Archives for October 2010

Not social justice

Not Social Justice

Precisely because the Catholic teaching of social justice is important to us, its concepts have been twisted in the US political process. The term “social justice” has been co-opted with a new, almost opposite meaning – to forcefully redistribute wealth through taxation and to make decisions for all through a large, powerful central government.

While not precisely meeting the definition of socialism, these are hallmarks of it. When you hear politicians refer to “social justice,” “common good,” or even “preferential option for the poor” – they are really referring to a liberal social agenda, supported by a collectivist economic system and led by themselves (the elite). They are purposefully usurping our terms with the intent to mislead. This is far from the concepts of Catholic social justice.

It is important to note that no US political party embraces the true social justice concepts embodied in Catholic teaching. Their public goals and hidden agendas are often at odds with the genuine teaching. The Catholic Church does not endorse any political party.

The Church also does not endorse any form of government. However, it specifically condemns socialism. Long before the term “socialism” was coined, Saint John Chrysostom (347 to 407 AD) wrote:

Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone?

Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold form the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift.

Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm.

Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first – and then they will joyfully share their wealth.

Saint John Chrysostom
Doctor of the Church

1,500+ years later our shepherds continue to warn us against the lies and false promises of socialism.

…Socialism…   cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.

Quadragesimo Anno, 117, Encyclical of Pope Pius XI
Reconstruction of the Social Order, May 15, 1931

Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism.

Mater Et Magistra, 34, Pope John XXIII
On Christianity and Social Progress, May 15, 1961

…the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil.

Centesimus Annus, 13, Encyclical of Pope John Paul II
January 5, 1991

Socialists…   debase the natural union of man and woman…   the [family] bond they…   deliver up to lust. Lured…   by the greed of present goods…   they assail the right of property. While they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title, by labor, or by thrift.

Quod Apostolici Muneris, 1, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII
On Socialism, December 28, 1878

Read these quotes. There is little more that I could add.

This is part 2 of 2. Last week I presented the Catholic teaching of social justice.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #12)

7 Quick Takes Friday

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Without further ado:

— 1 —

This video from Project Truth simply asks “Have you any conception what abortion is all about?” It is NOT distasteful (while abortion on the other-hand, is completely distasteful). The Irish government had banned it.

— 2 —

Father Mark Gruber was fired last year from his job at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania for downloading pornography on his computer. He didn’t deny it. In fact, he said almost nothing.

Months later, one of his students publicly admitted that it was in fact he – not Father Gruber – who downloaded that content. He had confessed his sin to Father in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Father Gruber is bound, regardless of any and all repercussions to himself, to maintain his silence. Priests have been martyred maintaining the confessional seal (as they must). Some questions remain, but at this point this story appears to be not of a shameful priest but of a good one.

— 3 —

Stephen Colbert testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. He was invited by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the subcommittee chairwoman.

— 4 —

Two weeks ago, 25 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activists attended a Mass celebrated by Archbishop John Nienstedt (The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis). Most were students from (the Catholic) St. John’s University and College of St. Benedict. They wore rainbow buttons and sashes in protest of Church teaching.

When they approached the archbishop to receive the Eucharist, some even reaching for the Blessed Sacrament, they were denied. Instead, Archbishop Nienstedt offered only a blessing. These protesters have pulled this stunt before and I think the archbishop handled it very well. It would be better still if Catholic colleges would stop tolerating open rebellion against the teaching of the Magisterium.

The incident was covered in the student newspaper, but I don’t recommend its slanted coverage. Instead, read Father Zuhlsdorf’s analysis.

— 5 —

Humility in action. Recently Jimmy Carter (D) appeared on NBC News a gave this frank, candid assessment of his post-presidency:

“I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents,” Carter assessed. “Primarily because of [my] activism and the injection of working at the Carter Center and in international affairs, and, to some degree, domestic affairs.”

— 6 —

Today’s quote:

Time magazine’s cover story this week about the influence of life in the womb states the case: “We are the way we are because it’s in our genes: the DNA we inherited at conception.” Yes, upbringing and environment have a huge impact on our lives, but one thing never changes until our last natural breath: our DNA. Each human embryo is unique — it does not have the same DNA of the mother or father. That cell not only becomes us, it is us.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron

— 7 —

Saturday Evening Blog Post

Elizabeth Esther kindly hosts a feature she calls The Saturday Evening Blog Post. Published monthly every first Saturday, it features the best post in the preceding month on each of a few dozen Christian blogs. The “best” entries are chosen by the authors themselves (so they should know!).

It is a great way to discover new blogs. Be sure to check-it out. My entry last month was the Only Catholics go to heaven?.

Social justice

Social Justice

The Catholic teaching of social justice reflects our obligation to love one another. It guides our conscience and actions with every person made in God’s image, regardless of how they may differ from us or even how they treat us. This broad teaching at its core, affirms the dignity of the person.

We hold that all human life is sacred, from the moment of conception to natural death. The respect for human dignity is the basis of our social teaching. Simply put, every person is our brother or sister and should be treated accordingly by us individually and by government. We are one community in support of each other and the valid promotion of common good. We call this solidarity.

The poor and vulnerable are especially recognized as priorities. Often their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, employment, health care and education are neglected. Society must be structured to give everyone the opportunity to attain these foundational attributes of self-sufficiency. As the Church and individually, we are called to help as we are able to improve their circumstances. Governments must not deny rights or justice. This option for the poor is the true test of fulfilling the commandment to love one another.

