Showing posts with label Catholic Social Teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholic Social Teaching. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Social Justice & Pope Francis

     

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared at Forbes.com.

Having spent most of his life in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis has given proof that he can rise above his environment. As his compatriot Bishop Alberto Bochatey remarked, “he is a man of few words.” I lived half of my life in Buenos Aires. Few things are more difficult there than finding leaders with his humble demeanor and his preference of teaching by example. Most in his native Argentina have been captured by a political and economic environment ruled by a government dominated “social justice” mentality. Hopefully, Pope Francis will also rise above his culture and help recover a different type of social justice, which was nurtured and developed by members of his religious order.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Congressman Paul Ryan: Social Teaching and the Federal Budget: a Catholic Politician's Views

Insight into the role faith and social doctrine should play in creating policies

By Congressman Paul Ryan

Congressman Paul Ryan
Catholic social doctrine is indispensable for officeholders, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to understand it. The wrong way is to treat it like a party platform or a utopian plan to solve all of society’s problems. Social teaching is not the monopoly of one political party, nor is it a moral command that confuses the preferential option for the poor with a preferential option for bigger government.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, indicated the right way in his gracious letter to me: “[T]he Church makes an essential contribution to society when she raises up moral principles to help guide and inform decisions about public policy in a compelling way. We bishops are very conscious that we are pastors, never politicians.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Enduring Importance of Centesimus Annus

By George Weigel


Amidst the excitement of John Paul II’s beatification on May 1, the 20th anniversary of the late pope’s most important social encyclical, Centesimus Annus, got a bit lost. Blessed John Paul II was not a man given to rubbing it in. Still, it is worth noting that the encyclical, which celebrated the collapse of European communism and probed the social, cultural, economic, and political terrain of the post-communist world, was dated on May Day, the great public holiday of the communist movement. It was a subtle but unmistakable reminder that, in the contest between the Catholic Church and communism, someone had won and someone else had lost.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

George Weigel Responds to Catholic Academics Who Criticized John Boehner

Reactionary Liberalism and Catholic Social Doctrine 

By George Weigel

The debate over Catholic social doctrine and U.S. social welfare policy took an unhelpful turn in May when a gaggle of academics fired a shot across the bow of House Speaker John Boehner, prior to his commencement address at the Catholic University of America. Their charge? That Boehner’s House voting record showed him to be a man who fails “to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching.” Why? Because he had not supported legislation that, in the professors’ view, addressed “the desperate needs of the poor.”

Speaker Boehner, a Catholic with a solid pro-life voting record, is a big boy who can defend his votes on various issues. What bothered me about the open letter to Boehner was its tone (smarmy), its assumptions about the one-to-one correspondence between the principles of Catholic social doctrine and the policy preferences of the Democratic Party, and its suggestion that anyone who challenges that linkage is in “dissent” from settled Catholic teaching.

The 2012 election seems likely to be defined by a major national debate on the welfare state, government spending, and social responsibility. If libertarian minimalism of the sort espoused by Ron Paul sits poorly with the rich and complex tradition of Catholic social doctrine, so does reactionary liberalism of the sort espoused by the anti-Boehner pedagogues. So perhaps a review of the basics is in order, to put the forthcoming argument on a more secure footing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Priest to Catholic Voters: Stop Being Stupid!

Hat Tip to Matt Abbott


A Message from Father Richard Perozich, a priest of the Diocese of San Diego


Elections are coming up November 2, 2010. Catholics must engage in the political process to form a nation that reflects the values held by Christ's followers. Learn who you are and act like a Christian. 1 Peter 2.9 But you are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises" of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Your job is to announce to the whole world that Jesus is the anointed King of God's everlasting reign — and to offer all men His salvation given by grace and received by faith. One forum in which you do this is politics. Politics comes from the words pole and polarity. Poles are opposite ends of an idea, of a temporal structure, or of a force.

