Pope Francis Is a Radical; But Not in the Way We Think

 

On the day the College of Cardinals elected Pope Francis, many Catholics felt their guts tighten. Jorge Mario Bergolio’s theological beliefs were largely unknown. His roots in South America triggered anxiety, it being the birth place of Liberation Theology with its Marxist philosophy and focus on worldly salvation. Of even greater concern was his Jesuit (Society of Jesus) background. The Society of Jesus has been a problem almost from its inception, and was even suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1767, though the reasons are complicated. Jesuit Universities are a hotbed of Marxism with a Catholic flavor; a good many Jesuit professors hold capitalism in utter contempt. (One of my Jesuit professors even told me that Marx was a prophet, but that he never sought disciples. That is the very definition of idiocy). There was great anxiety that Francis would also weaken the Church’s position on abortion and gay marriage.

It took Francis only a few weeks to confirm many of these suspicions. First, he gave the America interview in which he seemed to suggest that Catholic opponents of abortion were motivated by strict adherence to the law of the Church, rather than by a spirit of mercy. I was infuriated at what I took to be a caricature of the pro-life movement. I knew from personal experience that pro-life Catholics love the innocent, and make enormous sacrifices of their time, money, and talents, not just on behalf of babies, but also of mothers who abort and thus ruin much of their lives.

Worse, was the Holy Father’s “who am I to judge” gay Catholics comment. Again, the Pope seemed to say that those who opposed gay marriage were motivated by the law rather than by love. Again, from personal experience, I know few “haters” among opponents of gay marriage. The overwhelming majority of same-sex marriage opponents seek to protect the culture — especially marriage — from the darkness enveloping what they believe is a sacred institution.

The Pope seemed to judge them while telling them not to judge.

Shortly thereafter, the Vatican released Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, Evangelli Gaudium, with its strong language criticizing unfettered free markets. Conservatives despaired and attacked Francis as a Marxist, or at least a social democrat. Rush Limbaugh was apoplectic. Breitbart was sure the Pope had unleashed Liberation Theology. My own anger rose to the level of resentment, even to the point of wondering if, in raising Francis to the Chair of Peter, the College of Cardinals had ignored the Holy Spirit.

My distress was heightened by the Synod on the Family. I was quite certain that this pope was on the wrong side, perhaps even an enemy of the truth.

With Francis’ announcement that he would soon release an encyclical addressing climate change the attacks got personal. Blogging at First Things, Maureen Mullarkey all but declared Francis a heretic, essentially calling the Pope an ignorant, egomaniacal, Marxist lunatic. She came perilously close to calling Francis an anti-Christ or, at least, a dupe of the devil.

The Federalist nearly exploded. Mullarkey again called Francis a leftist. Ricochet’s own Rachel Lu cautioned Republicans about too loudly criticizing Francis, fearful that this would play into the hands of the Democrats. D.C. McAllister responded, quite thoughtfully, that it is not only appropriate but necessary to call the pope out when he says or writes about issues from a leftist perspective.

And, of course, the storm spread to the wider media. The Pope’s conservative critics believe Francis to be an enemy of freedom, while the left praises his critiques of capitalism and wrings its hands over his ardent defense of life and marriage.

The Pope has given everyone a reason to hate him, or at least a reason to see him with a very jaundiced eye.

As the debate continued at The Federalist, I began a post eviscerating the Holy Father. Who, I thought, was the Pope to attack capitalism? Surely he knows nothing about economics, and he really needs to follow in the footsteps of St. John Paul II, and take some classes on von Mises or Hayek. My concern was that Francis was a progressive in sheep’s clothing who would promote leftist policies and thus undercut the progress brought on by economic freedom.

But I had trouble finding the right critical words. I had to go farther before I unleashed my screed. As a matter of charity, I felt that I must read what Francis has actually said, rather than rely on the blather of Rush Limbaugh, or the barrage of criticism directed against Francis by libertarian economists and climate change critics. It was as if, by intuition alone, I felt that something was out of kilter in all the criticism.

