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Rush Limbaugh is Wrong, Karen Finney of MSNBC is Nuts: Pope Francis and Capitalism
By Deacon Keith Fournier
December 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Do you get it Karen Finney and E.J. Dionne? It is not "progressive" to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life! The lie of your brand of political progressivism has been exposed, rejected and dismissed by the Pope whom you think you can use to bolster your political agenda! Also disturbing were words spoken by Rush Limbaugh. His contention, offered on the EIB Network, that some of the words written by Pope Francis were Marxist is reprehensible. Further, his claim that they must have been written by someone else showed a serious lack of the show prep Limbaugh purports to engage in before he opines from his golden microphone at the Limbaugh Institute of Advanced Conservative Studies.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - On the morning the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis entitled The Gospel of Joy (Evangelii Gaudium) was released, I wrote, It will take your breath away in its evangelical fervor, spiritual insight, beauty, profound theology and depth of insight" and "it will send shockwaves of the Holy Spirit when its impact is fully experienced.
The early shockwaves focused on the few parts of this exhortation which indirectly mention economic matters. They captured the news headlines and become fodder for the political pundits, left and right. I told my readers that I intended, over the Thanksgiving weekend, to pray through this document and suggested they do the same.
I could not even make it through the weekend without having to respond to the ill informed, politically motivated, feeding frenzy which has resulted. The approach to covering this papal document points out more of what is wrong with the current media than it addresses the prophetic insights Francis offers.
I should not have been surprised. Media coverage of this Pope has been mixed from the beginning. The only positive thing I can say is that it has drawn attention to the Catholic Church and the message of the Gospel, presenting an opportunity for evangelization.
When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI released his Encyclical letter entitled Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate) in 2009, the reaction was similar. In its section addressing what the Catholic Church has long referred to as a truly integral humanism, the few comments pertaining to the economic order caused a stir.
However, the comments did not catch as much of the attention of the left leaning, secularist media in the United States of America. At least in the way that everything Pope Francis says and does seems to these days. Perhaps that is because many in the left leaning secularist U.S. media had written Benedict XVI off as a conservative - in their disparaging, politicized use of that term. Whereas his successor, Pope Francis, still seems to intrigue them with his every word and act.
Some actually seem to be hoping he is somehow one of them - in some misguided effort at justifying their stunted world view parading itself as progressive by giving it borrowed credibility. The early responders attempt to read Pope Francis through the prism of limited political categories such as left and right, liberal and conservative - as the terms have come to be associated with in the political discourse in the United States of America. This is not only a misreading of Francis, it shows they do not understand that this Pope simply does not fit their categories.
The wrangling over all of this reminds me of the line in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is asked by Glinda "Are you a good witch or a bad witch" to which she responds, "Why I am not a witch at all". Pope Francis cannot be understood in the stunted, political framework of the current charged atmosphere of the United States. His teachings are not political - they are prophetic and pastoral.
Francis tries to clarify the matter in the exhortation. After he briefly addresses some economic considerations he writes, If anyone feels offended by my words, I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology. My words are not those of a foe or an opponent. I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking that is more humane, noble and fruitful, and that will bring dignity to their presence on this earth. (Par. 208)
Neither can this apostolic exhortation be squeezed into the economic overlay which fuels much of the debate in the United States. Yet, just such an effort is being used by those with political and economic agendas, left and right. Sadly, they distract the public from hearing a desperately needed corrective and beautiful message from a pastor who has been given charge of what he properly refers to as a church without frontiers.
After an admonition to say No to what he called the new idolatry of money, Francis called for an economy of inclusion, one which expands to embrace more and more people. He noted that the root problem of the current economic struggles is a moral one. Yes, that is correct, a moral one.
The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
He is absolutely correct. He further contends that what is needed most is a return to an ethical foundation for the economic and social order. The kind of ethics which leads to a God who calls for a committed response that is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement.
Ethics - a non-ideological ethics - would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: "Not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods that we hold, but theirs". (par. 57)
The final sentence of that paragraph upset a number of people who reacted without actually reading the whole exhortation or noting its source. If they had even done a minimal bit of study they would have seen that the strongly prophetic language at the end was a quote from the great Fourth Century Archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom whose prophetic correctives of his own age were not all that different than those offered by Francis and Benedict.
Not only is Francis not against business, he notes that Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.(Par. 203)
He has a similar regard for politics, when properly understood and engaged in for the common good. He notes, I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.
This weekend, I passed through the television channels surfing for more football when I came across Karen Finney, of MSNBC, interviewing E.J.Dionne on her program called Disrupt. It was an absurd example of an attempt to use Pope Francis to justify what calls itself political progressivism in the United States these days.