Catholics, even though we live in a country and are citizens of that country, have a higher calling and responsibility to God and to our neighbor to promote God's truth even when others hate it, reject it, and hate us for proclaiming it. We are citizens in an earthly realm, but more importantly we are citizens of the new kingdom of heaven with Jesus as the Lord, His laws as our prime way of life, and called to live them and to promote them even to unbelievers.


We live in a society where many people with power, possessions, and prestige are promoting ideas that are not founded in Christ. In order to promote their ideas over ours, they tell us we must stay in our churches, keep our religion to ourselves, and that their idea of separation of the church from the state (which does not exist in our American Constitution as they say it does) trumps any ideas we might have, so we have to shut up.


And Catholics sheepishly keep quiet and vote for men and women who promote evil.


In chapter 3 of Galatians, St. Paul, frustrated with the Galatians allowing non-believers to silence the truth even to the point of the Galatians returning to pagan or evil ways chastises them saying, "O stupid Galatians. Who has bewitched you?"

It can be said of us in America in the year 2010, "O stupid Catholics, who has bewitched you?" We easily go over to pagan ideas, putting aside our faith, our truth, in order to accommodate the evil of people who will not accommodate us! To promote their ideas they attack us personally calling us the far right, ultra-conservative, bigoted, homophobic, hate mongers, holy rollers, and other epithets. This silences many Catholics. It only emboldens me, and it should embolden you also to promote your faith.

In the fights in politics, all sides cannot win. It is either going to be the way of evil or the way of truth. You must engage it as an ambassador for Christ and not as an agent of the devil. God is life. Jesus is King. Christians are citizens of the kingdom sharing in life, the mission of God to promote it constantly in every forum.

People are most concerned with their economic power to purchase, to live, to save. Their greatest fear is losing this, evident in how they voted in 2006 and 2008. For Christians our greatest concern should be with life, and we vote for those who promote it. You have heard the mantra, "I'm a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal." Nonsense. The societal responsibilities come first, and from a sound society built on biblical principles flow the economic concerns.


In a healthy economy there will be rich people. I who earn $20,000 a year do not envy their wealth, their homes, their power to shape the economy. The people Americans put into office in 2006 and 2008 do envy, and are using the economy to tear apart the entire social fabric of society to promote abortion here in our country and abroad; to kill new life in embryos; to kill the elderly and sick; to destroy the nature of gender and marriage; to allow sexually-immature people to be predators of others to try to satisfy their lack of psychological development.

For us Catholics, the basic issues are: Life from conception to natural death, that is, protection of the unborn, those with life, and those who are sick; protection of new life in its most nascent form, the embryo; protection from cloning to farm body parts; protection from sexual deviance in the form of pederasty, homosexuality, adultery, fornication, prostitution.


An elite class has assumed power in the United States, transcending political parties. They claim to know more than the people the elites represent. They do not. Their interest is keeping their positions in which they earn upwards of $200,000 with a health plan that is not part of the new one passed for the rest of us. They plan the destruction of the military, the silence of the churches and free voices, the destruction of children, embryos. They simply cannot stay in power. I have voted for some of them despite their mixed policies.


But enough! I refuse to cast a vote for anyone who supports abortion, sexual confusion to be forced in the military, marriage, school curricula, or any other societal aspect, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, or euthanasia. I am a Catholic. I am a citizen of the kingdom of God and will promote that kingdom in all parts of my life.


To you politicians who promote non-Catholic values, I will not vote for you just so your opponent will not get into office. If you do not represent me, you do not have my vote. I don't want your government money. I don't want your ideas of equality, fairness, and justice. I don't want your health care. I am not a prostitute who sells my vote for temporal benefits.


I am checking your voting records through various organizations which monitor your voting. If you do not promote life from the moment of conception to natural death, chastity and sexual distinctions, traditional marriage, respect for embryos in science, then you will not get my vote. You do not belong in political office. Teachers who sheepishly follow their corrupt unions do not belong in the classrooms. Clergy who follow non- Christian teaching do not belong in the pulpit.

My hope rests in Jesus Christ and His salvation exactly
from the very things these politicians are promoting. Change is repentance from sin, conversion to God, and reparation of the damage by following the Commandments without relativizing them.

Hope and change did not come in 2008. I'm going to do my part to see that it does in 2010.



Monday, August 30, 2010

What the Popes Have to Say About Socialism

One could easily get the impression from the corrupt and bloated bureaucracy that is the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, that the Church not only supports the platform of the Democrat Party, but enthusiastically embraces the socialism at the root of its policies. However, Church teaching has consistently condemned socialism since the time of Marx. Indeed, the Church proclaims the doctrine of subsidiarity -- affirming that all social bodies exist for the benefit of the individual, and that what individuals are able to do, society should not take over, and what small societies can do, larger societies should not take over.

The Church was a believer in private initiative and small, accountable government before there was a Republican Party.

Tradition, Family and Property has recently posted what the Popes have had to say on this subject over the past 150 years.

The documents quoted should be required reading in every Catholic school, and should be familiar to every Catholic adult.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leo XIII Decried Socialism, 150 Years Later The USCCB Embraces It

"The socialists wrongly assume the right of property to be of mere human invention . . . and, preaching up the community of goods, declare that ... all may with impunity seize upon the possessions and usurp the rights of the wealthy. More wise and profitably, the Church recognizes the existence of inequality amongst men."

—Leo XIII, Dec. 28, 1878

From Pew Sitter
By Frank Walker


Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, founder of the excellent CatholicCulture.org,
was surprised by the “bitterness” he found from readers responding to the Bishops’ support of extended unemployment benefits last week. He presses the need for some “cautions” and “perspective” particularly when we begin to denounce the Bishops as socialists. He insists that we be ‘very careful in using this term” and not resort to “inaccurate name-calling.” Why are the bishops not socialists? According to Mirus it is because they never have advocated the state ownership of private means of production.

This incomplete defense is followed by a lengthy and abstract discussion on balancing solidarity and subsidiarity, building “intermediary” institutions, correcting the tax structure, pursuing the “twin goals of stimulating the production or wealth and preventing the marginalization of those who fall behind;” and patient acceptance with the way things are until something better can be created. “Conservative Catholics need to recognize that it is not wrong in Catholic social theory to engage government in fostering the economic common good. ” Here we must wonder where a conservative may disagree. Would they be against the ‘economic common good,” or just against re-distributionist confiscation and its uniformly negative results?

This familiar lullaby is epidemic in faithful Catholic intellectual circles. It grows mainly out of pride and a misunderstanding of the social justice writing of Leo XIII, Chesterton, and the Distributists. Such destructive thinking needs to be addressed as it runs contrary to natural law and the laws of God. Furthermore the Bishops, as they manifest culturally and politically via the USCCB, are not only socialists, but function regularly as statist agents. They do not shout for socialism; they just enact it and applaud its ongoing construction. They should be assessed not by what they advocate, but by what they achieve and destroy.

Mirus predictably goes on to say that there is no place for the wrong kind of rhetoric in this “legitimate debate” and that we should approach the discussion as “Catholics,” and not as conservatives or liberals. This tired approach, which draws a moral equivalency between capitalism and socialism, only exists to drag Catholics and others leftward toward oppression and despair. The article’s thesis on growing the correct types of “intermediary” institutions to replace federal programs first; smacks of Friedrick Hayek’s utopian “planners” People do not need new kinds of well-conceived institutions in America. They need freedom and the Church needs faith.

Dr. Mirus urges that Catholics respect the correct role of the state to care for the poor and the needy, and that conservative Catholics be charitable. He tells us that “It is simply not possible to be a Catholic while embracing a morally-deficient conservatism.”

