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Pope “Wunnerful”: The great liberal American Catholic hope…

 

Liberal American Catholics are in for one, big surprise. The Pope who is expected to change everything–Pope “Wunnerful”–isn’t quite the liberal they hope he is.

The Rolling Stone magazine cover naming Pope Francis its “Person of the Year for 2013” along with its banner headline, “The Times They Are a-Changin,” is yet another instance of the mainstream media proclaiming the singular liberal American Catholic hope. Namely, that the Pope’s views concerning homosexuality, the ordination of women, and economics are more closely aligned with liberal American Catholics.

Unfortunately, mainstream media proclamations, like the Rolling Stone magazine cover, are based upon little substance.

What liberal American Catholics do “get” is that their views concerning most moral issues contradict Church teaching. Yet, they live in hope that Pope Francis will emerge one day on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica having withstood the power being wielded by all of those “curial careerists” and announce to the world that he’s returning the Church and its teaching to the people.  The “Pope of the People”…Pope Wunnerful.

On this score, liberal American Catholics couldn’t be more wrong, in The Motley Monk’s opinion. Hints in papal pronouncements already have and increasingly will clarify this is the case.

Of greater interest to The Motley Monk is what liberal American Catholics “don’t get.” Namely, that Church teaching about economic systems is as suspicious of socialism as it is of capitalism.

For example, liberal American Catholics jumped upon Pope Francis’ statement in Evangelium gaudiam–“trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market alone, will succeed by itself in bringing about greater justice” [the correct translation]–to be a denunciation of capitalism. Correctly translated and read carefully, there is no denunciation. Pope Francis–as did John Paul II and Benedict XVI before him–is correctly teaching that unfettered capitalism is as much of a corruption as is unfettered socialism. That represents very sound teaching.

This strand of Church teaching began with Pope Leo XIII who, in 1891 condemned socialism. He wrote:

And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the leveling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. 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. (#15)

One century later, Pope John Paul II viewed capitalism as a potential force for good. Yet, he wrote in 1991:

It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are ‘solvent’, insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are ‘marketable’, insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish….

If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”. But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative….

The Marxist solution has failed, but the realities of marginalization and exploitation remain in the world, especially the Third World, as does the reality of human alienation, especially in the more advanced countries. Against these phenomena the Church strongly raises her voice. Vast multitudes are still living in conditions of great material and moral poverty. The collapse of the Communist system in so many countries certainly removes an obstacle to facing these problems in an appropriate and realistic way, but it is not enough to bring about their solution. Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces. (Centesimus Annus, 1991, #42)

Once again, what John Paul II described as a “radical capitalistic ideology”–one lacking an “ethical and religious” core–is a corruption.

At the Inaugural Session of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Carribean in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI stated:

Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures. And this ideological promise has proven false….Capitalism leaves a distance between rich and poor…giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity. (#4)

On this score, liberal American Catholics are simply wrong. Pope Francis hasn’t promoted their economic agenda. Instead, the Pope has reiterated consistent Church teaching.

Hope all they want, liberal American Catholics just “don’t get it” when it comes to Church teaching concerning economics because they have adopted the socialist critique of capitalism as a core dogma of their faith. As a result, liberal American Catholics cannot appreciate that Church teaching concerning economics hasn’t taken sides in debates about the superiority of one economic system over another. Instead, the Church has examined and critiqued two economic systems in particular, socialism and capitalism, to ensure that they serve people rather than at as their masters.

In the end, liberal American Catholic are desirous of a unilateral embrace of socialism and a unilateral condemnation of capitalism, which makes The Motley Monk wonder: Isn’t it strange how Rush Limbaugh is now their best pal for peddling their hope, as he falsely opines that Pope Francis is a Marxist and is undoing Church economic teaching? In this regard, Rush is mind-numbed because he hasn’t studied Church teaching carefully.

When it comes to Church teaching concerning economics, the times, they aren’t a-changin’, despite what the editors of Rolling Stone and other mainstream media outlets proclaim. Pope Francis isn’t going to emerge from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica as Pope Wunnerful.

