Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Evangelii Gaudium, Part Nine

183. Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. 

Somebody get Biden, Pelosi, Cuomo, et al on the phone! 

Who would claim to lock up in a church and silence the message of Saint Francis of Assisi or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? 

Probably about half the Catholic Church these days. 

An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. 

Yet we see the calls from a chorus of voices, including those in the Church, to have the world change the Faith. Hell, that was pretty much the whole gist of the talk Cardinal Kasper recently gave.

Furthermore, neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems. Here I can repeat the insightful observation of Pope Paul VI: “In the face of such widely varying situations, it is difficult for us to utter a unified message and to put forward a solution which has universal validity. This is not our ambition, nor is it our mission. It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country”.[152]

People should memorize this part for a couple of reasons. First, it indicates the limits that the Magisterium operates under when dealing with these kinds of questions. Second, it follows in the footsteps of prior popes who dealt with social issues. When ostensibly Catholic folk promote nothing more than a glorified welfare state as “social justice,” they should be reminded that there isn’t just one path for this and that there can be legitimate disagreements about these things. Unlike, say, abortion and contraception, over which there can be no such debate.

188. The Church has realized that the need to heed this plea is itself born of the liberating action of grace within each of us, and thus it is not a question of a mission reserved only to a few: “The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might”.[153] In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Mk 6:37): it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter. The word “solidarity” is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few.

This is part of a very, very long section about how we are obligated to help the poor. Don’t take this as a criticism of the text, but one of the more annoying things about the current pontificate is the zeal with which the media promotes the idea that this is the first time a pope has talked about helping poor people. Or that the Church has never seen this as part of Her mission in the past.

Solidarity is a big part of this section and gets a huge amount of play throughout the document as a whole, in surprisingly Thomist terms. Subsidiarity, once a jewel in the Church’s social justice teaching crown, continues to be relegated to the status of inferiority, with only one mention almost at the very end. It’s like trying to find Waldo.

194. This message is so clear and direct, so simple and eloquent, that no ecclesial interpretation has the right to relativize it. The Church’s reflection on these texts ought not to obscure or weaken their force, but urge us to accept their exhortations with courage and zeal. Why complicate something so simple? 

Again, I have to chuckle at this. We have a document of thousands of thousands of thousands of words here and yet it asks why things of this sort must be so complicated.

We should not be concerned simply about falling into doctrinal error, but about remaining faithful to this light-filled path of life and wisdom. For “defenders of orthodoxy are sometimes accused of passivity, indulgence, or culpable complicity regarding the intolerable situations of injustice and the political regimes which prolong them”.[161]

Mark this well. The Pope obviously feels that falling into error is a problem. It just isn’t the only problem. Moreover, he quotes from then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s censuring of liberation theology from 1984 here and afterwards as well.

200. Since this Exhortation is addressed to members of the Catholic Church, I want to say, with regret, that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care. The great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith. Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care.

This will be pretty shocking to many social justice types. It is a sad thing to encounter those who are perfectly happy setting up a food pantry or a coat drive but who are horrified by the idea of access to catechesis, RCIA, or the sacraments in general.

On a side note, I do not understand much of this section in that it seems to assume that poverty = virtuous, which is obviously false. There are plenty of bad people who happen to be poor. Moreover, we have made cultivating envy such an art in this country that we've largely destroyed much of what nourished virtue among the poor.

As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

Sin, whether actual or original, is the root of all social ills. Inequality is not necessarily sinful of itself. We know this because God Himself has shown that He is ok with unequal systems (eg- monarchy, priesthood, etc.).

203. The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies. 

These shouldn’t be treated as separate issues.

204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. 

Did we ever? 

Also, there is some debate about this section in the comments at Fr. Zuhlsdorf's post here.

Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.

The problem is that when Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi read this that they absolutely look at it in terms of a “simple welfare mentality” because it is a lever of control.

206. Economy, as the very word indicates, should be the art of achieving a fitting management of our common home, which is the world as a whole. Each meaningful economic decision made in one part of the world has repercussions everywhere else; consequently, no government can act without regard for shared responsibility. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find local solutions for enormous global problems which overwhelm local politics with difficulties to resolve. 

Why is this? Because subsidiarity has been forgotten. Unfortunately, the topic is left unexplored.

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