If you cannot remember everything, instead of everything, I beg you, remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth but theirs. If we have this attitude, we will certainly offer our money; and by nourishing Christ in poverty here and laying up great profit hereafter, we will be able to attain the good things which are to come, by the grace and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom (be glory, honor, and might,) to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Saint John Chrysostom
Doctor of the Church

Justice also demands that all people have a fundamental right to participate fully in the economic, political and cultural life of society. Through this participation we form the community. Barring participation marginalizes people and is an affront to human dignity. Everyone counts.

Workers have a right to a fair and just workplace. Jobs must offer productive work, fair wages and safe working conditions. Organizing of unions must also be permitted. There are limits however, such as amassing excessive wealth at the expense of basic necessities for others. I would also argue that unionizing sole providers of critical services leads to societal harm outweighing the interests of the few.

We came into this world with nothing and will leave the same way. In the interim, most of us are temporarily entrusted with some level of property and other wealth. Simply being wealthy is not contrary to social justice. What is important is how we use our wealth and that we take prudent steps to preserve the environment for future generations.

Government is to have a constructive role in our lives by protecting human rights, promoting human dignity and building the common good. Large, all encompassing, central government is not an authentic means to social justice. Our principle of subsidiarity demands that governmental services, where necessarily provided by government, be provided at the lowest level possible. Doing so provides the services closer to those receiving them, tailored more specifically for their needs and input, and limits broad power being concentrated into the hands of a few.

Governments must also promote peace and avoid war. Catholic social teaching provides for just war in very limited circumstances. It may be engaged only by competent authority, to advance comparative justice, for a right intention (generally – a just cause), as a last resort, with a high probability of success, waged with proportionality of the good to be attain balanced by the damage caused, and by moral means (i.e. subject to “rules of war”).

This is part 1 of 2. Next week I will publish Not social justice – the warnings of popes and a Saint on socialism.

Elsewhere: hope and change


Often the American sense of how others view our politics is one of finally moving left to a more liberal position. One cornerstone of that agenda is the perversion of maternal health into the unrestricted, encouraged and taxpayer funded slaughter of the innocent. We remember, for example, when more than 200,000 Germans rallied in front of Berlin’s Victory Column to support presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008. Not everyone fits this stereotype of foreign hopes for America.

Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula is a Doctor of Dogmatic Theology and head of Human Life International’s Rome office. He recently shared his outsider perspective on Catholic Exchange.

For example, almost two years ago a majority of American voters elected a man because he breezily promised “Hope” and “Change,” and too few thought to ask such basic questions as: Hope in whom? Or Change to what, precisely, and from what? A religious fervor seemed to overtake masses of people for whom actual religion has obviously become an afterthought, and they suspended all critical thought in order to float away on a sea of make believe hope and liberal change.

Yet such seas can be much rockier than the salesman leads us to believe. This man elected by Americans seems to be on an economic kamikaze mission, he acts as if he is embarrassed to represent your nation abroad, he spurns historical American allies while indicating to the scoundrels of the world that they belong among the elite, he does not attend services on Sunday, then seems surprised that some question his commitment to his faith” truly one could go on and on about the many problems that this man presents to the nation that elected him.

But the most troubling thing one notices when paying close attention to the president’s actions is his utter disregard for the human person. It appears that every initiative he is enthusiastic about is designed to diminish the person, and increase his dependency on government to live his life for him.

That is, for those persons who are actually allowed to live their lives. We already know the staggering toll taken by legalized abortion, and we know that the current president has without qualification supported every expansion of the murderous procedure he has ever had the opportunity to support. Not that he would agree that killing these tiny human beings is murder: Like many, he thinks that some human beings are persons worthy of life, and some human beings are not persons, and thus may be destroyed for any reason whatsoever.

The historical, philosophical and moral problems are ones that the president, and most other proponents of abortion refuse to confront, at least openly. If we agree that all persons should be protected and allowed to live until their natural death, then to make abortion and euthanasia legal, we have to find ways to deny the personhood of those who are not wanted.

The problem for those who buy into this bifurcation between humanity and personhood is first historical: this is exactly the formula employed by every mass murderer in history. It is the semantic of oppression, a procedure through which the groups that are targeted to be destroyed or exploited are described with traits that go from having human deficiencies to even denying their humanity. Once this semantic takes hold, those in power go about destroying the newly-depersonalized.

The second problem is philosophical: What exactly determines why this human being should live, and this other one should not? Those who claim that the difference is one of an ability to demonstrate conscience and will or some other more or less measurable trait always ignore the fact that such traits are often transitory. I can be sentient one minute, non-sentient the next, then back to my old self. A baby starts life with very limited conscience and will and all of us run the risk of ending our lives with a diminished state of consciousness. These criteria are also notoriously subjective and subject to revision.

The undeniable fact is that those who defend the destruction of innocent human life in the form of abortion and euthanasia cannot confront the moral issues, nor can they confront the history that proves beyond a doubt the similarity between their reasoning and that of the most heinous murderers of history.

Read the whole article entitled Politics and the American Person.

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

CCC 2270

My hope and change – that Americans recognize their complicity in the murder of 1.37 million babies every year. This is the termination of life itself. No faithful Catholic can possibly vote for a pro-abortion candidate over a pro-life one, regardless of ANY other consideration.

In the time it took you to read this post, a dozen more babies were killed.