The Catholic Thing
Los Gatos Print E-mail
By James V. Schall, S.J.   
Monday, 15 April 2013

The Catholic Thing readers know that Schall retired after the Fall Semester at Georgetown. In March, he moved to the Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California. Before departing, saying good-bye to friends, a letter from the university provost informed him that he was now a “Professor Emeritus.” It is a rite of passage. One’s official status is “old age.” Cicero, in his essay, “On Old Age,” spoke about the “activities” of old age. The old themselves usually include their aches and pains. Most cultures associate old age with wisdom, though the expression “an old fool” is not unheard of.

On the first day of spring, I boarded an Alaska Airline plane to San Jose via Los Angeles. At LAX, I had to go from one terminal to another, something this airport makes most difficult to do. Fortunately, a fellow Jesuit, Kevin O’Brien, was on the same plane and helped me negotiate through the terminals.

When the plane to San Jose was ready to take off, the pilot told us that a small “problem” in the tail needed checking – only ten minutes. Two hours later, with a different plane and crew, we took off for San Jose, the nearest airport to Los Gatos. I stayed with a nephew who lives twenty miles from Los Gatos over the weekend. He delivered me to the new house on Monday morning.

I had lived in this house as a novice. In fact the room I am currently occupying is right across the hall from the one I had as a novice in 1948 – a visible Alpha and Omega. This house has about seventy men in it, many old classmates, now retired. Some are in the infirmary. The staff is most helpful. It took about a week to settle in, get used to a routine.

This property is about one hundred and eighty acres, on a hillside overlooking the lovely town of Los Gatos and the majestic Santa Clara Valley. Hiking trails wend back of us up the mountain. This is spring. Everything is green. Flowers are everywhere. Temperature is mild. The gardens around the house are very nice. The city of San Jose is clear in the distance, as is the Mt. Hamilton Range across the Valley. We are in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which separate the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean at Santa Cruz.

     A Jesuit winemaker at Los Gatos back in the day

The Jesuits from the Turin Province founded this house back in the late 1800s. Naturally, they brought the vine and the olive with them. In my younger years, Novitiate of Los Gatos wines were quite well known. But the winery has long closed though its buildings are now operated by the “Testarossa” Winery.

On the pasture above the house are five jackasses. They are pets, though their forefathers once ploughed the vines on the hillsides above the house. A donkey is a domesticated jackass. A jack is a male ass. I will presume that TCT readers know what a mule and a hinny are, as well as how they are related to horses and donkeys. In any case, as I was walking down the hill the other day, the five jackasses in the pasture followed me to their feed lot, evidently thinking that I had an apple for them. Needless to say, this image of Schall being followed by five jackasses is open to considerable pious interpretation on the part of the brethren.

The main topic of conversation around here is the new pope. Fortunately, my copies of L’Ossevatore Romano have been arriving. I have been able to read what Pope Francis has been doing and saying. In one homily, he told priests that they should be out in the world – preaching, baptizing, consoling, and not sitting around like bureaucrats and psychoanalyzing themselves.

When the pope told his relatives and friends in Argentina not to come to his inaugural ceremonies, but to stay at home and give the money to the poor, I thought: “There went the Italian tourist industry!” I wondered just who the poor were who would receive this unspent money. How much would it actually help them without a productive economic system?

Of late, I have been thinking that we have turned almost every help-giving agency over to the state. Helping the poor now means, not helping them become capable of working for a living, but setting up another state care program. Most states are delighted to oblige. They more and more forbid any spontaneous or non-government help. The state wants the poor to justify its – the state’s – existence and expansion. I fear the term “social justice” usually means, in practice, something like this state control.

