Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Major Catholic Newspaper Looks at Catholic Capitalism

Tip of the hat to Mirrors of Justice for this link.

The Tablet is a major UK Catholic Newspaper that gets some play in international circles and of course in all English speaking countries. If that is good or bad is another story. However they have an article up called An Acceptable Face for Capitalism. Now this article also references this UK Newspaper article from the Guardian called What I told the Pope about how to shape the new capitalism

This discussion of course strikes at the center of our lives, the Gospel, and in particular the Catholic social justice Doctrine.

Now it is sad state of affairs but often these issues cannot be discussed without a huge ole partisan edge. This is not really and indictement but a natural part of human affairs. In fact a healthy partisanship is at times needed.

While advocates of Catholic social doctrine have been wrongly called all called socialist in the past many of the same people with lets say a more "progressive " viewpoint have being making silly caricatures of others. One would think that Republicans and conservative Catholics are advocating the most extreme Laissez-faire capitalism which is to say the least not always the case.

It is a frustrating state of affairs. Most people that are the most vocal and well known advocates of Catholic social doctrines in the United States are aligned with the democrat party. Thus their party loyalty clouds their views. We saw this when Brownback and Huckabee came under attack for various parts of their proposals. Not many from the Social Justice Catholic camp came rushing to their defense. They were not on their radar.

Archbishop Chaput of Denver said a few days ago:

for thirty-five years I’ve watched prominent “pro-choice” Catholics justify themselves with the kind of moral and verbal gymnastics that should qualify as an Olympic event. All they’ve really done is capitulate to Roe v. Wade.
-- Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Vote for Real Hope and Change
First Things August 19, 2008.

We see that now many propose that Obama/ Biden is a great thing for the Pro-Life movement because they allege their polices will lower abortion rates.

We rarely see these "moral and verbal gymnastics" used toward Republicans. For instance the Bush Prescription Drug plan that was enacted was not a good start to them but something horrid and lacking and a huge farce. This sadlyjgust shows the partisanship that is hidden.

Some Catholics also from the more progressive camp play the Calvinist Card!! A very sort of dishonest way at times of trying to put needless divisions between Christians in a sort of US versus Them category. This is similar to the attacks of well a well known Catholic blogger that talks about the Calvinist far right conspiracy to get Catholics in the Republican party on the pro-life issue in the 1980's. Of course the facts that much of Capitalist theory has Catholic roots is ignored

Finally we come to the the biggie. United States Catholics share something in common with the population as a whole. Most do not have a deep understanding of economics.

I think Professor Garnett of Notre Dame a couple of weeks summed up the problem in some ways as relating to the 08 race.In his very good post Kmiec's question, and other things . . . he says in part:

It seems to be a premise of many of these "for whom should Catholics vote?" discussions that "on every issue that matters, other than abortion, the election of Sen. Obama will actually yield meaningful policy actions that are edifyingly in concert with the Church's social teaching, while the election of Sen. McCain will actually yield meaningful policy actions that are distressingly in conflict with the Church's social teaching." But, this premise is false.

It is false because it ignores, or at least downplays, the political, social, cultural and economic realities that will almost certainly prevent dramatic changes with respect to most matters, and so it overestimates the "good" stuff about an Obama administration that, it is proposed, outweighs the "bad" stuff. It is also false because Sen. McCain's views (or, more precisely, the policies likely to be pursued by his administration) on a number of matters -- not just abortion -- are, in terms of consonance with the Church's social teaching, preferable to Sen. Obama's. Or, so a faithful, reasonable, informed, non-duped, non-Republican-hack, Commonweal-and-First Things-reading Catholic could conclude. It's a sad thought, but . . . I'm not sure that productive conversations -- even among friends -- are possible so long as this false premise is assumed

Most people I think are sadly unaware that the problem exists that good professor from Notre Dame is talking about. One can make the jump from this specific part of history we are in and the same dynamics apply to Catholic social justice thought and the economy.

Now sadly this article, while a good start, falls pray to the some of the above. The author writers in part:

"While the True Wealth of Nations conference was representative of much mainstream Catholic American thought, there are other players in the field, notably the right-wing think tank called the Acton Institute. The main message of that institute, which is attempting to spread its presence worldwide from its base in Grand Rapids, Michigan, seems to be that American capitalism as conceived by Republican neoconservatives is as close as it is possible to get to a model of capitalism that Catholicism could approve of - an idea that greatly appeals to certain wealthy Catholic businessmen in the United States and indeed to the whole ideology of "Americanism" that the neocons promote."

I do wonder if I can get through the day without reading a article with the word "neocon" or "neo conservative" in it. I have been reading a lot of articles on the Civil War lately. A common theme is that those like and defend poor Ole President Lincoln are all Neo Cons. I read the other day that Joe Lieberman was a neo con( WHO KNEW!!!). If you are problems with the Russian invasion of Georgia you are a Neo Con. Now it is interesting that people are trying to make the description of neo con to have a bad tone to it and assume it does. However we now see these word , that seems to have a increasing expansive reach to take in all sort of people, now be applied to those that advocate capitalism and the Catholic social justice principles are neo cons. Or as we see later perhaps the territory of "right-wing lobbyists. "

Well there is much positive here because it does report an openness perhaps. I was not aware of this conference that they are reporting on and I intend to find out more about it.

Returning to the article I thought this was useful:

We were not without human resources for our conference. Catholic social thought is a lively academic discipline on American Catholic campuses, which are intellectual environments where religion has not been marginalised. My theory is that what gives Catholic social teaching an extra edge in America is the absence there of any significant Marxist or socialist tradition, ideologies which in their prime in Europe and elsewhere offered a robust challenge to free-market capitalism and shaped its behaviour. With the departure of those competing ideologies, European societies may also need something like Catholic social teaching as a counter-weight to run-away market forces - as Will Hutton seemed to see.

Now we can debate of course if run away market forces or perhaps too much state intervention in market is the problem in Europe. But I do think he is correct about the discipline of Catholic social thought being a lively discipline here in the USA to some degree.

One of the biggest challenges for Catholic Social thought and it's interaction with economic models is to realize that non Catholics have ideas. In fact one could not help but notice , that the largely Evangelical supporters of Baptist Huckabee and The Catholic Senator Brownback were at times engaging these issue. However both campaigns being cash deprived rarely were able to expand there thoughts and make it a part of the general discussion in the wider public square. However other noted. When the Catholic editor of National Review online is calling Huckabee "A Christian Socialist" then something is up. When Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley praised Sen. Sam Brownback as the candidate whose views most closely reflected Catholic social teaching perhaps people should be paying attention. One would think that Brownback as one of the leading Catholics in the Senates, with his very friendly Methodist Social Justice background would have raised some eyebrows. Sadly though it not partly because of partisan bias and people putting folks in boxes.

This post is going on a tad longer than I wanted it too so let me finish up. If one wantes to get a well balanced view of what the Churches views toward Capitalism are please see Against the Grain's excellent piece here Pope Benedict's Critique of Capitalism


Speaking of Huckabee and this topic. The Action Inst has this interesting excerpt from a Huckabee interview

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