New Sherwood

Pope Francis is more right than wrong on economics

Thomas Storck explains:

“It is hard to imagine how a Catholic would presume to express any opinions on social or economic matters who has not actually studied these (earlier papal) documents and made their teaching his own. But in any case, I hope that those who have felt alarm at the Church’s latest social document can rest assured that Pope Francis is simply continuing the constant teaching of his predecessors, successors of St. Peter, who will without any doubt teach that same doctrine until the end of the age.”

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December 15, 2013 - Posted by | Catholicism, Pope Francis

9 Comments »

  1. My own fears, as a non-Catholic, is that Pope Francis “is simply continuing the constant teaching of his predecessors” in Latin America. What he is teaching isn’t new or even quasi-Marxist. It predates Karl Marx by many centuries. And like modern Marxism, it’s been tested by history and found wanting. In fact, I suspect that one reason for the huge gap between rich and poor in Latin America is the result of Catholic teachings.

    For instance, treating poverty as a virtue rather than an occasional necessity to achieve certain goals. By setting as an ideal something most don’t find even practical must less appealing, the Catholic Church creates a culture that, unable to accept the ideal, rejects all ideals. The rich strive to be rich by any means rather than to enrich others at the same time. And all the churchly whining has little impact. What does that ‘vows of poverty’ crowd know about life?

    And the same can be said for chastity as a supreme virtue. Making married life a sort of second best results in a culture where doing that second-best well is all too rarely not even tried. “I’m not a priest,” many males say, “so when I get a bit ahead financially I’ll have a pretty mistress on the side.” And he does that rather than work to improve the future of his children. How in the world can a wifeless, childless priest model anything else? He can’t.

    Recently, I’ve come to realize that groups often become locked in to responses that worked at a particular time in their history and continue in those responses when they make little sense.

    * Black people in the U.S. keep trying to recreate the civil rights movement of the sixties.

    * Evangelicals often hunker down and avoid political controversy like their pietistic ancestors in a Europe of hostile state churches.

    * Jews try to eagerly please the group whose hold on power they see as most certain no matter how badly they’re treated by that group. That worked in a Europe dominated by monarchies. It doesn’t work in democracies like the U.S.

    * All too much of Roman Catholicism is literally Roman-era Catholicism. Deeply embedded in Catholic teaching are responses that made sense under Roman persecution, as Paul notes when he advises against marriage. Those teachings were prudent in an era when local persecutions meant a need to not be encumbered by wealth and able to flee quickly. And not being married was prudent for church leaders who might be especially targeted by Rome during the empire-wide persecutions.

    But in every case, adaptations suited for one context function poorly in other contexts. What worked in a church persecuted by Rome is hideously poorly suited for a Latin America dominated by a rich oligarchy.

    I might add that in almost every case these counter-productive values have become so deeply embedded in the core values of a group, that they are extremely difficult to remove. Evangelicals, for instance, have a faith that’s so focused on how the self is feeling in the present (something I call “Me feel now.”) that they find it difficult to engage in public debates effectively. Any hurt inflicted on them means a retreat to where they can feel better because Jesus is always in that feel good sphere.

    My personal break with this all-too-human attitude came when I worked night shift caring for children with leukemia. I soon realized that one of my young patients could get in trouble and die within minutes. If I were working with any preconceptions, I might not catch that they were in trouble. I forced myself to have none. Any child I was caring for, I would remind myself, might get into a crisis that might require me to take some rather extreme measures to make sure that we responded properly. And that meant I needed to make sure I wasn’t stuck playing my role and doing what was expected of me. If need be, I had to find a way to force calls to go out and wake our top specialists at 2 or 3 am. If my hunch proved wrong, I told myself, I could always get another job. Those kids could not get another life.

    My fear is that Pope Francis is not doing anything new, that he’s doing what all too many Latin American Catholic leaders have been doing on over the centuries and that the result with be the same centuries-old failures with the same resulting poverty and misery.

    –Michael W. Perry, My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer

    Comment by Michael W. Perry | December 15, 2013 | Reply

  2. Happy Gaudete Sunday, Mr. Perry. There are a lot of erroneous ideas in your comment, but let’s save this conversation for another (more relevant) post.

    Comment by Blogmaster | December 16, 2013 | Reply

  3. How in the world can a wifeless, childless priest model anything else?

    Ya mean, like Jesus?

    Comment by William Luse | December 16, 2013 | Reply

  4. His take on social teachings are fairly unremarkable, and unobjectionable, with caveats. Starting with: what he fails to do is to add a sufficient element of transcendence to it at the outset, meaning that the old immanentist errors will invariably rear their ugly heads and work their mischief.

    Speaking of mischief and bad news:

    http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2013/12/for-bishops-francis-runs-wuerlpool.html?m=1

    Comment by Dale Price | December 16, 2013 | Reply

  5. Good point about the caveats, Dale. And thanks for the bad news link.

    Now it’s out with Burke, in with Wuerl.

    So we can expect more of this:

    http://lesfemmes-thetruth.blogspot.com/2012/03/no-letup-in-fr-guarnizo-persecution.html

    Comment by Blogmaster | December 16, 2013 | Reply

  6. “Ya mean, like Jesus?”

    Touche.

    Comment by Blogmaster | December 16, 2013 | Reply

  7. And the same can be said for chastity as a supreme virtue. Making married life a sort of second best results in a culture where doing that second-best well is all too rarely not even tried. “I’m not a priest,” many males say, “so when I get a bit ahead financially I’ll have a pretty mistress on the side.” And he does that rather than work to improve the future of his children. How in the world can a wifeless, childless priest model anything else? He can’t.

    First of all, you’re confusing chasity with celibacy. Even married people are called to the former–don’t treat each other like glorified sex toys, no porn, etc.

    Secondly, I don’t see any widespread consciousness in the Catholic world that marriage is a second-best state, and that people plan to fornicate on that basis. Perhaps back in the old days (however defined), but not now.

    Third: what William said about Jesus. It’s a rather stunted view of the priesthood that believes they only model some kind of sad childlessness.

    Comment by Dale Price | December 16, 2013 | Reply

  8. You’re welcome, Jeff, albeit I earnestly wish I was delivering good news. And, yes, I’m afraid that’s exactly the case–a couple of acquaintances already mentioned the case of Fr. Guarnizo.

    A nostalgic return to the wholesomely non-obsessive (I guess he *warned* us…) Jadot era seems to be on tap. Looks like I’d better pack air-sickness bags.

    Comment by Dale Price | December 16, 2013 | Reply

  9. Mr. Perry,
    The vow of poverty is an evangelical counsel, rooted in the Bible (therefore “evangelical”) but not a virtue per se.
    As with the vows of celibacy and obedience, it involves a kind of sacrifice on the part of the individual who freely takes these vows. But what is Love without sacrifice?
    Because it’s voluntary, the vow of poverty cannot compare to the involuntary (therefore not necessarily virtuous) poverty of the suffering poor we all aim to alleviate.
    Just because a lot of Roman Catholicism is “Roman-era” does not mean it’s passed its expiration date.
    The truth about marriage is still the truth from earlier than Roman times to the present. I come from the outer reaches of the Roman Catholic Church, at the other side of the globe, and the truth even there still applies and has been for at least 400 years.

    Comment by Marietta | December 17, 2013 | Reply


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