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Toward a More Just Social Justice

In recent days, Speaker of the House John Boehner has found himself under fire from a group of "Catholic academics" because he is invited to be the commencement speaker at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C..  These academics (whom Fr. Robert Sirico has pointed out draw their expertise "from multiple disciplines outside moral theology and include academics from architecture, media, social work, theatre, and dance departments") felt at liberty to insult the Speaker and to publicly question his religious commitment with lines like this: 

"It is good for Catholic universities to host and engage the thoughts of powerful public figures, even Catholics such as yourself who fail to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching."

Yet, as Father Sirico points out, their single objection to Speaker Boehner's understanding of Catholic social justice teaching clearly reveals their own failure to understand it. The writers of this embarrassing letter counsel that:  "From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor."  This, of course, is true.  But Sirico insists that any real understanding of Catholic social teaching would also include a recognition that one cannot jump "seamlessly" between a principle and its application.  As he puts it:

To jump so seamlessly from the Magisterium's insistence on the fundamental and non-negotiable moral obligation to the poor to the specifics of contingent, prudential, and political legislation is wholly unjustified in Catholic social teaching. 

This sums it up nicely, but there is much more to it, so read the whole exchange.  I think Father Sirico's response, moreover, is a masterful and devastatingly polite answer to people who barely deserve such graciousness but get it, anyway, because Father Sirico is a true Christian.  This is a real demonstration, not only of his faith, but of the very real and persuasive power behind it.

Also along these lines and not to be missed is George Weigel's essay, Catholic Social Thought and the 2012 Election.  Here's a taste: 

Catholic social thought is about the empowerment of the poor. It is not about failed policies of social assistance that treat poor people as problems to be solved rather than as people with potential to be unleashed. 

Abraham Lincoln was no Catholic, but I don't think he could have said it better. 
Categories > Politics

Discussions - 45 Comments

Hum... refine and enlarge this Julie, in light of the fact that a lot of our principles are principles of application.

I want a shinny car, I wash and wax it.

Some might say that the only principles are principles of application.

For example, I can take any M-16 and put rounds down range, but applying the proper principles of zeroing, and the appropriate technique I can greatly increase my accuracy.

We could erradicate poverty simply by teaching principles of application.

I read about this today and was all excited to write about it whenever I finally got home - my only fear being that that Julie girl might beat me to it! Alas....

Very well written. It's difficult to choose among the absurdities and hypocricies involved in this issue. None of these self-loving Catholic paragons likely object to speaking invitations sent to Arab tyrants and liberal fanatics who actually hate the Catholic Church. They would howl with indignation if anyone objected to such free expression of ideas. These same rules do not apply to them, of course, when slandering actual practicing Catholics as heretics.

Further, the substance of their claims is ridiculous. Only socialists, apparently, are good Catholics? Free-market capitalists are the new Masons and heathens, incompatible with Catholic social teaching? I think not. These folks radically misinterpret Catholic teaching - intentionally so, in many cases.

One could go on and on. I had hoped these sorts of juvenile antics were contained at Georgetown. Alas, again....

Well, to be fair . . . these academics did not (at least not in this letter) object to the invitation or ask for it to be withdrawn. What they did do was to seek and to create an opportunity for insulting the invitee. Of course, I am not arguing that they don't have a perfect right to express their opinions about the Speaker or about the teachings of the Catholic Church.. Like all Americans, such people have a perfect right to embarrass themselves in public and, I'm afraid, frequently do. But when they do, they deserve the scorn they receive from people who have their number. Truly, there is no better word for this display than "pathetic." But I still think Sirico and Weigel offer a better example about how to speak to these issues. Trying (it seems, in vain) to follow their example of coolness. But this issue--like every incidence of abjectly rude behavior--just burns me up.

I suppose this anger is from being Italian. You southern Italian Catholics are worst of all. Sicillian woman temper! Watch out bellow.

So anyways I was thinking, and Justin's point doesn't seem that fair. I mean "None of these self-loving Catholic paragons likely object to speaking invitations sent to Arab tyrants and liberal fanatics who actually hate the Catholic Church."

I mean isn't that because none of these folks are representing Catholicism?

