PopeWatch: Adam Shaw and Ralph McCloud

Tuesday, December 10, AD 2013



Last week Adam Shaw of Fox launched a blistering attack on Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is undergoing a popularity surge comparable to the way Barack Obama was greeted by the world in 2008. And just as President Obama has been a disappointment for America, Pope Francis will prove a disaster for the Catholic Church.

My fellow Catholics should be suspicious when bastions of anti-Catholicism in the left-wing media are in love with him.

Much is being made of his ‘compassion’ and ‘humility,’ but kissing babies and hugging the sick is nothing new. Every pope in recent memory has done the same, yet only now are the media paying attention. Benedict XVI and John Paul II refused to kowtow to the liberal agenda, and so such displays of tenderness were under-covered.

But Francis is beating a retreat for the Catholic Church, and making sure its controversial doctrines are whispered, not yelled – no wonder the New York Times is in love.

Just like President Obama loved apologizing for America, Pope Francis likes to apologize for the Catholic Church, thinking that the Church is at its best when it is passive and not offending anyone’s sensibilities.

In his interviews with those in the left-wing media he seeks to impress, Francis has said that the Church needs to stop being ‘obsessed’ with abortion and gay marriage, and instead of seeking to convert people, “we need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.”

This softly-softly approach of not making a fuss has been tried before, and failed. The Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s aimed to “open the windows” of the Church to the modern world by doing just this.

The result was the Catholic version of New Coke. Across the West where the effects were felt, seminaries and convents emptied, church attendance plummeted, and adherence to Church doctrine diminished.

Go here to read the rest.  In addition to working for Fox, Shaw used to be a writer for Catholic News Service.  PopeWatch says used to be, because he has been fired:

Tony Spence, editor in chief of the wire service commented on the firing:

“(W)hen he penned the recent piece on Pope Francis, comparing him to President Obama, and presenting it as an op/ed, he seriously compromised his credibility as an objective Catholic journalist for CNS. Had Adam merely reported on the pope’s apostolic exhortation, even citing unflattering sources, there would have been no problem. However, Adam’s caustic condemnation of the exhortation and of Francis himself, one of the key figures we cover daily with objectivity, fairness and certainly charity, left me little choice but to end his service with us.”

PopeWatch understands this firing.  Catholic News Service is a financially independent arm of the USCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  As in any organization, if you publically criticize the boss you had better polish up your resume first.  What PopeWatch cannot understand is why the USCCB has allowed Ralph McCloud to continue as head of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development even though, as head of that organization, he simultaneously served as campaign treasurer for pro-abort uber alles Wendy Davis when she first ran for her state senate seat in Texas.  Go here to read all about it.  Why the double standard?  PopeWatch is puzzled!

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3 Responses to PopeWatch: Adam Shaw and Ralph McCloud

  • Yes. Mr. McCloud probably raises mucho dinero for the Bishops as head of the CCHD. Note he was campaign TREASURER for Davis. Mr. Shaw just specializes in truth-detection (reporting). And here I thought the Church was supposed to be about Truth, not $$$.

  • Why the double standard? The fact that the CCHD even still exists should answer all you need to know about the USCCB and its reporting arm, CNS.

  • While I might be a bit slower to jump to the conclusion that there is a conscious double standard at work here, the question remains, and needs to be heard and responded to by the USCCB. The CCHD at its beginning was very careful about who and what agencies received its funding from Catholics in America. I am not so sure that the same care is at work.

    What I see is just one more example of two distinct groupings within the Church-at least in America (I do not want to use the term ‘ideology’ in terms of these two groups). One group I like to say, emphasizes Lumen Gentium, the identity of the Church, keeping what are commonly referred to as ‘personal morality’ issues: pro-life, pro-traditional marriage etc. The other grouping focuses on Gaudium et Spes, the Church in the Modern World and emphasizes the social issues, work with the poor, homeless etc. Both groups tend to favor polticians and political causes who and which best further their focus. Both are at Sunday Mass in almost every parish in this country. They are not rejecting Church teaching-in the first group’s case-on social issues; the second group is not dissenting from Church teaching on pro-life, pro-family issues. It is a matter of focus and where they place their energy.

    Two problems arise from these distinctions. First too often each side sees the other as ‘poorer Catholics’ and question the other. The second problem arises when they seek to bring their focus into the social/political arena. Both groupings can really end up with strange ‘bed fellows’, if either group took the time to really look at the ones they are backing.

Evangelii Gaudium: Ordination of Women

Monday, December 9, AD 2013



Father Z points out how disappointing for the Catholic Left Evangelii Gaudium is in regard to one of their top priority issues:  Ordination of women:


I have written before that the ordination of women is the flagship issue for liberals.

So long as Pope Francis won’t change Church “policy”, he will remain in their dog house.

Some conservatives frown when the Pope gets out over his skiis in matters of economics, but liberals attack Francis when he upholds defined faith and morals.

Jamie Manson at the Fishwrap, lesbian activist, tutored at Yale by Margaret Farley (of the CDF Notification), favored speaker of the LCWR, attacks Francis for editors this time.

The good thing about Miss Mansons’ piece is that she totalizes her analysis of Pope Francis: Francis can’t be wrong about gender and right about anything else. Obviously NSR disagrees with that judgment!

On lack of vocations, Francis’ diagnosis comes up short

Like many who care passionately about a fully inclusive priesthood in the Catholic church, I read paragraph 104 of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium with deep sadness, though not surprise.  [Remember when I wrote that Francis had created a split on the left?  Remember also that Sr. Maureen Fiedler already attacked Francis on this point … as the surrogate for the NSR.  The editors work thought surrogates.]

“The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion,” Francis wrote, “but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.” [For true liberals, priesthood is about power, nothing less.  That is one reason why the ordination of women is a liberal flagship issue.]

“It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power ‘we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness,’ ” the document continues. “The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all.

“The configuration of the priest to Christ the head — namely, as the principal source of grace — does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others.”

[And now the Popette speaketh…] Much as Francis would like to erase the dynamic of domination from the priesthood, his teaching will remain unrealistic if he continues to reinforce an unjust power structure [DING!  Say da magic woid, win a hundred dahlahs!] in which only celibate males are permitted to consecrate the Eucharist.


Even as Francis perpetuates the same rigid restrictions on who may and may not answer God’s calling to the priesthood, just three paragraphs later, in section 107, he goes on to blame the “dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life” on “a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness.” []

Apparently for the pope, “vocations” are limited to the number of people in Roman Catholic seminaries or novitiate programs. He seems unaware that if he were to look into divinity schools and graduate programs in theology and ministerial formation, he would find no lack of Catholic young adults with a fervent desire to devote themselves fully to serving the church. [They can’t do so as priests.  Too bad, Jamie.]


Read the rest there, if you can stand it.  You’ll find a lot of whining about unfairness and an exaltation of lesbianism.

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115 Responses to Evangelii Gaudium: Ordination of Women

  • All people are baptized into the Catholic Church as priest, prophet, and king. The Sacrament of Baptism leaves an indelible mark on the person’s soul. As priest, the person receives Jesus, as prophet, the person evangelizes, proclaims the kingdom of God, as king, the person is made sovereign over himself/herself. It appears that the women demanding ordination to the Catholic priesthood have renounced their baptism, and the priesthood, in themselves. Let me suggest that the reason being, is that, to act in persona Christi, the ordained priest bring Jesus onto the altar, the greatest dignity man can achieve, but the Sacrament of Penance, which no other religion has, has absolution spoken by Jesus Christ, and through His priest, sins are forgiven and exorcism takes place. In Baptism, the exorcism is in general, in Penance the exorcism is in particular. It is this exorcism, warring with the devil, driving the devil to hell that is the battle that the women refuse to acknowledge or accept as part of the sovereignty over themselves. It is like changing diapers on a precious newborn baby and I am that baby in the secret of confession. These women all need exorcism in the Sacrament of Penance. I hope I have shed some light on this matter.

  • I hope I have shed some light on this matter.
    You did well, Mary. Thank you.

  • If they think it through clearly, his statement really won’t matter. Given the stated goals of devolving the Papacy and empowering of local episcopal conferences with doctrinal authority, they’ll get what they want that way.

    And it’s too much for Fr. Z to delight in a “split” based on two of the Wrap’s most extreme fembot writers. Fiedler and Manson won’t be happy until a Muslim lesbian is pope.

    No, the great progressive hope is found elsewhere in the document, and it should gladden their hearts.


  • It is this exorcism, warring with the devil, driving the devil to hell that is the battle that the women refuse to acknowledge or accept as part of the sovereignty over themselves. It is like changing diapers on a precious newborn baby and I am that baby in the secret of confession. These women all need exorcism in the Sacrament of Penance. I hope I have shed some light on this matter.

    Don’t women change diapers? (At least traditionally.)

    I’m sorry, I’m not understanding your point. But I want to.

  • “Don’t women change diapers? (At least traditionally.)
    I’m sorry, I’m not understanding your point. But I want to.”

    Holy Mother Church changes my diapers in the Sacrament of Penance, if she can, that is, if a person is repentant. First, the Prodigal Son returns, then he is celebrated. These women demanding a vocation to the priesthood want the celebrating but not the repentance. They are more like the other son, the brother of the prodigal who wanted the celebration without rejoicing with his father because the prodigal returned. “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and loose his soul?” If I am not who I am supposed to be, who is going to be me? The Sacrament of Penance is where I am me. No one attains to Holy Orders without being called.

  • “Given the stated goals of devolving the Papacy and empowering of local episcopal conferences with doctrinal authority, they’ll get what they want that way.”
    Empowering of local episcopal conferences with doctrinal authority is a power that can easily be dissolved by removing the head of the local episcopal conference for heresy. If Pope Francis has the taste for it. Infallibility

  • I truly believe that if Jesus walked on earth today he most likely would choose more women today to be priests than he would men! Look around the church during daily Mass and see how many men are there to worship Jesus.

  • Look around the church during daily Mass and see how many men are there to worship Jesus.


    Do you honestly believe that the number of men in the pews (or women, for that matter) will increase once priestesses are ordained? The evidence from the Anglican churches and other sects with priestesses belies the assumption. Or are you saying that the Church should simply write off men as a lost cause?


    Or, consider the case of Islam, a religion not known for being progressive in the matter of gender politics. Women are not even allowed in the main area of the mosque, and this has not been much of an impediment to the religion’s spread. As a matter of fact, Muslims claim that the majority of converts in the West are female. I am not sure if they are correct, but if that were true, I would not be surprised.


    But hey, I guess whatever you personally choose to believe should trump all that, eh? That kind of thinking is increasingly popular these days, but it makes me wonder whom people are really in the business of worshipping, because I do not think it is Jesus.

  • I am not a Sacramentalist. The only objection to women’s ordination to which I’ve ever given a hearing is based on Scripture. And I think St. Paul wrote to his churches with advice dealing with problems peculiar to them. So it is difficult to see his remarks on women in terms of today’s churches. Our circumstances are obviously different. Our problems are different. Our context is different. While much of his advice in other areas remains essentially relevant, I think his advice on women pertained to a unique situation in his day. If one is a Sacramentalist, they will probably tend toward restricting the roel to men. It is said that men mirror God/Christ as pastors. But again, to a non-sacramentalist that’s irrelevant to the argument.

  • When a woman appears in the sanctuary, she, as an altar server or extraordinary minister or minister to the sick, she appears in persona of the priest, the celebrant of the Mass, (with the power of attorney of the priest.). The woman cannot appear or act “in persona Christi” because the woman is not ordained by the bishop to act “in persona Christi.” Nor does the celebrant, the priest at Mass, have the power from Christ to “Do this in memory of me,” , or the power to absolve sins, unless given the power by the bishop. Only the apostles, (the bishops) to whom Christ gave the power to celebrate Mass and forgive sins have the power to continue the priesthood through the ordination to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Not the priest , nor the pastor, nor the individual has any authority to elevate to the altar, only the apostolic successors to the apostles, the bishops, can elevate to the altar.
    This is in holding with Genesis. God created the first man. Then God took the first woman from the first man. The woman is the super abundance of man’s love for God, the buried treasure, the packed down spilling over of man’s love for God.
    The woman in the sanctuary acts in the power of the priest. The woman in the sanctuary cannot act in the persona of the bishop.
    Any bishop who might try ordaining women to the Sacrament of Holy Orders fails in his duty to observe the instruction of Jesus Christ to the Apostles, all of whom were men. The bishop acts in persona Christi. The priest acts in persona Christi through the bishop.
    Women are called to be holy, and therefore cannot be holy violating the will of Christ.

  • Jon: God and Christ in the Trinity are outside of time. The Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle is unchangeable. Who Jesus Christ ordained then, is valid now.

  • “Women are not even allowed in the main area of the mosque” In both the Jewish faith and the Muslim faith, the man appears before God in prayer in synagogue and mosque for himself, his wife, and his children, much like the Catholic priest, who appears at Mass to pray for all generations, for all time, that is, for all people. The woman, through power of attorney, is present in church to pray for all people.

  • “The woman, through power of attorney, is present in church to pray for all people.”

    The woman, through power of attorney, of her father, her husband, if she has one, the priest, pastor, bishop and Pope, is present in church to pray for all people. Awesome.

  • Mary, I think you’re confusing verses that pertain to marriage. While Christ is the head of the church, St. Paul also used marriage as a metaphor of Christ and the church. So he spoke of the husband being the head of the wife to illustrate that. I don’t think this transfers to the church. Some issues were ocurring in the churches he wrote to and we do not entirely understand what those were. Therefore, it is difficult to understand his advice. But it was not framed in terms of sacramentalism. Sacramentalism is a development.

  • “Mary, I think you’re confusing verses that pertain to marriage.” The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony between a man and a woman, is the same as Christ, the bridegroom and His Church, for Jesus laid down His life for her.
    “Sacramentalism is a development.”
    Jon, If sacramentalism is not orthodox, run like hell.
    This is the same advice I give to women whose bishops are considering ordaining women: be orthodox or run like hell.

  • I wonder how you would define orthodoxy. I consider orthodoxy a concensus of the early church that came about in response to challenge. Christian truth was defined and elaborated upon so as to preclude heresy. For example, the Trinity or the dual nature of Jesus Christ and the Incarnation would be examples of orthodoxy in this vein. Heresy would be gnostic readings of Christianity, for example, or an anemic sense of God that did not account for his triune nature. I think people can be solidly Christian and orthodox in this classic sense while holding to differences of opinion. It happens within the Roman branch and throughout the entire Christian church. You won’t find a sacramentalist approach in the pages of the New Testament. I argue that it’s something we read back into it. This anachronism involves what we call eisegesis. One way to describe eisegesis is to say we are putting something from our own minds into the text. So it’s the opposite of exegesis, where we try to extract meaning FROM the text. I really don’t find the sacramentalist system intellectually sustainable. I’m pretty open to whatever the text yields, generally. I don’t have an agenda or serious commitment that would sway me one way or another. Two key points that led me away from the sacramentalist possibility are the following: St. Paul, in speaking about the Lord’s Supper, seems to refer to the believers as the body of Christ and not the bread or Corpus Christi of the crucifixion when he remarks on discernment; baptism seems to have always followed repentence and faith in God. So it’s really difficult to see baptism or the eucharist in the sacramentalist way.
    The fundamental point I would bring out is that there WAS development. The church exists in time, obviously. As the church do so it interacts within its context. The church expresses itself in new forms and adapts to circumstances. The first few centuries saw some really good developments, but some others were not so good. It looks like Roman Catholics consider all development as sacred tradition. Protestants see the necessity of weighing the differernt developements. One theologian has spoken of something called the Great Tradition. This means we accept the traditions of the New Testament and those which followed provided they are weighed and universally approved. Even then traditions which followed the New Testament are not binding.
    Orthodoxy can only come about through a consensus of the entire church. Look for those things which professing Christians everywhere believe, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. These beliefs are surely orthodox.

  • Orthodoxy can only come about through a consensus of the entire church.


    What an unBiblical thing to say, and one so oblivious to history. The Bible repeatedly tells us of how small embattled minorities held on to the Faith, while the consensus fell away. The same could be said for the early Church. Whatever consensus was reached with the Arians was brought about by centuries of bitter warfare. Sure, it is easy to claim, centuries later, that the Arians (or the Gnostics, or the Monophysites, etc.) are outside the consensus, but that is just playing with tautologies, in the way badly informed evolutionists sometimes do. “Who survives?” It is the fittest. “Who are the fittest?” Well, it’s the ones who have survived.

  • Jon: “Orthodoxy can only come about through a consensus of the entire church.” The entire church is the church triumphant, all the saints in heaven, the church militant, those of us on earth struggling against the forces of evil and the church suffering, those souls in purgatory, being cleansed from all sins and heresies. Perhaps you might refer to it as tradition but the martyrs and saints in heaven died for the Truth of Jesus Christ and the Truth of Jesus Christ will remain constant even as Jesus lives in heaven. The Truth of Jesus Christ is infallible. God is unchangeable. Perfection of God cannot change. “…Who canst deceive or be deceived.”

  • Ha: ““Who survives?” It is the fittest. “Who are the fittest?” Well, it’s the ones who have survived. Great point, resounds like “We would not have brought HIM to you if He was not guilty.” If Jesus Christ was guilty of any sin or crime He would have had to die for His own sins and crimes. Jesus died for our sins and saved us for Himself.

  • “…Who canst deceive or be deceived.” rather “…Who canst deceive, nor be deceived.” already I am fallible.

  • I always thought ordination was restricted to men because it gives them something important to do. Women give birth. Men need something. Isn’t that in the Bible somewhere? Yup, there it is, John 2:

    And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there.
    2 And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage.
    3 And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine.
    4 And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come.
    5 His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.

    See? Waiters, not waitresses. And Mary instituted it. 😉

  • HA, that’s an excellent point! Thank you so much! Allow me to adjust my argument in line with what you said. The first few centuries managed to safeguard certain fundamental Christian truths like the trinity, the nature of Christ, etc. When I say orthodoxy comes about by a consensus of the church, I mean a consensus that took a while to emerge as dominant. That was a good thing. After the first few centuries of the church era, we no longer see that phenomenon occurring. After the split between East and West and the Protestant break we see that Christians everywhere generally continue to believe those orthodox things. But no new orthodoxy emerges because people are no longer in direct communication to make that happen. But I loved your analogy with survival of the fittest…nice! I don’t think we have any real disagreement.

  • Mary, one is hard pressed indeed to find verses in Scirpture to support a notion of purgatory. As N. T. Wright once said, the concept resonates with us because ‘we live in it’. To anyone with insight, this life is our purgatorial experience. The way of the cross is something every Christian is quite familiar with and I need look no further for purgatory outside it. But thank you for your zeal and serious interest in doctrinal matters.

  • Tasmin, you raise some food for thought. It’s been said by philosophers that since men cannot give birth, they hang onto ideas. There’s some merit to that. To bring new life into the world is to reflect our Creator in a very profound way, though I do not think men envy the pain involved….our Lord suffered to give us Life.

  • Jesus said: “I lay down my life and I take it up again.” definitely not purgatory.

  • When I say orthodoxy comes about by a consensus of the church…


    First of all, let me first say that I commend your gracious tone. I should also say that the issues that confronted the early Christians were never really settled. The Muslims are not exactly Arians, and neither are they Monophysites, but that’s essentially what we’re talking about. Pelagianism is rampant among Christians and post-Christians throughout the West, while a fair number of vegans and the more dour feminists and Greens and counter-culturalists look an awful lot like Gnostics. Sure, many of those groups are all nominally (and vociferously) non-Christian or anti-Christian, but they have numerous fellow travelers within Christianity as well.
    Also, in my experience, those who give a lot of weight to the consensus put themselves in the position of the kid from the mixed marriage, whose parents hope he can pick up the best from both their religions, or at least whatever it is that both share, but who ultimately decides neither one is really worth the bother. In the case of Catholicism, there is admittedly a kind of hierarchy between core beliefs and the various charisms or devotions one can follow, but the overall consensus (such as it is) has come by an often heavy-handed procrustean crushing of many a bruised reed, and that is very sad, though I don’t know of any alternative would have worked out better, since for Catholics, maintaining that unity is a non-negotiable.

  • HA, you raise a good point, first of all. You speak of the watered-down Christianity we have in America, and its similarities to heretical thought and its resurrection through the New Age movement. Christianity in America often seems to assume a gnostic tone.
    Concerning the first few centuries, I do think some basic things fell into place through time. An established orthodoxy slowly and painfully arose in response to some challenges presented. The orthodox positions are restricted to what was considered endangered. The orthodox positions were not necessarily the popular ones. Heresies existed within the church, usually in the form of anemic versions of truth, and they were often held by many. They could have won the day. Later on, Constantine would probably have preferred Arianism. But when he gave the argument over to the ‘senate’ they were almost unanimous. So by that time there was a consensus. I think the people who risked their lives and suffered usually took these things more seriously. Also, I like to think the Spirit was involved in the process of safeguarding some truths even as the canon was similarly concluded. But these were not represented by a neat, agreeable process throughout the entire early/ancient church. Neither were they the product of bullying. These things happened through struggle, of course. But again, we find a consensus under Constantine. For some reason, perhaps pragmatic since the faith had to survive and define itself over against not-faith, orthodox responses won out over ‘heretical’ proposels. Later on, it was important that Pelagius–if what the others said of him was correct–be knocked down. Augustine’s udnerstanding of human depravity reflects the overall tenor of Scripture, while Pelagius would lead people away from Scripture. Pelagius may have been fine, but in one generation you have humanism.
    So that’s how it worked itself out, but it could have happened other ways, as I recognize it. All sorts of direcitons could have been taken given different decisions and circumstances.
    After Augustine, I don’t think you really find orthodoxy verses heresy in this classic sense. I’m not sure why. The chruch was established and had much more control. THere was no longer a hostile pagan environment. I guess heretical thought could be dealt with in decisive ways while reiterating the basic orthodoxy.

  • And yes, I’ve picked up on the fact that different devotions exist boht here in Ameirca and abroad. The devotions can be very diverse, and it seems sometimes they represent local indigenous beliefs filtered through the church. Such diversity doesn’t seem to be questioned.

  • Jon: “Huh” You said that purgatory was not outside of the cross and quoted N. T. Wright: “As N. T. Wright once said, the concept resonates with us because ‘we live in it’. To anyone with insight, this life is our purgatorial experience. The way of the cross is something every Christian is quite familiar with and I need look no further for purgatory outside it.” Jesus exalted in His cross, so Christ’s cross is not purgatory. Purgatory comes after death. Death, Judgement, heaven and hell are the four last things. Purgatory is the vestibule of heaven, but purgatory, if one is lucky enough to get there, comes only after passing this life.

    Only the Catholic Church has the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.

  • Jon: May I make a suggestion: The Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  • Mary, I don’t know where the Roman branch got the idea of purgatory, but it cannot be found in the pages of Scripture. The Jews never believed it and the early Christians didn’t eaither. Where do you find this idea in the Bible?
    The general idea of purgation in Scirpture corresponds to the life of hte Christian. We live after the pattern of Crhist who, though sinless, was made perfect through suffering. We are sinners, but are sanctified if we grow in Christ. This is teh biblical idea. So the process of purgation, if you will, is played out in what we call sanctification. Sanctification is the Christian life. You r thoughts?

  • Latae sententiae is Latin for self- excommunication. When any individual consents to commit a sin or crime or heresy, he/she instantaneously and automatically self-excommunicates him/herself from the Catholic Church. The heretic separates himself from God, the Truth and the faithful, living and dead.
    In any conversation about consensus in the Church, only the faithful in the church can contribute to the consensus. The faithful are in communion with the saints in heaven, the Fathers of the Church, the faithful Church Militant and the faithful Church Suffering in purgatory. The saints in heaven and the suffering in purgatory have had their relationship with God sealed in eternity through death. It cannot change. Therefore, the truths of the Catholic Church are true today as they were true when Christ revealed these truths to us. Infallibility is preserved. Orthodoxy is the same then and now, no change.
    When one speaks of consensus in the Church, it only can mean that the participants join in the eternal life of the Truth revealed to all by Jesus Christ.
    Note that when priests consented to violate their vow to pray always and did bad things, these priests were already excommunicated and in the hands of the devil, well on their way to hell. …and it is the same for all souls. Dante wrote that the floor of hell was strewn with the skulls of bishops. Women demanding the Sacrament of Holy Orders are self-excommunicated.
    Honestly, I tremble when the priest prays: “…for all the faithful here assembled.”

  • “In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin” (2 Macc. 12:43–45).

  • Donald, that’s the danger in quoting from the Apochrapha! That wasn’t included in the original canon–the Jews themselves didn’t consider it part of the scriptures.

  • Thank you, Donald, I was about to find the Book of Maccabees. Without purgatory, the Church would not be in communion with the Church Suffering there. Some souls have asked for our prayers. God is present in hell by His absence, through the love and respect God gives to the gift of free will.

  • “the Jews themselves didn’t consider it part of the scriptures.” Jon: You just disowned the Menorah and the nine days the holy oil burned, one candle for each day.

  • Well, here’s the thing, Mary. The church never accepted the Apocapha as part of the canon knowing the Jews didn’t consider it so either.

  • 1 and 2 Maccabees are certainly canonical.

  • Mike, how can I and II Maccabees be canonical? The Jews did not consider them so and netiehr did the church. They form a portion of the Apocrapha.

  • “The church never accepted the Apocapha as part of the canon knowing the Jews didn’t consider it so either.”

    Untrue Jon. The Church decided what portions of the Apocrypha were canonical and which were not. All the books contained in the Septuagint were accepted by the Church as canonical. The Jews did not begin casting out books from the Septuagint until the late first into the second century AD. These books were accepted by Catholics as part of Holy Writ. Protestant “Reformers” in the Sixteenth Century opted to follow the Hebrew Canon rather than that followed by Christians for fifteen centuries.

  • The Apocrapha is useful as human writing for the intertestamental period, but it’s not canonical. By the time the Hebrew canon was completed, it was rejected as inspired writing. So I would not use those books to form doctrine.

  • That is fine for a Protestant like you Jon. We Catholics believe differently. The Church has the authority to determine what went in and what went out in regard to the Old Testament, just as she did with the New Testament, which, I might add, was a fairly lengthy process in regard to the New Testament.

  • Well, the Apocrypha is very useful in telling us about the nature of the intertestamental period, as I said. But we wouldn’t consider it inspired Scripture because it isn’t a part of the Jewish canon. There has been no reason to think it shold be included and every reason to think it should be excluded. It’s not something we’ve had to really think much about, but if you look into it a little bit you see right away why it was dismissed. I read the Apocrypha years back and noticed it didn’t fit in with the character of the rest of Scripture. I saw that discrepency. I’m always the type to find out for myself and to prove everything.

  • Why would Christians be governed by decisions made by Jews, after the time of Christ, about the Old Testament? The Church was granted the authority to decide for herself directly by Christ. Debates ensued among the Church Fathers about what should be included in both Testaments and ultimately the Church established both canons of the Testaments. That the Jews after Christ decided not to include certain texts among their scriptures was mentioned in some of the debates, but not taken as a deciding factor.

  • True. The Hebrew canon came to its closure later on. But the New Testament cites the Jewish writings we consider inspired, and we find the Law, Prophets, and Writings or wisdom literature. The Abel to Zecharia expression used by Jesus rounds it off.
    The Apocrypa was not in Hebrew, but in Greek, and many of the church fathers rejected it. So it wasn’t a matter of excising something already there. Much later on, the Roman Catholic church declared parts of it inspired, but not the whole thing. Protestants never included any of the Apocryphal books since it was never within the canon. Even Jerome rejected it.

  • “Even Jerome rejected it.”

    Untrue as demonstrated by the books included in the Latin Vulgate. Jerome recognized the authority of the Church to determine the Canon no matter his personal opinion about various books.

    As for the New Testament, it has various quotations from “deuterocanonical books”, a phrase not coined until 1566, along with books not included in the Canon, so going by citations in the New Testament is a fairly weak reed to support your position.

  • Yes, the N. T. contains references from non-canonical writings. I don’t see how that’s any indication that the Apocrypha is inspired, however. As I said, I read the Apocrypha, and it didn’t fit in with the overall tenor of Scripture. The Roman and Eastern Orthodox branches hold onto it. Interestingly, I understand neither churhc has included the entire Apocrypha in its collection.

  • “Yes, the N. T. contains references from non-canonical writings. I don’t see how that’s any indication that the Apocrypha is inspired, however”

    The above quotation from Jon, please shake hands with this quotation from Jon:

    “But the New Testament cites the Jewish writings we consider inspired, and we find the Law, Prophets, and Writings or wisdom literature.”

    Then we have this quotation from Don:

    “As for the New Testament, it has various quotations from “deuterocanonical books”, a phrase not coined until 1566, along with books not included in the Canon, so going by citations in the New Testament is a fairly weak reed to support your position.”

  • What I was saying is that Scripture is summed up in the New Testament as the Law, Prophets, and Writings. After that there was a kind of ‘dead’ period. While it is true the N. T. contains references to non-canonical wriitngs, they are not the apocrypha. They are other writings. According to your reasoning, anything cited int eh N. T. must also be inspired.
    Instead, we should realize the writers of N. T. Scirpture occassionally cited references from non-canonical works.

  • Jon, last night you wrote that “[t]he church never accepted the Apocrapha as part of the canon knowing the Jews didn’t consider it so either.” Of course with respect to Maccabees this statement is undebatably false. Your personal opinion regarding the canonical merits of Maccabees really is of no more interest to the Church than it is of Her sons and daughters. We are all very well aware that the Jews eventually rejected Maccabees just as they rejected Christ. There is no logical reason whatsoever for this rejection to be dispositive for Christians.

  • Thanks, Mike. But I still maintain that the church never accepted the apocrypha. The Roman branch accepted it in the middle of the sixteenth century, rather late in the game. I think everyone understands the Apocrypha is good for historical reasons and perhaps for devotional purposes. But to consider it inspired is gravely msitaken, and would lead people to form inappropriate judgemnts like practicing magic and almsgiving for forgiveness of sin.

  • “The Roman branch accepted it in the middle of the sixteenth century, rather late in the game.”

    That simply is untrue Jon as a matter of historical fact. These books were accepted as part of the Canon by the time of Saint Jerome.

    The preface of the Book of Judith by Saint Jerome:

    “Among the Jews, the book of Judith is considered among the apocrypha; its warrant for affirming those [apocryphal texts] which have come into dispute is deemed less than sufficient. Moreover, since it was written in the Chaldean language, it is counted among the historical books. But since the Nicene Council is considered to have counted this book among the number of sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request (or should I say demand!): and, my other work set aside, from which I was forcibly restrained, I have given a single night’s work, translating according to sense rather than verbatim. I have hacked away at the excessively error-ridden panoply of the many codices; I conveyed in Latin only what I could find expressed coherently in the Chaldean words. Receive the widow Judith, example of chastity, and with triumphant praise acclaim her with eternal public celebration. For not only for women, but even for men, she has been given as a model by the one who rewards her chastity, who has ascribed to her such virtue that she conquered the unconquered among humanity, and surmounted the insurmountable.”

    The Synod of Hippo in 393 established the Catholic canon of the Old Testament.

  • Jon, the reason the deuterocanonical books aren’t in your bible is because Martin Luther threw them out. Early Christians accepted the deuterocanonicals because they were in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) , and that‘s what the apostles used.

    Of course, no early councils endorsed the 66 books Protestants honor. The first council to address the issue of the canon was the Council of Rome in 382 under Pope Damasus, and it included all and only the 73 books we honor today. This canon was repeated at Hippo and Carthage (A.D.393 and 397), and has been repeated ever since.

    For 1500 years the Bible contained 73 books, and then a disgruntled monk comes along and throws out seven of the Old Testament books because they conflict with his beliefs. The monk then adds words to Scripture (“only” in Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15, “alone” in Romans 3:28) in order to bolster his brand new idiosyncratic doctrine on justification.

    The fact that you accept the 27 books in his New Testament is a tacit admission that you accept the authority of the Catholic Church on at least this one issue. After all, it was the Catholic Church that gathered together the books of the New Testament, grasped the Septuagint, and declared them to be the sum of Scripture. Did the Church have such authority? If not, why not add or subtract books from the New Testament as has been done with the Old? Indeed, Luther did just that but those changes somehow never “took,” basically due to accidents of history.

    Of course, some Protestant traditions do accept 2 Maccabees which just adds to the confusion, but given that each Protestant tradition (and each individual church within that tradition) reach there own conclusions this is to be expected.

    Do you believe in the Holy Trinity? If so, why?

  • Wow, Donald. You’ve said quite a lot. Well, Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith is soemthing I believe. It is a very scriptural idea. You paint the picture quite differently from the way I see it. As far as the canon goes, I don’t think it was decided at any time by the chruch as a whole that the apocrypha should be included. It was included by Rome in the 1540’s, but prior to that there was no unanimous or constant opinion regarding it.
    Lutehr was a little biased. He wanted so desperately to safeguard justificaiton by fiath that he wrongfully inserted ‘alone’. We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone–it is accompanied by works. This is the right way to see it. Yes, Lutehr had issues and it seems he was often overly emotional. Justificaiton was for him a more personal doctrine. Within the Lutehran tradition today, sanctification is almost not even taught, though it is of course implied.

  • Mike, yes, it is true the chruch has decided many things early on. We continue to honor much of that. It is not a black-and-white issue, though. It’s not one of take everything or nothing. It’s a matter of weighing each thing. We continue to believe the Trinity, for example, because it clearly and accurately refelcts the testimony of Scripture. It seems like there’s always this slipperly slope theory in the back of someon’s mind that equates with going the whole way or believing nothing at all.

  • Jon, Orthodoxy comes from the consensus of the Church… except when it comes to the canon of Scripture? We had consensus. No, the Church didn’t declare the canon in the 16th century. The Church reaffirmed the canon and formally declared it. Why? Because some wanted to introduce unorthodox versions. There was no serious need prior to that point. Why? Because we had consensus.

    To quote Catholic.com:
    “Protestant authors Archer and Chirichigno list 340 places where the New Testament cites the Septuagint but only 33 places where it cites from the Masoretic Text rather than the Septuagint (G. Archer and G. C. Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey, 25-32)”

  • Kyle, the issue for me goes back to the fact that the Jews and representatives of the early church never recognized these books called Apocrypha. Now if you read these books, which I’ve done, you find things expressed there that are not in accord with the 66 books of the Bible. The Apocrypha could never be used for doctrine because that would lead to beliefs that are not in sync with Christianity. Those books are not inspired. Rather, they reflect a time that was sad and weary, an interim of heartache and headache, and one of worry and anticipation: the time BETWEEN the testaments. And your thoughts?

  • Jon, 340 references is recognition enough. If it was good enough for the Bible authors, it’s good enough for me.
    I have no doubt you will find some passages not in sync with Christianity in the deutorcanonical books. It was written for those of the Jewish faith. You’re not avoiding shell fish. Are you?
    “they reflect a time that was sad and weary” Is this your criteria for rejecting them? That’s a very low bar because there are several places in the OT that are sad and weary.
    These books were not written between testaments. They are part of the testaments.

  • Kyle, the N. T. writers draw on numerous things to make their point. They draw on the O. T. and non-inspired writings, too. The fact that the apocryhpal works are referred to as intertestamental literature indicates they were produced during the interim between the testaments.
    As I mentioned earlier, the apocrypha teach, for example, witchcraft–the use of organs to ward off the devil. It also teaches almsgiving for forgiveness of sin. This is a problem, obviously. What would you do with that?
    Finally, the church never embraced these apocryphal works in terms of a consensus. THey really weren’t part of the canon. The Roman branch officially declared them so at Trent, but that was something else. The rest of the church wasn’t present to weigh in.

  • Jon: When you write about “the church” whose church are you writing about?

  • Jon, The NT writers drew inspiration from books approving the use of witchcraft and alms giving for forgiveness? What point were they trying to make? Please provide examples of this devilry. Was the hand of the Holy Spirit asleep when the authors referenced such heathenish source material?
    Another great source showing how often the NT writers refer to the Septuagint.
    “The rest of the church wasn’t present to weigh in.” In order to know if enough of a majority was present to make a consensus, you must know what 100% of the church was. What was 100%? And, is the church a democratic process? Is Truth put up for a vote and decided upon by consensus? Or, did Jesus, being a smart guy, know questions will arise after he departs earth and so gives authority to teach, to build His Church to someone?

  • Mary, when I speak of the church i have in mind two things: the church visible and the church invisible. We shouldn’t collapse either one into the other. Make sense?