This somewhat veiled condemnation of right and left alike, handed down by Catholic thinkers over the last two centuries, must be unpacked then scrapped. If capitalism “makes no provision for charity” it is because it simply trumpets freedom, leaving people to do as they may and as they must. Capitalism should not even be an “ism,” as socialism is. It is just what happens when you leave people to their own lives and property. It does not contradict Church teaching, it is simply a necessary component of it, as freedom is necessary to salvation.

Free “capitalist,” individuals are still compelled to charity in the name of Christ. That has nothing to do with government. It’s like blaming public schools for not giving out better free lunches and daycare. That is not their role and the failure is not theirs. Discussions of give and take in economic systems are not within the subject of charity; which is the purview of free human beings and the associations they freely create.

The oppression that the Distributists ascribe to capitalism is really just the collusion of business titans and big government. Ubiquitous corporate empires which destroy families and property then marginalize the poor, are not the natural course of free people in a free society. Furthermore, they were never an aspect of Christendom, where true charity was a holy institution and subsidiarity reigned in life and politics.

The comparisons of the economic systems of socialism and capitalism are unsound, and people understand this, which is why they protest big government. When we say “socialism and capitalism,” what we are really talking about is oppression and freedom. Are both morally deficient? I say no. The peasants of the Old World, the American founders, and the wandering ancient people of God all understood: the freedom that comes from Him is ours to use for good.

Catholic thinkers rightly understand that the conservatism written into the American framework is not a complete system. What they miss however is that the founders understood natural law and a truly just society. James Madison, when asked to support a law which provided assistance to a needy cause, famously said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” In his mind, this would have been stealing.

The founders respect for freedom of individuals and property is, as many evangelicals will say, “biblical.” Christ did nothing to alter this scriptural truth. He was not political. His parables are full of support for the rights of individuals to their money and property. What he gave to us in terms of charity and mercy did not remove any “jot” of the old law; it only added to it. We must do the same and respect the ancient laws while adhering to the requirements of Christian love as free men and women. Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, founder of the excellent CatholicCulture.org, was surprised by the “bitterness” he found from readers responding to the Bishops’ support of extended unemployment benefits last week. He presses the need for some “cautions” and “perspective” particularly when we begin to denounce the Bishops as socialists. He insists that we be ‘very careful in using this term” and not resort to “inaccurate name-calling.” Why are the bishops not socialists? According to Mirus it is because they never have advocated the state ownership of private means of production.

This incomplete defense is followed by a lengthy and abstract discussion on balancing solidarity and subsidiarity, building “intermediary” institutions, correcting the tax structure, pursuing the “twin goals of stimulating the production or wealth and preventing the marginalization of those who fall behind;” and patient acceptance with the way things are until something better can be created. “Conservative Catholics need to recognize that it is not wrong in Catholic social theory to engage government in fostering the economic common good. ” Here we must wonder where a conservative may disagree. Would they be against the ‘economic common good,” or just against re-distributionist confiscation and its uniformly negative results?

This familiar lullaby is epidemic in faithful Catholic intellectual circles. It grows mainly out of pride and a misunderstanding of the social justice writing of Leo XIII, Chesterton, and the Distributists. Such destructive thinking needs to be addressed as it runs contrary to natural law and the laws of God. Furthermore the Bishops, as they manifest culturally and politically via the USCCB, are not only socialists, but function regularly as statist agents. They do not shout for socialism; they just enact it and applaud its ongoing construction. They should be assessed not by what they advocate, but by what they achieve and destroy.

Mirus predictably goes on to say that there is no place for the wrong kind of rhetoric in this “legitimate debate” and that we should approach the discussion as “Catholics,” and not as conservatives or liberals. This tired approach, which draws a moral equivalency between capitalism and socialism, only exists to drag Catholics and others leftward toward oppression and despair. The article’s thesis on growing the correct types of “intermediary” institutions to replace federal programs first; smacks of Friedrick Hayek’s utopian “planners” People do not need new kinds of well-conceived institutions in America. They need freedom and the Church needs faith.