I first went to primary sources, Francis’s actual words. My heart warmed a bit, but I still felt a chill from much of what he had to say. My economic liberalism kept getting in the way.

My research took me to an article in The American Conservative entitled A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching by Notre Dame University Professor Patrick Deneen. After reading the article, I took a look at the writings of Michael Hanby, William T. Cavanaugh, and David Schindler. In these and other Catholic thinkers, my mind began to whirl.  Deneen’s article had a particularly acute effect on my thinking. He declares a real war in the Church, but not between “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics, categories that have never been relevant because they are political, not spiritual. Instead, Deneen, argues, the real war is theological and at the very heart of the Church.

Church teaching, he contends, has long been at war with liberalism, whether of the economic or social sort. The Church and liberalism see the world in entirely different ways.  Here, he concludes, is the real battlefield: a fight between liberal philosophy and what Deneen calls “Radical Catholicism.”

The “radical” school rejects the view that Catholicism and liberal democracy are fundamentally compatible. Rather, liberalism cannot be understood to be merely neutral and ultimately tolerant toward (and even potentially benefitting from) Catholicism. Rather, liberalism is premised on a contrary view of human nature (and even a competing theology) to Catholicism. Liberalism holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility. According to this view, liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism, among which (Catholics hold) are the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements; that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue.

The effect of this line of thinking can be shattering. It calls upon Catholics to examine their every belief, whether political, economic, or religious. That’s especially true of individualism. Radical Catholicism challenges libertarian commitments to free markets and capitalism. Catholic economic theologians like Professor Cavanaugh and John Medaille argue for a deeply Catholic understanding of the dangers of unfettered capitalism, suggesting that it can easily slip into a type of Gnosticism and dualism that is at odds with the truths taught by Mother Church.

Most acutely, though, Radical Catholicism prompts a reassessment of attitudes towards Francis. Both conservative and liberal pundits repeatedly quote Francis without digging deeply into why he teaches what he teaches. Social conservatives feel the constant need to explain Francis’s remarks “in context,” often ignoring the totality of what he is saying. Economic conservatives grounded in classical liberalism (especially Locke) should think twice before calling for papal silence on matters of economics. Leftists who praise Francis as a progressive in economics are also called upon to reevaluate their understanding of this Pope. For the fact is that both sides miss the point.

Francis is a radical, but he is no friend of ideology, left or right (he recently laughed at a reporter’s suggestion that he was a social democrat). Francis is continuing the work of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict, with their call to a return to the Gospel which is grounded in self-emptying love.

Where will this go? That’s somewhat hard to say. Francis is calling on Catholics (and for that matter the entire world) to rend their hearts and their worldly garments. The political ramifications are great. Radical Catholicism calls the faithful away from the liberal project and towards authentic Christianity. This may mean, among many things, abandoning political partisanship, and even a type of retreat from the world through “the Benedict Option.”

All this is the topic of another article. But Francis’s own words may suggest a new path. From his Speech in the Room of Renunciation in the Archbishops Residence:

…we are all the Church, as I said. And we all must strip ourselves of this worldliness: the spirit opposing the spirit of the Beatitudes, the spirit opposing the spirit of Jesus. Worldliness hurts us. It is so very sad to find a worldly Christian, sure — according to him — of that security that the faith gives and of the security that the world provides. You cannot be on both sides. The Church — all of us — must strip herself of the worldliness that leads to vanity, to pride, that is idolatry.

Put simply, the Pope’s job is to free the faithful from a world of temporary attachments, and to call all men to the greater truth: their Kingdom is not of this world.  Francis’s most sacred obligation is to save souls, and whatever stands in the way of that mission must be rejected. That includes purely secular economics.

That doesn’t make him a socialist or an economic liberal. It makes him a Catholic. And the Pope.

Image Credit: giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

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  1. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    I don’t know whether to applaud or not. You ended up in the right place, but getting there was sometimes painful to my sensibilities. ;-)

    But seriously, I loved it. We are talking about a conflict between two different worlds. Nice job.

    • #1
  2. Giantkiller Member
    Giantkiller
    @Giantkiller

    Well said.  A lot to think about in this post.  Extremely interesting.

