Papal Infallibility

I have tremendous respect for many of the Catholics on Ricochet, so don’t mistake this for mean-spirited provocation, but this is disturbing and seems not at all helpful:

“Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday he is convinced that peace will prevail in 2013, despite the inequality, terrorism and “unregulated financial capitalism” that afflict the world today.”

  1. Joseph Stanko
    Red Feline

    The theocracy of the Church of Rome in Europe was thrown off with the Reformation

    That’s a rather one-sided reading of history.

    Prior to the Reformation English Catholics had a spiritual leader in their Pope and a political leader in their King.  That worked out pretty well until the Pope refused to grant the King a divorce, so Henry VIII made himself the head of both church and state and started lopping of the heads of folks like St. Thomas More who refused to recognize his new claim to absolute power.  Seems to me he founded a theocracy rather than throwing one off.

    And if post-Reformation England was such a bastion of religious liberty, why did so many people crowd into rickety little boats and cross the Atlantic seeking freedom of religion in the New World?

  2. Peter Robinson
    C
    The King Prawn: I could be wrong, but I think the point Severely is making is that the Pope included “unregulated financial capitalism” in the list of things the world is inflicted with that threaten peace. · 6 hours ago

    Yes, I believe you’re right about Severely’s point, King Prawn–and I myself would agree with Severely that it’s distressing to see the pontiff display what certainly looks like a fundamental ignorance of economics.  As a Catholic, and as someone who reveres Benedict XVI–in the last month, I read his new book on the nativity narratives and am halfway through his book on prayer–I cherish the sharpness with which the Church defines the area of competence of the bishops and pope:  faith and morals.  Which is to say, not economics, on which the pope speaks merely as a concerned observer–and with whom Catholics remain completely free to disagree.  As I do.  Often vehemently.

  3. Peter Robinson
    C
    Pseudodionysius

    It might rather be argued that capitalism would be an excellent solution – and very probably the only realistic solution – to most of the problems that the world currently faces. 

    As a man who has read his Tocqueville, I suppose it would be fair for him to ask you how your Roe v Wade capitalist experiment in the United States is performing for you and if you’re happy with it. · 2 hours ago

    Pseud, Pseud, what in the world has Roe got to do with capitalism?  

  4. Peter Robinson
    C
    Pseudodionysius: 

    (6) See Chesterton’s remarks on sin and newspapers. · 5 hours ago

    That sounds much, much too good to miss.  Could you provide a link?

  5. James Of England
    Pseudodionysius

    We live in a world where the most good that has been accomplished in recent history was within a capitalist system. 

    Materialgood. And it is possible to lose your soul in any regime, and to save it as well. · 3 hours ago

    Pseudodionysius, do you believe that capitalism is not a greater vehicle for honesty, responsibility, and generosity than socialism, feudalism, communism, or social democracy? While plenty of residents of unfree states do not lose their souls, and plenty of residents of free states do, do you not think that there seems to be a greater propensity for the loss of soul in the unfree states?

    I should note that it is possible to find yourself (somewhat) materially poorly off in capitalist societies as well as in unfree societies. Capitalism’s gift to mankind is, like divine grace as described in various parables, unequally and apparently unfairly distributed in both moral and economic dimensions.

  6. James Of England
    katievs

    Ryan M

    …… You really think that when he speaks against “unregulated capitalism” he is really talking about condensed power andtoo muchregulation? 

    I claim rather that you are reading an American conservative’s political framework onto the Pope’s words.

    As Mama Toad said, his framework is primarily moral and spiritual, not economic.  And if you were to study the Catholic social teaching of the last century, I think you would find that my reading is the natural reading.

    There are many places in the world, you know—think of Latin America, think of Africa, think of Asia—where societyisdrastically divided between the rich and powerful elites and the poor, who have far too little control over their own destinies. 

    One way to think of the issue is the way Alan Keyes used to put it: There are “the money people and the moral people.”

    He is calling for money and power (everywhere in the world) to be constrained to serve moral goods. 

    We read leftism into that.  But it’s not leftism.  It’s the gospel. ·

    Where in the Gospel is regulation called for?

    Where in the non-American world is “unregulated capitalism” the problem? Latin America?

  7. James Of England
    Pseudodionysius

    [snip]….

     I greet with affection Cardinal Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Turkson, with all the officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace;

    [snip]….

    Notice the quotation marks around the offending remarks? I’m assuming the people he’s addressing had a hand in final approval of his remarks (and may have even drafted them) and its apparent he’s quoting other writings.

    Am I going to lose sleep over it? No. · 

    The degree to which it is acceptable for clergy to speak falsehoods for social reasons is a difficult question. The classic example is Patriarch Tikhon’s address in support of Stalin and WWII in exchange for a reduction in martyrdoms. In this instance, however, the pressure comes from the Pope’s inferiors, so the excuse seems weak.