  • Kyle, what I was saying is that the N. T. writers drew on all kinds of material as they wrote. Sometimes they drew on other inspired writings, and sometimes they drew on writings that were solely of human origin. Either way, these elements were incorporated into writings we collectively term the New Testament, a collection we know to be inspired. Hope that clears it up. So in other words, not everything the biblical writers borrowed was inspired. But they always found ‘stuff’ to help make their point as they wove it all together. It’s kind of like when you use a ‘bad’ author with a ‘bad’ thesis. You borrow a sentence or two and weave it into what you’re writing and it fits in that instance. Obviously you don’t always condone the author or their work. But you borrow what is useful and leave behind the rest.
    As far as consensus and church decisions go, the problem is that in the 1540’s, one segment of the historical Christian church decided that the apocrapha–or at least parts of it–would be considered inspired and part of the canon–in 1540AD! So the onus, as I see it, is on the person advocating these books to prove that they are inspired, and to do so in ways that go beyond merely pointing out that that segment decided such a thing a millenium and a half after the church was launched!

    DOes this make sense, Kyle? Please let me know what you don’t agree with.

  • Kyle, one of the Tobits suggests using organs to chase the devil away. Another of the apocryphal books teaches that sin can be forgiven through almsgiving. This is the problem with saying these books are inspired. People can beleive that and proceed to build doctrines from them. It’s dangerous for the faith.

  • “one of the Tobits suggests using organs to chase the devil away”…only because the Archangel Rafael instructed in the Book of Tobit to do so.
    “sin can be forgiven through almsgiving.” Only the punishment due to sin is forgiven through almsgiving. Pray to the Holy Spirit for enlightenment when reading Scripture.
    “the New Testament, a collection we know to be inspired.” We can only know what books are inspired by hearing the Catholic Church. There are over 200 gospels, but only four are accepted by the Catholic Church as inspired. Heretical writers use some of the uninspired gospels to lead souls away from the Truth.

  • “Mary, when I speak of the church i have in mind two things: the church visible and the church invisible. We shouldn’t collapse either one into the other. Make sense? ” The devil is invisible. The spirit of the world is invisible. Jon is visible. The Church visible and invisible is the Communion of Saints, the faithful souls attached to God through Jesus Christ.

  • Mary, I cannot accept as canonical a book that instructs in witchcraft. It is far easier to just say this is part of a collection of works that are intertestamental. They represent incredulous stories.

  • “a book that instructs in witchcraft”

    The book of Tobit does no such thing. It relays traditional healing wisdom of the type which Jesus followed when he used mud to smear on the eyes of the blind man with cataracts. God can use the untrue to illuminate the true.

    “They represent incredulous stories.”

    And Balaam’s talking ass is not? By that standard be ready to throw out a large part of both Testaments.

  • I say incredulous not because of any miraculous element but because of the conflictual nature of such a thing. How could an agel of GOd instruct a person to approach the matter in a way already clearly condemned in the O. T.? Of course I concede God uses all kinds of things and that good comes out of evil or the raw material of this world.

  • “How could an agel of GOd instruct a person to approach the matter in a way already clearly condemned in the O. T.?”

    Precisely what the opponents of Christ accused him of doing Jon. Besides, the book was not having the angel recommend witchcraft. Instead it was utilizing the knowledge of the time, rather as if today someone wrote a book in which an angel would advise someone to take a particular medicine to cure an ailment. Witchcraft would have been regarded as someone seeking to bind a demon, not someone using a folk remedy to drive a demon off. We see similar things throughout the Old Testament. For example, the driving out into the desert of the scapegoat.

  • Jon,

    Are you talking about Tobit 6:4,6-8? I don’t see anywhere in that passage encouraging witchcraft. The angel Raphael says the items are “useful for medicine,” not potions or magic or some hocus pocus. That was their ancient form of Bayer or Pepto Bismal. It’s not witchcraft.

    Donald addressed this. It was not uncommon of ancients to use ordinary elements to improve circumstances, be it health or otherwise.
    2 Kings 2:21 – Salt to purify waters.
    2 Kings 5:10 – Jordan River to cure leprosy.
    Mark 8:23; John 9:6 – Jesus spitting in the mud.
    Mark 6:13 – Applying oil to heal.
    Luke 10:34 – Using oil and wine to dress wounds.

    In these cases, it was not the elements alone which make them efficacious. It was divine intervention which ultimately made them so, i.e. God via a prophet or angel and Jesus.

    As far as consensus and church decisions go, the problem is that in the 1540′s, one segment of the historical Christian church decided that the apocrapha–or at least parts of it–would be considered inspired and part of the canon–in 1540AD!

    The deuterocanonical books were part of the canon prior to 1540AD. Evidence proves this. There were accepted books of the Bible and in use. Your biases are denying historical fact.

  • Thanks to both of you for pointing that out. Yes, the medicine of yesteryear is strange to us. Alright, we still have to deal with the almisgiving for forgiveness of sins, though. And otehr conflicts exist, such as prayer for atoning the sin of teh dead. I just think it’s easier to see this as intertestamental literature, useful for understanding hte itme period but dangerously unreliable for doctrine.
    There exists a huge list of early fathers who rejected the apocryhal writings. It’s always been a highly questionable matter. Not one of consensus.
    But thanks again for highlighting the changing and imperfect nature of medicine and all knowledge and practice. There is our very inexact science and sense of existence, and then there is the Great Physician who works through various means to offer his healing to the world.

  • Looked a little further into TObit. The angel actually is said to have advocated burning the animal organs so that the smoke from them would drive demons away. I’m of the opinion that God will work through all kinds of means, but that one’s a bit of a stretch I’m afraid. Also, I found out there’s a couple of factual errors in Baruch and Judith. So there’s some real problems to contend with. See, it’s difficult when you have a very strong institutional framework because there’s no leverage, no wiggle room, so to speak. Once something’s accepted it’s very difficult if not impossible to hold to a different opinion. To go against the church’s teaching on something is to go against GOd. That’s why I advocate seeing the church as visible and invisible without collapsing one into the other. It’s a more dynamic view.

  • “That’s why I advocate seeing the church as visible and invisible without collapsing one into the other. It’s a more dynamic view. ”
    Jon, If you believe that life is purgatory on earth, then you have done exactly that, as collapsing the visible and invisible, one into the other. Also: Some translations of the original texts are not up to par. You really need to pray before reading Holy Scripture. Forgive me for being pointed.

  • Mary, this idea of purgatory is not something the entire church has held to. It finds no warrant in Scripture and is better understood as an innovation. If we are justified by faith, it is difficult if not impossible to believe in this intermediate place. Roman Catholics find support for it in Maccabees, but it doesn’t fit with the Pauline theology of justification. The distinction of the church militant and the church triumphant is clear. Souls upon death reign with Christ.

  • Jon, the Catholic Church defines doctrine as becomes necessary. Because the doctrine is undefined does not mean that the doctrine does not exist. Salvation is for all men, but only those men who actually accept the Faith and pray for salvation are saved. The difference between hell and purgatory is that hell is forever, eternal damnation. Once the person dies, his relationship with God is fixed, unchangeable. The damned have chosen to remain in hell, separated from God forever. Some souls, who by nature have not the informed consent to give informed consent to hell are in purgatory until their souls are purified enough to enter into heaven. Purgatory is the absolute mercy of God for finite man. The pure love and mercy of God is a doctrine of the Catholic Faith.

  • My udnerstanding is that God justifies whom he saves and sanctifies them, too. This happens through Christ alone. So purgatory would be superfluous. Why posit a doctrine of purgatory?

  • Jon,
    The angel actually is said to have advocated burning the animal organs so that the smoke from them would drive demons away.

    You are working with a poor bible translation. The only burning going on is of the fish he ate. He salted the rest to save for his journey. I guess he wasn’t into sushi that day.
    You bring up a lot of “This book says this…” Provide some citations and quotes. It would make it much easier to go through these.

  • “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, amen.”

    One of the Church’s spiritual works of mercy is “Pray for the living and the dead.” If everyone is either in Heaven or Hell, there would be no reason to pray for the dead.

    My understanding is that a mortal sin, unconfessed, gets you to Hell. Other/lesser sins get you to Purgatory.

    Dante’s Purgatorio, allegory, may be of interest. He depicts souls in P. going through penances for specific moral faults so they may advance to Heaven.

    In the Gospels, the Apostles were shocked (“Then, who can be saved?”) when Jesus taught that no one is good except God and after the rich, young man went dejected away. Jesus tells them that for God all things are possible.

    At Fatima, Our Lady revealed to the three shepherd children the following prayer that we say after each decade of the Most Holy Rosary, “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fire of Hell. Take all souls to Heaven. And, help especially those most in need of Thy mercy, amen.” I think this prayer covers all three bases: Faith, Hope, and Charity, quite well.

  • “Kyle, one of the Tobits suggests using organs to chase the devil away….This is the problem with saying these books are inspired. People can beleive that and proceed to build doctrines from them.”

    Thanks for the reminder! I’d love to participate in this discussion, guys, but a quick reminder for the Catholics in this thread:

    Don’t forget to get your pig-livers-for-warding-off-Satan-ceremony for Advent! Get the timing right, too–start flinging it into the air *after* lighting the fourth wreath candle, not before! And remember: chant “Semper ubi sub ubi!” in your best calypso voice as you do it!

    OK, back to the thread.

  • Provide some citations and quotes. It would make it much easier to go through these.

    Good idea. An excerpt from Tobit 6 from the New American Bible Revised Edition published at

    7 Then the young man asked the angel this question: “Brother Azariah, what medicine is in the fish’s heart, liver, and gall?”
    8 He answered: “As for the fish’s heart and liver, if you burn them to make smoke in the presence of a man or a woman who is afflicted by a demon or evil spirit, any affliction will flee and never return.

    I can provide additional quotes as necessary.

  • Jon,
    Thanks. Must easier when I can address specific verses.
    Yes. That’s a spiritual healing, which the angel again refers to as a medicine, which distinguishes it from a potion or spell. Is the troubling part of the verse the use of smoke? What if the material used was a handkerchief or apron (Acts 19:12)? As I said, none of these ordinary things would be able to be extraordinarily efficacious without the power of God. (Mt 12:28) In Tobit, it is by an “angel,” not a demon, which delivers the ability. In Acts, it is by Jesus.

  • Sorry. That should have been addressed to Spambot and Jon.

  • Even if it’s a matter of using treatments of the time to address something, we still have to deal with the other problematic parts. One such thing is raised in Tobit 4:11 and 12:9 where it teaches that forgiveness of sins is by human effort. Judith 1:5 and Baruch 6:2 contain historical errors. What do we do with these things?

  • Also, cruelty is taught in Sirach 22:3 and 42:14, and the doctrine of purgatory is taught in 2 Maccabees 12;41-45. Then there is the fact that no prophets existed at this time, to which the apocrypha attests. It is common misperception that these books were accepted or rejected due to the Reformation/Counter-Reformation. The fact is that a serious lack of consensus has always been present regarding those books. They do remain essential for understanding the intertestamental period and should definately be read with this in mind. However, that period was marked by many conflicting visions and the outlook was by no means monolithic.

  • One more thing: 2 Maccabees 14:41-42 praises suicide. We know that some of the Jewihs people during this long tijme took matters into their own hands. We know about the revolt and we see a disordered zeal at work here.

  • Jon: And the vineyard owner (God) said to the hired hands (mankind): “What business is it of yours what I do with my money, if I choose to be generous?” Purgatory is God’s gift of love and mercy.
    Sirach 22:3 and 42: 14 tell of disgrace. You speak as though disgrace is owned by someone innocent. 2Maccabees tells of the lesser of two evils, still practiced by captured spies.
    Life is short, I read mostly the words of Christ.

  • T. Shaw, I read Dante’s Divine Comedy. I echoed N. T. Wright in saying purgatory is where we live. The sanctified life is one of pain and suffering. The New Testament writers bear this out. They explain that our lives are patterned after Christ so that the way to glory is through the cross.

  • The problem is, Jon, you’re using the very same argument approach against Catholics that atheists use against the Old Testament: alleged historical errors (flung against Esther and Daniel), moral failures (Psalm 137:9), superceded practices (Jephthah’s daughter), etc.

    Carping about the alleged cruelty in Sirach when there is OT exterminationist warfare in the books you accept as canonical is a remarkable example of gnat straining. Ditto Psalm 137:9, Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter in Judges…the fact is, the Old Testament is provisional, incomplete and needs to be read in light of Christ and the New Testament. We’ve both managed to do that with dashing infants against rocks, and we extend the same to the Deuterocanon. If you chose to use skeptical materialist (atheist) approaches to our scriptures, that’s you’re prerogative.

    But don’t kid yourself that that’s not what you’re doing.

  • “your” prerogative, not “you’re”


  • Jon, Amen.

    At times, I think I’m in Hell.

    Seriously, all of us are poor, banished children of Eve mourning and weeping in this vail of tears. We hope and pray that after this, our exile, we may be shown the face of Jesus; and be made, by God’s grace and mercy, worthy of the promises of Christ.

    Of course, 24/7 we need to do the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and avoid the near occasion of sins. We need to repent of our sins, confess, do penance, amend our lives, and through good works glorify Almighty God. However, all of that is insufficient. We need God’s grace and mercy, which only He can dispense.

    That’s why I constantly say the above Fatima prayer, and recite many times, “Lord jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Even the moment I leave Church after Confession and penance.

  • Of course all sorts of practices are recounted in Scirpture. We know they aren’t condoned by the writers, however. But in the Apocrypha we find things mentioned in such a way that they seem to be actually condoned. That’s the issue. One can actually build a doctrine on it. That’s the problem. As far as supposed factual errors int eh O.T., they can and usually have, I think, been cleared up. But we have at least two outstanding factual errors in the Apocrapha that do not lend themselves to being resolved in some way. That’s the difference.

  • “daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, How blessed will be the one who repays you With the recompense with which you have repaid us. How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones Against the rock.”

    Please explain to me Jon how the psalmist in Psalm 137 above was not condoning the butchering of kids.

  • I dont’ think that’s what he was saying. I think he was voicing the heart-felt angst at the condition of Israel. He wanted vindication.
    The issue wtiht eh Apocrypha isn’t so much a sentiment or two, really. It’s the conclusion one can make after reviewing everything. In their expertise, many fathers rejected it because of this kind of an overall assessment. More broadly, the consensus is not there.

  • “I dont’ think that’s what he was saying. I think he was voicing the heart-felt angst at the condition of Israel. He wanted vindication.”

    I think he wanted Babylonian babies dead in revenge for what had no doubt been done to Jewish babies when Jerusalem fell to Babylon. There are a great many sentiments set forth in the Old Testament Jon, in books you view as completely canonical, that are quite repugnant to modern sensibilities. The argument that you make against the so-called Apocrypha could be made in spades against books that you view as divinely inspired.

  • Herem warfare is a doctrine, and it’s right there in the Torah. And the next Catholics I meet who cite the texts and use animal livers for exorcism, commit mass suicide or substitutes alms for repentance…will be the first. No such confused doctrines exist.

    The problem is that you have already decided the texts are not inspired, and hunt through them like a prosecutor seeking evidence to convict them of non-inspiration. Mirabile dictu, you determine that you have succeeded.

    Just like skeptical critics do and continue to do for the entire corpus of Scripture you (correctly) accept.

    But what if, in doing so, you missed something? Something like this:

    “For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves…

    12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
    because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
    he reproaches us for sins against the law,
    and accuses us of sins against our training.
    13 He professes to have knowledge of God,
    and calls himself a child of the Lord.
    14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
    15 the very sight of him is a burden to us,
    because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
    and his ways are strange.
    16 We are considered by him as something base,
    and he avoids our ways as unclean;
    he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
    and boasts that God is his father.
    17 Let us see if his words are true,
    and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
    18 for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him,
    and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
    19 Let us test him with insult and torture,
    that we may find out how gentle he is,
    and make trial of his forbearance.
    20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
    for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

  • Even if we were to put aside those portions dealing wiht harsh sentiments,e tc., we still have to face the fact that so many other issues exist in those books, as well as the circumstances surrounding them. It’s a group of wriitngs forwhich we have never had a real consensus. The early church seems ot have rejjected them, and many prominent representatives throughout the ancient church had problems with it. We still can’t address all of those things in a way that would satisfy us at htis point in time. If they have been continually called into quesiton, is it not safest to assume they are not inspired? Do they not read like extra-canonical works? Though they draw on the collective heritage and broadly echo the O. T., do they not stick out as different? I can see very well why many leaders in the church have either been against them or inconclusive regarding them.

  • “The early church seems ot have rejjected them, and many prominent representatives throughout the ancient church had problems with it.”

    The Church made the decision in 397 that they were canonical Jon, just as the Church wrote and decided the canon of the New Testament. Martin Luther, who I might add attempted unsuccessfully to cast out four books of the New Testament, and his colleagues in the Sixteenth Century, cannot alter the fact that for over a thousand years all Christians accepted these books as canonical.

  • Jon,
    Before I address your verses, I want to admit your challenges are not foreign to Catholics. We go through them too, either with Scripture or Doctrine. But, we approach these issues differently. We cast doubt upon ourselves first. We assume in the Church’s 2,000+ year history someone has raised the questions we’re asking. Our job is to find the answers. When you find it, which is a lot easier these days with the web, you will find a rational explanation.

    Challenges are natural. The danger is letting challenges turn into doubt, which is a suspension of the will to believe. There’s no openness there.
    “Ten thousand [challenges] do not equal one doubt.”
    – Cardinal John Henry Newman

    Take the position of St. Jerome. While he questioned the inclusion of certain books or passages, he submitted to the authority of the Church, which comes from Christ.

    Tobit 4:11 – A call to be charitable. Nothing wrong with charity.
    Tobit 12:9 – A reminder that charity builds virtue. All good habits build virtue. Charity is love. This verse is in “sync” with this
    “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 KJV)
    And this…
    “When you give, give generously and not with a stingy heart; for that, the LORD, your God, will bless you in all your works and undertakings. ” (Dt 15:10)
    Judith 1:5 – Addressed here.
    Baruch 6:2 — The 6th chapter is actually a separate piece of work called “The Epistle of Jeremiah.” It’s grouped with Baruch for a variety of reasons. Being separate text, it does not disprove the entire book.
    2 Maccabees 14:41-42 – I don’t see the passage encouraging or recommending suicide. (Does Hosea 1:2 have God recommending prostitution?) It reflects what Razis believed. Perhaps this footnote helps.

  • Martin Luther went too far. That was uncalled for. We know the 27 books that comprise the New Testament. We should never question that, since it was already known by wide consensus.
    While you make some valid points, the apocrypha remains a question in the minds of many. In terms of the big picture, we do not get a clear sense of a consensus regarding these books.
    The most outstanding thing for me is that it lends itself to false doctrine. The O. T. does not do so except when someone misunderstands and/or misapplies it.
    Your thoughts?

  • Kyle, you raise something important: the apocrypha does contain true and useful things. We find it echoing much of the heritage which was commonplace for jews. So naturally one would find these things re-echoed in the New Testament, also. So I’m not sure that’s enough to say these books are canonical. I’m inclined to think that whatever is true and good in the Apocprhya owes itself to the writers’ repertoire held in common by Jewry. And I don’t think the N. T. writers had any problem quoting non-canonical and non-inspired works from time to time. Think of how we might do that today. We might quote from a horrible writer with a really bad thesis just to build on some point of our own.

  • the apocrypha does contain true and useful things
    You said your references, the ones I addressed, were either not true or useful.

    Martin Luther went too far.
    While you make some valid points, the apocrypha remains a question in the minds of many.
    This is why Jesus, being a smart guy, established an institution with the authority to settle these questions. It’s called the Catholic Church.
    We can’t have Martin’s Christianity or Jon’s Christianity or Kyle’s Christianity. Scripture calls us to be of “one mind.” And whenever there are differences of opinion, we take to the Church and the Church settles it. The Church judged these books to be canonical, and it was settled until the Protestant revolution challenged many understood and popular ideas of Christianity and religion. It became necessary to formalize and reaffirm the canon decided hundreds of years before.

  • Yes, well, my argument was that the APocrypha contains good and usefull things as well as dross. If you can separte the gold from that it’s fine. But I don’t see it as inspired, as I said.
    Martin Lutehr had issues. He was personalizing Christianity, reading his anxiety adn experience back into the faith.
    But the matter of the canon is by no means clear-cut. There are common misconceptions about it and when you look into it you find it wsa really a messy affair. The Apocrhypha represents situations during the intertestamental period.
    As far as church organization goes, that’s incredibly complex, as well as the notions people have concerning ecclesiology. I find it’s ussually hard if not impossible to determine questions of that nature on the basis of church history. Church history is good for insights and impressions, but it doesn’t necessarily offer conclusive answers in this realm. It leaves us with fundamental questions unanswered, which is why the Protestants have generally tried to go back to origins. Althought the church has been around before the canon was decided, the canon remains something we can go back to, whereas the church can assume many different directions over time. Your thoughts?

  • Jon, I say this in all charity (my wife isn’t Catholic, so we had to learn how to discuss differences in order to keep our marriage healthy), if you are questioning Catholic doctrines at a deeper level or what the proper canon of the Bible is, this site may not be the best tool for the job.

    Granted, doctrinal discussions are certainly part of the menu here at TAC, but I would say that you’re at a level of skepticism of certain Catholic doctrines and sources thereof that might be served by other resources.

    I can recommend two immediately, Peter Kreeft (Calvinist-turned-Catholic, professor of philosophy, who my wife and I had the pleasure of attending one of his discussions about CS Lewis’ Surprised by Joy) and Dave Armstrong (a former Wesleyian who converted to Catholicism).

    Kreeft is often less snarky than Armstrong, and Kreeft has written a 30-part series for the Knights of Columbus which explains much of the Catholic faith (additionally, much from a general Christian perspective). Armstrong is, while engaging in traditional apologist methodology (ie, may be too combative for some), no less researched and I find rather thorough.

    Kreeft’s Luke E. Hart series (audio and PDF)

    Armstrong’s blog (Specifically a collection for Septaguint / Deuterocanonical books)

    One final note, which is an interesting facet of Old Testament history. The Hebrew text (Masoretic) which is used in most Protestant Bibles isn’t the “oldest” version (hence most original). The Septuagint (a Greek language version of the Old Testament) was a translation from an older version of an original Hebrew that is now lost to the ages. See the following excerpt and link for more information.


    Note, I doubt the author of the book referenced is Catholic, given his blog post here: http://www.timothymichaellaw.com/baptists-vs-catholics-a-religious-view-of-tonights-championship-game/. And the interviewer probably isn’t, given the university at which he is employed. So I don’t necessarily think that any claim of Catholic bias could be leveled against the source.

    The assertion that 27 books comprised the Old Testament and that this was widely accepted is not borne out by the historical evidence.

  • Mis-read:
    “The assertion that 27 books comprised the Old Testament and that this was widely accepted is not borne out by the historical evidence.”

    I should have proof-read better. You didn’t say Old, you said New…my apologies.

  • Well, I fail at com-boxing.

    The quote was:

    An alternative, sometimes older, form of the Hebrew text often lies behind the Greek. When the Reformers and their predecessors talked about returning to the original Hebrew (ad fontes!), and when modern Christians talk about studying the Hebrew because it is the “original text,” they are making several mistaken assumptions. The Hebrew Bible we now use is often not the oldest form of the Hebrew text, and sometimes the Septuagint provides the only access we have to that older form.

    Hopefully that’s it for the gross errors I’ve made posting.

  • my argument was that the APocrypha contains good and usefull things as well as dross
    We’re not talking about the good and useful things. We were discussing verses you had problems with. Are you saying they are good and useful things too?
    Dross is what atheists say of the entire Bible. Dross is a label, not an argument.
    There are common misconceptions about it and when you look into it you find it wsa really a messy affair.
    I realize there are common misconceptions about it. We’re here to dispel them.
    The Apocrhypha represents situations during the intertestamental period.
    Nearly every book of the Bible represents the period with which they were written. None of them are canonical?
    As far as church organization goes, that’s incredibly complex,
    Of course it’s complex. It can’t be anything as simple as Jesus, knowing he was going to leave earth, picked a man to lead his church built by the apostles. Can it? Just doesn’t work with preconceived ideas and biases.
    Church history is good for insights and impressions, but it doesn’t necessarily offer conclusive answers in this realm
    Church history does not give the Church its authority, but it does give it validity and authenticity. The reason the canon was decided in the 4th century is because of what’s happening here, people squabbling about what’s legit and what isn’t. A council was formed to finally answer the question, an answer which held for over a thousand years.

  • I wish you would not call the Catholic Church a branch of the church.

  • Agree, anzlyne. If one may compare Christianity imperfectly to a tree, then the Catholic Church is its trunk, Judiasm is its roots, and the various denominations that deviate from the trunk may be thought of, also imperfectly, as branches.

  • wow that is such a great graphic that I was curious and followed it back to http://www.conglomination.com

    just one of the unexpected perks of regular doses of TAC

  • Yes Kyle, exactly. Facinating, I’ve never seen anything like that before. Thanks for finding and sharing.

  • John,
    Researching the Apocrpha furhtr, I came across a site where this queston is raised. Dr. Bob Luginbill answers it, and his answer is very explanatory. The problems are several. I can see where the Apocrypha would remain inconclusive at best. You might want to see his response, since he raises some things which really can’t be ignored. I’m familiar with Peter Kreeft. I’ll check out what he said.

  • It seems Dr. Kreeft takes the position that the church’s role includes being able to decide the canon. According to Dr. Norman Geisler, it is the other way around. The church is more a product of Scripture, and the church merely discovers the canon. The Apocrypha, Dr. Geisler argues, was finally pronounced canonical at Trent in order to bulster certain doctrines like prayers for the dead and purgatory. It was a polemical stance that led to that pronouncement. Geisler points out that the church is the “child of the canon.” Given all of the circumstances surroudning the Apocrypha as well as its content, it never gained acceptance universally.

PopeWatch: Deliberate Mistranslation?

Saturday, December 7, AD 2013




Joe at Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam , who has been translating Evangelii Gaudium into English from the original Spanish, believes that the official Vatican translation is so bad that it cannot be accidental.  Here is a comment that he made on Father Z’s blog:



I have been following, and for the benefit of my monolingual friends, translating homilies  and talks by then-Cdl. Bergoglio for at least the last five years and posted these translations on my blog. I also, for professional reasons, wind up translating mountains of reports, analyses, etc. between Latin American and Anglosphere clients.

Charity forbids me from accurately expressing exactly how abysmal the Official Vatican English translation AND ONLY the English translation happens to be. (This, of course, is nothing new.) I, personally, do not find it credible to say such a travesty of a translation is the result of simple carelessness, or ineptitude. To me – and this is only my opinion – in comparing both the English to the (presumably original) Spanish and back again, it seems decidedly deliberate.

In fact, I am so incensed by this, that I have taken the liberty to begin retranslating Evangelii Gaudium on my blog. (It’s up there now at http://jmgarciaiii.blogspot.com for anyone who’d like to read it, with the caveat it’s in very much a work-in-progress.)

When someone who is native-level fluent in both languages (as I am) contrasts the two versions, the differences are staggering. The Holy Father extols entrepreneurship, the increase of goods, demands that groups within the Church actually help the poor instead of talking or lobbying, decries the accumulation of national debt. The list goes on and on.

Insofar as I can tell, there are many on “the right” who are using Evangelii Gaudium to beat up on Francis, just like many on “the left” who are using Evangelii Gaudium to beat up on “the right.” But none of this is supported by an accurate translation.

When I see progressive politicians quoting the (mistranslated) Holy Father, something tells me that this is something which the more cynical among us might say is by design.

Sancte Ignatius, ora pro nobis!

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36 Responses to PopeWatch: Deliberate Mistranslation?

  • I praise the hard work done by Joe at Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, but anyone who thinks that the pope extolled the virtues of libertarian economics will be very much disappointed.

    The Good News of Jesus Christ is proclaimed (or not) in every interaction with other people. Merely shrugging one’s shoulders at the plight of the homeless on the theory that a rising stock market will (eventually) mean greater employment opportunities is hard-hearted. The pope decries “the denial of the primacy of the human person,” the “fetishism of money and the dictatorship of an economy lacking a [human] face and a truly human purpose.”

    From Joe’s translation of section 54:
    “Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that egotistical ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without warning, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion for others, [of] weeping at the anguish of others, and [we end up] being disinterested in helping care for them, as though all this were an alien responsibility which does not concern us.”

    There is more (obviously), but that hits at the heart of the pope’s concern with certain economic systems.

  • “Merely shrugging one’s shoulders at the plight of the homeless on the theory that a rising stock market will (eventually) mean greater employment opportunities is hard-hearted.”

    Perhaps, but expecting the government to do anything productive about it is foolish, almost as foolish as the search for an alternative economic system to capitalism that does not end in mass poverty, bloodshed and a sea of human tears.

    Provision must be made for the relief of the poor, but the days of huge Welfare States are coming to a rapid end. If the Pope must ponder economic issues, perhaps he could ponder that and come up with ideas as to nongovernmental means to meet the needs of the poor. Of course, that is not the responsibility of the Pope, which is rather the point.

  • Merely shrugging one’s shoulders at the plight of the homeless on the theory that a rising stock market will (eventually) mean greater employment opportunities is hard-hearted.

    Does anyone do this?

    1. The homeless are a tiny minority (perhaps 0.25% of the population, if you credit the Urban Institute). It is a problem sufficiently small that philanthropic efforts are adequate to ameliorate it.

    2. Notable about the homeless is their personal dysfunction, which is not a problem derived from economic systems nor one readily addressed by public policy. Even erecting and maintaining a well functioning adjudicatory procedure to differentiate the disabled from the rest of us has proved difficult. (I recently saw a figure that contended a double-digit share of the ‘disabled’ were awarded benefits for ‘mood disorders’, something not done 25 years ago).

  • Art,
    You are spot on as usual.
    I suppose some folks do the shrugging shoulders thing, but fairly few. The number of Ayn Rand devotees out there who dismiss the morality of charity is larger than zero, but so few that one can live a full life intersecting with numerous social circles and never encounter a single one. Instead, while conservatives out-contribute liberals in time, talent and treasure by every measure, the left focuses instead on cheap moral preening and making cartoons of those who disagree with them. They’d rather masturbate their turgid egos than think carefully or actually make a true sacrifice.

  • he left focuses instead on cheap moral preening and making cartoons of those who disagree with them

    Indeed, though this is not limited to the left, as many good Catholic is guilty of this as well. For example, the other Dave Ramsey wrote a list of 20 things the rich do every day that the poor don’t. Naturally the response to this was to treat Ramsey as some Scrooge-like character who hates the poor. Now you can take a look at this list and the worst thing that Ramsey can be accused of is perhaps being insensitive to the causes behind the disparity. But Ramsey’s main point is that poor folks do not engage in the sort of behavior that tends to lead them out of poverty, and many of these are behaviors that can be adapted by them.

    But that doesn’t matter, because Ramsey committed the unpardonable sin of implying that poor people are at least somewhat responsible for their poverty, and if you’re a good Catholic you evidently have to think all poor people came by their poverty through no fault of their own, and the only thing we can really do for them is to a) spout a lot of compassionate words about them, and b) make the government give them money.

    One Catholic blogger responded with a list of his own, citing 20 statistics that demonstrate how difficult it is to be poor. The list was largely true on its own merits, but I couldn’t help but think that only one of these lists might actually help a poor person abandon poverty, and it wasn’t the list from the really concerned Catholic blogger. There’s a lot of this moral preening, and much of it is based on a genuine concern for the poor. But I can’t help but think the moral preening is a less than effective way of actually helping the poor.

  • Sometimes it may be enough to point out evils of an existing system even if one does not have the complete solution for a better one. In other words, point out the failings of the status quo and state the principles that Christians must uphold.

    In Evangelii Gaudium (202), for example, the pope calls for “attacking the structural causes of inequality.” I cannot help but notice that the pope’s words here echo what the USCCB has said for years (don’t roll your eyes at me just yet) and what Catholic bishops all around the world are saying. Here is Pope Benedict from earlier this year in ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ saying things remarkably similar to Francis (no surprise):

    “In order to emerge from the present financial and economic crisis – which has engendered ever greater inequalities – we need people, groups and institutions which will promote life by fostering human creativity, in order to draw from the crisis itself an opportunity for discernment and for a new economic model. The predominant model of recent decades called for seeking maximum profit and consumption, on the basis of an individualistic and selfish mindset, aimed at considering individuals solely in terms of their ability to meet the demands of competitiveness.”

    As far as offering alternatives and solutions, B16 said, “Concretely, in economic activity, peacemakers are those who establish bonds of fairness and reciprocity with their colleagues, workers, clients and consumers. They engage in economic activity for the sake of the common good* and they experience this commitment as something transcending their self-interest, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus they work not only for themselves, but also to ensure for others a future and a dignified employment.”

    *(Joe at Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam struggled over the translation from the Spanish of ‘common good’ in Evangelii Gaudium. I notice that B16’s use of the term here.)

    Just this week, the bishops of Zimbabwe, who minister to people suffering severe poverty exceeding 0.25% of the population, quote B16 and plead for fairness in the nation’s somewhat improving economy:

    Zimbabwe seems rich in natural resources ready for extraction, and the bishops want the proceeds to go to the many, not the few. (I picked Zimbabwe only because it is fresh in my mind. I suspect I could find many additional examples if challenged.)

    What I am saying, I suppose, is that Catholic bishops of all backgrounds and upbringings and political stripes are all seem speaking very consistently with one another. So, I recommend giving up fighting them and attempt to accommodate.

  • “Just this week, the bishops of Zimbabwe, who minister to people suffering severe poverty exceeding 0.25% of the population, quote B16 and plead for fairness in the nation’s somewhat improving economy:

    Zimbabwe seems rich in natural resources ready for extraction, and the bishops want the proceeds to go to the many, not the few. (I picked Zimbabwe only because it is fresh in my mind. I suspect I could find many additional examples if challenged.)”

    Of course the problem with Zimbabwe is that it is governed by a mad tyrant, Robert Mugabe. The type of “spread the wealth” proposal of the Bishops would do nothing to address that central problem and would only retard the development of those resources. Really, when Bishops speak economic rubbish they need to be called on it. They are not children and if they are going to make economic proposals they need to be treated like anyone else making such a proposal and not treated with kid gloves because of their offices.

  • I’ve just been to the http://jmgarciaiii.blogspot.com/ website, and I find Joe’s alterations to be very moving and interesting, especially those where the difference is subtle. I have no ability with Spanish (and am sometimes challenged by English), and so I appreciate a translation that is truer to the Spanish. I think it is better to stretch the English reader with a translation that does not overuse English idioms.

    Also, it should be pointed out that Spanish is Pope Francis’ native language, and so it is very important when understanding his writings to be sure that the translations are as close as possible.

    Just look at these two quotes:

    Was: Confession of faith and commitment to society [178-179]
    Now: Confession of faith and social compact [178-179]

    This difference, while equivalent, is historically important because Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of the ‘social compact’ has made a greater impact in Latin than Anglo society.

    Was: The kingdom and its challenge [180-181]
    Now: The kingdom which makes demands of us [180-181]
    Arguably should be: The kingdom has claims on us [180-181]

    Note the passivity of the Vatican English translation: the “us” in the two Spanish versions is only implied in the English. I can see what Joe is complaining about, even putting aside the left-wing / right-wing stuff.

    My only criticism of Joe is that he should be brave and be as literal as possible. Don’t pull punches. It can only increase the English-speaker’s understanding of Spanish.

  • Joe’s “translation” is pure BS. He is the one who is doing mistranslation, showing he does not know the idioms and how they are used in Argentina. For example, he tries to remove “trickle down economics” when it is exactly what the Pope is talking about. Here, from 2005, you can see:


    That’s right, derrame is used for “trickle down economics” in Argentina. When Joe doesn’t know this, or if he knows and tries to hide it, this is indication that HE is the one mistranslating the Pope.

    So many people who have no business doing “translations.” Joe proved himself to be one.

  • Your input would be so much more compelling “BS” if you were not hiding behind the troll shield of anonymity. If you wish to be taken seriously in this discussion, reveal your name and your credentials in regard to translations.

  • Ah, now you can’t deal with the problem of the translation (and ignore the evidence), you just make an attack on the person instead of the argument.

    Here, you can read someone who actually knows Spanish and his problems with “spillover” as a translation.


