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Saturday, December 7, 2013

When Will the Catholic Church Learn?

As a writer, little is more flattering than to have someone (especially another good writer) examine your work and say, “That’s exactly what I would have written.” Or even better, “I wish I had written that.”

Not that any professional writer would be very flattered to receive my praise (I mostly get paid to teach mathematics), but after all of the recent hoopla over the second major teaching document issued by Pope Francis (but the first written by him), Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), I sat down to pen my thoughts on the matter. Then I came across this piece by David Harsanyi of The Federalist. “No need for me to continue,” was my thought after reading his take on the Pope’s criticisms of modern capitalism.

Some of my favorite lines: “As fascinating as the context of [the] Pope’s message might be, there is—or seems to be—something new about this rhetoric. You could always detect a pinch of socialistic seasoning in the Church’s theological stew…In this case, the Pope didn’t simply point out that the wealthy weren’t doing enough to help alleviate poverty. He used the recognizable rhetoric of the Left to accuse free-market systems of generating and nurturing that poverty. And these platitudes—things that run wild in the liberal imagination like unfettered capitalism and ‘trickle-down’ economics—were clearly aimed at the United States.”

And: “[I]s it really true that ‘absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation’ are the driving reasons for poverty and inequality? People in places like Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Malawi, or Mozambique live under corrupt authoritarian regimes where crippling poverty has a thousand fathers — none of them named capitalism. The people of Togo do not suffer in destitution because of some derivative scheme on Wall Street or the fallout from a tech IPO.”

There are many other good points in Harsanyi’s piece (on trickle-down economic theory, federal economic regulation, abortion, and more), and a full read of the piece is well worth your time. There is one thing in particular that I would have added.

As a part of his solution for addressing the “economy of exclusion and inequality,” Pope Francis bemoans the rejection of “the right of states” to exercise properly “any form of control” over financial markets. While criticizing trickle-down economics, the Pope also expresses frustration in what he perceives as a “crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

The Pontiff later adds that, “A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determi­nation and an eye to the future…” Besides the blatant falseness of “any form of control” in U.S. markets (As Harsanyi notes, “The Federal Registry of the United States regularly comes in over 60,000 pages.”), why does the Pope express such “crude and naïve trust” in our secular government to regulate properly U.S. markets? When will the Catholic Church learn its lesson? Big Government can never fix immorality.

Was Obamacare not lesson enough? The Catholic Church teaches that health care is “a basic human right,” and true to the Pope’s Big Government ideas on financial reform, has been very supportive of efforts in the U.S. to implement universal healthcare. Enter Obamacare. For months leading up to the final passage of Obamacare, Catholic Bishops lobbied heavily for its passage—minus federal funding of abortion. Once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to add the Stupak amendment to the House version of Obamacare, the Bishops were onboard.

Though the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed the version of Obamacare that passed (because of the removal of the Stupak amendment), they did not support GOP efforts to repeal it once republicans took control of congress. Also, some Catholic leaders supported Obamacare in spite of the lack of the Stupak amendment.

Of course, it wasn’t long before the Catholic Church was in an all out war with the Obama administration over contraception. Again, why the “crude and naïve trust”? Why does the Pope lament the lack of angels in the boardrooms of large corporations but ignore the demons patrolling the halls of Big Government?

In other words, as is typical with almost every elected liberal in the U.S. government, there was no reason to believe that Obama was going to be anything other than a radical liberal on social issues. The time for “war” with Obama was BEFORE he was elected leader of the free world. However, in partnering with democrats and liberals, it seems that many within the leadership of the Catholic Church have for far too long been willing to violate my proverb that, “It is no act of charity to be generous with someone else’s money.”

Or, as Paul Rahe put it in early 2012, the American Catholic Church decades ago “fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States—the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity—and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor.”

The contraception mandate is a classic example of “state paternalism.” It is exactly what one gets when the people surrender that kind of power to a secular government led by those determined to ignore God’s laws. If such liberals remain in power, the result will be no different when the issue comes to economics or marriage or any other matter precious to Christians and other like-minded Americans.

Left unfettered, the slow creep of liberalism knows no bounds. Elections have consequences. If the Catholic Church continues to preach a willingness to surrender more liberty in order to receive another entitlement, or to “spread the wealth around,” we will even further embolden those, who, while claiming to serve us, are seeking to become our masters.

Copyright 2013, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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