So Schall can find things to think about in Los Gatos. It is not Washington. But the shadow of Washington is here. Retired priests too can find something to do. Benedict, the pope (also now emeritus), set the example.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent books are The Mind That Is Catholic and The Modern Age.
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Comments (14)Add Comment
written by Beddoo, April 14, 2013
"Helping the poor now means, not helping them become capable of working for a living, but setting up another state care program."

um...actually the biggest expansion in the welfare state in the past 20 years has been in health care coverage for low to moderate income know who actually do work, albeit at low wages jobs. See, their jobs don't provide health insurance. So does Schall criticize their employers for this or for not paying them more. No, he criticizes the state for its interventions in, however clumsily, trying to solve an obvious social problem. Namely that if they or their kids get seriously sick they're going to be in trouble.

"Most states are delighted to oblige. They more and more forbid any spontaneous or non-government help."

I'm pretty sure there are no laws against up and buying sandwiches for homeless people or even paying the doctor bill of a struggling single mom. Has anyone else noticed a "trend" toward state regulation in this area? Me neither. So hard to see what on earth Father Schall is getting at here.

"The state wants the poor to justify its – the state’s – existence and expansion. I fear the term “social justice” usually means, in practice, something like this state control."

Hmmm. So I guess the problem of 14 million Americans out of work, 30-50 million uninsured, and stagnating and/or declining wages for many of those fortunate enough to have a job were things just "facts" pulled out of thin air to help elect Democrats and goose the growth of the welfare state. Because we all know as Father Schall has assured us elsewhere that the free market guarantees universal prosperity such that we never need be troubled that anyone under its blanket has too little. Or if in those rare occasions the need should occur we just pass the hat at church to help our out of work neighbors, or our sick grand parents or what have you or find a wealthy big hearted job creator to chip in. Programs like medicare, medicaid, social security, unemployment insurance, food stamps don't actually help anyone according to Schall. Why, all they do is expand the bureaucracy and ensnare their adherents in a web of dependency from which none ever, ever escapes. And all under the deceptive banner of "social justice"! Who knew?

Any one want reasons why the anti-government candidates have trouble getting elected these days, this piece is exhibit A in the sort of obtuse reasoning that passes for wisdom on the right these days.
written by Bangwell Putt, April 15, 2013
Two thoughts: For those who believe, religious and lay vocations converge in old age. A "Los Gatos" of the spirit is available to members of the laity. Or, alternately, a lay woman can "construct" a Benedictine monastery of the spirit. Instruction is available. One can imitate the schedule of consecrated women. The Benedictine Sisters of Mary, for one example, describe their daily lives at their web site. This provides a model for the laity.

I, like Fr. Schall, fear for the well being of people who are now economically poor and trapped in a state-run economy. They are in a form of bondage. How will they be set free?
written by william manley, April 15, 2013
Right. Things were so much better for the poor in the pre New Deal days. Hobos riding the rails...that's the ticket. So romantic. This web site has officially left the boundaries of reality.
written by DS, April 15, 2013
Pope Francis' request that Argentines not travel to Rome for his inauguration was one of his first teaching moments. To focus primarily on the theoretical economic impact misses the point. Francis was telling us that we need not suffer jetlag on an Alitalia flight to Rome in order to encounter Jesus. We should seek Jesus first in our everyday lives and especially in the lives of the proximate poor. He expanded on this theme of "middle class holiness" in a sermon this weekend at St. Paul's Outside the Walls.
written by Mark, April 15, 2013
Here's a little wisdom, Beddo. It is easy to let the state take care of those problems of which you write. Easy. You don't have to get involved. You don't have to actually talk with those people. You don't have to actually visit with those people. You don't have to feed them personally. I mean that might be, you know, icky.

Don't get me wrong; I am not against the state helping where it can actually do some good, but our modern state can neither make us good, nor can it love.
written by Bangwell Putt, April 15, 2013
Re: questions raised by "Beddoo": A google search for "catholic teaching on social justice" will bring up many links helpful in explaining the issues raised by Fr. Schall. A link to provides a clear, point by point explanation. There is also a link to the site of USCCB, which provides many teaching documents.

Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
written by KM, April 15, 2013
Even jackasses would not eat straw. Beddoo, you are using far too many straw men to offer any real food for those open to another perspective.