    • #2
  3. user_157053 Member
    user_157053
    @DavidKnights

    Your point is well-taken. However, the Pope should concern himself with the suffering of the poor and oppressed in this world.  It is the duty of Catholics to bring aid and comfort in this world to those people, as well as the good news of salvation.

    Nothing makes people poorer and more oppressed than socialism.  John Paul II understood this so clearly from his life experience.

    • #3
  4. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Yes that is doctrinaire leftism.  That there is some enforceable claim on the life and soul of another person based upon one’s simple fact of existence.

    Families only exist beyond the goopy exchange of viscous fluids because people choose such.  That it has utility.  Never once did he consider that love has utility to the individual.  That is just sad.

    I would convert to atheism before that brand of Catholicism.  That tree’s fruit is toxic.

    • #4
  5. Mama Toad Member
    Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Outstanding, Mike.

    I love that you changed your mind the more you looked into it.

    We’ve all been asked before on what matters our minds were changed by a conversation on Ricochet. In this case, the conversation was all in your head, before you even wrote it! Well done.

    I agree with you completely, btw.

    Slightly tangential, one thing that amazes me is how people who claim that the pope is irrelevant to them get so exercised over his words, either way. They are all looking for worldly affirmation in his words. They don’t realize his focus is on Christ at all times.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @DougWatt

    The terms liberal or conservative does not apply to Catholicism in the matter of faith or morals. Orthodox or Heresy are the proper words. One is either orthodox in following the teachings of the Catholic Church, or as baptized Catholics advocating abortion and promoting abortion, in heresy.

    • #6
  7. user_836033 Member
    user_836033
    @WBob

    When you criticize “unfettered capitalism” and the like, as the pope has, you are going much further than objecting  to a view that “holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility,” (as Deneen said in your quote).

    Economic freedom is not at odds with “the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements.”  To say otherwise is making a straw man type argument.

    The pope would just be doing his job if he was merely encouraging people not to become slaves to money or their careers. (It’s entirely possible for someone to be a “good capitalist” and not to be enslaved in such a way). Is that all he meant by what he has said? If so, then it seems he’s not a very good communicator. How could so many people have misunderstood it?

    When you complain about “unfettered capitalism,” you necessarily imply that there should be someone whose job it is to “fetter” it.  Some bureaucrat, some commission, some tyrant. That’s the rub; it sounds nice until you start getting into the real world details.  Not to mention that in most places where capitalism is practiced, there are already plenty of fetters in place.

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the pope is a poor communicator, or that he just enjoys overstating things and making a splash, or that he really is a leftist. It’s simply not necessary to go as far as he did in his statements if his goal were to remind people that love of money can inhibit your relationship with God and with others.

    • #7
  8. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @PainterJean

    Yes that is doctrinaire leftism.  That there is some enforceable claim on the life and soul of another person based upon one’s simple fact of existence.

    Spoken like a Randroid…. The key word that you inserted was “enforceable” — nowhere mentioned above. There’s a difference between enforced collectivism and the recognition that, as human beings, we have responsibilities to one another.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @PainterJean

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the pope is a poor communicator, or that he just enjoys overstating things and making a splash, or that he really is a leftist. It’s simply not necessary to go as far as he did in his statements if his goal were to remind people that love of money can inhibit your relationship with God and with others.

    I agree…..reluctantly, but I am left to draw the same conclusions. It also bothers me that he seems to belittle traditional, orthodox Catholics — you know, the ones that breed like rabbits and actually produce vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

    • #9
  10. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Bob W:When you criticize “unfettered capitalism” and the like, as the pope has, you are going much further than objecting to a view that “holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility,” (as Deneen said in your quote).

    Economic freedom is not at odds with “the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements.” To say otherwise is making a straw man type argument.

    The pope would just be doing his job if he was merely encouraging people not to become slaves to money or their careers. (It’s entirely possible for someone to be a “good capitalist” and not to be enslaved in such a way). Is that all he meant by what he has said? If so, then it seems he’s not a very good communicator. How could so many people have misunderstood it?

