How Dagger John Saved the Irish

Wednesday, August 14, AD 2013



But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33




Archbishop John Hughes of New York, universally known to friend and foe as Dagger John, was  a very tough and fearless man.  After the anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia in 1844 he called on the mayor of New York, an anti-Catholic bigot, and informed him that if a single Catholic church was touched in New York, New York would be a second Moscow.  (The reference was to the burning of Moscow in 1812 during Napoleon’s occupation of the city.) Not a Catholic church was touched.  On another occasion when a threat was made to burn Saint Patrick’s cathedral the Archbishop had it guarded within hours by 4,000 armed Catholics.  He earned his nickname!

Among his many accomplishments was his success in leading the New York Irish out of poverty.  It is a fascinating story and relevant to our time.  In 1997 in City Journal, William J. Stern wrote an article on how Dagger John did it:



Hughes once remarked that “the Catholic Church is a church of discipline,” and Father Richard Shaw, Hughes’s most recent biographer, believes that the comment gives a glimpse into the inner core of his beliefs. Self-control and high personal standards were the key—and Hughes’s own disciplined labors to improve himself and all those around him, despite constant ill health, embodied this ethic monumentally. Hughes proclaimed the need to avoid sin. His clergy stated clearly that certain conduct was right and other conduct was wrong. People must not govern their lives according to momentary feelings or the desire for instant gratification: they had to live up to a code of behavior that had been developed over thousands of years. This teaching produced communities where ethical standards mattered and severe stigma attached to those who misbehaved.
The priests stressed the virtue of purity, loudly and unambiguously, to both young and old. Sex was sinful outside marriage, no exceptions. Packed together in apartments with sometimes two or three families in a single room, the Irish lived in conditions that did not encourage chastity or even basic modesty. Women working in the low-paid drudgery of domestic service were tempted to work instead in the saloons of Five Points, which often led to a life of promiscuity or prostitution. The Church’s fierce exhortations against promiscuity, with its accompanying evils of out-of-wedlock births and venereal disease, took hold. In time, most Irish began to understand that personal responsibility was an important component of sexual conduct.
Since alcohol was such a major problem for his flock, Hughes—though no teetotaler himself—promoted the formation of a Catholic abstinence society. In 1849 he accompanied the famous Irish Capuchin priest, Father Theobald Mathew, the “apostle of temperance,” all around the city as he gave the abstinence pledge to 20,000 New Yorkers.
A religion of discipline, stressing conduct and the avoidance of sin, can be a pinched and gloomy affair, but Hughes’s teaching had a very different inflection. His priests mitigated the harshness with the encouraging Doctrine of the Sacred Heart, which declares that if you keep the commandments, God will be your protector, healer, advisor, and perfect personal friend. To a people despised by many, living in desperate circumstances, with narrow economic possibilities, such a teaching was a bulwark against anger, despair, and fear. Hughes’s Catholicism was upbeat and encouraging: if God Almighty was your personal friend, you could overcome.
Hughes’s teaching had a special message for and about women. Women outnumbered men by 20 percent in New York’s Irish population partly because of famine-induced emigration patterns and partly because many Irish immigrant men went west from New York to work on building railways and canals. Irish women could find work in New York more easily than men could, and the work they found, usually as domestics, was steadier. Given the demographic facts, along with the high illegitimacy rate and the degree of family disintegration, Hughes clearly saw the need to teach men respect for women, and women self-respect.

He did this by putting Catholicism’s Marian Doctrine right at the center of his message. Irish women would hear from the priests and nuns that Mary was Queen of Peace, Queen of Prophets, and Queen of Heaven, and that women were important. The “ladies of New York,” Hughes told them, were “the children, the daughters of Mary.” The Marian teaching encouraged women to take responsibility for their own lives, to inspire their men and their children to good conduct, to keep their families together, and to become forces for upright behavior in their neighborhoods. The nuns, especially, encouraged women to become community leaders and play major roles in church fund-raising activities—radical notions for a male-dominated society where women did not yet have the right to vote. In addition, Irish men and women saw nuns in major executive positions, managing hospitals, schools, orphanages, and church societies—sending another highly unusual message for the day. Irish women became important allies in Hughes’s war for values; by the 1850s they began to be major forces for moral rectitude, stability, and progress in the Irish neighborhoods of the city.
When Hughes went beyond spiritual uplift to the material and institutional needs of New York’s Irish, he always focused sharply on self-help and mutual aid. On the simplest level, in all parishes he encouraged the formation of church societies—support groups, like today’s women’s groups or Alcoholics Anonymous, to help people deal with neighborhood concerns or personal and family problems, such as alcoholism or finding employment. In these groups, people at the local level could exchange information and advice, and offer one another encouragement and constructive criticism.

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One Response to How Dagger John Saved the Irish

  • The reason we Americans do poverty the way we do it today is that it gives the self-appointed Master Race Americans among us more power over ordinary blacks than ever before. I admit that black Americans, like the Irish before them, cooperate freely in their own destruction. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re more deeply in slavery now then they ever were in the past and that God will not judge our country with approval for that

Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

Friday, September 21, AD 2012

One of the many divides among modern Catholics is between what we might call the “moralizers” and the “justice seekers”. “Moralizers” are those who emphasize the importance of teaching people moral laws and urging them to abide by them. “Justice seekers” seek to mitigate various social evils (poverty, lack of access to health care, joblessness, etc.) and believe that if only these social evils are reduced, this will encourage people to behave better.

Moralizers tend to criticize the justice seekers by pointing out that following moral laws is apt to alleviate a lot of the social evils that worry the justice seekers, arguing, for example, that if one finishes high school, holds a job and gets married before having children, one is far less likely to be poor than if one violates these norms.

Justice seekers reply that the moralizers are not taking into account all the pressures there work upon the poor and disadvantaged, and argue that it’s much more effective to better people’s condition than to moralize at them (or try to pass laws to restrict their actions) because if only social forces weren’t forcing people to make bad choices, they of course wouldn’t do so.

(I’m more of a moralizer myself, but I think that we moralizers still need to take the justice seeker critique into account in understanding where people are coming from and what they’re capable of.)

One area in which the justice seeker approach seems to come into particular prominence is the discussion of abortion. We often hear politically progressive Catholics argue that the best way to reduce abortions is not to attempt to ban or restrict them, but rather to reduce poverty and make sure that everyone has access to health care. There’s an oft quoted sound bite from Cardinal Basil Hume (Archbishop of Westminster) to this effect:

“If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?”

You’d think that it was obvious, but I’m suspicious of the idea that having more money or resources makes us better or less selfish people (an idea which strikes me as smacking of a certain spiritual Rousseauian quality that doesn’t take fallen human nature into account) so I thought it would be interesting to see if there’s any data on this.

I was not able to find data on the relationship of abortion to health insurance, but I was able to find data on the relation of abortion to poverty, and it turns out that the Cardinal, and conventional wisdom, are wrong.

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39 Responses to Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

  • “Having more money and resources does not make us better people. Those who are better off are just as capable of doing wrong than those who are less well off. Indeed, in this case, it appears that people who are better off are more likely to do wrong than those who are less well off.”

    The poor usually have not had the “advantage” of a politicized college education where abortion is viewed as a sacred rite. It usually takes much such “education” for a woman to convince herself that the child within her womb has no more moral worth than a piece of disposable garbage. Most faculties, including at many Catholic institutions, might as well have a sign outside the faculty lounge saying Sophists-R-Us!

  • In addition to being wrong on the facts, there is also an either/or attitude that always irks me. There is no reason we can’t push for illegality of abortion and support for pregnant women.

    As for more money and resources making people morally better, when has that ever been apparent? Many “elites” are the most vile people in the world.

  • To Don & the A.C.

    Two Weeks ago I found your site via Spirit Daily.
    I wish to thank you and your research talents.
    This post is most interesting and is being bookmarked for further education purposes.
    God bless you and the members of A.C.
    Philip Nachazel.
    M.I. (Militia Immaculata)

  • I think the relevant statistics are comparators of abortion rates as a function of household income. As such, it is pretty evident that abortion rates for poor pregnant women and their babies is multiples of women making more money.

    The intended vs.unintended pregnancy doesn’t start the relevant question, but simpler questions do: does income level impact the decision to abort? For this one has to evaluate all pregnancies vs. income level. There seems to be a relationship.

    In fact considering the high rate of abortion at or below the poverty line, that it is multiples of the rate of abortion above the poverty line, and that these may be intended pregancies often (by the above statistics), one has even more concern as to the perceived compulsions to abort intended pregancies.

    Household income factors seems to factor into these choices, or at least be very closely related, as it has for millenia.

  • Dan C,

    The reason why “abortion rate” data that is discussed is deceptive is that the “abortion rate” is the number of abortions per 1000 women per year. By that measure, yes, poor women do have a higher abortion rate than other women.

    The thing is: In order to make a decision whether to abort or note, a woman has to actually be pregnant first. This is called the abortion ratio, the percentage of pregnancies that end in abortion.

    Poor women (under the poverty line) abort 42% of their pregnancies (that’s ignoring the intended vs. unintended question.)

    Women living at more than 2x the poverty line abort 59% [corrected] of their pregnancies.

    In other words, a woman making more than 2x the poverty line is more than 40% more likely to abort if she gets pregnant than a woman living below the poverty line.

    Now, it’s true that when asked why the abort, women often cite financial concerns. But the numbers are stark. Poor women are less likely to choose abortion when they are pregnant than better off women.

  • Darwin,
    You should add in another very big variable: those just above 200% of poverty can be insurance less as to hospital bills ( making $30,270 plus but working for a small business that doesn’t cover them) ergo they must pay for prenatal, delivery, and post partum care out of small funds.
    Those exactly at 200% above FPL and lower are covered in New York by medicaid that covers pre natal, delivery, and post partum.
    In other words, medicaid is helping the poorer opt against abortion while those just above 200% of FPL have an additional sinful temptation of increased bills compared to a $400 abortion at 10
    weeks…and compared to poorer women who are covered by medicaid.
    Here is NY’s chart:

    Therefore Ryan’s desire to greatly reduce Federal medicaid can have abortion increasing results.
    That is not his fault before God IF he sees national bankruptcy as probable and as a greater evil if medicaid is not reduced. It’s the fault of those below 200% if they choose less expensive abortion if faced with medicaid cuts. But the Eisenhower Research Institute just tallied the full long term cost of the Iraq war as 4 trillion dollars and no candidate seems to be seeing that as a waste even if
    well intentioned at the time by Bush. Knowing what we know now, would we have spent lives and 4 trillion on Iraq as critical to US defense?

  • Is the 42% vs. 49% a statistcally significant difference? And by how much?

    Also, the poverty line is about $10,000? So at the massively enormously different income of $20,000, we are ok with these folks as being described as financially secure? The 200% number is an interesting number, however, the individual at this income level will only be insured through state-sponsored programs, since most jobs providing this level of income are without benefits. The point: this is not a secure position economically despite the apparent astronomically increased income (200%!) over what counts as really and truly poor.

    Finally, comparing 42 vs 49 percent, I do not get the 40% more likely to abort. The increased likelihood would be the 49 – 42 divided by 42? I get 17%.

  • Just looked it up: poverty level for 2012 for single woman is $11000.

  • So…the better terminology: financially insecure vs. desperately poor. The financially insecure person likely works, likely works without benefits in what would politely be termed, unenlightened work environments. This group will likely be in and out of employment- laid off, fired, etc. The person at the poverty line or lower is likely 100% surviving on government support.

    Does this offer any further insight into the dynamic of those desperately poor vs. very financially insecure?

  • Bill,

    I would really love to see data by insurance situation, I just wasn’t able to find a detailed breakdown, though Guttmacher clearly has some data on it. All they provide is a general statement that women with private insurance have a lower abortion rate than women with no insurance or with public insurance.

  • Dan C,

    First off all, I mis-typed when copying from Excel: Women who make more than 2x the poverty rate abort 59% of their pregnancies. (Thus they’re 42.6% more likely to abort when pregnant than women below the poverty line.)

    I agree that making 22k is not much, though since this is individual income we could be talking about a woman making 22k with a boyfriend who’s making and additional 22k. But more importantly, keep in mind that Guttmacher is splitting all women in the US into three groups: Those making less than the poverty line, those making 100-200% of the poverty line, and those making more than 200% of the poverty line.

    Thus, when we talk about women (between 20 and 29) making more than 200% of the poverty line abortion 59% of the their pregnancies, we’re talking about women making 22k but also women making 50k or 100k or $1mil. The whole range.

  • Darwin – There’s a lot of merit to your analysis. But the abortion ratio is higher for unmarried women, and a higher percentage of lower-income women are unmarried. What you’d need to do is control for marital status. I note that the report you linked to doesn’t have the necessary split. If I get a chance, I’ll see if the numbers are available on the site.

  • What this argues, for me, is that we need to attack both ends. Women need to be paid to be mothers and the best way to do that is to tax abortions to the point they are no longer afordible to even the rich. If an abortion cost 4x as much as a pregnancy, you would see those numbers change drastically and we could fully fund WIC.

  • I suspect one reason women at the higher income levels have abortions more often than lower income women is that they feel they have more to lose from an unplanned pregnancy. A poor teenager living in an environment where unwed motherhood is pervasive and few women attain higher education or professional jobs may not see an unplanned pregnancy as “the end of the world” in the same way that, say, a middle-class woman working toward a degree or professional career might. It is for this very reason that Mary Cunningham Agee (google her name to find out more) founded The Nurturing Network to assist college/professional women in choosing life.

    As for Ted’s idea that abortions should be taxed heavily (at least as much as tobacco and liquor), I’d suggest, only partly in jest, a reverse Hyde Amendment requiring ALL abortions to be paid for by Medicaid — because there would probably be no better way to drive abortionists out of business, given the months-long payment delays Medicaid providers (at least in Illinois) endure.

  • Seems some people care more about social evils (poverty, lack of health, unemployment) than about moral evils (abortion, class hate, fornication, sodomy, violent crime, etc.).

    Can the BLS measure the amounts poverty and unemployment that are caused by sloth, gluttony, lust, wrath, etc.?

    Anyhow, money is the root of all evil. Vegas casinos and many liquor stores are awash with food stamps.

    Recently, a NYC deli clerk was knifed for refusing to accept food stamps in payment for beer.

  • I like your division of moralizers vs. justice seekers.

    For the moralizer, I note the following, and this delves into all aspects of education to promote behavior change, in engineering, or patient safety or catechism: very clearly, education is the weakest form of promoting change. Forcing functions is the best.