Isn't this just an analytical game of identity, implied authority and standing, nothing those other folks say could be construed as binding upon Catholicism, or speaking to a variation of play within?

Also I mean you are sort of putting the "catholic" hat on these academics, just to get pissed off.

Technically it seems to me you could say they were wearing the academic "hat".

I have got to admit it is rather funny, I think the tea party would rather bring in Chemerinski to speak on the constitution, rather than say Mitt Romney, because there is less chance for ideological confusion.

Wow, this is a pretty interesting game. (refine and enlarge.)

Also understanding the difficulties in seamlessly moving from a principle to an application is more a question of cool wisdom than hot blooded Sicillian Catholicism.

I looked at her wrong, and she threw my TV out the window! (it wasn't mine, but that is what he said.)

The only good catholics are the calm northern italian catholics, those southern italians...

Just so ROB would be proud I actually played chess with the guy, and we had this insane chat about principle, but we came to the conclusion that principles are just techniques.

In his case I suppose techniques for dealing with a crazy girlfriend.

Her technique was anger, that gets from principle to application rather quickly. We also agreed that all the principles of chess depended upon agreement as to how mechanically the pieces moved. Furthermore principles such as control the center, and keep good pawn structure, castle early, are in some sense simply baby food to knowledge of openings or techniques, say the Ruy Lopez, or his favorite the Sicilian Defense.

So how does Catholic Social Teaching hold up if all principles become principles of application, or techniques. If you know the principles of good chess you can beat someone who only knows some openings(techniques), but if you know all the techniques, then you don't need the principles.

But it gets even worse, typically a principle is something like: Win. A technique is how you win. But sometimes you can have principles without technique. No technique= no effective principle.

Principle is a lot easier than technique. And that is the pundit problem. Its the arm chair quarterback problem.

Principle is a total zombie sham that can't die, it is like "socialist" or "free market capitalist", as long as it remains an idea it need not be revealed as a weak opening. The French is not a weak opening (you simply played it poorly...probably true.)

There is a great deal of frustration in principled people, namely that in applying principle you must play a variation or an opening or a strategy or a technique. If it doesn't work out....YOU SUCK!

If you like Boehner you probably don't like Pelosi, or vice versa, but each might be playing variations that don't have techniques to match principles that could be considered important aspects of catholic teaching.

If you don't like the variation, become a politician, it is rather unreasonable to expect Romney to work hard on a variation that includes a solution or line of play that is so potentially optimal that Obama highjacks it (Romney Care) and then hang him out to dry. Recant for your sin of discovering an opening good enough to be played.

Yes you are right, I see the error of my ways, children we must follow principle and get our pawns to the center of the board, and castle early, because the constitution demands it!

It a technique, and my friend with the sicilian wife follows it, but it does not befit someone who expends great effort in crafting policy, and this is even more the case when "ripeness" issues prevent us from even seeing what the "opening" looks like.

Sorry AD, I can't even begin to resolve the conflicts of principle in under 2000 words.

I am not a Catholic, nor I am firmly committed to the cause I am about to mention, but when I read letters such as the one here, and especially lines such as this:

"From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor."

I think to myself is not the child in the womb the poorest of the poor, with not a cent to his or her name? And if so, have these Catholic men, for surely they are honorable men, ever sent such a letter to Nancy Pelosi?

I am not a Catholic, nor I am firmly committed to the cause I am about to mention, but when I read letters such as the one here, and especially lines such as this:

"From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor."

I think to myself is not the child in the womb the poorest of the poor, with not a cent to his or her name? And if so, have these Catholic men, for surely they are honorable men, ever sent such a letter to Nancy Pelosi?

Don't know why the double post happened.

They sound more Arab than Catholic.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will be able to feed HIMSELF every day.

Back before liberals decided that they should rule the world and tell everyone what to do (however, keep in mind that their rules don't apply to them - think Al Gore), Churches took care of widows, orphans, and people down on their luck. People in the communities gave money, food and clothing to the churches who in turn helped those in need. However, if you were a drunk or had some bad habit, you need to cure yourself of that habit before the church would help you. The churches did what God would do - God helps those who help themselves. The churches would not, however, keep you on welfare the rest of your life. You were expected to work and behave yourself in return for the generosity of the church and the community. You were expected to take their "welfare" until you could survive on your own. Then you were expected to give back as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for the generosity that was given to you.