    When you complain about “unfettered capitalism,” you necessarily imply that there should be someone whose job it is to “fetter” it. Some bureaucrat, some commission, some tyrant. That’s the rub; it sounds nice until you start getting into the real world details. Not to mention that in most places where capitalism is practiced, there are already plenty of fetters in place.

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the pope is a poor communicator, or that he just enjoys overstating things and making a splash, or that he really is a leftist. It’s simply not necessary to go as far as he did in his statements if his goal were to remind people that love of money can inhibit your relationship with God and with others.

    If my thesis is correct that the Pope is a “radical Catholics,” then I think he is a great communicator. I didn’t begin to see this until I really started looking into this. Francis is calling everyone to conversion, and he is doing this by throwing everyone off balance, and calling everyone to re-assessment their most precious beliefs. As I said, Radical Catholicism calls us to re-think economics from the perspective of Christ. The Lord called everyone examine their lives. I do not think the Pope is a socialist. Nor do I think he wants government to use its heavy hand to widely regulate markets. I can’t find a recent speech by the Pope in which he says that, if inequality becomes a serious enough problem, then it may appropriate for the government to intervene, but this would be the exception, niot the rule. I’ve got so many bookmarks on this that I’m going to have to spend time really looking for the speech. I’ll pst it when I find it.

    Radical Catholicism is generally pro-market. I’m working on a post on the economics thoughts of Radicali Catholicism. But for anyone interested here’s a YouTube video by William T. Cavanaugh that is helpful.

    • #10
  11. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I agree that Christians are called to be “in the world but not of the world.” But we also pray “Thy Kingdom come!” We are called to be Heaven on Earth to the holiest extent possible.

    Human beings are by nature both physical and spiritual. So should our behavior be.

    Most conservatives define capitalism loosely as freedom in the marketplace. Free will is among God’s greatest gifts to us, and we should honor it. But we should not be silent about how that freedom is employed. Jesus wasn’t.

    • #11
  12. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @PainterJean

    I do not think the Pope is a socialist. Nor do I think he wants government to use its heavy hand to widely regulate markets.

    I wish I could be so sure. He gave a speech to the U.N. in which he called for the “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state”. Since most countries already tax income in order to provide services, it would appear that he has something in mind over and beyond what is currently done. What does that look like, exactly?

    • #12
  13. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I disagree that conservatism and liberalism, Right and Left, or whatever you want to call them are purely political. The division does extend into theology precisely because the difference of ideas is so fundamental.

    It doesn’t begin with considerations of ethics or policies. It begins with basic observations of human nature, relationships, potentials, and guiding principles.

    What is free will for? What are its limits? Whether asked in a political discussion or a theological one, the sides will be the same.

    • #13
  14. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Mike Rapkoch:

     Nor do I think he wants government to use its heavy hand to widely regulate markets.

    The narrow distinction is that Francis doesn’t believe that markets regulate themselves already. There’s a belief that if you just left markets completely alone, the competing forces of competition would produce a stable equilibrium. But history and experience say they don’t, and frequently they result in the opposite. They certainly haven’t in every case; his own experience in Argentina testified to that for him.

    It isn’t that Francis is advocating more regulation. Instead, he’s rejecting the idea that a completely unregulated market is the solution. Conservatives shrieked when he said something about the “absolute autonomy” of the market, and asked where such an unregulated market existed. But that completely missed his point, which was that the solution shouldn’t be to unregulate the market to the point of autonomy – to “unfetter” capitalism and allow it to find equilibrium by itself. He wasn’t saying that markets were currently autonomous; he was saying that they shouldn’t become autonomous. He was saying that the markets don’t find equilibrium if you just leave them alone, and that some regulation is necessary. Only the laissiest of laissez faire capitalists would argue against that.

    If you read what he actually said in Evangelium Gaudii (especially in #56) with that in mind, it sounds entirely different from the way it has been portrayed.

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @PainterJean

    Families only exist beyond the goopy exchange of viscous fluids because people choose such.  That it has utility.  Never once did he consider that love has utility to the individual.  That is just sad.