  • Really, when Bishops speak economic rubbish they need to be called on it. They are not children and if they are going to make economic proposals they need to be treated like anyone else making such a proposal and not treated with kid gloves because of their offices.
    Donald, I am not adverse to criticizing the bishops for bad recommendations. Somewhere along the way, though, we all need to explicitly agree or disagree with them about the evils they point out. In the case of Evangelii Gaudium, Francis points out that a gain the stock market is an insufficient solution to homelessness. Not too controversial of statement, but the response among conservatives has been quite defensive. Francis says that economic decisions by investors, employers and consumers have consequences (again, not too controversial). On the personal level, there is a moral dimension he warns us about: “If we turn a deaf ear to this plea, when we are God’s instruments for hearing the poor we stand outside the Father’s will and his undertaking.” (187; Joe’s translation)
    “Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God.” (57)
    Francis says indifference to the poor is evil. (Not too controversial.) Use of a nation’s limited resources to benefit the powerful immediately accompanied by an expectation that the powerless will benefit eventually is insufficient. Francis says we must make sure that the powerless benefit eventually. And if the poor do not benefit before they are forced to live in squalor, then we are not doing enough. The point of these sections of Evangelii Gaudium is to shake people from misplaced confidence; he wants assurances.
    As I’ve pointed out above, B16’s ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ is quite, quite similar: “A new model of development is needed, as well as a new approach to the economy. … An upright conduct that acknowledges the primacy of the spiritual and the call to work for the common good. Otherwise they lose their real value, and end up becoming new idols.”
    Yes, point out the rubbish of bishops, but that only gets us so far.

  • Please. Sam Rocha used to blog over at Vox Nova and is a leftist on economic matters, hardly a reliable source. From your response I can only assume that you are hunting around the internet and have no skill in translation yourself. Hint: if you wish to be taken seriously in a factual debate do not begin by calling yourself “BS”, not reveal your own credentials, and engage in derogation in your initial comment.

  • “In the case of Evangelii Gaudium, Francis points out that a gain the stock market is an insufficient solution to homelessness.”
    He says much more than that in EG which is rather the problem. It is a Pope’s job, partly, to point out the problems of the poor; it is not the role of the Pope to sound in portions of EG as if he is just back from participating in an Occupy Wall Street rally.

    “Francis says that economic decisions by investors, employers and consumers have consequences”

    Yep, just like every statement uttered and written by a Pope has consequences, something Pope Francis, thus far, seems blithely indifferent to.

    “Francis says indifference to the poor is evil.”
    Yep, it sure is, almost as much as the statist policies that trap the poor in stagnant economies that I suspect the Pope, in his seeming economic ignorance, innocently would endorse.

    “Use of a nation’s limited resources to benefit the powerful immediately accompanied by an expectation that the powerless will benefit eventually is insufficient.”

    Which is precisely what happens like clockwork when government regulation of the economy increases. Insiders always benefit from government expansion and control, as we see time and again with the Obama administration.

    “And if the poor do not benefit before they are forced to live in squalor, then we are not doing enough.”

    Please. The natural state of man is dire poverty. It is only with the rise of largely unregulated markets, and the technological innovations that they help foster, that a few societies have managed to have most of their people lifted out of this natural state of poverty.

    “A new model of development is needed, as well as a new approach to the economy. … An upright conduct that acknowledges the primacy of the spiritual and the call to work for the common good. Otherwise they lose their real value, and end up becoming new idols.”

    You are correct that fuzzy thinking on the economy at the Vatican did not originate with Pope Francis, something I pointed out during the reign of Pope Benedict:


  • The Holy Father is correct that free markets are not a complete solution to the problems of poverty. The problem is that no one but a small handful of Ayn Rand devotees believes that they are. To the extent that the Holy Father is suggesting that free markets are a cause of poverty, he is simply mistaken and very badly so.

  • Which is precisely what happens like clockwork when government regulation of the economy increases.
    “Like clockwork”? Really, Donald? ‘Like clockwork’ well-intentioned efforts by regulators to preserve and share a nation’s resources will backfire and will help only insiders?
    I see from The Motley Monk fine post that we are moving on in a separate thread to the subject of health care. So, I will attempt to wrap up here.
    Pope Francis and Pope Benedict (and bishops from America to Zimbabwe) want us to live the gospel and proclaim the gospel in our daily lives. The fact that bishops are not competent economists is not an invitation to exempt economic decisions from this exhortation. As consumers, investors and employers we interact with others through the money we spend and the decisions we make (including, one supposes, a decision to withhold money). We are free to oppose strong regulation of the economy for our own good, but the ‘common good’ (i.e., the good of all who are affected directly and indirectly) must be in our thoughts. Francis says we must not be ‘indifferent’ to this.

    Mike Petrik — I don’t think Francis is saying that, especially in section 203 of Joe’s translation:
    “Comfortable indifference in the face of such matters empties our lives and our words of all meaning. The vocation of entrepreneur is a noble charge, provided it allows a broader understanding [literally, “sense”] of life; this will enable [the entrepreneur] to truly to serve the good of all by multiplying of, and increasing the access to, all the goods of this world.”

  • I think Mr BS should post his own translation

  • Sometimes it may be enough to point out evils of an existing system even if one does not have the complete solution for a better one. In other words, point out the failings of the status quo and state the principles that Christians must uphold.

    Every time I see something like this all I can hear is:

    “Catholics discover that man is fallen and sinful. Demand government does something about it!”

    But that doesn’t matter, because Ramsey committed the unpardonable sin of implying that poor people are at least somewhat responsible for their poverty, and if you’re a good Catholic you evidently have to think all poor people came by their poverty through no fault of their own

    Well said, Paul. I’ve been wondering when Sloth was removed from the deadly sins list. This isn’t to say that there’s no poor people who are in the rough spot they are through no fault of their own, it just requires prudence on our part to find out those who are and those who, well… http://ace.mu.nu/archives/345439.php

  • Reading Francis through Benedict:
    “There is a need to renounce that false peace promised by the idols [a term used by Francis to include ‘fetishism of money’] of this world along with the dangers which accompany it, that false peace which dulls consciences, which leads to self-absorption, to a withered existence lived in indifference [a recurring theme of Evangelii Gaudium] . The pedagogy of peace, on the other hand, implies activity, compassion, solidarity, courage and perseverance.” ~Pope Benedict’s ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’
    Returning to Mike Petrik’s comment, I suspect that Francis is not suggesting that free markets are a cause of poverty. Rather, he says that some have misplaced confidence in the capability of free markets to adequately address poverty and some are indifferent to the capability of free markets to adequately address poverty.
    (I am not at all dismissive of your complaint that only ‘handful of Ayn Rand devotees’ are implicated here. On numerous, numerous, frustratingly numerous occasions throughout Evangelii Gaudium and his public interviews and sermons I find myself wondering who Francis thinks is need of correction. Who in the Catholic Church is obsessing over the abhorrent practice of abortion? Which priests make the confessional like a torture chamber? Which ‘parish priest speaks about temperance ten times but only mentions charity or justice two or three times’? More and more I think these are strawmen that I wish he would knock down rather than affirm.)
    You see from Pope Benedict’s words and from section 190 of Francis’ exhortation that well-ordered compassionate activity is the proper Christian response to indifference and misplaced confidence.

  • ““Like clockwork”? Really, Donald? ‘Like clockwork’ well-intentioned efforts by regulators to preserve and share a nation’s resources will backfire and will help only insiders?”

    Your assumption of “well-intentioned efforts” is largely unwarranted by the historical facts spambot. Most legislation in the economic sphere involves winners and losers. For example, efforts to raise the minimum wage are usually spear-headed by unions whose members do not make the minimum wage. Why do they do this? Out of the goodness of their hearts? Not at all. Many unions peg their rates to the minimum wage. It is common also in Union contracts to require reopening of wage negotiations following an increase in the minimum wage. Finally, every increase in the minimum wage narrows the competitive advantage that non-unionized businesses enjoy over unionized businesses. This of course comes at the expense of people with marginal skills who are priced out of the work force by an increase in the minimum wage since money does not magically appear for businesses to pay for the government mandated raise in pay, however such individuals are not dues paying union members and their misfortune does not concern the people who run the unions. This is a fairly typical example of people pushing “feel good” economic legislation with ulterior motives. As people act in the market place to maximize their profit, so do people and groups do the same regarding legislation that seeks to regulate the market place. This is not rocket science, and example after example around the globe could be cited, but this basic fact of economic regulation apparently escapes the notice of Bishops and other well-intentioned but economically clueless individuals. This is not an argument against all regulation of markets, but rather a call for strict scrutiny of such regulations as “cui bono” is the important question that always must be asked and answered.

  • If the pope is suggesting the government can help the poor, well he is mistaken. Consider the concept of subsidiarity. Consider the failure of communal government, or communism.
    If on the other hand, we consider Ayn Rand or libertarian approaches to the problem, these are also incomplete. They offer an improved outcome but still suffer. We know the answer, it is free markets governed with an authority that is informed by the Catholic Church.
    Is the media twisting the words of our holy father. Of course! Better translations are needed and welcome. Thanks Joe!

  • Ah, now you can’t deal with the problem of the translation (and ignore the evidence), you just make an attack on the person instead of the argument.

    Your “argument” was an assertion– that is, it depended entirely on your authority and judgement that the “sounds like” on a translation wiki was a better authority than the multiple other translations linked above, and others in process.

    The accusation is especially funny since you opened up by accusing those you disagree with of having no business doing a translation, even when they have obviously looked at the other translations enough to know the English one is…different.

  • We know the answer, it is free markets governed with an authority that is informed by the Catholic Church.
    That works for me. Pope Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate at 32 (emphasis in original) said much the same thing:
    “The significant new elements in the picture of the development of peoples today in many cases demand new solutions. …
    “The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner, and that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone. All things considered, this is also required by “economic logic”. Through the systemic increase of social inequality, both within a single country and between the populations of different countries (i.e. the massive increase in relative poverty), not only does social cohesion suffer, thereby placing democracy at risk, but so too does the economy.”
    He picked up the goal of access to steady employment for everyone again in ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ section 4:
    “If this ambitious goal is to be realized, one prior condition is a fresh outlook on work, based on ethical principles and spiritual values that reinforce the notion of work as a fundamental good for the individual, for the family and for society. ”
    Pope Francis echoes this call in Evangelii Gaudium sections 192 and 204.
    Free markets governed with an authority that is informed by the Catholic Church is a multipart exercise, as we have discussed above, include:
    – identify shortcomings of the existing system
    – establish the goals of a well-ordered economic system
    – state the principles by which Christians should participate in the economic system
    – proclaim the Good News in our interactions with others.

  • What authority did God ever grant the Church to govern free markets?

  • Read it again, Donald: free markets governed with an authority that is informed by the Catholic Church. Not ‘governed by’ the Church.

  • I took out the weasel word “informed” Spambot. Once again, where does God grant the Church the authority to the Church to govern free markets?

  • You can’t rip off your customers by claiming ‘free market! free market!’ You can’t invest in Planned Parenthood stock (if they offered such a thing) by claiming that it gives a better rate of return than other investments. Those are principles informed by the Church. The Church did not ‘govern’ your investments, they ‘informed’ your investment decisions.

  • Now you are hedging Spambot. The Church saying thou shalt not steal is a moral teaching. Its truth is absolute no matter what a government does or does not do, for example say in regard to nationalizing a business, theft on a grand scale. However that teaching does not grant the authority to the Church to bind and to loose in regard to economic matters.

    The mischief of the economic portions of Evangelii Gaudium is that the Pope seems to be giving the blessing of the Church to state intervention in economies and thus will give aid and comfort to every two bit politician who wishes to expand his power by implanting such interventions, always with the best interests of the people at heart, of course. ObamaCare is a prime example of such a disaster, with our own Bishops in this country having shilled for many years in favor of such intervention. That it could turn around and bite them never seemed to occur to them, a prime example of the danger of ecclesiastics meddling in areas where they manifestly have no knowledge or expertise.

  • Peace.
    What I mean by ‘govern’ is taking away or restricting one’s freedom. (Synonyms: rule, preside over, reign over, control, be in charge of, command.) What I mean by ‘informed by’ is allowing one to choose freely between good moral decisions and bad moral decisions. The recommendations by the popes that I have quoted are information not governance. The hope is that good information (based on Christian principles) leads to good governance (one that is just and promotes peace, hence ‘blessed are the peacemakers’).

  • Something Donald wrote is on the mark: “Please. The natural state of man is dire poverty. It is only with the rise of largely unregulated markets, and the technological innovations that they help foster, that a few societies have managed to have most of their people lifted out of this natural state of poverty.”

    As Robert Heinlein wrote in the “Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” a part of his novel “Time Enough for Love:”

    “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded–here and there, now and then–are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as ‘bad luck.'”

    I would make only one change to this statement: “Advances … are the work of an extremely small minority…and almost always opposed by all left-thinking people.”

    There are many left-thinking people in the Roman Catholic Church, extending all the way to the Pontificate itself.

  • At Fatima Our Lady explained that the fundamental problem with the world is sin and the fundamental solution is the conversion of sinners (not just the conversion of Russia, as some have thought).

    If Catholics were more successful converting sinners (Our Lady said through prayer and sacrifices of reparation) then people in general would be more concerned about the poor and more personally involved in helping the poor.

    The American form of government and the original American Christian culture (as pointed out by DeTocqueville) was responsible for making America so successful. But it can’t work in an atheist culture, as we are becoming. An atheist government doesn’t care about the poor except as political tools. Complaining won’t help. Only transformation — e.g., the new evangelization — will work.

    Jesus came to convert the world, not set up a compassionate government for the world. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all else will be given to you.”

  • fatherz’s comments are helpful:
    ‘People in business have to act morally and responsibly, with an eye on their neighbor, and not just sit back and say that “A free market will eventually help all those poor people all by itself“, thus exonerat[ing] them of any personal obligation to do their part.’
    ‘So, if I understand the Holy Father correctly, I entirely agree with that first part of EG 54, so long as it is properly translated.’
    and much more:

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  • You can’t invest in Planned Parenthood stock (if they offered such a thing) by claiming that it gives a better rate of return than other investments.

    You don’t get to claim the problem you’re concerned about, Spambot, is so widespread that the Church must devote considerable attention to it if the only example you can point to is your own invention, one so absurd that you yourself admit such a thing isn’t actually offered.

    When you realize you’re in one, stop digging.
    –First Rule of Holes

  • You can’t invest in Planned Parenthood stock (if they offered such a thing) by claiming that it gives a better rate of return than other investments.

    You don’t get to claim the problem you’re concerned about, Spambot, is so widespread that the Church must devote considerable attention to it if the only example you can point to is your own invention, one so absurd that you yourself admit such a thing isn’t actually offered.

    When you realize you’re in one, stop digging.
    –First Rule of Holes

PopeWatch: 138

Friday, December 6, AD 2013



PopeWatch recalls hearing a Methodist sermon that went on for an endless hour.  Most priests tend to limit their sermons to 15-20 minutes, although PopeWatch believes that many of those sermons are too long.  PopeWatch therefore was cheered by paragraph 138 of Evangelii Gaudium:


138. The homily cannot be a form of entertainment like those presented by the media, yet it does need to give life and meaning to the celebration. It is a distinctive genre, since it is preaching which is situated within the framework of a liturgical celebration; hence it should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture. A preacher may be able to hold the attention of his listeners for a whole hour, but in this case his words become more important than the celebration of faith. If the homily goes on too long, it will affect two characteristic elements of the liturgical celebration: its balance and its rhythm. When preaching takes place within the context of the liturgy, it is part of the offering made to the Father and a mediation of the grace which Christ pours out during the celebration. This context demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist. This means that the words of the preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister, will be the centre of attention.

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2 Responses to PopeWatch: 138

  • Implicit in this is the idea that there are occasions in which a priest should be giving lectures, and that the laity should be attending non-liturgical Catholic functions. It’s amazing how shallowly we live our Catholic lives.

  • Pimky

    Rosary, sermon and benediction was a common evening devotion in both France and Scotland, until displaced by evening mass.

PopeWatch: Obama and Limbaugh

Thursday, December 5, AD 2013



Well, what do you know.  The most anti-Catholic President in our nation’s history is suddenly quoting popes.

During a Wednesday speech on income equality, Obama remarked, “Across the developed world, inequality has increased. Some of you may have seen just last week, the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length.”

He went on to quote a line from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” asking, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Obama called the growing income gap the “defining challenge of our time,” along with the increasing difficulty of upward economic mobility, AP reported.

That is truly hilarious when one considers that Obama has been President now for almost half a decade and that his policies have succeeded only in exacerbating income inequality with his truly wretched stewardship of the economy.  Rush Limbaugh who, unsurprisingly, has been highly critical of the economic portions of Evangelii Gaudium, recognizes that the Pope’s popularity with the port side of our political spectrum is only fleeting because of the Pope’s position on abortion, the holy of holies for the Left:

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17 Responses to PopeWatch: Obama and Limbaugh

  • Did the writer of this article read The Popes letter? Pope Francis is not in agreement with the left on their anti capitalism views. His words were anti CONSUMERISM, greed and envy.

    He never once uses the word Capitalism. Please, go back and re-read his actual words.

  • Everything Obama spews out is counter-factual.

    If Obama was concerned about income inequality, he would confront the income inequality between Washington, DC and the United States of America. From 2006 to 2012, DC median household income (MHI) skyrocketed 23%, while America’s MHI crash-dived 7%.

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  • So much social justice . . . so little charity.

    In NJ, 50,000 sign up for on-line gambling and 741 sign up for ObamaCare.

    Obama says, “We’re not going back . . . “ to that horrid time when 87% of Americans were happy with their health insurance.

  • I read the item by Adam Shaw on FoxNews. I thought it a bit…harsh, but also somewhat understandable. Most Catholics (I know anyway) do NOT get their news about this or that Church teaching from the Catechism, or from a Catholic Newspaper such as the NC Register (or even the NC Reporter), or Catholic blogs, or websites such as The American Catholic. Or even from the local Diocesan website. Assuming they even wanted to read Evangelii Gaudium themselves (assuming of course it occurred to them to actually read it for themselves), they wouldn’t know where to look. They get their news of things Catholic from CCN, NBC, NY Times, Time magazine, Fox News, Limbaugh, whatever. I suspect Mr. Shaw didn’t read EG, until after his mind had been made up for him about what the Pope said (tried to say?) by the secular news media.

    If all I had heard about the latest Apostolic Exhortation (I wonder how many of the Catholics I know understand the different between an AE and an Encyclical–heck, I am not sure I am clear on it) was what Limbaugh had said, I think I might have just thrown in the towel and said, “No more. I will no longer participate in an organization (the Church) that does not care about my children’s future and in fact, actively promotes the destruction of it.”

    Perhaps it is time for the Pope to abandon the “wide ranging” documents and interviews that can be massaged into the latest secular-news-media message, in favor of short, clear, precise twitter feeds and FB posts, although I hear the young people are abandoning FB since it is no longer a “cool” place. Too many middle aged moms posting pictures of soccer games, dinner recipes, and Grump Cat memes.

  • I will confess that I didn’t read the Pope’s Exhortation, and I’m trying really hard to ignore the secular media. I get the tidbits from here & other Catholic blogs & commentators who I know are faithful, practicing Catholics. And I haven’t read it because I am an overly busy homeschooling mom of 3. But, I want to ask a question. Are we even called to be “equal”? I was thinking about this last night for some reason. God made us each as completely unique individuals, each with our own strengths & talents. I don’t see how we could possibly be called to be “equal.” My definition of equal may be different than someone else’s definition, right? None of Jesus’ parables talk about Him giving the same things to anyone. He talked about one guy getting 10 talents, one guy 5, and one guy 1. That’s not equal. He talked about some people working all day long & some people working for an hour, and they got the same pay. In my mind, that’s not equal. All my life, I’ve been taught, and I am training my children, to be happy for those who have, and pray for & help those who have not. It seems like the left/progressives goes out of their way to find leaders, even if they hate them in principle, to agree with their messed up ideas on how other people should live… because as we all know, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

  • What I don’t understand is why the Pope and his aides don’t realize and anticipate the problems his statements cause.. Intended or not, if you know anti Catholics like Obama and the liberals who have recently become fans of the Pope are waiting to USE you for their benefit and turn your words around to prove their point, you might be more clear about what you are meaning. Communication 101–right ??

  • From what I can tell thus far Dan, the Pope seems fairly unconcerned about how his writings and comments are interpreted. I think that is the best case analysis.

  • Liberals want to feed the poor, but they don’t want to make them work. They want to hand out money, but they don’t want to make sure it isn’t used fraudulently. Up the minimum wage irrespective of one’s qualifications or work requirements. Punish the rich with higher taxes they didn’t earn it all by themselves. Let anyone and everyone into the county it will all work out. Encourage women to be sex machines then when the free contraception doesn’t solve all problems give them free abortions. There is no responsibility for anyone’s actions and no respect for others property or accomplishments because it is up for grabs.

  • I’ve read about 1/3 of Papa’s Exhortation between my vocational duties as wife and mother and honestly – respectfully, I disagree with his economical stance. I spoke with this yesterday with my husband knowing that it wouldn’t be long before the exhortation became a weapon of the left’s. I don’t’ agree that it is just about Consumerism… he was clear in paragraph 54 that he believes Capitalism is wrong: 54.
    In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

    However, if what Phillip is saying from the Breibart report that there is a translation error, I will be the happiest free-market American Catholic around – I sure hope they fix this soon. If not, this too shall pass under God’s protective guidance.

  • I just wish people would speak and write and teach plainly! I read the document and as a cradle Catholic I read between the lines. I too feel that he was speaking in reference to the greed and avarice of making money a false idol. However “if you are not Catholic” or a liberal Catholic there is enough gaps to really confuse those who don’t read the Bible, or know the Catechism, or the Corporal Works of Mercy, or the seven sins, or the Ten Commandments, or the teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals. Double speak leads to confusion. Diablo, Dante, Diabolical. The “irrational” mind, will “always” find a way to “rationalize” your personal self. “I feel so much better when I think I am not sinning or not as bad as that other guy”. Especially if you really don’t know the teachings of your faith and you choose to pick and choose your sources. Wah Lah! When I made money, I gave so much away without any fanfare. Now I am experiencing the other side of the tracks again I still understand my responsibility to the Lord and his people. I think that is what the Holy Father is talking about. Of course, dementia could be setting in and I am all wrong.

  • I must admit that I don’t read between the lines of most articles, most especially ones that hold such importance for the fear that I would be putting too much of my own ideas into somebody else’s writings and mis-construe the intention of the letter. I think that can become dangerous and cause miscommunication which leads to disaster. However, with that said, I agree that much of what was written on greed would be fixed, and so would most of our economic problems if all persons followed the example of Christ in charity of all kinds. As I read his exhortation I kept thinking of The Rich Man and Lazarus. The problem with the rich man wasn’t that he had money rather it was that he ignored the plight of Lazarus, the beggar. He did nothing to ease his medical problems or hunger. The rich man went to Hades because of his lack of charity, which was a spiritual issue, and would not have made a bit of difference if he was forced to give to the beggar. Trickling down our money to the poor should be a choice not a forced issue. God gave us our freedom to love Him – we show our love for Him by feeding, clothing, caring for His children. To do otherwise is evil. Simply said, to be forced to give takes our opportunity to love Him away. In equality, God did not make us equal. He gave specific talents of different kinds to His children so that together, we can help one another. Helping needs to come from our heart not the sword or government taxes. On this site alone I see the beautiful, philosophical writing of great Christians alongside those like me, who wish they could communicate better, but writes from the heart as best as possible. I believe being able to think and write clearly stems from first, a gift of wisdom then built upon by loads of studying and education.

    On a personal note: I know for my family, we went from living comfortably as middle-class American citizens to not even being able to buy the food we need to live week to week, and our charitable giving went down to feed our children and make the mortgage under this current administration. Our freedom to give has been taken away by higher taxes. We live in a modest home, with one car that has over 209,000 miles on it and is a gas guzzler. Our children do not have cell phones or decent clothes and our fence fell down last year. We are fixing it 10 boards at a time as money becomes more available. Trickle-down economics only hurts citizens – that has been proven across America, I know I’m not the only one suffering.

  • “Trickle-down economics only hurts citizens – that has been proven across America, I know I’m not the only one suffering.”
    I think this is a good example of part of the problem–lack of a common definitions to economic terms, or at least the terms we use in everyday speech. To my way of thinking, pretty much every economic decision I make that requires money (not all economic decisions require money) is part of “trickle-down economics”–from the groceries I buy, the swim lessons, USTA tennis league fees, gasoline, the home-school curriculum I purchase, the Christmas presents, the tree and lawn services. And yes, I even gave to the my sons’ private school fund a donation (not tax deductible, although I get no direct benefit from it) to cover the teacher’s Christmas Bonus.

    I do not see how my spending my money on this or that thing I want (or need) is a bad thing. (If it were porn, yeah, that’d be a bad thing.) Yes, I suppose, instead of paying my son’s swim coach to teach him to swim, I could just give her the money as a “charity” and allow my son to rot in front of the television, but why not require her to work for 30 minutes in order to get my money? I could just give the school my sons attend part time money and teach them science myself, but why not pay them to do a service for me I’d rather not do? To me, that is all “trickle down.”

  • Just as one must avoid the same mistake when interpreting Sacred Scripture:

    “take a TEXT out of CONTEXT and you get a PRETEXT”

    Rush and others have taken Pope Francis’ words out of context


  • People will quote Christ when it suits them and they will quote the Pope when it suits them.
    I’m getting a little tired of all the talk about theory…. would like a little less theory and a little more response to events. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
    I ask “How can it be that it is not news (what happened down Argentina way) and neither Obama nor the Pope nor Charlie Rose nor Bill O’Reilly have anything to say.
    Obama uses this opportunity to make it seem that he and the pope have the same theoretical priorities. Another quick movement of the walnut shell. We need to keep our eyes on thinking about the dignity of man, rich or poor.

Down Argentine Way

Wednesday, December 4, AD 2013

Lovely.  As the video above indicates the ultimate expression of the pro-abort mentality is a complete hatred for Catholicism.  Ed Morrissey at Hot Air gives us the details:

After watching the video, one might guess that the police were intimidated by the sheer size of the protest.  Clearly, they didn’t want to intervene on behalf of some people who were turning themselves into passive human shields to protect their place of worship. It’s not as if they had been taken by surprise, though, because this happens every year in Argentina for its National Meeting of Women, and a trek to defile the local cathedral is always on the agenda.

It happened last year in October:

Around 500 abortion activists in Posadas hurled insults, spat and threw paint on young Catholics who prayed the Rosary outside the local cathedral and prevented the demonstrators from entering.

The activists convened in the city Oct. 7 for the 27th National Meeting of Women in Argentina.

According to local media, the group march through the city, painting homes and streets with slogans in support of abortion and homosexual marriage as well as anti-Catholic slurs.

Some activists reportedly stripped naked, while others made sexual gestures at the young people standing in prayer outside the Cathedral of Posadas.

CNA also reported on it in 2009, when the route did get detoured away from the local cathedral:

The self-titled “National Meeting of Women,” which recently took place in Tucuman, Argentina, was not the exclusive domain of pro-abortion propaganda as in recent years, but this year was attended by a well-prepared group of women who spoke up in defense of life and against abortion.

In a report issued by the Christian Family Movement, analyst Eduardo Zavalia said the feminists who organized this event were shocked, as they had been accustomed to “doing and saying whatever they wanted and telling others what to say.” This year, he recounted, they were met with a group of women “firm in their values and large enough in numbers to be a majority in most of the workshops.”

“In some workshops, overcome by mere reason, abortion activists resorted to physically removing those who defended life,” the report said.

Even the usual violent and anti-Catholic march organized by abortion supporters was detoured this year in order to avoid passing in front of the cathedral where they usually harassed the faithful.

They weren’t so lucky in 2008:

A video posted on YouTube.com put on full display the ferocity of abortion supporters who were participating in the National Meeting of Women in the Argentinean city of Neuquen last August. It shows them harassing and insulting a group of Catholic young people who were standing outside the Cathedral of Neuquen to keep the church safe from the protests.

The National Meeting of Women is a feminist event that takes place each year to pressure authorities to legalize abortion and to promote reproductive rights and gender ideology.

Financed by anti-life NGOs and supported by the government of Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the meeting brings together pro-abortion, feminist, homosexual and left-wing organizations.

The meeting usually ends with a protest through the streets of the host city, with organizers planning the route to include a stop at the local cathedral. This year, in order to keep protestors from trashing the cathedral grounds, a group of young people from Neuquen stood outside the cathedral to pray and form a barrier against the protestors.

That’s why the Catholics in the diocese were ready to protect their church.  It’s not much of a mystery why the police weren’t prepared to protect them from these attacks, though, as the Kirchner government supports the thugs rather than the peaceful people they attack.

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10 Responses to Down Argentine Way

  • The only things lacking were brown shirts and arm bands.

    Liberalism is fascism with effective PR and 24/7 media lying/tongue baths.

    FYI items I do not lack: Rosary beads and bullets.

    Reportedly, in 19th century NYC, the 69th NY Militia formed at Old St. Partrick’s Cathedral to defend it from such Know-Nothings.

  • All I can think of is Matthew 5:10-12
    10Blessed are those who suffer persecution in the cause of right; the kingdom of heaven is theirs. 11 Blessed are you, when men revile you, and persecute you, and speak all manner of evil against you falsely, because of me. 12 Be glad and light-hearted, for a rich reward awaits you in heaven

  • A modern day Way of the Cross.

  • It’ll keep happening and get worse as long as we continue to be pacifists.

  • Is it a sin to want to punch somebody in the nose? Asking for a friend.

  • Living martyrs. God bless those brave Catholics!

  • Some of the YouTube videos I’ve seen of this have been taken from Argentine
    network news. Typically, the news reports will show long shots of marching
    pro-abortion LGBT crowds, but omit shots of what happens once they reach
    the cathedral. The announcer describes the events as “protesters clashing”…

    It reminds me of the coverage of mob violence against Coptic Christians in
    Egypt, where islamist mobs march into Christian neighborhoods, smashing and
    burning, and western news agencies blandly describe the violence as a “clash
    of protesters”.

  • Heroic. Incredible strength and restraint. If we could stand with them somehow. Put pressure on our media to cover this world wide war on Christians.

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  • I have a dumb question. Religion aside, were not these men being assaulted by these demented women? Where were the Police?! Can you begin to imagine if the situation was reversed??

PopeWatch: The Federated Catholic Church?

Wednesday, December 4, AD 2013




Sandro Magister at Chiesa looks at a part of Evangelii Gaudium that has been largely overlooked in all the sturm und drang over the economic passages:  the Pope’s vision of a much more decentralized Church:


On the role of the pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio credits John Paul II with having paved the way to a new form of the exercise of primacy.  But he laments that “we have made little progress in this regard” and promises that he intends to proceed with greater vigor  toward a form of papacy “more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.”

But more than on the role of the pope – where Francis remains vague and has so far operated by making most decisions himself – it is on the powers of the episcopal conferences that “Evangelii Gaudium” heralds a major transition.

The pope writes in paragraph 32 of the document:

“The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position ‘to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit.’ Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

In a footnote, Francis refers to a 1998 motu proprio of John Paul II, concerning precisely “the theological and juridical nature of the episcopal conferences”:

> Apostolos Suos

But if one reads that document, one discovers that it attributes to the national episcopal conferences a function that is exclusively practical, cooperative, of a simple intermediate auxiliary body between the college of all the world’s bishops together with the pope on the one hand – the only “collegiality” declared to have a theological foundation – and the individual bishop with authority over his diocese on the other.

Above all, the motu proprio “Apostolos Suos” strongly limits that “authentic doctrinal authority” which Pope Francis says he wants to grant to the episcopal conferences. It prescribes that if doctrinal declarations really need to be issued, this must be done with unanimous approval and in communion with the pope and the whole Church, or at least “by a substantial majority” after review and authorization by the Holy See.

One danger warned against in the motu proprio “Apostolos Suos” is that the episcopal conferences might release doctrinal declarations in contrast with each other and with the universal magisterium of the Church.

Another risk that it intends to prevent is the creation of separation and antagonism between individual national Churches and Rome, as happened in the past in France with “Gallicanism” and as takes place among the Orthodox with some of the autocephalous national Churches.

That motu proprio bears the signature of John Paul II, but it owes its framework to the one who was his highly trusted prefect of doctrine, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

And Ratzinger – as was known – had long been very critical of the superpowers that some episcopal conferences had attributed to themselves, especially in certain countries, including his native Germany.

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5 Responses to PopeWatch: The Federated Catholic Church?

  • Donald,

    The true title for this particular piece should not be ‘federated’ but ‘synodal’. What most Catholics do not realize or recognize is that the Church already actually ‘runs’ on this ‘synodal’ model. There are 22 churches in complete communion (key word here) with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. Most people see them as ‘rites’ which indeed they have (such as Byzantine, Melkite,Maronite, etc) but these churches themselves ‘run’ on a synodal model. For example, they select their own bishops, which then in turn must be (and almost always are) ratified by Rome. Any difficulties which arise, whether doctrinal, moral or disciplinary, are first dealt with at this ‘local level’. They do not come to doctrinal or moral positions different than the Catholic Faith professed by all (although they might have a different way of expressing it) Discipline issues are all dealt with at the local level in accordance with the general Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches. These churches are indeed churches, and not simply ‘rites’. Thus, already, the Catholic Church is a communion of churches, with the Bishop of Rome being the sign and instrument of that communion, ecclesial unity.

    While this synodal form of government might initially look no different than the Eastern Churches Orthodox brothers and sisters, it differs in two substantial and distinct ways. While distinct churches, the Eastern Churches are not ‘National Churches” such as “Greek Orthodox”, “Russian Orthodox” “Serbian Orthodox” etc. While these churches are all Orthodox, nothing prevents one from ‘breaking communion’ with another [In fact the tensions between the Russian and Greek Churches is horrendous]. This simply is not known or countenanced in the Eastern Churches. The sign and instrument of ecclesial communion is the pope, the Bishop of Rome.

    The second substantial distinction between this synodal ‘model’ of the Eastern Churches and the Orthodox is the inability of the Orthodox Churches to either really call, gather for a general synod (council) of the Orthodox Church to discuss very important matter, or what authority to validate and uphold the Synod (council). Their ecclesiology had depended on the Byzantine Emperor (or the Russian Czar) to validate and uphold such a synod. The Eastern Churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome, do not have this problem. The pope can call for a Council and it is the Pope who validates an Ecumenical Council of the Church [thus the canonical reason that Vatican II is indeed a Council of the Church].

    This ‘synodal form’ of the Church can and apparently will be renewed within the whole Church. I do not see (in fact I believe this will be avoided at all cost) Bishops Conferences transformed into this synodal form taking on “national” identities [ as we see with the Orthodox] to the detriment of Catholic ecclesial communion. However, if a doctrinal matter comes up, for example some theologian at a Catholic college or university is obviously dissenting from Catholic teaching, it would be dealt with first in the local Church [say the Archbishop of Washington has to deal with a dissenting theologian at Catholic University]. This is the principle of subsidiarity at work in the Church [the one I hear everyone screaming about in terms of the economy]. Then it would be taken to the American Bishops ‘Conference’ who have a commission for matters of doctrine. If that did not work, then and only then, it would go to Rome, the Church which presides in charity, as Saint Ignatius of Antioch described it, founded upon Peter and Paul and led by the Bishop of Rome, the pope. In fact, this is nothing more than Matthew 18’s description of how to deal with an errant ‘brother’.

    In issues of ‘discipline’, for example, the recent difficulties with the LCWR (nuns group), the Bishops’ Conference should have had the ‘power’ to constructively deal with the issue years ago. The Bishops Conference is closer to the difficulty, knows the American culture, can dialogue easier with the nuns. However, because of the present structure, the bishops were all but powerless to really enter that dialogue. They had no other choice but send the issue to Rome, which of course takes time, etc. Rome has to investigate, try to understand women’s religious life in the American context (both the pros and cons) and what happened? They sent it back to America with an American bishop in charge of the ‘dialogue’.

    These ‘changes’ are actually part of the ancient patrimony of the Church. They do not contradict the identity or makeup of the Catholic Church. However, the purpose of the changes is to further ‘the mission of the Church which is evangelization’. And where does evangelization take place?

  • I often remind myself that contrary to popular belief, our church’s structure is quite flat …. flatter than most every business. In essence each of us are 2 steps away from the Pope — with my pastor and my bishop before us. Now in reality, we all know the many operational entities paving the way to make this work (or not).