Take liberal cities today like Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. Welfare and freebies are handed out with no strings attached and what happens? Drunks, drug addicts and gangs live in these cities getting free public assistance with no strings attached - they can continue to be drunks, druggies, and gang members. Liberals also encourage single parenthood and illegals all who find it morally okay to sponge off the fruits of other people's labor in the form of taxes. But wait, I am wrong, there is a requirement for all these freeloaders. When they go into a voting booth they must choose the candidate with the "D" next to their name and then all their freebies will continue..... Shameful, shameful, shameful.

Federalist: Thank you for your insight!

John Lewis: you often amuse, sometimes bore, and occasionally bedevil me. But I think this is the first time you have insulted me. I am not Italian; and certainly not Sicilian!

It's not as if any of those Catholic academics suggested anything even half as radical as, say...:

"The church is aware that the bourgeois mentality and capitalism as a whole, with its materialist spirit, acutely contradict the Gospel... From the church’s standpoint, it is a question of ensuring, by way of various economic-structural forms, just participation by all members of society, and especially people of work, in possessing sufficient amounts of assets and participating at least to some extent in productive goods."

"Guided by a just evaluation of historical events, the church should view the cause of revolution with an awareness of the ethical evil in factors of the economic and social regime, and in the political system, that generates the need for a radical reaction. It can be accepted that the majority of people who took part in revolutions -- even bloody ones -- were acting on the basis of internal convictions, and thus in accordance with conscience."

"In a well organized society, orientated to the common good, class conflicts are solved peacefully through reforms. But states that base their order on individualistic liberalism are not such societies. So when an exploited class fails to receive in a peaceful way the share of the common good to which it has a right, it has to follow a different path."

"Class struggle should gain strength in proportion to the resistance it faces from economically privileged classes, so the systemic social situation will mature under this pressure to the appropriate forms and transitions."

Anon is me, of course . . . Guess that hot temper which is not Sicilian made me pull the trigger too soon . . .

Craig, can your putative quotes be found anywhere more reputable than a blog?

Yes, Kate. Why do you ask?

While you are at it, you might just construct for our edification the daisy chain between observational and schematic statements of the Holy See and the apparent principle enunciated by these faculty that federal spending as a ratio of domestic product must not be lower than 0.24 and that any domestic program is sacrosanct if some pol utters an incantation about the poor.

Kate, the quotes (translated, of course) come from Karol Wojtyla's (later, Pope John Paul II) early notebooks, generally known as Catholic Social Ethics. More sources (beware, I'm unable to put rare physical texts into your hands via the Internet; web sources - but not blogs - are below!)

See footnote 32 here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=xQgvfWHhcQgC&pg=PA92&dq=Katolicka+etyka+spoleczna&hl=en&ei=S5LNTfOxCI6a-wbd0qyWDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CEcQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=Katolicka%20etyka%20spoleczna&f=false

As the footnote states, very few copies of these texts exist, but they have been confirmed as the writings of Wojtyla, and they are seen as largely consistent with mid-20th century Catholic social thought, esp. Polish.

Still, the texts are well-known by clergy and relevant scholars, and have been studied by some. The National Catholic Reporter (among other journals) has reported on their existence more than once.

More can be read here (a lecture from '96, apparently before any translation work had been completed):
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=3905

Excerpts:

"In his lectures Wojtyla continues with a presentation of Catholic approaches to labor (including the duty and dignity of work, contracts, salaries, labor actions, strikes, and industrialization). Wojtyla concludes the chapter, however, with a harsh critique of classical capitalism, a system with which the Church finds itself in "decided opposition" both as a "socio-economic way of life" and as a "general system of values" (p. v).

....

Chapter six treats "Ethical Questions Connected with the Consumption of Social Goods." He discusses the question of family welfare, the economic state of life appropriate to a family in a just society. He speaks of society's duty to raise its members out of poverty and assist them towards acquiring prosperity."


