All Too Fallible

 

Earlier today, Severely Ltd pondered the comments made by the Pope in his New Year address and found them “not at all helpful.” I’ll say. Writing yesterday over at the sinister, godless realm that is Secular Right, I was perhaps a little less polite

I was reacting to a BBC report on the Pope’s remarks. Here’s (part of) what the Beeb had to say:

 The Roman Catholic Church leader spoke at a Mass in the Vatican, then greeted a crowd outside St Peter’s Basilica. He deplored “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor”.

 Those “hotbeds” also grew out of “the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism”, as well as “various forms of terrorism and crime”, he said.

 My comment:

I don’t know what is worse. The ignorance (if there’s one thing that the financial markets were not, it was unregulated; whether they were sensibly regulated is a different question), or the clear signs of a visceral loathing for “financial” capitalism and, of course, the Pope’s attempt to smear it with guilt by association with “various forms of terrorism and crime”.

 If the Pope’s remarks were designed to be “helpful”, I dread to think to whom.

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  1. Profile photo of Leslie Watkins Member

    I’m so happy to know about the website you referenced. I could not agree with you more.

    • #1
    • January 3, 2013 at 4:19 am
  2. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    You might want to re-read Severley’s thread and the later comments on 

    On the contrary: in the 1991 social encyclical, Centesimus Annus, Blessed John Paul II condemned the “Social Assistance State” because it saps welfare-recipients of their dignity and their creativity while making them wards of the government.

    — George Weigel

    • #2
    • January 3, 2013 at 4:29 am
  3. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    KC Mulville
    Severely Ltd.

    I refuse to ignore the plain meaning of a homily, and focus instead on how the BBC and the Italian press have misconstrued three words from it. I refuse to be manipulated that way.

    If Paul Ryan said, for example, that the Constitution protects free speech, and the New York Times reported it with the headline “Paul Ryan hates fellow Republicans,” why would I waste a moment worrying about the misrepresentation? Any fair reading of what Ryan said would reveal the truth. Would I demand that Paul Ryan change his speeches to account for their distortion? No.

    The press took three words and magnified them into headlines, utterly ignoring the meaning of the pope’s homily.

    If Paul Ryan gave a speech in which 30k words said that he liked the Constitution, particularly the Free Speech clause, and 3 of those words said “I hate Republicans”, I do not think it would be surprising or unfair for the NYT (and National Review and Ricochet) to focus on the controversial 3 and ignore the uncontroversial 29,997. If, in your analogy, Ryan did not say the words, it is not similar.

    • #3
    • January 3, 2013 at 4:35 am
  4. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    By the way, I don’t understand what this means:

    We believe that conservative principles and policies need not be grounded in a specific set of supernatural claims. Rather, conservatism serves the ends of “Human Flourishing,” what the Greeks termed Eudaimonia. Secular conservatism takes the empirical world for what it is, and accepts that the making of it the best that it can be is only possible through our faculties of reason.

    Eudaimonia is in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and he certainly wasn’t a British empiricist or Enlightenment rationalist. How do you resolve the metaphysical difficulties?

    • #4
    • January 3, 2013 at 4:38 am
  5. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    EThompson
    James Of England

    I’d theoretically prefer an unfree theocracy to agodless capitalist society…

    Out of curiosity, what such example could one cite? · 6 hours ago

    I was thinking abstractly, but I guess if I think in terms of Mount Athos and Prague, I do find myself even more unhappy with my actual preferences. Prague’s loss of religion occurred suddenly and long enough ago that the phantom religion they have left is in some ways closer to Orthodoxy than the modern version of Catholicism they left behind; they still celebrate Martinmas as the beginning of a fast, for instance, although none of them then follow through and actually fast. It’s a deeply atheist place, but a comfortable place to be theist.

    I think of it in terms of ακρισια, and think Socrates was wrong to claim that just because I know that I would really live in Prague 95%+ of time, I don’t think that Athos would be better for me.

    • #5
    • January 3, 2013 at 4:45 am
  6. Profile photo of Jeff Y Inactive

    It depends on what was meant by “financial capitalism.”

    If it meas the the international bank system and the outrageous privileges bestowed upon it – which privileges amount to titles of nobility for banking institutions – then I’m an Orthodox christian in complete agreement with the Pope on this one.

    If it means free markets, then I’m an Orthodox christian in complete disagreement with the Pope on this one.

    On the principle of charity, I take his meaning to be the former.

    • #6
    • January 3, 2013 at 4:57 am
  7. Profile photo of Scott R Member

    John Paul II had a line or two that could’ve been taken as luke warm on capitalism, too, and yet he proved to be an anti-communist par excellence, so I’d be willing to give Benedict the benefit of the doubt here.

    Still, a quick reminder that a free market economy is not a zero-sum game — and therefore “gaps” are nothing to fret over (unlike, say, poverty-causing egalitarianism) — can be useful to anyone, even His Excellency.

    • #7
    • January 3, 2013 at 5:24 am
  8. Profile photo of Peter Robinson Founder

    Although scarcely an expert on the Vatican, I tend to attribute the Pope’s remarks not to “visceral loathing” but to the sloppy, lazy, eurocratic thinking of so many of the curial officials who surround him. But although it pains me to say so, Andrew–in light, that is, of our much larger disagreement over the Act of Supremacy–you are right and the pontifex maximus is wrong.

    • #8
    • January 3, 2013 at 5:52 am
  9. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    Before you know it Obama will be using them to beat on Republicans.

    Obama regularly pontificates on scripture in spite of his inability to publish a 3 volume work on the topic and in spite of not being his brother’s keeper. I doubt that will be the defining moment that prevents a Republican resurgence.

    • #9
    • January 3, 2013 at 5:59 am
  10. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    In the face of serious pollution around a US-run foundry in La Oroya, in 2004, with the help of Saint-Louis University, a Jesuit school in Missouri, he transformed the archdiocesan kitchens into a laboratory to test soil and air samples for heavy metals. The Doe Run foundry processes minerals mined from the surrounding Andes into copper, lead, zinc and other metals. The amount of pollution caused by the smelter has led La Oroya to being named one of the 10 most-polluted places on the planet, with high levels of lead, arsenic and other heavy metals found in the soil, air and even in the blood samples of local residents.

    The smelter was closed in 2009 due to environmental and health concerns. However, it has now resumed operations, after the company was forced to adopt environmental norms that were finally enforced by the government as a result of the work of the archdiocese. Archbishop Barreto recently travelled to the U.S. to give testimony to the human rights panel of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on the environmental damage caused by the smelter and the need for tighter regulation.

    Some useful background to the audience.

    • #10
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:04 am
  11. Profile photo of Indaba Member

    I work in the finance industry, at the heart of capitalism. We work long hours and get paid fairly well but I can tell you my brother in the government is now able to retire. He gets 80% of his best 3 year’s of pay plus benefits such as dental, hearing aids and drugs which are not covered by our so called free Canadian health care. Now he gets that paid, no matter what happens on the stock market and he does not have to find a wealth manager, supervise them or pay them for looking after his capital.

    As a greedy capitalist working in finance and paying the employee taxes, corporate taxes, sales taxes by Province and Federal jurisdiction, more goes to greedy government than to reinvestment in my business, or to my employees or to me.

    I have now left the business and have a salary but still no government pension like my government employee brother. What shocks me is this big corporate finance company is still on Microsoft 03. I empathize.

    so the Pope means well about having values to treat others well, but, the heavens above, it is the Government and their unions who are greedy.

    • #11
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:12 am
  12. Profile photo of Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Pseudodionysius: By the way, I don’t understand what this means:

    We believe that conservative principles and policies need not be grounded in a specific set of supernatural claims. Rather, conservatism serves the ends of “Human Flourishing,” what the Greeks termed Eudaimonia. Secular conservatism takes the empirical world for what it is, and accepts that the making of it the best that it can be is only possible through our faculties of reason.

