In an amicus curiae filing for the Court of Liberal Catholic Public Opinion in Motley Monk v. +McElroy published over at the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters (MSW) takes The Motley Monk to task for playing what MSW calls a “shell game.” In MSW’s opinion, The Motley Monk’s analysis published in The American Catholic doesn’t delve sufficiently into “the weeds of facticity.” MSW then goes on to state:
The poverty of so many millions of fellow human beings is also a fact with which the moral law must reckon and +McElroy rightly diagnoses the cultural and political impediments to our recognizing that fact of widespread poverty, and urges us to engage policies that will alleviate it.
According to MSW, Bishop McElroy rightly calls increasing the amount of money that government spends on anti-poverty programs—whether domestic or international—and for the Church to oblige Catholics to make doing so the moral equivalent of the Church’s efforts to eliminate abortion.
Poverty is morally repugnant to any serious Catholic. Yet, what MSW doesn’t seem to appreciate is that U.S. Catholics should take pride in the fact that for the past five decades the government has directed their hard-earned tax dollars toward eliminating poverty. But, domestically, to what end?
In 1964, in the opening salvo of the “War on Poverty,” President Johnson declared:
I believe that thirty years from now Americans will look back upon these 1960s as the time of the great American Breakthrough…the victory of prosperity over poverty.
Well, it’s been almost 50 years and there are some facts that ought to be factored into MSW’s considerations.
FACT: Some economists argue that government—both federal and state—has spent $15T to eliminate poverty across the nation in the past 50 years.
Despite the inherent problems in calculating the total outlay, it is estimated (in inflation-adjusted terms) that this figure represents anywhere from 13.3%-15% of the government’s total budget over those years. That’s a lot of money.
FACT: Some economists argue that the poverty rate in 2013 is about 15%. The last time it was this high was in 1993. Perhaps this figure is skewed due to the nation’s recent economic problems, so others argue that the actual poverty rate is more likely 7.2%.
So, let’s split the difference and say the 2013 US rate of poverty is 10%. That’s about 33M citizens.
To interpret these facts, imagine if President Johnson had declared in 1964:
We will spend $15T over the next 50 years. Our goal will be to get the nation’s poverty rate down to 10%.
The real “shell game” being played is by those whose moral policy platitudes are intended to make Catholics feel guilty, with the goal of inducing them to comply unthinkingly with those moral policy platitudes. In this case, Pecksniffians who would seek to have Catholic bishops obligate Catholics to comply with their policy solution for poverty are evading important facts which demonstrate that theirs is a failed policy solution.
But, that isn’t what really matters because MSW’s amicus curiae brief indicates that he either didn’t read or read carefully enough what The Motley Monk posted at The American Catholic. In that posting, The Motley Monk took Bishop McElroy to task because in his 2005 article in America, His Excellency argued:
The imposition of eucharistic sanctions solely on candidates who support abortion legislation will inevitably transform the church in the United States, in the minds of many, into a partisan, Republican-oriented institution and thus sacrifice the role that the church has played almost alone in American society in advocating a moral agenda that transcends the political divide.
Okay. If the goal is to keep the Court of Liberal Catholic Public Opinion satisfied, it would indeed be wise for the nation’s Catholic bishops not to contest the right of pro-abortion Catholic politicians to receive Holy Communion.
But, then, if this were a true principle used to inform consciences, why ever would Bishop McElroy write in 2013 that the nation’s Catholic bishops should oblige Catholics to support government programs aimed at eliminating poverty?
If this were true, would not the imposition of Eucharistic sanctions solely on candidates who support increasing governmental spending on anti-poverty legislation inevitably transform the Church in the United States, in the minds of many, into a partisan, Democrat-oriented institution and thus sacrifice the role that the Church has played almost alone in American society in advocating a moral agenda that transcends the political divide?
The human species uses the facticity of dollars and sense to determine whether and to ensure that policies aimed at alleviating evils—political, social, economic, and yes, moral—are cost effective.
As an astute commenter responded to The Motley Monk’s post, supporting illegal immigration floods the labor market at a time when the labor participation rate is at its lowest point in 34 years. To support flooding the labor market means driving more Americans into poverty.
Some policy. And the bishops should oblige Catholics to follow it?
To read The Motley Monk’s post at The American Catholic, click on the following link:
To read Michael Sean Winter’s post at Nation Catholic Reporter Online, click on the following link:
To read The Fact Checker’s evaluation of the facts concerning the nation’s “War on Poverty” at the Washington Post, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link: