The Latest Debate Over Catholic Social Thought

Pope Francis’ statements about economics (and related questions, such as environmentalism and “fracking”) have caused much consternation among conservative Catholics in the United States. The Holy Father’s comments on the “greed” of capitalism and his seeming belief that capitalism causes income inequality rather than providing explosive growth and increased prosperity historically seem without nuance at best, and ignorant at worst. They seem worlds away from the appreciation for wealth creation and private enterprise evidenced by Pope John Paul II in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, or even the more measured statements by his successor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Journals considered conservative have published attacks on the Pope as an “ideologue,” while Catholics no one would mistake for American-style liberals are rushing to the Pope’s defense. Writer Damon Linker, who is more of a religious liberal, has gone so far as to say that Francis’ seeming position on economics has caused a “war” between the Republican Party, especially its Catholic elements, and the Pope.

Recently two prominent Catholic authors have entered the fray. John Zmirak finds in much Catholic reflection a rejection of the” bourgeois mind,” a mind that for him has been a great boon and benefit to human flourishing. A faithful Catholic need not be antibourgeois, and Catholic teaching need not be authoritative on economics. Indeed, we should be “loud and proud” bourgeois citizens. Zmirak has expanded on these reflections in a recent article titled “The Myth of Catholic Social Teaching,” in which he argues that the effort to piece together the statements of popes and bishops to create a coherent social teaching that demands some level of religious obedience is simply a mistaken project, and in fact supports those whose ideas are simply a warmed-over radicalism that is actually hostile to the Church. Rather, we should see Catholic Social Teaching “not as analogous to Eucharistic doctrine and Marian dogmas, but as something much more akin to the Catholic literary tradition—a treasure trove of often-brilliant insights and deep investigations into the best ways for men to live which claims our respectful attention.”

Zmirak is actually fighting two opponents here: first are the Catholics who confuse socialism with Christianity; and second are the reactionary Catholics of the last century or so who have advocated an amalgam of “third way” alternatives, which tends to elevate the noble and peasant over the shopkeeper and entrepreneur, even though—when faced with the alternatives—people prefer bourgeois civilization, which has created unsurpassed material advantages. Zmirak argues for the vision of the economist Wilhelm Röpke, for whom “the common good was best served by leaving sovereignty in the hands of consumers, allowing individuals to choose among a wide variety of goods and services offered by many suppliers. The principle of competition, he believed, must be sacrosanct, since it served to police the behavior of businessmen better even than a strict, impartial legal system (which he also insisted was needed).”

On the other hand, Catholic Social Teaching, or “CST,” has resulted in a wide raft of academic and other literature, attempting to do what Zmirak says is impossible: discern a coherent set of themes based in Catholic teaching applicable to contemporary social and academic questions. Economists like Luigino Bruni have explored the connections between economics and happiness, which is strikingly different in some respects from a pure market economy, and one that seems to be more in align with human flourishing. Law professors have a group blog devoted to exploring the particulars of a “Catholic Legal Theory.” And most recently Anthony Esolen has published a book strongly defending the uniqueness and consistency of Catholic Social Teaching, and that there is in fact a unique way of “being” Catholic that must affect larger social and economic questions.

Like Zmirak, Esolen believes that the Catholic tradition must be given respectful attention, but unlike Zmirak Esolen argues that the truths of the Faith extend into non-theological questions, and those “brilliant insights and deep investigations” are more than that. Drawing on a range of papal documents, Esolen argues that if the statements Catholicism makes about man are true, then its statements about economic matters, such as the nature of work, the need for economic systems to be in service of the family, and the moral obligations of employers, must also be true. And although he freely admits to not being an expert in the niches of economic or monetary policies, he states forthrightly that a “Catholic society must always remain wary of worldly prosperity. Riches may be a blessing—may be—but whether they are or not, they carry a grave duty. The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Each of these positions has sharp questions for the other. For those seeking a definitive and distinctive Catholic contribution to social order, Zmirak’s position seems too instrumental. Using Catholicism’s rich tradition simply for “brilliant insights” for whatever position you may already support seems underwhelming. Zmirak’s references to pure competition and bourgeois capitalism seem to have no, or arbitrary, limiting principles, and so there seems no assurance that such a society, protective of its middle classes and respecting economic growth, to change into a society based on a simple consumerism. Jesus advised the rich young man to go and give away what he has; surely those admonitions should guide not just private behavior but also the expectations of society? And Zmirak’s analyses do not fully address some strong consistencies in CST and is not exactly clear on how to interpret levels of teaching authority; to the average Catholic, Humanae Vitae and Rerum Novarum are both encyclicals. Why should one praise the first and disdain the second?

But Esolen’s argument, for those in Zmirak’s camp, seems equally problematic. First, it smacks of a weird sort of absolutism—that there is a platonic Catholic socio-economic order, which flies in the face of the Church’s actual experience. Even now, she lives in a variety of economic and social systems. Her purpose is to lead people to heaven, not the counting house. Further, the Church cannot possibly know about economics what She knows about theology and besides, too much of the hierarchy and presbyterate is of a generation that has been infected by a twentieth-century economic “liberalism” that prefers central planning and government largesse over entrepreneurial wealth creation and individual charity. Given that such positions are problematic at best and dangerous at worst, why should Catholics, especially lay Catholics out there in the world of business, pay them heed?

These are tough questions, and one not made easier by the lack of specificity in much of this debate. It is all well and good to say Catholic social thought should not mean government control over the economy, but what does that really mean? The debate over the applicability of Catholic principles too often in the United States stays at the federal level. But one principle of Church teaching is subsidiarity, that is, that social problems should be addressed at the lowest level of government possible. Is there anything wrong, from a zmirakian view, with “blue laws” at the township level? That would seem to be an appropriate exercise of subsidiarity if the people closest to that law vote on it and can change it without too much trouble, yet it does conflict with a principle of “pure competition” in some respects. The state in Catholic thought is rooted in a the principle that “authority must be guided by the moral law,” and, according to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, must “recognize, respect and promote human values.” Allowing a range of government action would allow that principle to be expressed. Further, it would protect against an overarching state that engages in massive wealth transfers via a welfare state. Such a focus on subsidiarity could also allow an Esolen-like community to grow in accordance with their members’ substantive vision.”

For example, the just wage is a question that vexes both Esolen and Zmirak. For the latter, a just wage is presumably what the market would bear. Church teaching cannot tell the world what to pay in the varied and changing markets across geographic areas and industries; relying on some abstract formula for a “just wage” would seem to be the kind of socialist tinkering that can be nothing less than disastrous. But Esolen sees the Biblical injunctions about the rich man and the eye of the needle as positive injunctions to society; of course the rich must pay a just wage to their employees, but if a society will not expect that of them—indeed, if such a society simply encourages “profit maximization”—then many employers will not. And not only would that be disastrous to the employees whose families now have to work harder and perhaps have both parents leave the home, causing familial disruption (and still further social problems) but it also endangers the souls of the rich. Catholics cannot shrug their shoulders at such results and mumble something about the “invisible hand” or “spontaneous order.” But taken seriously, Esolen’s position raises further questions: what if a factory owner reduces a “just” wage, not from a race-to-the-bottom type materialism, but to hire other workers to try, even if barely, to save more from destitution?

Or take the question of licensing. Esolen speaks approvingly in his recent book about some sort of a guild system. His point, to be fair, is not only economic; the guilds played a large role in culture formation as well as economic activity. For Zmirak this would seem to be simply romantic nostalgia: as a practical matter, guilds can harm consumers by limiting their choices. But we already do have an extensive licensing culture—everyone from lawyers to yoga teachers can seek certification—which does perform some modest guild-like functions, and that has cramped opportunities for those seeking a living. And the state never loses an opportunity to insert itself as the “accrediting body,” thus increasing its control over our lives.

There is, however, a piece missing from each of these analyses, and this is what makes analyzing the applicability of Catholic principles to mundane economics so difficult. Zmirak, drawing on Röpke, recognizes that market exchanges are an “ethically neutral method by which, in virtue of a contractual reciprocity between the parties to an exchange, an increase of one’s own well-being is achieved by means of an increase in the well-being of others.” If that is the case, the ethical culture surrounding these neutral exchanges is paramount; a Catholic culture will condition that free market in certain ways. For Esolen, he sometimes elides over the notion of individual vocation in his desire to preserve family and community. The free market has allowed individuals to pursue great and good projects that traditional cultures might have stifled, and this sense of vocation should be encouraged. Some, for example, are called to be molecular biologists or astronauts or creators of new products that are beneficial to humanity. An economic culture must allow that sense of vocation to flourish.

Esolen and Zmirak both have the right targets: a secular culture that treats citizens as pawns of the state, and church leaders who mistake the tax collector for a charity. But the last century has definitely shown that a misunderstanding of man can lead to horrific economic and political conditions. The Catholic tradition offers rich resources as to what man is, and his proper end. The positions of Zmirak and Esolen are themselves rich interpretations of that tradition.

Editor’s note: The image above is a Depression-era mural painted by Seymour Fogel in 1938 and located in the Department of Health and Human Services building in Washington, DC.

Gerald J. Russello


Gerald J. Russello is a Fellow of the Chesterton Institute at Seton Hall University and editor of The University Bookman. He is also the editor of the 2013 edition of Christopher Dawson’s Religion and Culture from Catholic University of America Press.

  • Daniel P

    “Further, the Church cannot possibly know about economics what She knows about theology…”

    But it’s unclear what the Church needs to know about economics. For instance, a system which depends on usury against the poor (like modern capitalism) is not just. A Catholic cannot defend it — though a Catholic could reform it into some new kind of capitalism.

    • JP

      Err… I think that is called Market Socialism and it has been tried in Japan and Europe. The long term results have been disastrous.

      • Daniel P

        It doesn’t matter what the results are. If usury is wrong, then any system based on it is also wrong.

        • JP

          Usury allows farmers to grow bumper crops (through the future’s market); usury allows speculators to discover and signal corporate malfeasance (through short sells); usury allows companies to sell their products to poorer nations and cashed strapped companies to operate (through short term loans). Usury, aka credit, has its uses.

          • Daniel P

            I didn’t object to credit. I object to large-scale rip-offs in the name of credit. Our economy is FULL of them, and they are a leading reason why one income won’t raise a family anymore.

            • Almost all the ripoffs have GOVERNMENT involvement, which you ignore and call “modern capitalism”.

              And before you pass on criticizing credit, you better check with the people that frequent this board that do.You’ll get throuwn out of the land magic pixie dust and cornucopias of plenty.

              Additionally, futures markets are not instruments of credit, they are instruments of speculation.

        • craig

          For my part, I’d be content for a decent magisterial explanation of exactly what is and is not usury, in the terminology of contemporary finance and the context of fiat money. Most of the explanations one can find on the internet are pre-industrial in outlook and assume money=gold.

    • Vinny

      “THE POOR”. Sounds like some isolated group of people. Groups aren’t static they’re dynamic with numerous people moving in and out of them all the time. What we need is opportunity for life, liberty and the motivation to pursue happiness. First we must allow life, then freedom with responsibility tempered by morality is what allows us to pursue happiness. Work is a virtue.

      • Daniel P

        I never even came close to defending large scale welfare programs that enable people to be lazy.

      • St JD George

        Amen, and being a sloth is a cardinal sin. I’m convinced that the concept of having a work ethic for many is lost like fading nostalgia.

    • Lending has nothing intrinsic to do with capitalism. As a matter of fact, without accumulated capital, it would be impossible to employ so many of the poor. There’s a reason why the poor left the farms to work in factories: shorter hours, better and steadier pay.

    • For instance, a system which depends on usury against the poor (like modern capitalism) is not just.
      Define your terms. Define “system”, “usury”, “poor”, “capitalism” and the “modern”.

  • Francis is a third-world radical, not a European intellectual like the last two popes. I suspect he has a soft spot for the “liberation theology” that dominates South America.

    • lifeknight

      This has been promulgated on many sites. At the VERY least, the Holy Father needs a social filter. He speaks without prudence OFTEN. Most Catholics cringe when he gets on a plane with the media. I continue to ask who can enlighten him to speak clearly without making people more confused.

      • Dick Prudlo

        I would suggest that he read Crisis. It would be a start on the education of a man deeply in need of some.

        • Alan Lille

          Why? Its largely neo-liberal claptrap. He is reading Communio not Crisis, much like the last Pope.

          • Augustus

            If you had read the article, you would have been exposed to multiple points of view, not just one. Communio has it’s strengths, but economics is not one of them.

      • Jay

        I often speak without prudence as well. I’m a sinner just like the Pope, and I make mistakes everyday.

        • St JD George

          I was starting to think I was the only one. Good to have company.

        • JP

          You are not the Pope. The Pope’s job is not to confuse. Yet, confusion appears to be his forte. If he cannot speak concisely, he should then limit his public persona to prepared remarks.

          • Jay

            I agree, his leadership style is strange. However, when we talk bad behind someone’s back, we are instructed to go to confession (at least I was told to do so) because we are killing someone’s spirit.
            So, is it okay to do so on an internet message board? I honestly don’t know and I’m simply asking.

            • I wondered this myself. After two popes who taught clearly most of the time for most of my life, F is surely testing me. I confessed my sometimes sour criticism of the pope, expecting some direction, but the confessor zoomed into greater sins, methinks. Then again, F is a public person saying things to the whole wide world. It’s not like it’s likely to call or email him with my reservations in order to engage in dialog. I guess that, if this is so, charity must be at the forefront. How to apply this principle however is the crux of the matter. After a few months, I gathered that F is not being misinterpreted, mistranslated or misquoted always. He actually said some very erroneous things and led many to very real confusion, scandal even. Yet, how much can my venting my confusion in comboxes help myself and the Church at large? Very little, I’m afraid.

              Lord, have mercy.

              • Yeah, that’s the response I get. Work on the Gluttony, don’t worry about the Despair. The problem is, until I solve the Despair, the thought re-occurs that the Gluttony is a very comfortable form of suicide.

              • michael susce

                Not so, Mr. Augustine. Your venting your confusion has great impact on people like me. After two thousand years of examples of Christian sainthood AND the brilliance of the last two popes has compelled me to take similar steps toward more heroic actions than I would have otherwise taken. The history of the saints is full of examples of those who responded wholly and completely in light of a faltering Church that was attacked from without and within. God bless

              • 1crappie2

                One must speak the truth (with charity) when souls are at risk.

            • 1crappie2

              How does one “discern” and “admonish” the pope, unless it is in the same public forum that he chooses to use?

    • JGradGus

      Wrong. See my comments below to JP. Also see my comment above.

      • JP

        Your comments to me ignore the fact that last October Pope Francis addressed a world meeting of socialists, Marxists, Green Activists, trade unionists, and advocates for about every crackpot socialist idea out there.

        • Last November, the Pope addressed The World Congress of Accountants.

          For the most part, the message was pablum exhortations, devoid of practical examples. A couple parts however, showed him to be utterly unfamiliar with the nature of accountancy.

          “Those who in various positions in the economy and in finance are called to make choices that favour the social and economic wellbeing humanity as a whole, offering to all the opportunity to realize their own proper development.””

          For the most part, accountants don’t make those sorts of decisions and the most challenging part of the job is to tell people what they NEED to hear, not what they want to hear, in other words to be honest. Parmalat, Societe Generale, Enron, WorldCom and Global Crossing were scandals of dishonesty, not issues of solidarity.

          Now I know the Pope isn’t an accountant. However, if I were speaking to some professional group, I would seek the advise of a member of that group to see if my remarks were accurate, relevant and actionable. I don’t know whether he didn’t receive or didn’t seek informed advice, but his remarks were lacking in those dimensions.

    • No, Francis is just ignorant of several topics who thinks that his office gives him the license to pontificate on all matters, regardless of the length of his reflections about them. There are many intellectual clergymen in the 3rd World (e.g., ) who could keep up with SJPII and BXVI and, of course, run circles around F.

      • I didn’t suggest there were no third world intellectuals, only that Francis is not one. JP II and B XVI were actually anomalies. Most popes have been canon lawyers not academic theologians or philosophers.

  • lifeknight

    “But one principle of Church teaching is subsidiarity, that is, that social problems should be addressed at the lowest level of government possible.”

    If this principle were followed in a Christ centered society, we would have the ability to be charitable instead of being taxed to death.

    • St JD George

      Indeed, it is horribly inefficient. When you let the politburo on the Potomac vacuum your wallet a lot of change falls off the conveyor belt and into unseemly hands on its way to the mill there, and then more after it leaves the central clearing house back on it’s way to the chosen ones as it sees fit. An acre of wheat is likely only to produce one loaf of bread by the time it comes back to the supposed benefactor after everyone has extracted their fair share along the way. Besides that, the loaf of bread comes with all kinds of stipulations of who you can share it with, who you can bless for it (the state), when you can serve it … you know, like an owners manual except with legal teeth for non compliance. I’d rather grow my own and share it with my family and community, at least that way I know it’s doing the most good with the least waste.

      • Vinny

        “…lot of change falls off the conveyor belt…” Is that the “change” of “hope and change” fame?

        • St JD George

          That change is like scrap iron that falls from the construction site hitting you on the head and knocking you out.

      • One of the things that you learn when you work in or with government is that “job one” is for it to be there tomorrow, to be “unbreakable”. So it is that it is designed to keep work paces slow and narrow in scope, to ensure that no one person is too important, so there’s multiple levels of bureacratic approval for action, and redundancies built in.

        What I find amusing is the politician (often well meaning) who thinks that they can make government work like the private sector. They are trying to remake an Abrams tank into a sports car.

        If a politician promises to reduce “waste” or “inefficiency” without concomitantly pursuing ways to reduce the scope, scale or invasiveness of government, they are either ignorant or lying.

        • St JD George

          I know, once a long, long time ago I experienced first hand. To be sure there were a lot of good people, but there were many more who were like corpses counting down the hours each day and each day on the calendar until they could leave. It was so depressing I never went back.

  • LarryCicero

    “Jesus advised the rich young man to go and give away what he has” – No, Jesus told him to sell what he has and then give to the poor. There is nothing wrong with selling- free markets. Give the poor money so that they can determine what to buy- subsidiarity. Detach yourself from possessions and be charitable. The “sell” part should not be overlooked.

    • Fom the D-R translation.

      “Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me.”

      Good point, Larry. Perhaps there’s something better about giving filthy lucre to someone, who can then make prudential decisions about what they need, rather than to be giving away your used junk, you know how the Clintons’ once deducted the gift of their underwear.

      Moreover, the most important part of this was “come follow me”.

      • I would say the most important part of this story is to understand what Jesus is doing here. The rich young ruler loved his wealth more than righteousness therefore Jesus instructed him to get rid of what stood between him and blessedness. It should not be read as a universal command.
        Remember it is “the love of money”, not just “money” that is the root of many evils.

  • Arriero

    The burgeois society – as well as socialism – is a direct product of modernity, i.e. a post-1789 concept.

    The Church must oppose all modern pseudo-concepts. The only two political concepts inherent to Church’s history are Catholic Empire and Catholic Monarchy (which does not entail a refusal of democracy, understood as a mean, not as an end – democracy as an end finishes in «democratic fundamentalism» -, as it was understood by the theologians at the School of Salamanca). Catholic Monarchy and Catholic Empire was Spain since Recared converted to Catholicism and since the Catholic unity of the kingdoms was achieved in the first Council of Toledo, through all the Reconquista, evangelization of the world and Counter-Reformation until the liberal Constitution of 1802.

    A Church that flirts with liberalism or socialism is a «modern[ist]» Church; i.e. something intrinsically anti-Catholic.

  • JP

    This is from Pope Francis’ address to the World Meeting of Popular Movements:

    “Now every worker, whether or not part of the formal system of paid
    employment, has a right to appropriate remuneration, to social security
    and to retirement coverage. Here are the cartoneros, recyclers,
    street venders, tailors, artisans, fishermen, farmers, masons, miners,
    workers in recovered companies, members of every type of cooperative and
    people who exercise more common trades, who are excluded from workers’
    rights, who are denied the possibility to have a trade union, who do not
    have adequate and permanent revenue. Today I want to join my voice to
    theirs and accompany them in their struggle.”

    In short, he was giving the classic definition of Marx’s Proletariat. The occupations not mentioned (Skilled tradesmen, Project Managers, IT workers, Administration, etc…) are bourgeois trades, and according to Marx, are open to derision. I don’t think Pope Francis has derision for these people (at least I hope not); but, there are many semi-skilled and skilled tradesmen working for Nissan, Honda, and Toyota here in the US who earn very good livings. As does many miners and those in the fossil fuel extraction business.

    In the same address, the Pope wrote:

    “In Europe, and these statistics are very clear, here in Italy, slightly
    over 40 percent of young people are unemployed; do you know what 40
    percent of young people means, it means an entire generation, cancelling
    out an entire generation in order to maintain balance. In another
    country in Europe, it is more than 50 percent, and in that same country
    of 50 percent, it is 60 percent in the south. These figures clearly
    indicate how many are excluded. The waste of children, the waste of the
    elderly, who do not produce, and we have to sacrifice a generation of
    young people, the waste of the young, in order to maintain and
    re-balance a system at the centre of which is the god of money, and not
    the human being.”

    The Pope either is not aware of the fact that Europe enjoys one of the most socialist driven economies in the world, or he does but he ignores that fact. The high unemployment of the young; the disastrous fertility rates, and the “loneliness of the elderly” is a result of the policies that Pope Francis strongly endorses. The massive amount of income redistribution, the highly administered and regulated society that Europe has had since 1945 has resulted in a narrow minded, bourgeoisie that cannot think beyond the next government check. The cost of labor is huge, and forces many corporations in the EU to relocate their operations elsewhere (see Mercedes, BASK, and BMW and Bayer); the high cost of regulations in Europe has forced many manufacturers to move their factories to Turkey, the Ukraine, the US and Asia.

    And let us face another unpleasant reality. Hatred of the Bourgeoisie was the catalyst for Marxism, and it continues in the RCC Social Doctrine. As Paul Johnson once famously wrote, “Progressives love Humanity but hate people.” Whether it is Climate Change policies or taxation or immigration, hatred of the Bourgeoisie is a the heart of most socialists.

    • JGradGus

      I hate to say it but you are just as bad as the MSM is in taking what Francis says out of context and spinning it to support your contention.

      What exactly are these “policies that Pope Francis strongly endorses” that you are alluding to? He has not endorsed any policies. He has only counseled us to be moral and ethical when it comes to economics. He is not a Marxist or a socialist or a liberation theologian. He endorses the same thing Popes before him have endorsed – a free market based on virtue rather than greed.

      Everyone needs to stop reading what the MSM says Francis is saying!!!

      • JP

        Read his address to the World Meeting of Popular Movements written last October. I quoted from it. They are his words and not the MSM’s. And they have nothing to do with free markets.

        • JGradGus

          I have read it. You pulled out two paragraphs from a somewhat lengthy address to prove your contention. Neither Francis nor the Church endorse socialism. Francis was even ostracized by the Jesuits for speaking out against liberation theology (socialism). So again I ask: What are these supposed policies that he strongly endorses?

          • JP

            The World Meeting of Popular Movements is an annual event hosted by the World Social Forum(WSF).The WSF has its genesis in the violent protests of the 1999 WTO Seattle meetings. This organization is made up Marxists, Anarchists, and about every socialist crackpot from Rio to Berlin.

            Why in the world a Pope would address such a group of people is obvious. If he didn’t endorse their politics he wouldn’t have addressed them. It’s really that simple.

            • JGradGus

              “The Pope addressed the WSF therefore the Pope is a communist.” This is not logical thought. This is fallacious reasoning.

              • 1crappie2

                Perhaps, but that doesn’t make the conclusion wrong necessarily, does it?
                Taking the worst possible road to Rome still gets you to St Peters.
                You focus on process and not the question of truth

          • LIberation theology is not socialism, it is the syncretic fusion of religion and socialism.

            • JGradGus

              So religious socialism is not socialism. Ya, sure, that make sense.

              • You clearly don’t understand (a lot).
                Your peurile sarcasm aside, socialism requires one to place faith in the state as a god-which is why in many forms it is overtly atheistic-
                and therefore is incompatible with theism.
                Liberation theology is the attempt to market socialism to religious people, but it doesn’t resolve the underlying contradiction.

            • 1crappie2

              Tell that to those Nicaraguan families that met up with Jesuit inspired Uzis under the preferential option for the poor.”
              Then there’s Rev Wrights and Obama’s brand which aggressively sanctions slaughtering post born kids….

              • I didn’t say it wasn’t tyrannical or violent.

  • What would Chesterton say?

    • al d.

      who cares what chesterton would say ???

      • The people that think he spoke inerrantly and Ex Cathedra, in other words a cult of personality.

        • Among whom much of the Catholic media is beholden to de facto do, lest their bishop pull his support from them for criticizing the Holy Father, even though it is not required of the faithful to not reasonably criticize the pope.

          • I think you misunderstood. I was addressing that contingent of Catholics who believe Chesterton was infallible and speaking Ex Cathedra, rather than the contingent that doesn’t seem to understand the limits of Papal Infallibility.

    • ColdStanding

      I like shark fin soup. I like bear paw soup. If I had my preference, I’d take bear paw soup.

      No, that’ Mencius.

      While it is better to have than to have not, knowing what to we are made to have is better yet.

      Hmm. Cryptic. Could work.

    • HigherCalling
  • Trazymarch

    “The Holy Father’s comments on the “greed” of capitalism and his seeming belief that capitalism causes income inequality
    rather than providing explosive growth and increased prosperity
    historically seem without nuance at best, and ignorant at worst.”

    Of course. Anybody who isn’t enthusiastic enough about the capitalism and just straight out points out that there is a lot of greed in capitalism is “ignorant”.

    “They seem worlds away from the appreciation for wealth creation and
    private enterprise evidenced by Pope John Paul II in his 1991 encyclical
    Centesimus Annus, or even the more measured statements by his successor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.”

    Two things:
    1. How criticizing greed (Without quotation marks as there is really a lot of greed in capitalism) actually seems “worlds away from the appreciation for wealth creation and
    private enterprise”?
    2. Don’t bring John Paul II and His encyclical Centesimus Annus into this, because He wasn’t as turbocapitalistic as you try to make him so. Or maybe it’s not what are you trying to do? Few quotes not-so-capitalism supportive from the Centesimus Annus:
    “0. Another important aspect, which has many applications to our own day, is
    the concept of the relationship between the State and its citizens. Rerum
    novarum criticizes two social and economic systems: socialism and
    . The opening section, in which the right to private property is
    reaffirmed, is devoted to socialism. Liberalism is not the subject of a special
    section, but it is worth noting that criticisms of it are raised in the
    treatment of the duties of the State.32 The State cannot limit itself to “favouring one portion of the citizens”, namely
    the rich and prosperous, nor can it “neglect the other”, which clearly
    represents the majority of society.
    Otherwise, there would be a violation of
    that law of justice which ordains that every person should receive his due.
    “When there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the defenceless
    and the poor have a claim to special consideration. The richer class has many
    ways of shielding itself, and stands less in need of help from the State;
    whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back on, and
    must chiefly depend on the assistance of the State. It is for this reason that
    wage-earners, since they mostly belong to the latter class, should be specially
    cared for and protected by the Government”.33″

    • There is zero greed in capitalism because only people can be greedy. To personify one’s failures in an economic system is projection that, done unconsciously, is a fallacy, but, consciously, is dishonest. In both cases, the responsibility to be charitable still lies with the subject, whether its ignored or reject.

      • Trazymarch

        Let me rephrase: Capitalism stimulates growth of the greed. While Communism does the same with the envy.

        • You’re committing the same mistake again. Greed has absolutely nothing to do with the economic system, be it capitalism, socialism, communism, corporativism, distributism, etc. Rather, greed has to do with original sin, something that no economic system presumes to eliminate.

          • Trazymarch

            Of course it’s impossible to eliminate. But is your point that greed is constant in every kind of economical system? And severity of it doesn’t change at all? The question is if there is any way to fight it.

            • From my anecdotal experience living in a socialist economy, which later morphed into a fascist one, much like the US’ is morphing into, and from friends’ experiences living in communist economies, greed is constant regardless of the economic system.

              As any vice, it can only be fought with virtue. In this case, charity. Yet never out of our own willpower alone, but with grace.

              • JP

                I think the Enlightenment philosophers called it, Enlightened Self-Interest. Later, Rousseau and Marx called it greed. Thinkers like Adam Smith and John Locke were under no illusions concerning Human Nature. Their ideas dealt with not virtue but need.

                Today’s Progressives are using the same arguments “Liberal Markets” that Monarchists and the Aristocracy used 350 years ago. They scold and lecture the “Little Guy” about his selfishness, his addiction to fossil fuels, his greed and his sloth.

                There truly isn’t anything new being said; there’s just different actors.

                • St JD George

                  Ain’t that the truth. Problem is that we live in a society that mostly can’t think back past last year, and the revisionists are close behind making sure that their stamp on history is passed on to future generations less they get some crazy wild ideas.

                • “They scold and lecture the “Little Guy” about his selfishness, his addiction to fossil fuels, his greed and his sloth.”

                  And they issue their decretals from the balconies of Mansions and cabins of personal jet aircraft.

              • Trazymarch

                From experience of my parents/grandparents living in the real socialism greed could be less problematic (especially in hard period after martial law). Reason? Complete shortage of products and food stamps required to get most of food. Not to mention other mechanic or electronic devices. You cannot be especially greedy when there is hardly anything for you to be greed about. Of course it could also be opposite and you could be very greedy about things you are lacking.

                • According to a Russian friend of mine, what wasn’t bolted down, was stolen in a heartbeat.

                  • Trazymarch

                    Russians got hit way harder by Communism than mine country so I wouldn’t be suprised if it was true.

                    • Then again, greed has nothing to do with what’s available without, but with the yearning for things within. Only God can satisfy the yearnings of the heart.

                • LarryCicero

                  “You cannot be greedy when there is hardly anything for you be greedy about.” My wife grew up under communism in Poland. From my experience there is an attitude that grows in that type of system which says the only way to get ahead is to cheat. It is nothing but another form of greed, mixed with dishonesty. Adam Smith acknowledged from the outset that in a free society, man must have pity(The Theory of Moral Sentiment). Pity, or compassion, leads to charity. In a system where there is “hardly anything” then there can hardly be charity. The system matters because of what it allows- freedom and opportunity and thus charity.

            • Yes there is a way to fight it. The confessional, like every other sin.

        • You can rephrase it all you want, but it isn’t true. There was no “capitalism” (why do you insist on using a Marxist term, if you are not a Marxist) or communism, but Herod slaughtered the Holy Innocents in a fit of greed, greed for power.

          I am always fascinated how PHOs seem never to have heard of Libido Dominandi, or to understand that lust, bloodlust, powerlust and greed are all coins of the same realm.

          • Trazymarch

            “There was no “capitalism” or communism”
            Just because (in case of communism) it was very different from abstract utopian assumptions doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be called “communism”. And in case of capitalism i don’t see whats your problem.

            (why do you insist on using a Marxist term, if you are not a Marxist)”
            If there will be better term I will use it. I kinda can guess what “better” term you would propose: “statism”.

    • It is for this reason that
      wage-earners, since they mostly belong to the latter class, should be specially
      cared for and protected by the Government”.33″

      And everywhere the government is given power, it does exactly the opposite. It rewards the immoral and the indolent. Your kids might get free communuty college (where they will be indoctrinated), but you can bet your backside, Sasha and Malia will be going somewhere else; the same way Chelsea Clinton and the Bush daughters did.

      • Trazymarch

        “And everywhere the government is given power, it does exactly the opposite.”
        What do you mean by “everywhere the government is given power”? France after revolution or maybe something even more radical like specific examples of massive concentration of the power like totalitarian states? Oh and “no state intervention” got tested already too. It was a complete mess.

        And about education: No idea how it does look like in USA, but does private colleges there are free of indoctrination? Or maybe it’s just more sophisticated?

        • St JD George

          We were very lucky to have very wise founding fathers who knew exactly the perils of a large central government minding over the affairs of its royal subjects. They tried with all their might to form a more perfect union and gave us the best constitution they could to try and prevent the crises we have today. Funny thing is, we’ve moved a long way since then, and they knew this day would come despite their valiant effort, and we now have an executive branch that rules like a dictator. Can you imagine a legitimate democracy (or republic) where the emperor stands before the people who just voted against his maddening policies and says “to the 2/3’s of you who didn’t vote, I hear your voice loud and clear”. It’s as if we are in a banana republic. It’s beyond embarrassing.

          • Trazymarch

            My country was “lucky” to have very weak government which possibly contributed heavily to be wiped off the map for .at least 123 years.

            “Can you imagine a legitimate democracy (or republic) where the emperor
            stands before the people who just voted against his maddening policies
            and says “to the 2/3’s of you who didn’t vote, I hear your voice loud
            and clear”. It’s as if we are in a banana republic. It’s beyond
            Democracy has this very unpleasant trait that it can easily slip into totalitarianism…

            • St JD George

              Slip, what a great word that goes well with slope … and we’re in for a wild ride.
              Wow, wiped off for 123 years? Will you spare me the Google search and deductive detective work guessing?

              • Trazymarch

                “I really wish I had detoured your way during a trip to Prague I took a
                few years ago. I really wanted to but with limited time I had to make
                decisions on constraints. Perhaps on a future trip.”
                Yup. Especially Częstochowa and Zduńska Wola ( Father Kolbe museum is there. Unfortunately it was closed when I wanted to visit)

                • St JD George

                  The adjoining parish to ours is Maximilan Kolbe. I’ve attended Mass there several times and have read all about him. What an incredibly courageous and inspiring man full of God. You also shared your great son JPII with us for which we are eternally grateful.

            • There’s a difference between a weak government and a limited one.
              A robust military is a necessity, and a feature of limited government.

        • “everywhere the government is given power”?
          Correction: wherever it is given or taken.

  • St JD George

    It’s hard not to have this conversation without immediately being drawn to the extremes isn’t it. I’m sure I have a bias filter that could use some adjusting, but every time I see those who scream the loudest about inequality and “fair share” redistribution, I tune out the rhetoric and watch the personal behavior and am thoroughly disgusted. The majority don’t live these principles in their private lives and are actually quite stingy judging by their charitable donations via their public tax records (some opportunists I know ramp it up before elections thinking nobody will notice). They are much more comfortable spreading the fruit of others labors by force. You never see them either except just before elections to use people as props on a stage for the populous propaganda about how they have their best interests at heart. The words that come out of their mouths seem so detached from reality so as to not even be believable any more. Ahhh – I could write volumes more but why bother. Instead I’ll once again refer you back to goal no. 27 documented by Cleon Skousen in 1958 by a group intent on overthrowing western society.

    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity, which does not need a
    “religious crutch.”

  • al d

    There is “Greed” in Capitalism . The word subsidiarity is used alot today-do we really know the meaning of it?? Esolen’s book defending the uniqueness of Catholic Soical Teaching – what is that??? The writer and Pope are way-off in living any Catholic life – our Lord would vomit and whip all of us out of the Holy Temple.. Look at the first act of the apostles – they sold their goods and shared all things in common… Except for the Benedictines and good Holy religious – Catholics don’t know how to live.. We need to learn how to live in community from the Amish, Bruderhoof, Orthodox Jews, and good Benedictines.

    • Vinny

      Greed is a vice. It has as much to do with capitalism as charity (virtue) does. There’s nothing wrong with capitalism but the sinful or reconciled sinner are a different matter. That’s where religion comes in. Capitalism can be used in the communities you mention. In fact, the Amish are financially astute and do quite well.

      • No, greed is a sin and it exists everywhere and always. It has nothing to do with the economic system. There will always be people that dedicate themselves to the idea that “he who dies with the most toys wins”. In some countries people get rich by producing things that people need or want-like Henry Ford and in some they get rich by acquiring political power.

    • St JD George

      Are you suggesting there is no greed among the class who profess deep desire to redistribute the fruits of labor of others either? Don’t listen to their populous speech giving with is quite artful, look at their private deeds and see how big their hearts are. They mock you to your face while they dine and fill their coffers with the same evil elite whom they profess to demonize from the pulpit. Even giving them the benefit of the doubt regarding honest intent, judge them by the outcome which is disastrous … unless your definition of equality is not to raise people up but rather to tear people down to the lowest common denominator, and to place them into a state of permanent dependency. Words have no meaning to this class, except to deceive and distort to advance their agenda.

    • I live near Lancaster County, Pa- sort of the Amish capital.

      For the most part, the Amish live simple lives of hard physical labor, but their lifestyle doesn’t preclude sin and it requires the rest of us “the English” to be sustainable, since their abbreviated education precludes such professions as Physician. “Amish Mafia” was largely calumny, but Alan Bieler was real.
      Of course there’s the deficient theology of Anabaptism.

  • Alan Lille

    Let’s just get this out now: The Murray project is over. Catholic social doctrine challenges the false anthropology of the neo-liberal order. The Church’s understanding of right, freedom, justice, the ends of economic activity, are not those of the neo-liberal/neo-conservative, whichever term you prefer. They never were.

  • ColdStanding

    Too much talking about economics. Catholic economic policy is very simple: Sell all you have and give it to the poor. It is the evangelical council. Our Lady Mary and Her most chaste spouse, St. Joseph practiced poverty. What are all the riches of the world when you can lovingly press Our Savior to one’s bosom?

    The point isn’t that you should sell all you have. If you are called to do that, then I pray you listen to Our Lord’s call. The point is that you should listen to and do what God tells you to do.

    For example, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice and all these things and more shall be added unto you.” Beautifully simple, timeless, and living council that.

    • Whose computer is the one you’re using? Or perhaps you’re not supposed to sell quite everything you have and give it to the poor. Then again, should the poor who just got your things sell them and give to the poor in his turn? And who’d buy your things when everyone is selling to give to the poor? As you see, literalism leads to dead-ends.

      • ColdStanding

        I said it was simple. I did not say it was easy. The Gospel writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit no less, did add this incident in the life of Christ for a reason. Perhaps you’d be better off meditating upon it in conjunction with the Church’s teaching about one’s station in life than making a mockery.

        • I did, but, apparently, you didn’t. The Church never ever said that her economic policy was absolute poverty. As a matter of fact, she asks it of very few and not of all of its clergy. Rather, the Church asks all to be detached from their possessions, indeed ready to sell all to give to the poor if the situation arises, but it is not an universal commandment as you suggest.

          • ColdStanding

            Sure, whatever.

            • JP

              The Church doesn’t call everyone to material poverty. If I am not mistaken, Secretary Kerry is a Catholic in good standing, as is VP Biden, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. They are all multimillionaires. Senator Kennedy’s family, at one point, had a net worth of over $1 billion (that would have been in 1955).

              • St JD George

                You had me until the good standing part …

              • ColdStanding

                Actually, the call is universal. Many are called. Few are chosen.

                It is too bad that many here are so very resistant to the invitation.

                Telling. The teaching is profound.

                • It is not universal for the simple fact that a parent cannot properly raise a family without property. Unless you pretend that celibacy is also an universal call…

                  • ColdStanding

                    The call is universal. All men are called. Not all can or are expected to respond. All Catholics should understand that it is the example set by Jesus Christ. One in three have a legitimate vocation. Virginity is the ideal. Expectation even.

                    Like it orlump it

                    • It is not universal, for Our Lord said: “Some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” (Mt 19:12) The text does not support your suggestion, for only some are called, and the Church teaches the same, that it is not an universal call.

                    • ColdStanding

                      How could they not accept it if they did not first hear the call? It is not a universal command, but it is a universal precept. Everyone is told, that is the universal “call” part, that selling all one has is the standard of excellence, that is the universal precept part. It is a standard because anything less than it fall short of excellence. Why do I apply the adjective “universal” to the word precept? Because it is true in all times and places that the most prized and excellent living out of the Christian vocation for all people is poverty, chastity and obedience.

                      There can be no denying that Jesus Christ’s words have been interpreted by the saints, doctors, and popes just in their literal meaning. Sell all that you have. It isn’t game over if you don’t, but don’t kid yourself that you are taking the easier road by not selling all you have.

                      St. Bonaventure states that the meaning of the “100, 60, and 30 fold” in the parable of the sower indicates 100 as virgin, 60 as chaste, and 30 as married. 100 is taken to mean perfection. Therefore selling all one has and living in poverty and chastity, or better still retaining one’s purity in virginity, is better (get that) or more excellent than having possessions and marrying. It was true when Jesus Christ said it. It was true when St. Bonaventure commented on it. It is true now. That fits the definition of universally true precept.

                      You remind me of a poor soul who called herself “Alecto” that used to comment here. She clearly did nothing with the Catholic faith other than attempt to make it reflect her political beliefs. She apostatized. You’d better start hitting the books, friend. Find a good commentary on the bible. St. Bonaventure’s three volume commentary on St. Luke is a good place to start.

                      It has been months since I’ve seen such a willful misreading of simple English sentences. I mean for goodness sake, man try to tease apart the difference between universal call, universal command, and universal precept. The words are there for a reason, and that reason isn’t for you to run them through that sausage maker you have on your shoulders.

                    • You argue distinctions without a difference.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Prove it.

                    • PS: if you are going to issue a demand, it is good form to indicate the object of the proposed action. Prove what? Fermat’s last theorum?
                      In any case, you are trafficking in major errors, not minor ones.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Do you not understand how Discus nested comments work?

                      You (before you added to the comment) said, “You argue distinctions without a difference.”

                      I said in response, “Prove it.” (one is gobsmacked at having to explain) By which I mean, prove (provide some supporting evidence) to me that I have made, in this thread, distinctions without a difference. Do I now have to spell everything out to you too?