Even more here (from 2006, when considerations for JPII's beatifications were starting):

(3 w's and a dot) thetablet.co.uk/article/525

Just to be clear, my point is not to say that JPII was some kind of Marxist or even a socialist. He was neither, although he publicly admitted on more than one occasion to finding "kernels of truth" in them. Obviously, he was anti-Communist and anti-Stalinist. But he was also very critical of capitalism, and libertarian glorifications of The Invisible Hand and related notions of "let the market decide." To wit:

"Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems [moral and material poverty], in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces."

and that's not from any obscure early notebook, that's from Pope JPII's Centesimus Annus (1991).

Compared to Wojtyla/ JPII's writings, the scolding of Boehner by the Catholic academics is quite tame.

Lastly, it's painful to see the true sophistry on display, which is that any argument could be made that a politician is meeting their obligation to "preference the needs of the poor" by cutting those programs which directly benefit the poor while simultaneously giving further tax breaks to the wealthy and their corporations, and boosting the military budget.

===

Art - From your word-counting to your latest squeal, you bore me like a Grateful Dead radio marathon. I should probably skip over all of your posts, not just most of them.

Wow. Scanlon is really smart. He's awesome.

In re: bedeviling.

That is to be expected when you take two blood oaths.

One to Thomas Jefferson, ""I have sworn eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man."

And the other to Huck Finn...

Also Sicilians are awesome, and quite dangerous. That you would be insulted and defenseless drains most of the fun from the bedeviling.

So those quotes are from when he was young. It must have been his choice not to include them in anthologies of his writings or to ever have them published. His choice, which meant that he came not to believe all that, except for the "kernals of truth" which you could find in his later writing grown and developed and in a different context. The mature man did not agree with the younger version of himself; many of us know what that is like.

The Catholic academics, then we can presume, are all young and will grow out of their foolishness? We can hope.

My understanding of Christian theology is that care for the poor is a personal (rather than institutional) obligation. Once it is institutionalized, the virtue is sucked right out of it. It ossifies and becomes no different than any other form of human endeavor.

I for one believe that the "hardness" of the Protestant reformation (i.e., personal responsibility for sin, strong work ethic, intolerance for human frailty) was the spark that ignited the ascendant West (thank you Max Weber). The Catholic Church's "liberation theology" and all it's liberal "social justice" teachings weaken us, whereas its traditionalism and stalwart pro-life position help us at a time when mainstream Protestantism has lost its way (note the continuing moral slide of the Presbyterians and Anglicans).

So, it's a mixed bag. All Christians will have to fight to protect the integrity of their religious views. The Left takes anything that's not nailed down.

Bored or not, Craig, you are still stuck with two problems re the social encyclicals:

1. Principles enunciated therein can be quite difficult to operationalize (e.g. statements on what prices should reflect and how wages should be determined); and

2. The principles themselves do not compel an application sufficiently precise to adjudicate most disputes over political economy in this country or in just about any occidental country. Command economies or social Darwinism would be ruled out, but neither of these is a live option in this country.

I believe even command economies would find it difficult to sustain in the long term the precise application of such principles.

My understanding of Christian theology is that care for the poor is a personal (rather than institutional) obligation.

I agree with this assessment.

Nowhere does Jesus indicate the earthly manifestation of his Kingdom is to be a formally institutionalized structure.

Neither do the apostles. There is in Acts some instruction for organizing so that the effort is shared. But that is a far cry from an institutionalized hierarchy.

Jesus' message is really more this:

(a) Love me (God), trust me(God), and learn to operate under my (God's) instruction (that's "discipleship") for your life. As you do that, you will increasingly be able to ...

(b) Love your neighbor as yourself. And that "love" manifests itself in many ways, not just income and wealth equalization.

The Letters of the Apostles echo this refrain. Paul in particular.

And Craig, I'll preempt your condemnation of me -- I do not practice well what Jesus taught. To some degree, but not consistently and certainly not with all my heart. I stumble and fall for a host of reasons. If you call that hypocrisy, so be it.

Once it is institutionalized, the virtue is sucked right out of it. It ossifies and becomes no different than any other form of human endeavor.

I believe this to be true enough, though I suspect you will encounter fierce opposition to this assertion.

For some, this institutionalization is the very thing they cherish and, to some degree, worship.

