Life Committee is self-defeating, while the NRLC-supporters say that the ALL/HLI types are unrealistic. Those who question certain methodologies (e.g., the infamous example of lying to Planned Parenthood in the name of “exposing the truth” or the question of whether to show graphic images of aborted babies) are accused of “attacking pro-lifers” and serving the enemy. Michael Voris attacks Catholic Answers and EWTN people for “making money off of apologetics,” and they call him a demagogue (and both criticisms arguably have some merit). Both “sides” accuse each other of driving people away from the Church.
The fact remains that the vast majority of Catholics in America do not vote for Democrats because a handful of online Distributists argue against *both* Capitalism and Socialism but because their pastors and the mainstream media tell them the Church supports socialism.
They do not support legalized abortion because a handful of online pro-life Catholics have questioned the methods of certain “pro-life” groups but because their parents or grandparents taught them Catholicism was about “not pushing their morals on other people,” and their pastors constantly teach “Judge not.”
They do not oppose traditional liturgical practices and approaches to catechesis because of what some blogger or apologist has said: for most of them, everyone from EWTN and Catholic Answers to Michael Voris to the Society of St. Pius X are “traditionalists,” and “traditionalist” is defined by their pastors as “Old people who don’t like the changes of Vatican II, and we’re just waiting for them to die off.” For them, Vatican II, defined by their pastors, Nuns on the Bus and the Mainstream Media, is this vast “progressive” overhaul of the Church that rendered all previous teaching and praxis obsolete (the “hermeneutic of rupture”). So while “conservatives” fight among themselves, the majority of Catholics in our country waddle on in indifference and ignorance, welcoming people like John Dominic Crossan and Richard McBrien to speak at their parishes.

The Pope’s Resignation: is it the End of the World?

Who knows? It’s certainly a time to pray and fast for the good of the Church and the World.

Here’s what I don’t understand: Jesus specifically warned against the equivalent of “stocking up canned goods” in Luke 12, saying to store up treasure in Heaven. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, is writing all about what *not* to do, and the oft-quoted “anyone who would not work should not eat” was referring to those who were doing the equivalent of “hiding out in a bunker” and waiting for the world to end. He who clings to his life will lose it; he who loses his life will find it forever.

In the Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter,” Larry Gates (later Guiding Light/s HB Lewis) plays Dr. Bill Stockton, a beloved family doctor who’s quite proud of the bomb shelter he’s built in his basement–with *just* enough room for him, his wife and his son, and stocked with just enough food (it is unclear whether he packed “just enough food” to last not only until *after* the fall-out of nuclear war but till after it was possible to *regrow* food). His friends and neighbors, gathered for his birthday, mock his paranoia–until reports come in that an actual nuclear war is on the verge of starting. Stockton hurries his family to the shelter, leaving the friends & neighbors behind. He locks them out. They come begging to be included. He says he doesn’t have any room–*maybe* one person if they insist. But he keeps screaming at them to leave and threatening to shoot them if they don’t. They fight among themselves viciously about who should be the one to survive with the Stockton family, and condemning each other’s real or perceived faults.

Then war *doesn’t* happen, and they’re all left with their relationships shattered by their selfishness.

When Jesus comes again, you’re not going to avoid that by hiding out in a bunker, and we have the assurance the world will not end until then. If it’s nuclear war, you’re not going to avoid that by hiding out in a bunker (interestingly, at Nagasaki, a Catholic Church was preserved from the destruction). If we’re going to experience a little turmoil that leads to the Era of Peace, then why fight it or fear it? If society collapses, stored goods will only last so long before you need more food, and refusing to share what you’ve stored with those in need will not win you points in Heaven.

And, if none of that stuff happens, and you wake up just as you did on December 22, 2012, or you come out of your bomb shelter like the Stocktons, and the world is still here, you look pretty silly. You might even, like the Stocktons, find yourself with shattered friendships.