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  • Enghish version of Evangelii gaudium is not correct:

    It says: “episcopal conferences (…), including genuine doctrinal authority,”

    Spanish version: “incluyendo también ALGUNA auténtica autoridad doctrinal.”

    Correct English version should say: ” including SOME genuine doctrinal authority,”

    (Fench and Italian versions corresponds correctly to the Spanish one)

    In God.

PopeWatch: Hans Kung

Tuesday, December 3, AD 2013



PopeWatch recalls an episode of the Hogan’s Heroes sitcom from the sixties.  Colonel Hogan is attempting to disarm a bomb.  He has to cut one of two wires, and if he cuts the wrong wire the bomb will go off.  He asks Colonel Klink which wire he would cut, and after Klink chooses a wire he cuts the other one and disarms the bomb.  Klink asks Hogan why he asked his advice if he wasn’t going to follow it.  Hogan responds that he wasn’t sure he would pick the right wire but he was confident that Klink would pick the wrong one.

PopeWatch views Hans Kung as filling the Klink role when it comes to the Catholic Church.  One can be certain that his views in regard to the Church will be wrong.  PopeWatch thus read with interest a column written by Kung which appeared in The Tablet:

Church reform is forging ahead. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis not only intensifies his criticism of capitalism and the fact that money rules the world, but speaks out clearly in favour of church reform “at all levels”. He specifically advocates structural reforms – namely, decentralisation towards local dioceses and communities, reform of the papal office, upgrading the laity and against excessive clericalism, in favour of a more effective presence of women in the Church, above all in the decision-making bodies. And he comes out equally clearly in favour of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, especially with Judaism and Islam.

All this will meet with wide approval far beyond the Catholic Church. His undifferentiated rejection of abortion and women’s ordination will, however, probably provoke criticism. This is where the dogmatic limits of this Pope become apparent. Or is he perhaps under pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its Prefect, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller?   

In a long guest contribution in Osservatore Romano (23 October 2013), Müller demonstrated his ultra-conservative stance by corroborating the exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments who, unless they live together as brother and sister (!), are ostensibly in a state of mortal sin on account of the sexual character of their relationship.

As Bishop of Regensburg, Müller, as a clerical hardliner who provoked numerous conflicts with parish priests and theologians, lay bodies and the Central Committee of German Catholics, was as controversial and unpopular as his brother bishop at Limburg. That Müller, as a loyal supporter and publisher of his collected works, was nevertheless appointed CDF Prefect by Papa Ratzinger, surprised people less than the fact that Pope Francis confirmed him in office quite so soon.

And worried observers are already asking whether Pope Emeritus Ratzinger is in fact operating as a kind of “shadow Pope” behind the scenes through Archbishop Müller and Georg Gänswein, [Benedict’s] secretary and Prefect of the Papal Household, whom he also promoted to archbishop. One remembers how in 1993 Ratzinger as cardinal whistled back the then-bishops of Freiburg (Oskar Saier), Rottenburg-Stuttgart (Walter Kasper) and Mainz (Karl Lehmann) when they suggested a pragmatic solution for the problem of remarried divorcees. It is revealing that the present debate 20 years later was again triggered by the Archbishop of Freiburg, namely Robert Zollitsch, the president of the German bishops’ conference. It was Zollitsch who ventured a fresh attempt to re-think pastoral practice as far as remarried divorcees are concerned. And Pope Francis?

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11 Responses to PopeWatch: Hans Kung

  • It’s creepy to see someone so preoccupied with his own hobby horse that he can’t analyze the situation around him. Kung thinks that the Pope is good, and since good means agreeing with Kung on divorce, if this good pope isn’t doing what Kung would do, there must be forces inside the Vatican preventing him. It’s so tidy. Kung also seems to think that Jesus is good, and where Jesus didn’t agree with Kung on divorce, He must have been issuing a recommendation rather than a command. The history of the Church, from the earliest days to the time after the Council, is intepreted as a black-hats-and-white-hats narrative about welcoming the divorced.

    Kung can’t even see that the way to untie his mental knots is exactly what the Church has consistently taught on the subject. The Church doesn’t separate from anyone due to their divorce and remarriage; the people have separated themselves from the Church. If there is no real second marriage, and sex outside of marriage is sinful, then living as brother and sister is perfectly ( ), not (!). The Church welcomes back the repentant with Jesus’s words, you are forgiven, go and sin no more.

  • Good Answer Pinky.

  • I actually ended that mid-rant because I got a call. I could complain about Kung for hours.

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  • I say that it is up to God to judge me whether or not I can receive Holy Communion even though I have divorced and re married…if it is a sin to receive Holy Communion even though I have gone to confession and admit my sin of divorce then that should be up to God to decide….True I have not remarried in the Catholic Church as I was re married in a town hall…my former husband has also remarried….before this whole thing with not receiving communion started I was receiving because I was told that my sin was forgiven…I guess I should not have got married so young as my first marriage only lasted 8 months and that was back in the early 1990’s….

  • JAC you are loved by our good Lord Who knows your heart intimately. He is the One Who gives you your desire to receive Him. Before we receive Him we all reconcile with Him from our various hindrances. Your hindrance is not the divorce. If I understand your note correctly, the hindrance is in your remarriage while still sacramentally married. Your short 8 month marriage may very well be one that did not bind you sacramentally and that would have to be judged by the Church in your particular diocese, If that were the case it would be recognied as nul (annulled) and you would be free to address also in Reconciliation any other hindrances you may be be aware of, after talking with a good confessor.

  • I’d have to agree with Anzlyne. I’m the child of my dad’s second marriage. His first one was a bad idea; he rushed into it young and his wife didn’t have a good understanding of what marriage meant. Before he got married again, his diocese reviewed the first marriage and granted an annulment. I guess you could say that he was only married once, although there were two civil marriages.

    Back to my earlier comment, I find myself Kunging when I read the economic portion of the recent text. I’m approaching it as a judge rather than a student. That’s wrong. I have to fight the instinct. It’d be cool if humility is something you had to do once, but it’s something that’s necessary all the time, especially when it doesn’t feel like a good fit.

  • JAC the Church explicitly teaches that in order to be forgiven of your sin through Confession, you must first repent of it and have a firm purpose of amendemnt, that is you must firmly intend to NOT commit the same sin again. If you confessed to having had sexual relations with a man during the lifetime of your first validly and sacramentally wedded husband, i.e. committing adultery, your confession was INVALID if you intended to have sexual relations with him again.

  • As a Catholic revert (raised Catholic, wandered and finally recently have come home), I’ve encountered Kung and his theology many times over the years. Bottom line — it was my reading and analyzing of his work “On Being A Christian” that led me to and got me in school to become a Lutheran pastor. ‘Nuff said.

  • Kung holds to the possiblity of universalism. For that reason I decided not to read him. He recently came out saying euthanasia is OK. I found that very disturbing. I wonder how someone so advanced in theology could miss the Christian take on life.

  • Tonight on EWTN I heard Joseph Peace say “Intelligence is not a guarantor of goodness” while discussing Bilbo’s journey. It made me think of your observation Jon. It seems that education even to the point reaching “higher levels of theology” may not have the good fruits it might have had if it were gained in a disinterested study/search for God, instead of a study set forth to satisfy self.

110 Responses to We Shouldn’t Turn to the Church for Economic Analysis

  • I do not see that the Holy Father’s remarks go beyond the settled teaching of the Church, as contained in Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical, Populorum Progressio.

    “Founded to build the kingdom of heaven on earth rather than to acquire temporal power, the Church openly avows that the two powers—Church and State—are distinct from one another; that each is supreme in its own sphere of competency. (Cf. Leo XIII, Encyc. letter Immortale Dei 🙂 But since the Church does dwell among men, she has the duty “of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. (Gaudium et Spes)”

    He goes on to say that “Everyone knows that the Fathers of the Church laid down the duty of the rich toward the poor in no uncertain terms. As St. Ambrose put it: ‘You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.’ (De Nabute, c. 12, n. 53) These words indicate that the right to private property is not absolute and unconditional. No one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lack the bare necessities of life. In short, ‘as the Fathers of the Church and other eminent theologians tell us, the right of private property may never be exercised to the detriment of the common good.’ When ‘private gain and basic community needs conflict with one another,’ it is for the public authorities ‘to seek a solution to these questions, with the active involvement of individual citizens and social groups.’ (Letter to the 52nd Social Week at Brest, in L’homme et la révolution urbaine, Lyon: Chronique sociale (1965), 8-9)

    This teaching is clearly moral, not economic, and refers to the respective obligations of individuals and those in authority. When he says, “It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity,” he is, as the Shepherd of Souls, prescribing a duty. It is a pity the bishops do not remind Catholic politicians of this duty more often.

  • I would no more go to the Church for economic analysis than I would look to an economist for an explanation of the role of grace in salvation. When the Pope reminds us all to not forget the poor or to not make money an idol he has the force of his office behind him. The following goes well beyond it:

    “In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and I the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

    This of course is a fairly tendentious translation of what the Pope originally wrote:

    From Joe’s translation at Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam:

    “54. In this context, some defend “spillover” theories which suppose that all economic growth, for which a free market is [most] favorable, by itself brings about greater equity and social inclusion in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve confidence in the generosity of those [people] who wield economic power and in the sacralized mechanisms of that ruling economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

    54 is rendered more acceptable to me by this new translation but still the Pope goes too far beyond his office.

    First, it is clear from this document that the Pope and basic economic knowledge are not on the friendliest of terms, to put it charitably. 204 is a doozy along those lines:

    “204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.”

    The Pope seems to have no understanding that the types of mandates he proposes are, to use his term, “poison” for any economic growth. The Pope confuses the functioning of markets with the use of the fruits of the market, not an uncommon mistake by socialists or those who embrace socialist superstitions and try to make economies function according to government fiat.

    Second, the Pope seems to have a very optimistic view of the ability of the State to fairly redress inequities in the marketplace. Perhaps the Pope has a “sacralized” view of those who wield the power of the State? If so, that would not be an unusual view for an Argentinian to hold in spite of the overwhelming evidence that State involvement in the Argentinian economy has produced disaster after disaster.

    However, debates about economic systems and the proper role of government intervention in the economy are areas where wise Popes have usually tread lightly because they recognized that they had no special charism to render judgments in those areas. Pope Francis, judging from Evangelii Gaudium, might not be aware that his personal opinions in these areas must be, and will be, subject to the normal give and take, even from faithful Catholics, of argument that results whenever any one proffers an opinion about the economy and the role of the State in it. When the Pope seeks to give prescriptions for the proper functioning of the economy and of the State in it he is departing from the realm of religion and entering the realm of policy and that is always a subject for debate and not mere obedience.

  • Seems as if he’s been gulled by the liberal lie that the free market (where on Earth is that operative?) causes homelessness, hunger, nakedness, poverty.

    They cannot name one major economy wherein, for the past 100+ years, the state/regime/organized brigandage hasn’t massively, and to great harm, imposed central planning, command/control-economy, excessive taxes, inflation, leviathan bureaucratic/regulatory behemoths.

    This morning, all I can think about “economics” is, “I wish I had gotten in Bitcoin at $100!” Wiping away a tear . . .

  • I am no theologian by any imaginable stretch, so I will not deign to speak on the other 199+ pages of the encyclical. But, what I see in the Pope’s touch on economics is something that would make the lefties howl if it’s read a certain way, which in this Pope’s case is pretty easy.
    First, when he seems to attack free-market economics, I think it’s because we see him criticizing current economic conditions here and in Western Europe. Thus, we jump to the conclusion that he’s criticizing free-market capitalism; Holy Cow is he a Communist? No, not at all. That conclusion is incorrect, but not because of what he says. It is our other premise which renders the syllogism incorrect; we don’t have a free-market system in this country. It’s farther in that direction than a lot of the world, but it is not free-market. The Left thinks we do, and from their statist standpoint it looks like we do, but we don’t. At its heart, it is a quasi-fascist oligarchy. The currency is controlled by a central credit monopoly, and its distribution is more comparable to a command economy than an open, free marketplace where any medium of exchange that fits the value of traders’ needs would suffice.
    Special regulations, anti-competitive structures, stifling tort laws, an impenetrable (and now offensive) tax code and a host of other often contradictory and oppressive regulatory layers have turned what could be a blazing fire of innovation and productivity into a smoldering heap of wet leaves. Very little trickles down anymore; in a truly free-market economy, the trickle would be upwards and outwards to begin with.
    In any nation where poverty is obviously present, it is for political reasons. If people cannot find relief from poverty it is because they either cannot leave, or are paid to stay. From the extreme examples of Ethiopia and North Korea to the more subtle American welfare state, almost all poverty is created and sustained by governments, and done so for political reasons. Victim classes and red-herring martyrs play well in lapdog media cultures; this perpetuates the fiefdoms inherent in partisan politics. North Koreans and Cubans are kept poor by American Imperialist exploitation, right? Welfare rolls are kept high by white racist attitudes and lack of opportunity, as everybody knows. In fact, anybody with half a working brain knows those are derisibly false, but they play well to the sheeple who then keep the powers in place.
    What does not help is that contemporary big business strategy has turned from long-term stability to a “make the next quarterly P&L sheet rock!” mentality. “Work Smarter, Not Harder” is anathema to the prospect of shared profits being divided by free choice among those who can choose to simply work hard to get ahead. “Too Big To Fail” should never be an imaginable condition. What happened to the 50-year retirement party? Sure, greater mobility and expanded capacity play a part, but folks will stay where they are happy if given half a chance. When layoffs and rolling cutbacks come and go like squalls in an Indiana spring, though, that stability is simply gone. “Golden parachute” is a concept that would make Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie stand up in their graves.
    Consider this phrase in the encyclical, then: “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and [in] the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” It makes a lot more sense when one considers who it is that wields economic power these days. Is it the street-level proprietor, or even the small business owner? No. It is the government and its pinstripe pals who have betrayed the trust of the people to safeguard our economic capabilities and have begun to work for themselves at the expense of the rest of us.
    MM’s idea that the Church should not “endorse capitalism” is backwards. In its purest form, one cannot “embrace” capitalism any more than one can endorse breathing or waking up every day. Free-market economics is a natural state, and it works best when those involved in its everyday activities embrace the teachings of the Church. MM says “The Church teaches on how we ought to treat each other as people, not what actions will result in the greatest efficiency, the greatest growth, or the greatest profit.” What he seems to miss is that those two are in fact one and the same. Gobry nails it.
    I believe that His Holiness sees a lot more than he lets on, and if he’s not intentionally setting up the left-handed saps for a big fall, he’s certainly letting the “enough rope” theory do its part.

  • I think the problem with this passage is that one phrase was mistranslated from the Spanish (the proper translation would not be ‘inevitably’ but ‘in itself’ or ‘for itself’) and that the translator made use of a term from partisan opinion journalism (‘trickle-down economics’) which maps poorly to actual discourse on economic topics.

    Economic activity occurs within a context where moral choices take place, so the Pope certainly has something to say about that. Agriculture and commerce and industry are a dimension of human life and the Pope certainly has something to say about the relationship of that dimension to the other dimensions.

    Let us posit that the Pope said that markets are not omnicompetent – that the society as a whole has tasks not met through markets. That would be an unexceptional statement. The thing is, la gauche maintains in its head this caricature of the starboard which has all of us thinking like the hero in an Ayn Rand novel. Of course, hardly anyone thinks that way. That implicit caricature, along with the use of buzz terms like ‘trickle-down economics’ leads one to the conclusion that the Pope himself or his secretariat is addled by a mentality one associates with crude opinion journalists. That is disconcerting.

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  • The issue of ‘translation’ is an extremely important one. However, since others and I myself have spent some time on this aspect of the subject I would prefer to address some further concerns.

    Taking the whole “Social Teaching” of the Magisterium of the popes from the time of Leo XIII to Pope Benedict [I am leaving Pope Francis and Evangelii Gaudium to the side here for a moment] there can be no doubt that the Catholic Church does not believe in “Statism”, the complete monopoly of all aspects of society and culture by the State. This arose first in response to Communism, but the Fascists and National Socialists were ultimately no different. This can be seen especially in the Church’s teaching on the principle of subsidiarity, first put forward by Pope Pius IX in Quadragessimo Anno in 1931.

    There is another important point that needs to be made here, which in my reading, has become very clear. There is a certain ‘reading’ of the Social Teachings of the Church much in the same manner as some read Vatican II. To be specific, some read the publication of Populorum Progressio (and here I am not criticizing or taking a swipe at what Michael Patgerson-Seymour gives us in the above post) as a completely new start to the Social Teaching of the Church. In other words, even with the Social Teachings of the Church there is a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ and a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’. If isolated from the rest or taken as the primary social encyclical, Populorum Progressio could and has been read in rather ‘progressive’, even ‘socialist’ terms. This is the reason Pope Benedict emphasized Populorum Progressio within the larger corpus of social teaching in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate. I have found the book, “Papal Economics: the Catholic Church on Democratic Capitalism from Rerum Novarum to Caritas in Veritate” by Macej Zieba O.P. to be extremely helpful on this subject.

    Where does this lead us? Within the Catholic theological world, and in some aspects of the Curia, there is this ‘reading’ of Populorum Progressio in an isolated way, but more specifically, in a way that makes it the key to interpreting all Social Teaching documents etc of the Church. This simply is not an accurate picture of or interpretation of Catholic Social Teaching.

    While the Church has turned away from “Statism” it is still in an active, ongoing and dynamic ‘dialogue’ with “Democratic Capitalism” and “the free market”. In this ‘dialogue’ are we, as Church, not supposed to bring our Gospel and faith to the table? Because we have turned our back on Statism does that mean we ‘must’ accept all aspects of “Democratic Capitalism” and its free market without question or critique? Certainly Blessed John Paul’s social encyclicals ‘critiqued’ Democratic Capitalism and the free market, without in any way condemning it. John Paul saw the Social Teaching of the Church as offering ‘foundational moral principles’ by which one could address, critique and dialogue with social issues and problems of the day. Pope Benedict in his single social encyclical nuanced this a bit by stating that Catholic social teaching is the proclamation of gospel charity within social settings (including economic ones)

    Pope Francis’ relatively brief pointed comments on economic issues are simply that. They are not full blown elaborated social teachings [although it will be interesting to see if and when he does indeed write a social encyclical and what and how he addresses ‘economic issues’] I see them as brief ‘prophetic statements’ meant to both probe and lift up our consciousness concerning how all of us in a global society are ‘dealing with’ ‘the market’.

    He speaks of the Golden Calf: a vivid and prophetic image, meant to ‘get the attention’. The question here is not whether I/we like what he is saying (although all of us think our own ideas are extremely important-including this writer :-)) The question is whether that image of the Golden Calf applies, is accurate, is true? I am not reading individual hearts or minds here, but we have just come out of one long weekend-one that used to be a wonderful relaxing one spent with family and friends as we gave thanks and spent quality time with each other. What did we witness? Some stores even open on Thanksgiving Day itself, taking employees away from their families (are they that different from slaves in these situations?) While in times not that long ago, this was the Christmas buying season because it was all about ‘giving’, that is now banished from all descriptions. Now it is ‘Buy, Buy Buy” For what reason? Well the supposed ‘sales’ but down deep, ‘the Gross National Product” “and the people bowed and prayed…….”

    Pope Francis placed all his comments within a call to give economic issues etc a moral underpinning and responsibility. He condemned, rightly, an ‘economics of exclusion’ and a ‘throw away culture’ (here he is not simply speaking of the waste of material things, but of vast amounts of food when people are starving, but even more importantly, people who are thrown away because they no longer ‘contribute’ economically by work or consuming because of economic status, age, health or other disabilities) The question for all of us is this: in order for us, and/or society ‘to have’ does it by logic necessitate ‘have nots’? Certainly some would answer ‘yes’ to that question. Some, perhaps most do not want to really think about this aspect of things. However, if any society in order ‘to have’ necessitates ‘have nots’, this is not simply not optimal, it is not acceptable, and not moral. It may or may not make good economic sense (however in the long haul it does not-morality is like that-it actually is trying to get us to the best result: happiness) but it is in no way acceptable or moral. All are called to participate in societal life, just as all are called to participate in Divine Life in and through Christ Jesus. No one can be excluded by this call.

    This critique of an economics of exclusion does not countenance a ‘permanent welfare state’ either. The best thing we can do for those excluded by society is to enable them to ‘get off the welfare rolls’ of society, to help them regain their sense of dignity and personal self worth, no longer ‘dependent children’ on the all-knowing welfare bureaucracy and the ruling elites who use all those in these situations to continue their power. Helping to get these people back to work, with jobs that are meaningful and thus creative and life-giving, is the outcome of the critique of the economics of exclusion.

    One final point (I know I have gone long here). Pope Francis calls not for a ‘socialist utopia’ or one Ayn Rand would love. Instead, in the issue of economics he makes a prophetic statement, really a prophetic call, calling for a world in which “Money serves, not rules”. For a people who claim “Jesus Christ is Lord”, that can not be that radical. Right?

  • The Church does not do economic analysis, but she can judge economic systems and offer principles for guidance. That is what the Holy Father did. It seems that a few are making more of these few sentences than they should.

  • Bravo Dawin! A well positioned piece. What I think we all can agree with is the continued quest and attempt to inject ethical behavior into the workplace. Yes, this is a personal trait that can be embraced or ignored … still, I stand behind the position that even when ignored and greed or immorality takes root … the market will correct itself far more efficiently than if governed. That is the freedom and trust issue that most find hard to accept.

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  • I’ve made the joke before that Catholics are to economics as Evangelicals are to evolution. The older I get, the less funny and more wry observation it seems… 😉

    But what the financial crisis has laid bare is that the most conventional version of free market economics was actually dead wrong.

    This is as annoying as hearing about how “Hoover was a do-nothing president.” (aka, it’s exactly wrong) You may as well lay the blame for Mussolini at Catholicism’s feet since hey, Rome is in Italy. Heck, one flaw about the quote is that what is “conventional wisdom” is still very much in debate. If you’re talking about conventional, Keynesian interventionism, yeah I agree that was dead wrong, but that’s not much of “free market” either.

    It would have been a pastoral, doctrinal, and theological disaster if the Church had, over the past twenty years, blindly subscribed to what I’ll now refer to as the Washington Consensus. What in 2006 looked like the invisible hand of the market leading the financialization of the economy turned out to be a disastrous instance of crony-capitalist central planning. And when the Pope denounced it, I was among those condescendingly explaining to him that he didn’t get it. What it turns out is that economists actually know very, very little, and that a lot of what we thought we knew turned out to be wrong. Given this hard-to-swallow fact, the prophetic voice of the Church that reminds us of what must be the ends of economic activity is very salutary.

    Again, depends on who you ask or talk to. Austrian-thought economists certainly came out looking a lot better than others. This is rather annoying.

    Because the Church is not on earth to conduct economic analysis and more than it is on earth to decide whether the sun is at the center of the solar system or the manner of the origin of species. Its job is not to figure out what sort of economic system will result in the highest growth or the greatest equality or any other such thing.

    Amen to that. It has no more right in those areas than say… crop production and trying to figure out what systems and fields will produce the highest yields.

    As such, the best response to Church teaching on economic interactions may not be “the state should require that everyone behave the way the Church says they should”, since that may well not have the intended consequence.

    Amen again! Though you should probably be careful which catholics you tell that too. 😉 Some think the state should very well require everyone behave the way the church wants. (looking at you T.Seber)

    If so, that would not be an unusual view for an Argentinian to hold in spite of the overwhelming evidence that State involvement in the Argentinian economy has produced disaster after disaster.

    Just because the evidence is there that the state involvement has ruined Argentinia, doesn’t mean that state involvement isn’t popular. If I can quote Radio Derb a moment:

    Sixty years ago there was a man in Argentina named Juan Perón, who made himself terrifically popular by promising everything to everyone: low taxes for businessmen, high wages for workers, political plums for the military, price supports for farmers, government jobs for intellectuals, state-subsidized health care for everyone … the whole nine yards. It worked! — for about five years. Then the bills came due, and Argentina’s been bumping along the bottom ever since, the economic wreckage occasionally stirred by a coup or revolution.

    Although I can’t find it now, I remember hearing once that Juan Peron remains very popular in Argentina (can anyone confirm/deny?). And why not? Remember that post on here awhile back about how “cargo cultish” American society has become? It’s just like that. Juan Peron’s ideas were good, so their failure was clearly the fault of… something else. It couldn’t have been because the ideas were flawed because they seemed good to the people.

    I am curious as to the Pope’s opinion on Argentina’s past. Anyone know?

    Because we have turned our back on Statism does that mean we ‘must’ accept all aspects of “Democratic Capitalism” and its free market without question or critique? Certainly Blessed John Paul’s social encyclicals ‘critiqued’ Democratic Capitalism and the free market, without in any way condemning it.

    The older I get the more it seems that every effort to find a “third way” between communism and capitalism are like efforts to find a “third way” between being a virgin and being pregnant. “Oh this time, we’ll just be a little less pregnant.” I’d have to consult some of my books but wasn’t communism once proposed as a “third way” of something. Then we got socialism (like, the mid point between communism and capitalism) now we’re talking distributionism (the mid point between socialism etc). I’m sure I’ll get to see yet ANOTHER “third way” before I die.

    Look, the free market is nothing more than the aggregate of individual actors (aka people). To think that you can somehow affect the group without bothering with every member of said group is to place everything backwards. If you want a more “just” free market (however that is defined) then the answer is simple: you must have more just people. To critique democratic capitalism for man’s sin nature is rather like critiquing Catholicism for the priest abuse. Heck to do so is to buy into the implicit assumptions of Marx, that we should remove free will and human agency from people.

    But then I’ll admit I’m still trying to cleanse myself of Marxist garbage. (a big help was realizing how steeped I was in it thanks to Sarah Hoyt here: http://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/10/16/fifty-shades-of-marx/)

    (note that all quotes in this comment are quotes quotes, not scare or sarcasm)

  • I’m a business manager. I suppose I’m one of those who, at least in my narrow field, wield economic power.

    What I’ve learned as a business manager is that you hire someone for the skills they have and you don’t expect them to do a job that they’ve never been trained to do.

    We have an elected 3rd world Pope. We did not elect an intellectual giant as in B16, nor did we get lucky in electing and grooming a blessed-fighter in JP II.

    We got a simple man, of simple and direct faith.

    He may think he can “pontificate” (I can hear my kids guffawing at that one now) on any subject he chooses, but let’s face facts: He spent most of his life in Argentina, doing daily tasks of a Bishop and not studying Western economics. He is, for lack of a better term, ill-suited to weigh-in on economics.

    The idea that the Holy Spirit would fill his mouth with amazing insights and words on the complexity of economics is a nice thought, but unrealistic.

    He ought to be told that he doesn’t know everything, and he ought to be reminded that what he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know, is the most dangerous of subjects to exhortate anyone about.

    If he limits his words and actions to the areas he knows well — we should all be very glad of the Pope we have.

    However, if he continues to wander aimlessly into woods where he knows not what ferocious beasts await him — we should not be shocked or stunned when he encounters a beast he has never met and tries to shoo-it away with a fly-swatter.

    God Bless the Pope — but more importantly, Holy Spirit fill his mind with the wisdom to know precisely what he does not know about!

  • Economic decisions, choices, actions have a moral component: they can be good or bad. It is important for us to weigh the morality of our economic decisions personally and as a society. Moral theology is not separate from any compartment of our lives; can not be separated from our politics nor from our economic life. We are called to be just and prudent in all of our ways of making a living, using our wealth or property. We can not make moral decisions blindly. The Church is our moral guide helping inform our personal political social (and of course economic) actions. Would I say the Church should not inform my politics?

  • “Would I say the Church should not inform my politics?”

    I should hope not, although I think the Church would have little to say as to most political issues, leaving that up to the wisdom of individual Catholics. I think a similar policy should be followed in economics. Making moral judgments is no excuse for people within the Church pretending to an expertise they manifestly do not possess. Christ’s comment when He was asked to command that a brother give a share of an estate to a sibling is instructive: “But he said to him: Man, who hath appointed me judge or divider over you?”

  • “I am curious as to the Pope’s opinion on Argentina’s past. Anyone know?”

    The Pope has been described as a conservative Peronist, but no facts have been brought forth in the articles I have read to support this characterization.

  • What is hard for some to understand is that the church has never accepted the notion that economics is a science. It is always treated in the social documents as a human institution. Unlike scientific laws about physics, it is not viewed as “the way things are,” such that it requires a special expertise to understand. Instead, it is viewed as the “way we made it.” The church judges economic systems like it judges political systems or cultural practices, asking “Does it conform to the Church’s understanding of the human person and, if not, what principles can guide its change?” That is basically, even if not artfully, what the Pope did.

    Understandably, to some economists this approach is absurd as the church declaring that a particular scientific theory is true or false. But, seen from the perspective of the church, it is not only not absurd, but required.

  • Good points but also: “the wisdom of individual Catholics’ — ruh roh- ! 🙂
    We need guidance. Not that it should be ex cathedra, and these ill advised (IMO) statements by the pope seem to betray a predilection and a parochialism that may be related to his home roots.
    Nonetheless there should be Catholic moral theologians studying macro economics theoretically and in history to help us all know more about how to make our choices… Economics is not a field of study that should be ignored by the Church.
    The pope is learning fast and I hope he will have the humility to recognize his need for a broad spectrum of advisors and that there will be clarifications coming that will help. The Church should not back away from such an important subject, which affects all kinds of human behaviors. Economic stress could be at he bottom of lots and lots of sinful behavior.
    As I understand your quote from Jesus, He is letting them know he is not a temporal lawyer or judge or king, as many Jews were looking for the Messiah to be, but it doesn’t mean He was saying that Christians should not be involved in civil affairs. He goes on to say immediately after that to be on guard against all kinds of greed. (Luke 12 :13 – 15)
    The covenant of love would require moral choices, using our intellects and wills to love, to will the good of others. It does not require the DIRECT involvement of the Church, but the INDIRECT effect of her teachings.

  • It is always treated in the social documents as a human institution. Unlike scientific laws about physics, it is not viewed as “the way things are,” such that it requires a special expertise to understand. Instead, it is viewed as the “way we made it.” The church judges economic systems like it judges political systems or cultural practices, asking “Does it conform to the Church’s understanding of the human person and, if not, what principles can guide its change?”

    Perhaps, but the scarcity we find ourselves in which gives rise to economics come from God’s words Himself:
    “Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
    It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
    By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
    until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
    for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

    I also recommend: http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/06/economists-and-antieconomists-2/

  • On the contrary, Catholic economists have been some of the best and most original, and historically have been suppressed. See, e.g., Frederick Soddy.


    Also available as a PDF online for free.

    The role of Catholic economists is absolutely vital, now more than ever, and is needed to counter the eviscerating criminality of the international central monetary system and its banks — outright criminality and intentional fraud run rampant. We need to get a few good Catholics in there to reform the system so that money systems are not only fair and sane, but meet a baseline of legality. Nevermind the morality, just to enforce some legality would be a public good, and Pope Francis is absolutely right to draw attention to it.

  • Reading Francis’s exhortation with care (and in the light of some of the translation issues which have come up) I think it’s fairly clear that Francis is not denying the efficacy of markets as functioning economic mechanisms, but rather condemning those who imagine that because markets allow for greater growth, and growth tends to help society as a whole, that by supporting markets we have now fulfilled the whole of our obligations to our fellow men. Far from it, the fact that on average people do better in a given situation does not mean that some people are not still doing very badly, and that we have a duty to help those people in every way we can.

    Just once, I’d like to hear a priest, any priest make a similiar exhortation about supporting the social-welfare state.

    Is it really charity if Peter supports taxing Paul to pay for Philemon’s EBT card, medicaid, sec. 8 housing voucher, etc.?

  • If you want a more “just” free market (however that is defined) then the answer is simple: you must have more just people. To critique democratic capitalism for man’s sinful nature is … to buy into the implicit assumptions of Marx, that we should remove free will and human agency from people.

    Yes! Or to put it more precisely, some people should remove free will and human agency from other people.
    Free will is necessary for our moral agency. It is necessary to defend it as to defend hope.
    The conversation about free markets runs in parallel to our understanding of free will, and the conversation about free speech.

  • Tasmin wrote, “Yes! Or to put it more precisely, some people should remove free will and human agency from other people.”
    Indeed, but the law is the expression of the general will. As Rousseau points out, “In order then that the social compact may not be an empty formula, it tacitly includes the undertaking, which alone can give force to the rest, that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; [ce qui ne signifie autre chose sinon qu’on le forcera d’être libre] for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence. In this lies the key to the working of the political machine; this alone legitimises civil undertakings, which, without it, would be absurd, tyrannical, and liable to the most frightful abuses.” [Rousseau, Social Contract I, 7]

  • But the ‘law’ whether of economics or ‘the law of the land’ as an expression of the will of the people, must have some correlation with Eternal Law as it can be known ‘self-evidently’ in natural law, or given and guaranteed by Divine Law.

    We live in an era where law is interpreted in a positivist [note: not ‘positive’] way, completely cut off from the deeper moral law. Even the ancient Greeks (in their plays) and Romans in the best examples at the time of the Republic understood this. Antigone, faced with the order of the king to leave her brother’s body without burial and exposed for shame and ridicule knew she had to follow the deeper moral law to bury her brother! And these were pagans!

  • Let me go to the issue of Pope Francis’ theological training, and why, as I’ve noted above, that some of his statements are so seriously flawed that even L’Osservatore Romano criticized his Oct 1 comments with Scalfari (the atheist Italian journalist) and that the Va. website took down a number of his flawed statements (such as “the conscience is autonomous”)about Oct 2nd. Having a great deal of experience with ivory-tower professor-type Jesuits at a few Jesuit U’s, I have ample basis to see the Bergoglio papal leadership foundering on his pre-concepts—preconcepts that they (Jesuits) often toss around to each other self-congratulatingly, untested and rarified ideas that are jarringly discordant with the reality of the world. Now, the pro-Martini/Bologna school/Natl Cath Reporter-types will assail any criticism as personally “contemptuous” (not so: contempt (def) = regarding someone as inferior, base—I do not regard Bergoglio/PF this way), but I do assail his continuously flawed and un-self-critical language—which I have learned to expect from someone, who, like Bergoglio, didnt teach in a high-level theological faculty for years, where his ideas were fire-tested by smart and challenging faculty and students—such as JP2 did and BXVI did. I have pointed out again and again that he never finished his Ph.D at Frankfurt—it is well documented in German-language news sources, such as Tauber Zeitung and others. This shows to me a man who, yes he is Pope, but like Montini, he has serious deficiencies in his training that he brings to the office. The Church will therefore be affected by these deficiencies. Grace builds on nature: if the nature is flawed, the medium of grace may be correspondingly limited. Not always: there is of course a Cure d’Ars, or a Solanus Casey or Joseph of Cupertino, the latter whom couldnt pass any of his theology exams (he was reputed to have a zero on every one, poverello!). But we are in for a rough ride, and as even Lumen Gentium notes (n. 25), the Pope must teach what the CC has always taught and held. There is no other course. As for economic analysis and several other areas, I will look other than EG for guidance.

  • “that some of his statements are so seriously flawed that even L’Osservatore Romano criticized his Oct 1 comments with Scalfari (the atheist Italian journalist) and that the Va. website took down a number of his flawed statements . . .”

    Or maybe they took them down because he did not really say them?

  • Right: CTD “maybe they took them down because he did not really say them”: Now, this is what we are reduced to regarding papal statements by Pope Francis: to the actual point of claiming he didnt say what he said, which is what poor Fr Federico Lombardi had to try to floart. The last several months, usually the interpreters of Francis have been using the “What-the-Pope-REALLY-meant-was…” lead-in). (Rather like “I never said, ‘If you like your healthplan, you can keep it.'”) Let’s just face it: PF makes some really poorly based statements (look at EG for a smorgasbord of them) and it is live action now: he is the spokesman for the Catholic Faith. He brings his notable prejudices (he has said how Card. Martini was his model) to the game: and it is not pretty. He is also all over the place, as Darwin C notes, from how a homily should be said (I hope no one uses his verbosity and lack of focus as an example) to how free-markets should be [I guess] even more regulated, and beating up on the straw man of laissez-faire Gordon Gecko-types. What about the World Bank, Holy Father, who has caused so much pain to so many developing countries, and even to your own country of Argentina, with their grossly punitive monetary actions? What about the WTO, which is little more than a band of brigands, routinely penalizing the US and rewarding rogue nations? The silence is deafening.

