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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pope Francis Condemns Distributism

According to the Distributist Review
 A family that owns its own land or its own tools can make its own way in the world without being dependent on someone else for a “job.” Thus, Distributism seeks to extend property ownership to as many as possible, and end the concentration of ownership by few capitalists or state officials. 
The ‘means of production’ are the land, tools, and equipment needed for labor to transform raw materials into goods and services. As wealth (goods or services) is only possible by the combination of the means of production, labor, and raw materials, we believe it is best when these are owned cooperatively (worker-owned) or entirely operated by the family.

Here is Pope Francis' response to that idea:
222. A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness evokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, “time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space. (emphasis added)
223. This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation, and to give a priority to time. One of the faults which we occasionally observe in sociopolitical activity is that spaces and power are preferred to time and processes. Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power and of self-assertion; it is to crystallize processes and presume to hold them back. (emphasis added) Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces. Time governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return. What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.
He doesn't seem that keen on land ownership being central to the economy. His emphasis is on time, which distributists don't discuss at all. Other remarks lead in the same direction, away from a focus on distributist land ownership and towards the urban environment:
71. The new Jerusalem, the holy city (cf. Rev 21:2-4), is the goal towards which all of humanity is moving. It is curious that God’s revelation tells us that the fullness of humanity and of history is realized in a city. We need to look at our cities with a contemplative gaze, a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares.  
72. In cities, as opposed to the countryside, the religious dimension of life is expressed by different lifestyles, daily rhythms linked to places and people. 
While he had a whole section devoted to the cities and urban life, he had absolutely nothing to say about the rural areas and the countryside. Not a lot of people in cities own land. You might answer that cities are the source of guilds. Fine. But Pope Francis also had nothing to say about the need for guilds or anything like it. He doesn't even mention unions, much less guilds.

What Pope Francis has to say is at least as opposed to distributism as it is to capitalism.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Spirit of John Chrysostom

You know, I *LOVED* Benedict's writing, but Francis is an even better, clearer writer than Benedict. He drumbeats the concern for the poor that Chrysostom had, drives home Chrysostom's theme about the important role women have to play in the Church and outlines why the dignity of work is the major problem facing the world today.

He really gets it. 

I've been pro-life since my atheist days, got arrested in front of abortion clinics on two separate occasions, got into adult formation largely because I saw it as the only way to stop abortion, but Francis understands the abortion problem better than I do.

Both men and women seek dignity even more than they seek a paycheck. They will settle for low pay if their work can give their lives meaning. The mission to give dignity back to the poor, those who image Christ... this is central to the exhortation. We do this by giving them the Gospel. 
204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.
This is NOT an attack on capitalism, nor is it an endorsement of statism or government as the best solution. 
202. The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality,[173]no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.
It is not the inequality of wealth that concerns him, it is the inequality of dignity.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church all agreed that physical poverty wasn't the biggest problem, rather, it was spiritual poverty, the poverty of not knowing the Gospel. Insofar as someone doesn't know the Gospel, they don't know their own worth or their own dignity. They don't know how deeply central they are in the eyes of God. 

So, when Francis speaks of the lack of employment being the biggest problem, he isn't thinking that a job at McDonald's for every teenager is the solution. Rather, he sees the solution as being a society which recognizes the dignity of the McDonald's worker to be equal to the dignity of the CEO. When the dignity of work is recognized, then inequality will have been conquered. This is not just recognized by paycheck, but by giving honor to everyone employed in work, especially vocational work.

And this is the central problem that creates abortion. Women reject motherhood because they don't see it as a vocation, a job, a work of mercy and grace, a place of honor and status. They don't see it as a way to gain dignity, instead they believe the world, which tells them that motherhood is disgusting and worthless. It tells them pregnancy is a violation of who they are and what they can be.

When Francis speaks of jobs for the poor, he doesn't just envision paychecks for the men, but motherhood for the women. Men and women need to understand God has called them to the lifetime job of being parents. Women especially must realize that the unborn child calls them to service, that the child is the one who will pay them rich wages: a life of love, honor and dignity. That's a message many, many women will respond to. 

He's calling the wealthy not just to throw money at the poor, rather, he's asking the wealthy to find room in their lives to employ the poor, to honor them with the sacred trust of a job. He calls the rich to give the poor dignity, treat them as equals in their humanity. This encyclical isn't about money or economic systems. It's about practicing the presence of God. 

