Thursday, July 28, 2011

Catholic Social Justice and the Economy

Mark Shea, a popular Catholic blogger, has written a very pertinent piece on Catholic social justice and the economy.

In it he says, basically, that among many who consider themselves serious Catholics, there are those who talk a lot about the efficacy of sacrifice for women experiencing an unexpected pregnancy, but nothing about the sacrifice the rich must make to serve the poor.

He quotes a reader who initiated the conversation:
We are a religion demanding that the now-pregnant mother of three others must be willing to risk her life during her pregnancy, or to carry to term the product of a rape.

But the 8 digit earning executive gets a pass in his responsibility to continue to create jobs because his taxes are nudged up a wee bit since that's the way the market works. This wealthy man could not possibly be expected to do such oddly heroic things as hire workers when his jets are getting extra taxes.

His enormous excess personal wealth must remain intact and this is held as morally acceptable and in some quarters morally commendable.

If a minor increase in taxes plagues those with excess luxury so much that they do not do what is right and just with their means, they are not living Christian lives.
Pope Benedict had this to say about economics and the Christian: (emphasis mine)
The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner, and that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone. Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the country's international competitiveness, hinder the achievement of lasting development.
Many of us have born the burden of a job loss brought on by a company paying a bit too much attention to "international competitiveness" and not to the larger picture.  The companies that survive (and they are few and far between) are those who look at the dignity of their workers and the integrity of their organization instead of short term (Pope Benedict says "sometimes very short term") profits for the few at the top.

The Uneasy Marriage of Religion and Politics
The difficulty in this country is one of melding religion and politics.  So far, in the United States, there has never been a political party that has followed all the teachings of the Church.  To be with the church on life issues, but not on poverty and social justice issues may be a "conservative" stance, but it is not the Church's stance. To work for issues of social justice while ignoring the pre-born is also not the Church's stance.

It presents a conundrum for thinking Catholics before every election, but our lives should reflect both life and social justice issues.  We should not just pull a lever (or fill in one of those damnable bubbles) every year (or every 4 years) and feel we've done our duty by the Church.  We need to write our representatives on both sides of the aisle and insist that they do what is best for the country, which includes a safety net for the poor and respect for all life.

A political party which hijacks one issue over another while ignoring an entire group of its constituents in need does not deserve to be held up as the only party for "real" Christians. Such Pharisaical attitudes were precisely the kind of thing Jesus spoke out against. Having the outward trappings of faith without the real concern and love for others is no faith at all.

We are in a crucial time in this country We need to pull together to make sure that all of us have a means to make an honest living and all of us have access to the basics: food, clothing, shelter and dignified healthcare.

No one political party will save you. Only God has done that.  We need to show His love to the world.


Anonymous said...

I have become very jaded about politics in the last few years, since I started trying to impact the process in support of disabled children. And to be honest, my experience with the conservative legislators I grew up in total support of has fallen off to almost zero because of how they responded to this issue.

I am so glad you posted this, but I also think it's important to realize that civic duty is separate from faith--it must REFLECT our faith, but our faith is not defined by our politics. As you noted, with a few rare exceptions, there is no way for a Catholic to vote in clear conscience for any legislator of either party. And I get very frustrated when Catholics of the left OR right get on a pedestal about how you can't vote for _____ and still call yourselves Catholic.

To me, this is an indicator that politics are of the world and faith is of Heaven, and no matter what happens, political process will not bring about the Kingdom. It's the only way I can stay sane when the rhetoric ramps up: reminding myself that in the long run, it doesn't really matter as much as everybody makes it seem.

Dymphna said...

You are right. Civic duty is separate from faith although influenced by it. There are those who find candidates, however marginal, to write in, if necessary, who may reflect Catholic teaching across the board. Others decide to weigh the options between the two major parties and vote accordingly. Others abstain from voting altogether. The older I get, the more I realize, as you said, that "politics is of the world and faith is of Heaven."

Barbara Schoeneberger said...

"No one political party will save you. Only God has done that. We need to show His love to the world. "

This is really the heart of the matter. How did we have such great hospitals, especially Catholic ones, before the government started to meddle with health care? All those policies dreamed up by politicians supposedly designed to help the poor made the pols and their cronies richer while making the quality of health care deteriorate for everybody else. Healthcare is only one example. In the end, it comes down to me living according to the teachings of Christ in how I treat the people around me.

Dymphna said...

"All those policies dreamed up by politicians supposedly designed to help the poor made the pols and their cronies richer while making the quality of health care deteriorate for everybody else."

That is, unfortunately, what it is often about--making one group richer at the expense of others.

Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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