And it does not need to be a hierarchical structure like the Catholic Church. The Jewish structure of laws has become in many ways a kind of institution, and the obligation becomes not to God but to the rules themselves.

It's sad because it was never intended to be this way ... for the Catholic Church or for the Jewish laws. It starts out being about God, but because humans are involved and their nature (not God's) takes root, it becomes what we too often see today.

Yes, Craig ... I'm a flaming hypocrite ... an awful person ... inconsistent in my ways.

I am lacking the marginal hyperlink. Please supply it.

In re insult: J. O. K. E. Sorry to have to spell it out. That does rather suck all the fun out of it. My husband--who is Italian (and with some Sicilian) did get it, however.

"So those quotes are from when he was young."

Not so for all of them, not by any means. The quote from his Centesimus Annus encyclical is from 1991. He was at least 70 at the time (older but before his faculties began to fade), and at least 12 years into his papacy. Here it is again:

"Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems [moral and material poverty], in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces."

Here's another, from the encyclical Solicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern), Dec., 1987 (Pope's age: 67):

"Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities. Likewise the leaders of nations and the heads of International Bodies, while they are obliged always to keep in mind the true human dimension as a priority in their development plans, should not forget to give precedence to the phenomenon of growing poverty. Unfortunately, instead of becoming fewer the poor are becoming more numerous, not only in less developed countries but--and this seems no less scandalous--in the more developed ones too. It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all.[78] The right to private property is valid and necessary, but it does not nullify the value of this principle. Private property, in fact, is under a "social mortgage",[79] which means that it has an intrinsically social function, based upon and justified precisely by the principle of the universal destination of goods."

Did you get that? "Private property, in fact, is under a 'social mortgage.'" He also warned, as Pope, against the "idolatry of the market." - something largely unheeded by Catholics of the NLT stripe.

Another one, from Centesimus Annus (1991):

"When there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the defenceless and the poor have a claim to special consideration. The richer class has many ways of shielding itself, and stands less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back on, and must chiefly depend on the assistance of the State. It is for this reason that wage-earners, since they mostly belong to the latter class, should be specially cared for and protected by the Government"

Wage-earners "should be specially cared for and protected by the Government."

Eeeek!!!

"It must have been his choice not to include them in anthologies of his writings or to ever have them published."

Yeah, it "must have been..." Actually, no. It is interesting how, in some ways, popes lose a certain degree of autonomy when they attain the papacy. The last I read of the matter, there was actually movement to have them published, eventually. It was also conceded by a Rev. Szostek at the pertinent university in Lublin, Poland, that there were politics involved in the decision to delay their publication - and suffice it to say that some conservative US organizations may have had a hand in that.

"The Catholic academics, then we can presume, are all young..."

Yes, you can, and probably will. But that just might end where your initial suggestion (the quotes were bogus) and your subsequent one (JPII only made stern critiques of capitalism and neoliberalism as a young student) did.

The term 'neo-liberalism' is used to describe a reaction to aspects of economic policy that were modal in the occidental world prior to 1980. The reaction was based on the neoclassical synthesis in fundamental economics and is directed at mercantilist practices, public expenditure, and planning. It is anachronistic to suggest that the young Karol Wojtila would have been, ca. 1948, be 'critiquing' it.

Craig is trying to create a false choice here: either radical free market or radical socialism. And he is suggesting the Pope's writing lean towards socialism. His attempted conclusion: those on this site should acknowledge the fallacy of their own lean towards free market.

But the Pope's writings are not really all that socialistic, taken in proper context. The rich and powerful do game the system for their own protection; the weak and defenseless do need certain protections from government because of that.

But that does not mean a complete abandonment of market principles and a full embrace of socialism. There are degrees along a line between those two.

Regardless ... I am still a hypocrite in every conceivable way. That seems to be Craig's essential point in all his posts, so I'll just acknowledge that and move on.

Do you know who knows and understands the late John Paul II--including all of his commentary in the encyclicals you mention above--in all of his nuance and in the fullness of understanding that is possible for a mortal being better than Craig Scanlon? George Weigel--his official biographer and the gentlemen quoted above in the original post. I know from first hand testimony to the point that the encyclicals you cite were not understood by either JPII or by Weigel to be supportive of any kind of radically socialist system and, in fact, were cited often by opponents of such systems by Catholics in former Eastern bloc countries as arguments speaking against the loss of human dignity and freedom those systems encourage. Craig needs (and apparently, these letter writers need) to do a more thorough reading of both the encyclicals and of JPII's life story and other writings. Unless, of course, he wants to suggest that he understands the man better than Weigel does.

Somewhere out in the Internets there's a hyperlink that will prove -- in Craig's eyes -- that George Weigel is a hypocrite, and thus invalidate Weigel as a credible source.

No doubt he's searching for it as I type. Or, he has it staged and ready to go.

You see, the only person in the whole universe that's not a hypocrite is Craig himself. Or so we would be led to believe by his harsh judgmentalism of all he considers hypocritical.

My experience is that those who are harshly judgmental are often that way as a means of hiding something they are themselves ashamed of. I am guessing Craig has something he wishes others not know.

I have suggested this before. Craig's response was to snark back about me being unable to fully comprehend just how dark a secret he is hiding. He bested me, yes sir! Oh indeed he bested me, but good!

I can say all this knowing that I've posted judgmental things elsewhere on NLT ... and I'm okay with it because I've come to accept, embrace and ... well, positively adore my hypocrisy. It is my defining characteristic. I hold high the torch of my two-faced nature and cry to the world, "Hark! By this I prove the brilliance of Craig Scanlon who first made me aware of my failings!"

This is a fascinating discussion, and along these lines I recommend to all of you the blog "Bleeding Heart Libertarians" (http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/), by a group of academic philosophers who are seeking to place new emphasis on free markets as means of obtaining social justice. It should not come as any surprise that government interventions--including those that purport to help the disadvantaged--end up most benefiting the wealthy and the well-connected. Indeed, it is naive to expect any other outcome.

Really, what is liberty if private property is not part of that liberty? If you are not free to own anything, then you are scarcely free to own yourself since survival is difficult with nothing.

Any Christian might say he owes what he has to God, but only Christian socialists confuse God with the state through thinking that the state is an expression of God or that the only way to have a Christian state is to have government hold all property in trust for God. But no one confuses that with liberty, except people who think that property is like chains. Yes, I know people who think that, but they still own things, knowing themselves to be hypocritical. Their light chains hang heavily, mine (scarcely greater) hang lightly -- in fact I think they are wrong.

Thank you, John Moser, I have a son who will love that website.

Julie - Your response (basically, "George Weigel knows the Pope better than Craig Scanlon - ha ha ha!!") would seem to pit the former pope's own words against those of Weigel (whatever those might be - you've offered none) the political activist. I would prefer those of the Pope himself.

If you had actually read what I offered by way of interpretation, you might have noticed I said this:

"Just to be clear, my point is not to say that JPII was some kind of Marxist or even a socialist. He was neither, although he publicly admitted on more than one occasion to finding "kernels of truth" in them. Obviously, he was anti-Communist and anti-Stalinist. But he was also very critical of capitalism, and libertarian glorifications of The Invisible Hand and related notions of 'let the market decide.'"

I have never pretended to claim that Pope JPII was of the leftist persuasion. He had plenty of critical words for certain manifestations of leftist ideas, without a doubt, and even harsh critiques for some theoretical aspects. That does not mean, unfortunately for those who want to see JPII as some sort of Friedmanite, that he never offered real and explicit critiques of contemporary capitalism and neoliberalism (which he did, post-1980). Just as socialists can't claim him, neither can the righties (on the ability of capitalism as some great liberator). JPII actually wrote (sometimes in encyclicals, no less) and uttered those words above, words that if Barack Obama or some other target of tea party rage were to utter (a fairly laughable prospect, really), the realm of NLT and suchlike would get its knickers in a considerable twist. Well, see the current reaction to the comparatively tame words of the Catholic academics in response to sobbing John Boehner to get the idea. This is what troubles religious conservatives (those friendly to the Pope - some anti-Vatican evangelical righties were happy to go ballistic over the Pope's critical words - "idolatry of the market") who are also free-market fundamentalists; they just can't accept that "one of their own" - even one who is widely known for playing a part in taking down Soviet Communism - could aim a harsh word at their beloved faith in free markets. JP's middle-path, "third way" approach is inconceivable to them.

[No Don, I am NOT "trying to create a false choice here: either radical free market or radical socialism." - it would seem that you and Julie are, however.]

Lastly, Julie, I don't think Weigel wrote the "official" biography of JPII. I'm not sure there has been such a book published as of yet. It would certainly be unusual for such a biography to be official or authorized but not make the claim (usu. quite important terms for regular readers of biographies). It appears that Weigel, and/or his publisher, have conceded its UN-official status.

http://www.archden.org/dcr/archive/20001011/2000101102ln.htm

It's true that Weigel used the subtitle "The Biography" and was granted Vatican access to JPII, but both of these things are also true of at least one other, earlier, biographer, Tad Szulc. I realize, however, that because Weigel offers the narrative that is most comfortable to conservatives, Weigel will be seen as the official biographer, even if that's not so. I'm not convinced there is any official, truly authorized biography of JPII, although there is one from 1982 by Lord Longford that dared to use the word "authorized" in its title.

http://www.amazon.com/Pope-John-Paul-Authorized-Biography/dp/0688013937

Regardless, I see no reason why Weigel should convince that JPII was not, on numerous occasions, truly critical of capitalism (at least certain aspects of it) and its most zealous ideologues. JPII's words, fully in context, are clear enough.

John - I'll be sure to check out the blog. Of course it won't surprise you that this caught my eye:

"It should not come as any surprise that government interventions--including those that purport to help the disadvantaged--end up most benefiting the wealthy and the well-connected. Indeed, it is naive to expect any other outcome."

That's a nice dismissal (with a hint of name-calling), but who might benefit by a lack of government interventions (or, regulations, as they so very often manifest themselves)? It's curious how, when the wealthy and well-connected lobby the government - esp. the biggest of Big Govt. in Washington, DC - they lobby it in such a way as to influence (i.e. write the rules), reduce, or eliminate government interventions in such a way as that they increase their ability to become even wealthier. With their corporate faces now having gained free speech rights at least as strong as those for actual humans, it's hard to imagine them becoming in any way more well-connected. Joe Sixpack - and those beneath him in wealth and power - can't typically afford lobbyists or large campaign contributions.

These disagreements about "social justice" boil down to the differing views of human nature. Conservatives understand that humanity is indeed "crooked timber" in need of social incentives and constraint, but the devil's in the details. Too much regulation and liberty dies (along with social dynamism), too little and you encourage the worst aspects of human beings (e.g., envy, greed, perversion). Moreover, we understand that government is a very poor substitute for cultural incentives/constraints, and that such institutionalization breeds as many negative consequences as it does positive gains (often more).

The reason conservativism isn't "sexy" for people inclined toward "social movement" activism is that, unlike liberalism or libertarianism, we seek balance between the private and public, between the people and the government. We know we don't have the "recipe" to perfect society or individual human beings. For (particularly young) people in need of identity, order, and salvation, conservativism lacks the religious overtones of liberalism or libertarianism. Good.

I think that if you look more closely you'll see that business hardly marches in lockstep in opposition to new regulations. Look at the way GE has pushed for green initiatives over the years--and how it has profited. Generally speaking, regulation favors the largest corporations; that is, the ones who can most afford the costs of compliance. Once they have paid these costs they enjoy the benefits--protection from competition, because regulation creates effective barriers to entry.

As for Citizens United, some of the staunchest opponents of that decision were the media conglomerates, because it undermined their virtual monopoly on political speech.

Progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Croly understood this well. Gigantic corporations and mega-government grew up side-by-side in a symbiotic relationship.

Doesn't matter Scanlon is still AWESOME!

I've addressed BP's greenwashing before, here:

http://nlt.ashbrook.org/2010/06/oil-spills--doh.php#comment-69607

In any event, I don't see how BP or big oil are doing anything to help the poor (this WAS about social justice) Oh, that's right there are no poor people. I saw a homeless guy talking on a cellphone once. Government shouldn't try to help them, businesses are only obliged to provide dividends for shareholders, the poor will always be with us, but the poor aren't really poor anyway and probably lazy... I know all the conservative tropes on poverty. blah, blah, blah....

