• johnschuh

    Our bishops, too many of them, have put themselves at the disposal of the politicians. The politicians do not seem to be disposed to return the favor.

  • Tom Williams

    Our ability to think clearly and act wisely concerning wealth has been so effectively manipulated that many today have little or no understanding beyond thier appetites to consume and care for themselves. We have become slaves of a corrupt system designed to destroy us. Population Control is behind this demonic control of wealth.

  • Bobo Fett

    The bishops forsaking the unborn for politics was and is all that I see my whole life. Very rare is there ever one who is what people I know would even call a man. Much less an authority on anything but BS. There is no mediating good in what these miters are doing. Chrysostom, Aquinas, Athanasius would agree with this author and be horrified by this current crop of “leaders.” Wooses. The lot of them. Woe to those by whom scandals come. God have mercy on them. But not on our account!

  • Dave Fladlien

    Dr. Arkes has raised a crucial subject for comment: what does it mean to live as a Christian in an economic sense? To me, the answer is two-fold: the spiritual sense, and the pragmatic sense.

    In the spiritual sense, we live economics as Christians by loving our neighbor (secondarily to loving God above all, of course) at least as much as ourselves. Put simply, that means voluntarily sharing generously with those in need, or in greater need than we are.

    In the pragmatic sense, it means working to build a world economy which offers to each person who wishes it the opportunity to participate fully and profitably in free enterprise. That means believing in freedom and opportunity, but also in availability of capital (which is woefully lacking in availability right now).

    Dr. Arkes properly points out the similarity between socialism and slavery, but it should also be noted that there is an intrinsic error (as well as injustice) in socialism: socialism assumes there is a fixed amount of wealth, and the problem creating poverty is “inequitable distribution” of the (presumed) limited supply. It is true that when the means of production are sufficiently constrained so that creation of wealth is severely restricted, then distribution of wealth can seem to be the issue. But the real problem is not that some people have too much, it is that some people have too little. And the solution is not to make some people poorer, but rather to allow and help the other people to become richer. The solution is to move forward in cooperation, not slide backwards in mutual hatred and envy, which is what socialism will inevitably bring about.

    Anyone who clings to all or nearly all he/she can obtain will forfeit salvation, but so also will anyone who tries to solve the problems of economic justice by robbing to a serious extent those who work hard and take the risks necessary for prosperity of the fruits of their labor or daring. There is a proper place for social programs which are properly conceived and responsibly executed, but a continually expanding resort to taxation as the solution to economic problems is both morally and pragmatically defective.

    The social justice door swings both ways.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      I agree with your analysis Dave. Republicans are shooting themselves in both feet by promoting dissolution of Soc Sec and Medicare. Those programs have been the economic salvation for many. Also the refusal by the far right to support any candidate or congressional attempt to work out a comprehensive immigration policy and humane, realistic policy toward illegals. Too much social management, gov reg stifles entrepreneurship and the necessary freedom to willingly give to the less fortunate. My interpretation of the pontifical social encyclicals since Leo XIII favor limited social agendas while safeguarding, promoting the individuals right and need to work and a just wage.

      • Dave Fladlien

        Thanks Father. I agree with you that, initially, the social encyclicals were intended to promote a balance between rights of workers and rights of businesses, but unfortunately they were often worded mainly in favor of workers. Yet today it is often smaller businesses which are the abused party, battered by endless regulation and unfair, counterproductive taxation, plus today (under Dodd-Frank) a lack of capital availability. Since many of those encyclicals were written during times of frequent corporate abuse, the defense of businesses has not been correspondingly stated in Church writings. The result is that, instead of balance, we now have a very leftist Church position which is in fact at variance with what I think, and you seem to say, was intended. The Church needs to correct that distortion.

        Regarding immigration, I think in the US this the classical example of neglect piled on neglect until the problem becomes so extreme that someone finally grossly over-reacts and gains the power to take action. While I support Cruz and will support Trump if he is the nominee (to do anything else is to vote for Hillary or Bernie and I will not do that), I don’t like their immigration position. Neither do I like Pope Francis’ apparent position that “anything goes” on immigration. You are right: not only can we not deport 11 million people, we would create a Gestapo state if we tried, and I am as always very opposed to authoritatian regimes. But we do have to do something, a point which gets lost in the highly polarized contest we have between Trump and Cruz on one side and Obama’s government-by-dictatorial-decree on the other.

        • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

          My sense of the encyclicals Dave is the assumption probably included micro business enterprise as individual. At the time of the documents starting with Leo XIII the question was Church response to the rampant abuses to individuals adult and child alike caught within the grind wheel of the Industrial Revolution. That response necessarily had to be couched as a countermeasure to the usurpation of individual rights envisioned by the all powerful socialist state concept of Karl Marx, Engels [actually definitively developed by Lenin and Stalin] in which all rights were deferred to the common good. Fascist Italy Nazi Germany both followed a socialist agenda. Small business as we know today, like your enterprise I believe became more a reality following the great surge of prosperity in Am after WW II. Dodd- Frank likely had the suffocating egalitarian Marxist state concept in mind.

      • Micha_Elyi

        “Soc Sec and Medicare” are two schemes infused with a deep Covet Thy Neighbor’s Goods problem.

        They are empty show and must be rejected then abolished.

    • Quo Vadis

      I agree completely. It is popular in some circles to “punish the rich” through taxation for being successful. That will make things “equal” for those who have not or cannot achieve economic success . Of course, this does not account for those that succeed economically do to their abilities, hard work, or just good fortune. We cannot all be rich and successful but we can all strive towards a goal and work hard. There are endless stories of those who rise from poverty to be very successful individuals despite their circumstances.

      In the end, being a good Christian to me means sharing your success with others and working hard. Jesus would never want us to lay around and collect a government check.

  • Jon S.

    “But the same vice was present when even the leaders of the Church began to reckon the well-being of persons through formulas of ‘social justice,’ dealing with the distribution of income and goods in the aggregate – and all of this confirming the need for the government to keep intervening to correct the balances of income . . . willing now to allow these other ‘moral concerns’ to make it ‘morally permissible’ to vote for a politician defending the ‘intrinsic evil’ of abortion.”

    Doesn’t this describe Pope Francis and the bishops he favors?

    • Betty F

      Jon, You are right this does describe Pope Francis and the bishops he favors. I believe Francis has managed to confuse many of us. I think we really need to pray for him and the bishops. It isn’t easy to call out the Pope for being wrong but then again St. Paul did and eventually Peter saw the truth.

  • Michael Dowd

    John Paul II made this dangerous and pernicious statement.

    “The Church’s sole purpose has been care and responsibility for man. . .the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake.”

    Lead to this catastrophic interpretation:

    “The bishops became willing now to allow these other “moral concerns” to make it “morally permissible” to vote for a politician defending the “intrinsic evil” of abortion.”

    With this moral equivalency blessed by the Bishops abortions flourished.

    Pope John Paul II made a serious error of judgement in my opinion. The Church’s true mission is the care of men’s souls and to help them prepare for eternal life.

    • Mark Bradford

      Michael, it would seem that you are espousing some sort of dualism. St. JPII didn’t separate man into physical and spiritual. Jesus was not a dualist. He healed the physical body and cared for the poor knowing that one who is cared for and loved in their entirety comes to love fully in return.

    • Stephen_Phelan

      You do realize that your concern about the Church’s true mission does not in any way contradict JPII’s formulation above, right? Especially read in context, it is clear what the Holy Father meant. Pernicious? An unjust charge, lazily made.

  • Dominic

    An excellent essay, and it sound as if CU held a vitally needed conference. For any Catholic wishing a well-written and deeply thoughtful survey of Catholic thought, especially from the Popes of the past 120 years, I highly recommend Fr. Maciej Zieba’s “Papal Economics: The Catholic Church on Democratic Capitalism from Rerum Novarum to Caritas in Veritate.”

  • givelifeachance2

    By handing Catholics over to the control of Obamacorpse, the USCCB has given government the control not only of the means of production but also of reproduction. Which brings all sorts of new perversions of economic justice.

  • Fulton J. Waterloo

    Here we go again. Yet another false (Protestant) dichotomy served us by “The Protestant Thing Posing as the Catholic Thing.” Bernie Sanders “socialism” is akin to the distribution of wealth in America in the 1950’5. Then, a military man (Eisenhower) presided over a country with high taxes on the very rich, and almost a third of all workers in the private sector unionized. Economically, it was the golden age of America, where a man could raise his family on a single income. This site is now consulted for amusement, where “cafeteria Catholics” of the RIGHT try to dress their neo-conservative economic theories in the faith. GOOD ENTERTAINMENY.

    • Dave Fladlien

      I have to wonder if you have ever tried to start a business. I’m doing what I have always longed to do; I’d do it if I had to pay to do it, which is actually the case as a start-up. But most people aren’t as blessed as I am in having something which is to a great extent its own reward. Most people work for money; they start businesses for income, etc. They have to, just as I have had to for most of my life, and now have to succeed even in the business that I love.