    Pseudodionysius: A word to the wise when reading remarks attributed to “The Pope”

    [eg.]

    (3) Media outlets often pounce on the ambiguities to juice political controversy for a spike in their news cycle.

    Like Katievs’ “this reminds me of contraception”, I get the impression that the numerous unfair attacks on the Holy See have invigorated defenses beyond the degree justified by the instant case.

  8. James Of England
    Mama Toad

    …. Benedict is not a dummy, and he knows that he is a theologian, not an economist. Perhaps if folks remove their American political party lenses, they can see that Benedict is neither a Republican or Democrat — he is the Vicar of Christ. · 7 hours ago

    Do you think that his listing, along with other causes of harm, such as terrorism and crime, “capitalismo finanziario sregolato” was a theological statement rather than an economic one? Could you point to some scripture suggesting that we should not have free markets or that we should not behave as the parable of the Talents suggests?

    I agree that the Pope’s political lenses tend to be more focused on Europe than on America. Certainly, the European political scene is more fraught with the economic concerns he refers to; America’s economic woes are mostly potential rather than realized as yet. Obama might seize upon his words, but they are more likely to offer comfort to street fighters in Italy and Spain, reminding them that they are doing good.

    My days of regularly visiting the Vatican site and Catholic Social Doctrine books recede ever further back. Did he say anything theologically controversial/ interesting?

  9. Joseph Stanko
    James Of England

    Pseudodionysius, do you believe that capitalism is not a greater vehicle for honesty, responsibility, and generosity than socialism, feudalism, communism, or social democracy? While plenty of residents of unfree states do not lose their souls, and plenty of residents of free states do, do you not think that there seems to be a greater propensity for the loss of soul in the unfree states?

    That seems a bit of an oversimplification.

    Christianity is growing and thriving in the global south, in South America and Africa, while the rich Western nations are rapidly secularizing.  And are not most American conservatives constantly fretting about the many signs of cultural decline: divorce rates, illegitimate births, and so on?

    It seems to me that virtue is a precondition of capitalism rather than its product.  And it further seems that capitalist nations have a tendency towards decadence within a few generations.  If capitalism automatically produced more virtue than other economic systems it would be much more stable and enduring that it seems to be in practice.

  10. Joseph Stanko

    [23] And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    [24] Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 

    I would be wary of assuming that the system that produces the most riches will automatically produce virtue or save souls given these warnings.

  11. James Of England
    Joseph Stanko

    [23] And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    [24] Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 

    I would be wary of assuming that the system that produces the most riches will automatically produce virtue or save souls given these warnings. · 18 minutes ago

    I agree that the production of wealth does not automatically improve the condition of the soul. The primary way in which free markets improve spiritual life, however is through freedom. The less power any individual has to mandate the action of another, the less incentive towards material or spiritual corruption will exist. Obviously, where the compulsion is towards godly behavior, this is more than offset. If the Pope had been defending Christian theocracies and/ or monastic communities, I’d have fully agreed with him.

    Edit: Oh, and to go through my list; capitalism encourages honesty, as it supports transparent accounting, supports responsibility by putting each man in control of his resources, and permits generous choices.

  12. James Of England
    Joseph Stanko

    James Of England

    That seems a bit of an oversimplification.

    Christianity is growing and thriving in the global south, in South America and Africa, while the rich Western nations are rapidly secularizing.  And are not most American conservatives constantly fretting about the many signs of cultural decline: divorce rates, illegitimate births, and so on?

    It seems to me that virtue is a precondition of capitalism rather than its product.  And it further seems that capitalist nations have a tendency towards decadence within a few generations.  If capitalism automatically produced more virtue than other economic systems it would be much more stable and enduring that it seems to be in practice. ·

    In the developed world, observant Christianity has generally done better in the more economically free countries, but I agree that the picture is not clear; have the freer parts of the global south done less well in evangelizing than the less free?

    My claim was that capitalism produces virtue rather than producing orthodoxy. Even there, it is only one factor in a complex picture, and you are right that virtuous societies may become capitalist, leading to selection biases.

    I believe capitalism to be pretty stable and enduring.

  13. Pseudodionysius
    Peter Robinson

    Pseudodionysius

    It might rather be argued that capitalism would be an excellent solution – and very probably the only realistic solution – to most of the problems that the world currently faces. 