  • But in the case of the statements allegedly to Scalfari, there were no notes or recording and it was, by Scalfari’s own admission, his paraphrasing of the Pope’s statements draw from recollection. This is one case where the evidence indicates that it is not what he said.

    I personally have no problem with attributing to the Pope statements he actually said, including Evangellii Gaudium.

  • Right. Scalfari did not say, from all the original statements I have read of his, that he did not take notes, or that he was “paraphrasing” from recollection: only that he hadnt recorded the conversation.

    Fr. Lombardi has had to do damage control on what PF reliably said:

    ‘Pressed by reporters on the reliability of the direct quotations, Lombardi said during an Oct. 2 briefing that the text accurately captured the “sense” of what the pope had said, and that if Francis felt his thought had been “gravely misrepresented,” he would have said so.’ (NCR Oct 5, 2013).

    Let’s face it: in EG, in his own words, PF makes a remarkably uncharitable swipe at the traditionals, calling them “self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagians”:”those who ultimately trust only in their won powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past (n. 94.) (gee, sounds like a lot of “Spirit-of-V2” hide-bound progressives to me..) He calls others in the Church “querulous and disillusioned pessimists”(n. 85) and defeatists, even while he says “the Christian ideal will alwyas be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, ..” The statements in the La Repubblica interview are not far from the un-self-critical statements he puts in black-and-white in EG Aand now we have to quibble over the “translation”? Oh, face it, this is PF himself.

  • Steve Phoenix,

    Scalfari himself described his method as paraphrasing:

    In a meeting with the journalists of the Foreign Press Association of Rome, Scalfari maintained that all his interviews have been conducted without a recording device, nor taking notes while the person is speaking.

    “I try to understand the person I am interviewing, and after that, I write his answers with my own words,” Scalfari explained.

    He conceded that it is therefore possible that “some of the Pope’s words I reported were not shared by Pope Francis.”

    In the letter, he reportedly wrote: “I must explain that I wrote up our conversation in order to let everybody understand our dialogue. Keep in mind that I did not report some things you told me and that I report some things you did not tell me, which I wanted to insert to let the reader understand who you are.”


    Also, I want to make clear my disagreement with your assessment both of Pope Francis’s abilities as a thinker and of his exhortation. I’ve been quite impressed with the depth of the pope’s thinking, though his style is not my preferred one.

  • Yes, Scalfari said he did not take notes “while the person is speaking”, but he make a written account of what was said and present it to PF. I am equally sure it is accurate. Again, I note, as Fr. Lombardi tellingly said:

    ‘Pressed by reporters on the reliability of the direct quotations, Lombardi said during an Oct. 2 briefing that the text accurately captured the “sense” of what the pope had said, and that if Francis felt his thought had been “gravely misrepresented,” he would have said so.’ (NCR Oct 5, 2013).

    PF did not require a retraction or make a correction of these statements.

    As for Evangelium Gaudii, a meandering, unfocused, at times appears-to-be contradictory “work”, I am dismayed that a pope would “put it out” as his vision of the Church. You have got to be kidding.

  • The category mistake here is considering economics as a science like astronomy and biology, when it is really a science like psychology, sociology, anthropology. One thinks of the relation between religion and science quite differently in the two categories. In the natural sciences, morality and religion pertain primarily to the thinking of the scientist. In the human sciences, the pertain to that which is thought about, namely, human behavior.

  • No Jim Englert, economics is a hard science. Maybe it could be described as the study of the intersection of hard and soft sciences but its laws do not change based upon our whim. You can no more put an end to poverty, chickens in every pot, or healthcare for all any more than you suspend gravity or death for a day just because you find it more “just” or “right” that they not apply to us that day.

    I suggest you read the John C Wright article I linked to earlier in this thread.

  • How can any study be considered a hard science if the subject involves human behavior? Human persons are by creation body, mind, and soul (and because of the latter not subject to the material laws of creation) and by the Fall flawed in our capacities and prone to unpredictability. The presumption that we can “know” and develop a theory of man is a form of hubris and an attempt to make man God.

    I understand how non-believers can think that economics is a hard science, but the concept seems irreconcilable with Christian (and other) theologies.

  • Much of the dismal science is a hard science. For example, if the corn crop is bad the price of corn is going up. Employers are not going to pay wages which exceed the profit of their business, and if they are foolish enough to do so they will be swiftly bankrupt. Humans in their folly, collectively and individually, can attempt to ignore such aspects of econ 101, but disaster inevitably results when they do.

  • What Donald said.

    Though CTD, let’s look at some basic economic observations, and you tell me at what point man is trying to become God.

    (and most of these are quotes from: http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/06/economists-and-antieconomists-2/)
    “Humans would rather survive, than not.”
    “[Y]ou cannot keep your cake and eat it too.”
    “[T]here aint no such thing as a free lunch.”
    “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

    Finally I’ll quote JCW again as a caution that you’re being suckered in by a heresy:

    This is why discussions between Marxists and economists are mostly fruitless. One side, the economists, regards the subject matter as a matter of scientific logic, able to be rationally debated with reference to reality; whereas the other side, the so-called scientific socialists, regards the subject matter as an epiphenomenon of psychological defects on the part of the Benighted, and psychological perfection or enlightenment on the part of the Elect, and no rational debate is possible or even needed, because reality is a fluid waste-product of a materialist dialectic unfolding with the inevitability of Calvinist double predestination throughout the stages of history.

  • Some of those statements are not necessarily true. But even if we accept what they purport to mean, they are mostly statements of mathematics, not economics.

    In any event, the Church clearly view economics as a branch of moral philosophy because of her understanding of the human person as revealed by God, unlike her approach to sciences like astronomy and biology. For the Catholic, any attempt to develop a theory of man (including his behavior) absent Revelation is heresy.

  • Some of those statements are not necessarily true.

    Oh this should be entertaining. Do tell. Please, be specific and cite examples.

    But even if we accept what they purport to mean, they are mostly statements of mathematics, not economics.

    …Yeah, so guess what economics deal a lot with.

    Again to quote: “Economics studies the invariant relations of cause and effect surrounding human action, particularly economic phenomena. Economists deal with categories like cause and effect, cost and benefit, barter, currency, scarcity, priority, price, interest, time-preference, trade barriers, transaction costs, and so on and on. There are invariants in the phenomena that fit these categories.”

    For the Catholic, any attempt to develop a theory of man (including his behavior) absent Revelation is heresy.

    So according to you, biology and medical science must be the worst heresies ever invented.

  • “So according to you, biology and medical science must be the worst heresies ever invented.”

    Now you’re not even paying attention to what I’m writing.

    Nor are you addressing the fundamental issue: How do you square your view of economics as a hard science with the church’s view of it as subject of moral philosophy (see Caritas in Veritate and the Compendium of Social Doctrine, to name a few)?

    If you don’t accept the church’s view, so be it. But for the Catholic, the only question is whether Pope Francis’ comments are consistent with what the church has previously taught. Whether they agree with a non-theistic view of economics is not much of an issue and perhaps dangerous because it, like Marxism, would embrace a flawed understanding of the human person.

  • I would say that this quote of Saint Augustine is apropros in regard to much of economics:

    “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

    Rubbish in economic matters is rubbish no matter what sort of wrapper is put around the rubbish.

  • What did I say earlier? “Catholics are to economics as Evangelicals are to evolution.” Keep proving it, CTD.

    Nor are you addressing the fundamental issue: How do you square your view of economics as a hard science with the church’s view of it as subject of moral philosophy (see Caritas in Veritate and the Compendium of Social Doctrine, to name a few)?

    Pretty much what Donald said. It’s not “my view” it’s a question of, “is it true” whether economics is a (fairly) hard science or not. If the Church wants to set itself up as reality based or truth based or whatever, then that means its views and doctrines must change if reality contradicts them.

  • Imagine if the Pope’s economics began and ended with an exhortation to refrain from coveting thy neighbor’s goods. Oh, but that sounds too much like Ayn Rand so we mustn’t have any of that.

  • “Imagine if the Pope’s economics began and ended with an exhortation to refrain from coveting thy neighbor’s goods”

    Isn’t there a Commandment on that?

    Oh wait! I forgot! The gospel of social justice, the common good and peace at any price negate the Ten Commandments. It’s OK to steal from him who works to give to him who refuses to work.

  • Most of us would probably agree that the study and/or application of economics is more akin to say, the study of personal health — where the amount of dynamic variables is so massive as to make isolation of any one difficult. Our health is affected by our behaviors, our genetic makeup, our environment, our social order, etc. There maybe scientific realities present, but the sum aggregation of so many dynamic happenings clouds their unique performance. God tells us our bodies are sacred. We can surmise God wishes our health to be optimal. Similarly, the laws and application of economics occur. If economic levels are to be optimized, many of believe that this is best achieved with a free enterprise in place (with the right amount of property rights and governance). Many would also say that this freedom is also the most just and treats the individual (and their rights) with far more respect than that of big brother’s controlling hand. So then, as the church is not the keeper of an specific economic dogma — she can speak of individual economic desires … the “science” needed to achieve it is wide open.

  • “an epiphenomenon of psychological defects on the part of the Benighted, and psychological perfection or enlightenment on the part of the Elect, and no rational debate is possible or even needed, because reality is a fluid waste-product of a materialist dialectic unfolding with the inevitability of Calvinist double predestination throughout the stages of history.”

    I am putting this on a t-shirt. Good thing I wear a XXl.

  • “Imagine if the Pope’s economics began and ended with an exhortation to refrain from coveting thy neighbor’s goods”

    Indeed, but what if my neighbour has filched them from the common stock? St Ambrose teaches, “”You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.”

    Similarly, commenting on the gleaning laws (Lev. xix. 9, 10 and Deut. xxiv. 20, 21) the learned Rollin remarks that,” God has not only given the poor the power to gather grapes in the vineyards and to glean in the fields and to take away whole sheaves but has also granted to every passer-by without distinction the freedom to enter as often as he likes the vineyard of another person and to eat as many grapes as he wants, in spite of the owner of the vineyard. God Himself gives the first reason for this. It is that the land of Israel belonged to Him and that the Israelites enjoyed possession of it only on that onerous condition.”

  • Indeed, but what if my neighbour has filched them from the common stock? St Ambrose teaches, “”You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.”

    1) Tragedy of the commons.
    2) What is the “common stock”? How is such even determined?

  • “1) Tragedy of the commons.
    2) What is the “common stock”? How is such even determined?”

    Are you denying the Church’s teaching on the universal destination of goods?

  • Nate Winchester and ctd

    I have myself been caught up in conversations that turned into debates on this blog. Reading both of you I am wondering if you are saying similar things but are like two ships passing in the night.

    Nate if I am correct you are saying economics is indeed a hard science

    ctd you are saying that economic issues lie within the Church’s moral theology

    first am I correct in my descriptions for each of you?

    My second comment would then be this

    If economics is a hard science does that mean there are no moral dimensions to it, as we see for example in astronomy’s studies of Quasars and Black Holes or Physics studying String Theory? If I am correct this might zero in on the central issue.

    Of course I also could be wrong and pardon me for this intrusion 😉

  • “ctd you are saying that economic issues lie within the Church’s moral theology.”

    Yes. Though to be more accurate, I am saying that the Church herself says that.

  • Good distinctions, Botolph.

    I’d add: Even a hard science clearly has moral implications. For instance, it is unquestionably a matter of hard science whether the atom can be split, a fission chain reaction can be created, and thus whether it is possible to build a nuclear bomb. However, it is a moral question whether it is right to drop that bomb on a city.

    Also, if this isn’t just muddying things further, I’d argue that economics acts like a hard science most of the time. For instance, it’s a general rule that if some commodity is scarce (call it chocolate chip cookies) and everyone wants it, the price will go up until enough people are priced out of the market to reach a point of stablization. If you artificially limit the price at a “fair” one below the market price, you cause a shortage (people will snap them up at the low price, then hoard them or sell them off at higher prices via a secondary market.)

    However, all of this falls within a “all other things remaining equal” qualifier which accounts for potential changes in human behavior. Sometimes, due to cultural and moral values or other factors, a society will regulate itself in other ways. So, for instance, it could be that instead of snapping up all the cookies and starting a black market, strong cultural and moral forces will come into play causing people to find some way of distributing the cookies without hitting a shortage.

    That said, “all other things being equal” often works in the short run within a given cultural context, and so it’s possible to act as if economics is a hard science within certain limits, and to do so without in any way either prohibiting the Church from speaking on the morality of personal actions within the marketplace, or denying human free will and moral agency.

  • St Thomas teaches “Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural law dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one’s own: but because the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (57, 2,3). Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.” [ST IIa IIae Q66, II,obj 1]

    Thus, as Mirabeau explains, “Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they bring it into being; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens.” So, too, Robespierre, “In defining liberty, the first of man’s needs, the most sacred of his natural rights, we have said, quite correctly, that its limit is to be found in the rights of others. Why have you not applied this principle to property, which is a social institution, as if natural laws were less inviolable than human conventions?”

    The gleaning laws, cited above, and which formed part of the civil law of the Jewish commonwealth, are an excellent example of such a modification. No doubt, the wisdom of legislators could suggest others.

  • “If economics is a hard science does that mean there are no moral dimensions to it”

    There are moral dimensions to most things that humans engage in. A Pope may well preach to a group of plumbers that they must not overcharge for their work, but if he then goes on to tell them how to fix a leaky faucet he better have technical knowledge in that field. God does not grant the Popes an elastic infallibility that allows statements on technical areas to be without flaw simply because a Pope can work a moral flag in there somewhere. For example, a Pope may decry high unemployment as a moral evil. If he then attempts to prescribe how the unemployed should be put to work his policy suggestions are not infallible and are subject to the give and take of argument as with the policy ideas of everyone else.

  • Many excellent comments here. As a long-time student of economics, I would side with those who point out that the field is fundamentally a social science that predicts human behavior based on three assumptions: perfect information; perfect rational behavior; and self-interest. These are useful assumptions, but of course simplistic. The first two are simply never true and the last is impossible to define given different human priorities. Moreover, properly understood the last often does (and always should) embody more than material or economic self-interest, but must accomodate transcendent values such as concern for others. While the free-market certainly accommodates charitable works and gifts, it has no mechanism to predict such things.

    Personally, I agree with and applaud Darwin’s post (especially the next to last paragraph) as well as Art Deco’s comment of Tuesday morning. The danger of free markets rests with those adherants who understand them as somehow mechanically yielding perfectly just outcomes. Of course they don’t. Just because I can pay someone less than a living wage, doesn’t mean that I always should. It depends on a lot of things — things that no government bureaucracy will ever be able to evaluate effectively, but things that each of us daily have a duty to evaluate as best we can.

    I would also add that the injunction that goods belong to all must be understood as applying only to true necessities. This injunction has much more practical force with respect to the West’s relationship with parts of Africa and Central America than it does with the present US welfare state. Properly understood this injunction has nothing to do with wealth or income disparity as such, and the extent to which government taxation policy is an appropriate instrument for delivering on this injunction is a matter of prudential judgment, but even this very conservative (social and economic) Catholic acknowledges that there is nothing morally wrong for a free society to choose tax and government policy to execute on this injunction properly understood.

    Finally, I also emphatically agree that our Holy Father seems a bit too eager to speak loosely about things he fails to fully understand. Coercive government policies designed to help the poor often backfire horribly, and it is of little comfort to those harmed to remind them we meant well. Being smart and well-intended, is not substitute for being right and well-informed.

  • Another aspect we all know, but has not been discussed specifically … is the viewpoint of “macro” vs “micro” economics. Most of our principals center around the marco side (all of which direct the micro in effects) — yet — any church teaching and PF care only about the micro (specifically the individual). Most statements are proclaimed to the micro-side of the equation. Yet, the debate rages on as to the macro policies that should best be used to generate the results.

  • Darwin and Donald,

    Thanks for your posts. Darwin you further developed and did not muddy the waters at all-at least for me. And Donald, you need to know that indeed I would not call PF if I needed a plumber (surprised lol?)

    Thanks to all posting. Economics is not my field. I am learning something on almost each post. I obviously do believe that economic issues have moral dimensions and therefore the Church is called to be involved and speak. I agree however, that bishops statements for a particular economic bill can be too specific and, yes, even over reaching. As for PF, I am not convinced he over reached on the overall economic material in EG, however I am also still waiting for a clarification on the translation of that material as well.

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  • Economics, Nate Winchester, may well be a difficult science, but it is not a ‘hard’ science. Being other than that does not mean it amounts to nothing more than whims. Psychology and sociology are more than whim-sical. What economics has in common with them is that its subject matter pertains to human behavior, i.e., meanings and values.

    There are differences among physicists and biologists. Yet if one happens upon a discussion among randomly gathered physicists or biologists, after having been involved in a similar discussion among psychologists, one will be struck by what will now appear to be the virtual unanimity of physics.

    Randomly gathered economists in conversation would resemble one of these prior conversations far more than the other.

    The ‘laws’ of economics pertain to real social and cultural contexts. Given the context of resources, institutions, personality-structures, etc., that have emerged from innumerable patterns of human choices over a long haul, yes, regularities (‘laws,’ if you prefer) arise. But they are not some universal truth. Nothing comparable to understanding the fundamental nature of physical energy.

    Economic ‘laws’ may tell us about a great deal about how things actually work in a given complex nest of human meanings and values. They tell us nothing, though, about whether those meanings and values are really human. Here, the likes of popes can come in handy.

  • “They tell us nothing, though, about whether those meanings and values are really human. Here, the likes of popes can come in handy.”

    The likes of a pope will not alter the law of supply and demand or the law that markets are the best mechanism to meet the material needs of most people.

  • I’d add: Even a hard science clearly has moral implications. For instance, it is unquestionably a matter of hard science whether the atom can be split, a fission chain reaction can be created, and thus whether it is possible to build a nuclear bomb. However, it is a moral question whether it is right to drop that bomb on a city.

    Hah, Darwin I was about to use that very example and you beat me to it. So what he said.

    As a long-time student of economics,…Of course they don’t. Just because I can pay someone less than a living wage, doesn’t mean that I always should.

    It’s hard to believe anyone that claims to “study economics” when they then use “living wage” unironically.

    Economics, Nate Winchester, may well be a difficult science, but it is not a ‘hard’ science. Being other than that does not mean it amounts to nothing more than whims. Psychology and sociology are more than whim-sical. What economics has in common with them is that its subject matter pertains to human behavior, i.e., meanings and values.

    But they are not some universal truth. Nothing comparable to understanding the fundamental nature of physical energy.

    Oh right, because I forgot it was only up to our whim that crops grow and animals hop onto our plate. Why, if you’ve got 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and 7,000 people to feed, it’s only whim that keeps everyone from eating their fill.

    No it is not “whim” that drive economics. It’s Genesis 3:19- “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food”. The pope can’t make crops grow by standing in the field and preaching to the seed that the poor must be fed. Bishops can’t preach to the flock of chickens about the needs of man and have the flock run off to pluck themselves and throw themselves into the cooking pots of every house in the world. A newborn babe left in the woods does not have food fall on it and a shelter extend over it just because it is human and has rights. To decide that all this work and effort reality requires is a “whim”… well I guess opting to die is always an option but then there’s no need to further address you is there?

    Economic ‘laws’ may tell us about a great deal about how things actually work in a given complex nest of human meanings and values. They tell us nothing, though, about whether those meanings and values are really human. Here, the likes of popes can come in handy.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You don’t have to take my word for it, read John C Wright’s essay: http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/06/economists-and-antieconomists-2/ He’s a far better, wiser (plus Catholic) man than me. Like he points out, it doesn’t matter whether a human is involved or not. Even an alien from the other side of the galaxy will be bound by the same economic laws that we are and can no more escape them “by whim” than we can.

  • So, I read Wright. If SciFi dude is your thing, go for it. Not mine.

    Two simple points, and then a reading suggestion of my own.

    Wright’s wrong, I think, in his behavioral reductionism, i.e., understanding human behavior straightforwardly in terms of cause and effect. If Wright’s right, then so was B.F. Skinner, and we should all just move into Walden Two. I think he’s wrong. I think meanings and values are realities — a truly human ontology — and that they comprise a third thing between cause and effect. You do catch the Geist of our Zeit, though, in positing cause-effect reductionism. Here in the economic sphere. Many do so in the sexual sphere, others the military. . .

    Secondly, by inserting Wright’s essay into this conversation, you insert Marx by invisible (sleight of) hand, as it were. This reduces the discussion to an either/or: Marxism or markets. Leave the bogeyman out of it, though, and intelligent — perhaps even reasonable and responsible — conversation is possible. If you insist on reducing all to the dualism, all that’s left is ideological squabbling. Whoever ‘wins’ such, yippie.

    To concretize this, take a topic much talked about these days: health care. If one insists on purity of market forces, this scenario unfolds: I’m having a heart attack, I go to the hospital; I have no insurance, no money, no reasonable hope of having the requisite resources to pay later for the care I need now. Market forces have no way to ‘value’ my life, to find it ‘meaningful.’ But even people who talk a great deal about ‘market solutions’ to health care, don’t really mean it; at least most don’t. They recognize that this is different than if I need a car, go to a dealership, without money, without credit, but truly do ‘need’ the car. Most people recognize a difference between the two scenarios, and that difference is not a matter of cause and effect, it’s not a matter of market forces, it’s a matter of an underlying human consensus of meaning and value of what kind of society we want to live in. Our disagreements in this regard don’t tend to be between Marx and the markets, as Wright would have it, but, rather, about ‘how much’ and ‘how’ to limit/shape/direct market forces in terms of the meanings and values we manage to share, which we call ‘culture.’

    Pope Francis isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a Marxist. But he isn’t a free-marketeer, either. What he’s raising are questions of culture — both the content of the meanings and values that are constitutive of our human existence, and the manner in which that content renders economic exchange a bit more complex than cause-and-effect.

    What shapes my reading of Francis is what meager understanding I’ve managed to attain of Karl Polanyi’s “The Great Transformation.” His understanding of the rupture in European society and culture attendant upon the industrial revolution is not without value in attempting to understand what is happening in societies and cultures of the Southern hemisphere as they are ‘drawn’ (others would say ‘sucked’) into the neoliberal system.

    Wright’s idealized market produces the best material life for the most people. But even if one grants that — which I don’t when stated as bluntly and blandly as he did — but even if one does, the question remains: what of those who are not among ‘the most’? It may be possible to demonstrate that the disruptions of social and cultural patterns of living that have occurred have reduced rates of ‘poverty,’ but they have also transformed the meaning of poverty. Subsistence farm families living around villages may well have been ‘poor,’ but there was ‘wealth’ there, too, but not wealth as quantifiable by Friedman’s boys. When that land is taken by large market forces, these persons/families/communities are dislocated into the very different poverty of the urban barrios.

    Pope Francis knows something of that great transformation, that disruption, that neither you nor your auctoritas seem to know. Marketeers who speak Schumpeter’s phrase, “creative destruction,” attend too little to what is being destroyed: persons, families, communities. Their glib speech seems the identical twin of Stalin’s remark that in order to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs. The real difference between Milton Friedman and Josef Stalin simply pertains to who gets to break the eggs and who gets to eat the omelet. The pope simply understands that persons, families and communities are neither eggs nor omelets. And he invites us to that understanding. A bit much to ask of some, perhaps

  • “The real difference between Milton Friedman and Josef Stalin simply pertains to who gets to break the eggs and who gets to eat the omelet.”

    That and some 50 million dead Soviets. And freedom. And no persecution of the Church. And no Gulags. And—but I think you get the idea.

  • So, I read Wright. If SciFi dude is your thing, go for it. Not mine.

    Oh look, ad hominem. “Well if the pope dude is your thing, go for it. Not mine.” See? I can do it too. Of course most people realize that truth is true no matter who says it. Two plus two always remains four whether Wright, the Pope or even Hitler says it. I mostly refer to John because he’s far more eloquent than I.

    Wright’s wrong, I think, in his behavioral reductionism, i.e., understanding human behavior straightforwardly in terms of cause and effect. If Wright’s right, then so was B.F. Skinner, and we should all just move into Walden Two. I think he’s wrong. I think meanings and values are realities — a truly human ontology — and that they comprise a third thing between cause and effect.

    That’s not… look: Cause- You ate all your seed corn. Effect- You got no corn to grow next year, hope you enjoy starving, idiot! Now I’m really interested in what “third thing” is somehow going to come between that cause and effect which will magically plant corn in your field and cause it to grow. That’s all economics is. You ate your seed corn. Well you’re going to die unless you do something else. You’re going to have to get some more seed corn from somewhere or someone whether by purchase, foraging, robbery or donation. But if nothing is done, the effect is obvious: starvation. If you’ve got some proof or evidence that there’s another option, then by all means share since it means you’ve hacked reality.

    Secondly, by inserting Wright’s essay into this conversation, you insert Marx by invisible (sleight of) hand, as it were. This reduces the discussion to an either/or: Marxism or markets. Leave the bogeyman out of it, though, and intelligent — perhaps even reasonable and responsible — conversation is possible. If you insist on reducing all to the dualism, all that’s left is ideological squabbling. Whoever ‘wins’ such, yippie.

    It’s as much “either/or” as any discussion is an either/or. Either something is true, or it’s a lie. To toss that out is to make conversation impossible. Either control, or freedom. There’s no third way, only how far along the spectrum you are towards one or the other. You may as well argue that we can do without the dualism of God and Satan.

    To concretize this, take a topic much talked about these days: health care.

    Oh goody, this is going to be a laugh.

    If one insists on purity of market forces, this scenario unfolds: I’m having a heart attack, I go to the hospital; I have no insurance, no money, no reasonable hope of having the requisite resources to pay later for the care I need now.

    No, let’s be realistic and expand the scenario. You and six other people are having heart attacks and go to the hospital. There’s only 2 doctors available. Let’s say that for all 7 of you, if treatment isn’t started within the next 20 minutes, you’ll die. However, once treatment begins, it cannot be stopped or paused until 15 minutes (at which point patient is “stabilized”). So tell me, only 4 of you can be saved out of 7. Which 4 should it be? How should such be determined? And remember, you’ve only got around 4 extra minutes to decide. Heck I’ve spent a lot of time around emergency rooms because of past jobs, there are usually a lot of people waiting in there. Why should you or anyone else have priority over any other patient? Is your heart attack more of a concern than someone else’s stroke? Chop chop Jim because you don’t have weeks to figure this out, you have seconds.

    Market forces have no way to ‘value’ my life, to find it ‘meaningful.’

    I have news for you: the WORLD doesn’t value your life or find it meaningful. If you are trapped on a deserted island, will fresh water burst from the ground at your feet when you’re thirsty? Will food fall out of the sky when you’re hungry? Will the weather avoid the island so it doesn’t damage poor valuable you with exposure?

    You can climb to the top of any mountain and cry out to the heavens about your value and meaning all you want, and it won’t put food in your belly, water on your lips or shelter over your head. God warned us of such at the very beginning when Adam screwed up.

    Most people recognize a difference between the two scenarios, and that difference is not a matter of cause and effect, it’s not a matter of market forces, it’s a matter of an underlying human consensus of meaning and value of what kind of society we want to live in. Our disagreements in this regard don’t tend to be between Marx and the markets, as Wright would have it, but, rather, about ‘how much’ and ‘how’ to limit/shape/direct market forces in terms of the meanings and values we manage to share, which we call ‘culture.’

    It is as much a matter of cause and effect as going to an empty car lot and not getting a car is. You’ve done nothing to answer the essential question. Where do the doctors come from? Their time is finite, they cannot be in two places at once so how do you pick which patient is seen before the others? Do you use this tonnage of iron to make scalpels or needles or hospital beds? Should you send this ambulance to the east side of town or the west for this patient?

    You can “feel” and “value” however you want. Everyone in the entire world can feel and value however they want but it won’t produce a new scalpel, train a new doctor, or build a second ambulance. And until you grasp this fact, you may as well propose that patients be brought to the hospital via unicorn.

    The rest of your post is just utter insanity but I have to clarify one thing:

    Marketeers who speak Schumpeter’s phrase, “creative destruction,” attend too little to what is being destroyed: persons, families, communities.

    No, “creative destruction” is just businesses going out of businesses. Besides what’s the alternative? Say we have a buggy whip factory right as the car is becoming popular. Oh but according to you, we can’t close this factory down, that would be too disruptive to the “community” and “families”. So then what? Every piece of leather sent to that factory to be turned into a buggy whip (which no one wants) is a piece of leather not going to say… a hospital for its supplies. And where is the money to pay the workers going to come from? Are you going to make buying buggy whips mandatory? Just send straight tax money to the workers? (at which point, why not set them to digging & filling ditches?)

    See? No matter what, any time someone says the markets need to be just a little less free, they always end up a shade of Marx.

    Pardon me, but I prefer to deal with reality, and currently free markets are by far the greatest tool we have to do so.

  • Jim,
    I agree with much of what you wrote. But like Donald, I think you are being quite unfair to Friedman. Friedman did think that generally speaking the gent who feeds the chickens, harvests the eggs, and makes the omelet is entitled to eat the omelet, but he would also agree with that sharing the omelet with a gent who is truly hungry (as opposed to ready for dinner) is a moral good. He would generally (though not dogmatically — after all he was the first proponent of a negative income tax) object to the idea that it is appropriate to force the first gent to feed the second gent, but it is an injustice to confuse Friedman with Ayn Rand. Friedman never objected to the idea that moral goods can and should transcend markets; he simply believed that the dignity of man requires the liberty to do good, and liberty cannot be squared with coercion. Moreover, he was a pragmatist in that he understood that economic liberty does a better job of distributing omelets, especially to those who are hungry, than command economies and redistribution schemes.

  • Nate,
    Believe what you wish, but I received my BA in economics in 1979 and though now concentrate in the field of taxation, I’ve never lost interest.
    Let me share a story with you. In 1973 a 16year-old young man worked as a short order cook at an A&W on Chicago’s southwest side. The $1.30 per hour he earned was important to him since he was trying to pay for his Catholic high school tuition. One day that young man discovered that his co-worker was earning $1.80 per hour even though he performed the same tasks, was not superior in the execution of those tasks, and had comparable seniority. That young man then demanded an explanation from the owner, who told him, “you do realize that Mark’s father has passed and he is supporting his mother and little sister, don’t you”? I (yes that young man was me) learned an important lesson that day. Yes, the owner did not have to pay Mark extra; but he did it because it was right. I would never want to government to regulate such things, but human decisions, while necessarily influenced by markets, are not always ruled by them. Free markets allocate resources in a way that allows for much higher living standards generally, but when markets are free participants can make decisions that transcend simple market forces, and that is a good thing.

  • In addition to Jim’s excellent comments, I think he touches upon the problem – reductionism. From the Catholic perspective nothing is just its material (or cause and effect, etc). Corn is not just food, omelets are not just omelets, health care is not just a procedure, work is not just work, and so on. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church explains everything, especially anything related to human activity, has a value that cannot be reduced to its mere materials or instrumentality. Because it is a human activity, reducing economics to mere laws of science void of any value ultimately diminishes the human person and denies the Incarnation.

  • “Because it is a human activity, reducing economics to mere laws of science void of any value ultimately diminishes the human person and denies the Incarnation.”

    All science involves human activity. Most economic activities, for example farming, involve the application of science. To warn when people make proposals that fly in the face of science or simple common sense does not “diminish the human person” or “denies the Incarnation” but rather is the admirable trait of calling malarkey malarkey, no matter who is spouting it. God is ill served when people forego the brains He gave us because someone in authority is saying something stupid and it is being bruited about that we have a religious duty to agree with the stupid thing just said.

    Judging from this quote I suspect that Pope Francis might agree with the sentiments expressed above: “Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”

  • Too many currents aswirl here for a mediocre swimmer like me to manage, but I’ll try a few strokes.

    My “SciFi dude” condescension was wrong, as ad hominems tend to be. I should have simply said this: I find his essay neither insightful nor eloquent. Here’s a kernel, at least, of why I render this judgment. If you are going to speak of Martians being subject to economic laws — especially if you are a Catholic doing so — isn’t it essential to ask at least these questions: (1) Have Martians experienced a Fall? Or is their’s a non-lapsarian existence? (2) If they are fallen, have they been sent a Savior? Have they heard a Word? (3) Are they like humans, each a member of a common species? Or are they like angels, each a separate species?

    And would not such questions matter in thinking about whether they would be subject to the same economic ‘laws’ as humans? I didn’t introduce the Martians. But if they’re going to be brought into the conversation, these questions seem urgent and apt. One can presume that Martians will be subject to the ‘law’ of gravity without such inquiry. But not economic ‘law.’ And this is to the point of ‘placing’ economics as a science. Neither Fall nor Redemption nor sharing “common destiny” (de Lubac) as a species pertains to the hard sciences. Each pertains integrally, though, to psychology, sociology, anthropology. . . and economics.

    As for this assertion — “You may as well argue that we can do without the dualism of God and Satan” — we, indeed, had better be able to do without it. There is no such dualism. And to posit the existence of such is heresy. Yet Manichee seems ever among us.

    I note, Nate, that you complicated my medical question. But never answered it. The world may be, as you insist, indifferent to the value of my life. Our society, though, is not. There is an insistence on care, even for the indigent. And that insistence comes from no market forces, but from a tempering of those forces by both law and custom. That both such law and custom are susceptible to erosion is evident in the place of abortion in our social and cultural life. That development is probably a good thing for the health of markets; it is decidedly not a good thing for the health of our society and culture. And the more we cede care of health and life solely to market dictates, further such erosion seems likely.

    Mike and Donald, you rightly castigate my careless besmirching of Friedman. I used the name as a cipher, which one should never do to a human person, living or dead. Behind the rhetorical excess, though, lies an insistence that there is a market ideology, as well as a Marxist one. Both deal death. Scale and scope are different, and my rhetoric can be read as minimizing the Stalinist horrors — an inexcusable lapse. Having done so distracted from my intended point that there have been horrors aplenty in the Latin American experience of neo-liberal economics. One can speak of ‘democratic capitalism,’ but in the experience of many in these societies it was not democratically chosen, but imposed. One need not embrace the entire thrust of Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” to accept that much of her analysis of the role of torture and death squads in that imposition is on target.

    Which brings me full circle back, Nate, to “creative destruction.” I did not argue that there is no point, no truth, in the phrase. I did — and do — argue that all too often it is used all too glibly. Catholicism treasures continuity and tradition, not just in doctrine and ritual, but in life. Is leery of ruptures in all these spheres. This doesn’t mean that there should never be such destruction or ruptures. But the Catholic sensibility that has been given to me, handed on to me, as such a great grace, is suspicious of such, and glib speech about such grates.

  • There are a couple different apologias for market forces going on here, so what I say may not apply to all others’ beliefs, but here goes:

    I would argue that economic “laws” are dependent really on just two things:
    1) No one is capable of having perfect information in a complex system, because there is simply too much to know
    2) Scarce resources

    I suppose whether these would apply to Martians with an unfallen nature depends on what you imagine an unfallen nature to be like. For instance, could an unfallen Martian still be injured and need medical care? Would an unfallen Martian still need to consume resources (such as food) to stay alive? Would an unfallen Martian be all knowing?

    Let’s imagine that unfallen Martians are much like us in their needs and capacity for knowledge, but that they have complete and perfect love for one another. A Martian miner is mining and refining graphite. He sells it to Martians who make pencils and Martians who make tennis rackets. (Tennis is very popular on Mars due to the slightly lower gravity.)

    Then, a Martian invents a medical device which performs some wonderful function, but making it in sufficiently quantity to take care of all those who need it will use up 40% of the annual supply of graphite. How are the Martians to allocate the remaining 60% of graphite between the pencil and racket makers? They could cut back the supply to both equally, but how do they know whether Martians value graphite pencils or graphite rackets more? And it’s harder than that, what if some Martians are happy to switch to graphite substitute pencils, but others value graphite pencils very much. And some Martian tennis players are happy to switch to steel rimmed rackets, but others would give up much to keep buying graphite? They can never gather enough information to understand the exact preferences of every Martian on the topic, nor can each Martian end-consumer know exactly how highly he or she values graphite products compared to all the others. But there is one very simple thing they can do: Raise the price of graphite pens and graphite rackets and allow individual Martians to decide whether the products are still worth buying at the new price. After a brief period of price turbulence, both products will reach a new stable price point and only those Martians who place that much value on the products will continue to buy them.

    In other words, they can solve the problem by having a market. And although unfallen persons might treat each other very differently at a personal level, the market workings in an unfallen world would be pretty similar: more scarce resources would increase in price and more common resources would decrease in price, providing market actors with the information they needed to decide what to acquire and what not to.

