Fallibility — Peter Robinson

 

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As a friend, who is, like me, a convert to Catholicism, put it in an email: What is a Catholic to do when the Supreme Pontiff makes statements that are, on the very face of them, preposterous?

(If you disagree with the premise–that is, if you can see some way of constructing the statement such that it isn’t, actually, preposterous–please do say so. I’d be hugely relieved.)

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  1. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Matt White:

    A parable that starts with “The kingdom of heaven is like… ” is not teaching economics. He’s teaching about eternal rewards. Latecomers to the kingdom receive the eternal award just like those who came before.

     I agree that the purpose of the Parable of the Vineyard is to use economic concepts to explain divine concepts; this is true of all of my gospel examples. Nonetheless, this would only work if the economic concepts were true. When Jesus says “Just as x, y”, His purpose is to tell us about y, but He asserts the truth of both x and y.

    I agree that it is less direct than much of the OT, where inequality is regularly supported, but the two do not conflict. Christ is able to teach through this parable because his audience is immersed in the norms that you outline, so he can appeal to neutral justice as a familiar ideal. Because the concept of private property was clear, he can ask the rhetorical question “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” and feel confident that the hearer will supply the correct answer.

    • #151
  2. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    James Of England: Instead, though, Christ’s argument depends on the intrinsic justice of freely bargained wages, the choice of both parties; whatever the purpose of the parable, the required assumption condemns critics of the free market.

    But he also paid “the usual daily wage,” which presumes he paid what was considered in that time and culture a fair amount for that sort of work.  Note that when he hires the next batch he says “I will pay you whatever is right.”

    So I don’t think this parable rules out a just wage or minimum wage laws.  Yes the landowner here can be generous and pay more than the “usual daily wage” if he so wishes, but it doesn’t follow that he can in justice pay less, even if the laborers agree.

    It’s also not clear that it rules out socialism where the state owns all the means of production, so long as the state pays everyone “the usual daily wage” and the workers (having no other alternatives) agree to take it.

    • #152
  3. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    James Of England: I agree that a lot of the distinction goes over most heads, but feel it important nonetheless.

    I agree it’s an important distinction, and I think it goes beyond the specific topic at hand.  Our side is too quick to label everything the Democrats propose as “socialist” or “Marxist.”

    Firstly I think this is factually incorrect, and we should be more precise.  But secondly, it’s not helping us win arguments or convert moderates, who might be open to a reasoned point-by-point attack on the many flaws in Obamacare (for instance) but will roll their eyes and dismiss you as a fanatic the minute you call it a Marxist plot.

    • #153
  4. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Joseph Stanko:

    James Of England:

    ……

    So I don’t think this parable rules out a just wage or minimum wage laws…..

    It’s also not clear that it rules out socialism where the state owns all the means of production, so long as the state pays everyone “the usual daily wage”……

     Sure. I think that the “It’s my money, I can do what I want” stuff is anti-price control, but I agree that Christianity is compatible with a very large state indeed. Wanting good for the poor is well supported, comment #148 notwithstanding.  Price floors, including wages, are terrible economics, but seem theologically fine assuming they do not cause unemployment; as with school choice, God often leaves even easy policy questions open. If Francis were merely saying that the poor should be less poor, he’d be tougher to complain about. His calls for government spending are irksome, but an orthodox position.
    It’s making inequality the focus, though, that he runs into some very stiff divine headwinds. As comment #148 reminds us, the “preferential option for the poor” was always dodgy, but the class warfare is worse when put on steroids.

    • #154
  5. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    James Of England: If Francis were merely saying that the poor should be less poor, he’d be tougher to complain about.

     And how will the poor become less poor?  He says it quite clearly in #58:

    The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.

    • #155
  6. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Western Chauvinist: #146 “the leftist Catholics I know are big fans of Jim Wallis and the Sojourner publication. They’re involved in an organization called “JustFaith,” which is non-denominational Protestant in its outlook, as far as I know. But where the general public is concerned, I doubt that many could tell the difference between the Protestant Social Gospel and Liberation Theology.”