Dionne offhandedly noted in the bantering back and forth that the Pope had reaffirmed the position of the Catholic Church concerning opposition to all procured abortion, implying it was some kind of bone thrown to conservatives. He then attempted to resuscitate a flawed secularist and leftist reading of a seamless garment notion of Catholic Social Doctrine. Sadly, the phrase passed through a kind of opportunistic political morphing which left its value by the roadside of our age.
Karen Finney was so enthused about the possibility that Pope Francis could undergird her political agenda she gushed as she explained that because she was a Christian, she was also a Democrat. Purportedly, these two people, Dionne and Finney, were discussing the Papal exhortation entitled The Gospel of Joy. However, you could have fooled me. They were actually attempting to paint the Pope as a fellow political progressive, using their definition of the term.
Yet, Pope Francis specifically rejects both the term progressive and the term conservative in the exhortation. The words which Pope Francis wrote in this exhortation concerning protecting children in the womb are integral to understanding his entire message. He promotes the dignity of every human person as the foundation of any truly human, humane and just political or economic order. So vital are the following words that they deserve our full attention. We should shout them from the housetops:
Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care, with particular love and concern, are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church's effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative.
Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, "every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual.
Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or "modernizations". It is not "progressive" to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.(Par. 213,214)
Do you get it Karen Finney and E.J. Dionne? It is not "progressive" to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life! Those are not my words but the words of pope Francis. The lie of your brand of political progressivism has been exposed, rejected and dismissed by the Pope whom you think you can use to bolster your political agenda! To claim to hear the cry of the poor when you fail to hear the cries of our youngest neighbors in the first home of the whole human race exposes the evil root of the ideology which has infected politics in this Nation.
Also disturbing were words spoken by Rush Limbaugh, the interlocutor with whom Finney and Dionne were supposed to be contending with in that lightweight and abysmal exchange on the program called Disrupt. His contention, offered on the EIB Network, that some of the words written by Pope Francis were Marxist is reprehensible. The Catholic Church has condemned and rejected atheistic marxism and the insinuation to the contrary is offensive. Further, his claim that they must have been written by someone else showed a serious lack of the show prep Limbaugh purports to engage in before he opines from his golden microphone at the Limbaugh Institute of Advanced Conservative Studies. Shame on you Rush! Please read this letter for yourself.
Rush Limbaugh is Wrong and Karen Finney of MSNBC is Nuts. What Pope Francis really said about capitalism is, well, nothing at all. The word capitalism does not even appear in the Apostolic Exhortation entitled The Joy of the Gospel. The warning is against consumerism and materialism. In fact, there is nothing new in what Francis says about economics in this recent papal document at all. These insights are a part of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church and have been for a very long time.
The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church is a part of her Moral Theology. It offers principles which can help steer western culture away from a path of self destruction, of it is properly understood and applied. It is not only for Catholics, other Christians or even just religious people. It is for all people and all Nations. It is offered by the Church to those who seek to build a truly just society and promote the real common good.
This teaching is called social because it speaks to human society and to the formation, role and rightful place of social institutions. Many of these truths and principles can be known by all men and women because they are revealed in the Natural Law and then expounded upon in Revelation.
Contrary to the relativism of our age, Catholic Social teaching insists that that there are unchangeable truths which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason. They are revealed in the Natural Law (Catechism #1950-1960). This Natural Law is "present in the heart of each man and established by reason."
This law "is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties." (Catechism of the Catholic Church# 1956) It is here we find the moral truths which should inform our life together in a just and free society. It is here where we also find those fundamental and foundational human rights which we insist must be recognized by the civil or positive law as rightfully belonging to all men and women.
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (paragraph 140) explains: The exercise of freedom implies a reference to a natural moral law, of a universal character, that precedes and unites all rights and duties. The natural law "is nothing other than the light of intellect infused within us by God. Thanks to this, we know what must be done and what must be avoided. This light or this law has been given by God to creation. It consists in the participation in his eternal law, which is identified with God himself.
This law is called natural because the reason that promulgates it is proper to human nature. It is universal; it extends to all people insofar as it is established by reason. In its principal precepts, the divine and natural law is presented in the Decalogue and indicates the primary and essential norms regulating moral life. Its central focus is the act of aspiring and submitting to God, the source and judge of everything that is good, and also the act of seeing others as equal to oneself. The natural law expresses the dignity of the person and lays the foundations of the person's fundamental duties."
This Natural Law is expounded upon and more fully revealed through faith and revelation. However, foundational truths such as the dignity of every human person at every age and stage, the nature and ends of marriage, our obligations in solidarity to one another, are all knowable through the exercise of reason.
These truths provide a framework for viewing and structuring our social life and building a common home. We should recognize them, agree upon them and build a social order rooted in them. The social teaching of the Catholic Church offers principles to be worked into the loaf of human culture which assist in our work of building a more just and human society. They also help us to humanize and order our economies and engage in international relations. However, because they are principles, they leave room for the application of prudential judgment.