    What is sad is the impoverished image of the family that you have presented! The family, in Catholic theology, is rich in meaning and purpose. From the Catechism:

    2204 “The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church.” It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament. 

    2205 The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.

    2206 The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. The family is a privileged community called to achieve a “sharing of thought and common deliberation by the spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children’s upbringing.” 

    II. THE FAMILY AND SOCIETY

    2207 The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.

    2208 The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

    This goes beautifully far beyond the sterile concept of mere “utility”.

    • #15
  16. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Though Pope Benedict XVI is more similar to my own faith experience, I do believe Pope Francis is a good successor in many ways. Whereas the former focused on thought, the latter focuses on action. One encouraged us to slow down, and the other pushes us to put our beliefs into motion.

    Whether or not our present vicar’s theology is as clear and fruitful, his energy is infectious.

    • #16
  17. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Painter Jean:Families only exist beyond the goopy exchange of viscous fluids because people choose such. That it has utility. Never once did he consider that love has utility to the individual. That is just sad.

    What is sad is the impoverished image of the family that you have presented! The family, in Catholic theology, is rich in meaning and purpose. From the Catechism:

    2204 “The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church.”9 It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament.10

    2205 The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.

    2206 The relationships within the family bring an affinity of feelings, affections and interests, arising above all from the members’ respect for one another. The family is a privileged community called to achieve a “sharing of thought and common deliberation by the spouses as well as their eager cooperation as parents in the children’s upbringing.”11

    II. THE FAMILY AND SOCIETY

    2207 The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.

    2208 The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

    This goes beautifully far beyond the sterile concept of “utility”.

    so….. it has utility then…..

    • #17
  18. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Aaron Miller:Though Pope Benedict XVI is more similar to my own faith experience, I do believe Pope Francis is a good successor in many ways. Whereas the former focused on thought, the latter focuses on action. One encouraged us to slow down, and the other pushes us to put our beliefs into motion.

    Whether or not our present vicar’s theology is as clear and fruitful, his energy is infectious.

    With all due respect to Francis, trying to match Benedict on theology wouldn’t have been a good move. I mean, Ratzinger is a giant. On the other hand, Francis is a pastor and there’s plenty of need for that also.

    • #18
  19. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @PainterJean

    Though Pope Benedict XVI is more similar to my own faith experience, I do believe Pope Francis is a good successor in many ways. Whereas the former focused on thought, the latter focuses on action. One encouraged us to slow down, and the other pushes us to put our beliefs into motion.

    Nicely put.

    Whether or not our present vicar’s theology is as clear and fruitful, his energy is infectious.

    True, although it is disheartening to me and my orthodox Catholic friends to see how his papacy has given new energy to dissidents. I know that Pope Francis will not — and cannot — change Church teaching on matters near and dear to the dissenting heart (women’s ordination, gay “marriage”, abortion, contraception, etc.) but they don’t know that. So I am seeing more confusion being sown in, for example, our local parish (we actually belong to and usually attend a parish in the next town that has a reverent and fearlessly orthodox young priest, but at times we will go the two blocks to our local Catholic-Lite parish). Before the Synod, a priest here told the parishioners that — finally! — the Church was going to change her teaching about divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion. Well, what happens when the Church reiterates Jesus’ decidedly “un-pastoral” (I’m being sarcastic here) approach of regarding those people as being in an adulterous relationship, hence in a state of sin, hence unable to receive Communion? I can see the local priest deciding that he will be “pastoral” and give Communion anyway, confident that he is acting in a manner Pope Francis would approve of, if not those un-pastoral dudes at the CDF.

    Pope Francis seems to be wanting to accommodate current cultural mores to a certain extent, sort of saying, “oh, don’t worry about that doctrine stuff, come on in, the water’s fine”. Or perhaps I should say that that is how he is being heard by such luminaries as Elton John. I don’t think the approval of Elton John of this pope is a good sign….

    • #19
  20. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @PainterJean

    With all due respect to Francis, trying to match Benedict on theology wouldn’t have been a good move. I mean, Ratzinger is a giant. On the other hand, Francis is a pastor and there’s plenty of need for that also.