    *BTW, that “social justice” Catholics won’t go that far theologically allows them to deny their otherwise extensive overlap with LT in their socialism cloaked as Catholicism. I find their movement insidious, and disturbing.”

    Amazing!  I am a Catholic and practice my faith all the time.  I am relatively active in my parish, know a lot of people, talk about things with them, and haven’t run into much of anything regarding the Sojourners.

    I do know about Social Justice and have taken odds with it.  It did seem to be a leftist (or democrat) function and I called them on it.  I haven’t seen it in my current parish (about nine years) and don’t know how much, if any, it still exists.

    Its a good thing we have you looking over our shoulders.

    • #156
  7. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Severely Ltd.
    @SeverelyLtd

    Joseph Stanko:

    James Of England: If Francis were merely saying that the poor should be less poor, he’d be tougher to complain about.

    And how will the poor become less poor? He says it quite clearly in #58:

    The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.

     Does he endorse the state enforcing this, do you think?

    • #157
  8. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Severely Ltd.: Does he endorse the state enforcing this, do you think?

    I doubt he objects to social welfare programs, if that’s what you mean.  Though he does warn in 202:

    Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses.

    And in #192 he writes:

    We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a “dignified sustenance” for all people, but also their “general temporal welfare and prosperity”.  This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.  A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use.

    • #158
  9. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Joseph Stanko:

    James Of England: If Francis were merely saying that the poor should be less poor, he’d be tougher to complain about.

    And how will the poor become less poor? He says it quite clearly in #58:

    The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.

    Exactly; there’s less to complain about in those passages (Francis’ doctrine  is frequently compatible with Christianity). It’s still worth remembering that he’s generally not talking about the scriptural demands here. In his opposition to European governmental austerity, he advocates for more state handouts to those who are already not starving or homeless, who are not chaste widows above the age of 60, nor orphans.

    Nonetheless, that’s merely stretching doctrine; other than in opposition to workfare, the church is doing its own thing there, but not clearly actively opposing scripture. As he says, he doesn’t hate the rich. There are lots of heresies he doesn’t embrace. Here it’s only and narrowly his invention and illustration of the sin of permitting inequality that condemns Christ.

    • #159
  10. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    55. And therefore, to the harassed workers there have come “intellectuals,” as they are called, setting up in opposition to a fictitious law the equally fictitious moral principle that all products and profits, save only enough to repair and renew capital, belong by very right to the workers. This error, much more specious than that of certain of the Socialists who hold that whatever serves to produce goods ought to be transferred to the State, or, as they say “socialized,” is consequently all the more dangerous and the more apt to deceive the unwary. It is an alluring poison which many have eagerly drunk whom open Socialism had not been able to deceive.

    Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno May 15th, 1931 paragraph 55

    • #160
  11. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Severely Ltd.
    @SeverelyLtd

    Joseph Stanko:

    “Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses.”
    ———————————————————————

    I wouldn’t object to this as a tweet.

    • #161
  12. Mollie Hemingway Contributor
    Mollie Hemingway
    @MollieHemingway

    James Of England:

    The most direct parables condemning those who complain about inequality are those of the Parables of the Vineyard (the gold standard, taking an explicitly free market justification that assumes that freely bargained for wages are just), Talents, and the Prodigal Son.

    Christ also demonstrates comfort with inequality when he suggests that a just king exempts his own children from taxation (Matthew 17) and when he initially rebuffs the Syro-Phonecian woman (Mark 7/ Matthew 15).

    Paul is happy to say civis romanus sum in order to get a trial that would not have been available to most citizens of the empire. Paul is slightly less comfortable than the slave relationship restoring Christ (Matthew 8), but no scriptural figure is particularly radical on the issue.

    The Old Testament is filled with statements of God setting people on high/ in authority, statements echoed by Peter and Paul. Only abuses of inequality are condemned.

    Thank you!

    • #162
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