And if you go to bed expecting the world doesn’t end, and your *life* ends, whether the world does or does not, you still make yourself liable to die and have the Lord say, “You fool! Did you not know that this very night your life would be demanded of you?! For I come like a thief in the night!”

“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.

“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?!”

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.

Why I’m not quite buying the “Romneys are a great family” Bit

Anyone who follows this blog or my Facebook page knows that I am constantly arguing that contraception and the definition of the family are the fundamental issues that should always be on our minds in politics. They are the crucial issues of *any* age, but particularly our own since the family is directly under attack in contemporary Western societies.

Thanks to the HHS Contraception Mandate under Obamacare, and the fact that the US Bishops are finally taking a stand on it, and thanks to the bitterness of the Republican Primary, and thanks in part to the fact that Obama and the Left have characterized the Catholic Church’s efforts to NOT be forced to support contraception as a “GOP War on Women,” family issues have become one of the top concerns in this election, even while some commentators on both sides still insist they’re “distractions” from the “real issues” (Catholic Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has lost a lot of “points” in my book for saying that).

In the GOP Primary, great efforts were made by the neoconservatives to argue that Rep. Ron Paul, MD, from Texas is “not pro-life” because his approach to ending abortion is based upon constitutionalist, subsidiarist grounds, even though he has one of the best and most consistent pro-life voting records in history, even voting for measures like the Partial Birth Abortion ban that otherwise violate his principles. The fact that he once observed a medical partner performing an abortion–which Dr. Paul says was a major point in converting him to being adamantly pro-life–is used against him by his detractors, while the fact that he ran a pro-life OB/Gyn practice and primarily served poor women in a Catholic hospital is ignored. Similarly, those who would normally laud a politician with a large family ignore the fact that Dr. Paul has seven kids and has been married for over 50 years, instead focusing on the fact that his son the senator was apparently named after Ayn Rand. It’s absurd.

Then there’s Rick Santorum. Now, Santorum has his problems, like any politician. His claim of being unequivocally pro-life is mitigated by his fervent support of neoconservative policies on war, torture, “national security” and even assassination. While abortion should have #1 importance both in its objective evil and its horrendous scope, most authentic teachers of pro-life theory in the Church recognize the importance of being consistently pro-life: Bl. John Paul II, the late great John Cardinal O’Connor, and even “EWTN priests” like Frs. Frank Pavone, Robert Levis and Benedict Groeschel–and even Mother Angelica herself–are all anti-war and anti-death penalty. So Santorum’s positions on those issues are problematic from a consistent pro-life perspective. However, his positions are more or less consistent with Church teaching, in that he sincerely believes he’s applying Just War Theory. Santorum has also proven himself capable of changing his views, more than any other politician, so that’s a plus.

Then there’s his controversial endorsement of Arlen Specter, but he has made statements on EWTN since then that indicate his repentance of that decision.

Nevertheless, per the point of this particular thread, Santorum has 7 kids. Santorum has been mocked by the Left and some on the Right for revering the body of his dead son Gabriel after the child died in childbirth, and showing the body to his other children. Why he should be mocked for this when it is traditional to view a body for an extended period of time before burial is beyond me. Indeed, the practical purpose of a wake is to make sure the person is really dead, and the recent headline about a “stillborn” baby being found alive in a morgue shows that maybe Rick and Karen Santorum aren’t weren’t so “nuts” after all. His daughter Isabella has the genetic disorder Trisomy 18, and they were strongly encouraged to abort her but did not. Santorum had to stop campaigning twice to tend to Isabella during illnesses, and he suspended his campaign after the second time. In spite of his positions on war, these facts ought to make him the #1 choice for any pro-lifer, and he ought to have one the nomination by a landslide if the GOP were as pro-life as it claims.