      High taxes are nothing to be pleased with. And while it is true that taxes were higher, at least regulations were far lower. Both are enemies of successful new ventures.

      The 50s weren’t all that wonderful where I was (I can remember though I was very young). There was no opportunity, and you had to work for the government or the mega-corporation. Once there, you were essentially stuck there. No hope of anything better. You were forced out at 65, which mattered little since you died at 66.7 (average in 1955). And if you were a woman, there was not opportunity or hope at all, no matter how much you longed for it, as my Mother did.

      We can and must do a lot better than that. The cars and the music were great in the 50s, but not a lot else was.

    • Stephen_Phelan

      It’s a selective reading of history you present. There are now many thousand more restrictions on businesses, written largely by advocates for the larger businesses but sold as remedies to inequality or whatever, designed to keep small ones from being started. There are more taxes on businesses as such, and as is still the case, taxes on the wealthy are easily escaped, so the much higher rates were rarely paid even back then. Yes, families could live in their tiny house with no car or vacations and few luxuries back then.

      Many can still raise a family on a single income, but you won’t have that larger house with all the newest appliances, a second car, the better schools and vacations. We want all the best things and we sacrifice for them, often sacrificing the better things in life for the lesser things.

      No Catholic can so lazily defend either socialism or “socialism”, which has been condemned (as such) by the Church numerous times. Capitalism has always (rightly!) been condemned for its excesses and when it depersonalizes people and commodifies them, while socialism has been condemned in magisterial teaching as such.

      Please do skip the condescension and offer an argument if you are so inclined. But don’t expect conversions from the insult and depart MO.

  • Fr. Kloster

    As an economist, the term “social justice” makes me squeamish. The words tend to imply more of a motive of class warfare. The term seems to have been hijacked by those who are of a more progressive bent in their economics (demand siders). The Church needs to be a leader once again with the dominant words society adopts. Too often, she has let the world dictate to Her the economic/moral stance to which She must submit.

    As a cleric, the term “social justice” seems to forego any theological beauty. Perhaps we need a newer term in Catholic circles; one for the secularists and one for the faithful. I divide the two because the secularists are always interpreting what we mean by our spoken terms differently than the way they are meant….they do not speak the language of the Church.

    Perhaps we should keep using the term “living wage” or even “virtuous market” for the secularists. Internally, I’d like to see us refer to the topic as “Catholic patrimony.”

    • TBill

      Perhaps the phrase “the preferential option for the poor” could be retired as well. There must be a better way of saying that we owe a special duty to the poor.

      • Cheryl Jefferies

        Do we owe a “special duty” to any man above any other man, TBill? I owe “special duty” only to God. And, if I take that special duty to God seriously, I will help those in need willingly, in the true spirit of Christian charity. But, being forced to do so by secular fiat brings resentment and anger and an unwillingness, eventually, to help anyone at all. Using true Christian charity, I will help the rich as well as the poor…trying to meet each need individually, as I can. Some are “wealthy” in terms of money, but, horribly poor in terms of spirit. Are they any less poor than those who have need of more physical things? Every man has some need. We all do…whether we realize it or not.

        • JimmyD

          I do believe we owe a special duty to the poor. Consider the parable, as you probably have, of Lazarus and the rich man. Nevertheless, the left beats this topic to death, usually hypocritically, and I understand.

          I agree with your first comment. Christian charity is the ideal. But what to do when we fail to reach the ideal? As an example, when murder happens, I don’t hesitate that gov’t involvement is justified. Similarly, if pay is too low, I think the gov’t can act.

          Who is the gov’t to say what a just wage is? They’re not, but God is. Consider the medieval concept of a fair price and a just wage. The free market may be moral or immoral, and so long as we live in a post-Christian mostly pagan society, people will be imploring the gov’t to aid the working class – and I don’t blame them. Co-ownership or employee ownership is a fundamental Catholic idea, for example. We need to reconcile the modern world to the poverty of Christ and St. Francis, and not the other way around.

          My ideas are mainly from Chesterton but especially his essay on medieval guilds, if you’re interested.

          • Nancy Lynne

            “But what to do when we fail to reach the ideal? As an example, when murder happens, I don’t hesitate that gov’t involvement is justified. Similarly, if pay is too low, I think the gov’t can act.”

            Murder is a crime and it is a duty of the government to bring a murderer to justice. Government involvement in whether payment for work is too high or too low does not seem to me to be a similar case at all.