    Those two aspects — theological soundness and pastoral efficacy — should not be opposed. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    • #20
  21. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    KC Mulville:

    Aaron Miller:Though Pope Benedict XVI is more similar to my own faith experience, I do believe Pope Francis is a good successor in many ways. Whereas the former focused on thought, the latter focuses on action. One encouraged us to slow down, and the other pushes us to put our beliefs into motion.

    Whether or not our present vicar’s theology is as clear and fruitful, his energy is infectious.

    With all due respect to Francis, trying to match Benedict on theology wouldn’t have been a good move. I mean, Ratzinger is a giant. On the other hand, Francis is a pastor and there’s plenty of need for that also.

    I wonder if that was a deep part of Benedict’s decision to abdicate. He is very old, undoubtedly tired, and sought seclusion to pray and think. He doesn’t have the skills and strength to be the active, energetic, pope that Francis is. I think Benedict also  recognized that his intellectual approach was inaccessible to most Catholics. As I look more deeply into this, I am increasingly seeing Francis as a true successor to Benedict and St. John Paul II. JPII was not a member of the Democratic party, nor of the Republican party. popes, as Francis said (see link above) cannot allow themselves to be captured by an ideology. They must consider every aspect of human life. For the Church, economics is a species of moral theology.

    • #21
  22. user_579445 Inactive
    user_579445
    @user_579445

    Bob W:When you criticize “unfettered capitalism” and the like, as the pope has, you are going much further than objecting to a view that “holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility,” (as Deneen said in your quote).

    Economic freedom is not at odds with “the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements.” To say otherwise is making a straw man type argument.

    The pope would just be doing his job if he was merely encouraging people not to become slaves to money or their careers. (It’s entirely possible for someone to be a “good capitalist” and not to be enslaved in such a way). Is that all he meant by what he has said? If so, then it seems he’s not a very good communicator. How could so many people have misunderstood it?

    When you complain about “unfettered capitalism,” you necessarily imply that there should be someone whose job it is to “fetter” it. Some bureaucrat, some commission, some tyrant. That’s the rub; it sounds nice until you start getting into the real world details. Not to mention that in most places where capitalism is practiced, there are already plenty of fetters in place.

    It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the pope is a poor communicator, or that he just enjoys overstating things and making a splash, or that he really is a leftist. It’s simply not necessary to go as far as he did in his statements if his goal were to remind people that love of money can inhibit your relationship with God and with others.

    I was quite grateful for the article since the Pope has been very vexing to me.  Yet, this comment is hard to disagree with.  Perhaps I can at least move back from disappointment in the Pope to “trust, but verify.”

    The one thing I would add to the comment is this, it is critical to understand that there are those in and out of the Church that want to move it in their preferred direction.  If one has to dig deeply to find an acceptable interpretation of the Pope’s words, the damage will have already been done.  And that’s granting Mike’s point regarding the true stance of the Pope.

    Loved the article but while I know Locke was influential with the contract nature of society (if I recall correctly), I don’t recall liberalism having evolved solely on that basis.  Without government interference, man has developed the kind of needed social interactions that reflect a deep understanding of the commitment to others.

    • #22
  23. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Bob W: The pope would just be doing his job if he was merely encouraging people not to become slaves to money or their careers. (It’s entirely possible for someone to be a “good capitalist” and not to be enslaved in such a way). Is that all he meant by what he has said? If so, then it seems he’s not a very good communicator. How could so many people have misunderstood it?

    Because people want to. There are some on the left who will grab onto anything they can to drive a wedge between the religious and the right, and there are also many on the right who hear any criticism of capitalism as a call for statist revolution.

    Personally I believe, to paraphrase a great protestant, that capitalism is the worst possible economic system except for all the others. I would abandon capitalism in a heartbeat if all the other options weren’t grossly illiberal. That was something St. John Paul II understood; capitalism is far from perfect, but the cure can often be worse than the disease. Francis is right to hold capitalism’s proverbial feet to the fire, but he needs to be careful about enabling those who would make things worse.