The Church challenges any notion of human freedom which begins and ends with the isolated, atomistic, person as the measure of its application. We are by nature and grace called to relationship. Only in communion can we be fully human. This is the Christian vision of the human person and must inform our work.
In addition, human freedom must always be exercised within a moral constitution. Otherwise, we do not progress in freedom but succumb to various new forms of slavery and only mouth the word while we build our own shackles. There is a moral basis to a free society. Freedom is not only about having a right to choose but choosing what is right and embedding within the polity the safeguards of freedom.
Freedom must be ordered toward choosing the good, respecting the truth about the human person, human flourishing, the family and the real common good. Our freedom must respect our obligations in solidarity to one another - because we are our brother and sisters keeper. This is the principle of solidarity or social charity.
The Catholic Church rightly properly reminds all men and women, of every nation, of our obligation to give what is called a preferential option or, I prefer, a love of preference, to the poor. This is the kind of love which the Lord Himself shows in his identification with the poor. The implications of our response to this command are expounded upon in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew.
This means incorporating in our social order a concern for their well being by constructing a system which includes them within its embrace and expands the promise of participation and advancement. However, Catholic social teaching does not propose any particular economic theory.
Rather, it insists that every economic order must first be at the service of the dignity of the human person and the family and further the common good. In recent encyclicals and magisterial teaching the market economy has been recognized as having a real potential for promoting all of these goods - when properly understood and morally structured.
The Catholic Church does not take a position on which economic theory is the best among the many offered today. She prophetically stood against the materialism of the atheistic Marxist system. This is part of the reason the comments made by Rush Limbaugh were so offensive. However, she also, properly and prophetically, cautions Nations which have adopted a form of liberal capitalism that there are dangers in any form of economism or materialism which promotes the use of persons as products and fails to recognize the value of being over acquiring.
She reminds our consumerist western culture that the market economy must be at the service the human person, the family and the common good, lest 'capitalism' conflate its claims to offering freedom and become what Blessed John Paul II once referred to as savage in its application and encourage business practices devolving into greed.
The Church also warns against and rejects collectivism, whether it is of the left or the right in its political variety. The Church's social doctrine holds that authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity must be conducted within economic activity, and are not outside it or after it.
As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI noted encyclical letter Charity in Truth, The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner. That is precisely what Pope Francis affirmed in The Gospel of Joy.
Contrary to what some wrote after the encyclical letter was published, it neither endorsed nor rejected capitalism. As the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church consistently has done in the past it simply did not use the term, preferring the terms market economy or free economy. So it is with the Apostolic Exhortation entitled The Gospel of Joy recently released by Pope Francis.
Markets can only be free when free people are engaged in them. Freedom is a good of the human person. A free economy should also seek to continually expand by opening the way for the participation for as many people as possible, while promoting enterprise and initiative.
Also, though we are called to give a love of preference to the poor, recognizing our solidarity with them, this call to solidarity is to be applied through the application of the principle of subsidiarity, rejecting all forms of dehumanizing collectivism, either of the left or the right. Subsidiarity in both governance and economic participation rejects the usurping by a larger entity of participation which can be done at the lowest practicable level.
The West, with all of its promise of freedom, flirts with an instrumentalist materialism devoid of any understanding that the market was made for man not man for the market. In this kind of mistaken approach to a free market economic order the accumulation of capital can come to be viewed as prior to the flourishing of the person, the family and the common good. In its wake, the poor can be forgotten and peace threatened.
However, if Pope Benedict's words caused a stir, and those from Pope Francis caused shock waves, words from Blessed John Paul II, when addressing the same danger, were even stronger. On the hundreth anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical on economic concerns, Blessed John Paul actually did use the word capitalism. he used the word for the sake of definitional clarification. He wrote:
"If by capitalism is meant an economic system, which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property, 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.(Centesimus Annus, n. 42)
Christian Social thought needs to be rescued from those who may have used it as a kind of proof text to legitimize any political theory or economic system that fails to spring from its' fundamental view of the dignity of the human person, solidarity, authentic human freedom, economic and social justice - properly understood - as well as matters of war and peace. That means those on the left and those on the right.
We cannot separate moral, social and economic issues in the body politic, just as we cannot separate the spirit, soul and body of a person. Human society is a form of corporate person. All of our political and economic concerns have some moral dimension because they concern the human person. This insight lies at the very foundation of Catholic teaching, including this recent apostolic exhortation, The Gospel of Joy, written by Pope Francis.
The reason we should care about expanding economic opportunity and ensuring that there is a moral basis to the market economy is because we respect the dignity of every human person and want to expand participation to all. The reason we should care for all of the poor, in all of their manifestations, is because they all have human dignity and we must recognize that. This is the heart of the Gospel of Joy which Pope Francis not only writes about, but proclaims in both prophetic word and deed.
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