The theme of the dignity of every human person, and the means by which this dignity is recognized both by us and by the poor themselves, runs like a ribbon through the whole encyclical. Pope Francis is a master of Scripture and the four senses of Scripture. It's a brilliant piece of writing, in part because it is so unaffected, clear, unpretentious. Writing that way is incredibly hard, especially with the number of footnotes he brings in, and he makes it seem easy. 

He's making me understand what a lousy Catholic I am. 

Islam Means "Submission"
Now, some people have been disconcerted by his remarks on Islam, a word which means "submission." First, let's notice that he spends no small amount of time chastising Muslims. 
253. In order to sustain dialogue with Islam, suitable training is essential for all involved, not only so that they can be solidly and joyfully grounded in their own identity, but so that they can also acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs. We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries in the same way that we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition. I ask and I humbly entreat those countries to grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries! (emphasis added)
This is a tremendous slam on the Muslims. He's essentially saying that Muslims currently do not acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns of others or understand anyone else's beliefs. He explicitly points out that Christians are currently not received or respected in Muslim countries. But what gets everyone upset is the next sentence:
Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence. (emphasis added)
Read by itself, this sentence would seem to indicate that Francis is incredibly naive about Islam. But before we draw that conclusion, let's look at one other statement he makes, a quote from the CCC from the immediately preceding paragraph that is very, very illuminating:
252. Our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance, since they are now significantly present in many traditionally Christian countries, where they can freely worship and become fully a part of society. We must never forget that they “profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, who will judge humanity on the last day”.[198]
First, 252 contrasts the way Christians receive Muslims (they can freely worship and become fully a part of society) with 253 and how Muslims receive Christians (we hope and ask to be received and respected in countries of Islamic tradition. I ask and I humbly entreat...). He intentionally contrasts the two treatments to remind everyone that Christians are being much more generous than Muslims. 

Second, keep in mind that the CCC passage he quotes in 252 is, itself, a repudiation of Muslim teaching. Muslims do, indeed, teach that Jesus is the judge on Judgement Day, but they do not believe that Jesus is God. Thus, when the CCC says that the Muslims "together with us... adore the one, merciful God, who will judge humanity on the last day", that same CCC is deliberately telling the Muslims that Islam is wrong: Jesus IS, in fact, God. 

And Francis certainly knows this. So, he simultaneously quotes the one sentence in the CCC that both embraces what Islam gets right (Jesus is judge) and corrects the error that Islam makes (Jesus IS God).  Since paragraph 252 closes with this quote that carries both this carrot and this stick, it is not a mistake to read the closing sentence in paragraph 253 as if it carried the same parallelism.

How does it work? Pope Francis says that insofar as Islam is authentically telling the glory of God, it is "opposed to every form of violence", but insofar as Islam teaches violence, it is not authentic. In short, he's calling Islam (as it has been violently practiced by Mohammed and his disciples through the ages) a false, inauthentic religion. By insisting that the only authentic religion is a peaceful religion, he is simultaneously calling all Muslims to renounce the violence inherent to their faith and embrace authentic "Islam", authentic submission. That is, he is calling them to submission to the peace of Christ. 

How do I know I'm correct to interpret it this way? Because Pope Francis says as much in the very next sentence:
254. Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live “justified by the grace of God”,[199] and thus be “associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”.[200]
Now, Francis knows perfectly well that Islam adamantly rejects the paschal mystery (which consists of the crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension). Islam insists that Jesus was never crucified. So, by linking non-Christians both to their conscience (which has inscribed upon it the 10 Commandments, including "Thou shall not kill") and to the Paschal Mystery in the very next sentence, he is emphasizing the same parallelism: insofar as it is peaceful, it is authentic because it lives the peace of Christ's Paschal Mystery and the natural law written on our hearts. Insofar as it is violent, it is no religion at all, just a travesty. 

Francis is not proclaiming that Islam is peaceful, he is proclaiming that true religion is peaceful. He's pulling the same stunt that the Fathers of Vatican II pulled in the CCC when they talked about Islam. St. Francis of Assisi reportedly challenged Muslim imams to walk through a fire with him in order to see whose religion was best. The Muslims declined the challenge. Pope Francis raised a 21st century version of the challenge - "Treat us as well as we treat you. Can you do it?"