    Now let’s go back to our own fallen world and Jim arriving at the hospital.

    I would argue that his inability to pay does not preclude his treatment in a market system any more than a market system precludes my painting my mother’s living room without charging her for my labor. The hospital and doctor are in possession of resources (time, space and supplies) and they are fully capable (and, indeed, legally and morally required) of using those resources to help a person who comes in in need of lifesaving treatment.

    One could imagine a “market ideology” which held that there is a moral norm that one should never do anything unless one earns money by doing so, but economic laws certainly do not contain any such ideology any more than the law of gravitation requires that we throw collies off fire escapes.

    What economic laws do mean is that the time of the doctors and the resources of the hospital have to come from somewhere, at at some level (via prices) they have to tie to the value that we put on the care being given. Sure, someone will say that every life has infinite worth, but this isn’t actually true in terms of time and resources. Imagine that you stumble into the ER with a life threatening ailment which the doctors can heal, but only if every doctor within a 100 mile radius comes and spends the next week working on it, leaving all other patients untreated. Should that happen? No. And in economic terms the reason is because society cannot “afford” that. Society can and should allocate resources (wether by taxing and spending or by charity or by requiring that doctors provide free care to the indigent and make it up by charging everyone else more) to provide necessary care to the indigent. But there is the limit to how much care can be provided, and that limit is set by the amount of resource that society is able to devote to that. In market terms “how much it costs”.

    Economics simply tells us that if a doctor spends half his time treating people who can’t pay that either:
    – He will make half as much as if he had all paying patients
    – Someone else will have to pay him on behalf of those who can’t pay
    – Other people will have to provide him with “free” goods and services to make up for the goods and services he can’t afford to buy because he wasn’t paid for half his work

    Economics does not tell us whether or not the doctor should treat someone who comes in but has no money. It just tells us the consequences of his doing so.

  • Excellent comment as always, Darwin.

  • I’d argue that economics acts like a hard science most of the time.


    I would argue that economics is also inherently deceptive most of the time, surpassing even statistics in its mendacity. in ways that real hard sciences are not. Physics or chemistry does not involve any “should” or any moral imperative. As important as those are, they are strictly “meta” to the subject being studied. Economists, on the other hand, are always too ready to tack on a “therefore, we should…” statement far too early in their “research”, if only implicitly, and ultimately that’s what they end up arguing about.


    As Jim and Nate’s discussion over emergency health care shows, there is no way to deal with such matters without a specific context and scope. I am also reminded of the turnaround regarding immigration made by what I’ll the call the gravitational center of conservative opinion. Once upon a time, mainstream conservatism was strongly pro-immigration. Nowadays, conservatives are more likely to gripe about the financial and other obligations and costs incurred by the new immigrants (especially the illegal ones. Interestingly, in doing so, they are implicitly assuming the ongoing existence of a safety net that makes papal grumbling about laissez faire economics even more puzzling if it is being directed at the US).


    So even though the 1% element of the right is still in favor of cheap and compliant nannies and gardeners, and also cheap engineers and other H-1B visa holders to keep their costs down, the rest (I’m ignoring egghead libertarians) worry more about what is going to happen to the under- and middle-class job holders who will actually have to make way for the new job seekers. Of course, both sides of the issue were always present in any immigration debate, but even though the economics of the issue have not changed, the “should” and the moral imperative meta-discussion has.


    Given all that, I think both Jim and Nate are right, but they are talking about different aspects of the issue. It’s a problem inherent in economics, in that without the “should” arguments, the discipline is nakedly irrelevant. Pure mathematicians do not care if anyone will find a use for their research — for them, the beauty is quite enough. Economists seem to understand that their discipline is far too lacking in beauty to warrant such devotion.

  • I recall an editorial I read (and transcribed) in France

    For generations we were disciplined, pacified and made into subjects, productive by nature and content to consume. And suddenly everything that we were compelled to forget is revealed: that “the economy is political.” And that this politics is, today, a politics of discrimination within a humanity that has, as a whole, become superfluous [une politique de sélection au sein d’une humanité devenue, dans sa masse, super-flue]. From Colbert to de Gaulle, by way of Napoleon III, the state has always treated the economic as political, as have the bourgeoisie (who profit from it) and the proletariat (who confront it). All that is left is this strange, middling part of the population, the curious and powerless aggregate of those who take no sides: the petty bourgeoisie. They have always pretended to believe that the economy is a reality-because their neutrality is safe there. Small business owners, small bosses, minor bureaucrats, managers, professors, journalists, middlemen of every sort make up this non-class in France, this social gelatine composed of the mass of all those who just want to live their little private lives at a distance from history and its tumults. This swamp is predisposed to be the champion of false consciousness, half-asleep and always ready to close its eyes on the war that rages all around it.”

  • Well! For me that opens another way of looking at it Michel P-S! Lots of food for thought there

  • Or perhaps this petty bourgeouise normally has the common sense to eschew the endless grand political solutions offered for the endless grievences that have been contrived as a path to power for the contrivers, but instead they just want to exercise their brains and brawn to raise their children with food and shelter as they ignore the “brights” whose idea of productivity is to divide people into classes they can represent in a phony ideological war. Perhaps they see the economy as real and the ideologies as phony.

  • Mike Petrik
    But that is the paradox. On the one hand, the middle class is against politicization – they just want to sustain their way of life, to be left to work and lead their life in peace (which is why they tend to support authoritarian coups which promise to put an end to the crazy political mobilisation of the masses, so that everybody can get on with their proper work). On the other hand, they – in the guise of the threatened, patriotic hard-working, moral majority – are the main instigators of grass-root mass mobilization (in the guise of the Rightist populism) In Europe, they are the backbone of the neo-fascist, anti-immigrant parties that form the only serious opposition to the post-political EU consensus.
    As a class, they are being eliminated by down-sizing, out-sourcing and globalisation.

  • Michael PS – oh yes, why very good points my chap .. why in fact, they seem to be summed up, if you will, on this very clip …. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVQrpok9KPA (pfff)

  • Fair point, Michael. In other words, don’t underestimate the ability of any person or group to be convinced that it too has a grievance and has been terribly wronged by some other person or group. The instigators of these contrived class wars are usually not even really evil, just afflicted with an unwholesome admixture of pride, naivity and the need to *feel* good about themselves.

  • Although the discussion reminds me a bit of the tale of four or five blind men assaying an elephant, the difference would be that the elephant is a creation of God (came into being without the help of humans) whereas the economy is constructed by mankind…with sometimes clarity of vision and more often clouded, sometimes by large
    groups of people banded together in ethos or ideology, sometimes just lemmings

    I am not saying the participants here are blind men! Just saying the economy is a mystery and none of our best opinions are adequate.
    Moral theology does apply to our personal and collective economic behavior, and personal choices are ultimately key

  • So where are we in this matter? No one can or should go to the Church for economic answers, economics is not the Church’s expertise or mission. However, ‘the humanum’, what it means to be human is, because it is only in Christ that the fullest revelation of what it means to be ‘man’ is revealed. Only in Christ are the deepest questions of ‘man’ answered. Only in Christ can we discover ‘man’s true dignity. Only in Christ that the deepest meaning of human life discovered in the “Law of the Gift”

    I am left with three questions from this discussion:

    1. Is not economics a human science, that precisely because it is human, is not only open to, but needs the moral/ethical dimension for it to “.prosper”?

    2) If so, how can we work to make sure ” mammon” is not a “golden calf” but instead serves and does not rule?

    3)With this in mind how best can we work together within a democratic capitalist system (vs any state hegemony or socialist utopian. Nightmare) to decrease to the point of disappearing an economy of exclusion which denigrates and even denies the dignity of each person from the moment of conception to natural death?

  • lol I left out a phrase in my post: The humanum is the expertise and mission of the Church. Sorry lo

  • Botolph, a fine summation. And for these reasons we can appreciate that the needed improvement in the moral fabric and behavior of our society is achieved, not in or through economic circles, but in our Lord and savior. The change of heart brings about a change in behavior – whether from a mother, father, senator, congressman, clerk, lawyer, doctor, manager or business owner. Grass roots, slowly and at times painfully planted and watered. To this end our mission to go forth is all that more important …. and the actions, words and faith that each of us bring, matters. The primary goals being more and better Christians, preferably catholic — not necessarily a mission to bring about more capitalists or socialist.

  • Two quips — from two very wise men — pretty well exhaust what I might have to add as to ‘where we’re at’ in this conversation (both this particular conversation, and of this general conversation of which our exchange here is an instance).

    The Canadian Jesuit, Bernard Lonergan, best known as philosopher and theologian, devoted a great deal of his life to thinking about economics. Asked once if economics is a science, he responded, ‘if it is, it’s at a stage of development roughly comparable to that of chemistry in the thirteenth century.’

    And Daniel Patrick Moynihan — himself no slouch as a social scientist — insisted that social scientists (and he definitely included economists here) have virtually no expertise whatsoever when it comes to recommending public policy. In fact, he insisted that they have virtually no credible skills in predicting the consequences of particular policies. What they are able to do — even occasionally do well — is evaluate the consequences of policy choices that have been enacted.

    In a word, modesty.

    Re-reading this entire conversation leads me to think that at least my part in it got off track by engaging in the hard/soft dichotomy as to the sciences. My whole point in joining the conversation was to respond to the original author’s assertion that he wouldn’t look to the Church for economic guidance any more than for astronomical guidance. I suggested a category mistake had been made in associating these two sciences. But ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ don’t get to the point. The distinction I was positing was between the ‘natural’ sciences and the ‘human’ sciences. Yes, all the sciences are human on the side of the subject, involving the human operations of the human minds of human scientists. But the objects of study of some sciences also involve the operations of human minds and wills and hearts and vices and virtues, while others do not.

    The fact that many economists do not recognize/acknowledge the significance of that distinction for scientific methodology has much to do with why Fr. Lonergan located economics as he did.

    And, yes, insisting that economics is a ‘human’ science means that the Church may have something to offer here. But I would share hesitancy about any direct, all too easy contribution. I’m not arguing for a ‘moral’ dimension to economics. I’m simply suggesting that economists will never attain to significant intellectual understanding of reality without grasping that the realities they are attempting to understand are intrinsically dependent on the operations of human beings, and accordingly that their operative assumptions as to what a human being is will lead to both insights and oversights. Today’s economic science seems to me riddled with oversights precisely because of highly inadequate notions of what it is to be a human being.

    But I’m not sure there really is any more ‘moral’ component to economics than there is to astronomy. The moral urgency comes with what we do with the findings of either science. And how much authority we give to those sciences. And how much modesty we demand of them.

    A final train of thought. A whole bunch of economics graduate students were dispatched as missionaries from the University of Chicago to Pinochet’s Chile. ‘Missionaries’ because they were filled with ‘oughts.’ Lots of good ideas, no doubt. But so little awareness (so similar to their descendants in the economics wing of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad a few decades later) that thinking of markets-as-such is an abstraction. In reality markets only exist and function in contexts, which have histories and cultures and developed traditions of virtue and vice. And imposition of radical change on the basis of well-intentioned theory (whether theories of Marx or markets) tends to be bloody, whether in Havana or Santiago.

    And the Church has something to say about blood. First and foremost, pay attention to those who are bleeding. Nate grabbed stock images from standard economics textbooks: buggy whip factories and eating seed corn. But we aren’t talking about either of those things here.

    We aren’t talking about a farmer eating his seed corn, because we’re talking about whole societies of farmers who don’t have land anymore. It’s now owned by anonymous and distant corporations (‘subsidiarity’ anyone?) growing coffee. And even if there are a few farmers still left with land, their corn doesn’t provide seed anymore; it needs to be purchased anew each growing season from the seed company. Which may be a good thing or bad; but outdated examples reveal outdated thinking.

    All of which is just to say: attend to the concrete. This entire conversation has been ‘Northern’ in tone and substance. It couldn’t be otherwise, all of us, it seems, being Yanquis. But two-thirds of our Church are Southerners (and I don’t mean Dixie). To be sure, they aren’t of one mind and don’t speak with one voice. But Jorge Bergoglio’s is a significant voice, and speaks for many. We should listen.

  • Jim,

    I believe we are in agreement about most points. The one exception [and I might be misreading what you said] is “I’m not sure there is really is any more ‘moral component’ to economics than there is to astronomy”. If I am reading you correctly we greatly differ here. Astronomy has next to zero moral component unless NASA spies a very large meteor streaking toward earth and the question is whether or not to attempt to intercept it [I know enough astronomy that how and to what degree etc are important as well]. However, the moons of Jupiter and how they interact around their home planet not only do so with extremely little impact on ‘man’ but do so according to gravity etc. Since there is no choice in their operations,then there is no morality.

    However, there is choice, freedom, in economic activity. True, 2+2=4; can’t argue that. However, if one of those two is yours, the other two is mine, neither of us has the right to ‘take’, ‘steal’, manipulate the market so that one of those two’s becomes the others. Make sense? While of course economics has become very complicated, its constant moral component, present from the time of the first human couple, has been ratified and guaranteed by Sinai: Thou Shalt not steal.

    Once we agree on that, then the other two questions can be, should be and need to be tackled.

  • I guess this all becomes part of the issue. Stealing is wrong. 2+2=4. But as noted, economics, being a social science, is very imprecise. So we know that stealing is wrong but we really can’t be completely sure that some economic activities constitute stealing. One can have a valid opinion that we are dealing with 2+2. Another may argue that it is 2+3. So a (legitimate) divergence of opinion given the state of an imprecise science. Thus one can conclude given the premises in the first that one activigty is licit and with the latter set of premises that it is stealing.

    The Pope talks about “unfettered capitalism.” But really, does such exist? If not, is his point merely theory and has no practical implication. Is he talking 2+3 when the problem is really one of 2+2?

    The problem then becomes when the Church enters such a fray and takes a side in what is a licit divergence of opinion – something that is properly the task of the laity when it involves ordering the activities of the world. This is where I think those in the Church hierarchy error.

  • Philip,

    You raise a great point and one I have been pondering for a bit since the publication of Evangelii Gaudium. There have been questions of translation, however, for a moment, let’s put those aside and take this at face value. The Pope mentions “unfettered capitalism” and you rightly ask, “But really, does such exist?” I can’t speak for every nation or economy, but it certainly does not exist in America. However, I have begun to realize that that is exactly what the Pope is getting at. Let’s just say for the sake of argument, that there are no countries in which an ‘unfettered capitalism’ exists. A economic system in which money rules and does not serve, excludes without impunity [see I am beginning to see that this is what Pope Francis is going after: “unbridled capitalism”. But why should he bother doing this, if it does not really exist. Because in the increasing globalization of economy, with transnational corporations above the rules and regulations of any country [and these companies do exist] the DESIRE to remake the economic world into a world of ‘unbridled capitalism’ does exist-and thus the prophetic challenge.

    A lot of my reflection on this has come while reading the discussion going on in this series of posts. I myself got bogged down in some of the more immediate stuff, but sitting back and relfecting on what was said by Pope Francis and the economic world, I recognized that, just as in the 80’s-90’s we entered into a vast new cyberworld, so now we are entering into a vast new global economic world.

    For example, I saw an article that stated a young man (married?) got into a fight with his wife or girlfriend in China [Peoples’ Republic] at a mall that was at least seven levels high. They were fighting because they had been CHRISTMAS shopping for five hours, had bags and bags of bought items and she wanted to go to another store for shoes. He argued she had plenty of shoes, they needed to go home etc. She called him a cheapskate, and was spoiling the CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. At which point he threw down all the bags he was carrying and jumped over the seventh level banister plunging to his death-taking out some CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS on the way down. Philip, I read this in shock-at a couple of levels. However, note that it took place in so called Communist China, that he jumped from the seventh level (place must have been huge), that this couple were CHRISTMAS SHOPPING in a marxist country of which most of the population, even if religious are not Christian. Yet it was, like here, time for Christmas shopping. I bet there were many American stores in that mall as well.

    I am more convinced now than before that Pope Francis’ remarks (and that basically is what they are-not full formal teachings as in an encyclical) are prophetically addressing not what is, but what ‘powers that be’ want to exist: an unfettered capitalism. The pope already knows the problem of socialism etc. He was one of the leaders against ‘liberation theology’ in Latin America-so he is no ‘lover’ of marxism or its softer cousin socialism. He is going after capitalism that desires to be unfettered by morality. And I say “Amen”

  • “Because in the increasing globalization of economy, with transnational corporations above the rules and regulations of any country [and these companies do exist] the DESIRE to remake the economic world into a world of ‘unbridled capitalism’ does exist-and thus the prophetic challenge.”

    I will leave to others whether such companies exist. It seems that most companies labor under an unbundance of multinational regulations.

  • That should read “abundance.”

    Again I appreciate your posts. But I think such is subject to debate. Your discussion of what happened in China appears to be more about materialism and consumerism then Capitalism. And thus we’re back to whose premises are correct.

  • Philip,

    Thanks for your response. Let me say this, I am not so sure I can separate “materialism and consumerism from capitalism” I don’t think that all who believe in a free market are materialists or consumerists, however, are materialism and consumerism not a fruit of a ‘capitalism’ in which mammon rules and not serves? See the issue is whether money rules or serves. There is, can be and should be a ‘free market’ in which money serves the common good. However, it is all too easy, and all too common to devolve into a situation and even a system in which money is the bottom line and not people.

  • “…however, are materialism and consumerism not a fruit of a ‘capitalism’ in which mammon rules and not serves?”

    I would say accidents of rather than essential to.

  • Botolph,
    Given the general worldwide rise of highly regulated social welfare states, the risk of unfettered capitalism seems pretty remote. Nor is there much of a risk of a world that accepts a capitalism that is unfettered by morality. The real risk is that which is presented by a “first world’ that no longer accepts morality as properly understood by the Church, and is exporting this lack of acceptance to the rest of the world. The enemy is not capitalism; the enemy is growing lack of faith and the abandonment of Christendom and cultures grounded in faith in exchange for an emergence of a secular world. Capitalism is basically a red herring. Those of us who advocate for free markets generally recognize that free markets, even assuming perfect information and perfect rational behavior, do not always yield outcomes that are socially optimal. After all, people make bad decisions and have bad luck. We must look out for each other accordingly. While certainly government can be an agent for such efforts, it is difficult to untether such government efforts from the notion of “entitlement,” and the evidence strongly suggests that entitlement programs are dehumanizing and eventually counterproductive.
    The bottom line is that the Holy Father’s statements are either unhelpful and obvious truisms or naive and mischievous miscalculations.

  • Philip,

    In you repeating back my quote, I realized I was vague in what I meant. Here is what I actually meant: Are not materialism and consumerism the fruit of a form of capitalism in which mammon rules and does not serve. In other words, I readily affirm not all forms of capitalism are like this.

  • Mike Petrik,

    I agree with all your comments in your last post, except the last paragraph concerning the pope’s remarks. We of course can agree to disagree. However I wonder if ‘we’ could flesh the issue out a bit more.

  • Botolph, I suppose it is true that men can view capitalism as a way of life rather than an economic system, but aside from a handful of Randian Objectivists, no one really sees it that way. Instead, men simply fall short in their treatment of their fellow man as they do in all circumstances. Consumerism is simply a variant of materialism, and materialism is a normal human temptation in any system.

  • “In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and I the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

    The key is the word “greater.” If he had instead stated “perfect,” his statement would be harder to quarrel with. Free markets have done more to lift people out of poverty that the Church has ever done, and that is not a criticism of the Church. I suspect that the Holy Father does not really understand the markets built in limitations on economic power. I also suspect that he is mistakenly assigning the injustices he has witnessed in South America to markets instead of corrupt legal and political systems.

    That said, it is true that markets can behave ruthlessly even as the press living standards ever higher. Some people do lose, and such losses are real and important. But it ultimately makes no sense to stop the rise of the auto industry in order to protect blacksmiths from the very real pain of unemployment and loss of station.

  • Mike Petrik,

    Your second to last post (doubting many see capitalism as a way of life) has given me pause and will reflect upon it. I sense that what you are saying is true-and perhaps i have never thought of it in quite the way you have put it. Thank you for that.

    In your last post, I sense we are in agreement, Your ‘correction’ of Pope Francis’ wording from ‘greater’ to ‘perfect’ makes a great deal of sense. BTW His statements on economic matters while significant etc, are not an exercise of papal magisterium, wit infallibility etc. I know that while ‘defending’ him from those thinking he is marxist etc[no one in here by the way] I have also been able to take time to really listen to people who, like yourself obviously know economics far more than any knowledge I have. I myself question the Pope’s use of the phrase ‘trickle-down economics’ (assuming it is not a translation issue), just on the grounds that it is a term that does not belong in an apostolic exhortation [no matter what the economic veracity is involved] The term is almost universally used perjoratively and I think we can and or should expect more from a papal document.

  • “Sursum corda”
    Thanks Botolph for your story about the supposedly communist Chinese couple struggling through (the Miasma*) trying to be true somehow to a Christmas spirit that none of us really really understand… and on “the seventh level” (what a great ancient biblical implication is there for us to see or not see) of the shopping tower.

    *I’m using that term just now as a reference according to the Greek understanding of an unfettered and contagious power as I am thinking a bit darkly about the way so many seem to think of the economy as Having A Life Of Its Own, having outstripped its human constructors.

    That the unfortunate Chinese couple was endeavoring to live out some kind of spiritual ideal, reaching for the “Christmas spirit” even though the government controllers of the economy have tried to dissuade generations of their family from Christmas and from Christ is a remarkable sign of .. the unseen hand… of God. People will lift up their hearts. They will! Even in the worst economic circumstances, in the abject powerlessness over their physical lives, people will lift up their hearts.
    One of my favorite”s parts of the Mass . “Sursum corda”

  • I’m watchful of some who gravitate toward treating “isms” and “markets” as having intelligence and decision making all by themselves. It’s the people behind them, at the individual level, who engage in the markets. The market is agnostic. We hope the people are centered with a moral foundation along with a rational conscious, which did not seem to be the case with the quotes Chinese. Greed exists at a personal level … not through an “ism”.

  • “Greed exists at a personal level … not through an “ism”

    Great point. Those not greedy need not feel insulted. Capitalism doesn’t make a sharing person greedy. socialism won’t make a greedy person generous.
    But we are not to cool to accept the fact that we too can be warned -by the Vicar of Christ- against the lure or traps that we could be tempted to.

  • The bottom line is that the Holy Father’s statements are either unhelpful and obvious truisms or naive and mischievous miscalculations.


    The same might be said of economics in general. Consider Sanislaw Ulam’s challenge to Paul Samuelson to name something non-trivial that economics has given us, and the brevity of Samuelson’s reply.

  • HA,
    Sure, the same might be said of anything. People, including Ulam, say all kinds of dumb stuff. In any case, whether Ulam’s challenge, or your assertion, has any merit is not relevant to the Holy Father’s statements. And brevity is not a vice.

  • Sure, the same might be said of anything. People, including Ulam, say all kinds of dumb stuff.

    Really? If anyone were to claim that the advances made in physics, chemistry and other hard sciences, not to mention math, were trivial or obvious truisms, now that would be saying some dumb stuff indeed.


    As it is, the fact that a Nobel-prize winning author of the standard bible of economics (as far as a significant percentage of economics undergrads are concerned) offered up one centuries-old result in reply to Ulam’s question is highly significant. You’re right that brevity is not a vice — in that particular instance, it speaks volumes. Not that I could have done any better than Samuelson, were anyone to ask the same question of me. The only additions I might make to the list would be with results that influence economics, but were not derived there. For example, the neurophysiology of risk/reward (and how the areas of the brain that are pleasured by a winning bet are different from those that experience pain when a bet fails, which lends some insight into how trading and gambling works), and the efficacy of the tit-for-tat strategy that game theorists have studied, but again, neither of those are the province of economics. Maybe Nash equilibrium would also be suitable, but that is still a strikingly small list, and besides, I am not sure what the Nash equilibrium has done for me lately (in comparison, with say, lasers or the Haber process).


    When I hear the Pope pronounce upon economics, I am struck by what he might have had to offer on the subject of lobotomies 50 years ago, or leeches a few centuries ago. The Pope might well have argued that it would be wrong to deprive the poor of lobotomies if the rich are able to “benefit” from such a therapy, and he might encourage richer nations to train the doctors of poorer nations so as to make any such therapies widely available, and that would all be laudable in its own way, yet it would also be tragically lacking. And that is what I think of when I see the Pope (or his translators) harp on straw-man versions of capitalism while saying precious little on the dangers of leftist approaches to poverty and injustice.

  • I’m sure the Pope’s view has its flaws, however, not to be U.S.-centric about it but at a time when the only Republican economic talking point is “cut spending” (not necessarily bad mind, just that it’s not an overall economic plan/societal vision) and previous ’12 stuff about makers/takers from certain quarters I think it’s healthy to have discussions about what a conservative economic vision should look like, and acknowledging certain flaws with how things’re going, whether they naturally arise out of capitalism or not.

  • Mike Petrik wrote, “Free markets have done more to lift people out of poverty that the Church has ever done.”

    But does this lead to grater “justice and inclusion”? Commerce has been the great solvent of social relations, the framework on which justice and inclusion depend.

    Dr Johnson gave an early example of this, in the West of Scotland, “In the Islands, as in most other places, the inhabitants are of different rank, and one does not encroach here upon another. Where there is no commerce nor manufacture, he that is born poor can scarcely become rich; and if none are able to buy estates, he that is born to land cannot annihilate his family by selling it. This was once the state of these countries. Perhaps there is no example, till within a century and half, of any family whose estate was alienated otherwise than by violence or forfeiture. Since money has been brought amongst them, they have found, like others, the art of spending more than they receive; and I saw with grief the chief of a very ancient clan, whose Island was condemned by law to be sold for the satisfaction of his creditors.”

    He adds, “The Laird is the original owner of the land, whose natural power must be very great, where no man lives but by agriculture; and where the produce of the land is not conveyed through the labyrinths of traffick [sic], but passes directly from the hand that gathers it to the mouth that eats it. The Laird has all those in his power that live upon his farms. Kings can, for the most part, only exalt or degrade. The Laird at pleasure can feed or starve, can give bread, or withhold [sic] it. This inherent power was yet strengthened by the kindness of consanguinity, and the reverence of patriarchal authority. The Laird was the father of the Clan, and his tenants commonly bore his name. And to these principles of original command was added, for many ages, an exclusive right of legal jurisdiction.”

    Capitalism, in the form of commerce, destroyed that form of organic community.

  • Yes, commerce adds stress to the human condition by adding freedom. Life would probably be less stressful if we lived lives unfettered by economic change and the stresses it so induced, knowing our stations, poor or rich, were secure. I don’t see how such reduction in liberty adds to justice, however.

  • And I would add that feudalism is only organic insofar as might makes right is organic.

  • Old does not necessarily mean organic. With any economic change there are always winners and losers and early in the change the losers tend to heavily outnumber the winners. Nostalgia then tends to color the past in rose colored hues. Sir Walter Scott during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution gave a great impetus to the process with his colorful tales of medieval life such as Ivanhoe. Scott was a great Romanticist but a poor historian, as historians of his day were quick to point out.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Probably no people in Europe enjoyed greater political freedom than the Highland clans and septs before the 1745 Rebellion. North of Stirling, the power of government was negligible, except where the Crown could exploit their mutual hostility and the clans were, for practical purposes, self-governing. The same is true of the Border families. In fact, the domestic authority of the heads of houses rendered government largely superfluous.

    Michael Petrik

    Fudalism was the very reverse of “might makes right.” The superior was one man; his vassals were numerous, well-armed and skilled in their use, through feud and raid. His whole power lay in their loyalty. The attachment of his followers to their chief cannot be over-stated and their readiness to avenge any real or imagined affront often led to “tulzies,” or scuffles.

    Thus, Edinburgh witnessed the famous street skirmish in 1520 between the Hamiltons and the Douglases, known as “Cleanse the Causeway,” when the latter, as Pitscottie records, ” keiped both the gaitt and their honouris”; and that in 1551 between the Kerrs and the Scotts, two Border families,

    “When the streets of High Dunedin
    Saw lances gleam and falchions redden,
    And heard the slogan’s deadly yell
    Then the Chief of Branxholm fell.”

    Sixteen years later, Robert Birrel notes in his diary, “”The 24 of November [1567], at 2 afternoon, ye laird of Airthe and ye laird of Weeims mett upone ye heigh gait of Edinburghe ; and they and ther followers faught a verey bloudey skirmish, quher ther wes maney hurte one both sydes vith shote of pistol.”

    Cassell’s indispensable Old & New Edinburgh records scores of such incidents.

  • Botolph: You caught my quandary as to morals/economics. I was thinking on the fly, and perhaps expressed what I was thinking less than clearly. Not in any way questioning the moral dimension of economic living, acting; in fact, trying to insist on it. Just wondering whether it might be possible, perhaps even advisable, to think of economics-as-a-science as a more circumscribed endeavor. It’s fairly evident just in this very conversation, how little consensus there is as to explanation even of economic matters of fact — and this conversation, given where it is occurring, involves a very narrow range of opinion, given the likelihood of who would be drawn here.

    If the science of economics has developed no governing consensus as to method for explaining facts, perhaps seeking meaningful moral insight from that science is asking a bit much. But this would mean that the societal role of scientific economics would constrict considerably. My sense is that there are more than a few economists who want to insist that their science is not a moral one, but who still want to be able to speak/write ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ galore. So, perhaps positing a moral dimension to the science is, on the one hand, asking too much of economists, and, on the other, ceding too much ground to them.

    HA: As to lobotomies and leeches, your remark may be on target in describing some people with a singular focus on distribution of goods. The focus of Pope Francis, I think, is not so singular. It seems substantially broader. It’s a bit much to imagine him — even granting the inevitability of blind spots in anyone’s thinking at particular times — as a lobotomy enthusiast. There seems to be a fairly strong keep-your-junk-to-yourselves dimension of his thinking, as well as a share-the-wealth dimension. Not that he has expressed himself at sufficient length and depth that certain judgment is possible here. But he seems possessed of an abiding concern for the integrity of local cultures that are being disrupted by the rapid advance of globalized commerce. I’m pretty sure this would have protected him from any temptation to advocate poking holes in people’s brains, just because the norteamericanos were doing so. As for leeches, I suspect they had plenty of their own. Both images seem inapt.

    Donald R. McClarey: Romanticism, to be sure, is a danger. So, too, is rationalism. The former yields too much sway to moral sentiments, the latter too little. Too-easy talk of the inevitability of “winners and losers” in the economic game is a case in point. Yes, avoid judgments that are simply emotive. But, also, yes, stand squarely in the midst of those who are experiencing the most catastrophic consequence of emerging economic patterns, see/hear/smell/taste/touch life as they do, and allow that experience a significant place in the emergence of our economic imaginations, inquiries, insights, reflections, judgments, deliberations, and actions. Romantics wreak great suffering; so do rationalists.

  • “Too-easy talk of the inevitability of “winners and losers” in the economic game is a case in point.”

    It isn’t too easy talk Jim, it is a simple statement of fact, just as the creation of huge welfare states, that are now manifestly in their death throes, created winners and losers. Good intentions do not excuse us from the consequences of actions that are simply congealed folly, and a refusal to acknowledge the most basic of economic laws is a fine example of congealed folly.

PopeWatch: Casey Stengel

Monday, December 2, AD 2013


 Can‘t anybody here play this game?’

Casey Stengel

As the center of a global institution that includes one-sixth of the human race, one would have thought that the issue of translation of Church documents would have been something that the Vatican would long ago have mastered.  Alas no, apparently.

Joe at Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam has been doing yeoman work in attempting to correct the inexcusably sloppy translation from Spanish to English of Evangelii Gaudium.  Go here to read all about it.  Spanish and English are not minor languages in the Church.  One would have thought that the Vatican could easily have translated a Spanish document into English.  Apparently such confidence would have been misplaced.

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15 Responses to PopeWatch: Casey Stengel

  • I think the mistranslation was purposely done by those with a liberal progressive bent to provide a liberal progressive spin that does not exist in the original. But then again, I am a paranoid conspiracy theorist! Ha! Ha! 😉

    BTW, how accurate are the translations into German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, etc.? And why wasn’t Latin – the official language of the Church for its controlled documents (e.g., Apostolic Exhortations, Encyclicals, etc.) – used?

  • This mistranslation is becoming an all too frequent excuse to be believable!!!! I agree with Paul, why isn’t Latin being used? It seems like the Holy Father is trying to be too cute and is playing us faithful for fools!!!!

  • The text for all languages for or the Apostolic Exhortation are now not posted at the Vatican web site: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/index_en.htm

    Interesting. Very interesting.

    Use the Latin! Thanks, Harry Tucci.

  • The Italian adage “traduttore, traditore,” [translator, traitor] is well known.

    One of the commonest difficulties in translation is the absence of a word with the same connotations or range of meaning in both languages. Everyone will recall from their school days the difficulty of translating the Latin “sentio.” Did the author mean “I think,” or “I feel”? What would he have written, had he been writing in English? The same problem arises with French « Aimer » which can mean “like,” or “love.” So deceptively simple a word as “rubor” can be problematic; the Roams regarded red and brown as two shades of the same colour, as we do scarlet and crimson.

    I recall having great difficulty on explaining to an English insurance company the meaning of a French police report that contained the sentence, « Il tomba au-dessus bord et se noya. » Someone in their office had translated it, “he fell overboard and drowned himself.” Now, that is the literal meaning, but, in French, « Il s’est noyé » no more implies that he did it on purpose than “he cut himself” does in English. It can mean “he drowned himself,” in the English sense, but “he fell,” rather than “threw himself” suggests otherwise.

    Often, the translator has to divine the meaning from the context. Translation and interpretation are inseparable and there can be numerous versions, all equally defensible.

  • Valid point, Michael Paterson-Seymour. However, why are all the copies of the Apostolic Exhortation now missing from the Vatican web site, regardless of language?


  • Well, the PDFs are still there, but nevertheless……

  • I feel like I’m getting farther and farther away from what the Holy Father is saying. First, I’m told that he’s been taken out of context. I should read it all for myself. Then I’m told he’s been misreported. Now I’m told he’s been mistranslated.

    Which translation should I trust, and who has the authority to tell me? Which interpretation should I trust? Fr. Z or the NYT?

    My confidence in the Church is being undermined by the Church itself.

  • I bet Muhammad mistranslated the Q’ran because Allah/Gabriel recited it in Latin.

  • Even the traditional English translation of the Apostles’ Creed contains two doubtful and one questionable translations.

    “He descended into hell,” where the best manuscripts have “descendit ad inferos” – He descended to those below/within (Hell was traditionally located in the centre of the earth). Even reading “infernos,” we certainly have a plural.

    “The resurrection of the body,” where the Latin has “Carnis resurrectionem” – the resurrection of the flesh.

    “Sanctorum communionem” the communion of saints, treating “sanctorum” as masculine; it could equally well be neuter, a sharing in holy things, and St Jerome, in one of his sermons uses both meanings (and both are true and, perhaps, ultimately identical).

    Now, none of these makes any real difference in meaning and the traditional version is certainly more idiomatic and therefore, arguably, better. But as a pure question of translation, they are certainly debateable.

  • This has been going on for a long time folks. Lets see, I last studied Greek in about 1962 and Latin in about 64, and as I remember from Latin to Greek we ask the Lord skip the devil’s job and thus “lead us not into temptation.” Translating from Greek, again only if memory serves, that is more like “prevent us from being led into temptation.” In our everyday recitation I’m sure we mean the latter every time we say the former. At least I do.
    My reading says that Evangelii Gaudium was written in Spanish and translated to Latin. I’ll bet money the posted English was from Latin not Spanish, so there were two opportunities for minor misinterpretations, and probably two (or more) different people. My choice is to “keep the faith” and believe that any misdirection is also inadvertent. After all, wasn’t it posted in English the same day it was released?

  • Latin to English, not Latin to Greek as I wrote.

  • The Latin copy of Evangelii Gaudium is posted neither here:


    Nor here:


    See how at the latter link Adhortationes Apostolicae is not hyperlinked? That’s where the Latin version should be.

  • Style and substance are inseparable in all but the driest technical works. A translation may accurately convey the meaning of the words employed, but next to nothing of the experience produced by reading the original.

    The Roman poet, Juvenal wrote:

    “Magnaque numinibus vota exaudita malignis”

    “And great vows having been clearly heard by malignant spirits” is an accurate literal translation, but is flat and pedestrian beyond belief.

