Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2

 

To follow up on my first installment of “Set Me Free (From Ideologies), I am going to draw again from the rich well of Pope Benedict’s powerful encyclical Caritas In Veritate.  In this case it would seem that in paragraph #25 the Pope is sounding kinda liberal if we would attempt to fit the views expressed into one or another of our American political ideologies.

Now my mission in this series is not to try to make the case that Pope Benedict XVI’s social teaching contributions are by and large liberal rather than conservative- in future entries I will provide examples of official documents that I would say to my ear sound more friendly to Americans in one of the “conservative” encampments. My point- which I don’t want anyone to miss- is that I believe that an honest and comprehensive reading of the Church’s official social doctrine teachings and prudential judgment advisements, offered by those tasked with the responsibility for the official social doctrine, should lead one away from embracing one or another political ideology- as the Pope himself warned about in my Part 1 quotation.

The ideologies, themselves, are dividing us up into hero-worshipping Reaganites or Obamaites- which is something I just can’t sit back and watch. I am at present still a Democrat myself, but my inclination is to at some point try to formulate an Independent “Common Good” political party- not daring to call it “Catholic” because all efforts to reduce the entire social doctrine down into a political program are doomed to failure due to human weakness and due to the complexity of applying every principle correctly into every concrete reality- there is room for prudential disagreement- though this point has been overplayed by those who want to simply go off in any and all directions- left or right when it fits their ideological or patriotic leanings.

So- here is the next offering which comes directly from the Pope. One can refuse to take some of the prudential advice to heart- but all faithful Catholics have a duty to take the words of the Pope seriously, and deep into one’s conscience. So- one may not agree with the Church’s criticism of a “downsizing of social security”, or “The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of worker’s associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more tha in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.”,  or even the really big theme that “the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: ‘Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.'”.  But here is what the Pope has said and I will let the Pope speak now from his encyclical - paragraph #25 Caritas In Veritate:

25. From the social point of view, systems of protection and welfare, already present in many countries in Paul VI’s day, are finding it hard and could find it even harder in the future to pursue their goals of true social justice in today’s profoundly changed environment. The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations. Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum[60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.

The mobility of labour, associated with a climate of deregulation, is an important phenomenon with certain positive aspects, because it can stimulate wealth production and cultural exchange. Nevertheless, uncertainty over working conditions caused by mobility and deregulation, when it becomes endemic, tends to create new forms of psychological instability, giving rise to difficulty in forging coherent life-plans, including that of marriage. This leads to situations of human decline, to say nothing of the waste of social resources. In comparison with the casualties of industrial society in the past, unemployment today provokes new forms of economic marginalization, and the current crisis can only make this situation worse. Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life”[61].

7 Responses to Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2

  • It seems a greater threat to social security are underfunded public pensions including Social Security itself which all seem at risk of collapsing. Perhaps someone can comment on this.

  • We’d all do well to remember that we’re Catholic first & American second. We’re in the mess we’re in because we’ve reversed the order for the last 50 yrs.

  • “The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum[60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.”

    For me the key phrase is NEW forms.

    I believe the old social welfare state is a failure.

    I believe the old union model is a corrupt failure.

    And I think John Paul II made this point pretty clearly in Centesimus Annus.

    The new forms are worker ownership, or possibly even community/worker ownership of businesses. Most of them are jointly owned by workers and investors.

    The way forward, I believe, is localism and distributism. And in some places it is taking place already with good material results – but it is being guided by secular liberals who have no use for the moral teachings of the Church, by radical campus intellectuals and hippies who believe in the materialist community but reject the spiritual community in favor of atheism or spiritual anarchy.

    It is simply an empirical fact that welfare-statism doesn’t bring an end to poverty. Instead it creates the conditions and the precedents for a secular bureaucracy to further meddle in Christian families, in the education of children, even growing food on one’s own property.

    The dichotomy in politics and morality is not individualism vs. collectivism. Or rather, that is A dichotomy but not the decisive one. It is materialism vs. spirituality. The materialist community has an idea of “justice” that is based on economics and cares nothing for the corruption and pollution of souls. The spiritual community sometimes neglects the details of the material – but with the guidance of the Papal encyclicals there is no excuse for that negligence.

    The vital question is whether or not we ought to accept a full implementation of “material” or economic justice, brought to us by secular liberal hedonists who let the soul rot, who poison it with filth and perversion, or,

    whether we ought to reject it and continue to show those who understand a spiritual reality, who believe in God and especially Christ, that they also have to focus their attention on the material community.

    I opt for the latter. I want nothing from the secular liberal hedonists, from the communist revolutionaries, from the sexual perverts who staff Western governments and the United Nations. They’ve rejected God and they’ll never accept him.