    • #23
  24. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Mike Rapkoch [quoting Patrick Deneen]: Liberalism holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility. According to this view, liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism, among which (Catholics hold) are the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements; that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue.

    I second Bob in finding this incredibly frustrating. If Deenan and Francis want to argue against John Galt or Andrew Ryan, they should do us a favor and acknowledge that they are fictional characters.

    Catholicism does not hold a monopolistic claim on valuing community and connection.

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @PainterJean

    If Deenan and Francis want to argue against John Galt or Andrew Ryan, they should do us a favor and acknowledge that they are fictional characters.

    John Galt may be fictional, but Objectivists and their intellectual kin aren’t.

    • #25
  26. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mike Rapkoch [quoting Patrick Deneen]: Liberalism holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility. According to this view, liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism, among which (Catholics hold) are the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements; that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue.

    I second Bob in finding this incredibly frustrating. If Deenan and Francis want to argue against John Galt or Andrew Ryan, they should do us a favor and acknowledge that they are fictional characters.

    Catholicism does not hold a monopolistic claim on valuing community and connection.

    It’s certainly true that Catholicism doesn’t have a monopoly, but I don’t think Deneen is saying that. He is simply pointing out that there are significant differences in world view. If the debate among Catholics does rise to the surface, it will have effects on the wider community, but I don’t think Deneen believes this will result in changing the wider political community. In fact, the opposite may be true. I’ve got another post on the potential effects in the works. The effects may be indirectly political, but the greater likelihood is that there will be a cultural rift. Catholics may feel themselves forced to develop their own enclaves that do some degree separate them from party politics. as Catholics (and some other churches) distance themselves from the political parties. As I say, I’ll get into this with a later post. For now, here are some thoughts from Rod Dreher who, though Orthodox, writes a great deal about these issues.

    I think this debate has been just below the surface for centuries. It’s just that Deneen believes it’s coming to a head in the Church.

    • #26
  27. user_579445 Inactive
    user_579445
    @user_579445

    A great companion piece to this article is by the “Grumpy Catholic” on the member feed showing the problem with appearing to be moving in a given area even if the Pope is not and thus unleashing those who want to force the Church’s hand.

    • #27
  28. user_554634 Moderator
    user_554634
    @MikeRapkoch

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mike Rapkoch [quoting Patrick Deneen]: Liberalism holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility. According to this view, liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism, among which (Catholics hold) are the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements; that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue.

    I second Bob in finding this incredibly frustrating. If Deenan and Francis want to argue against John Galt or Andrew Ryan, they should do us a favor and acknowledge that they are fictional characters.

    Catholicism does not hold a monopolistic claim on valuing community and connection.

    Interestingly, Ayn Rand was hugely indebetd to Thomas Aquinas in her philosophy. Her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is full of Thomistic ideas. She just rejected Aquinas’ conclusions as to the mission and meaning of man. She was, after all, an atheist.

    • #28
  29. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Painter Jean:If Deenan and Francis want to argue against John Galt or , they should do us a favor and acknowledge that they are fictional characters.

    John Galt may be fictional, but Objectivists and their intellectual kin aren’t.

    No, but the Galt-like caricature Deenan is identifying as the essence of liberalism is just that: a caricature. I’m a secular libertarian, and I don’t identify with his description of my ideology any more than I’d imagine he’d identify with some rather intemperate descriptions of his thinking I could conjure-up easily.

    Mike Rapkoch:

    It’s certainly true that Catholicism doesn’t have a monopoly, but I don’t think Deneen is saying that. He is simply pointing out that there are significant differences in world view.

    I hope you’re right and that I’m reading him incorrectly, but Deenan said that liberalism is “deeply contrary to…the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements.” Liberalism — in the sense he uses it in the piece — is not opposed to such things.

    It’s as much a calumny as saying Catholicism is “deeply contrary” to liberty.

    • #29
  30. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Guruforhire:

    This goes beautifully far beyond the sterile concept of “utility”.

    so….. it has utility then…..

    I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until you cease to be useful to me.

    • #30
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