    Eudaimoniais in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and he certainly wasn’t a British empiricist or Enlightenment rationalist. How do you resolve the metaphysical difficulties? · 1 hour ago

     Pseudodionysius is quoting the ‘mission statement’ (dreadful term, but it’ll have to do) of Secular Right. That was written before I signed up for SR, so you’d have to ask the author about the specifics. But, to me, the key point is that conservative (loosely defined) principles do not require (although they need not exclude) supernatural backing. As for “metaphysical difficulties”, I’ve never worried too much about them. To me such questions are pointless–and not particularly interesting–speculation. But to each his own!

    • #12
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:21 am
  13. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    But, to me, the key point is that conservative (loosely defined) principles do not require (although they need not exclude) supernatural backing.

    That’s clarifying. I misunderstood and thought you were originally involved as a founder and had some hand in drafting the mission statement. For now, I’ll have to file away my Terence Irwin translation of the Nicomachean Ethics.

    • #13
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:26 am
  14. Profile photo of Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Pseudodionysius: You might want to re-read Severley’s thread and the later comments on 

    On the contrary: in the 1991 social encyclical, Centesimus Annus, Blessed John Paul II condemned the “Social Assistance State” because it saps welfare-recipients of their dignity and their creativity while making them wards of the government.

    — George Weigel

    Edited 1 hour ago1 hour ago

    Pseudodionysius provides a quote that is well worth remembering, but it does not contradict the fact that the Roman Catholic Church has long (well before Rerum Novarum) been suspicious of capitalism or proto-capitalism. If it has an ‘economic’ ideology it is corporatism, which probably finds its most benign expression in “Rhineland Capitalism” and/or the “Social Market”, although there are plenty of other, far less attractive, variants….

    • #14
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:33 am
  15. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

    Pope Benedict XVI is an exceptionally wise and holy man. I welcome his input on everything.

    Catechized Catholics understand that not every word from a bishop — even the bishop of Rome — is spoken authoritatively. They, too, are human.

    • #15
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:41 am
  16. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Peter Robinson: Although scarcely an expert on the Vatican, I tend to attribute the Pope’s remarks not to “visceral loathing” but to the sloppy, lazy, eurocratic thinking of so many of the curial officials who surround him. But although it pains me to say so, Andrew–in light, that is, of our much larger disagreement over the Act of Supremacy–you are right and the pontifex maximus is wrong. · 39 minutes ago

    Short version: I agree

    Slightly longer: I think that the somewhat vigorous debate on Severely’s thread has simmered down a little now, but that a number of people have agreed that BXVI is a fairly mainstream fiscal social democrat. On the downside, this means that he’s not enormously fiscally conservative, but on the upside, his proposals tend to be tweaks (focusing on full employment, strengthening unions, increasing worker’s rights etc.) rather than revolutions. He has quite a lot of nice things to say about globalization, free markets, etc., as well as unkind things, and objects to his ideological adversaries on his left even more than those on his right. He is wrong to not be more conservative, but it could easily be much worse.

    • #16
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:44 am
  17. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member
    Andrew Stuttaford
    Pseudodionysius: You might want to re-read Severley’s thread and the later comments on 

    On the contrary: in the 1991 social encyclical, Centesimus Annus, Blessed John Paul II condemned the “Social Assistance State” because it saps welfare-recipients of their dignity and their creativity while making them wards of the government.

    — George Weigel

    Edited 1 hour ago

    1 hour ago

    Pseudodionysius provides a quote that is well worth remembering, but it does not contradict the fact that the Roman Catholic Church has long (well before Rerum Novarum) been suspicious of capitalism or proto-capitalism. If it has an ‘economic’ ideology it is corporatism, which probably finds its most benign expression in “Rhineland Capitalism” and/or the “Social Market”, although there are plenty of other, far less attractive, variants…. · 7 minutes ago

    I hasten to remind everyone of St Antoninus of Florence, the Renaissance Thomist thinker and theorist of economics, unknown to most Catholics as well as Protestants.