                      And since you’ve accused me of trafficking in major errors, your going to have to be more specific. I have gone to reasonable length to be clear as to my meaning and am confident of supporting authority in the Doctors and Fathers of the Church.

                      What have you got other than DE-173 trademarked Real American-style magisterium of himself?

                      It had better be stellar.

                    • What have you got other than Coldstanding trademarked real pain in the keister-style magisterium of himself?

                    • ColdStanding

                      Pathetic. You are in officially a blowhard.

                    • This from the guy who posted one word response “redonkulus”?

                    • ColdStanding

                      Grade A, Gov. certified dodge. Show me where and how I have done as you’ve accused me or skedaddle.

                    • I just did, but you have eyes but will not see.

                    • ColdStanding

                      What meanest thou by that? mend me, thou saucy fellow!

                    • So can I assume your just posting drivel in order to have the last word? Have at it.

                    • ColdStanding

                      Heh? Shakespeare is “drivel” now?

                      I had prepared a lengthy response, but, in the end, I just don’t care that you think badly of me.

                    • ColdStanding

                      You surely are not suggesting that I wouldn’t take those people to task for their comments?

                      PS: if you are going to substantially add to a comment, as opposed to correcting minor errors, it is good form to add a new post or at least mark that you’ve made and edit.

                    • I certainly need to reflect more about this. Thank you.

                    • ColdStanding

                      A delightful response! I ask no more.

    • “Sell all you have and give it to the poor. ”

      That was an individual injunction to one man who wanted a formula for salvation, who had one particular vice, not a general rule for all to follow. If it were, then there’d be no tithing (10%).

      Should I have sold everything I had a couple decades ago, and made Cardinal Bernardin the custodian of what I had, so he could send Barack Obama to Alinsky training?

      • ColdStanding

        Perhaps you are tired or experienced a knee-jerk at some pet peeve phrase of yours for I did qualify it with….

        “If you are called to do that, then I pray you listen to Our Lord’s call.”

        • As it is among the most misused verses in Scripture, it requires constant explicit clarification to prevent its misuse. I’m quite awake.

          Your initial sentence made it a general warrant.

          • ColdStanding

            The Desert Fathers took it very literally. People are still taking it literally when they place themselves under a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. To suggest that it was a one-off specific remedy confected for on the spot needs is quite mistaken.

            Christendom was built on this precept. Reminding you that the sayings of Our Lord are generally grouped under commands, counsels, and/or precepts. The precepts are the hardest and, therefore, most left to the free will choice.

            • And religious today take the same vow, yet no diocesan priest or bishop does, unless he’s also a religious. Again, it is by no means an universal call, but to a very few.

              • ColdStanding

                You have not made any point. Nor, despite your protestations, do you demonstrate that my qualifications are registering in your understanding.

                • They do register, but as false.

                  • ColdStanding

                    You are saying that Jesus Christ’s sayings are not best grouped as command, counsels and precepts? Have you never heard of this idea before? It is very common in the commentaries by the saints on the Gospels.

                    • Commands, counsels and precepts, but not necessarily universal in time and space. After all, Our Lord also recommended celibacy for the kingdom, evidently not universally. In case of doubt, listen to the teachings of the Church, lest you fall into Sola Scriptura, or rather, Solo Scriptura.

                    • ColdStanding


    • Virginia

      The church in Jerusalem were selling everything and laying it at the apostles’s feet. We read later in the epistles that the church in Jerusalem was in poor shape, and St Paul had to organize support for them from the other churches.

      • ColdStanding

        To confine it to simply a particular circumstance, which is what you seem to want to do as does DE-173, is to ignore what the early Church, the middle Church, and, on occasion, the latter Church has done with this teaching. They have renounced the goods of this world, wealth being one of them, for the superior supernatural goods of the Kingdom.

        The experience Desert Fathers, whose influence was transmitted by St. John Cassian to via “the Master” to St. Benedict, he being the founder or spiritual father of monasticism in the Latin Church, shows that Christians have always, which is to say all have heard and some have answered, viewed intentional poverty as part of the Gospel message.

  • I would like to ask the Pope, does he believe greed is a sin and therefore an omnipresent condition of human existence, or does he think it is that it somehow flourishes under some conditions and not others?

    How else does one explain Soviet Daschas in the workers paradise or the ancient palaces in Egypt (or Europe) or the conspicuous consumption of a Barack Obama or any other contemporary “world leader”?.

    The reality is that macroeconomics is largely a mess, even when (and perhaps especially) when the Phd crowd gets involved, because many are math savants, engaging in what the late Ronald Coase detested as “blackboard economics” or what contemporary writer Nassim Nicolas Taleb described as the “ludic fallacy”. We need more economists who go to pin (Adam Smith) or pencil factories (Leonard Reed, who visited the pencil factory where my mother worked) and less that brandish differential equations and the ito calculus.

    Economics’ great virtue is that it lends itself to political questions, and its great vice is that it lends itself to political questions. It can provide a ready reservoir of words for ever opportunistic politicians to string together to sound informed and superior. This pretentiousness was pierced a few years ago when this computer generated cartoon posted on youtube explored the pretentious silliness of using neologisms like “quantitative easing”.

    Amity Shlaes’ 2011 column in Forbes explores some of the problems with “modern macro”, using this cartoon as a backdrop.

    And yet we have prelate fools eager to rush into an epistomological nightmare, without the slightest suggestion that they have ANY competence in the matter. Example, Stephen Blaire, issuing grandeloquent statements on the federal budget while leading his diocese into bankruptcy, doesn’t exactly speak of great financial acumen and at the very least it means his attentions should be focused on Stockton not Washington.

    • ColdStanding

      Hey, stop your shoving and get in line, pal. We’ve all got questions for this Pope. Wait your turn.

      • GaudeteMan

        I heard Huckabee on talk radio pining over this current pope’s inability to reflect deeply before he lets his tongue go. He said he simply doesn’t grasp the monumental importance of his office and how the average boob hangs on his every utterance as if it were dogma. “wherefore my brethren, let everyone be slow to speak…” James 1.19

        • The problem with Hackabee is he’s not exactly without bias (Baptist Minister) or sin in this regard.

          • Yet Huckabee is right about Francis.

    • St JD George

      Love it. Should be mandatory viewing.

  • JGradGus

    Mr. Russsello’s conclusion – “Esolen and Zmirak both have the right targets: a secular culture that treats citizens as pawns of the state, and church leaders who mistake the tax collector for a charity. But the last century has definitely shown that a misunderstanding of man can lead to horrific economic and political conditions” is right on the money.

    I do however, take issue with one point. At the beginning of his essay Mr. Russello says: “The Holy Father’s comments on the “greed” of capitalism and his seeming belief that capitalism causes income inequality rather than providing explosive growth and increased prosperity historically seem without nuance at best, and ignorant at worst.” The word “capitalism” is never even mentioned in Evangeli Gaudium. What he did say is: “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.” He also said, “. . . some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” He then went on to explain that any economic system that does not put people first, one without morality or ethics, is not good. Nothing wrong in any of this.

    • JP

      “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival
      of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.” He also
      said, “. . . some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which
      assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will
      inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness
      in the world.””

      His is the language of the socialist, as there are no “trickle down” theories. And the proponents of free markets never promised that free markets will bring about greater justice or inclusiveness in the world. Those are political and not economic questions. The Holy Father is creating a straw man.

      • papagan

        «[1] His is the language of the socialist, as there are no “trickle down” theories. [2] And the proponents of free markets never promised that free markets will bring about greater justice or inclusiveness in the world. [3] Those are political and not economic questions. [4] The Holy Father is creating a straw man.»

        Regarding 1, I have two comments. First, it is dishonest to insinuate that Pope Francis is a socialist. He is no more a socialist than Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. Second, “trickle-down theory” has entered the vocabulary, and many people understand its meaning. Moreover, many find trickle-down theory highly problematic.

        Regarding 2, that’s why the market must be set within a juridical framework in order to preserve justice in society. An unregulated market is a very bad idea, notwithstanding the protestations of libertarians.

        Regarding 3, your easy dissociation of political and economic questions is revealing. They are distinct in thought, but they are not separate in ordinary daily praxis.

        Regarding 4, the many instances of the fallacy of straw man that I’ve observed are to be attributed not to Pope Francis, but to others.

        • Its also dishonest to make false attribution.

          “His is the LANGUAGE of the the socialist”

          • papagan

            “His is the LANGUAGE of the the [sic] socialist”

            Are you trying to suggest that you don’t really mean to insinuate that Pope Francis is a socialist?