Dr. Mirus urges that Catholics respect the correct role of the state to care for the poor and the needy, and that conservative Catholics be charitable. He tells us that “It is simply not possible to be a Catholic while embracing a morally-deficient conservatism.”

This somewhat veiled condemnation of right and left alike, handed down by Catholic thinkers over the last two centuries, must be unpacked then scrapped. If capitalism “makes no provision for charity” it is because it simply trumpets freedom, leaving people to do as they may and as they must. Capitalism should not even be an “ism,” as socialism is. It is just what happens when you leave people to their own lives and property. It does not contradict Church teaching, it is simply a necessary component of it, as freedom is necessary to salvation.

Free “capitalist,” individuals are still compelled to charity in the name of Christ. That has nothing to do with government. It’s like blaming public schools for not giving out better free lunches and daycare. That is not their role and the failure is not theirs. Discussions of give and take in economic systems are not within the subject of charity; which is the purview of free human beings and the associations they freely create.

The oppression that the Distributists ascribe to capitalism is really just the collusion of business titans and big government. Ubiquitous corporate empires which destroy families and property then marginalize the poor, are not the natural course of free people in a free society. Furthermore, they were never an aspect of Christendom, where true charity was a holy institution and subsidiarity reigned in life and politics.

The comparisons of the economic systems of socialism and capitalism are unsound, and people understand this, which is why they protest big government. When we say “socialism and capitalism,” what we are really talking about is oppression and freedom. Are both morally deficient? I say no. The peasants of the Old World, the American founders, and the wandering ancient people of God all understood: the freedom that comes from Him is ours to use for good.

Catholic thinkers rightly understand that the conservatism written into the American framework is not a complete system. What they miss however is that the founders understood natural law and a truly just society. James Madison, when asked to support a law which provided assistance to a needy cause, famously said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” In his mind, this would have been stealing.

The founders respect for freedom of individuals and property is, as many evangelicals will say, “biblical.” Christ did nothing to alter this scriptural truth. He was not political. His parables are full of support for the rights of individuals to their money and property. What he gave to us in terms of charity and mercy did not remove any “jot” of the old law; it only added to it. We must do the same and respect the ancient laws while adhering to the requirements of Christian love as free men and women.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Beauty and Superabundance in Business


From The Way of Beauty
By David Clayton


Consider two musical notes. They can be played separately, but when heard simultaneously something profound happens. Without destroying the integrity of each individual note, a new third entity has been created – a chord. What is interesting about the chord is that is created out of nothing. Crucially, the result is beautiful.

What has this got to do with business? This little example is analogous to what happens in business when wealth is created. In his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI describes how wealth is created out of nothing – he uses the phrase ‘superabundance’ to describe it. It is out of nothing because nothing materially new has been created. Through a transaction two people have exchanged one thing for another which they value more highly (otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen to do it) and wealth has been generated.

The principle of superabundance is based upon the presence of God. When human relationships are founded upon love (ie mutual self-sacrifice) then God, who is Love, is present in a special way. When He is present, they are termed ‘covenantal’ relationships. Covenantal relationships are always fruitful – something new is created out of nothing. In the family, this fruitfulness of love is realised in the creation of children. Clearly not all human relationships are intended to be as profoundly loving as a marriage, but all of them, even those in business, can be ordered to love rather than selfishness and will be more productive for it. Relationships which, in the other hand, are based upon the alignment of self-interest, are termed ‘contractual’.

Pope Benedict describes covenantal relationships in the context of business as being imbued with the principle of ‘gratuitousness’. I have written much more detail about this in a longer article, here. Gratuitousness exists when something is freely bestowed by one for the benefit of another. It relates as much to the how of the action as to the what. If, for example, the way we treat someone communicates that we genuinely trust and value that person then that is going beyond the simple contractual aspects of the relationship (which are in accordance with the demands justice). This he says is not just desirable, but necessary. He goes as far as to say that, ‘Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function.’ Note he says explicitly the economic function is fulfilled – he is not referring here to incidental social benefits.