    As a man who has read his Tocqueville, I suppose it would be fair for him to ask you how your Roe v Wade capitalist experiment in the United States is performing for you and if you’re happy with it. · 2 hours ago

    Pseud, Pseud, what in the world has Roe got to do with capitalism?   · 3 hours ago

    Peter, capitalism is being proposed as if, somehow, it can be hatched in vitro exclusive of the nation state and the vices of the regime under which it grows. As I mentioned in Comment #113 above, as an admirer of what the United States has achieved, in his previous addresses as Cardinal Ratzinger (and without the handicap of having to coordinate addresses to a general audience that must be vetted by the Eurocratic curial maze) and with all the advantages that its Federalist principles confer on its form of republican democracy, it cannot escape the iron grip of human vice enshrined in the assault on human life.

  14. Pseudodionysius
    James Of England

    Joseph Stanko

    James Of England

    If capitalism automatically produced more virtue than other economic systems it would be much more stable and enduring that it seems to be in practice. ·

    My claim was that capitalism produces virtue rather than producing orthodoxy. Even there, it is only one factor in a complex picture, and you are right that virtuous societies may become capitalist, leading to selection biases.

    I believe capitalism to be pretty stable and enduring. · 1 hour ago

    Based on a close reading of Charles Kesler’s latest book and Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism as well as even a quick perusal of Christopher Dawson’s corpus, I think that you’re leaving out a few things. Virtue is a power of the soul, and as material prosperity increases, there is an almost inevitable decay in the polity. America’s system of government can forestall it, but cannot eradicate it.

    I don’t think I’m giving anyone news flashes by pointing to the timeless, Thucydidean propensity for human nature and human beings to lapse into idolatry and venerate the creature and its sub creations over the creator.

  15. Pseudodionysius
    Peter Robinson

    Pseudodionysius: 

    (6) See Chesterton’s remarks on sin and newspapers. · 5 hours ago

    That sounds much, much too good to miss.  Could you provide a link? · 4 hours ago

    Chesterton’s quip: “Sin is the only dogma of religion that can be proved by reading the daily newspaper.” 

    I can’t recall the source exactly, though I think its either the Everlasting Man or Orthodoxy.

  16. KC Mulville
    Ryan M

    Would that the international press should ignore the throwaways and pay attention to Benedict’s game….  But they didn’t, they don’t, and they never will.  Which is why he should be careful about the words he chooses to discard.

    Well, with all due respect, if your point is that there are people in the world who will unfairly jump down the pope’s throat and portray anything he says in the most negative light … I think you’ve inadvertently proved that point. ;)

    No. The remedy isn’t to insist that no speaker ever say anything that could possibly offend anyone. The remedy is for readers to take the words in context and give it a fair reading.

    Consider, for instance, how the BBC reported on the homily: “Pope’s new year address deplores rampant capitalism.” Rampant? As if the pope was attacking capitalism as a disease, or as evil? No one who actually read the homily could possibly draw that conclusion. 

    So what’s the remedy? 

    • Force the media to change? (Good luck.)

    • Demand that the pope say only those things that can’t be misinterpreted? (Impossible.)

    Or …

    • Let the reader beware. Caveat lector.

  17. Pseudodionysius

    While plenty of residents of unfree states do not lose their souls, and plenty of residents of free states do, do you not think that there seems to be a greater propensity for the loss of soul in the unfree states?

    Seems to be is the hinge phrase. Acedia and sloth, as Josef Pieper, pointed out, are also vices to which we are susceptible in a material age, and based on the decay of religious observance (and I use the term “virtue of religion” in the technical, scholastic sense) as material wealth and technological achievement increase, I’d say merely saying a state is free or unfree leaves unspoken many other things at work.

  18. Pseudodionysius

    And please recall that the same people who produced Leonidas, rolled over for Macedon 100 years later and became domesticated denizens of the Mediterranean, their peculiar experiment in democracy confined to the work of historians to preserve.

  19. katievs
    Ryan M: …Point being, there are good arguments on both sides, but I expect from my Catholic friends the respect that should be due to a protestant couple, living in a Godly marriage, who chooses to use birth control in the context of attempting to raise a Christian family.  That much has never been conceded…  I think that if you are a Catholic, then you willingly submit to the direction of the Church.  I have absolutely no problem with Catholics who choose to live according to the Church teaching…

    You make my point.  You judge the Church’s teaching on contraception not from knowledge of the Church’s teaching, but from a mix of your impressions of what a few Catholics you know have said and your own thinking about it.

    My claim isn’t that “the Church has put a lot of thought into these matters, therefore you should accept its teachings”, it’s that you ought not to be mocking the Pope as absurd and blind and ignorant and so on, when you don’t understand the context of the Church’s teaching and haven’t looked into its grounds.

  20. katievs

    It may comfort you to know that Papal infallibility doesn’t mean the Pope can’t be wrong.

    Not that I necessarily think he is wrong in this case.  

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