 

 

To read Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of socialism, click on the following link:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html 

To read Pope John Paul II’s critique of socialism and capitalism, click on the following link:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_01051991_centesimus-annus_en.html

To read Pope Benedict XVI’s critique of socialism and capitalism, click on the following link:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2007/may/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20070513_conference-aparecida_en.html

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html

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The Motley Monk

The Motley Monk is Fr. Richard Jacobs, O.S.A., a Professor of Public Administration at Villanova University. His academic specialities include: organizational theory; leadership ethics; Catholic educational leadership; and, U.S. Catholic educational history. Check out Fr. Jacobs' daily blog at http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html.

3 Comments

  1. In truth, just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible. But how do they arise? How do they function? Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; they declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality.

    Seems like a false equivalence. He confounds money-capital with all forms of human-capital (e.g. intellectual property).
    I have never heard of a capital theorist who promised capitalism would create just structures. Who is this person? Who are these people? It is not Adam Smith. Whereas Marx explicitly promised that capitalism inevitably leads to socialism leads to communism, which creates THE just structure that would order everyone’s life down to the last detail. A society in which the government is “the only thing we all belong to”, so to speak.
    Replace “capitalism” with “respect for private property rights” and “Marxism” with “abolishing private property” in the quote, and Benedict is saying

    Both “respect for private property rights” and “abolishing private property” promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; they declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality.

    Then I would contend “respect for private property rights” within a Judeo-Christian understanding of the rule of law DOES need prior individual morality, AND it promotes a communal morality insofar as men are free to choose to do good with their material and intellectual property. As per Leo, “respect for private property rights” is necessary for the creation of just structures. Of course it is insufficient.
    Whereas “abolishing private property” needs no past, present, or future morality. A little bit of vanguarding by the vanguard of the proletariat, and you’ve arrived: outside of morality. Men no longer have to choose between good and evil.

  2. “First Things” has just published a piece by Nebraska Bishop James Conley entitled “Our Pop Culture Moment” in response to Marc Binelli’s profile of Pope Francis in February’s “Rolling Stone” magazine.
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    Bishop Conley writes,
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    “….Binelli’s essay….was effective….The profile….re-crafted Francis’ public image in the annals of popular culture. He has become a rock star. But if we understand that…. we have a good chance of using the Church’s pop culture moment, instead of becoming its victim.”
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    “…..Rolling Stone and its collaborators are working to hijack the papacy of a loyal, though often unconventional, son of the Church.”
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    “The reason is simple. Sexual and social libertines have little interest in discrediting Christianity. They’re far more interested in refashioning it—in claiming Christ, and his vicar, as their supporters. The secularist social agenda is more palatable to impressionable young people if it complements, rather than competes with, the residual Christianity of their families. The enemy has no interest in eradicating Christianity if he can sublimate it to his own purposes.”
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    “The greatest trick of the devil isn’t convincing the world he doesn’t exist—it’s convincing the world that Jesus Christ is the champion of his causes.”
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    “Well-formed Catholics know that Pope Francis isn’t breaking new theological ground. His work on economics, for example, is in continuity with a point being made about justice since at least Leo XIII. His call for broader participation by laity, particularly women, was a point of great importance to Benedict XVI. And his expressions of charity and solidarity towards those afflicted with same-sex attraction is rooted in the Church’s best tradition. But the media has driven a wedge between Francis and his predecessors by focusing less on substance than method.”
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    “…..That’s why last week on the Church’s World Day for Communications, Pope Francis remarked that “if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first. Those ‘streets’ are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively.”
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    “The preference of the Holy Father, like the preference of Jesus Christ himself, is to engage the world, to run the risk that journalists like Binelli will write unfounded, agenda-driven profiles.”
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    “Why?”
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    “Because, as Pope Benedict XVI said in 2013, by “patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence,” we can introduce the world to Jesus Christ….”

    Source: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/02/our-pop-culture-moment
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    Bishop James Conley is to be commended for his defense of Pope Francis. A certain late Archbishop of New York “Dagger John Hughes” would no doubt be proud of his brother Bishop from Nebraska.

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