Beauty, I would suggest, is a litmus test of love and so of the maximisation of superabundance. When it is present in our actions then it indicates that we are opening ourselves up to the source of inspiration for greatest creativity and productivity. The generation of ideas and seeing them through to fruition is the basis of entrepreneurial activity.

To the extent that what we do is beautiful, it will be in harmony with the common good also. This means that in serving the aims of the business, there can be no conflict with society or God’s creation. If this is true then we might have found the route to genuinely ‘green’ business activity: one in which the more profitable and productive it is, the better it will be for the environment. This is something much more profoundly ‘green’ that many green activists envisage. The assumption behind the secular worldview appears to be that man is necessarily in conflict with the environment and so their solution is damage limitation in one form or another. This usually boils down to reducing the amount of human activity (which in turn usually equates to reducing the number of human beings on the planet). In contrast, the idea of superabundance offers the vision of a transformed human activity that improves upon the natural world. It is better than an activity that is neutral ie does not destroy the wilderness; it actually improves and perfects it. Nature is meant to flourish under man’s influence, and with God’s grace it is possible. When what we do is in harmony with nature, then in contrast to what we described before, the more active man, is the better it is for nature; and accordingly the more people there are doing it, the better.

How can we combine consideration of what is beautiful with the other considerations of running a business? Profit has to be the driving consideration and this doesn’t change that. Provided that moral law is not contravened the motive of profit will dictate what decisions are made. But an education in beauty (as described in more detail here) will naturally stimulate ideas that are simultaneously good for business (in the sense of profitable) and in harmony with the common good.

There are occasions when I can imagine the principle of beauty being considered consciously: for example when there are number of options available that seem equally valid by other criteria. At that point one might ask which is the most beautiful option? Even then I don’t imagine it will always be an easy criterion to use, we may be trying to apply it in situations in which beauty is not normally associated. In some situations it will be obvious though: if price is set by the perception of the value of an object, and if we make objects for sale more attractive then people will pay more. This is the idea that pitches the more expensive yet visually appealing and user-friendly Apple against the cheaper PC. But we are talking of something deeper as well. Beauty is a guide (along with morality) to the right exercise of our free will. Whereas morality restricts options, beauty multiplies them.

There is another aspect to this. The more we take the principle of beauty into account, the more our actions will be covenantal. We will giving of ourselves and going beyond the limited demands of justice. This gift of self, says the Pope, ‘by its nature goes beyond merit, its rule is that of superabundance.’ Business has its place in the fulfilment of the common good and to that end must be seen as something that is good in itself and business done beautifully is going to be closer to the fulfilment of that ideal.

It is important to note that we are living in a fallen world, and so seeking to institute a covenantal model of operation does not preclude contracts. The market is regulated by law in accordance with the principles of justice (or at least it ought to be), and contracts reflect this. While contracts are necessary, they are never enough. Contracts alone cannot generate the trust and goodwill that oil the wheels of commerce. It is the covenantal behaviour that permeates this legalistic structure that does this and so must be there too. I know of one person who has successfully developed and applied a systematic method of identifying and developing naturally occurring covenantal relationships. John Carlson of System Change, Inc. looks for those revenue generating covenantal relationships in the companies that he works with. They permeate through and sit alongside the formal management structures in any company (and extend out into the client base). Once identified, he uses these as a basis for sustainable growth in accordance with a covenantal business model.

These considerations, I believe will hasten the business on to its proper end. The end of a good business is the steady creation of wealth in harmony with the common good; but take note, the right end of a bad business (if it doesn’t change) is failure! The indications are that the employment of these principles in the past (for example by the Benedictines) and by modern entrepreneurs works well for sustainable growth when understood in these terms.

For more detail on these principles see articles Sustainable Growth and Art, Grace, Education and the Beautiful Business, both at our sister site, www.thewayofbeauty.info.