    I also think some judicious language will help.

    I would like to note that voluntary poverty has much merit. Involuntary poverty must never be seen as desirable or normative. Certainly, few would desire involuntary poverty for oneself.

    I do like your argument, although I clearly find it arguable. Itbis hard to make sense of pro-lifism’s discussion of the impact of poverty, because sometimes when one is talking about abortion, one hears the movement’s line: poverty has no impact on the decision. This has been a clear notion for years, repeated. But then everry new statistic like the rate of African American abortion in NYC or the rate of abortion in the ghetto and pro-lifism makes noise inconsistent with the previous argument.

    Just an observation.

  • “Poverty” isn’t always just economic.

  • Ted Seeber: Both Hitler and Musollini paid women to bear children to become taxpayers and soldiers. America needs to replace 54 million aborted people to secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterty.

  • I should certainly like to see a law against abortion, as an expression of our social values. However, I doubt if such a law would have any great impact on the number of abortions.

    Anyone who remembers France in the 1950s and 1960s, before the Veil law will know that every village seemed to have its «faiseuse d’anges» [angel-maker]. Everyone knew it; nobody talked about it and the police regarded it as “women’s business,” and largely ignored it. Occasionally, a woman died and the Parquet, like Captain Renauld in “Casablanca,” would be “shocked, shocked to discover” that such things went on.

    Now this, remember, was before misoprostol or other abotifacient drugs became widely available. Banning them would probably be about as effective as the current laws banning marijuana.

    Catholic involvement in the quest for social justice may, as Blondel thought, lead persons of good will to respect Christianity and “to find only in the spirit of the gospel the supreme and decisive guarantee of justice and of the moral conditions of peace, stability, and social prosperity.”

  • Most of these studies (for practical reasons of data collection) are limited to correlational analyses rather than proving causal relationships. Also bear in mind that the imprecision of most such statistics makes only the largest differences worth analyzing (as Dan C alludes to). I prefer looking at the contingencies or results (sometimes referred to as decision theory) in following a course of action (or inaction). For example, Income would have a causal relationship with abortion frequency if abortions were very expensive And only performable in an accredited hospital And no one subsidized it. Since abortion is heavily subsidized and can be performed in a variety of settings, we would Not expect income as a Direct factor to play the major role. Without writing a term paper, it’s safe to say that in the US, abortion is more prevalent where there are (at least initial) economic and social benefits to the Individual making that decision. Since it is an individual making the decision here, there can be many idiosyncratic factors affecting that decision. All one could do is find those factors, if any, in common with large numbers of these individuals. Then those factors would have to be varied (through policies) to see if there were changes in abortion frequency. In practical terms, usually there have to be many different kinds of bad outcomes to the individual to prevent them from making decisions that would provide them some perceived benefit. (Recall how strictly the work requirement in welfare reform had to be written to get any effect).

  • Sacred Scripture is very clear about moralizers vs social justice types:

    If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2nd Chronicles 7:14

    If we don’t behave morally, then we don’t deserve social justice. In fact, what we deserve (since we murder unborn babies just as King Manasseh made his children to walk through the fire in sacrifice to Molech) is exactly what God gave rebellious Israel and Judah: deportation and enslavement.

    It’s the Gospel of repentance and conversion – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto thee as well.” Murder babies and expect the consequences – “The wage of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

  • See the UPDATE on the post above, I got to thinking about how these percentages added up and took a second look at the report, and realized that although it’s not super obvious, it must be the case that the table is showing abortion ratio by demographic breakdown for the sub-group of unmarried women only. The top of each table breaks down overall pregnancy rates for married and unmarried women. Then all the other groups discussed (breakdowns by age, race, income and education) are for unmarried women only.

    I’ve re-written the post to reflect this. I think in some ways it strengthens the case a bit (since we’re now clearly talking about women in the same situation: unmarried women below the poverty line vs. unmarried women making more than 2x the poverty line) but it does mean that we’re not seeing the effect of the current social trend towards the poor marrying far less than the better off. If we looked at all women making more than 2x the poverty line, we might see a lower or equal abortion ratio to that for women who are below the poverty line, because women who are married abort far less than women who are unmarried. Unfortunately, Guttmacher doesn’t provide that data, only the comparison of unmarried women to unmarried women.

    That said, I think that reinforces the point that for women in the same position (unmarried and in an unplanned pregnancy) are actually less likely to choose abortion if they are extremely poor (below the poverty line) than if they are better off (making more than 2x the poverty line) which is exactly the opposite of the common wisdom on the topic.

  • JACK is correct.

    The most massive, most widespread poverties confronting America are in Faith in Jesus and His Holy Church; Hope in eternal life (not in this World); and Love of God and Neighbor.

  • “I should certainly like to see a law against abortion, as an expression of our social values. However, I doubt if such a law would have any great impact on the number of abortions.”

    Well laws against abortion certainly had an immense impact on the number of abortions in this country MPS before abortion was judicially legalized by Roe.

    I think the Guttmacher numbers on pre-Roe abortions are inflated (based on the deaths from illegal abortions I suspect their estimate on pre-Roe abortions are at least 50% too high), but even using their figures the number of abortions post Roe doubled. Beyond that, there is a world of difference between living in a society where abortion is condemned as a heinous crime, and one in which it is celebrated as a constitutional right.

  • Mary De Voe @11:04am, too, is correct.

    It’s politically incpoerrect so agenda-driven ideologues, that call themselves economists, will never report that lack of popuation growth (replacement rate less than one) is a massive problem contributing to rump Europe’s economic, cultural and poltical problems.

  • Maybe I missed it in all of this but, is there any data on why the women had abortions?

    A poor woman may have an abortion but for reasons other than being poor.

  • I haven’t used my handy-dandy, HP-12 financial calculator yet today – hmmmm.

    Anyhow, I just did a quick calculation.

    Since late 2008, the FRB printed and gave away about $2,900,000 millions.

    Since late 2008, fedreal deficits added up to about $5,000,000 millions.

    The population of the USA over that near four-year period is, say, 310 millions.

    That comes to just under $255,000 for each man, woman and child since late 2008.

    Where’s the money?

    If someone can find our piece of the action and send it to me, my wife and our three sons, we’d be truly virtuous!

  • MPS, RU486 requires multiple visits to medical clinics. (And is it really your thesis that the drug laws have no effect on the prevalence or incidence of drug use?)

    A couple of points you do not make which Edward Banfield might have suggested:

    1. Impulsiveness and circumscribed time horizons tend to be associated with ill considered sexual encounters and with various sorts of behavior that diminish one’s earning power. Moral decision making and good work benefit from discipline and prudence (though it helps to have a good heart).

    2. Education, marriage, &c are all very well and good, but they may just be correlates of the sort of dispositions and behaviors which enhance one’s earning power. They are ‘answers’ to problems in the social economy only if so doing enhances one’s human capital (and thus one’s wages) in sum and/or vis-a-vis other social strata. As a rule, all strata of society in 1948 behaved quite well in certain spheres. We were, however, a materially poorer society (something which applies as well to the lower economic strata).


  • Art says “Moral decision making and good work benefit from discipline and prudence (though it helps to have a good heart).” This is a golden statement and memorable.

    However, risk taking behavior (which includes impulsiveness) is not that correlated with socioeconomic level. Bill Clinton was certainly prone to frequent ill considered sexual encounters but mainly because there were no serious consequences to it (outside of a thrown object by Hillary once in a while.) Lack of planning with money is certainly associated with lesser economic outcomes, if for obvious reasons. However people with good financial planning skills don’t necessarily have good planning skills with anything else.

  • I am perplexed that when this discussion arises there is no mention of adoption as a solution to the unintended pregnancy. There are millions of couples who want to adopt, yet there are few babies available for placement. My husband and I tried for 5 years to adopt and were unsuccessful. Adoptive couples cover expenses for the birthmother which certainly would help with the financial issues during and immediately following the pregnancy. Clearly there is another alternative.

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  • It is impossible, of course, to determine the number of abortions before legalisation, but some statistics are suggestive. In the century or so from the battle of Waterloo to the outbreak of WWI, the French population rose, in round figures, from 31 million to 41 million, or about a third. During this period, there was little or no access to mechanical or chemical means of contraception. Over the following 98 years, from 1914 to 2012 the population rose to 66 million, again about one-third. Now, during the first 50 odd years, up to 1971 of that period, the policy of “Republican Natalism” severely restricted access to contraception. These figures confirm anecdotal evidence that abortion was not uncommon throughout a period of nearly two centuries.

    In the very different ethos of Victorian England, between 1815 and 1914, the population trebled, from 11 m to 33 m; this in a country with much higher rates of emigration. Between 1914 and 2012, the population increased from 33m to 52 m. an increase if one half, a period during which contraception became much more common.

    There is nothing in the mortality rates of the two countries to account for this stark variation. It is the result of the birth rate alone.

    Hence my contention that social attitudes play a much more significant role that legislation.

  • Michael,
    You may have to adjust your concept though for coitus interruptus in France. John Noonan in his book, ” The Church That Can and Cannot Change” cites the fact that the French Jesuit Theologian, John Gury, writing in 1850 wrote:  “In our days, the horrid plague of onanism has flourished everywhere”.  

  • Bill

    Making every allowance, I doubt if a nine-fold difference in fertility rates can be accounted for by coitus interruptus.

    I cited the demographic figures as lending support to the widely-held perception and the wealth of anecdotal evidence to suggest that abortion was common throughout the period in question.

    As for social attitudes, the pro-natalist legislation of the 1920’s fixed the penalty for abortionists at 5 years; more would have given the accused a right to trial by jury and juries were notoriously unwilling to convict

  • I doubt if a nine-fold difference in fertility rates can be accounted for by coitus interruptus.

    MPS, the figures you quote make for a four-fold difference in the rate of increase. Since France’s population was increasing during that century, it is a reasonable inference that the total fertility rate exceeded replacement rates. Even in societies with exceedingly low infant and juvenile mortality, that is still 2.1 live births per mother per lifetime. Somehow I doubt British women were popping out 19 babies a piece.

  • Art Deco

    I apologize for the unfortunate slip of the pen.

    What I meant to say was that the French population increased by 33% from 1815 to 1914 and the English by 300%. That is the nine-fold difference I was referring to.

    Of course, in each case the increase is spread over three to four generations, taking 25 to 30 years for a generation.

  • The formula is as follows:

    ln(Rg)/ln(Rf); Rg=3, Rf=1.33.

The “Food Stamp Diet” and How It’s Different From Being Poor

Tuesday, February 7, AD 2012

Every so often one hears about people doing the “food stamp diet” in order to see what it’s like to be poor in America. The idea is to subsist for some period of time (often a week) on the amount typically given to members of the “food stamp” program. Here’s one example, prepared by the Food Research and Action Center back in 2007. That one challenges you to live on $21/week. Here’s an annual challenge run by the San Francisco Food Bank. There the amount is $33.04 per person per week.

These amounts vary not only due to region and inflation over time (food inflation has actually been pretty high over the last five years, grocery store prices are up 6% from last year) but also because these are different attempts to model how the food stamp program works. Food stamp benefits are based on the idea of supplementing a family’s income so that the family can (according to the program’s rationale) afford to consume the amount of food budgeted according to the “thrifty plan” from the USDA “cost of food at home” guidelines. Of course, since food stamps can’t be used for anything other than approved food items, and they’re given to people who are already very short of money, the effective result is that people are often trying to get all their food off just the food stamp amount, even if the program is assuming it’s only a supplement.

What got me thinking about the topic is that I saw one of these “hunger challenges” linked to some time ago, via some Catholic organization which was encouraging people to take part “in solidarity with the poor”. I saw the amount mentioned in the San Francisco challenge of $33 per person per week and thought, “Wait a minute, for our family of seven that would be $231. That’s more than we spend per week on food, and we’re around the top 20% line in family income.” In normal times, we were spending around $200/wk on food. Since we’ve been on a tight budget paying off the boiler, we’ve managed to get that down to $100-$150 depending on the week (including household cleaners, diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.)

So, is being on food stamps really cushy? Are these challenges just designed wrong? Being a chronic number cruncher, I had to get into it a bit.

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14 Responses to The “Food Stamp Diet” and How It’s Different From Being Poor

  • “And I’ve cut back the beer budget to virtually nil……..”

    You must have a death wish – you’ll let too much blood back into your alcohol stream. 😉

  • For our family of five we have $150.00 alloted a week for groceries and food. We find that adequate for food and cleaning supplies, and that includes one or two fast food meals a week. Back in 1982 when I was studying for the bar exam my wife and I got along on $15.00 a week for food. Koolaid is a good cheap drink, and a can of tuna fish can make two good sandwiches for a lunch with some left over to feed the sixth, canine, member of House McClarey.

  • I think the biggest stumble would be the cash flow issue rather than the actual dollar amount. You can save a lot buying in bulk, but that’s hard if you’re getting your food stamps in dribbles. Here at the Zummo house we like to eat and eat well. We make most food from scratch so that saves. We recently signed up for a meat CSA from a local farm. So we’ll get monthly deliveries of free range meats from PA for a little less than we were paying for regular old meat from the grocery store. The catch was we had to pay for 5 months worth and have a freezer. Not really an option if you’re on food stamps, but it is possible to eat fancier food for less than Whole Paycheck prices.

  • You’re getting milk for $1.99 a gallon at Aldi’s? I just picked up a gallon from Aldi’s tonight and it was $2.79. (This is in central Illinois.)

    Although I don’t have it worked out to the penny I generally can get by with feeding my family of 2 adults and one teenage girl with a pretty substantial appetite for about $80 to $100 a week. I could probably go lower than that if I really tried (e.g. cooked everything from scratch, grew our own veggies, etc.) but the other two members of the family have some pretty strong brand name and grocery store chain preferences that are a bit pricier than Aldi.

  • Don The Kiwi,

    Well, I may have given up beer, but I still have gin, bourbon and scotch in the cupboard. A man does have to live.

    Mrs. Zummo,

    Yeah, the ability to stock a freezer (and the money to do so a good prices) is definitely a help in eating cheap and quality.


    Wow, I wouldn’t have thought the local differences were so much. Milks is $2.50 to $3 in regular supermarkets here (just north of Columbus, OH) and Aldi’s consistently has it at $1.99. Seems like prices were fairly similar in Austin, TX as well. Of course, our cows aren’t unionized…

  • Over the couple of years, I’ve been following most of the “food stamp diet” rules DarwinCatholic lists and not only have I saved lots of money, but I have lost 40 pounds, and rediscovered the joy of cooking! I have a freezer full of homemade soups and stews, and just finished making a batch of 3 bean chili.

    While buying in bulk can be money saver, a lot depends on what sort of storage space you have available and how many people you are shopping for. If you live in a 1 bedroom apartment with a galley kitchen (as many elderly people do), you don’t have a lot of room to store Sam’s Club size packages. Nor is it practical for one person to buy bags of apples or oranges – I love Clementines, but always have to take some to work to share, or they’ll rot before I can eat them all. I spend less at the grocery store than I used to but make more trips there to buy small amounts of fresh fruits and veggies.

    A Whole Foods is very close to where I live so it’s convenient when I’m making something and find I’m short an onion or a half a cup of flour or rice (since they sell bulk items). Some of their house brand 365 items and sale items are good deals, but if you load up at the salad bar or at the deli counter, you will indeed see why the place has been nicknamed Whole Paycheck. I do more of my shopping at Aldi’s, particularly for staples like pasta and condiments. I never buy soda – a massive savings right there- and have a supply of bottled water on hand only in case of emergency. The tap water here tastes just fine (I know that’s not the case everywhere though.)

    It’s considerably cheaper to buy a whole head of cauliflower or bunch of carrots rather than cut-up, bagged veggies. If you can stomach them, canned sardines are among the best deals around- cheap and chock full of protein, calcium, and Omega -3.

  • Elaine and Darwin Catholic:

    You’re both paying too much for milk from Aldi’s:

  • I work part time in a grocery store and I will say that people eat quite well when they use their EBT cards….they buy chips and soda and meat and veggies and all kinds of food..also cooked food from the deli..barbecued or fried chicken…fruit snacks and juice for the kids…….after their “groceries” are in the bag…. they buy lipstick, shampoo, conditioner, hair color, makeup, bath puffs, eye shadow, etc.,etc. with their debit card or with cash! I once asked a young well-dressed woman how to get one of those cards…she told me where to go and how to get one. I was tempted, but just went home to my husband and family….lol

  • Milk in WMass: 2.89 gal. whole milk at Save A Lot vs. up to 4.99 gal. at chain supermarkets. Lowest price I can find for essential butter is 2.79.
    On Friday, I bought one huge orange from CA for 1.85, a bunch of georgeous red grapes for 8.78 (!!), same as pkg. of hamburger or a roasting chicken, and felt – splurge – at the supermarket.
    Sometimes when I’m in line at check out, I imagine what would be in my basket with one of those cards, but most of the time, I avoid getting in line behind full carriages – near occasion of judgment.

  • Mrs. Zummo-
    EBT cards are issued once a month, to the best of my knowledge. One of the complaints is that this makes it too hard to budget….

    There’s a reason I don’t shop during the first week of the month if I can avoid it.

  • I’ve worked as a grocery cashier, too, and it’s sadly apparent that almost no food stamp recipients buy cookable, economical food. They buy pre-made frozen pizzas, ice cream, bags of salty snacks, and tons of pop. I know the single mom is usually working a lot of hours and can’t cook every night, but there’s some loss of attention to cooking on the weekends, let’s say and working through food during the week, which is how I grew up.

    It’s culture, or education, but they are misusing their food stamps in a majority of the cases. And “they” are not all one ethnic group or race, it’s across the board.

  • Your budget sounds like the one my family uses! (except there are eight of us) Mom staying home and making almost everything (like our own pizza) from scratch really helps.

  • $5 per person, per day, for 7 days amounts to $175. If I tally up all the groceries (food only) and all the dining out we do (which we do a lot of), I acutally come out to about $7 per per person per day, not $5. We frequently have “the locusts” over (my son’s friends), though, and they raid the ‘fridge. They eat out with us and sometimes even go shopping with me even when my own kids are sacked out in front of the idiot box (sad, huh?)

    Even, then, though, I feel confident I could bring down the cost of food considerably–I use a “bring it to your door” food service for some items and that can be quite expensive, if convenient. (Many of those items I can get for cheaper at the store.) Interestingly enough, an aquaintance’s husband works for the “bring it to the door food service” and commented that a heavy proportion of sales come from food stamps.

    For plan for this Lent (which almost coincides with the end of coporate accounting season) is to tackle the food budget. The public schools in the area are now offering not only “free lunches”, but “free breakfasts”. (We do not use the public schools, so I guess I have to feed me own kids). I can’t help but wonder, if all these families are on food stamps and their kids are getting “free breakfast/lunch” if they aren’t eating even better than I am.

Poverty and Family Type

Monday, October 10, AD 2011

The old saw is that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, as if statistics were in some way a variety of lie. Of course, the issue is not so much that statistics are lies, as that statistics represent an attempt to simply quantify a terribly complex reality, and with simplification comes the opportunity for error — often error confirming the biases of the person doing the analysis.

The other day I ran into a very interesting exploration of one of those statistics which is often discussed — that “more families are in poverty” after the last three decades than was the case in the past. In 2006 Hoynes, Page and Stevens authored a paper entitled “Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations” which was published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. One of the interesting things they do is look at the trends in poverty by family type. The findings are fascinating:

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10 Responses to Poverty and Family Type

  • You’d think that the “actual percentage of people in poverty” measurement would be a pretty good middle ground between the two camps. (“Total family poverty then and now” vs “family poverty compared to those in the same situation, then and now.”)

  • (For those wondering if there may be a thumb on the scale because of gov’t aid– the paper is using the Census Bur’s measure of poverty on pre-tax income. I don’t know enough about child support to know if it would count, I believe social security counts and food stamps don’t count.)

  • I don’t believe child support is factored because it is not considered income. Theoretically, a recipient could be classified as being poverty, but objectively wouldn’t be due to child support income (quite likely many divorced/single mothers fall in this camp). Likewise, a payer could be could considered above the poverty line due to gross income, but actually be living below the poverty line when considering the child support paid (quite likely a fair number of divorced/single fathers).

  • This phenomenon discussed in the OP is called Simpson’s Paradox. Look it up, it is quite interesting.

    The most interesting example I can think of is a lawsuit brought against Berkeley(?) by some feminist group, claiming their admissions discriminated by sex. The rate of admissions to the school were not the same, indeed with females getting in less frequently. But when broken down by school or department, it turns out females got in as frequently as males, or more, within each school/department. What’s the explanation? Women tended to apply in much larger numbers to areas which had low admissions for everyone.

    It is easy to lie with statistics. It is easier to lie without them.

  • 46 million…23million, family of 3, 2, black or white. That isn’t the issue; regardless of who it is or how many…It still needs to be resolved! Why do we get so bogged down with subjects “surrounding” the problem but no discussion on THE PROBLEM and a solution?

    Very Confused!

  • The problem: sin.

    The solution: repentance.

    2nd Chronicles 7:14.

  • Very interesting.

    The number of people in poverty as a percentage of total population has been more or less stable for the past 45 years. But I don’t find that stat very useful. On the one hand it doesn’t include things like health insurance, public housing, and food stamps. On the other hand, for political reasons, we haven’t changed the laughably outdated measure of poverty. Officially, making $11K in NYC means you’re out of poverty.

  • RR,
    Why do you think the definition is laughably outdated? While the definition has been relatively static, it requires that the thresholds be reset each year, and they are. So what is outdated about the definition and how would you change it?

  • The poverty guidelines are based entirely on food prices. That even sounds antiquated. If you were to come up with poverty guidelines from scratch today, nobody would even think go first go to the Department of Agriculture to determine how much a household spends on food then multiply it by an arbitrary number.

    The preferred method in the developed world is to set poverty lines at some percentage of median income. This takes into account the reality that poverty is also relative.

7 Responses to Stealing From The Poor

  • Poverty comes in many forms. Some of us are in dire “poverty” yet are given even less by many who should know better, thus causing immense suffering.

    There is not sufficient reflection on this reality. As such, it is an occasion of grace for those afflicted………but a yolk upon those who chose to ignore how their actions, in word and deed, injure another, already almost unable to bear their cross.

    Nice post. Thanks.

  • Does the Church teach that you will be judged by your personal charitable/corporal works; that is what YOU DO with YOUR money and your time/talents?

  • Really good article.

  • “However, the investment of superfluous income in secureing favorable opportunities for employment […] is to be considered […] an act of real liberality, particularly appropriate to the needs of our time.”

    In other words, one way (though certainly not the only way) that rich people can help the poor is by starting up businesses that provide jobs for them! Score at least one for the economic conservatives 🙂

    “It will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor – as individuals and as people – are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced.”

    Very true; however, that raises the question of whether the growth of high-tax nanny-state liberalism hasn’t done a lot to contribute to the perception of the poor as “irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced.”

  • Elaine, I agree about the rich starting up a business, but we have to admit that there are many other rich who start up business ventures with not a care for those being employed thereby. I am thinking, especially, of all the CEOs and vice presidents of corporations who think nothing of taking a 1Million or 3M salary, while at the same time causing the company to need to downsize to maximize profits. Truly, a real board of directors should say to such money-grubbing CEO wannabes: “You say that your requested 3M salary is the ‘going rate’ for truly qualified executives. We say that no executive who would ask for such a salary could possibly be morally qualified for the job. We’ll look elsewhere.”

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  • The mega corporations and the excessively compensated executives cannot exist without the incestuous relationship of Big Government and Big Business. Mutual funds are a trick to get people to fund corporations without having any voting rights. The wealth of all is controlled by a very few. This is a problem that must be dealt with or everyone will become a slave, begging the government/corporations for a handout and charity (caritas, love) is not something that corporations or governments can engage in.

    As for our excess wealth, this is a relative area for us to discern. What may constitute excessive wealth in sub-Saharan Africa is not the case in the USA. We have tax obligations that they do not, we have transportation costs that they do not, we have many costs that they do not have and what we have in excess has to be looked at from that perspective. Additionally, money is not wealth. Having a few dollars in money market, CD, etc. is not wealth, it is merely a temporary store of currency that is losing value faster than it can be earned or profited from. a 10,000 sq. ft. home with only two children, that could be excessive – but, a 10,000 sq.ft. home with a dozen children, maybe not.

    This article is excellent because it summarizes Church teaching and, at least to me, it seems to stress the necessity of a free market, restrained government, strong Church and men who desire to lead a life of virtue. Sadly, our culture of duo-opolies intentionally clouds our thinking about such matters. Big Government vs. Big Business, Democrats vs. Republicans, Capitalism vs. Socialism, Thesis vs. Antithesis – all are two paths to the same perdition. We need to break free of this dualistic thinking, making us think we have choices. There is really only one choice: God or man. Hard as it is sometimes, especially with vestiges of ideology trapping my thinking, your’s too I suspect, we need to be more Catholic – we are so far short of the mark following years and years of minimalism.

    It is time for Maximum Catholicity and this article appears to summarize exactly that sentiment. Thanks for the reminder. Can you do it again tomorrow? 🙂

0 Responses to Just How Much Is a Just Wage?

  • These are interesting formulations to find out what a just wage might be today.

    But, one would have to add in the college expense factor for today’s times. In Father John Ryan’s time it was not a necessity for people to attend college or a trade school to earn a decent living wage. Now attendance at either college or trade school is a necessity and the sum per month that one pays for their loans can be quite high.

    I will be checking into Father Ryan’s book soon.

  • Father John Ryan’s time it was not a necessity for people to attend college or a trade school to earn a decent living wage. Now attendance at either college or trade school is a necessity.

    I’m pretty sure you don’t need a college education to earn $6.15 an hour.

  • Even if a single person lived on $6.15 an hour that wage would be very hard to meet all the necessities of life nowadays. With this low wage a single person and especially a family would need government help. While help from the government is one thing for a temporary period of time, I don’t think that $6.15 per hour would be considered a fair wage to live on especially when it seems evident that one would need permanent assistance from the government if the person/family tried living on $6.15 per hour. This seems more like a college student’s wage or a teenager who lives at home with his parents.

    If a family meets the minimum cost of living in a given country is that really acceptable according to Catholic Social teaching?

  • Interesting– federal minimum wage is over a dollar more than that.

  • I haven’t read or even heard of Father Ryan’s book before, but it’s interesting that he actually made an effort to define how much a living wage was. It’s also interesting that his calculations, even when adjusted for inflation, still come out well below the current federal minimum wage. Also, his hourly figures are somewhat skewed by the fact that the average work week was considerably longer in his time (48-60 hours, as opposed to 40 today), meaning the baseline annual wage figure was being spread out over more hours.

    I don’t know how he arrived at his figures for 1919 but I’m guessing they probably did NOT include the cost of owning an automobile, since that was not yet considered a “necessity” for most people, especially in cities where public transportation via streetcars and trains was readily available. If he included electric and telephone service in his estimates (those would have been available in urban areas but many rural areas lacked those services well into the ’20s and ’30s), well, that would have been for a very rudimentary level of service — just a few lights and maybe one party-line phone line — nowhere near what most households require today for appliances and electronics. The main household heating fuels at the time would have been coal or wood, and I’m not sure how those costs would compare to heating oil or natural gas today.

    In general I think a living wage should be paid for all full-time jobs that require education or training beyond high school. But, did Father Ryan ever tackle the question of whether unskilled entry-level jobs that were usually performed by children, teenagers, or housewives simply to supplement their family income, or provide pocket money for themselves since they did not have to support themselves, also required a living wage? If it were morally obligatory to pay the kid who mows your grass every week or the girl who babysits your kids while you go to a movie a “living wage,” very few people would be able to afford such services, and young people would lose the opportunity to gain valuable experience in handling their own money.

  • One of the significant differences between today and 1900 is housing expense. In 1900, I’ve seen figures between $400 and $4000 for housing. If we take a 1/3 of your proposed living wage today for housing, we end up with ~$400 to go towards housing for 5 people. Using the federal poverty guideline, you end up with $700/m. There are quite a few places in the country where you will have extreme difficulty finding housing with that budget.

  • Not sure how accurate this is, but this site has a “time capsule” for 1918.
    Price of a Gallon of Milk $.55 (9.32, modern)
    Price of a Loaf of Bread $.10 (1.41, modern)

    Milk is artificially controlled, but even the most fancy-smancy organic stuff in glass bottle is maybe six bucks a gallon. I don’t know what the bread they had looked like, but bargain loafs can be gotten for .99c (those ones with the roman on the emblem?) and up to about six bucks for the fancy ones.

    It also says the cost of a home was 4,821.00, which would be $68,102.96 in modern costs; There are houses at that price…. (Chose Spokane because they’re in neither a boom nor a bust.)

  • They didn’t have all the non-wage employment costs back then, either, did they? I know the shorthand formula I’ve been told for small businesses is figure hiring someone will cost half again their salary. (One of those radio finance shows where folks call in, so who knows.)

  • One of the significant differences between today and 1900 is housing expense. In 1900, I’ve seen figures between $400 and $4000 for housing.

    If you look at an inflation-adjusted Case-Shiller, it looks like real housing prices were only a little higher in 2000 than they would have been in 1900, though there were some sizable swings in the middle (and of course average house size has more than doubled over the period).

  • Even if a single person lived on $6.15 an hour that wage would be very hard to meet all the necessities of life nowadays.

    No doubt what Father Ryan (and others writing at the time) would have considered a normal and sufficient standard of living would now be considered intolerable poverty. Standards for what is sufficient seem to be a bit like our shadow; as we move forward it follows right along behind us. Which suggests that it may not be even possible to have a society where everyone receives a “living wage.”

  • “I don’t know what the bread they had looked like”

    In 1919 it still came in solid loaves that purchasers had to slice themselves. Pre-sliced bread was first marketed in the late 1920s, and was such a popular innovation that it prompted the expression “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

  • That does help a bit, but I was thinking more like was it the size of a “bread loaf” you get from a loaf-tin, or a “bread loaf” you get at the store (think wonderbread) or the “bread loaf” that’s baked on a pan after being formed? How much bread was there, what sort of grain was it?

  • I’m pretty sure you don’t need a college education to earn $6.15 an hour.

    I’m sorry Teresa, BA’s retort gave me a good chuckle.

    If you’re willing to use the bus, split the rent with more than one person in an apartment, and not eat out, you certainly can live off of $6.15/hour.

    Maybe if you rent the couch for $100/mo, then it’s certainly possible to live off of that.

  • Btw, Father Ryan’s book is available for free via googlebooks.

  • I gather it was about the same size and shape as the bread loaves you see today. If you google “sliced bread”, you can find pictures of the 1928 newspaper advertisements for the very first bakery to sell sliced bread, the Chillicothe (Missouri) Baking Company. The loaves pictured look about the same as bread loaves today do. The town of Chillicothe, Mo., in fact, now bills itself as the “Home of Sliced Bread” and has an annual Bread Fest to commemorate its place in culinary history.

  • I don’t know how Fr. Ryan arrived as his figures but I would insist that a living wage be relative to the standards of the community one lives in. The entire purpose of a living war is to ensure that every man can live a life of dignity. You can live in Zimbabwe in dignity without running water. You can’t do that in America.

    And why use a family of 5 and not a family of 10? Are we supposed to let the family of 10 live off less than a living wage? A living wage necessary varies according to the number of dependents. Any family receiving less should be aided.

    Adjusting for inflation isn’t necessary the best way to adjust Fr. Ryan’s figures. Real GDP per capita grew faster than inflation. In other words, Americans got wealthier. Using Fr. Ryan’s figures today adjusted for inflation would be appropriate if real GDP per capita was stagnate for 89 years. In 1919, GDP per capita was $805. If you only adjust for inflation, that would be $9,897 today. That’s somewhere between Cuba and South Africa. So $6.15/hour would be an appropriate living wage for a family of 5, in Cuba.

    If instead we adjust for unskilled labor wage increase (4.24% annualized since 1919), $1,400 to $1,500 then would be $56,388 to $60,416. That’s probably closer to what Fr. Ryan had in mind.

    Based on rough calculations I did a few years back, I think the federal poverty guidelines are too low. For a single person, I think $14,000 is appropriate and $5,500 for each dependent. For a family of 5, that would be $35,500.

  • The (mid-range neighborhood, new complex, Tacoma, gated community) place across the road has two bedroom apartments “perfect for roommates” at $650/mo, and three for $1060. (Actual cost would be roughly 700 and 1100, assuming the worst case of everything–they’re run by the same company as ours.)

  • My dignity is unharmed by someone else having three new BMWs while I have a used minivan, or a bicycle.

  • Some want to provide everybody with a just wage. I think it should be done by government programs that could be expanded. But, first . . .

    One: Every charitable person wants everybody to earn a just wage that will allow all men (how sexist! the traditional head of the now-defunct nucular family) to support himself, his wife and children.

    Two: you probably cannot have a real-life economy where every man has a just wage. It is impossible in the real (even in the USSR, China, Cuba, Greece, Spain, Zimbabwe, etc.) world.

    Three: you may not condemn/demagogue the American, private sector because you cannot have numero One above. You cannot wage an unjust (nonviolent) war against your fellow citizens that own businesses. It is not charitable.

    Look it up. Don’t believe me. The federal government’s Internal Revenue Code has the “Earned Income Tax Credit.” It pays a negative tax (money for nothing from the government, i.e., my children and grandchildren) for a FAMILY man/person that files a tax return and has AGI below a set level. Try expanding that.

    PS: I can’t imagine that even this would be feasible in the volume needed, even without 50,000,000 more poor people coming in over the next 10 years.

  • Looks like 1910 is a funky year… it’s when they automated bread baking for the first time, so those loafs looked like now….

  • Adam Smith put it best.

    Wealth of Nations:

    By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-laborer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland, custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest order of men; but not to the same order of women, who may, without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France they are necessaries neither to men nor to women, the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit, sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries, therefore, I comprehend not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people.

  • Thanks for the google book tip, Blackadder. I just downloaded the book and will read soon.

    Tito, I am glad you got a chuckle out of Blackadder’s retort. Blackadder’s response even gave me a laugh.

    It would seem that what is considered a just wage would depend on different variables such as inflation , GDP per capita, and varying prices for housing, food, etc. according to the various locations.

  • A wage “sufficient to enable [a man] to support himself, his wife and his children.”

    Whatever the income necessary, every child should be a member of a family housed with decency and dignity to enable it to grow up in a happy fellowship, without want for food, or clothing, or overcrowding, or slum surroundings. And every child should have the opportunity to attend school and/or college to attain its full development. Father Ryan knew not that our secular society would sacrifice children so as not to be inconvenienced. If he had known of the heinous sacrifice of children to occur in the future, it seems to me that a “just wage” would have been deemed irrelevant to him. I think his computations might have been on the assumption that the family would be inspired by faith in God and focused on worship. He never envisioned the present breakdown of family and society.

  • RR-
    has nothing to do with your attempt to shift to GDP, or relative wealth of the nation.

    Feel free to define what you think is the abject minimum someone needs for a minimum wage job but which wasn’t needed back then.

  • I’d consider a phone a necessity today. Electricity, indoor plumbing, a refrigerator, and education through high school. Do you disagree?

  • To be most efficient, I’d add in some sort of POV– even if it’s a motorcycle with a sidecar. There’s just too many things you need a vehicle for if you have a family, and transportation opens up a much wider range of jobs.
    POSSIBLY a bicycle with a cart would work, but I’m not sure it’s feasible for buying in bulk or getting to the doctor with three kids.
    (Buying in bulk for two on foot was not possible in any affordable housing, and public transportation is often not safe for someone who would be as tempting a target as a woman with three small children and a massive load of groceries.)

    Basic medical care is required for the gov’t schools– I believe there is help for this, though I can’t remember if it’s gov’t or private.

    It might be cheaper to use a track phone rather than having a line in the house– I’ve never had a land line, let alone an incoming-and-local-only one.

    Clothing–can be gotten from Goodwill etc at very decent prices, and often you can find footwear that would be rather expensive for a good price.

  • RR,

    “I would insist that a living wage be relative to the standards of the community one lives in. The entire purpose of a living wa[ge] is to ensure that every man can live a life of dignity.”

    Hmm. We agree this time. There’s no point in talking about a “just wage” unless these relative factors are taken into account.

    Of course, I favor reducing dependency on wages and replacing it with various forms of income earned through direct ownership of property.

    A “wage” is the market price of labor. Instead of talking about a just “wage”, we ought to talk about a just income and how it can be acquired.

  • I can imagine the shock and incredulity on the faces of my clients if I upped my fees to provide what I think is a “just fee” for my legal services. I would see the look on their faces of course only until they vanished in search of other attorneys who could provide them with legal services at what they considered a more reasonable cost according to prevailing market conditions. The problem with the concept of a “just wage” is that unless it is simply for informational purposes or philosophical musings, it takes a huge state to enforce it. Perhaps a better path is for most people, those able to compete in the market place, to arm themselves with the education, training and work experience necessary to allow themselves to get the highest income possible for the services they provide. Private charity, and government assistance, can aid those unable to compete.

  • Fr. Ryan offered that justice required a wage floor which exceeded the earnings of 48% of the male workforce and (scribbling on the back-of-the-envelope) would have been somewhere in the range of 2/3d of the national mean of a country already quite affluent by historical standards (though befouled). Catholic Social Teaching is a work in progress…

  • Well, there ARE things we can do to make wages more likely to support a family– remove regulations that currently prevent the simple, zero-experience jobs from being done by children and the deeply disabled for a low price, control the supply of labor (not in the crazy scifi or China way, but by controlling our borders– in terms of people and goods), lower the cost of raising children by removing tax related expenses to it, make unions for only one business instead of several (as those that ‘serve’ several businesses have less worry if one goes out of business), lower the costs of business (my mom does crafting out of the house in addition to a full time job- maybe five, ten shows a year, and her profits are lower than the gov’t costs alone), reform lawsuits so they cannot be used as a source of income or a harassment tool, lower the level of government control as much as possible (local politicians have a MUCH higher level of risk if they target a local industry for cheap grace or benefit)….

    There are two ways to try to get a fair wage:
    *control everything and enforce your goal (there will still be an underground economy, unless you’re in a police state such as the world has not yet seen)
    *try to set up a situation where your goals can most easily be achieved without triggering a profit-impulse towards subverting your goals
    Basically, forced and chosen; trying to avoid a false choice, but you either get to choose to do good or you’re forced to do it, so I think I managed….

    Sadly, our current situation falls into the first one, since we’ve got minimum wage that at least meets the theory’s level of support, but that law is widely subverted (under-the-counter pay, not legally hiring babysitters and lawn-mowing teens)

    {Since we haven’t figured out a reasonable cost to live, I’m using the only number we have.}

  • LOL so we are into child labor and allowing big businesses get away with it again! Yes, that will help with the money! Child labor! Of course that will just put more money into the system making each person’s contribution that much less, just as it happened when it became two-income families! So let’s make it tougher on one-income wage earners!

  • Another factor to consider is that most families don’t have three children and that both spouses work. That may not be what Catholics want but it is a fact. Catholics also have to realize that while current standards dictate a car, phone etc., there are things we really don’t need. We need a refrigerator but we really don’t need a phone. Certainly don’t need iPods and air conditioning. Don’t need TV, cable, game systems, and many people do not need cars. Many do not need to own homes.
    There are a lot of “needs” that are ultimately wants. Even in an affluent society. And that is a Catholic perspective.

  • Most forms of employment require a way to quickly contact the worker when he is not a work– even fast food workers require a phone of some sort.

  • That’s become a manufactured need. If we are talking about restructuring society, let’s talk about real needs. Most people don’t need to be contacted by work quickly, that’s what some may want but its not a need. Fast food workers don’t really need a phone. If the manager of the McDonalds needs a replacement he can do what people did in the past – make due with who he had and do the line work himself. That’s what happened when McDonalds first started.

  • Who said anything about restructuring society? Government or law, yes, but society is notoriously resistant to control.

  • I’m talking about restructuring what we perceive of as needs and that can happen at the personal level. I can recognize I don’t need cable, iPods and other things. Individuals can, and do, live without phones. We don’t need air conditioning to survive. We don’t need lots of things to survive. If people begin to live that way, then society will follow.

  • Most forms of employment require a way to quickly contact the worker when he is not a work– even fast food workers require a phone of some sort.

    Father Ryan thought that telephones were an inappropriate luxury. Nowadays, of course, it’s hard to imagine life without one (even kids in Africa have cell phones).

  • Perhaps hard to imagine life without one, but possible to live life without one.

  • It’s possible to live life without indoor plumbing and electricity, just as my family did for some twenty plus years after Fr. Ryan was writing. (I actually know the exact year my mom’s family first got indoor plumbing– ’58, because they moved that year.)

    A lot of places you can’t live without air conditioning– the solutions that work when you’re in a two-room shack don’t work when you’re in an apartment complex, and heat can kill as easily as cold. (possibly easier, just less often– depends on if you mean “distance outside of the comfortable norm” or “likelihood it will kill you, on average”; a 45* rise in temp over “room temp” puts you at 120, while the same drop is 35*– which one shuts down cities?)

    Laws aside, there’s no reason a five-person family can’t live in a one-room apartment, even if current population levels mean it would have to have indoor plumbing, power and (in some or most areas) some sort of air conditioning.

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  • Having lived in the South for years without AC as well as the Southwest for 18 without, it is possible to live without.

  • I agree that AC is a luxury, especially since I’m living without it right now. A phone is a necessity since most, if not all places of employment, need a contact number to hire you and then to get in touch with you during your employment with that company. Cell phones (even long distance land lines are not necessary) cable, and the internet are not necessities. There are community centers and libraries that have free or low-cost internet access for those who do not have internet access in their homes.

  • I for one would be much more impressed with this austerity blather about how little one needs if the people proposing it would voluntarily live it. I’m afraid reading much of this is like hearing virgins discuss sex.

  • Its kinda like those who talk about redistribution who don’t pay income taxes.

  • “Father Ryan thought that telephones were an inappropriate luxury.”

    My paternal grandfather also thought that. My grandmother did’t get a phone until after my grandfather’s death in 73. They also didn’t have a car, and didn’t have an indoor toilet until 68. Raising six kids on what a shoemaker could make in the Great Depression in Paris, Illinois left habits of thrift for a lifetime.

  • I think, in general, a pre-paid cell phone provides a family a greater value than the money saved by a land-line. An AC isn’t necessary in most circumstances but try telling your kid to do his homework in 120 degree weather. Possible? Yes. But the cost of bringing the temperature down to 85 for a few hours may be less than the value even the poor place on the comfort and increased productivity.

  • I’ll agree AC helps with productivity. Don’t know how people worked in offices in the summer prior to AC. Do know working outdoors in the summer heat in the South is a major drain.

  • Its kinda like those who talk about redistribution who don’t pay income taxes.


  • Don’t know about how much they pay. I’m thinking more along the lines of the roughly half of Americans who don’t pay any or minimal income taxes. That would include a lot of our Academic betters.

  • I’m thinking more along the lines of the roughly half of Americans who don’t pay any or minimal income taxes.

    The reason so many people pay no income tax is because of the child tax credit. IIRC, M.Z. has several kids, and so it wouldn’t surprise me if he fell into that category. On the other hand, I’ve always found the idea of conservatives complaining that people aren’t paying enough taxes a bit unseemly, particularly given the pro-family aspect of the thing.

  • I don’t have a problem with people not having high taxes. Just pointing out that some who speak the loudest for redistribution pay little if any taxes. Kinda like virgins talking about sex.

  • I for one would be much more impressed with this austerity blather about how little one needs if the people proposing it would voluntarily live it.

    No one is proposing that austerity be mandatory or morally required. The point is, rather, to think about how much money people have a right to demand that other people give them. Clearly if Peter is demanding that Paul give him free money, Paul has a right to think about how much money Peter really needs.

  • And needless to say, Paul isn’t obliged in any way to live at the same level of austerity that Peter does (when living on money taken from Paul).

  • JD,
    Unfortunately, I don’t think that is needless to say at all.

  • Keeping a baby in a house that’s 100+ degrees is likely to make you a family of four, one way or another, especially when the least expensive housing doesn’t have the option of a crossbreeze for cooling. Ditto for older family members, or anyone else who is not in good normal health. (Thus, why I used words like “some” and pointed out that housing now is different from housing then.) Look at the deaths from that heat wave in France a few years back, or the emergency “cooling centers” in Seattle just last week. (I wouldn’t put Seattle on a list of places that need it to live, since our dangerously hot days are limited enough that you can set everything aside to go find a public place that is cooler, it’s just a recent example of high-profile response to heat risk.)

    arguments are not more or less accurate by who is offering them; it’s more than a little odd to see the traditional slam against Catholic priests talking about chastity and marriage on a site like this. If the root of someone’s argument is their own experience, then it’s about them, but there’s nothing inherently inaccurate about “virgins discussing sex.”

  • Just using MZ’s line for rhetorical effect. I actually have no problems with virgins discussing sex.

  • AC is not a luxury in Phoenix, let me tell you – old people can die without it, and even healthy people can easily succumb to heat stroke.

    Any assessment of necessities has to take in the society in which one lives – to simply exist physically at some location within a society is not enough, a person has to be able to participate to some minimal degree.

    Everyone needs a telephone, a means of transportation (even if its just a bus pass or a bike in some cases), I would say everyone needs a computer, though people without Internet could always use a public terminal. Certain appliances, electricity, plumbing, etc.

    I’m not saying it is the duty of the state to provide these things, but any discussion of “need” has to take them into account. Otherwise you’re just being silly.

  • “Don’t know how people worked in offices in the summer prior to AC.”

    I believe they had shorter hours, shut down for several days or more when it got dangerously hot, and I’m guessing, learned to have a much higher tolerance for sweat and body odor.

    “AC is not a luxury in Phoenix”

    I suspect that air conditioning is probably one of the biggest factors responsible for the economic prosperity of the Sun Belt states — that and the removal of racial segregation laws probably have done as much if not more to contribute to the economic growth of the South and Southwest as have low taxes and right to work laws.

  • Just so Elaine. People wouldn’t live there before AC and the vast majority of those that lived there prior to AC, well, lived there. But we were talking about a living wage for a husband and wife and the children they were raising. So again, they don’t really need AC even if the elderly might (or they might move to cooler climes.) I know. I lived in the Southwest without AC. Also in Southern Spain where almost nobody has AC. Hits 120 in spots during the summer.

    Agree not everyone needs a computer as those can be found in libraries. Phones used to be found throughout towns and cities. Once upon a time it took ten cents to work one and then 25 cents. If you didn’t have enough money could do something called a collect call. Those phones could easily make a comeback.

    Again, many things we want, not so much we need.

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From Sweat-shop Workers to Business Owners

Friday, March 12, AD 2010

The Oregonian features an article on how Chinese workers who spent years working in factories for American brands like Nike and Columbia Sportswear have become a major source of business startups and wealth in China’s rural interior.

WUHU, China — Years after activists accused Nike and other Western brands of running Third World sweatshops, the issue has taken a surprising turn.

The path of discovery winds from coastal factory floors far into China’s interior, past women knee-deep in streams pounding laundry. It continues down a dusty village lane to a startling sight: arrays of gleaming three-story houses with balconies, balustrades and even Greek columns rising from rice paddies.

It turns out that factory workers — not the activists labeled “preachy” by one expert, and not the Nike executives so wounded by criticism — get the last laugh. Villagers who “went out,” as Chinese say, for what critics described as dead-end manufacturing jobs are sending money back and returning with savings, building houses and starting businesses.

Workers who stitched shoes for Nike Inc. and apparel for Columbia Sportswear Co., both based near Beaverton, are fueling a wave of prosperity in rural China. The boom has a solid feel, with villagers paying cash for houses.

“No one would take out a mortgage to build a house,” said Wang Jianguo, 37, who returned after a factory injury in a distant province to the area near Wuhu, west of Shanghai. “You wouldn’t feel secure living in a house you didn’t own.”

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The Dominican Sisters On The Oprah Winfrey Show

Friday, February 12, AD 2010

The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  They are a new order that arose from Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization.  They are devout and orthodox in our Catholic faith which explains why the average age of a nun is 26 and they are already turning back inquiries since they are packed to capacity in their new convent.

They recently made an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show this past Tuesday, February 9.  I’ve only seen some of the show online and my assumptions were validated.  That being they were knowledgeable about our faith, energetically orthodox, and calm in their disposition.

I strongly advice you to watch all four videos that I have been able to track down of the entire show.  Some of the videos have a few seconds where the digital relay distorts the picture, but the sound is not disturbed.

Part I:  I love hearing the sisters talk about their faith unapologetically, ie, you hear “God called me”, “I am married to Jesus Christ”, etc, etc.  Simply beautiful!

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27 Responses to The Dominican Sisters On The Oprah Winfrey Show

  • I never watch Oprah but was visiting my brother’s family this past week and my sister-in-law had this particular show on. I was struck by Lisa Ling’s comments and was wondering if anyone knows if she is Catholic. It seems as these sisters, had a profouund impact on her.

  • Wait a minute! This is a scandal! They showed up on Oprah! We all know Oprah supported Obama! And according to this article, she supports abortion and homosexuality!

    So how can they go on her show and make her evil acceptable?

    (Note to reader: this is sarcasm).

  • God can even use the vacuous Oprah show for His own purposes.

  • Doesn’t stop the fact, Donald, that their presence on Oprah helped her make more money, and we know she is pro-abortion… so how come no one is condemning them but praising them for the very things they condemn the USCCB for?!

  • Maybe because Oprah has absolutely nothing to say about the laws written in this country, how the laws are enforced and which judges are picked to enforce the laws. Additionally the nuns weren’t going on the show to honor Oprah, or to express support for her, but to spread their message. Oprah does quite nicely financially without the nuns. The nuns got a nice bit of publicity by going on the show. Making use of a pro-abort entertainer’s show in order to spread the message of Christ strikes me as being in the “cunning as serpents” category.

  • “Maybe because Oprah has absolutely nothing to say about the laws written in this country, how the laws are enforced and which judges are picked to enforce the laws.”

    While others say she is the one who got President Obama elected. And she has major influence over Obama. And she has major influence over her media.

    “Additionally the nuns weren’t going on the show to honor Oprah, or to express support for her, but to spread their message.”

    Same with the USCCB working with non-Catholic groups.

    “Oprah does quite nicely financially without the nuns.”

    So that excuses helping her make more money so she can push more pro-homosexual, pro-abortion themes in her media?

    “Making use of a pro-abort entertainer’s show in order to spread the message of Christ strikes me as being in the ‘cunning as serpents’ category.”

    It’s funny how it is “making use of…” and not “guilt by association” when people like a group.

  • “While others say she is the one who got President Obama elected.”

    Some people also say that Obama is a great President Karlson. Fantasy statements are never to be taken seriously. A lousy economy, Bush fatigue and McCain being a lousy candidate are what got Obama elected in this frame of reality.

    “Same with the USCCB working with non-Catholic groups.”

    It is called shoveling money at pro-abort groups Karlson. Feel free to try again.

    “So that excuses helping her make more money so she can push more pro-homosexual, pro-abortion themes in her media?”

    They didn’t help her make money Karlson by appearing on her show. She would have made precisely the same amount of money whether they appeared or not.

    “It’s funny how it is “making use of…” and not “guilt by association” when people like a group.”

    No it’s called the nuns being smart enough to use Oprah for their purposes. The Bishops are dumb enough to allow their Left-wing staffers at the USCCB to allow Left-wing groups to use the Bishops and the money contributed by unsuspecting Catholics.

  • “It is called shoveling money at pro-abort groups Karlson. Feel free to try again.”

    But God can use pro-aborts, as you just said. And so that’s why it is ok for the nuns to help Oprah get shoveled more money! Sheesh. Consistency. Not with you. Sophistry, that’s all you have.

  • Henry,

    When you try this “I will show how foolish your way of thinking is” tactics, you always end up with the egg on your own face because you don’t bother to actually understand the position of the people you’re trying to ridicule. Either do the work of understanding your opponents or just drop the tactic — you really don’t do yourself any credit with these dogged little “I’ll show you the implications of your thinking” sessions.

  • “But God can use pro-aborts, as you just said. And so that’s why it is ok for the nuns to help Oprah get shoveled more money!”

    Once again Karlson Oprah would have received precisely the same amount of money whether the nuns were on her show or not. The nuns did not place any more coins in her pocket. This is a strawman of yours that is completely unconvincing.

  • So Donald

    Since Oprah would receive the same amount of money either way,it makes it all fine for them to be the ones to help her make it?

  • She would have made exactly the same money Karlson if she had you on or Fifi the dancing beagle. The nuns used Oprah not the other way around.

  • Actually, would she? The fact that this got many who do not normally watch Oprah to watch her means it makes her more money. But the fact is, even if you are correct, you didn’t answer my question. Why should it be fine for them to help her make money, and thereby, cooperate with the evil which will be done with that money they helped her generate?

  • This really is not hard Karlson. Oprah makes precisely the same amount of money no matter who she has on. She is not a struggling host of a show trying to establish an audience. She has a huge audience and advertisers who pay her richly for commercial space on her show. She makes the same money no matter who she has. You will have to come up with some other red herring argument to argue that nuns appearing on Oprah is the same as the USCCB through the CHD funneling funds to pro-abort groups.

  • I agree with the fact that Oprah made no more money than she would have with a dog and pony show.
    I am an RN and I worked for a year in a convent and got to know a large group of the Sisters. I am also Catholic, as a convert in my sixties, before I worked at the Convent! They are usually incredibly quietly happy and work diligently to help others in many ways, the primary way in prayer, By renouncing the world in favor of Jesus when they become Sisters they do not think about money in their own existence. My guess would be that they went on that show to preach the name of Jesus as Savior, and no other reason as the Sisters of the Convent that I love would do! Nearly all of the Sisters I know worked most of their lives in poor areas of the southwest and California teaching school for indigent families children. If you do not know what it means to be a Sister you might do well to not comment about their motives!

  • Marilyn

    I don’t think you get the point of my comments. I am not criticizing the sisters, but applying the kind of logic which is used by some around here to judge the USCCB and show how it would also apply to those who do similar things and yet they applaud.

  • Henry points out the problems in logic when folks are selective in their criticism of association with evil. Oprah ok, but Jenkins not. Nixon ok, but Obama not. The dictatorship of relativism is wearing its tan uniforms on this site.

    If it didn’t sting on some level, you wouldn’t have strung out this thread into the teens. The fact that you have to continually justify it is telling. See if Michael Voris or Ray Arroyo can take your back on this.

    The bloggers here are playing to the home crowd, but they’re not doing their pro-life viewpoints, their conservative bona fides, or Catholicism any favors.

    Personally, I don’t see any problem with the nuns appearing on Oprah. Good for all of them.

  • Karlson makes a nonsense argument and Todd supports it. Business as usual for the usual suspects.

  • Marilyn,

    Disregard the comments by Henry K. and Todd.

    They want to destroy what is good for political points.

  • It’s a tough gig to have to prop up poor arguments, but you guys seem to have a good time doing so. Too bad we can’t take this discussion to Oprah or EWTN. They’re missing all the fun.

  • Todd let us know when you have an actual argument to contribute rather than just a snide attitute.

  • I think we need to say that the Sisters were invited to be on this Show, and it is not their intention to support Oprah.

    I think the best thing to conclude is that the little bit they did in harm is by far outweighed in the good which I no doubt occurred and will occur because of this encounter. I’m not trying to say this as a consequentialist.

    I say this because Oprah is not evil incarnate, she may be missinformed upon a great many subjects, but maybe she and her viewers can be converted. That is always the hope, appearing on a show of hers does not always show support for the views that Oprah has.

    I don’t know if you can link Oprah’s views to the Show in general. Any television program will have views that they support that will be in conflict with the faith. As long as you do not support or even make it known that you don’t support those views when you appear upon the said show I think it violates.

    We must engage culture in any case, show our disapproval and start to change it from the inside out. We are counter cultural and Christ will do the work, but we must engage in the debate and what better place then at the pinnacle of where it is seen. Silence is not an issue!

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  • I enjoyed watching these videos then unfortunately went to read the comments. The devil has his shills everywhere.

    God bless these wonderful sisters. I hope they touched many in Oprah’s audience who have been spoon fed untold amounts of new age nonsense and whatever else appears on that show.

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USCCB Scandal Deepens, U.S. Bishops Remain Silent

Thursday, February 4, AD 2010

[Update at the bottom of this post]

The scandal that has engulfed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) shows no sign in abating.

Today we learn even more incriminating facts that continue to tarnish the image of the USCCB.

In the latest program Michael Voris explains the deep entanglement of Democratic Party and anti-Catholic operatives that hold high positions within the USCCB.

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67 Responses to USCCB Scandal Deepens, U.S. Bishops Remain Silent

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  • All this sounds like the attitude of the bishops about the sex scandals. “Don’t confirm; don’t deny. Maybe it will all go away”.

    The road to hell is indeed paved with the skulls of bishops.

  • Well, it will only make them look even worse.

    With the new media, ie, blogs, twitter, facebook, etc, the news of their lack of action will spread like wildfire.

    It’ll be interesting to see how much tap-dancing will occur and who will do the tap-dancing.

  • I guess I’m a little perplexed as to how this is in some sense a current or deepening “scandal”. It doesn’t take much dealing with most diocese with large national Catholic organizations (with the exception of some of the newer, more orthodox ones) or with the USCCB to find that a lot of their employees are left leaning politically and progressive leaning in regards to theology and liturgy. If anything, this was more pronounced 10-20 years ago than it is now.

    I think it’s generally been bad for the Church, and we’re suffered as a result, but if anything it’s a bad scene we’re gradually coming out of (it takes a long time to turn over employment) rather than a new breaking scandal of some sort.

  • It’s probably perception more than anything.

    Many of us maybe never bothered to think much, if anything, about the USCCB.

    Then when they got a bit higher visibility when they actively involved themselves with ObamaCare more Catholics took notice.

    Over time as Catholics began to look into the USCCB, what you may call something that has been there for awhile, to us is scandalous.

    So there it is.

    You probably were fortunate enough to be raised a solid Catholic as a child, then progressed to a fine Catholic university immersing yourself even more in Catholic culture. All the while you were already aware of the problems with the USCCB since age 7.

    Me, and many others like me, returned to our faith through various forms. So many of us are behind the loop, so to speak, of the many warts and issues involved in the Catholic Church in America.

    So when many of use “reverts” or “converts” find scandalous information such as an openly professed lesbian or a woman priest advocate working in high profile positions in the USCCB, we are scandalized by this.

    So those are the perceptions.

    The attitude of “well it’s always been there and besides it was worse 10-20 years ago” is understandable.

    But to me and many others its scandalous. 😐

  • Except the problem is: this report is filled with lies, misrepresentation, and logical fallacies. It does no one any good to be scandal mongers and gossipers using false information — though it seems it is all for politics (which is why Voris acting like an authority also suggests, falsely, anyone who said a Catholic could vote for Obama was wrong).

    Want to see the kind of error? Well, it is simple: Mary Kay Henry was NOT given a position by the USCCB. She was brought into talks with people representing different labor groups, and represented one such labor group. In other words, it would be like someone condemning Pope Benedict for his dialogue with Islam and saying “there is something wrong with the Vatican, it is promoting Islam.”

  • Henry K.,

    You made a lot of accusations but you haven’t offered any evidence to back any of it up.

    I respect your knowledge in your fields of study, but where is the evidence of what you propose?

  • Tito

    Voris makes all kinds of accusations and claims, and you never ask him to back it up; you just upload and attack. You never look to the sources yourself. But you want source? Ok.

    Go to that thread. Read the post. See the logical fallacies being exposed. Then read the commentary thread. In it you will see this linked:

    And what it says is clear:

    Washington D.C., Dec 7, 2009 / 05:44 pm (CNA).- On Monday, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, media director for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke with CNA, clarifying the role of Service Employees Union executive and gay rights activist Mary Kay Henry with the bishops’ conference.

    Sr. Walsh noted that in the past, Mary Kay Henry was chosen by the unions to take part in a dialogue with the USCCB but left in 2006.

    She was not appointed by the bishops, Sr. Walsh explained.

    So there you go, an example of distortion going on. Sure, she talked with the USCCB representing unions. Jesus, and the Catholic Church, has always had dialogue with people in such roles before; will anyone condemn Pope St Gregory the Great for meeting with Atilla the Hun? Using the loopy logic in this video, Pope St Gregory the Great was promoting Atilla’s rampage!

  • Henry K.,

    Good catch on the CNA article.

    I’ll send that link over to Mr. Voris so he can avoid making that mistake.

    (my article didn’t make that connection)

    And for your VN posting, very interesting reading.

    I’m not up to speed in many of the subjects you touch upon, but I’ll be rereading it again. Every little bit helps!

  • As I mentioned in the thread about the CCHD, the underlying theme behind these criticisms is a deep hostility toward not only the USCCB, but the bishops themselves. In this thread, we have read: “The road to hell is indeed paved with the skulls of bishops.” Tito has said that he has been scandalized – i.e., tempted to lose faith.

    Henry is right – these accusations fall apart upon further research. Catholics are being told to doubt the authenticity of the bishops’ teaching and governing office. Moreover, we are being told to question their very sincerity and faith. This is the scandal we should be afraid of.

  • When Bishops have dialogue with lesbians and gays and other members of the legions of hell, liberal Catholics say it’s a scandal to criticize the Bishops.

    When Bishops take false Catholics like Representative Patrick Kennedy on the carpet for open apostasy, liberal Catholics say it’s a scandal the Bishops are using the Communion Rail politically.

    No, folks, the best liberal is the repentent liberal, and failing that, a defeated, muzzled and emasculated liberal. The only dialogue we should have with them is this: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

    P.S., I’ll trust Michael Voris before I’ll trust any liberal Democrat.

  • PS, Mary Kay Henry should re-read what 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states (NIV):

    Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

    So why are we having dialogue with the wicked? Jesus didn’t have dialogue with them. He preached the Gospel of repentance to them. We ought to do the same.

  • Jesus didn’t have dialogue with the wicked? The Jews certainly thought he did — he was dining with sinners, indeed, drunkards; he was hanging out with the Samaritans; and he said nothing about the abuse of Roman society upon the Jews, yet affirming the faith of a non-Jewish Centurion (are you going to say he was without sin)?

    And that’s just the start of the matter.

  • Mary Ann Walsh did not participate in a women’s “ordination” ceremony. After one such event, the participants marched to where the bishops were meeting. When they didn’t go away, she appeared, met with them, received their rose bouquet, and they left. It’s the kind of thing a media relations person does.

    And her statement that a person could vote for Obama (not that they should – I certainly didn’t) matched up pretty well with an interpretation of Faithful Citizenship that many orthodox bishops accept. Of course, when you’re part of the neo-Donatist movement that thinks Cardinal George and Archbishop Wuerhl are closet leftists, none of this will satisfy you.

  • Zak,

    I caught it right before you posted your comment.

    I corrected my post to reflect this fact.

  • Henry,
    I agree with the points you’re making – one factual issue: it was Leo the Great, not Gregory the Great, who met with Atilla.

  • I agree with both Paul P. and Henry K.

    Whether it was dialogue or preaching, Jesus certainly spent time with sinners, but not to reaffirm their sinfulness but to show them the light.

  • Zak

    Oops — you are right (though I know this, I often do this same mistake when typing, for some reason — I have a few other lapses where my fingers go into automatic writing mode — an interesting phenomena and I expect many of us have examples of this)

  • Another example of what is going on: Voris says people in the hallways are found supporting Obama’s policies. Ok.

    The question is: which policies? All of them? Some of them? A couple of them? But yet by saying it in this way, it’s easy to create a false picture, and that is exactly the kind of strategy which is done for propaganda not for the exploration of truth.

  • Well hopefully they’re not supporting this:

  • I think ultimately though one needs to see that the USCCB is a political organization in addition to a religious organization. That’s fine as long as people realize it is and that it will have the problems of any organization that is political. I think Henry has pointed out such problems with some pro-life organizations.

  • Well I’m pretty sure that the USCCB is not a political organization in any legal, tax or regulatory sense of the term. But any tax exempt group is permitted (within certain constraints) to work to advance their charitable agenda via supporting and opposing relevant legislation, though not supporting or opposing political candidates. The USCCB has a reputation for generally supporting the liberal approaches to addressing Catholic concerns. To the extent this is true, it is not especially scandalous, but it may be imprudent. My guess is that the policy preferences expressed by the USCCB are more representative of its staffers than the bishops, and that neither the bishops nor the staffers are especially gifted at public policy, but probably think they are.

  • I think John Carr is one of the most thoughtful Catholics in America–and certainly one of the best spokesmen for Catholic social teaching. And I find it more than a little dismaying that a group of self-anointed REAL CATHOLICS are spending so much energy trying to undermine the work of the bishops of this country. This is not just unhelpful; it’s diabolical.

  • Mike,

    There is political and there is political. I think Henry points out some of the foibles of pro-life conservative organizations that are tax exempt also.

    I don’t think the USCCB generally supports liberal approaches I think it pretty much always does. Again understanding the experts that advise the body may give understanding to why they do.

  • Ron Ch.,

    Thoughtful as in promoting that more innocent children be killed?

    Yeah, and THAT’S not diabolical.

  • Phillip,
    I have not read Henry’s expose on the foibles of “pro-life conservative” organizations, but if the problem is that they are willing to support candidates who are imperfect on life issues in order to prevent the election of candidates who are abortion enthusiasts, ok, but I don’t see that as a foible. On the other hand, if they are favoring pro-choice candidates over pro-life candidates because they former are otherwise considered more conservative than the latter, then that would be worse than a foible — and I’d really appreciate knowing more about it.

  • Tito, what you are doing here is slanderous–to a good man and to the bishops whom he serves as a spokesperson. Do you happen to KNOW John Carr? Have you ever heard him talk about abortion? Do you suppose his work for peace/justice . . . and the work of our bishops through the USCCB to uplift the poor . . . has nothing at all to do with fostering respect for human life? For that matter, do you recognize any connection whatsoever between poverty/racism and abortion, or do you think it is purely coincidental that poor minority women patronize the killing clinics at such a disproportionate rate?

    Sorry, fella, John Carr is a REAL Catholic, not some Pharisee with video blog, a big mouth, and way too much time on his hands.

  • Ron Ch.,

    I’m not sure what blog you are reading, but I have never said anything such about John Carr.

    Joe H. posted a video that stated John Carr has been with an organization that promotes abortion for decades. I don’t see how you got your conclusions from this, so I’ll just chalk it up to your liberal-tainted glasses getting the better of your imagination.

    Get a hold of yourself brother.

  • Some other concerns about the CCC that I’m sure can be disproved:

  • Phillip and Ron Ch.,

    The evidence is devastating concerning the cooperation in evil that John Carr has led and been involved in.

  • American Catholic began as a healthy alternative to the consistently left-leaning Vox Nova. It seems to be reinventing itself in the spirit of the old Wanderer. That is a terrible shame, and shame on anyone here–and in the holier-than-God “orthodox” blogosphere–who casts aspersion on a man who has faithfully served the Church in the United States and its bishops for many years.

  • No, what this post is doing is highlighting a story. If any of the facts are mistaken Ron tell us precisely what facts are wrong. The USCCB has a history of allowing its staffers to associate the USCCB with some pretty unsavory groups that promote positions directly contrary to Church teaching. The USCCB needs to address this story directly and not simply play a game of hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

  • Donald, a lot of the ‘facts’ have been debunked, and one glaring piece of slander removed (the picture of Sister Mary Ann Walsh). The more you dig into this, the more you see that a mountain is being made out of a molehill.

  • That sounds intereting. I can’t believe it. gochristian shoes

  • I have to say, I don’t find this video or the accusations very substantial. Everyone is entitled to their polemics, of course, and so I can see why some anti-Democrat Catholics enjoy this type of stuff. But, as Mike Petrik says above, some members of the USCCB preferring policies favored by the Democratic party to advance the common good “is not especially scandalous, but it may be imprudent.”

    Also, on a personal note, I’m shocked, shocked that anyone could write an article suggesting it was possible for Catholics to vote for Obama. That Sister Mary Ann Walsh must be way out there.

    To be clear, I think legitimate criticisms can be made of the USCCB. But these types of videos blend and muddle legitimate concerns with partisan attacks in a way that I think is unhelpful. The problem with the Vortex, as I see it, is that it isolates and absolutizes one of many possible approaches to serving the common good, and regards any other approach as illegitimate. It seems to me that it instrumentalizes the Faith in the service of a conservative political polemic, and in the process does a disservice to the Faith and to the USCCB.

  • The USCCB needs to address this story directly and not simply play a game of hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

    I don’t really see what you’re talking about. These accusations are pretty small beer in the grand scheme of things, and, as Darwin notes, there is nothing new in there. In the 1980’s, sure, the USCCB was basically co-opted by Democratic partisans. But the Vortex is basically the mirror image of it from the right; they are not raising any new questions. Most of these issues have already been addressed, are matters for prudential judgment where reasonable people can differ, and/or are inaccurate to begin with.

  • I’ll spell it our for you John Henry. They should explain why they were shoveling money into an organization that one of their staffers served as the head of. Can they even spell “conflict of interest”? Rather than attacking the people who are bringing this to light they should be ramping up their own investigation. They might also wish to explain why Carr omitted noting his involvement with the CCC from his USCCB bio. They might also explain why Tom Chabolla, associate director of CCHD programs until 2008, and who worked under Carr, took Carr’s place on the CCC board after Carr left, during a time period when the CCC became involved in pro-abortion advocacy, and whether Chabolla and Carr maintained contacts about the CCC. Chabolla since leaving the CCHD is now assistant to the President of the Service Employees International Union. Finally, perhaps they can explain why, when this all came to light, the first reaction from the CCHD was to scrub their website of all mention of ties with the CCC. This story is not going away.

  • Don,

    I get conflict of interest issue; and I get that the CCHD has had very poor oversight. I think the CCHD should be either scrapped or completely overhauled, and I’m in favor of more transparency. But I don’t think the video covers these issues very well.

    My issue is that I think the Vortex (and, really, couldn’t they find a better name?) is advancing a partisan agenda, rather than simply voicing legitimate concerns about conflict of interest or the funding of groups whose values conflict with those of the Church. For instance, the video keeps repeating the word ‘Democrat’ or ‘Democractic’ as if it’s an epithet. And some of the charges in the video are just ridiculous (implying that making the case that Catholics could have voted for Obama should disqualify someone from working for the USCCB?). In other words, as I said above, the video “blends and muddles legitimate concerns with partisan attacks in a way that I think is unhelpful.”

  • Clearly many improvements or even an overhaul of the program needs to take place. Attacking the structures of sin is a laudable activity with a positive goal. However, the problem with many (most?) secular groups that appear to be doing that sort of work is that they’re almost always trying to exchange one structure of sin for another. They are typically shells for particular political parties or have too closely aligned themselves to party interests.

    Therein lies part of the danger for third party benefactors like the USCCB. It’s one thing to work with a secular org for a shared interest even though they may not share all interests, it’s another to thing to support that org directly. What happens is that you run the real risk of becoming an integral part of a structure of sin.

    All that said, I think those ads are poorly done in substance. They smack of overblown righteous indignation, take many intellectual shortcuts, argue by assertion, use charged words that are usually quite subjective, makes unwarranted assumptions, etc. Frankly, I can’t see any difference in what is being done here than what some authentic Catholic anti-american-calvinist crusaders do. The only difference is what side of the fence their sitting on.

  • I’m not touching this story with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. Regardless of the accuracy or inaccuracy of the reporting (and I have my doubts), the blatant guilt-by-association-and-innuendo style of the reporting left me feeling dirty after watching.

    “… I’m shocked, shocked that anyone could write an article suggesting that it was possible for Catholics to vote for Obama. That Sister Mary Ann Walsh must be way out there.”

    Yeah, tell me about it. I must be a stark-raving lefty.

  • Rick,

    Right. There are problems on both sides of the fence. There are pro-life pharisees. There are also social justice pharisees.

    Just hard to recognize one’s own as such sometimes.

  • Great comments and insights.

    About the overhaul of the CCHD – they have two overall programs, one focusing on political activity, the other focusing on business activity. The business grants are amazing – helping poor people build skills and worker-owned businesses. The political grants are a lot more tricky – often involving people with liberal mindsets – and I agree that it needs to be overhauled.

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  • Henry K, for your insights on what the Bishops knew and didn’t know, you are probably right. For your history on St. Gregory the Great meeting Atilla the Hun, you are at least a century off. It was St. Leo the Great in 451 who met with Atilla, thus delaying the destruction of Rome by 25 years……historical footnote worth noting….

  • Nate W., John Henry, Ron Ch., Jay Anderson, et al,

    You guys are building straw men arguments by attacking the messenger.

    By shining the light on the problem, you guys go ahead and savage the reputation of those doing the reporting and you all should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Granted that Mr. Voris *may* have gone over the top in some of his analysis, especially the innuendos to being a “Democrat”, but the basic story is this, the USCCB has been dealing with anti-catholic organizations for years. Just because they’ve done it in the past, doesn’t allow them a free pass, such as John Henry’s comment, ‘small potatoes’.

    If the USCCB wants to be taken more seriously they need to get their ‘allegedly’ devout Catholics like John Carr OUT of pro-abortion organizations and place Catholics without, as Jay says, a ‘conflict of interest’.

    Thank you for your comments, I’m learning a lot on how to report such news.

  • Dennis

    Yes, that was established above about Gregory/Leo. Often my fingers will mix them up when typing — but the point behind it still stands. Thankfully, I know I’m not impeccable nor infallible!

  • Tito, the guys you reference have no reason to be ashamed of themselves, anymore than does anyone who notes that other journalists & commentators occasionally make generalizations and inaccurate statements.

  • Chris,

    There is no evidence of inaccuracy.

    If Nate could name what was inaccurate instead of making things up I can see your point.

    On the rest, I understand what you’re saying.

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  • The liberal agenda and left-leaning “Catholics” is one reason, among others, that I dropped out of RCIA and chose not to convert to the RCC. The USCCB is only one of the problems. Out-of-control renegade priests can feel real comfy in many a parish in these United States.

    Face it, the liberals are an energetic, visible force within the Roman Catholic Church and they are not going away. They have become a cancer that is multiplying at an exponential rate. Michael Voris can’t stop it. EWTN can’t stop it. AveMaria Radio can’t stop it. Just look at the mess out in California, with all pro-gay, pro-choice bishops. They’re quite happy, comfy, and content behind encased in their ivory towers. And the disease has spread eastward to parishes in the Midwest, Florida, and the Northeast.

    Where’s all this “unity” that I was told existed in the “one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic” Church? It ain’t there! The current RCC barely resembles the RCC of 100 yrs. ago. So continue to have your “CHURCH” but don’t call it “holy” or “Catholic” or “Apostolic.” Those who have eyes to see will see. Those who wish to continue living in “LaLa Land” will continue to wear blinders.

  • The liberal agenda and left-leaning “Catholics” is one reason, among others, that I dropped out of RCIA and chose not to convert to the RCC. The USCCB is only one of the problems. Out-of-control renegade priests along with their progressive laity can feel real comfy in many a parish in these United States.

    Face it, the liberals are an energetic, visible force within the Roman Catholic Church and they are not going away. They have become a cancer that is multiplying at an exponential rate. Michael Voris can’t stop it. EWTN can’t stop it. AveMaria Radio can’t stop it. Just look at the mess out in California, with all pro-gay, pro-choice bishops. They’re quite happy, comfy, and content encased in their ivory towers. And the disease has spread eastward to parishes in the Midwest, Florida, and the Northeast.

    Where’s all this “unity” that I was told existed in the “one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic” Church? It ain’t there! The current RCC barely resembles the RCC of 100 yrs. ago. So continue to have your “CHURCH” but don’t call it “holy” or “Catholic” or “Apostolic.” Those who have eyes to see will see. Those who wish to continue living in “LaLa Land” will continue to wear blinders.

  • Darlene

    So basically, you are telling me you are still a Protestant, and the reason why you didn’t convert is because you are a Protestant? Big deal.

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  • Henry,

    No, I am not a Protestant. It’s easy to assume things in a forum like this where face-to-face, in person dialogue is absent.

    Protestant evangelicalism has many problems, one of which is that they (for the most part) ignore the creeds and councils of the first millenia.

    So, I came to the conclusion that Protestantism is a schism from a schism and will continue to split and divide. Sola Scriptura is not a unifying force within Protestantism, but a disunifying force. Hope that clarifies things.

    As far as my emphatic, blunt post, I understand that it will offend Roman Catholics. Offending was not my intent. With that said, the priest with whom I had counsel was very kind, long-suffering, and understanding. Even taking into consideration my original comments, I do not judge the salvation of individual Catholics. That is God’s business.

    If I have sinned in being so bold, forgive me.

  • The USCCB website says that Mary Kay Henry was appointed to a USCCB subcommittee and the USCCB accepted the subcommittee’s findings. Why would the USCCB look to anti-Catholic “experts” like Mary Kay Henry for advice in developing policy?

    Answer: For the same reason they invited Father Thomas Reese and Diana Hayes to speak at their conference last week-end.

    Jesus had something to say about this: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

  • Michael Voris is certainly human, and on rare occasions he may get his facts wrong, but taken as a whole, there is a mountain of evidence against the USCCB. A favorite liberal trick is to suggest that one flaw in the evidence damns all the evidence. I’m not fooled.

  • Nothing has been said here. Absolutely nothing.

    All of you are defending nothing and have nothing concrete to say about anything.

    The fact is you can not vote for a man who kills babies, I’d like to see you explain that when you come face to face with your creator. Can’t do it.

    The fact is, you can not give money to death programs from unsuspecting pew sitters – its illegal as well as totally against what Jesus commanded of us.

    Who cares who supports John Carr? It’s irrelevant? If the man has put any support into anti-God programs he is out.

    The Jews (many) did it wrong and so are the Catholics (many). You don’t reject the sacraments because the gatekeepers are corrupt. God said to St. Teresa of Avila “I put myself in the hands of thy enemies for your sake!” If you reject the commandments and the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church through those sacraments – then you hold man up as God.

    Don’t give money if you don’t know where the money is going. Put your money in areas you know are deserving of it. Don’t vote for the slaughter of innocence. Don’t keep quite when a priest is an idiot or a Bishop is a nutcase. Fight – and stop trying to defend your need for comfort.

    Newsflash the Church has the enemies within. Fight it – get them out – run them out of town but stop trying to give yourself an excuse to take a nap.

  • My dealings with the USCCB and the two of the organizations it sponsors and funds leads me to believe this organization is more a socialist political group than people working to live up to the Gospels. Obama and far too many of the Democrats in office are sociast with a socialist agenda. I fear that some of the Bishops may have been sucked into the false notion that socialism serves the needs of the poor. SOcialism brings the entire society down to the level of the laziest. Socialism depleats to will and ability of the society to provide for all.

  • WayneK,

    It is quite apparent in Europe today. France is turning into an economic basket case with gov’t unions striking each day preventing Sarkozy from instituting well needed reforms.

    It’s a slow creep towards totalitarianism.

  • MIchael Voris and Simon J. Rafe practice censorship of
    anyone who does not accept their messages on face value. That leads me to believe they are fake critics
    seeking to marginalize rather than serve any issue.

  • I believe they love their faith and don’t like it when bishops fail in their duty to feed their sheep.

    Instead they hide behind man-made bureaucracies hoping that difficult issues that don’t adhere to their Democratic Party Catholic leanings would just go away.

  • Archbishoip Raymond Burke was well known for “speaking out”. In an article for Time online, Amy Sullivan (Priests Spar Over What it Means to Be Catholic) alludes to the fact of his removal by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference. In particular, the article states that because of a “calming down” of the anti-abortion rhetoric, the president was elected. In fact, I can tell you that here in St. Louis, the archbishop who replaced Burke (Carlson) silenced the Latin rite Church (St. Francis De Sales) from speaking out against abortion from the pulpit.

  • D Paul,
    That surprises me greatly. I wonder whether the “silencing” actually referred to exhortations on who to vote for or not vote for, which is a violation of federal tax law. Under federal tax law churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations may receive contributions on a tax deductible basis only if they refrain from political or partisan behavior. Within much more relaxed constraints they normally can engage in legislative or policy behavior. Telling a congregation that it is important to vote for candidates who are opposed to abortion is fine (even if somewhat simplistic from a Catholic perspective), but a minister may not tell his congregation to vote for X or against Y, at least without losing the right to receive contributions on a tax deductible basis. I’d be very surprised if AB Carlson told the priest at SFdS that he could not speak out against abortion from the pulpit. If true, that really would be quite scandalous, and shocking given that AB Carlson is among the bishops who criticized ND for awarding pro-abort Obama an honorary degree.

Pray for those in Haiti

Wednesday, January 13, AD 2010

A 7.0 earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince in Haiti earlier today.

Haiti is a desperately poor nation at the best of times. Weaker and older structures will mean even worse damage and loss of life, and in a nation where hunger is routine the disaster will only worsen the situation.

If you have the ability to provide monetary help, Food For The Poor has a Haiti earthquake donation page.

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3 Responses to Pray for those in Haiti

2 Responses to Shutting Down the Slumdog to Save Him

  • This is the classic sweatshop dilemma: people wouldn’t take these jobs unless they were better than the alternative, but they are awful jobs nonetheless. My first inclination is to say: ‘regulate them out of existence!’ But, as you note, taking away people’s only opportunity for employment is an odd way to go about helping them.

    At the same time, I think it’s morally unacceptable to turn a blind eye and say ‘the market will sort it out…eventually’. I think the best answer, as Blackadder would say, is ‘first, do no harm’. It’s not enough to want to make people’s lives better if in fact they are harmed by our actions. But, as the post suggests, there are a lot of prudential questions raised by these type of situations that don’t lend themselves to easy answers. I favor a via media between job-destroying regulation and a dogmatic trust in markets, but in the end this is a very fact-specific inquiry in any individual case, with plenty of room for honest disagreement.

  • The rationalist side of my mind would say, “Regulate the jobs away, and make assistance available if necessary. After all, a little money goes so far with these people.” But I think there’s a human cost to taking away someone’s livelihood which goes beyond the amount of money involved.

    In many ways, we’re very lucky in the US that there wasn’t some much richer country to come in and look at us as we struggled with these kinds of conditions 100+ years ago. It left our dignity intact, and that’s worth a lot. Sometimes more than a life.

    I suppose my ideal situation would be getting hold of the money to put real factories with real safety regimes into the slums _right now_ doing the same work, so that those people could have better jobs doing the same work. But it’s not that simple because that kind of systematization would create more efficiency, which would mean not as many people would get a piece of the pie. Though I suppose with more efficiency would come the money to buy more goods and services.

    Which circles back to: It’s complex and I’m glad there was no one watching as we went through these stages.

14 Responses to The Poor You Will Always Have With You

  • Very good post. In a narrow sense, I take this scriptural passage as an admonition against utopian idealism. It doesn’t mean we are justified in doing nothing, but rather, we cannot expect to create a paradise where there is no poverty.

  • Much like you wrote, Ryan, here’s what the Pope has said about things being in their “proper order:”

    “At the heart of all temptations…is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives.” (from Jesus of Nazareth)

    He goes on to quote Deut 8:3 (“Man does not live by bread alone…”) as well as German Jesuit Alfred Delp: “Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration.” The Pope writes: “When this ordering of goods is no longer respected, but turned on its head, the result is not justice or concern for human suffering. The result is rather ruin and destruction even of the material goods themselves.”

    Notice that it doesn’t diminish the need for social justice and caring for the poor; instead, it explains the reason why we care about these things in the first place. As paul mentioned, it’s a bit of cautionary teaching about the dangers of utopianism, which would twist human nature for a misconception of the common good.

  • Dear me, what a lot of words! I am reminded of God speaking to Job [Ch. 38]:
    “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?”

    I believe Our Lord’s words were meant more simply. As between honoring God [Himself] and giving to the poor, we will always have occasion to give to the poor. So, if we are not going to give to the poor, give to the God.

    Otherwise it would be beholden on us to sell all the real estate of the Church and the treasures and other wealth and give it to the poor.

    But is not the real meaning of the words, that we should intend to give to the poor [perhaps never ending poverty] because God told us to? Even if we have to give up one of our cars, should we not do it and come to rely on God?

  • Thank you for addressing the serious problem of the perpetual misuse of this passage.



    MARCH 26, 1967


    The Use of Private Property

    23. “He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (21) 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.” (22) 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.” (23)

    The Common Good

    24. If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.

    Vatican II affirms this emphatically. (24) At the same time it clearly teaches that income thus derived is not for man’s capricious use, and that the exclusive pursuit of personal gain is prohibited. Consequently, it is not permissible for citizens who have garnered sizeable income from the resources and activities of their own nation to deposit a large portion of their income in foreign countries for the sake of their own private gain alone, taking no account of their country’s interests; in doing this, they clearly wrong their country. (25)

    Programs and Planning

    33. Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development. We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for “directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating” (35) the work of individuals and intermediary organizations.

    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.

    The Ultimate Purpose

    34. Organized programs designed to increase productivity should have but one aim: to serve human nature. They should reduce inequities, eliminate discrimination, free men from the bonds of servitude, and thus give them the capacity, in the sphere of temporal realities, to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments. When we speak of development, we should mean social progress as well as economic growth.

    It is not enough to increase the general fund of wealth and then distribute it more fairly. It is not enough to develop technology so that the earth may become a more suitable living place for human beings. The mistakes of those who led the way should help those now on the road to development to avoid certain dangers. The reign of technology—technocracy, as it is called—can cause as much harm to the world of tomorrow as liberalism did to the world of yesteryear. Economics and technology are meaningless if they do not benefit man, for it is he they are to serve. Man is truly human only if he is the master of his own actions and the judge of their worth, only if he is the architect of his own progress. He must act according to his God-given nature, freely accepting its potentials and its claims upon him.

    Superfluous Wealth

    49. We must repeat that the superfluous goods of wealthier nations ought to be placed at the disposal of poorer nations. The rule, by virtue of which in times past those nearest us were to be helped in time of need, applies today to all the needy throughout the world. And the prospering peoples will be the first to benefit from this. Continuing avarice on their part will arouse the judgment of God and the wrath of the poor, with consequences no one can foresee. If prosperous nations continue to be jealous of their own advantage alone, they will jeopardize their highest values, sacrificing the pursuit of excellence to the acquisition of possessions. We might well apply to them the parable of the rich man. His fields yielded an abundant harvest and he did not know where to store it: “But God said to him, ‘Fool, this very night your soul will be demanded from you . . .’ ” (54)

    To Government Authorities

    84. Government leaders, your task is to draw your communities into closer ties of solidarity with all men, and to convince them that they must accept the necessary taxes on their luxuries and their wasteful expenditures in order to promote the development of nations and the preservation of peace. Delegates to international organizations, it is largely your task to see to it that senseless arms races and dangerous power plays give way to mutual collaboration between nations, a collaboration that is friendly, peaceoriented, and divested of self-interest, a collaboration that contributes greatly to the common development of mankind and allows the individual to find fulfillment.

  • I see this passage as a rebuke of the “time better spent” fallacy. You know the one: “Wouldn’t our time be better spent taking care of the poor than in (doing whatever the Church happens to be doing at that moment in time).

    Here’s an example.

    And my response.

  • Segue:

    accept the necessary taxes on their luxuries and their wasteful expenditures in order to promote the development of nations and the preservation of peace.

    Interesting, the Holy Father here is recommending the “Fair Tax”, he seems not to be in favor of the income taxes which tax not luxuries and expenditures, but productivity… hmmm.

  • Eric,

    can we excommunicate anyone who opposes the Fair Tax then????

  • I don’t think that is grave enough an offense for excommunication.

  • Eric,

    even if they are pertinacious?

  • Even so.

    We might make them tithe more though.

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13 Responses to Send Me Your Poor…

  • The fear with immigration seems, to me at least, to be rooted in the notion that if we don’t limit immigration, then we will pluck the tree bare of fruit and not have any left for planting. All the hidden costs that illegal immigrants bring suggest there is some reason for concern there. A surplus of labor tends to depress wages, which isn’t necessarily the end of the world, unless someone out there is mandating unreasonably high minimum wages. But the fact that so many of these immigrants have no problem finding people who will hire them–coupled with the fact the US has had for years a very low unemployment rate–states this isn’t as large a problem as people think. Personally, I’m all for finding all the illegal immigrants and at the very least handing them green cards (or whatever the permission-to-work tag is now).

    Culture is another matter, as well. The problem with the Hispanic wave of illegal immigrants is that they tend to be isolated from the rest of the nation. What I don’t know is whether that is the fault of the Hispanics–wanting to come, pluck the tree bare, and then hurry home without being tainting by US culture–or us–so prejudiced against the immigrant, legal or not, that we isolate them. Regardless of which case it is, we still could do a better job of reaching out to our immigrant communities and help them more.

  • Why is the standard a condo, two cars, a game cube, a cell phone, and Levis what makes “life worth living”. I understand that you did not actually promote this as the standard, but I think it is worth discussing. Who actually has this standard?

    I think the problem is this is what we demand, not for them but for us. People aren’t affraid of having neighbors that are poor. People are affraid of being poor, or as you put it, not living the “American Lifestyle”. Thats why we don’t want to have the kind of redistribution it takes to provide for things like healthcare to immigrants, because we need to live our “American Lifestyle”.

  • Ryan,

    I’d agree in finding culture and education more troubling than economics in many ways. Though to a great extent, that’s part of a larger part of breakdown in education and culture in the US. I’m not clear that we’re doing any better inculcating education and American culture in native born poor children than we are with the children of immigrants.


    Why is the standard a condo, two cars, a game cube, a cell phone, and Levis what makes “life worth living”. I understand that you did not actually promote this as the standard, but I think it is worth discussing. Who actually has this standard?

    What I was thinking of (though expressing it in a slightly satiric way) is that we have a standard of what constitutes “poverty” in the US which is based on our own standards resulting from living in the US: a family should be able to afford its own, stand alone home; you should be able to afford a good working car; your house or apartment should be at least a certain size; etc.

    Obviously, even a very working class lifestyle in the US is very, very well off by the standards of many countries in the world. So given the chance, you might find a three generation family with eight people living in a one bedroom apartment in the US — four adults earning minimum wage pooling their resources to make expenses — and yet compared to their life in Guatamala two years before they might feel like they’re doing very well.

    Now my approach to the above situation would be to say, “They’re getting the chance they want to create wealth and work their way out of poverty into a US lifestyle.” However, I think we often hear people say, “It’s horrible that we allow immigrants to be treated this way, why don’t we pay them a decent wage?”

    At a basic supply/demand level, though, I don’t see how we could both guarantee that they’d make a wage much higher than the current US minimum wage; allow nearly unlimitted immigration; and avoid having high unemployment.

    And so, since even at current low wage levels an immigrant to the US is often making 5-10x what he or she would have been making back home in an undeveloped or semi-developed country — I’d tend to support opening up legal immigration a lot and allowing there to be lots of low wage labor which gradually creates wealth and lifts itself out of poverty.

    However, I think the two forces pushing back against that idea (probably far to strongly for us to ever adopt such a policy) are:

    1) Low skill/low education workers in the US who don’t want to see their wages go down because there is a large supply of immigrant labor willing to do the same work for less.

    2) Well intentioned people across the political spectrum but especially on the left don’t want to see immigrant families be poor — and so would rather either keep immigrants out or provide so much support in terms of either minimum wage hikes or social services that lots of immigration results in high unemployment and/or unsustainable needs for social services spending.

  • The old “lump of labor” fallacy always gets rolled out in tough times. It’s still a fallacy, though. Immigration actually leads to economic growth; it doesn’t steal jobs from domestic workers.

  • Someone please argue how Hispanic culture is inferior to American culture…

  • Mark,

    I didn’t see where anyone said that Hispanic culture is inferior to American culture. But more generally, do you have a problem passing judgment on a culture? Even if, say, that culture practiced infanticide or virgin sacrifices as part of its way of life? It’s people who are created equal, not the attributes of their culture…

  • j.


    But I guess I have this quetion? why do we have the intense focus on insuring/insisting that Hispanics are thoroughly assimilated into ‘Amercan culture.? And what in God’s name is American culture, that is seemingly so said to be a threatened by unassimilated, outside influences?

    I look back at the educational endeavors of the 1920s and see some of the untrue, terrible things that were simply assumed about Jews, Italians, the Poles etc.

    Is not the concern coming from the same ignorance and/or prejudice?.

  • -I’m all for open boarders,-

    I spent eighteen months after college as a full-time volunteer in shelters that aided illegal immigrants (actually, about half that time was on the Mexican side working with the homeless and running a women’s shelter). So, I don’t share the fear or hatred of the immigrant. Actually, I like Spanish and Latin culture more than I do American, and I only speak Spanish in the home, so I am quite comfortable with immigration.

    However, I could never agree with some of my fellow volunteers that we should have open borders. That seems reckless. What has always annoyed me about the immigration situation is the way it is set up. The truth is that for many years we had nearly non-existent unemployment and these workers were not taking jobs from people (I never lost a teaching job to an illegal immigrant and I never wanted the job in the orchard busting my ass for minimum wage). Basically, we needed these people but we made them go through hell to get here (Pragmatically, the border enforcement is a good idea: it generally only allows the strong and young to get through and then we exploit them for labor. Obviously, that is an inhumane practice and, to cover it up, that is why the immigrants are always painted as a problem rather than the solution to our need for cheap physical labor).

    I just wish that our policy could be more honest. Admit we need a certain amount of people and recruit them!

    It always amuses me when people say, “Why don’t they just come legally?” They think that it is just as simple as dropping into the US consulate and getting papers. It took me over two years (and the frequent assistance of Senator Jon Kyl’s office) to immigrate my wife and my own children, and I am a natural-born US citizen. Can you imagine how hard it is for Jose the orchard worker from Nicaragua? It is impossible, actually. You have to meet income and property requirements that are unreachable for your typical Latin American worker. They have little choice but to come illegally.

  • Rob,

    I think you bring up an important and (outside of those who’ve actually had to deal with the current immigration regulations) little known point: Whatever the right approach is, the status quo of immigration regulation is just plain disfunctional. It’s very, very difficult and time consuming to immigrate legally (coming in on a student visa and then getting an employer to sponsor you for a work visa is probably the easiest route) and the combination of a very difficult immigration process with occasionally lax enforcement is that we end up actively selecting for people who are willing to ignore the law and sneak in. (Which in turn leaves them most open to being exploited.)

    As for open boarders — I personally think that it would be most just to allow anyone without a criminal record or a serious communicable disease in (19th century style) but I don’t know if I’d actually support the policy if there was a vote on it tomorrow in that I don’t think the US is open to dealing with the consequences of really huge immigration. Realistically in the short term, I think we need to expand the quotas and simplify the process, and enforce what laws that we do have.


    Someone please argue how Hispanic culture is inferior to American culture…
    But I guess I have this quetion? why do we have the intense focus on insuring/insisting that Hispanics are thoroughly assimilated into ‘Amercan culture.? And what in God’s name is American culture, that is seemingly so said to be a threatened by unassimilated, outside influences?

    While I don’t think it’s impossible to say that in certain cases one culture is inferior to another (not all cultures are equal) I don’t think that “Hispanic culture” (whatever that means — “Hispanics” being a very broad and diverse group) is inferior to US culture.

    However, I think society is generally only healthy and free of strife when people share a common culture. That doesn’t mean they can’t have differences based on their culture of origin, but it’s important that they be able to speak to each other (shared language) and that they share certain common knowledge and archetypes derived from their nation’s history, political philosophy and literature.

    This isn’t something unique to the US. It seems to me that if one was going to emmigrate to Japan, one would owe it to one’s new country to learn at least some Japanese and develop an understanding of Japanese history and literature as it applies to modern Japanese culture. Similarly, if you moved to France, you’d owe it to them to learn some French and learn enough of their history and culture to understand “Frenchness” as your new fellow countryment would.

    In the same sense, if our own country is to resist becoming a Balkanized federation of unassimilated cultures which don’t have any interest in each other, it’s important that US citizens learn English in school and develop an understanding of American history and literature (including American political archetypes.) That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t retain an appreciation of their own culture of origin as well — but there needs to be a sharing in real culture — not just consumer MTV culture that you pick up from the television and radio.

    Which is why I think it’s essential that our schools do a massively better job than they have in recent decades.

  • DC,

    I forgot to make my point! LOL

    I was going to say, even with my background, I think that any country has the right, really a duty, to defend it’s borders, even seal them off. So an “open” border would just be reckless. But our present kookoo pokicy is essentially an open border, since the difficulty of legal immigration encourages people to cross the border anywhere but at a legal checkpoint.

    However, I atke issue with your concern about Balkanization. This country has always been on the verge of Balkanizaton and has always survived. Common language? There are still (small) places where French and German are spoken first in this country. 100 years ago, upstate New York and much of New England were French speaking (and Cajun in Louisiana). Lots os Pennsylvanians were German speakers (the first World War convinced them to change that, though!). These were not people who learned foreign languages as a hobby. They spoke “foreign” languages at home and in business! Now, though, those areas are practically museums, little Williamsburgs. The same will happen in the Southwest. It behooves people to learn English. The ones that aren’t learning English are the parents (I dare you to pick up a foreign language after a childhood of little or no education and having six kids to support!). But their kids, the ones born here, are native English speakers just like you and I. I know. I taught these kids for ten years.

    If there is anything I am worried about, it is that they WILL assimilate into our sick culture. I find it hard to relax when I see the ease with which the kids of simple, earnest, Catholic immigrants become drug-using, abortion-seeking, “good Americans”.

  • Rob,

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you much on the assimilation question. I don’t have a problem with Spanish newspapers and radio stations and some of the stores I go into being primarily Spanish speaking — that’s just a matter of serving the people who are local. (Back in Los Angeles our neighborhood supermarket went through stages of being mostly in Spanish, then Russian and later Arabic and Turkish.)

    What did worry me a good bit with the California schools was that because they got paid more for “ESL” students than English-speaking students, they’d often shunt kids off into classes that were mostly taught in Spanish for all eight years of their elementary education. However, they didn’t cover Spanish grammar very well, so the Spanish spoken was often low quality, and for “Hispanic culture” there was a lot of messing around about “Aztec culture” because they felt uncomfortable discussing anything that was Catholic in a public school setting.

    So you’d end up with kids who sounded uneducated in both Spanish and English and didn’t have a real grasp of either culture — though they were definitely fluent in the trashy pop-culture which pours out of American TV sets every day.

    Though I should say: Although the ESL classes tended to cover less math and writing than they should have (and thus hurt kids in the long run) — I don’t think that the “normal” classes in most of our public schools do a very good job of instilling American and Western Culture. So the problem is certainly wider than just dealing with immigration.

  • -there was a lot of messing around about “Aztec culture” because they felt uncomfortable discussing anything that was Catholic in a public school setting. –

    LOL Aren’t liberals a riot? Yeah, because the average Mexican kid really identifies with the ancient Aztecs more than he does with Christianity. Gimme a break.

    -I don’t think that the “normal” classes in most of our public schools do a very good job of instilling American and Western Culture.-

    But they do. They just don’t instill the culture we want them to instill. George Washington? Naaah. Bill of Rights? Plymouth Rock? In God We Trust? Naaaah! Instead, they teach the permissive, nebulous and totally unidentifiable blob-culture that is the new America. By “blob”, I mean that most people no longer stand for anything or try to even say anything, because all viewpoints are equally offensive, so the solution is to make everything “okay”. The new culture is non-culture…

    Ah, what am I doing? I’m preaching to the choir, right?

  • ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…and…you shall love your neighbor as yourself’.

    There are no liberals, conservatives, Mexicans or Americans. There are only children of God. There are no British, Canadians, Brazilians, black-white-or-brown.

    National pride, saluted flags and hoarded money are idols when revered in greater sanctity than the greatest commandments of our Lord.

    Would Christ turn away a desperate immigrant? Would Christ tell someone to speak the right language? Would Christ turn away a person who is not Christian? Would Christ care that you would not share for fear you may lose a piece of your fortune?

    We should put our fears aside and trust in the Lord.