    • #17
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:47 am
  18. Profile photo of Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Peter Robinson: Although scarcely an expert on the Vatican, I tend to attribute the Pope’s remarks not to “visceral loathing” but to the sloppy, lazy, eurocratic thinking of so many of the curial officials who surround him. But although it pains me to say so, Andrew–in light, that is, of our much larger disagreement over the Act of Supremacy–you are right and the pontifex maximus is wrong. · 40 minutes ago

    Peter, it’s very ungracious of me to quibble when you are agreeing with me, but I don’t think that it’s quite right to use the “eurocratic thinking” (lazy or otherwise) of Curial officials as an alibi for the Pope’s remarks. That’s because the EU, corporatist to its core, was from the beginning clearly designed as an expression of Roman Catholic ideas of how Europe’s economy–and, indeed, society–should be run (you can even see that in some of its jargon: “subsidiarity” and all that). The project was then flavored by the likes of “founding father” Altiero Spinelli with the socialist elements that added further poison to the mix.

    • #18
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:49 am
  19. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    The treatise on Avarice (42) is labeled “in the manner of a sermon” (per modum praedicationis) and it seems likely that a good deal of it was compiled from sermons which he had delivered before the hard-headed capitalists of Florence. So rich in practical detail is this treatise that economic historians have mined it for information, and it has been studied as one of the first contributions to the science of economics, although Antoninus’ purpose is purely moral not technical.(43) The famous controversy over the thesis of Max Weber who explained the rise of capitalism by the “Protestant Ethic” and the justification of taking interests on money loans by Calvin is not yet finished.(44) One of the main objections to this thesis is that European capitalism was well developed before the Reformation. The Avignon papacy had by its bureaucratization of church taxes provided the first example of international finance,(45) and as we have seen the Medici and Fuggers, who were neither Protestant nor Jewish, but Catholic, were the first great bankers.(46)

    • #19
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:49 am
  20. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

    By the way, Americans, being the most influential nation in the world, often make the mistake of assuming that comments from the Vatican are directed at us or at the West broadly. The Church includes Christians from every nation in the world, and our Pope represents them all. His typical focus is the poor and downtrodden, not the movers and shakers.

    • #20
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:49 am
  21. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    That’s because the EU, corporatist to its core, was from the beginning clearly designed as an expression of Roman Catholic ideas

    Correction. It was an expression of the ideas of certain Roman Catholics, not Roman Catholic ideas. Otherwise, Fr James Schall, SJ’s book entitled Roman Catholic Political Philosophy would have been a manual for the creation of the EU.

    • #21
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:52 am
  22. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Andrew Stuttaford
    Peter Robinson: 

    Peter, it’s very ungracious of me to quibble when you are agreeing with me, but I don’t think that it’s quite right to use the “eurocratic thinking” (lazy or otherwise) of Curial officials as an alibi for the Pope’s remarks. That’s because the EU, corporatist to its core, was from the beginningclearly designed as an expression of Roman Catholic ideas of how Europe’s economy–and, indeed, society–should be run (you can even see that in some of its jargon: “subsidiarity” and all that). The project was then flavored by the likes of “founding father” Altiero Spinelli with the socialist elements that added further poison to the mix. · 0 minutes ago

    Do you accept that the Catholic Church has moved substantively to the economic right since the 1950s? If, as I take it you do, you also agree that the Eurocracy has not, would it not be reasonable to describe the relatively unreformed Curia as Eurocratic? Thanks to the other threat I’ve been rereading social encyclicals from the past, and BXVI really does seem less radical, more inclined to the advocating of tinkering than his predecessors.

    • #22
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:54 am
  23. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    BENEDICT XVI (2005 – present):

    “We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything”

    Benedict XVI

    “The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person − every person − needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. … In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3) − a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.”

    (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, December 25, 2005, n. 28)

    • #23
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:56 am
  24. Profile photo of KC Mulville Member
    James Of England

    … I do not think it would be surprising or unfair for the NYT (and National Review and Ricochet) to focus on the controversial 3 and ignore the uncontroversial 29,997.