            • Since I didn’t write those words, yes. I also don’t think the author of them is doing so either. I’m sure your visceral reaction is different.

              • papagan

                My apologies. I thought you were the author of the statement “His is the LANGUAGE of the the [sic] socialist.” It remains the case that the statement suggests that Pope Francis is sympathetic to the misguided ideology of socialism.

    • papagan

      It seems to me that many “conservatives” or libertarians are terribly rattled by various critical comments of Pope Francis on matters pertaining to political economy. They are deeply disturbed because they perceive his critical observations to be directed at the current political/economic state of affairs, and they do not seem to share his grave concerns.

      They seem to believe that (1) our society cannot do much better without serious injury to human autonomy, and that (2) any serious alternative (“socialism” or “communism” is the label they give to any serious alternative) to the current state of affairs would be much worse. Pope Francis is no advocate of socialism or Marxist ideology. See, for example, “Pope’s latest interview: I quote the Gospel, they call me a Communist” Rooted in the Gospel, his critical remarks about the current (scandalous) state of affairs vis-à-vis the global financial system need to be heard and taken seriously.

      As Mr. Russello appears to recognize, “a misunderstanding of man can lead to horrific economic and political conditions.” In other words, a distorted philosophical anthropology, such as that presupposed uncritically by those who promote libertarianism, yields extremely toxic fruit in the field of political economy. Pope Francis’s strong emphasis on Catholic social teaching is what our deeply wounded and divided world desperately needs at this critical juncture.

      • “It seems to me that many “conservatives” or libertarians are terribly rattled by various critical comments of Pope Francis on matters pertaining to political economy. They are deeply disturbed because they perceive his critical observations to be directed at the current political/economic state of affairs, and they do not seem to share his grave concerns.”

        How would you know what concerns others. It is an arrogant and calumnous presumption to assume that others don’t care about the poor.

        Some of us are in the Pope’s words “technicians” and we know how the world works and that much of what he decries is the product of government. You complain about the “world financial system” apparently unaware how fused it is with statecraft, and yet he makes appeals to the U.N. like a feudal serf.

        Just once, I’d like to hear him say something about how much misery is caused by government. Forget for a minute the gulags and concentration camps, just the day to day reduction of human beings into numbers and pawns, to serve a false god.

        Elsewhere on this site, I described the deficiencies of his speech to the World Congress of Accountants. It wasn’t controversial, nor did anybody call him a Communist. It did however, reveal that he didn’t understand the nature of the profession.

        • papagan

          “It is an arrogant and calumnous [sic] presumption to assume that others don’t care about the poor.”

          Is it? Or have I touched a neuralgic point?

          «[1] Some of us are in the Pope’s words “technicians” and we know how the world works and that [2] much of what he decries is the product of government.»

          Remarkable. Regarding 1, “technicians” are not above the requirements of the moral law in relation to the needs of vulnerable and marginalized persons. In the present case, how things are and how they should do not coincide. Pope John Paul II had good reason to refer to “structures of sin” in his social teachings. Now Pope Francis is drawing much attention to the scandalous state of affairs in what he has called a “throw-away culture,” and he becomes the target of ridicule. He is maliciously labeled a “communist,” despite the fact that his sharp comments about the current scandalous state of affairs are fully in accord with the teachings of the incarnate Word! Shame on those who resort to such dishonest tactics!

          Regarding 2, let’s be honest. The abuse of civil authority is only part of the problem. There are several causes, and one cannot honestly deny that there are several causes, including the poisonous ideology of libertarianism!

          “You (and he, in different words) complain about the “world financial system” apparently unaware how fused it is with statecraft…”

          Clearly statecraft and financial systems are intimately related today. That in no way excuses the scandalous abuses which occur in the global financial system to the detriment of integral human development.

          • No, I wrote an accurate assessment of your actions. I don’t get to excited about the indictments of internet adversaries.
            Economics, like medicine is governed by moral laws. But like medicine, it requires a body of knowledge and experience before one is capable of rendering diagnoses and treatment. It also requires that one know the limits of intervention and be governed by the dictum, first do no harm. Statists disregard all these things, treating people like inanimate objects to be manipulated at will, forgetting that people react to those manipulations.
            You can complain about the criticism directed to the Pope is unfair, and some may be-but he invites it by using political invective like “trickle-down” in a document that requires precise and objective meanings. If I were advising him

            • papagan

              “I wish you … would stop worrying about libertarians. … Statists and collectivists are a far greater danger…”

              I think not. Libertarianism, statism, and collectivism involve serious anthropological distortions which pose grave threats to integral human development. Subsidiarity without solidarity is no better than solidarity without subsidiarity. In a sense, libertarianism is more dangerous. For the threat it poses to the spiritual life is more subtle. Losing one’s soul is the greatest of evils. Cf. Luke 16:19-34.

              • There have been innumerable socialist revolutions. The USSR, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy,Red China, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia.

                There never has been a libertarian state and there never will be. The most successful libertarian is Ron Paul, who had to run under a major party to win. He was a political pufferfish, sponsoring no significant legislation.

                To write that “libertarianism is more dangerous” is sign of a disordered mind, at war with historical fact and a mature undertstanding of politics. Your reveal yourself to have a rather bizarre bias, given the fact that socialism has a death count in the hundreds of millions. Please stop vandalizing the board with such childishness.

                The truth is, I think you have deeper issues. Serious Christians don’t adopt a name that includes the term “pagan”.

                • papagan

                  To write that “libertarianism is more dangerous” is sign of a disordered mind, at war with historical fact and a mature undertstanding [sic] of politics.

                  Libertarians have a disordered conception of freedom, a conception not compatible with the notion of participated theonomy. The disordered conception of freedom underlying libertarianism can lead countless millions along the road to perdition. Your rhetoric gives primacy to the political over the theological. It is not surprising, then, that you misunderstand the Catholic social teaching of the papal magisterium. Fr. James Schall, S.J., has written much on the error of giving primacy to the political over the theological. Readers may also enjoy Fr. Schall’s book, The Order of Things

      • My concern is that Francis and many others are quite vocal about the inexisting unfettered free market, yet mum about ubiquitous unfettered government power.

        • Precisely!
          Moreover, there is no such thing as the “unfettered” free market. The world is awash with bureacratic despotism, where unelected and unaccountable petty tyrants issue fiats with the force of law, where recourse, if it exists at all- is frustrated by cost and complication.
          It somebody complains about the “world financial system” without addressing the manipulative cpounterfeiting of central banks, the reveal their ignorance or dishonesty.

      • Nestorian

        If materially privileged Catholic conservatives and libertarians are “terribly rattled” by the Pope’s critical comments on political economy, then that is a good thing – a very good thing.

        I have quite a lot of first-hand familiarity with the culture in question, and there is a vast amount of worldly complacency in such circles, along with a pittance of compassion and concern regarding the enormous, unconscionable amount of material destitution among the 7 billion denizens of the planet. The vast majority are poor, and a significant fraction – probably at least a quarter – are destitute.

        It is high time that the materially privileged Catholic apologists for the justice of such a manifestly unjust state of affairs should experience some papal rebukes for these un-Christlike attitudes.

        • papagan

          Those who, contrary to Pope Francis, defend the current state of affairs, which resembles an oligarchical regime, reveal their subservience, whether explicit or implicit, to something quite alien to what is defended in Catholic social doctrine and in the teaching of the Gospel (e.g., Luke 16:13,19-31).

          • Apparently pagans and the devil can (mis)quote Scripture to their own ends.

            • papagan

              Pricked conscience?

        • Hi, troll. Back again?

    • papagan

      “The Holy Father’s comments on the ‘greed’ of capitalism and his seeming belief that capitalism causes income inequality rather than providing explosive growth and increased prosperity historically seem without nuance at best, and ignorant at worst.”

      The word “capitalism” is never even mentioned in Evangelii Gaudium.

      I think that Mr. Russello’s use of the term “capitalism” in this context is not really objectionable. For Pope Francis’s sharp remarks directed at the current scandalous state of global economic affairs are directed at what most if not all people today would call “capitalism.” It is mentioned by Pope John Paul II in Centesimus annus:

      42. … [C]an it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, 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. … [I]f 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. [Emphasis added.]

      That’s what we have in place today, and that’s what most people understand by capitalism. Were Pope Francis expressing sharp criticisms of something that didn’t exist, it would be most remarkable that so many people are so deeply shaken by his criticisms of what they have come to accept as “very nearly the best that we can do in this fallen world.”