    It’s easier to get good Christians to see the areas they’ve been neglecting than it is to get materialists to see the truth and reality of God and all that follows from him.

    And if you think I’ve gone off topic, you’re wrong, because its secular, atheistic, materialists who manage and administer the welfare bureaucracies of the West, whether they call themselves Democrats, Socialists, or Christian Democrats, or Labour, or whatever.

  • THERE IS NO SUCH ORGANIZATION AS THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC. YOU ARE A ROMAN CATHOLIC WHO JUST HAPPENS TO LIVE IN AMERICA. I REMEMBER ON MY FIRST COMMUNION DAY AND THE NUNS SAYING REMEMBER, YOU ARE A ROMAN CATHOLIC, A ROMAN CATHOLIC.

  • to gb- what I would say is what my favorite professor once said- “the best gift we can give America is our Catholic faith”- I don’t see my citizenship in the U.S. to be a detriment to my faith- America is my homeland, and America needs Catholicism to fulfill her potential as a truly great and lasting nation. We have religious liberty here in our country- that’s all we need- that means the onus is literally “on us”- I have seen first-hand as a candidate that the Catholic community is for the most part so divided up and rendered passive in the political arena- when I see how effective the pro-Israel Jewish community has been in getting organized and mobilizing and lobbying all sectors of our American society in getting their vision and agenda into play- all of this with such a small percentage of the population! And Catholics act as if there is no unifying social doctrine, and fall headlong into the same ideological traps that catch everyone else- and it makes me sick.

    It doesn’t have to be this way- we are our own worst enemy I’m convinced of that- my primary targets are politically-active Catholics who publicly identify themselves as die-hard liberals or conservatives- these folks are the ones who do the most damage- they make it impossible for the whole body of believers to unite under the direction of the entire social doctrine- they want to make every Catholic a narrow liberal or conservative- a Kennedy or a Hannity- and that is something I disagree with vehemently. I will continue to post my complaints- soon I will detail my fallout experience from my participation in an elite Catholic Democrats listserve- that is quite a story to be told another day- I am bent on taking on all loud and proud liberal and conservative Catholic political animals- for I am convinced that the way forward is one that must release the hold that ideologies have over our collective Catholic and American heads.

  • Joe H.- as always so intense and direct in your views- I don’t find your passion for disconnecting from States and Government in the Church’s actual documents such as the above Encyclical. I do think that we should go in every good direction all at once- translation- create more fair trade producer-consumer networks- drawing upon the Catholic Relief Services model, and also the worker-owned business models, and such as you describe above. But I don’t think that abandoning the Government, Trade Unions, and Multinational Corporations to the current corrupt slate of big-wigs is the best solution. I really don’t think our system is rotten, I do think we have really rotten apples floating to the top- which is why I can’t relate to anyone who celebrates a Reagan or an Obama presidency.

    I do believe that Catholics have not yet begun to fight- from my own little campaign experience I saw how wide-open the door is for solid Catholic candidates if only the Catholic community was even a little bit organized to be of some service to her own. As it is we have two types of Catholic activists- the typical political liberal and the typical political conservative- they both seem to have one overriding passion- they hate like satan the Republican or Democratic party- and all that party stands for- pretty much across the board. This reality is something that is causing me to seriously consider dropping my formal affiliation as a Democrat to become an Indy with “Common Good” as my tag- there is just too much baggage associated with the two major parties- it is like a pavlov dog response for most political animals- Catholic or otherwise. What I know is that I am going to stay close to the Church’s actual teaching documents, and Hierarchical speeches/letters and commentary- I have found that the prudential judgments on socio-economic matters coming from the Catholic Hierarchy is truly awesome- it would figure that those who are charged with coming up with the principles that underpin the social doctrine would do well in helping to apply those principles to real life circumstances. I don’t think this is clericalism because I am open to other prudential points-of-view- I just don’t find many ideologically-transcendent points-of-view around town- so I’m sticking close to Mama Church- in my family when mama talks and gives counsel to the kids they better listen up because my wife and I are on the same page- I imagine that it works that way with Christ and His Church as well.

  • “I don’t think that abandoning the Government, Trade Unions, and Multinational Corporations to the current corrupt slate of big-wigs is the best solution”

    They aren’t ours to abandon. But they are ours to reject. We need to get our resources together, make our own proposals to banks and private investors, and build our own local economies. Some have tried, many have failed, few have succeeded – more will succeed if more people rally to the cause.

    Like you, I’m an independent. I don’t care about the Republicans. I don’t care about the Democrats. I’ll vote for the pro-life candidate. Otherwise change comes from us, not from Obama, not from a bureaucracy, not from a social worker.

    “I really don’t think our system is rotten”

    I suppose we’ll have to disagree on that.

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