            I fail to meet the Christian ideal for behavior everyday in many areas and I don’t think the government should be involved unless my behavior reaches the level of crimes. Then again I see that our government is already intruding in our lives when it is undermining our First and Second Amendment Rights as it creates hate and thought crimes laws and attempts to ban guns. Our current progressive regime will bend us to their progressive ideal using the power of government.

    • Cheryl Jefferies

      I’m not just squeamish with “social justice,” Fr., I reject it. Why? Because in the hands of those of in power (both sides),” social justice” is imposed from the top down. I prefer the term and the sincere act of Christian charity. From the heart freely given. not from the government taken by force (and, yes, taxes are a form of “force.”). And, you are correct…there is no “theological beauty” or any other kind of beauty in social justice as imposed by those in secular power.

  • DougH

    The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of my two favorites, but one thing I don’t like is how so many that use it seem to forget that the codicil with the faithful son is there, and the father’s words to that son that all that the father own is his. The younger son may have been accepted back with open arms, but there are still consequences that cannot be undone.

    • BroEdward

      Mine too. I do these little meditations. Here’s my “Parable of the Prodigal Son’s Father”:

      Good thing I wasn’t father, to that wild Prodigal Son,
      He’d never get forgiven for the things that he had done.
      I wouldn’t slay the fatted calf; the kid could live on crumbs,
      And I’d be there to tell him that, “I knew your friends were bums!”

      He wouldn’t get inside my house; he’d bunk out with the hogs,
      I’d tell him: “Just make one smart move and I’ll unleash the dogs!”
      I’d say, “Why did you do it?” I’d interrogate and grill him,
      His Ma would get between us to make sure I didn’t kill him.

      I’d say, “I gave you all I had; you knew each social grace,
      And then you took my family name and slopped it with disgrace!”
      I’d say, “I find you guilty!” – and let no one else acquit him.
      I’d maybe swing my shepherd’s staff – and really try to hit him.

      But…

      I really wouldn’t hit him (though God knows, he should be whaled),
      My anger all stems from the fact that I’m afraid I failed.
      Perhaps I’ll give him one more chance – one more – that’s all he’ll get,
      And I’ll calm down, forgive, and pray that someday I’ll forget.

      • Nancy Lynne

        Bro Edward, I keep coming back to read this. Thank you so much for sharing this little meditation. Is it okay to share this poem with attribution to Bro Edward?

        • BroEdward

          Thanks for your interest. By all means share it as you say.

  • rick

    The means of production in America today are a bunch of poker chips being played by a rogue’s gallery of corporate CEO’s, bankers and private equity tycoons. A company gets LBO’d, plants shut down and workers off-shored while the CEO trousers a hundred million. Shareholders applaud. Fifty five percent of us own stock after all. Our system bears no more resemblance to the pure capitalist one where Frederick Douglass first got paid than Sweden does to what they wrote Rerum Novarum about. The lack of ethics exhibited by our business elites in pursuit of massive personal wealth is amazing. They need to either get a humanly decent belief in the dignity of their workers ( “stakeholders” as they say in MBA school ) and start running things with an eye to their social obligations ( other than their sexually warped “diversity” agenda) or a strong man “leader” will emerge to fix things.

    • JimmyD

      Well said sir. Incredibly refreshing take. How do so many miss this? It’s as if some Catholic scholars drive past working class neighborhoods and never imagine that real live actual human beings, with hopes dreams and personalities, live there, or anywhere.

  • Charles Adams

    Churchill “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the unequal sharing of misery. What is he is saying with capitalism that there are laws preventing excessive greed and monopoles. But with government social justice is the government is the Monopoly. With the church’s social justice we teach that we the people learn through God’s will to give and help. The young are saying who is going to help pay for college? You are! Through hard work and there is plenty of help outside from scholarships, state government loans and family help. I know it is hard I did it and my son did it. When finished. You can say I did it. God Blessed me

    • JimmyD

      Sir I love Churchill, easily one of my heroes. But he’s wrong on economics. I implore you to check out Chesterton, Belloc, Fr. Vincent McNabb, or Dale Ahlquist for some Catholic economics.

      Here is the flaw in what you say: who decides the cost of college? God? Is it possible that selfish men decide the cost of college? In this age of vice, which you admit I’m sure, please consider that the free market is affected also.

      “Who will pay for the cost of college?” The answer is, how much is it ? How high before we call it slavery? Our youth spend their best years in pursuit of bachelor’s and masters, waiting ever later to start families – when is it too long? We emphatically must remember that God is the authority, and not the free market. Capitalism is a Protestant idea.

      The medievals had the idea of a “just price”. That is the proper question to ask – what should the cost of college be ? The question is not “how hard can young people work”. Young people are dying in droves to suicide, mind you – no group is so lost as they. I urge you to reconsider. Working hard is good, but insufficient. We need a full plan to address all of human nature.