1. In any society more complex than a farming village, you will have social and economic strata differentiated by, among other things, the productivity of those in each strata. The lower strata will be comparatively poor, so, yes, the poor will always be with you. By the way, if you've a personal income about 25% of the national mean, you are defined by statute as 'poor'. Best as it can be measured, a real income of that value would have put you at about the national mean the year my father was born (1928).

2. Businesses are not philanthropic concerns, and collective welfare would not necessarily be enhanced if they behaved as if they were. Let businesses, philanthropies, the state, and families follow their logic and vocation.

3. The Congress appended to the Social Security program what was meant to be a widow's pension financed by grants to the states. The culture among the impecunious working class being what it was, nothing particularly untoward occured on an obtrusive scale for twenty some odd years. Beginning about 1958, it turned into an umbilical cord for women of loose morals who were suceptible to being idle for periods measured in decades. When you pay women cash and provide them with apartments if they get knocked-up, some of them will take you up on the offer, especially if you sweeten the deal with food coupons and medical insurance.

AD - If you think I'll read past your pseudonym, you're mistaken. Save yourself the time from now on, and don't bother clicking the "reply to" link-thing.

My commentary is for general consumption and your pouting is of no interest.

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with:

1. Rent controls, which, in the name of "affordable housing," artificially reduce the supply of decent housing available to poor people, while providing wealthy, well-connected urban dwellers with luxury accomodations and cut-rate prices.

2. Eminent domain laws which, in the name of "slum clearance" and "urban renewal," take property from the poor and transfer it to millionaire developers such as Donald Trump.

3. The public school system, which delivers a low-quality product at high prices, while systematically working to block any serious reforms. The wealthy can buy their way out, while the poor are stuck.

4. The minimum wage, which, in the name of a "living wage" eliminates job opportunities for the least employable in an effort to protect union labor from competition--as well as to protect big corporations, which can more easily afford to pay the minimum wage (and which, generally speaking, tend to offer more than the minimum wage to their employees) from smaller competitors.

5. Licensing laws which, in the name of "safety" and "quality control" protect local monopolies and cartels in such activities as hair braiding from competition by poor entrepreneurs.

Here's a great recent article on this last point: http://www.economist.com/node/18678963

John, I do not think barbers form a cartel. Occupational licensure does restrict entry and provide rents to those of the guild, but there are generally too many providers for them to contrive to restrain trade any further. Real estate agents have been an exception, having developed subtle means of so doing through multiple listings. (How this is done was explained to me by a microeconomist, but no I do not remember and did not quite understand). Occupational licensure is not arbitrary, either. There is a trade-off between the benefits and costs of licensure.

I suppose I should add to my list Obamacare, which in the name of insuring the poor has become an instrument for rewarding well-connected businesses with exemptions, and punishing all other firms.

I could also mention farm subsidies, which in the name of protecting the family farm drives up food prices to benefit agribusiness. Or tariffs, which in the name of protecting American jobs drives up the prices of consumer goods to benefit certain domestic producers.

The elimination of all of these, I contend, should be regarded as issues of social justice.

John, I don't think I could have asked for a much better display of (as Pope JPII said):

"the radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems [moral and material poverty], in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces."

and the "idolatry of the market."

I personally know several people who see "Obamacare" as a real help; for them it could be the difference between an unfortunate health crisis and a complete life-crushing disaster.

Did you mention the "correctional" system? Gotta love the privatization there.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/us/19prisons.html?_r=2&hp;

No, what I've done is to point to specific government programs which not only fail to help the poor, but actively hurt them. I don't idolize the market, for it will not bring any sort of utopia. Nor do I deny that some will be helped by Obamacare, although one wonders why, if it's so beneficial, so many exemptions to the law have been granted.

I do not believe that "any attempt to solve [the problems of poverty] is doomed to failure." I'm merely suggesting that at the moment government is hurting more than it is helping. I'm also not convinced that "any attempt" must mean a government program. I highly doubt JPII believed that, either.

You might be surprised to know that I have problems with the privatization of prisons, for the same reason that I would object to the privatization of the police or the military.

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