Tuesday, September 22, 2015

From the Wall Street Journal – Sept 21, 2015 + blogger response

The Politics of Pope Francis
Perhaps America and this pope can learn from each other.

Sept. 21, 2015 7:17 p.m. ET

Pope Francis arrives Tuesday on his first visit to the United States, and the welcome event illustrates his unique and paradoxical appeal. The Argentine pope is being celebrated more for his embrace of progressive economics than for the Catholic Church’s moral teachings.
Millions of American Catholics will of course welcome the pope as a spiritual messenger and the head of a religion of some 1.2 billion world-wide. As a pastoral shepherd he has set a Christian example that Americans of all faiths might emulate with his modest life-style and manifest concern for the poor and least powerful. His public American itinerary—to a Harlem school, a Philadelphia prison—reflects this pastoral mission. He is a man of God who avoids the ostentatious trappings of man.
Yet the pope will also visit the White House and speak to Congress, and this is where his tour takes on an extra-religious resonance. Pope Francis has overtly embraced the contemporary progressive political agenda of income redistribution and government economic control to reduce climate change.
President Obama, who shares both ambitions, is therefore giving the pope the kind of hearty embrace we can’t imagine him giving to his predecessor Pope Benedict. Secular progressives who disdain the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion, same-sex marriage and divorce are ignoring all of that catechistic unpleasantness and claiming the pope as an evangelist for their agenda. You might call them cafeteria progressives, after the old line about Catholics who are selective in which church teachings they follow.
There is some risk for the pope and his church in this progressive bear hug. One is that the pope will come to be seen as a seeker of political popularity more than a speaker of hard and eternal truths. Another is that politicians may use the pope to serve their own political and cultural needs, as with the official White House guest list to meet the pope.
The Journal reported last week that the Vatican was upset that the presence of prominent dissenters from Catholic teaching will make it appear that the pope endorses their views. We doubt the White House intended any offense, but the oversight reveals how little secular liberal elites understand about traditional religious mores. You can bet the protocol office would not make such a mistake with a Muslim cleric of similar importance.
Our own hope for the papal visit is that he has a chance to better understand America and the capitalist roots of its prosperity. Like many Argentines of the left, Pope Francis seems given to suspicion about American wealth. But liberty and not coercion is the source of our strength and of the wealth that has lifted millions out of poverty.
Cuba, where Francis arrived this weekend, has denied its people economic freedom—and religious freedom—for the six decades of its revolution and remains poor and unable to develop the “new technologies” that Pope Francis has said should be available for all.
The U.S. has prospered by respecting property rights and relying on the voluntary decisions of individuals. The rule of law here means that unlike in countries such as Argentina, an American can build a large, successful business even if no one in the government likes him. And unlike in Argentina, capitalist success creates millions of jobs that allow men and women without political connections to support their families and live in dignity.
In Washington, D.C., the pope will visit a homeless program run by Catholic Charities. But he should know that Catholic Charities can do its good work because of the contributions from lay Catholics who succeed in a capitalist economy. The pope may also be surprised to learn that individual Americans voluntarily do far more than any government to assist the world’s poor.
A 2013 report from the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity found that nearly $31 billion of annual U.S. government aid to developing countries was eclipsed by $39 billion of private charity, plus another $108 billion of private capital flows. Americans also sent more than $100 billion of remittances to the developing world, often from immigrants working in the U.S. Nobody goes to Cuba to earn money to support relatives in America.
As for the environment and climate change, Pope Francis is sometimes given to an almost Malthusian, anti-modern pessimism. In his recent encyclical, “Laudato Si,” Francis wrote that “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
Well, he should have seen East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the air in Beijing today. Coercive governments are the worst befoulers of the environment. Democratic capitalism has created the wealth and electoral consent to clean the air and water, and only continued economic growth will create the resources to deal with climate change if it does become a serious threat to the Earth.
Catholics understand that while the pope speaks for God on matters of faith and morals, his infallibility does not extend to his economics or environmentalism. We hope he enjoys his visit to the land of the free, and that the education goes both ways.”


Blogger: Pope Francis, as successor to Peter as rock that stands on the cornerstone that is Christ, is speaking the social doctrine of the Church when he speaks on political and economic issues. And the social doctrine of the Church speaks the person as made in the image and likeness of God and revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ.

From John Paul II's Centesimus Annus

#41 - “The Church’s social doctrine is not a ‘third way’ between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: rather, it constitutes a category of its own. Nor is it an ideology, but rather the accurate formulations of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church’s tradition.”[1]
To speak specifically, “the complex realities of human existence” means the human person understood as image of the divine Person of the Son as pure and total self-gift to the Father which is His identity. Conceptually and semantically, Vatican II formulated this divine/supernatural dynamic as “finding self by the sincere gift of self.”[2]
                Hence, Pope Francis is totally coherent with himself when he opposes an anthropocentrism that uses technology to dominate and control reality for the purposes of the self, and an economy that is built on profit for self. He sees this as the hallmark of modernity that has it roots in a decayed Christianity and “Christian anthropology [that] gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world.”[3]
Go no further than Centesimus Annus where John Paul II writes that “the Church cannot abandon humanity, and that ‘this human person is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission… the way traced out by Christ himself… This, and this alone, is the principle which inspires the Church’s social doctrine.” [4]
            It would be valuable in the light of the Pope’s visit to refresh ourselves in the mind of John Paul II concerning the meaning of capitalism  and socialism as ideological models that replace the human person as a structure rather than a dynamic.
The Meaning of Capitalism and Socialism: [Centesimus 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 sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.
The Marxist solution has failed, but the realities of marginalization and exploitation remain in the world, especially the Third World, as does the reality of human alienation, especially in the more advanced countries. Against these phenomena the Church strongly raises her voice. Vast multitudes are still living in conditions of great material and moral poverty. The collapse of the Communist system in so many countries certainly removes an obstacle to facing these problems in an appropriate and realistic way, but it is not enough to bring about their solution. Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces.
43. The Church has no models to present; models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another.[84] For such a task the Church offers her social teaching as an indispensable and ideal orientation, a teaching which, as already mentioned, recognizes the positive value of the market and of enterprise, but which at the same time points out that these need to be oriented towards the common good. This teaching also recognizes the legitimacy of workers' efforts to obtain full respect for their dignity and to gain broader areas of participation in the life of industrial enterprises so that, while cooperating with others and under the direction of others, they can in a certain sense "work for themselves"[85] through the exercise of their intelligence and freedom.
The integral development of the human person through work does not impede but rather promotes the greater productivity and efficiency of work itself, even though it may weaken consolidated power structures. A business cannot be considered only as a "society of capital goods"; it is also a "society of persons" in which people participate in different ways and with specific responsibilities, whether they supply the necessary capital for the company's activities or take part in such activities through their labor. To achieve these goals there is still need for a broad associated workers' movement, directed towards the liberation and promotion of the whole person.
            Notice how the mind collapses into the abstract ideological model rather than confronting and staying with the existential working person as the reality and dynamic from which both individual and social dimensions flow (becoming self, finding self, by the dynamic of mastering and owning self in order to make the gift of self to others). It is so much easier to collapse into the ideology where freedom and identity are lost.

[1] John Paul II, “Of Social Concern.”
[2] Gaudium et spes: “man, the only earthly being God had willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.”
[3] And this error was seen to arise in the late middle ages with Duns Scotus and William of Occam
[4] John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #53.

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