  • James Stagg

    Hear! Hear! Well stated, Professor Arkes!

  • Mike Feehan

    True story….THIS will give you an idea of how much archbishops in this church, far too many of them, really care about the unborn and homosexuality, two aspects of Catholic social teaching…I live near Chicago and I met Cupich back in March of last year….Cupich had gone on Face the Nation last November (2014) and said that he had no problem giving communion to Pro abortion politicians, totally disobeying Canon Law 915 as well as clear cut Scripture, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29…Anyway, I had attended an event and brought this up to him….He basically told me that Dick Durbin, the example that I used, never had an abortion, that I needed to take it up with the Supreme Court….After he had said that to me, I told him that you are right, but he SUPPORTS it, doesn’t he?? He basically blew me off and told me that I needed to take it up with the Supreme Court….Oh, but remember, THIS is the same archbishop who will get up there and say that WE CANNOT STAND STILL when it comes to the child in the womb…Too bad that he and far too many leaders in this church do not back it up, not even close to be honest…
    Just a little while back, this same Archbishop came out and said that he would have no problem giving communion out to homosexual couples if their “conscience” told them that was ok….Who cares about the fact that their “consciences” are not fully formed with God’s law most likely…
    Yes, far too many leaders in this Church have gotten to be more enamored with the world’s/man’s praise than with the praise of God himself…

    • Sheila

      It takes courage to speak out, even when done in a loving fashion. We need to fast and pray and beg God for mercy.

  • TJM

    Now that we have read once again the 50,000′ articulation of Church teaching, how does that become translated into daily life, political, social, otherwise? The arguments here aren’t simplistically answered. Is the Church simply the collective of today’s decisions or is its mission on-going? You point to the alleged trade-off of the USCCB re abortion for training, reducing poverty, etc. Yet the entire point of providing training, income improvements, is to create an environment where abortion is no LONGER an issue. Poor and impoverished women are still those predominantly seeking abortion! We cannot take a wholely straight-line position; the world is simply not suitable for such. The Church never condones killing another human being. But in the face of terrorist attacks? In the face of a world war? I propose that the history of the Church has been conquering social ills by ‘stealthy’; techniques: working at the roots, not the manifestations (abortion is generally an outgrowth of poverty; it is not on the same plane as say drug addiction which in turn leads to all kinds of additional social ills; no woman has abortions as some kind of ‘kick’).
    Look at the history of missionaries. To succeed, often local customs have to initially be embraced (how many holidays and holy days of today map to holidays of the tribes in Europe being converted eons ago). And while the Church may no longer use means to evaluate distribution of goods (you allude to a time without documenting such), we are exhorted weekly if not daily (mailers from hundreds of mission and religious societies) appealing to the exact same end result: you who have more, share with those who have less.
    I end up finding no satisfaction in your writing as to the concrete. Those you allude to with critical comments are no less committed to improving the well being and saving humanity; surely you do not put yourself in a position of judgement. And while the prodigal son parable is a powerful message in its own right, Jesus never preached that poverty, disease, inequality, would be overcome in this world. The poor we will always have with us. Jesus did not preach against taking another’s life. In fact the history of the Jews/Hebrews in the Old Testament is full of violence; he came from a warrior culture; his blood was the blood of a warrior king (David). We are charged with doing the best we can, returning Love for Love, but its never going to be perfect in implementation. Two thousand years (+) of Church history and millions of Catholic lives later, and we face pretty much the same issues of 2000 years ago; the changes we think we see are all a veneer.

    • Stephen_Phelan

      Was there a point here?

    • Joe Knippenberg

      Are you trying to make the point here that under certain conditions killing innocent lives can be justified, i.e.”Jesus did not teach against taking another’s life” and “abortion is generally an outgrowth of poverty” (even though this last quote is debatable)?Are you maintaining that abortion, under certain conditions, can be rationalized as justified? Please help me understand that “it ain’t so”!

  • Harry

    The bishops became willing now to allow these other “moral concerns” to make it “morally permissible” to support a politician defending the “intrinsic evil” of abortion.

    The maintenance of civilization itself must come first in the pursuit of justice for all. The state claiming for itself the prerogative to authorize the killing of innocent humanity as a matter of social policy (this amounts to the self-deification of the state) is an assault on civilization itself, returning humanity to savagery, where the powerful can arbitrarily destroy the inconvenient, less powerful. A handful of barbarians in black robes can only pretend to legitimize murder; it remains intrinsically illegal.