Every time I read that passage in the CCC, I smile. 
Pope Francis just made me smile again. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Protestant Cartoons on Catholic Websites

This cartoon has been making the rounds - it is especially popular among Catholics who pretend to be traditionalists:

Now, let's make this perfectly clear, so no one can mistake it.

Both are perfectly and superbly accurate. In the top version, the priest acts as High Priest, leading the people to God. In the bottom version, the priest acts as Christ Physician, representing the Crucified Christ to the people.

Asking "Which Makes Sense?" sets one against the other. Liturgy cannot be set against liturgy, Magisterium cannot be set against Magisterium. If you think you have read an encyclical that contradicts Scripture, you are wrong. If you think the Universal Catechism contradicts a papal bull, you are wrong. Both must be interpreted so that there is no contradiction. Liturgy cannot be set against liturgy, Magisterium cannot be set against Magisterium.

Catholic Faith is "both-and" it is most assuredly not "either-or". Forcing someone to choose between two choices when both are perfectly legitimate Catholic choices, forcing that choice is the work of a Protestant, not a Catholic.

You cannot say "Which Makes Sense?    2+3=5 or 5=3+2  ?"
Both are correct. Some may prefer their answer to the left, others to the right, but both are fine.

You cannot ask "Which Makes Sense? Franciscan spirituality or Jesuit spirituality?" The question is stupid. Both are correct. They are different. They are BOTH correct. It isn't "either-or".

Promoting this cartoon is promoting Protestant theology.
The great irony?
It is the "traditional" Catholics who are acting the Protestants. 
Pope Francis has them pegged.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

ObamaCare Imitates Da Vinci Code

Catholics never learn.

When Doubleday published the Da Vinci Code, they promoted it in part by making sure that Christians heard about it. The sent out 10,000 review copies - most books never publish more than 10,000 copies - counting on the fact that Christian outrage would do their advertising for them.

Now, Obamacare has taken a page from that script by creating advertisements designed to outrage Christians. Christian commentators and web pages are doing far more to spread the ad images than any federally-funded campaign could hope to accomplish.

It's a brilliant marketing ploy and it is working wonderfully well.
There is no such thing as bad advertising.
Why pay for advertising when outraged Christians will supply it for free?

We are neither wise as serpents nor innocent as doves, but we are smart as a bag of hammers.
God bless our little hearts! 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Just So Evolution

Just finished reading this story about the evolution of bearded lizards.

This kind of story is precisely why people find it hard to take evolution seriously. It reminded me of a bureaucrat I once knew at the University of Illinois. At every hour-long meeting, she would begin by saying why some plan of action was never going to work, and end the meeting an hour later by explaining why it absolutely would work. Then, no matter what happened as a result of the action, she would later claim to have predicted the result at the last meeting.

The other bureaucrats thought she was very smart.
Which, I suppose, was true in its own way.

The "scientists" in the linked article above do the same thing. No matter what ends up happening with the lizards, the article will have "predicted" the result with a proper "just-so" story of evolution.

I guess that's why the people who support evolution are considered very smart. Which, again, I suppose they are, in their own way.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Dare We Hope All Men Be Saved?

Apparently, there's a video created by one Father Barron (who I do not know, nor have I watched his video), in which Father claims that we can hope all men are saved and that hell is empty.

Many "traditionalist" Catholics are up in arms. Much heat and very little light is being shed. Names are being cast around.

Let's make this simple so no one can reasonably argue.

According to the rules of logic:
If       A=B    (Major Premise)
and    B=C    (Minor Premise)
Then  C=A    (Conclusion)

According to the pious Christian tradition established by all the saints, Fathers and Doctors of the Church it is appropriate for every Christian to consider himself or herself the most miserable of all sinners. So, if I consider myself the most miserable of sinners - more miserable than Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Che Guevera, even more miserable than Barack Hussein Obama - then I am following a great and laudable Christian tradition.

Furthermore, according to Church dogma and doctrine, despite my miserable sinfulness, I have the right to hope in God's mercy and hope that I will be saved and attain heaven.

Thus, if I (who am the most miserable of sinners) can hope to be saved, then I can certainly hope that all sinners less miserable than me will be saved. That is, I can hope that all men be saved.