    Now, compare Dr Johnson’s translation,

    “Enormous prayers, which Heav’n in vengeance grants”

    This reproduces the terse, epigrammatic style of Juvenal and even something of the rhythm and cadences of the original.

    One would hope that the Vatican could provide translations that, at least, match the English Lexicographer’s.

  • I’m sure we all recognize that translations can never be taken for granted. Even when conducted by those so well versed and experienced. Add in new people, cultures and processes and its no wonder we have some issues. Granted, I to would have expected a more vetting effort …. but then think about how our pope is not the most bureaucratic of individuals. Heck, Spanish in Argentina may be a bit different than in Madrid. I wonder if the documents are being translated at the VA or in country? I’d guess at VA.

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28 Responses to PopeWatch: Father Robert Sirico

  • Excellent questions by Fr. Sirico.

  • My Impressionistic impression is that the Curia has done a magnificent job of pulping the rotting carcass of the dead horse known as laissez faire capitalism (ca. 1776 – ca. 1929; died after a long illness).

    I’m pretty sure there’s a strawman or three in there as well, but it’s kind of hard to tell, what with all the goo.

  • As a Catholic who likes hierarchy probably better than most, I just wish that those men would stop speaking beyond their areas of competency, because in these areas, their unsubstantiated opinions are not expert, or sacred; they are as valuable as yours or mine, aka worthless.

  • Jesus would not have overturned the money changers tables in the temple if He had found true love of neighbor in the business transactions of the money changers. Jesus found the pursuit of profit, instead of the practice of virtue. Offering a benefit to the needy and receiving full value in return, is a corporal work of mercy and a blessing at the same time.
    Obama has no concept of fear of the Lord and his voice rings as an empty gong as He manipulates Holy Scripture to serve his own evil agenda.

  • …laissez faire capitalism (ca. 1776 – ca. 1929; died after a long illness)
    –Ernst Schreiber

    I question your claim that what you call “laissez faire capitalism” ever existed. Define your terms and point to historical examples.

    Just as Chesterton said of Christianity, that it has not been tried and found wanting but rather that is has been found difficult and not tried, so it is of the free market. People find the free market difficult, it requires thinking for oneself rather than having a Mommy State tell one what to do, so most people go running to the State begging to be enslaved.

    Therefore all the elders of Israel assembled and went to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “…appoint a king over us, like all the nations, to rule us.”
    –1 Samuel 8:4-5


    You do remember these Scriptures being read at Mass, I do. And what was the answer to the people’s request for a king?

    Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full to those who were asking him for a king. He told them: “The governance of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot. He will appoint from among them his commanders of thousands and of hundreds. He will make them do his plowing and harvesting and produce his weapons of war and chariotry. He will use your daughters as perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will tithe your crops and grape harvests to give to his officials and his servants. He will take your male and female slaves, as well as your best oxen and donkeys, and use them to do his work. He will also tithe your flocks. As for you, you will become his slaves. On that day you will cry out because of the king whom you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you on that day.”
    –1 Samuel 8:10-18 (emphasis added)

    So many people today are just as foolish as those Israelites, despite having the knowledge of what happened to the Israelites recorded in the Scriptures.

  • There is an alternative to the free market.
    It is the slave market.
    –Angelique Michelin

  • Paul Primavera has done an excellent job, first, of alerting us on Thanksgiving, of the ” possible” translation problem of Evangelii Gaudium, but more specifically in its so called “economic section”. Today, in the above post, he provides a link to a very solid site providing a more accurate translation from the original Spanish document.

    I am emphasizing this, because before we can begin to comment etc on the document itself, or discuss Fr. Sirico’s gentle but poignant questions, the issue of translation is extremely important

    In reading the newer, unofficial translation, provided in the above link, I am both relieved and concerned. I am relieved to discover that those responsible for translating were inhibited by a real working knowledge of Spanish and not driven or clouded by some ” ideological” agenda, no matter how slight. However I am also concerned. I am concerned that the translator(s) who apparently have English ( and I would add: American English) as their first language, do not have a full grasp of Spanish ( Here. I mean ” from the inside”, how it is really lived, breathed and spoken). As someone who has studied two languages ( besides my native American English of course)-one for twelve years- I can tell you that being able to speak/ translate from within the language is extremely important. ( After 12 years of French I still do not feel I really communicate within the language). To bring my point to its conclusion, it is essential that the Vatican comes to fully realize this important aspect of translation lest the translator and translation betrays the author and original text.

    Having said this, I find the discussions found here and there among knowledgible folks and experts on the new Exhortation very enriching and enjoyable. On a blog such as this where there is a general discussion on such matters, people bring their insights etc and frequently, sources such as this translation problem, or Donald bringing Fr Sirico and the Acton Foundation on the economic issues. I would mention a great post concerning the Exhortation on the Liturgy. This post was written by Jeffrey Tucker at Chant Cafe, and brought out some very substantive and even provocative questions in dialogue with the Exhortation and Pope Francis.

    I mention this post as an example of how committed Catholics can grow and be enriched in dialogue with other committed Catholics. I participate in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. I am rooted there. Nonetheless, I was delighted when Pope Benedicy published his Motu Proprio enabling those who are or desired to be rooted in what he calls the Extraordinary Form to do so. I do not consider EF Catholics less Catholics ( although I have felt the opposite sometimes). I find discussion among committed Catholics- and we are actually very diverse ( here I am speaking of genuine diversity, not dissent etc) despite what we might commonly think or believe. Returning to my point, Chant Cafe offers a very deep sense of Liturgical Music, ozone which sometimes emphasizes the EF. I find no problem with that. Why? Because the conversation goes deeper than perceptions, preferences and, yes, I will say it, prejudices. I have found this at the Acton Institute and am a regular reader there. Notice also that I like American Catholic. I don’t always agree etc that’s fine. However, where I find committed Catholics, not conservatives, liberals, etc. I am home.

  • lol in my post above: ” ozone”= ” one”. My iPad did it again lol

  • Our “preferential option for the poor” must translate into asking ourselves “so, what is the preferable option for the poor?” but only after we refute the commonly held belief that Market Man is “fallen” while Government Man is “immaculately conceived”.

  • For Micha:

    laissez faire capitalism (aka “the free market”) 1776 (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations) to ca. 1929 (stock market collapse resulting in the Hoover depression that Roosevelt later made “Great”) died after a long illness (everything from Karl Marx to John Maynard Keynes, but probably foremost the Progressives’ penchant for seeking to rationalize everything) is what I had in mind.

    We’re in essential agreement. The point I tried to make, perhaps too obliquely, is that the free market was regulated to death a long time ago. Almost before living memory, in fact. But still people complain that the problem with the market is not enough regulation.

  • tamsin,

    The ” preferential option for the poor” cannot and must not be identified with any socialist-Marxist doctrine, although there are those from both ideological extremes who seek to do so. It means what Christ meant in opening the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth which read, ” The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, therefore He has anointed Me to proclaim the Good News to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, a year of favor ( Jubilee) of the Lord” ( Luke 4; Isaiah 61). It means reaching out to those on the margins, those who know they need salvation.

    No human system, Marxist, market, nor any form of government is not “fallen” and as you put it ” immaculate”thus the radical need for Christ and His Gospel

  • I take Father Sirico’s comments with a grain of salt. Check out the interview posted at http://www.culturewars.com that outlines the milestones in Father Siroco’s life.


    Here is the title you can scroll down on the page and find.

    (Rev.) Robert Sirico and Sins that Cry to Heaven: The Real History of Sirico and the Acton Institute, an interview with Randy Engel and Tom Herron (May 2007)

  • Culture Wars is a crazed anti-Semitic rag. I am unsurprised that the delusional E. Michael Jones would have Father Sirico in his cross hairs.

    Mark Shea gives some background on this smear:


  • Mark Shea may deconstruct conspiracy theories if he wants. Michael Jones and others catalog facts about the background of Sirico. I agree Mr. Jones has a lot to say. I do not agree with all of his work. What is presented in this exchange however, is just the factual data on Sirico’s background. If you have not heard it before, you really need to have a listen. The information is backed up with sources. It his hard to argue with clear data when valid references are provided. It is worth knowing the truth in any case. May God bless all of you!

  • http://www.catholicleague.org/unseemly-attack-on-father-sirico/

    Father Sirico has never concealed his performance of gay marriages prior to his conversion to Catholicism. It would only be a scandal for Father Sirico if he had attempted to conceal his errors prior to his conversion.

  • Donald,

    I applaud your forthrightness in speaking the truth about Fr Sirico

  • I am not concerned with his past but believe it should be made plain to everyone. Not everyone is aware of the background of this man. What you should be concerned with is this. Who is he working for? Have you figured out who funds the Acton Institute and who set it up? It is all in the link provided earlier.

  • Someone with Fr. Sirico’s history should not have been ordained (and the Acton Institute is an odd apostolate). That having been said, that in and of itself does not establish that the Acton Institute has been promoting anything problematic.

    As for E. Michael Jones, he was once an engaging social critic but went completely off the rails several years ago. Herron has long done a remarkably faithful imitation of a malicious character whose targets are various figures writing in defense of Church teaching (because they’re ‘neo-cons’ dontcha know). He’s actually offered defenses of Maureen Dowd betwixt and between.

  • laissez faire capitalism (aka “the free market”) 1776 (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations) to ca. 1929 (stock market collapse resulting in the Hoover depression that Roosevelt later made “Great”

    No. The economy began a rapid recovery in the Spring of 1933 and production per capita had returned to what would be expected from long term trends by 1941.

  • “Someone with Fr. Sirico’s history should not have been ordained…”


  • Have you ever noticed how some people – particularly those with a liberal progressive bent – demand that we be ever so forgiving and loving, and yet they suspend the application of such an admonition to themselves when discussing a man like Father Sirico who is a conservative proponent of free market economics. I would wager that if he were a proponent of the false gospel of social justice, the common good and peace at any price, then his history as a Pentecostal pastor who married homosexuals who be all forgiven and forgotten, and any conservative who would dare to bring such to light would be condemned as being intolerant, unforgiving, hateful, mean, spiteful, divisive, unkind and the ultimate liberal progressive Democrat crime – not nice.

    Well guess what! I am NOT nice and I love Father Sirico’s work and I pray and wish for him and the Acton Institute every success in turning the tide of this insane Marxist idiocy that infects everything from the Papacy on down. I hate, despise, loathe, detest, abhor and hold in utter disdain and disgust this godless, prideful, arrogant attitude that with just the right amount of government sponsored social justice financed by my tax money and yours, mankind can create on his own the Kingdom of God on Earth. That is unmitigated male bovine manure – putrid, fetid hubris of the highest order – that deserves only one place: the fires of Gahanna.

    OK, enough of a rant this morning. Sorry, folks.

  • You need to read up on this man’s history. He was certainly a bad bet in 1989 and Pope Benedict’s articulated standards would have inhibited his ordination were they in place and respected. As far as I know, there have been no post-ordination scandals concerning Fr. Sirico, so it has not worked out badly. Sometimes, you get lucky. Based on the information set available in 1989, you might have thought his assignment record would come to resemble that of Paul Shanley, and you only make decisions prospectively.

    Although I have seen these matters brought up by peace-and-justice Catholics, that’s not their primary concern with regard to Fr. Sirico and his associates. These types adhere to an inchoate notion of political economy which fancies there is something dirty about advocacy on behalf of the market economy (which they misapprehend and caricature). Some of them refer to papal encyclicals (without giving any indications about how the principles enunciated therein are to be operationalized), others seem to think the writings of Ayn Rand are the inspiration for Republican social policy, others fancy free trade is some sort of social malignancy for all parties, others make vague references to Chesterbelloc, and others slide into discussions of ‘Americanist’ heresies and ‘masonic’ institutions.

  • “He was certainly a bad bet in 1989…”

    I was a bad bet in 1989, and should have been ejected from the nuclear power industry for a variety of reasons. Of course, being a nuclear engineer at an operating 1000 MW reactor doesn’t exactly carry the same level of responsibilities as being a priest does. Fortunately, my employer was willing to forgive me (so long as I did certain things to pass the scrutiny required by Regulation).

    Matthew 18:21-22 – 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

  • “You need to read up on this man’s history.”

    I have not read it though it seems from what you intimate that he has homosexual temptations.

    I don’t know when Benedict’s standards were put in place (you seem to say after Sirico was ordained.) If that’s the case, then perhaps Providence brought him to orders before the standards (Augustine anyone?)

    Here’s something about gay marriage issue from Sirico:


  • I have not read it though it seems from what you intimate that he has homosexual temptations.

    That’s a rather anodyne way of putting it.

  • Do you believe Father Sirico would make a good pope?

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PopeWatch: Evangelii Gaudium

Wednesday, November 27, AD 2013




PopeWatch decides to take the Thanksgiving holidays off and the Pope releases Evangelii Gaudium!  Go here to read it.  The short take of PopeWatch is that it is a mishmash.  Much of it is merely a restatement of traditional Catholic teaching and therefore bound to be a relief for  those fearing that the Pope was going to alter Church teaching in an unorthodox manner on such issues as abortion and gay marriage.  The economic portions, all too often, read like warmed over Peronism, the disastrous and amorphous political ideology that has helped make Argentina, fated to be a very rich nation in the 19th Century, an economic basket case.  Much more next week after PopeWatch has digested the Thanksgiving turkey and examined Evangelii Gaudium in greater detail.

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25 Responses to PopeWatch: Evangelii Gaudium

  • Wake me when he publishes a wordor two about zeal for the glory of God, zeal for the salvation of souls, the forgiveness of sins . . .

    It’s as if statist governments, central planners, command economists for the past 150 or so years have not been tearing away at private enterprise and property [sigh] . . .

    And,this pope still blames the free market????

    Socialism produces the same results everywhere: In the Argentine breadbasket, the regime moves to jail “hoarders” as bread prices soar. Bloomberg: “Argentina plans to apply a law that forces holders of wheat and flour suitable for bread making to sell stock on the domestic market in a bid to contain inflation.” (Instapundit)

    David Galland interview on Argentina at Zero Hedge: It is like a textbook case in government gone mad.

    “They have stolen the retirement accounts, devalued the currency, and put capital controls in place. There are trade controls so that people can’t import necessities into the country, but instead, have to manufacture them locally, with the government giving monopolies to their friends. They have price controls, which force the local supermarkets to not raise their prices. This will ultimately lead to shortages. And, there are already shortages of certain items. They didn’t like an opposition newspaper, so they nationalized the newsprint manufacturing industry. In fact, just about every single thing that you could do to screw up a country, they have done. It is comical to see the extremes they have gone to. For example, in Argentina, if you publish an inflation statistic that differs from of the official government numbers, you could be hit with a $100,000 fine. I had never heard of this anywhere else – except maybe in communist Russia. They are really completely out of control and the country is spinning off into la-la-land. Frankly, I love living right in the midst of all of it.”

    “In the case of Argentina, and the United States as well, it is a testament to the legacy strengths of the country – minerals, an educated population, agricultural land in abundance, energy resources – that despite a history of bad governance, the economy is still remarkably robust. People living outside of the country would be forgiven, based on the media reporting, for thinking the place is a basket case – but, against all odds, it isn’t. To a large extent that is because the government’s policies have chased much of the economic activity underground.”

  • Folks,

    A friend on Facebook pointed out the following which places the translation of the economic sections of Evangelii Gaudium in question. While and the controlled version for Papal documents is invariably in Latin (and I know Latin), I cannot find on the Vatican web site the Latin version of Evangelii Gaudium, so I cannot verify what this person says (below). Yet what he writes is credible. The bottom line is this: believe nothing any Vatican translator provides. Get the original Latin and find out for yourself. If you don’t know Latin, then I am sure there are people here at TAC who do.


    Once again, translators of Papal documents put a liberal progressive spin on the translation – that is no surprise:

    “Here’s one just ONE compare ‘n’ contrast (in Evangelii Gaudium), adding some emphasis to underscore that what you’ve seen “ain’t necessarily so.”

    Official English Version

    54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.

    Correct English Translation

    54. In this context, some still defend “spillover” theories which suppose that ALL economic growth, FOR WHICH A FREE MARKET IS [MOST] FAVORABLE, *BY ITSELF* brings about greater equity and social inclusion in the world.

    Note the mistranslation is both very powerful and yet very subtle, carefully guarding its semantic lines of retreat…plausible deniability, if you will. The “tell” or smoking gun is the it-can’t-be-an-accident exclusion of the phrase “by itself.” When I noticed the translator had excised it (not just “rendered it poorly”) my antennæ began to flutter violently. To my mind it changes the entire complexion of the whole section.

    This points not to, say, the USA but rather, places like China and Russia where economic growth is divorced from moral concerns and human liberties. If economic growth ALONE were the mechanism for greater justice, etc. then Russia and China would have exhibited that, and (duh) obviously they don’t. The issue is not “wealth is bad” but that “wealth WITHOUT MORAL UNDERPINNINGS is bad.””

  • Meanwhile, the damage a bad translation (if it is in fact a bad translation) continues on.

  • To continue, why is the controlled Latin version of Evangelii Gaudium NOT here?


    And why is Adhortationes Apostolicae not linked here?


    That’s not the case with Ioannes Paulus II or Benedictus XVI or any of the rest of the modern Pontiffs. But it is with Francis. Why?

    This is very odd. The Latin text is supposed to be the controlled document. In my field – nuclear power – the phrase controlled document has a special meaning. It means that it’s that one special document version that is the only authoritative version and the only version permissible for technicians, operators and engineers to use in nuclear power plant work. The Church has an analogous arrangement with using Latin for its controlled documents. So why is the Latin for Evangelii Gaudium missing?

    Could it be that the Latin says something different than the English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Portuguese versions? Could it be that some people in the Vatican with a liberal progressive agenda want to spin the facts and twist the meaning to advance their false gospel of social justice, the common good and peace at any price? Or am I just being a right wing Neanderthal?

  • How long will people keep insisting the Francis 1 is being ‘misinterpreted’? No he is not being misinterpreted. He simply spurns simple declarative sentences, and chooses instead to spout ambiguities at every given opportunity. His purpose in doing so is to create ample wiggle room so that, when his ideas are attacked in a credible way, he can back out of any charge that sticks, and be free to confuse in another way at another time. We are not dealing with an honest man. Rather, one who indeed is ambitious for his own ends, not necessarily those of Christ’s true Church. This man needs to be put in the context of what is happening all around us. Let’s work to face reality and connect the dots.

  • I have to agree completely with Barbara. God forgive me but I honestly just don’t trust this man.

  • Barbara Jensen

    It was the ecclesiastic and statesman, Talleyrand, who famously remarked, « La parole a été donné à l’homme pour déguiser sa pensée » [Speech was given to man to conceal his thoughts], although he may have had Voltaire in mind, who said « ils ne se servent de la pensée que pour autoriser leurs injustices, et emploient les paroles que pour déguiser leurs pensées » (Le Chapon et la Poularde)
    [Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts]

  • The language in which Evangelii Gaudium was written is Spanish and not Latin. All other versions, including the Latin text, are and will be translations. That an official text from Rome does not originate in Latin is no longer novel. The Catechism’s original language was French, and all first translations came from that edition. The later Latin typica text became the official text because it actually nuanced a few paragraphs and added some new material to keep up with the actual magisterium of Blessed Pope John Paul II. I am sure there will be a Latin translation soon, but there is no plot to suppress the original Latin text. Conspiracy theorists can get an extra portion of turkey today 🙂

    I do not speak, read or write Spanish ( I misjudged and had 12 years of French way back when :-)) I therefore cannot comment on the accuracy of the English translation. Even if I was fluent in Spanish I would be very reticent of making a fast judgment on the translation-unless it was of such nature as that j’joke of an interview with that Italian editor winging it based on his memory. However, having already read the economic portion of the Exhortation-which is within the context of proclaiming the Gospel to the poor ( this Exhortation is not an exercise of the social teaching of the Church)-I want to strongly affirm the meaning or sense that Paul Primavera has shared: it is not wealth that is bad in itself but ‘ wealth without moral underpinnings” ( and I would add: ‘responsibility’

    We all know, even from Scripture that translation can be tricky issue, if not a betrayal of the author. Take for example Paul’s well known economic teaching in his Letter to Timothy. According to the most common rendition, “Money is the root of all evil” Wow, This proves what I have always suspected about him. He is a radical Marxist not only interested in subverting the sacred traditions of circumcision , kosher laws and ( gasp!) breaking down the barriers Jew and Gentile, male and female, but (gasp!!) the necessary barriers between slave and free!! He must be a secret Spartacan! Paul’s whole point has been from the start, is to subvert the authority and economy of the Roman Empire! Anyone can see this! We just can’t trust him! He comes from that backwater of the Empire, Tarsus, where Cleopatra sailed into its harbor a century before Paul, to attempt to disassociate th eastern portion of the Roman Empire from Rome. See? It all is connected!

    Or is it? Paul actually wrote, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil”. That changes everything doesn’t it? Although to be honest, the real statement gives little comfort for anyone overly attached to money, or anyone whose first impulse is to protect any economic system from the critique of the Gospel.

    Pope Francis, who.even in this Exhortation on transforming the Church according to the needs of Her mission to evangelize, states categorically his pro life credentials, writes that the recent world wide economic crisis was not an economic crisis but a human crisis, one based on the failure to respect the dignity of the human person. If this is perceived by some as problematic or worse, can we really have heard Evangelium Vitae? Doesn’t respect for each person from the moment of conception until natural death mean more than simply being anti abortion or anti euthanasia, as important as these themselves are?

    Pope Francis also states, “Money must serve not rule ( or have dominion)”. For a people who confess that “Jesus is Lord” and proclaim ” Jesus Christ is King” ( not Marx or Adams, Keynes or Wall Street) is this really so radical?


  • Good Morning and Happy Thanksgiving to all. Yesterday I had Lush Bimbo on and he ranted and carried on so bad about the Pope’s latest “teaching”. I read the whole thing and it could well be “misinterpreted” as a bash on capitalism. However I just wish the Holy Father would really think about how he words everything. Did he even really write this or as was suggested above was it “interpreted” in a different way by those in different cultures. It should not be this way. Again the “confusion” created by the evil one through these “misinterpretations” is very disheartening. Diabolical, Diablo. “Prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

  • @Jeanne Rohl: In my opinion, there’s been far, far too many statements and actions by this Holy Father that would support my (and many others) feeling that he means exactly what he says, at least in that moment. My concern is not only about some of the outrageous things he says, but that then the next day, say something that contradicts what he said the previous day. Not making a correction to what he had previously said, mind you, just making a new statement that happens to contradict what he’d said. Or so it seems. Part of the problem is that he’s incredibly vague. In almost everything I read of his statements, I’m left thinking “what does he mean by that?” or “who is he referring to?”

    I don’t think he’s reading someone else’s words at all. This is him. Which begs the question, many questions, actually. Does he know the Catholic Faith? Does he think dogmas and teachings were changed with Vatican II? Does he know the role of Vicar of Christ, i.e., salvation of souls, as opposed to worldly issues? I know the Popes have and should make pronouncements regarding worldly issues relating to the poor, just treatment of workers, speak out against persecution of Christians, abortion, etc., but he just strikes me as one who doesn’t give a lot of thought to what he’s saying, or he’s not very bright, God forgive me for saying that.

  • Happy Thanksgiving Jeanne,

    We know these facts: this Apostolic Exhortation was written in Spanish. Everything else is translation. The Exhortation incorporates many propositions, from the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. These are specifically referred to in the footnotes. The portion of the Exhortation referenced above on the economy ( and apparently referred to by Rush Limbaugh-I don’t listen to him, so I did not hear him- only the reports of what he said) is actually a small part of the whole Exhortation. The section actually is addressing the evangelization of the poor.

    If there is an issue of translation it will soon be rectified, we can be sure of that. However, in reading this relatively short portion of the Exhortation I did not really hear anything that struck me from the Catholic perspective. The comments of the pope might surprise an American completely committed to a particular ideology and/or economic perspective; I am sure it would surprise non Catholic readers. However, if read within the whole corpus of Catholic Social Teaching, and here I. Would reference the several encyclicals of Blessed John Paul, and the one social teaching encyclical of Pope Benedict, I simply do not find anything shocking, earthshaking etc.

    I will repeat my agreement with the comment by Paul Primivera that it’s meaning is that it is not wealth that is bad but wealth without moral underpinnings. I am sure you would agree that there is nothing shocking about that. Pope Francis puts it succinctly: ” Money should serve, not rule”. This actually is a great synthesis of the Gospel perspective on economics

    (If anyone continues wondering about Catholic Social doctrine, go to the Catechism and see what and how the Church teaches in this important area. In sum? “Thou shalt not steal”. This goes against so called progressive economics as much as against more traditional laissez faire economics)

  • In preparation for his show, Rush Limbaugh reads many newspapers and watches television shows (although MSNBC not so much if I recall properly). His understanding of what the Pope said came from the Washington Post. Rush admits he is not a Catholic (and does not appear to know the name of the document, or the document type). He said “Now, I’m not Catholic. Up until this, I have to tell you, I was admiring the man.” (The man in question being Pope Francis.) He was “totally befuddled.”

    Later on in the show, he too, talked about the Pope’s words being “mistranslated.” In fact, he seems to have been quite taken by the idea that “the left” deliberately mistranslated so as to further its government-controlled economic agenda. And he noted that the Pope seems to have a history of his remarks being “mistranslated.”

  • I see nothing in the Holy Father’s words that derogate from the limitations placed on the public authorities by Pope Paul VI in his 1967 encyclical, Populorum Progressio: “It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity. But they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organizations are involved in this work. In this way they will avoid total collectivization and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.”

  • Ever since this papacy began I’ve had the music from Evita on my mind.

  • This is a FYI. I received info that the Vatican site took down ( the English translation of) Evangelii Gaudium. No reason given for the action. However, as discussed above, if the translation was inaccurate, it has come to the attention of higher authorities in the Vatican and dealt with.

    If indeed the translation was faulty, the problem lies within the Curia ( used in the broadest meaning). Whether carelessness, ineptitude or the translator’s own ‘interpretation’, the fault lies in the Curia. I don’t believe anyone could argue that the Curia does not need a radical overhaul

  • The version that you can just click to and read on the website appears to be down. The PDF file, however, is still there (and I assume it is the same translation.) Since most people (computers) have Acrobat Reader, it wouldn’t slow them down much. Not sure about iPods and Smartphones, however, if they can handle a PDF file.


  • Before this pope I already was struggling to keep a good sense of trust in our Church leaders… there has been misdirection, misleading in seminary formation, naive ineptitude really. Which has led to whole parishes full of people being misled.

    The Church is not leading the culture but following it like a dog with its tail down.
    It seems like the liberal priests nuns and Catholic leaders don’t understand what they are doing. How important it is to safeguard the treasure we’ve inherited and are rapidly losing.
    After a Catholic funeral Wed I overheard this:
    ” Oh yeah we were Catholic- all the kids were baptized here. We go to the Lutheran church now. The words are almost exactly the same.” (I know which Lutheran church he meant- mega, and they have stadium seating with cup holders)

    We were in a different area and went to Mass Thanksgiving morning. I don’t have time here to describe to you how liberal and protestant the mass was.
    I want to trust Francis; I do trust God. But now it seems the liberals have voted in one of their own kind.
    I don’t think God will let it get too out of hand, but I wonder if Evangelii Gaudium feeds meat to the people who are subverting the mission of the Church. Someone who thinks deeply like Michael Paterson and Botolph have the intellectual underpinnings not to be flummoxed– but there are LOTS of “low information” Catholics out here.
    I guess our prayer could be for clarity of thought. Fulton Sheen pray for us.

  • “Someone who thinks deeply like Michael Paterson and Botolph have the intellectual underpinnings not to be flummoxed– but there are LOTS of ‘low information’ Catholics out here.”

    Quite true. The overwhelming majority of Roman Catholics know neither Sacred Scripture nor the Catechism. Most would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between Joel and Jonah, Elijah and Elisha, Eli and Samuel, let alone be able to discuss intelligently the issues raised in Evangelii Gaudium. Ignorance is the current hallmark of the majority of the population of the Roman jurisdiction. Sad. Very sad, considering the monumental intellectual legacy left to us by the depository of the Faith.

  • Anzlyne,

    While I appreciate your compliment, faith is a gift, which I am sure you have, from the comments you have made on this blog. Our Catholic Faith is a whole and a Catholic cannot pick and choose, like a supermarket, what we buy or don’ buy. We are going through two coinciding vast changes. Our Western Civilization and culture are going through a profound change. It is hard to envision how it will turn out, or even if it will have a good end.

    The Church is undergoing through a vast change ( and I would encourage you or anyone to read George Weigel’s “Evangelical Catholicism” for insights on this change) as well. The difference between the two changes is that Christ is Risen, has conquered sin and death, and has promised and given the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth to the Church. This is the Mystery of Pentecost. Christ has promised us that the Church built on Peter will not be able to be conquered by the forces of hell.

    While I am often seen as ” defending” Pope Francis on this blog. I am not a person who cannot see weaknesses or imperfections in a pope. I saw them in Blessed John Paul, soon to be a saint ( in his case his vision was so vast that he had little time nor desire to ” waste his energy” on matters in the Curia. Pope Benedict, I believe also to be a saint and brought out once and for all a true interpretation of the Council in the hermeneutic of continuity and reform as well as showing that the first and fundamental Constitution of VII was on Divine Revelation. Nonetheless, through his appointments, the papal diplomatic service in the world became ” problematic” to say the least. Misstatements caused real difficulties with Moslems and even some distancing with Judaism. The man as Cardinal and then Pope attempted to bring healing and reconciliation to the relationship with the Society of Pope Pius X, sadly to no avail. No matter how he tried he just could not stop the implosion going on in the Curia. While too early to come to a real grasp of Pope Francis’ ministry, I will be the first one to say not all has gone well. However, on the major, substantial issues, in doctrine and discipline and in his collaboration style I give him pretty high marks. Nonetheless, I recognize that while we have had ( and I believe have a ) good popes, I fully realize we have had bad popes-very bad popes- yet the gates of here’ll did not prevail.

    It is faith in Christ’s commitment to and union with the Church- not on the strengths and talents of individuals that keeps me Catholic. It is that same faith that keeps me at peace on a very deep level when I see strengths, weaknesses and yes even sin in the members of the Church, ordained or not.

    Hope this helps

  • Botolph writes, “I fully realize we have had bad popes-very bad popes- yet the gates of hell did not prevail.”

    Whilst that is certainly true I draw still greater comfort from the way in which the Church has not only survived, but flourished under a great many rather indifferent ones.

    From Sixtus V, who died in 1590, to Leo XIII, who was elected in 1878, we had a virtually unbroken succession of popes, who had risen through the ranks of the Vatican bureaucracy and who were, by habit, taste and training, administrators. The sole exception, Benedict XIV, better remembered today as Prospero Lambertini, the great canon lawyer, can fairly be ranked with Innocent IV as a canonist and with Leo X and Clement VII for his learning and he appears as a giant in that age of pygmies.

    It is not unfair to describe the result as one of assiduous mediocrity. Even in Catholic countries, they had the same impact and the same popular appeal, as the average Secretary-General of the United Nations or President of the World Bank. Pio Nono was popular because he was pitied.

    Thirty popes and not a Leo or a Gregory, a Hildebrand or an Innocent III amongst them; the very suggestion seems absurd. Meanwhile, we had the Church riven by the Thirty Years War, the Quietist controversy, the Jansenist heresy, the Gallican controversy, Josephism, the suppression of the Jesuits, the French Revolution and its aftermath, and the Risorgimento, in none of which can the Holy See be said to have distinguished itself.

    Yet it was also the Church of St Francis de Sales, St John Eudes, St Vincent de Paul, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St Louis de Montfort and countless other saints, who formed the devotional life of generations of Catholics

  • Really great discussion here! Thank You all. As I have said before, I go to the Sacrifice of the Mass. I receive the Sacraments and know that God alone will give us direction. The line about “Evita” really cracked me up. Now I will have that in my head all day! It is very hard this “defending” of the faith, with all of the sidewinders wanting to take it down. whether it is intentional or ” misinterpreted” it certainly is a challenge. As a young woman many years ago teaching CCD in the most traditional of forms, our priest at the time, God Bless His Soul, Father Tom Mannion from Ireland, whom we referred to as “Bishop Sheen”( of the Diocese of Lacrosse) after his dramatic show of “breathing hard” because I was taking up so much of his “air” by having so many children, would just roar in his Irish brogue, “Jeanne Rohl, my god woman, you’re more Catholic than the Catholic Church!” And I would just smile and say, “Thank you Father”! Boy did we have some deep deep discussions. God Bless

  • Thou shalt not steal. But, who, whom? In Venezuela, Maduro is convinced that businessmen are stealing from the poor by marking up prices. He will correct their error by imposing price controls.

    Everything in the Holy Father’s words would seem to encourage Maduro, who thinks it’s “private initiative and intermediary organizations” that have failed. He is merely appropriately restraining the “absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.” Right?

    As per T. Shaw’s update on Argentina, I excerpt a Reuter’s article on Maduro’s latest efforts:
    Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said a stricter wave of inspections for suspected price-gouging would begin on Saturday in an aggressive pre-election “economic offensive” aimed at taming the highest inflation in the Americas.
    “We’re not joking, we’re defending the rights of the majority, their economic freedom,” Maduro said on Friday, alleging price irregularities were found in nearly 99 percent of 1,705 businesses inspected so far this month.
    Maduro, who has staked his presidency on preserving the legacy of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, launched a theatrical – and often televised – wave of inspections this month to force companies to reduce prices.
    He says “capitalist parasites” are trying to wreck Venezuela’s economy and force him from office….
    “The inspections are continuing daily and have let us see into the under-world of capitalism,” Maduro said in his latest speech to the nation, warning of severe sanctions starting Saturday against businesses maintaining unjustifiably high prices.
    Government officials say companies have been marking up prices by as much as 1,000 percent over cost, though many retailers say they have been forced to hike prices sharply due to lack of access to foreign currency at the official rate….
    The leader of Venezuela’s main business group Fedecamaras, Jorge Roig, said this week the government’s erroneous economic policies and excessive controls risk setting up the nation for a dire 2014 of shortages and stagnation.
    Roig accused policymakers of “improvisation” in the face of growing economic distortions and insisted that businesses nationalized in the Chavez era were operating at half capacity, while only 2 percent of expropriated land was productive.
    “Mr. Jorge Roig, you have just declared economic war on the country,” Maduro retorted on Friday.

  • Tamsin

    Chavez was no friend to the Church when he was in full power. Like all other “statists” who see complete and absolute hegemony by the State, he saw the Church as a constant threat. It was really only in his terminal illness, faced with a much more powerful absolute, that he made some peace with the Church. What his successor is doing with the Church I am not as aware.

    As one of the Catholic leaders in Latin America who, while still keeping ” the preferential option for the poor”, Bergoglio worked to undo the damage the extreme aspects of Liberation Theology had worked within the Church in Latin America.

    It is important to read Pope Francis in a Catholic perspective, a perspective of faith, and not an ideological one that sees only two real choices: either socialist statism or completely unfettered financial/market forces.
    Once ‘possible’ translation issues are dealt with, the question is “How do the comments of Pope Francis continue and/or deepen earlier social/economic teachings of the Church

  • Pope Francis never saw unfettered capitalism in Argentina. Never.

    Argentina should be a wealthy country but it is a basket case because of its citizens and who they have put in power. Argentina has the world’s seventh largest economy in 1900. During WWII, Argentina had Axis sympathies and let Nazis into the country. They elected Peron who nearly destroyed the country.

    Kinda strange how Chile has made capitalism work and Argentina always shoots itself in the foot.

    Venezuela is another basket case. Keep ’em poor and dumb and they fall for class warfare – anywhere.

  • Pingback: More on Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel - BigPulpit.com

PopeWatch: Three Errors

Tuesday, November 26, AD 2013




Sandro Magister is noting that Pope Francis seems to be correcting three errors:

ROME, November 22, 2013 – In the span of a few days Pope Francis has corrected or brought about the correction of a few significant features of his public image. At least three of them.

The first concerns the conversation that he had with Eugenio Scalfari, set down in writing by this champion of atheistic thought in “la Repubblica” of October 1.

The transcript of the conversation had in effect generated widespread dismay, because of some of the statements from the mouth of Francis that sounded more congenial to the dominant secular thinking than to Catholic doctrine. Like the following:

“Each one has his idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight the evil as he understands them.”