    The problem with the seamless garment approach is that it fails to prioritize. The “house” of civilization has a fire blazing in the kitchen. We know that is what it is because such a deification of the state was recently attempted by the Nazis and proved to be an unmitigated disaster for the whole world. The bishops, instead of leading the way by word and example in putting out the fire, timidly admit that a fire in the kitchen is not a good thing, and loudly proclaim that the grass needs to be cut, too, and that there is a leak in the roof that needs to be fixed.

    There can be no justice established while Caesar pretends murder is “legal” and we, by our complacency, signal our approval of this state of affairs, and thereby burn incense to Caesar, rendering unto him authority over innocent humanity that belongs to God alone.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    As regards social justice it is not in itself desultory. Justice is what is right in respect to the individual and to society. When however the State assumes complete control of the economy, and cultural mores assuming unto itself the role of moralist, and becomes social justice as we find in all Marxist oriented government, government focused on equanimity as is the trend in Am, it looks to the common good, a universal concept of good always to the detriment of the individual’s rights. Those bishops who implicitly sanctioned abortion by supporting the Democratic agenda, permitting pols like Biden, Pelosi et Al to receive the Eucharist, pols who vehemently support a so called women’s right over her body as if the life in her womb is not a human made in God’s image commit the graver travesty than the woman who aborts. That is because they promote a concept of common good, the egalitarian so called ‘level playing field’ that is an ideal, a secular utopia that blasphemes the redemptive reality of the Cross of Christ, which calls all men and women to live a holy life for sake of entrance into our true home, the Kingdom of Heaven.

    • Kevy Moranski

      Amen !

    • Sheila

      Yes Amen.

    • Mary

      Those liberal bishops supporting abortion should be severely chastised and be considered for defrocking and excommunication .

  • JimmyD

    This is unjust- not a mention of the primary economic evil of the day, which is capitalism. Capitalism is a Protestant construction. Why not praise and aim at the Catholic medieval guilds? I believe Mr. Arkes’ intentions are good, but this is not even orthodox. His remark on the Prodigal Son is a description of envy – a different problem. The issue is justice. I’m a bit flabbergasted by this, forgive me. This is a golden opportunity to defend the poor from rapacious capitalism, and Mr. Arkes whiffs.

    “It is foolish to speak of the mistake of socialism without confessing the colossal blunder of capitalism.” – G.K. Chesterton

    We must rid ourselves of capitalism, in order to rid ourselves of socialism. At least socialism more nearly has the proper heart, if the wrong head. Of the two, G.K.C. said..

    “My sentiments are with the socialist.” – G.K. Chesterton

    Mr. Arkes misreads the desire to see the poor cared for as the desire for income equality. I forgive him, because battling socialism is necessary and noble, and he might be mired in the trenches of it, and unable to see beyond the evil of socialism to the more subtle evil of capitalism.

    What of Dorothy Day, who stated it was imperative to study “the entire Distrubitist program”?
    St. Francis of Assisi?
    The Catholic Worker movement?
    What of E.F. Schumacher’s “Economics as if People Mattered”?
    St. John Paul II’s articulation of the “third way” between capitalism and socialism?
    Belloc’s “The Servile State”? His great lines “Capitalism ends in social unrest”, and his adoption of Rerum Novarum itself ?

    How could Mr. Arkes, a scholar, possibly miss all these, but an average fool like me doesn’t ? Maybe the author should rub elbows with the poor to get a better perspective ? Lead his research in a new direction? We don’t have to be enslaved by neo-cons. We don’t have to defeat the liberal theologians at the cost of our own faith heritage.

    • Dave Fladlien

      Probably we should define what we mean by “capitalism” and “socialism” before getting too far into this, but some of the things you say are so anathema to what I believe that I’ll take an opening try anyway…

      By what form of logic do you call it “having heart” when a person works his/her head off, tries his/her heart out, building a business from which society will benefit far more than he or she can ever hope to, and then the government takes what they make from it away from them? By what form of logic do you think that anyone will continue to put out that kind of effort knowing that nothing can come of it except more slavery to the state?

      I think you need to think this through carefully, because the agony of a new class of poor who can never again hope to escape poverty is what will result from what you seem to advocate. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience. You can site a lot of sources, but I don’t think you are correctly stating the true position of very many. Socialism has been condemned directly by Pope Leo XIII, by Pope Pius XI, and at least indirectly by Pope St. John XXIII. There are probably more examples. There’s a reason for that.