      Turning to my next comment, I would draw attention to something that Mr. Russello wrote immediately after the statement quoted at the very beginning of this post:

      “The Holy Father’s comments … seem worlds away from the appreciation for wealth creation and private enterprise evidenced by Pope John Paul II in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus…”

      The difficulty with that statement is that it depends on a highly questionable interpretation of Centesimus annus, suggesting some sort of rupture or discontinuity between (1) the social teaching of Pope John Paul II (and Pope Benedict XVI) and (2) that of Pope Francis. There is no such rupture or discontinuity in their social teachings. (The type of “capitalism” affirmed by Pope John Paul II in Centesimus annus is certainly not what we have in place today.) In fact, it is a grave error to think that the magisterial teaching expressed in Centesimus annus (or Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in veritate) can be reconciled with the actual target of Pope Francis’s critical comments.

  • St JD George
  • St JD George

    Don’t think this isn’t coming here some day … wrong, it just isn’t here yet. Now that’s a prophecy you can believe in.

  • St JD George

    Blending in a little of Father George’s article today I decided to make my own prophecy or prediction … if we continue you on the road we’re on today unabated I think I can say with certainty that this will be written about the USA someday too … I won’t venture a date though.

  • Kathy
  • papagan

    This isn’t the first time that Mr. Russello has commented on the writings of John Zmirak and Anthony Esolen concerning Catholic social teaching. See “Debating Catholic Social Teaching” If one considers reliable Mr. Zmirak’s opinions on the subject of Catholic social teaching (for instance, “The Myth of Catholic Social Teaching” ), one may wish to ponder a comment submitted by Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P.:

    Fr. Dominic Legge, OP
    Cardinal Avery Dulles carefully and convincingly refuted most of these arguments about an alleged “180-degree change” of Church teaching on these points in an excellent article in First Things in 2005, in a review of a book by John Noonan. Anyone curious about slavery, religious liberty, usury, and so forth, should read his article (available for free on the First Things website).

    Noonan made the same claims as the present author, albeit out of a desire to see the Church change her teaching on contraception and divorce, among other things. I’m afraid that’s where Mr. Zmirak’s arguments lead, although he probably doesn’t want to end up there.

    It may sound appealing to distinguish “statements on economics and politics” from dogmatic definitions about Christ’s divinity, but that distinction is not nearly as clear as Mr. Zmirak suggests. Is it morally wrong to vote for a referendum (e.g., a state medical assistance measure) that will entail government funding for abortion? Is that a question of politics or of faith and morals? Is it wrong to pay an unjust wage to an employee if you can get away with it – or is that merely a question of economics? Does the faith (and hence the Church and her pastors) have anything to say about such things? Jesus himself teaches that your salvation may hinge on such choices (e.g., Mt 25:34-45).

    Popes don’t enjoy a special charism for crafting government policies amidst a whirl of contingencies, but they are entrusted with making judgments about faith and morals, lest their flock be led astray, to the peril of their eternal salvation. To put it another way: sometimes one can sin by making certain political or economic choices. And it is right for the Church to preach and teach about that.

    There are many important distinctions called for here, including between the sorts of statements made by Popes. Not every word uttered by a Pope has the same authority or weight, and judgments about contingent circumstances are certainly not infallible.

  • hombre111

    We don’t have to put the “greed” of capitalism into quotation marks unless we have decided that capitalism carries the whole notion of greed to new levels and we need a new word. As a kind of reduction ad absurdum, by the end of this year, the 1% will own more wealth in America than all the 99% put together. The Repubs, who tried to make sure that Obama was rendered as powerless as possible, now blame him for this obscene distortion. But the simple reality is, capitalism without restraints will inevitably accomplish the transfer of wealth from bottom to top that we are witnessing today.

    • LarryCicero

      Why do five of the ten wealthiest counties surround D.C.?

      • hombre111

        Are you kidding? Follow the power, come to the money.

    • And the resident socialist (he once told us that the world was bound to turn to socialism for its answers) speaks.

      Obama needs to be impeached and you need to keep your word to take leave of us.

    • thebigdog

      “ the end of this year, the 1% will own more wealth in America than all the 99% put together.”

      I believe the recent report claimed that the top 1% globally would own 99% of the wealth… but never let an opportunity to bash America go to waste. By the way, did you know that people who make more than $34,000 per year are among the top 1% globally? Your pajama boys in their occupy tents better start redistributing their wealth so as not to be hypocrites on top of being hate filled ingrates.

      • hombre111

        Went back and corrected that figure to say that it was from Oxfam, that the date would probably be 2016, and they were talking about the faithful 1% in the prosperous countries of the world.

        • And months later, you have still not kept your promise to vamoose.

  • RCPreader

    As a Roepke fan, I appreciate this article and found it interesting. But: “The love of money is the root of all evil” (quoting Esolen) !!! I have difficulty taking seriously, or, I might go so far as to say, even respecting, any purported serious thinker who actually believes this, which I would suggest contradicts any sound type of sophisticated Catholic philosophical or theological thought. The evils of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Boko Haram, etc. are primarily rooted in the love of money? Come on. The fallenness of humanity, and presence of evil in the world, is manifest in many ways, only one of which — perhaps not even a dominant one — is a love of money.

    Issues of material wealth and our relationship to it do matter and must be considered, but if this is pulled out and treated in isolation, as some sort of unique force for evil of its own, our efforts to move toward a more humane society are only hampered.

    • Nestorian

      So you are telling us, then, that you do not take St. Paul seriously – for Esolen is merely quoting St. Paul. Go look it up – it’s in I Timothy 6:10.

      You go on to dismiss a passage from Sacred Scripture as unworthy of respect; you assert that St. Paul’s New Testament authority contradicts any sound type of Catholic philosophical or theological thought.

      After all that, how can you even call yourself a Christian??

  • AcceptingReality

    All I know for sure is that a large number of America’s Catholic Bishops, America’s Catholic priests and the Nuns on the Bus seem to think socialism, the redistribution of wealth through government confiscation and programs, is holy and good. They fulfill their perceived obligations to help the poor by voting for candidates who want to grow the welfare state. They don’t consider how welfare fosters a loss of productivity and dignity. Nor do they consider how that effects those who learn to accept handouts as a means of subsistence. Doesn’t matter to the liberal elites and powers that be in the Church, nor does it matter to their minions. They have absolved themselves of all responsibility when they voted for their left wing candidate. It is possible that The Holy Father is also of this ilk. But who can tell. His off the cuff style lends itself to misrepresentation and confusion. I don’t trust the Vatican press corps or any other press corps for that matter to paint a clear and honest picture, either.

  • Jdonnell

    The author should stick to that wonderful thinker, Christopher Dawson, and quit acting as an apologist for capitalism’s inevitable abuse of labor and wages. It wants to keep costs down and finds that often the easiest way is to cut labor costs. That ends up where we are now, with an undeniable decline in the wealth of almost al Americans except the wealthy,

    • I was wondering when the other Socialist would show up and treat us to the same envious and vacant rants that he masquerades as equity and concern for the poor.

      I suppose you’re late because you are one of the few remaining Obots still in ecstasy after his speech.

  • Marcelus

    Pope Francis’ statements about economics (and related questions, such as environmentalism and “fracking”) have caused much consternation among conservative Catholics in the United States………


    But there are also other countries in the world that have not experienced this .

  • papagan

    Here’s something to ponder: Damon Linker, “The Republican Party’s war with Pope Francis has finally started” I don’t necessarily agree with every claim Dr. Linker makes; however, his opinion piece appears to contain more than a grain of truth.

  • 1crappie2

    I’m a Great Depression era baby and hardly a Marxist–always ready to fight egalitarianism(disguised as “inequality is evil”) using the marvelous catholic Principle of Subsidiarity given us by Pius XI.
    However, I always thank God for that great depression–for it taught us far humility and dependency upon God than all the many great economic gains since.
    Our problems today aren’t so much economic, but in failure to teach the morality that must always accompany any economic decision–whether CEO or street urchin.
    Demanding that a modern Caesar solve poverty or greed, is contrary to rational thought.

  • papagan

    In The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, Russell Kirk writes: “The conservative refuses to accept utopian politics as a substitute for religion.” That’s very good, to be sure, but too many self-described conservatives seem to forget that the universal vocation to love God above all else, including temporal politics, does not preclude the responsibility of loving one’s neighbor, and love of neighbor, which falls under solidarity, can be distinguished but not separated from love of God above all else.