Santorum also supports Church teaching in his position that contraception could and should, at least theoretically, be outlawed. This has been a politically suicidal position ever since “Catholic” Democrats led by Ted Kennedy thwarted the nomination of Judge Robert Bork for the Supreme Court. _Roe_ would be gone if Bork had been appointed, and the fact that a mass murderer like Kennedy was given such a lavish Catholic funeral and such accolades from Church officials is objectively a worse scandal than clerical sexual abuse.

I strongly support both Dr. Paul and Rick Santorum, and both have great strengths and great weaknesses in my calculations of candidates. I ended up deciding to support Santorum, for the reasons here outlined, but I applaud both of them for how they’ve personally lived a pro-life witness in their personal lives.

Then there’s Mr. Rockefeller Republican Mitt Romney. He’s the stereotype of a guy who’s only Republican because he’s rich. He has inconsistent political views. In his past, he donated to Planned Parenthood. He was openly pro-choice when governor of Massachusetts. He passively legalized “gay marriage” in Massachusetts. He forced hospitals, including Catholic hospitals (though he claims they “voluntarily complied” with the law he passed) to provide abortifacient contraceptives.

Then he suddenly decided he was pro-life when he ran for President. Now, that’s common enough on both sides. Al Gore had the best pro-life voting record in the Senate but suddenly became pro-abortion when he ran for president in 1988. Reagan and the Bushes all started out as pro-choice. However, politicians have switched from pro-life to pro-choice have done far more for abortion than politicians who’ve switched from pro-choice to pro-life have done against it, except for those like Santorum and Sam Brownback whose political conversion coincided with a spiritual conversion.

So, right after Santorum suspended his campaigning for family reasons, suddenly the big issue of the campaign was what a family man Mitt Romney supposedly is. Democratic activist Hilary Rosin criticized Ann Romney for always being a stay-at-home mom, having five kids and never “working” a day in her life. Now, there are several issues here.

First, again, the Democrats’ War on the Family should be the number 1 issue of any campaign, and Rosin’s statements drive that home.

Second, the only reason for men *or* women to work is to earn money. Chesterton teaches that it is wrong for a person to earn more money than his family needs. Why should Ann Romney, whose husband is rich, have a career and take up a job that could be held by someone who *needs* the job? The feminist movement is a major factor in our contemporary job crisis. Yes, there are women like my own wife who need to work either because they are unmarried or their husbands are disabled. However, now that it’s taken for granted that women *should* have jobs outside the home, we have twice as many people trying to get jobs as we would have if society was in favor of families having stay-at-home spouses.

It’s highly tempting, in jumping to Ann Romney’s defense on this issue, to turn to supporting the Romneys. However, as the Internet is plastered with pictures of their family that are made to look fairly recent, the Romney children were all born in the 1970s and early 80s. They’re all grown adults now. That doesn’t make a difference in terms of their family–Ron Paul’s children are also grown up–but the fact that they’re showing pictures of the Romneys with 5 *young* children is clearly a campaign ploy.

It would be one thing if, like the Santorums, they started off pro-choice and changed their views and then started living an actively Christian life. However, the Romneys had their kids in the 70s, and then supported Planned Parenthood in the 1990s and early 2000’s. They ought to have known better by then. No, the implication is the Romneys are pro-family if you’re rich.

The Catholic Church teaches that couples are to be as fertile and productive as their situation allows. Technically, by Catholic standards (and traditional Mormon standards), the Romneys ought to be like the Duggars by now. They’re mega-rich, so they can afford lots of kids. If they choose to abstain from relations to postpone children for other reasons, or if they have secondary infertility, then the Church would say that they should adopt.

Yes, being a stay-at-home mom is a noble profession, but how many servants does Ann Romney have to help with the housework? I hardly see how a struggling middle-class family trying to be consistently pro-life is expected to identify with the Romneys. The Santorums or the Pauls, certainly. But this voter is not buying the attempt to package Mitt Romney as pro-family *after* the personal merits of Paul and Santorum were either ignored or criticized, and now we’re supposed to believe a trumped-up image of the Romneys as pro-family.