At the same time, however, the interview was immediately confirmed by Fr. Federico Lombardi as “faithful to the thought“ of the pope and “reliable in its general sense.”

Not only that. A few hours after it was published in “la Repubblica,” the interview was reproduced in its entirety both in “L’Osservatore Romano” and on the official website of the Holy See, on a par with the other discourses and documents of the Pope.

This gave birth to the idea that Jorge Mario Bergoglio had intentionally chosen the conversational form of expression, on this as on other occasions, as a new form of his magisterium, capable of reaching the general public more effectively.

But in the following weeks the pope must also have become aware of the risk that this form entails. The risk that the magisterium of the Church might fall to the level of a mere opinion contributed to the free exchange of ideas.

This in fact led to the decision, on November 15, to remove from the website of the Holy See the text of the conversation with Scalfari.

“It was removed,” Fr. Lombardi explained, “to clarify the nature of that text. There were some misunderstandings and disagreements about its value.”

On November 21, interviewed at the Roman headquarters of the foreign press, Scalfari nonetheless revealed more details of the matter.

He said that the pope, at the end of the conversation, had consented that it should be made public. And to Scalfari’s proposal that he send him the text beforehand, he had replied: “It seems like a waste of time to me, I trust you.”

In effect, the founder of “la Repubblica” sent the text to the pope, accompanied by a letter in which he wrote among other things:

“Keep in mind that I did not include some of the things that you said to me. And that some of the things that I attribute to you you did not say. But I put them there so that the reader may understand who you are.”

Two days later – again according to what Scalfari claims – the pope’s secretary, Alfred Xuereb, telephoned to give the go-ahead for  publication. Which took place the following day.

Scalfari commented: “I am perfectly willing to think that some of the things that I wrote and attributed to him are not shared by the pope, but I also believe that he maintains that, said by a nonbeliever, they are important for him and for the activity he is carrying out.”


But even the calibrated and thoroughly studied interview with Pope Francis in “La Civiltà Cattolica” – published on September 19 by sixteen magazines of the Society of Jesus in eleven languages – has in recent days been taken into the shop of things to be corrected.

On a key point: the interpretation of Vatican Council II.

This has been made clear by a passage of the letter written by Francis himself to Archbishop Agostino Marchetto on the occasion of the presentation on November 12 of a volume in his honor, against the solemn background of the Campidoglio. A letter that the pope wanted to be read in public.

The passage is the following:

“You have demonstrated this love [of the Church] in many ways, including by correcting an error or imprecision on my part – and for this I thank you from my heart – but above all it has been manifested in all its purity in your studies of Vatican Council II. I have said this to you once, dear Archbishop Marchetto, and I want to repeat it today, that I consider you the best hermeneut of Vatican Council II.”

The definition of Marchetto as “the best hermeneut” of the Council is striking in itself. Marchetto has in fact always been the most implacable critic of that “school of Bologna” – founded by Giuseppe Dossetti and Giuseppe Alberigo and today directed by Professor Alberto Melloni – which has the worldwide monopoly on the interpretation of Vatican II, in a progressive vein.

The hermeneutic of the Council upheld by Marchetto is the same as that of Benedict XVI: not of “rupture” and “new beginning,” but of “reform in the continuity of the one subject Church.” And it is this hermeneutic that Pope Francis has wanted to signify that he shares, in bestowing such high appreciation on Marchetto.

But if one rereads the succinct passage that Francis dedicates to Vatican II in the interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica,” one gets a different impression. “Yes, there are hermeneutical lines of continuity and of discontinuity,” the pope concedes. “Nonetheless,” he adds, “one thing is clear”: Vatican II was “a service to the people” consisting in “a reinterpretation of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture.”

In the few lines of the interview dedicated to the Council, Bergoglio defines its essence this way three times, also applying it to the reform of the liturgy.

Such a judgment of the grandiose conciliar event immediately appeared so summary to many that even the pope’s interviewer, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica” Antonio Spadaro, confessed his amazement in transcribing it from the pope’s spoken words.

Meanwhile, however, this judgment has continued to garner widespread consensus.

For example, in receiving Pope Francis at the Quirinale on a visit on November 4, the president of the Italian republic, Giorgio Napolitano, thanked him precisely for making “resonate the spirit of Vatican Council II as a ‘reinterpretation of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture,’” citing his exact words.

And praise for these same words of the pope has come – for example – from the foremost of the Italian liturgists, Andrea Grillo, a professor at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm, according to whom Francis has finally inaugurated the true and definitive “hermeneutic” of the Council, after having “immediately put in second place that diatribe over ‘continuity’ and ‘discontinuity’ which had long prejudiced – and often completely paralyzed – any effective hermeneutic of Vatican II.”

In effect, it is no mystery that “service to the people” and a reinterpretation of the Gospel “brought up to date” are concepts dear to the progressive interpretations of the Council and in particular to the “school of Bologna,” which has repeatedly declared itself to be an enthusiast of this pope.

But evidently there is someone who has personally pointed out to pope Bergoglio that reducing the Council to such concepts is at the least “imprecise,” if not “mistaken.”

And it was precisely Marchetto who took this step. There has always been great trust between him and Bergoglio, with mutual esteem. Marchetto lives in Rome at the residence for clergy on Via della Scrofa, in room 204, next to room 203 where the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires stayed during his trips to Rome.

Pope Francis not only listened to the criticisms of his friend, he welcomed them. To the point of thanking him, in the letter he had read on November 12, for having helped him in “correcting an error or imprecision on my part.”

It is to be presumed that in the future Francis will express himself on the Council in a way different from that of the interview in “La Civiltà Cattolica.” More in line with the hermeneutic of Benedict XVI. And to the great disappointment of the “school of Bologna.”


The third correction is consistent with the two previous ones. It concerns the “progressive” tone that Pope Francis has seen stamped upon the the first three months of his pontificate.

One month ago, on October 17, Bergoglio seemed to have confirmed this profile of his once again when in the morning homily at Santa Marta he directed stinging words against Christians who turn the faith into a “moralistic ideology,” entirely made up of “prescriptions without goodness.”

But one month later, on November 18, in another morning homily the pope played a completely different tune.

He used the revolt of the Maccabees against the dominant powers of the age as the point of departure for a tremendous tongue-lashing of that “adolescent progressivism,” Catholic as well, which is disposed to submit to the “hegemonic uniformity” of the “one form of thought that is the fruit of worldliness.”

It is not true, Francis said, that “in the face of any choice whatsoever it is right to move forward regardless, rather than remain faithful to one’s traditions.” The result of negotiating over everything is that values are so emptied of meaning as to end up merely “nominal values, not real.” Even more, one ends up negotiating precisely over “the thing essential to one’s very being, fidelity to the Lord.”

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9 Responses to PopeWatch: Three Errors

  • “…reinterpretation of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture…”

    What we need is reinterpretaion of contemporary culture in light of the Gospel.

  • “…reinterpretation of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture…”

    What we need is reinterpretaion of contemporary culture in light of the Gospel.

    I was not scared until now.

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  • Today’s Richmond paper reprinted a Washington Post article, “Pope blasts ‘trickle-down’ economics” which had quotes from the pope’s apostolic exhortation of Tuesday. As written it was not positive about the US.
    Reporting on religion in general is usually inaccurate and the Post is the worst. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  • AT LEAST these are small steps in the right direction to correct the many malaprops of Bergoglio: but he has a long way to go to get on the Ratzinger-Wojtyla track. And he has a huge disadvantage: besides his limited theological educational background, he is a Jesuit, and most that I have met in recent years are way too full of themselves. And remember: his true self is as an self-proclaimed admirer of truly schismatic-bound late Cardinal Martini.

  • This man is just getting warmed up. He knows what he is doing and is not stupid, even though he appears that way. The verbal ambiguities and heretical statements are feelers to see how far he can push the envelope. His intentions are becoming oh so clear. Let us pray for Holy Mother Church.

  • I disagree, Barbara. I do not think Pope Francis is being deliberately heterodox. I think he believes he is being authentically Catholic. He simply brings with him all the social justice baggage of a Latin American cleric. He is not perfect. But the gates of hell will not prevail. The Holy Spirit preserved the Church from Popes who were really evil, and Pope Francis is NOT evil. I have been reading Evangelii Gaudium. I am about 1/3rd of the way through. There are some things (particularly on economics) that I disagree with (but that may be due to poor translation). Overall, it seems to be an excellent document – not perfect, but certainly better than what I could write.

  • Paul, you have every right to your opinion of this pope, as do I. We do not have to agree. Please know I will be praying for our Church and for Francis as well. The Truth never goes away, and, as time unfolds, Truth will be revealed. I ask God to bless you.

PopeWatch: Hermeneutic of Continuity

Monday, November 25, AD 2013




Father Z has what he believes is an important indication that Pope Francis is following in the footsteps of Pope Benedict in how he views Vatican II:


The 450th anniversary of the closing of the Council of Trent is coming up on 4 December.  We like to celebrate these great milestones in salvation history.  So, there are great doings in Trent, in the northern area of Italy which is part of the (also) German-speaking Tirol.  As is customary, Pope Francis will send a Cardinal as his personal representative.  Who better than His Eminence Walter Card. Brandmüller?

When the Pope sends a Cardinal off on one of these missions, he sends him a formal letter, charging him with his task and indicating something of his own hopes for the occasion.  The anniversary of the closing of the Council of Trent is no exception.

In his letter to Card. Brandmüller, Pope Francis explicitly cites Pope Benedict XVI pontificate-defining address in 2005 to the Roman Curia in which he spoke about the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” (e.g., the Karl Rahner crowd and their descendants, still active today) and the “hermeneutic of reform”, or “hermeneutic of continuity”.

In this explicit reference Francis is aligning himself with Benedict and that key moment and concept underlying Benedict’s pontificate.

This comes in the wake of Francis writing to Archbishop Marchetto (refresh your memory HERE), a critic of one of the powerhouses of the ”hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”, the so-called “Bologna School” of interpretation of the Council.  Francis surely broke a lot of liberal hearts when he referred to Marchetto (who in this matter is completely aligned with Benedict) as one of the best interpreters of the Council that he knows.

The letter of Francis to Card. Brandmüller is available in the Latin original in the Bollettino.  Here is my rapid translation of the first part of the letter, which is the important part.  I scaled down some of the flowery stuff. The second part is the usual boilerplate and of less interest.

To our Venerable Brother Walter Cardinal (of the Holy Roman Church) Brandmüller Deacon of St. Julian of the Flemish

Since the 450th anniversary of the day on which the Council of Trent drew to its favorable end, it is fitting that the Church recall with readier and more attentive eagerness the most rich doctrine which came out of that Council held in the Tyrol. It is certainly not without good reason that the Church has for a long time given such great care to that Council’s decrees and canons which are to be recalled and heeded, seeing that, since extremely grave matters and questions sprang up in that period, the Council Fathers employed all their diligence so that the Catholic faith should come into clearer view and be better understood. Without a doubt as the Holy Spirit inspired and prompted them, it was the Fathers’ greatest concern not only that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be defended, but also that mankind be more brightly illuminated, in order that the saving work of the Lord could be diffused throughout the entire globe and the Gospel be spread through the whole world.

Harking closely to the same Spirit, Holy Church in this age renews and meditates on the most abundant doctrine of the Council of Trent. In fact, the “hermeneutic of renewal” [interpretatio renovationis] which Our Predecessor Benedict XVI explained in 2005 before the Roman Curia, refers in no way less to the Council of Trent than to the Vatican Council. To be sure, this mode of interpretation places under a brighter light a beautiful characteristic of the Church which is taught by the Lord Himself: “She is a ‘subject’ which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia offering them his Christmas greetings – 22 December 2005).


This is a significant letter.

First, it affirms that we can indeed, and rightly, Read Francis Through Benedict.

Second, it affirms that Francis is, and rightly, reading Francis Through Benedict.

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19 Responses to PopeWatch: Hermeneutic of Continuity

  • “PopeWatch also wishes that it was not necessary to rely on such ‘tea leaves’ in figuring out where Pope Francis stands.”

    YES. This.

  • Ah yes, Fr. Z. You gotta admire his relentless optimism. He’s downright determined to make Francis into what he should be. God bless him for that.

  • My impression has been that Roman Catholicism crystallized with Trent; that it continues to teach the very same things. Is this correct, anyone?

  • Jon,

    Whether we are speaking of the Council of Trent, the Second Vatican Council, or any of the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, the very same Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, meets, preserves and passes on ( teaches) the Apostolic Tradition, the Catholic Faith. Now it does so under very different Historical contexts, with very different questions, problems, or issues that the Church needed to face and or address.

    When the Council of Trent met, between 1545 and 1565 (The bishops did not meet for twenty straight years; there were periods of time the Council was not in session), the Medieval world and world view was collapsing being replaced with the Renaissance. The Scholastic way of teaching was being replaced by the Humanist ( here don’t think of secular humanism). The culture was changing from an oracular ( based on hearing/listening) to literary ( reading) thanks to the invention of the printing press, bringing profound changes in communication. Although it is a myth that the Medieval world thought that the world was flat- they knew from the ancient Greeks it was round, Europeans now discovered the New World of the Americas, and their native people’s, as well as discovering just how big Africa was by sailing around its southern tip. Although not yet well known, Copernicus, a Polish cleric in minor orders, had already theorized that the sun, not earth was the center:we moved around it, not it around us, as the ancient Greeks and common perception would have it ( This would all blow up in the very poorly handled Galileo affair in the 1600’s)

    The Church, as in every age, needed reform and renewal. In many ways it had grown too comfortable with the Medieval world view, and confused that with her identity and Tradition. It is true, that in certain aspects of Church life, things needed to change-big time. She was still teaching the truths of the Catholic Faith using the Scholastic method, with disputations and argumentation-a method used in the Universities. While several generations of Catholic humanists were calling for a Return to the Sources: Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church ( for example, Erasmus and Saint (Sir) Thomas More), the Church in general was resistant.

    Catholic Reform however was being called for and within the religious orders especially, was underway. One of those reforming orders were the Augustinian Friars and one of their number was Father Martin Luther. His first calls for reform were met with genuine acceptance, because they were Catholic. Because it was a Dominican, John Tetzel, who set Luther off in the way Tetzel was presenting indulgences for the sake of building the new ( our present day) Saint Peter’s Basilica, it was thought that it was simply an argument between two monks. That was not the case. Soon the whole of Germany then Northern Europe was on fire ( Much of what happened can be traced to cultural differences between Northern and Southern Europe).

    As we have spoken before early Luther was indeed Catholic, but soon he himself became enflamed, becoming more and more radicalized. Other Reformers, even more radical at first joined with him, but later broke with him over doctrinal matters ( the biggest issue was the Eucharist which Luther believed to be the Body and Blood of Christ-although he did not hold the full Catholic Teaching on the subject; the other Reformers believed the Eucharist to be symbolic but not really Christ’s Bodily Presence). Luther’s biggest issue was justification by grace and received/ accepted by faith. He limited the sacraments to two, basing that teaching to his acceptance of Scripture alone. Calvin first followed him, then broke with his teaching. King Henry VIII first fought Luther’s teaching, then forced the whole Church in England to break with Rome and see him as head of the Church. The King of Sweden did not like his Cardinal in Stockholm’s policies and all but literally overnight made the whole Church in what are now the Scandanavian countries, bishops and all, Lutheran.

    It was in response to this firestorm that the Council of Trent was called. Luther, and Calvin were invited to the Council, but refused to go. The Council had two fundamental tasks, answer the doctrinal “questions and positions” of the Reformers and totally reform, not the substance of the Church ( teachings, sacraments, governance) but the way things were behind done. No change in moral teaching but in the morals of her members. There were two groupings within the Council, one group wanted to present Church teaching, reform her ways, but be more irenic ( peaceful) toward the Reformers and their Reformation. Cardinal Reginald Pole was among their number as was the Father General of the Capuchins. They in no way accepted the teaching of the Reformers, but thought reconciliation with the Reformers might still be possible, and wanted the Council to work toward that goal. The other group, intensely reformist, believed that the Reformers wre in fact ” gone”, no reconciliation was possible. They wanted to present the Church’s teaching clearly in response to and in rejection of the Reformers. There was no real dispute in the Council over the teachings of the Church or the need for a deep reform of the Church. The dispute was how best to present and go about this reform. The second group prevailed.

    When the Council of Trent ended on December 4th, 1565, it was the same Catholic Church that emerged from it that had entered the Council, but it nonetheless looked very different. The Medieval Catholic Church had emerged from the Council, the Church of the early Modern Era, “the Tridentine” Catholic Church.

  • I am with Elizabeth: Fr. Z is an optimist and I hope he will be right. However: Two points: the hermeneutic of rupture obviously exists, or Benedict XVI would not have spent so much time and effort trying to remediate the problem. Just anecdotally: how many times have you spoken to a priest about a matter and gotten the “Oh,-we- dont-teach-that-doctrine-since-V2-anymore” response. Recently, I brought some very good extra Catholic books to a good priest I know and admire, for his distribution to other Catholics: when he looked at some of them (all classic works, all imprimatur, some were Pre V2 catechisms), he demurred, saying, “Oh we dont teach that since Vatican II.” My point: on the ground level, there was a rupture in teaching at V2.
    2nd point: Pope Francis is being reined in—by someone, or some group of people, after his recent rhetorical blunders. DICI, a trad publication notes: “…The interview that Pope Francis granted on October 1 at the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, this interview, which was available on the Vatican website, was taken down on November 15, at the request of the Secretariat of State. One question-and-answer had already been condemned by L’Osservatore Romano, the one in which the Pope declared that everyone had his concept of good and evil and that he had to follow his conscience.

    On the day after the publication of the interview, faced with the dismayed reactions of many Catholics, Fr. Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See, had explained that this was neither a Magisterial document nor an encyclical, but rather an occasion for the Supreme Pontiff to express himself “with great sincerity and simplicity” (sic). In order to justify the decision to remove it from the Vatican website, Fr. Lombardi declared: “The text is reliable on a general level, but not on the level of each individual point analyzed,” since the interview had not been recorded and no written notes were taken. Pope Francis has to stop making his personalistic comments declaratory of the Catholic Church, pure and simple. As documented before, he has a deficient theological background (certainly when compared to JP2 and BXVI). The time to get a clue has come.

  • Thanks, Botolph, for that rather thoughtful explanation of things. I don’t think cultural differences were responsible for the profound change during this era, except in part insofar as the emergence of political nationalism and some differentiation of national identity began to emerge–though not too much. Actually, the PRotestant churches would further facilitate nationalism. Thanks for explaining the Roman church today as tridentine. I wanted to know if Vatican II brought any significant alterations, but it does not seem so. Theologically, you say it is tridentine I think.
    Interestingly, the Renaissance worldview was Medieval; it was just more elaborate (see Tillyard’s the Elizabethan World Picture). C. S. Lewis drove home the point that all we have, generally speaking, are pictures, and the intellectuals of any time usually know that. People sensed the world was round and revolving around the sun and so on, but people also have other models and approaches that work better for practical purposes, and then there’s popular or common prejudices, etc.
    I think tradition is oftentimes legitimate. The difference, and what’s at stake, is the question of its role. Protestants wish to keep tradition subservient to Scripture. The apostolic era is done and the canon is closed. To place tradition on an equal footing with Scripture at this point would create serious problems.
    When christendom split at the Reformation, cultural differences emerged. Generally, cultural differences were the effect, not the cause of that split. The cause of the split was tension that built up over Scripture versus church tradition, with the south mainly siding with Rome on tradition and the north, for different reasons, siding mostly with Scripture and independent thought.
    Some people wanted political change, others were humanists, and still others were purists of the Christian faith. The English and Scandinavian revolutions were propelled by political interests more than theological per se. But note that within the political movements new churches often emerged solely over theological reasons.
    The central difference then and more so now from my perspective is this: Roman Catholicism places tradition on a par with Scriptrure while Protestantism’s only/ultimate authority remains Scripture. Do you agree?

  • Jon,

    First, let me make this point, a point often overlooked or under rated by many. Since 1545, the year the Council of Trent bega, the Catholic Church has had three Ecumenical Councils: Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II. These three Councils are intricately related ( just as the first four Councils are). Although all Councils need to be seen and interpreted within the whole Catholic Tradition, these three cannot be understood without eac other. All three are ultimately about the Mystery of the Church at the beginning of the Modern Era (Renaissance-Reformation: Trent), in response to radical aspects of the Enlightenment: Vatican I and finally in response the end of the Modern Age and the beginning of the Post Modern Era: Vatican II. Jon you are correct to call the present Church Tridentine, however within the new historical context of the beginning of the post modern era, it would be more precise to call today’s Church as post Vatican II.

    As to your questions concerning Tradition and Scripture, it is important to note that each of the three Councils just mentioned contain teaching on this subject, with a bit of development manifest in the next Council. Catholics and Protestants believe and hold to the the authority of the Word of God, Jesus Christ, the full revelation of God ( see Hebrews 1.1). God had revealed Himself and His saving will in ” many and various ways through the prophets” but never fully. The fullness of Revelation is the Person of Jesus Christ, and in and through Jesus Christ.

    In turn, the Risen Christ handed on (Traditio) this full revelation to the Apostles, the Apostolic Tradition ( none of which was written down, except of course the Greek version of theHebrew Scriptures, which became through Christ, the Old Testament. Within the Apostolic generation some of that Apostolic Tradition was written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Those inspired texts were accepted by the Apostolic and sub apostolic ( next generations) Church as authoritative and normative. Along with these Scriptures an authoritative summary and synthesis of the whole revelation, the word of God was also handed on: the Rule (canon) of Faith. This ancient and authoritative Rule of Faith was passed on generation after generation, to each new catechumen (convert) coming into the Church in the sacraments of Initiation. This ancient Rule of Faith, a particularly well known form of which we know as the Apostles’ Creed is authoritative and normative. It is completely drawn from the Scriptures, but it also interprets Scripture. Finally, when struggling with many texts all claiming apostolic authority or authorship (Gnostic texts etc), the early Church was able to discern the texts whether they were in continuity or faithful to the Rule of Faith.

    See, Jon, Scripture and Tradition are not totally separate sources of Revelation, the word of God. Like husband and wife the two, while distinct, are intimately one. This is the contribution of Vatican II. While maintaining the distinction of Scripture and Tradition, Vatican II emphasizes the authority of the revelation of God, the word of God, handed down by the Word of God made flesh to the Apostles who in turn handed the revelation down in the Apostollic Tradition. Two particular forms of this revelation, word, Tradition are Sacred Scripure and Sacred Tradition in the Rule of Faith and Apostolic Succession.

  • Botolph, I agree tradition was ongoing in the sense that the apostles taught and wrote and this body of teaching continued to be transmitted. I totally understand that. I just think eventually other teachings that were alien to Christianity ‘crept in’ and became part of that (T)radition. So I believe we have to unravel the true traditions from the false ones. Further, some traditions aren’t false but merely extra-biblical. These are not binding. That’s my take on tradition. In other words, not all tradition is sacred, and not everything that’s sacred is authoritative and normative. I hold to a more nuanced and complex understanding of tradition.

  • Jon,

    First let me say that I have been using Tradition with a capital T. That distinguishes it from tradition or traditions with a diminutive t. The distinction is very important for Catholics. Tradition with a capital T is the Apostolic Tradition, Revelation which as you rightly stated in your earlier post was closed at the end of the Apostolic Age. This Apostolic Tradition can only be handed down to new generations, be preserved and protected. Nothing can be added to this Tradition or subtracted from it-by anyone- not even the popes and bishops. This Apostolic Tradition is especially manifested in the Sacred Scriptures but not limited to them. I believe that is the rub for Protestants.

    Let me ask you this. Where do you find, in any of the Books of the Bible, but for the sake of argument we will stick to the NT, the list of the Canon of the Scriptures, which books made it into the New Testament? This becomes a real issue for Protestants when the Da Vinci Code or National Geographic or the History Channel start talking about some new book found or papyrus fragment discovered claiming to be some lost writing of an apostle. Or how can you, on the basis of only referring to the Books of the Bible, declare the extra books added by the Mormons or the peculiarities of. Mormon or Jehovah Witness translations of the Bible, or even the criticisms of Moslems who claim that both Jews and Christians have corrupted Scripture but the Quuran gets them right: how can “you” answer these points, criticisms and objections using only the texts of Sacred Scripture? What, then is your authority that validates the Sacred Scriptures, since no Christians believe the Scriptures were authored only by God Himself, as the Moslems do the Quuran?? Who has the ability/ authority to choose which books made it and which books did not? By what substantive criteria do “they” use to decide this- remember, there are many books with apostole’s name on the text?

    See Jon, Apostolic Tradition both contains and passes on Apostolic Succession: the Apostolic College (Peter and Apostles) is passed on down through the centuries in the Popes, the successors of Peter and the college of bishops in communion with him. In the second century the bishops, such as Saint Irenaeus, arrived at the beginnings of what we now call the Canon. First against Marcion who wanted to throw out the whole Old Testament and most of the New, because those books were too Jewish. Then which books claiming apostolic authorship and authority were authentic, based on two further criteria: agreement with the Rule of Faith and agreement with what the Church in Rome founded on Peter and Paul, believed and taught.

    Tradition is what has been handed down, authoritatively taught, celebrated ( all seven sacraments) and preserved and not added to, by the Catholic Church. Tradition is the essence, substance of the Church and cannot be changed only developed and explained. Everything else is tradition with a small t, and while venerable etc are not of the essence or substance of the Church and can be changed.

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  • The church did not decide the canon; it discerned it. Protestants believe that and trust the Holy Spirit’s role in that. So any texts introduced later on are considered bogus. Remember, we have the Spirit within which knows the truth as well as the spirit of Antichrist. If you read the gospel of Thomas, for example, you’ll sense you’re dealing with a different spirit.
    The church is always advancing theology, which in one sense can be considered development. But Protestants understand theology is subject to scriptural critique and may be scrapped at any time. We always ‘go back’ to the Bible for continual correction. So Protestants mean something different when they speka of tradition. It’s not really development, but contextualization and re-contextualization. In terms of this, what tradition looks like now can be quite different from what it looks like somewhere else in the future. The traditions in Scripture, however, must be upheld at all times.
    Viewed from one angle, the only difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism lies in terms of how tradition is defined and/or the role afforded it. Your thoughts?

  • Jon,

    How Catholics and Protestants define Tradition and the role afforded it is sadly not the only issue dividing Catholics and Protestants. While a Protestant can come to the Catholic Church and receive one doctrinal or moral truth when asked (here I am speaking of actual, genuine, authoritative teaching- not some ‘theological theory or opinion’) a Catholic cannot go to an authoritative Protestant source. How many denominations and non denominational groups are there? I am not attempting to be sarcastic here, just frustrated. Last count I heard there are well over thirty thousand denominations!

    The crux of the matter between Catholic and Protestant ” positions” is the relationship between Christ and the Church. Is the Church the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12), His visible presence in the world-or not? Is. The Church the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5) , the New Eve (Gen 2), drawn from the pierced side of the New Adam as He slept in death (Jn 19) and receiving new life from Her Spouse in the Garden of the Resurrection (Jn 20) which in turn, by the power of the Holy Spirit She is able to share with Her children in and through the Sacraments?

    Is the Church, according to Christ’s intention and the ‘ constitution’ He gave Her a visible or invisible community? If invisible why did He pray at the Last Supper that ” they may be one” (Jn 17)? If She was invisible who could tell and how could they tell that She was or was not “one”? When Christ ascended into heaven did He leave a Book or a Church? Can one really claim that the only way the Apostles left their authority to the future generations of the Church only in the Scriptures ? If so, how can the Scriptures ” assert” their authority without a Church reading, interpreting and yes, coming to conclusive and authoritative decisions concerning their meaning? Or are we truly left bereft with every person deciding his own interpretation?

    I will take this moment to again ask- why are you carrying on this kind of ” dialogue”? Are these questions that you have really leading anywhere or is this just a continuous dialogue carried on as if all we have are opinions outside the Scriptures themselves-which of course themselves are opened to endless interpretations with no hope of really arriving. at an authoritative Truth? To each response that I have written, you seem to simply give back the “Protestant” position with no real movement toward further insight into the truth-at least it comes off this way. If we aren’t getting anywhere, the point of this is……what?

  • I think it’s a matter of degree. If by authoritative you mean the ability to commmunicate the gospel message and to bring it to bear on all of life, I would say that some Protestant churches do that and others don’t. That’s about as authoritative as I would expect, given the Bible is a story that culminates in the Kingdom of God and its implications. It’s a matter of believing it and becoming a part of it by faith. This also means recognizing our bankrupcy before God and his gracious gift, i. e. Jesus Christ. Plenty of churches exist that will speak prophetically and authoritatively about that. Unfortunately, many Protestant denominations choose to adopt liberal progressivism; they capitalize on the social justice aspect to the detriment of everything else. This is a travesty. These are the churhes that are unable to speak prophetically (except when it is a social matter–and oftentimes they’re wrong on those matters).
    I know many denominations and non-denominational groups exist. This was never a problem for me. I never thought of the church in the Roman Catholic sense. I only wish these grouops accepted each others’ diversity to a greater extent. Too often, they critisize and judge each other. A loving acceptance of the diversity of Christ’s body demonstrates the unity we have in Christ. The diversity is by no means a sign that we aren’t one. Of course Christ and his body are inseparable. I do not think the church must always be visibly apparent and structurally unified across time and space.
    We can and often do misread the Bible. God’s people are guided by the Spirit who is our interpreter, and that’s an ongoing process. It is not that every person decides meaning for themselves. All authentic Christians agree on the essentials of our faith. Disagreement arises concerning various particulars.
    I think you may be framing the debate in terms that are way too black-and-white. I would like to reiterate that my positoin and the position of many Christians is more complex and nuanced, not necessarily representing the stereotypically Protestant viewpoint. You seem to say the Roman Church has truth and can speak authoritatively. Well, I would point out that otehr chruches exist, which do the same. Tradition is an element for many Christian groups, but Protestants generally define it differently from Catholics.
    I suspect, in fact, that the major difference really is the role of tradition. When a church believes in the PRotestant understanding of the role of tradition, it is interpreted in terms of Scripture. Scripture is used to make sense of everything else.
    The purpose of this dialogue, as I said before, is to gain mutual insight into each others’ positions as well as our own. I think you sense we’re at an impasse now, and that is probably the role of tradition. That seems to be what it all comes down to, even if it doesn’t look like that from where you’re standing.

  • Of course a major difference exists beyond all this, but it’s rooted in the broader problem of the role of traditiion. That difference entails justification. Is one justified by faith alone or by faith and works? My response is that we’re justified by faith alone, and that that fatih will necessarily bear fruit. So we’re justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone if that makes sense. I think the distinction is crucial. Portions of Scripture abound that hammer it in.

  • Jon,

    Actually we have come not to an impass but crossroads. The real issue is not the role and authority of Tradition (Luther’s principle of Scripture alone), or how we are saved ( Luther’s principle of “faith alone”). These are indeed important and have been answered in the Council of Trent. The real issue is the Truth. We both believe Jesus Christ is the Truth. We both believe that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. However beyond that agreement is harder to find.

    Let me say this. Anything I say about the Catholic Church, Her teachings, Her Sacraments, Her ‘ government’ given to us by Christ, I say in humility. I have been given the gift of faith in God, in Jesus Christ and in Hiis Holy Spirit in the Church ( communion-fellowship of the Spirit). At a very young age I believed God loved me and that I was a child of God. A bit later in life I encountered Christ Who entered my life in a very deep way and lifted me up, guiding me along life’s paths, and has led me to this point. I have come realize that the Church is not an institution ” over there”, or those people ” over there”. The Church is ” We”, “us”. All who believe in their hearts that Jesus is Lord and confess with their lips that God raised Him from the dead and is baptized is a member of the Church-perhaps not (yet) in full communion with the Church, but are indeed a child of God, a member of the Body of Christ and (unless in serious post-baptismal sin) a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

    Catholics do not possess the truth, instead we are grasped by the Truth. That truth sets us free. By the grace of the Spirit we are maintained in the Truth. With Christ’s own commission we teach everything Christ has taught us in making disciples of all nations, and are empowered by the Spirit to do so.

    What I am about to sat, Jon, you will no doubt have difficulty hearing, never mind accepting. However it is this: by Christ’s own promise and the Gift of the Spirit of Truth, the Catholic Church in substance, in Her essentials, is the same Church of the Apostolic Age, the age of the Fathers, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Modern era, and now the Post-modern age. That is not a boast. We can only boast in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. However it is the truth, to which I am called to witness. “I can do no other, so help me God”

  • Thank you for your testimony! I’m glad you point out that Jesus Christ is the Truth to which the Spirit witnesses. But I sense you still need the church to be visibly and institutionally one, whereas unity in the Spirit is sufficient according to my understanding. The nature of the church is an issue that’s part of a larger one: the role of tradition. So in a sense, as I said before, Sola Scriptura is the central dividing point; our differences relate to the role of tradition. It is in relation to this that the justification issue and all others are decided. What do you think?

  • Jon,

    As I stated before, we have reached a crossroads. We are no longer ” on the (same) road together”. We are no longer really speaking with each other, but sadly, past each other. That to me is an exercise in frustration. I know Catholic doctrine and Protestant interpretations do not agree, and so do you.

    I think it is interesting to note that you keep pointing out or insisting that it is Tradition/Sola Scriptura that is the flash point, when both Catholics and Lutherans stated the fundamental issue was ” justification” Catholics and Lutherans have pondered, prayed over and worked in a constructive dialogue that led to a joint confession: we are justified by the grace of Jesus Christ through faith”. We finally got past the now centuries old argument between faith alone and faith and works. I also would point out that this is the teaching of the Council of Trent.

    Since our paths are diverging once again, I wish you well, pray that the Lord blesses you and yours. I won’t be entering into any further dialogue on Catholic/Protestant differences with you on this blog site. However I do pray that we might ” merrily meet in heaven”, as Saint Thomas More once prayed

  • Thanks, Botolph. And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  • Jon,

    Thank you A happy Thanksgiving to you as well! God bless you

PopeWatch: Rabbi Skorka

Friday, November 22, AD 2013




The Washington Post has an interesting interview with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, an Argentinian Conservative, that is a religious not a political designation, Rabbi.   Lots of background on his relations with the Pope in Argentina.  PopeWatch found this passage especially intriguing:

Skorka said the pope’s study was filled with papers on chairs and books on the floor. (”Don’t imagine everything is ordered,” the rabbi said, laughing.) One of the books had been sent and inscribed by the dissident theologian Hans Kung. “Both of us stood one very close to the other trying to read the German dedication,” Skorka said. “Something like, ‘You already did a lot, but the world expects from you to continue doing very important things.’”

The rabbi said the pope is aware that some religious conservatives, inside and outside the church, are unsettled by his approach. Francis has said Catholic leaders have been driving people away by talking too much about divisive social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. The pope has dropped some of the more regal trappings of the papacy. He uses a Ford Focus instead of fancier cars in the Vatican fleet and wears only the most basic clothes.

“He is receiving very, very harsh criticism from people who don’t like a pope without red shoes, and a pope who speaks to people in a very simple and direct language, and a pope who will transmit to people that he is close to them, that he in some way hugs them through jokes and through simple words and through simple expressions,” Skorka said. “The criticism he is suffering from is not new for him. He already had this kind of pressures and other kind of pressures during his serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, so he knows exactly how to handle these pressures. He’s a very strong man and he will go ahead.”

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13 Responses to PopeWatch: Rabbi Skorka

  • Yes, It is a little concerning to think that the pope’s good friend would be under the impression that the concern is about the trappings, red shoes and friendliness. Give us more credit than that! The concerns are not “worldly”.
    In contrast the message from Kung does not refer to God but to the world. . “Something like, ‘You already did a lot, but the world expects from you to continue doing very important things.’”

  • It seems Kung is a troubling author to many people. I wonder why the red shoes would be so important to some.

  • It’s not the red shoes, per se, that I think some find troubling. It is what they represent. I can understand wanting to set the example of being a more simple soul, and living in a more simple way, but to some extent, that is not possible with certain offices. Recall Jimmy Carter tried to take that same approach to the presidency (drove some chevy impala or something rather than the pres limo, etc.). While the gesture can be sincere and have merit, it also has the unintended consequence of somewhat cheapening the office. Much like using non-precious materials for the chalice. We use gold to show respect for what is contained in the chalice not so much because God needs it, but because WE do to remind us of the inestimable value of what it holds. Kings wear crowns not just for themselves but also to remind others who is king.