      • rick

        Capitalism has good and bad aspects. I’ve seen failing, totally sclerotic companies rise phoenix-like when capitalist principals of incentive, empowerment and delegated responsibility are applied. On the other hand I’ve known CEO’s totally consumed with issues like why their rivals have personal jets and they don’t, and what price their stock options should vest at. This excessive preoccupation with personal wealth absolutely works to the net detriment of workers and society as a whole. The idea of “conscious capitalism,” based on the book by John Mackey, has promise I think, although the idea, and the subject of ethics in general, remain, IMO, more lip service in American business schools than something taken seriously.

        • Dave Fladlien

          Rick, I think if one tries to extract a generic concept from what you say, even absent what I said, then that person will inevitably have to conclude that the complaints you make are not a failing in the system, but rather in the personal qualities of the individuals practicing the system. That can’t the norm of judgement, or else Catholicism would be condemned long ago for the shortcomings of various Popes, Bishops, etc., some of which are in this our present time well documented right here on TCT.

          No system works well regardless of the qualities and standards of the individuals running it. I think if one looks at the models reasonably available, then an improved form of capitalism (I call it “Enterprism”) is I think clearly the “right” way to go. That too, though — basically capitalism as it is ideally practiced today but with additional major improvements in banking — would be subject to defeat by a sufficient number of people of ill will.

          • rick

            I was trying for a middle ground between Jimmy D and you. I don’t agree with you that capitalism, unfettered from excessive taxes and regulations ( both of which unfetterings I support ) and improved banking regulation ( I think low current loan volumes are a function more of of low qualified loan demand than regulaton — central banks world wide are begging banks to lend ) can produce a morally just economy. For one thing, the Reagan growth surge started with massive corporate bloat and inefficiency, most of which has been wrung out by 30 years of LBO’s and off-shoring. For another I think environmental issues constrain the growth of the present day carbon fuel / commodity based model. I also disagree with Jimmy that capitalism is immoral. I think there is a zombie like “shareholder value” culture in American big business which neglects all other ethical considerations including in particular employees ( thus giving us Trump), the environment, etc. Basic enterprise principals can thrive IMO but there needs to be change in our business culture for our economic system to be just.

          • Dave Fladlien

            You raise some interesting points, Rick, and I agree and disagree. I think there is a key point which is missed by nearly everyone, where the world seems divided between those who want no regulation of business, and those who want far more government regulation.

            To my mind, and coming from my background (heavily influenced by serious sports), the problem up above is mostly the word “government”. The pressure in some sports is astronomical; yet the rules in many sports, including the two I’ve been involved in a lot of my life, work very well, produce lots of innovation, great competition, and little of the kinds of abuses we see elsewhere (notice please that I said “little”, not “none”).

            The reason for the distinction is simply that in these two sports, the rules are made by very dedicated people who know the sport inside and out, especially the particular area where they participate, and they are dedicated to making the rules produce the results desired. At least I hope that is true, as I have become one of those rule-writers myself. This is very different from government regulations, where people who know little and care less write the rules, often with the intent of enriching themselves at the expense of everyone and everything else. That can’t work, and it doesn’t.

            Bottom Line: I’m not for unfettered capitalism, as I think you feel I am. Not at all; the best games always have good rules. But I do think the rule-makers should be dedicated people who know what they’re doing and work hard to make it work properly for the whole endeavor, not just for themselves.

      • I have to go deeper- what is the business this person poured their heart and soul into?

        I think we’d all agree that an abortionist’s business should be taken away from him, for instance.

    • Stephen_Phelan

      To charge someone with “heterodoxy” you must be able to point to the magisterial teaching which is being rejected or abused. Not Chesterton, who despite his brilliance was economically ignorant as was not “the Church.” Let’s ask the Church what she thinks about socialism:

      Pope Pius XI: “… For Socialism, which could then be termed almost a single system
      and which maintained definite teachings reduced into one body of doctrine, has since then split chiefly into two sections, often opposing each other and even bitterly hostile, without either one however abandoning a position fundamentally contrary to Christian truth that was characteristic of Socialism.” (Quadragesimo Anno, n. 111)

      “Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.” (QA n. 117)

      Professor Arkes may need your forgiveness for something, but it isn’t for this article. Read also JPII’s condemnation of socialism in Centessimus Annus, return with an apology for Prof. Arkes and restate your point with more accuracy and humility. And read up a bit more on the intersection between free market economics and distributism before projecting your ignorance into Prof. Arkes’s much more modest proposal here.

    • Stephen_Phelan

      John Paul II, by the way, never “articulated” a “third way” between capitalism and socialism. He suggested one. Regarding capitalism, here is what he magisterially proclaimed in Centessimus Annus:

      42. Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?