In short, according to the rules of logic:
If     Of All Men Who Have Ever Sinned (A),      I am the Most Miserable Sinner (B)
and  I, the Most Miserable Sinner, (B)                 Have the Right To Hope To Be Saved (C)
Then  I Have the Right To Hope for Salvation (C)  For All Men Who Have Ever Sinned (A)

The only way to avoid the conclusion is to insist that either:
(a) the Major Premise is an error, when I certainly know that it is not in error, 
(b) that the Minor Premise is an error, when the Church infallibly tells me it is correct.
I cannot hold either premise to be in error.
Thus, there is no logical way to avoid the conclusion.

So, yes, Catholics have every right to hope that all men be saved and that no human being is in hell. NOTE: Even if no human being goes to hell, hell will still be populated with persons - angelic persons. Hell was made for the devil and his fallen angels, not for man (cf. Matthew 25). Thus, the Church teaches that (a) we know hell is filled with persons AND (b) we have the right to hope and even to pray that none of those persons are human. 

Now, some people don't like this conclusion because they think "hope=belief". That is, they think that by saying we have the right to HOPE that no human being ends up in hell, we mean that we BELIEVE no human being ends up in hell. This is completely erroneous because "hope" does NOT equal "belief."

Theologically, belief is certain knowledge, while hope is merely possibility.

I BELIEVE in heaven because I know it is there. I HOPE I go to heaven, but I don't know that I'll make it. I have BELIEF in the possibility of my salvation, therefore I believe in HOPE, or if you prefer, I believe with HOPE. 

I BELIEVE, or I have trust, in a person. 
Because I have trust in that person, I HOPE in his message.
Thus, because I believe in God, I can hope in God. Hope is built upon belief. 

Belief is about the trustworthiness of a person or thing.
Hope is about the trustworthiness of the message. 

So, I believe in God. Because God has given me a message of salvation, I also hope in God - my "hope in God" is a short-hand way of saying "my hope is in His message based on the certainty of knowledge concerning the trustworthiness of His being."

Belief is most certainly not the same thing as hope.

There is no rational way to break the argument. 
I don't care if you like the conclusion or if you hate the conclusion - none of that matters. You cannot escape the conclusion and remain rational.
God is pure love.
God is pure rationality.
The only rational thing to do is love.
Holding to the hope that all men are saved is both rational and an expression of love.
It is well within Catholic doctrine.
Hans urs von Balthasar was correct - those who disagree with him are not.

There is nothing more to be said on the matter.

Don't even attempt to bring up Fatima. Or Don Bosco. Or any other saintly vision. 
Private revelation is absolutely useless here. We are talking about doctrine. Private revelation has absolutely no place nor brief in a discussion of doctrine. It should never be brought forward as evidence of doctrine. Either the Church teaches it or She does not. A vision is not a teaching. A vision is not relevant.

Insofar as you think any council or papal statement lays out a doctrine other than the one laid out here, you have misunderstood the council or papal statement. Magisterium cannot be set against Magisterium. The Magisterium says we have a right to hold this hope. All other statements have to be read in this light. 

Question: Why do people fight this idea?
Because none of us really want to be holy. Look, all the Fathers, Doctors and saints attest to the fact that I MUST consider myself the worst of sinners. But I don't like making that part of my self-image. I want to insist that Barack Hussein Obama or Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer is a lot worse than I am. But the only way to enter the path of holiness is to admit that I am probably worse than any of these people are.

After all, they may have been operating out of insanity or ineradicable ignorance. They may not be fully responsible for what they do. I know I am. Thus, even though my sins may look objectively less than theirs, my sins are most likely objectively worse than theirs. C.S. Lewis discusses this problem - I may not be as good as Mr. A, but I'm certainly better than that blighter Mr. B. That's the kind of spiritual buffoonery that landed the Pharisees in such trouble.

One test of whether people recognize the path of holiness is to see if they recognize the force of this argument. If they don't admit the possibility, then they don't fully recognize the path to holiness. If they do, they are not yet saved, but they at least have.... hope.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Pope Francis' Crozier

Some people don't like Pope Francis' new crozier.
It's too ugly, they say.

It is ugly.

The Scriptures say that Jesus was so badly beaten that nothing about Him looked human, much less beautiful. Hanging on the Cross, He took on our sin. On the Cross, He looked to us like we look to God.

So, here are the questions:
Are you holy?
Would you look beautiful hanging on the Cross?

Maybe Pope Francis is showing us how ugly we look to God. Maybe, just maybe, God sent us Pope Francis because this Pope knows how to get under our skin, he knows how to remind us where we should turn our hearts.