    Why “focus” on it?

    I must point out that of the two writers who decided to post on this topic, neither is Catholic, and yet both inserted the idea of papal infallibility into their headlines. Of course, these remarks were from a homily, not an ex cathedra teaching on doctrine. Why mention infallibility at all?

    For the most part, those who object or feel offended by the three words are not Catholic.

    The Catholics in the discussion, who (forgive me for speaking for anyone but myself) are just as dedicated to capitalism and conservatism, have basically said … don’t worry about it. After all, capitalism isn’t perfect. Capitalism isn’t a sacrament bestowed by the deity, to which we owe solemn reverence. So one wonders why anyone would read the whole of that homily and … dwell … focus … on a (gasp) attack on capitalism. 

    Besides, there’s a really nice little homily on peace there. 

    • #24
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:57 am
  25. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member
    What the Popes Have to Say About Socialism

    Created on February 24, 2010 Written by Gustavo Solimeo

    All the same, it is not out of place to review the condemnation of the popes starting with Pius IX and ending with Benedict XVI. Thus, we present what the popes have to say about socialism as they condemn the socialist doctrine thoroughly and entirely. This is not a comprehensive compilation, but just some samples.

    • #25
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:57 am
  26. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Aaron Miller: By the way, Americans, being the most influential nation in the world, often make the mistake of assuming that comments from the Vatican are directed at us or at the West broadly. The Church includes Christians from every nation in the world, and our Pope represents them all. His typical focus is the poor and downtrodden, not the movers and shakers. ·

    I think, in this instance, he was addressing the EU in particular (the main people threatening violence over unregulated finance capitalism). Since his words seem more likely to do harm there, this does not strike me as a mark in his favor. Other people have thought that he might have had other subjects in mind. Do you have an idea of his target nation/ region? Can you think of somewhere where capitalism seems likely to lead to violence and/ or war?

    • #26
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:58 am
  27. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member
    JOHN PAUL II (1978-2005):(Encyclical Centesimus Annus − On the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, May 1, 1991, n. 12)

    “Continuing our reflections, … we have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property.” (Ibid, n. 13)

    • #27
    • January 3, 2013 at 6:59 am
  28. Profile photo of Scott R Member
    Aaron Miller: By the way, Americans, being the most influential nation in the world, often make the mistake of assuming that comments from the Vatican are directed at us or at the West broadly. The Church includes Christians from every nation in the world, and our Pope represents them all. His typical focus is the poor and downtrodden, not the movers and shakers.

    True, for sure, but he should know that no force in human history has done more to alleviate grinding poverty than capitalism, and no force today does more to cause poverty than “the egalitarian mindset”, to quote George Gilder.

    • #28
    • January 3, 2013 at 7:01 am
  29. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Scott Reusser
    Aaron Miller: 

    True, for sure, but he should know that no force in human history has done more to alleviate grinding poverty than capitalism, and no force today does more to cause poverty than “the egalitarian mindset”, to quote George Gilder. · 0 minutes ago

    BXVI, Caritas in Veritate:

    It is true that growth has taken place, and it continues to be a positive factor that has lifted billions of people out of misery — recently it has given many countries the possibility of becoming effective players in international politics.

    There is a “yet….” that follows, but the standard Eurocrat line is broadly free trading while angsting over the losers, and does recognize that there are significant benefits that accrue from the market. BXVI has the virtues as well as the vices of a particularly thoughtful member of that class (when it comes to politics; obviously, on theological matters he’s in a class of his own).

    Edit: I just thought I’d note the irony that while most commentators on the market mention the poor and downtrodden, BXVI also mentions the powerful (reading countries becoming “effective players” as governmental leaders getting to attend summits and appear important/ take bribes).

    • #29
    • January 3, 2013 at 7:08 am
  30. Profile photo of Pseudodionysius Member

    James,

    When discussing economic growth, I always remember John Henry Newman’s line that a gentleman, without faith, can still end up eternally damned.

    • #30
    • January 3, 2013 at 7:13 am
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