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

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Appreciate this contribution Stephen.

  • PCB

    Prof. Arkes, excellent piece, as always. I do believe that the Church should always be “a voice of one calling in the wilderness”, even if, especially if, it is the only one calling out – and never one calling out to make a deal with the devil, even in order to achieve some perceived good.
    The parable of the Prodigal Son is one that always intrigues me and so I offer only a few observations of my own (maybe, not original) regarding the perhaps less apparent attributes of this story. On face value, it may well appear that the Father has acted in an unjust, or at least, unfair, manner towards the “faithful son” when he treats the “unfaithful son” to a banquet, when disownment and rejection might be the more deserved reception.

    Its interesting to note, however, at the start of the story, when the youngest son asks his father for his share of the inheritance, the father responds, not by simply giving the youngest son half of his worth, so his son may be on his way, but rather he, “divided his wealth between them.” – this division between “them” suggests that both the faithful son, and the unfaithful son, have thus each received their share of the estate (although the older son’s share appears to have remained unliquidated and undistributed), or to put it another way, what ever remains of the estate after distribution to the younger son, necessarily will become the older sons. So later in the story, when the father says to the faithful son, “and all that is mine is yours.” – so it is, and has been since the original division of his wealth, to also include any subsequent appreciation in value realized.

    So, what are the ramifications for the younger son in regards to his prospects of any future inheritance when the father dies? Does justice dictate that the returned son will again receive a share of the inheritance, which now could be argued would necessarily have to come out of the older son’s rightful share? Or, is the younger son now at the mercy or at least, the good will of his older brother (I refrain from using the term, “big brother”), for any award of share, or is he only entitled to continued employment in order that he (the younger) may amass his own share, not through inheritance, but through merit and the fruit of his own labors? I don’t know the answer; these are questions for theologians, philosophers and legal scholars, and I am none of these.

    Of course, with the eternal Father God, the younger son will always have benefit of his Father’s wealth, which would make the point moot, however, there appears to be a useful message within the main message our Lord intends in the telling of this parable. And, of course, its also important to note that nothing in the above observations or reasoning is suggestive that the so-called, “have nots” do not have because they have been, or are, unworthy or unfaithful – it goes without saying, that very often, good, upright, faithful, hardworking people find themselves disadvantaged economically and living at barely subsistence levels or in poverty.

    • Dave Fladlien

      Interesting points: I too have had at least a couple of those thoughts about the parable, especially the status of the younger son going forward.

      The last point in your comment, though, about hard working people coming up empty and being stuck with the consequences, is a very genuine and valid one. I have known some of those cases. In some instances it is really hard to know the answer, but in many cases I think the situation you point out confirms my view that there is a genuine lack of opportunity, or of quality opportunity, in our societies.

      In my opinion, if a person wants a chance at a better job, there ought to be a strong enough economy driving the society that many (or at least several) companies will want to give that person a chance because they need better people (or more of them) if they are to thrive. My Dad, who built his own successful company, at times hired people simply because he thought they were good people who’d benefit his company. I remember once saying to him, ‘What are you going to do with this person?’ My Dad’s reply was that he didn’t know, but he’d find something because that person was a good person with potential and eventually having that person would pay off.

      Those who are severely disabled or disadvantaged need (at least until they can recover) outside help; most disadvantaged persons need real opportunity, either to get started or to advance, but our over-stifled economy prevents creation of jobs for those who want them, and denies working capital to those who need it (e.g. the far over-reaching and counter-productive restrictions of Dodd-Frank). Those situations are deplorable. They have to change.

  • Steven Barrett

    We have been blessed through the years to have had consistent prolife politicians, those who will vote steadfast against abortion and for maintaining the social safety net programs designed to help avoid malnutrition among our very littlest to our very oldest, not to mention many other fine programs providing school lunches and early start programs for kids, etc. Sadly, we’re nowadays having our voting choices cut drastically by the rise of politicians spouting the need for be “more accountable” for “taxpayers’ hard earned dollars” thus the newer pols’ ever strong desire for cutting here there and everywhere, regarless of the longterm costs and to whom … all the while they’re pushing for a no-compromise stance on abortion. Black n’ white choices. If that’s all we get, don’t be surprised if fewer prolife voters bother voting. Don’t be surprised if those who are elected are the most cost-conscious mindset, regardless of the balance Jesus warned us in MT 25 to not forget the “least among His brethren.” Today’s choices, found in both parties and given in different ways give us little leeway. But what are we supposed to do; voluntarily give up what so many others buried in graveyards across the world died for?



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