If we, the CHURCH, were living according to what we claim to believe, the state would be FAR less needed...and the underlying menace of its progression toward gargantuan CONTROL would be greatly reduced.

Fr. Schall, please keep writing!
written by Henry Elden, April 15, 2013
Beddoo, what a killjoy you are. You know what he's saying. Rev J Schall, I hope you have many more productive years with only few of those aches and pains
written by beddoo, April 15, 2013
Yep you're right KM. If everyone gave to the Church and to charity most of what they now pay in state, federal and local taxes then we would not need big government. And you know also that the farmland in the state of Nebraska could grow the world's supply of pineapples!

Moral: most people would not give to charity anything remotely close to what they pay in taxes. They wouldn't give 30%-40%. Many wouldn't even give 3-4%!!1 And they'd come up with elaborate rationales for not doing so. L:isten to Fr. Schall's reasoning: Why not take the Roman pilgrimage..not going would only heart the tourist industries. So indulge!!! The poor won't be much helped by my money anyway without a "functioning economic system" (whatever that means!). Besides--one hand out will just lead to requests for more money and a cycle of dependency.

Yes. we could rebuild the world that Father Schall seems to imagine. But it would be one of immense private wealth coupled with lots of public squalor and lame excuses on the part of self-regarding elites as to why more cannot be done. I'm with William Manley. We had that in the Europe, America in the 19th century cities and today in much of the 3rd world!!!

Why in the world would we want to go back to that world!!! Better to figure a way to revive charity in the context of a government run safety net. Not in opposition to it.
written by Micha Elyi, April 15, 2013
Moral: most people would not give to charity anything remotely close to what they pay in taxes.


So you wish to render the poor unto Caesar?

So you believe a whip and a gun is a substitute for charity?

So you imagine that Caesar can fill in for the angels that men aren't?

So you covet thy neighbor's goods - but only if Caesar will do your dirty work of smashing and grabbing?
written by Gian, April 15, 2013
"I wondered just who the poor were who would receive this unspent money. How much would it actually help them without a productive economic system? "

The fallacy contained in these lines is well-known to economists as "broken-window fallacy". You see the money spent or not spent but you do not see the alternate use of that money. If the money was not spent in Italy, it would be spent in Argentina.

To equate the prosperity of a nation with spending is another fallacy. It speaks of consumerism, of spending for spending's sake.
written by CJ Wolfe, April 15, 2013
Some of the names mentioned in this article remind me of the lyrics from a very poignant song by Woody Guthrie, "Deportee":

"The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, 'They are just deportees'

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be 'deportees'"

The Song was also covered by the ultimate country supergroup, "The Highwaymen." I always wondered if the singer is supposed to be reffering the Biblical Jesus and Mary as his friends; that's the way I interpret it anyway
written by John II, April 16, 2013
Nice piece by Fr. Schall. And a useful response from the one called beddoo: the cynicism and smugness and arrogance help flesh out the point made by Fr. Schall.

Two of my sons attended a Jesuit prep school back in the 1990s in which one of the requisite courses, under the rubric of "religion," was called "social justice." To put it kindly, the content of the course wasn't quite of the same seriousness and rigor as, say, AP American History or AP Calculus. The students themselves saw through the politicized scam and referred to the requirement as "Socialism 101."

As a very tired elderly Jesuit once remarked to me regarding the craze of "social justice," the first of the two commandments of love (love of God) characteristically gets lost in a preoccupation with the second (love of neighbor), the latter of which is possible to sustain only on the condition of the first.

He was alluding to brother Jesuits who had become de facto atheists taken with an acquired disdain for their neighbors.
written by stan J, April 18, 2013
Beddo is just recycling very stale Marxist rhetoric. It is similar to reading critic's verses directed toward Pius X at another age.
The same material is regarded as fresh when received by young captive audiences in the university lecture halls and that is why the Fr. Schalls are encouraged to move on from campus these days.

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