It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catholic Social Justice Verses Socialism

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Fast forward the above YouTube clip to 2:30 minutes and watch it until you get to about 3:50 minutes. There is a section in here that's of particular interest to us. Here Michael Moore trounces Sean Hannity on the issue of socialism v. capitalism. To set the stage, both men are "Roman Catholics" - believe it or not. They both attend mass regularly, and they both claim to subscribe to the teachings of the Church. Now we could debate their fidelity to Church teaching from now until kingdom come, but that doesn't serve our purpose here. What does serve our purpose is the observation that neither men have any clue what the Scriptures teach about economics and property rights. Both men appear to possess a small piece of the picture, and admittedly, Michael Moore is far more skilled at defending his. Now I've watched, and listen to, both men for a while. I'm not too particularly impressed with either one. Hannity, though having gone through divinity school, has always been a huge disappointment. I think he lost a lot of credibility in my book a few years back when the 'Passion of the Christ' movie came out, and the man could not adequately explain on air the reason and message behind the atoning suffering and death of Jesus Christ, and this from a man who attended divinity school! So I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that he was completely unable to defend a simple Church teaching about economics and property rights. Michael Moore has been at least as disappointing as Sean Hannity, if not more so. Like many who subscribe to the heretical view of "Liberation Theology" (Christian Socialism), Moore is adept at pointing out sections of Scriptures that exhort compassion toward the poor. However, he conveniently leaves out some very important details.

Now 'The Catholic Knight' is not a theology major. I never went to divinity school or seminary. That however, does not make me incompetent as a Christian. I can make some simple observations of Scripture and Church teaching, as can anyone with at least half a brain, and point them out in a public setting like this blog.

Michael Moore, like many "Christian" socialists, is very adept at pointing out passages of Scripture that exhort compassion for the poor, and judgement for the rich who fail to help them. This is all well and good. What he fails to point out is context. For the sake of brevity I will not bother to indulge in these multiple passages, since I'm sure our Christian socialist friends can point them out ad nauseum. Instead I'll focus on two passages which give us a universal context in which to place all Scripture references on the subject. They both come from the Book of Acts...
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. - Acts 2:43-45 NIV
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. - Acts 5:1-6 NIV
They slaying of Ananias and Sapphira is a miracle of terror which should strike fear and trembling into the heart of every Christian believer. The point of the story has more to do with authority than anything else. You see Ananias and Sapphira were lying to the apostles, and in doing so they were lying to the Church, and ultimately to God. The point of the story is the Church occupies God's position of authority on earth. Lying to the Church is no different than lying to God himself. Ananias and Sapphira have been enshrined in Scripture as perpetual examples of what not to do. Don't lie to the Church!

Now having dealt with the reason why these two were slain, let's deal with the context. The first passage from Acts 2 deals with the habits of the very first Christians. They were very communal, in the sense that they shared everything. It was the love of Christ that compelled them to do this, and it was their right to do so if they so desired. However, by the time we get to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, we discover something else about the early Church. After having lied about donating all of their possessions, St. Peter confronts Ananias about this, pointing out to him that it was certainly within his right as a Christian to retain his property and give only as he saw fit. Regarding Ananias' property, Peter asked: "Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?" In other words, you had the right to do with it as you pleased. Nobody was forcing you to give it all to the Church. So why didn't you just give what you saw fit? Why did you LIE and tell us you are giving the full amount? In this Peter is pointing out a fundamental human right that is acknowledged by the Church. It is the right to own property, buy and sell it, make a reasonable profit, and do with it as you please. The context of Christian communal living is the right to not participate, which is what makes the communal living of the first Christians so remarkable. They didn't have to do it. There was no sin in retaining their property and just giving a small donation to the Church. In spite of this however, the first Christians chose to give up everything! And that is what makes them so remarkable. If we fail to acknowledge their Christian right to keep their property for themselves, we diminish their sacrifice, and we damage their testimony.

From this early communal living arose the Christian concept of monasticism. Throughout the ages, Christians have voluntarily engaged in this lifestyle. It was (and still is) their choice, and if we say it was (or is) anything other than a choice, a Christian "duty" for example, we lessen their sacrifice. Herein we have the quintessential difference between Social Justice and Socialism.

In contrast, Socialism is a form of Marxism, and it arises from the misguided utopian notion that if everybody were forced by the government to sacrifice most of what they have, or all of what they have, society would be more "fair" and "just." Typically the needs of the poor are promoted as the reason for socialism. In other words, instead of voluntarily sacrificing your own property for the sake of the poor out of a sense of compassion and selfless charity, you should be FORCED by the government to surrender it against your will.

Marxism, in all it's forms (including communism, socialism, fascism and liberalism) has been condemned by the Catholic Church. This is especially true for so-called "Liberation Theology" or Christian Socialism. The problem with these ideologies is their reliance on government force to accomplish a job that is reserved for the Holy Spirit alone. Christians are supposed to be convicted by the Holy Spirit of God to feel compassion for their fellow man, and thus be compelled to sacrifice their own property (as they see fit) to assist those in need. There is absolutely nothing in Biblical Scripture, nor in the teachings of the Catholic Church (thus nothing in the teachings of Jesus Christ), which suggests that people (Christian or otherwise) should be FORCED by the government, against their will, to give part (or all) of their property to assist their fellow man. To force this action is to deprive the Holy Spirit of his job, and effectively put government in the place of God.  It also deprives Christians of their role in the world, effectively minimizing the ministry of the Church to a mere academic role.

Now having said all that, the Church does not subscribe to a laissez-faire approach to capitalism either. The problem with this again goes back to property rights. Pure and unregulated capitalism can become just as oppressive as socialism because once again, through unbridled market forces, it can deny people of basic property rights. A perfect example of this is the minimum wage. When employers refuse to pay their employees at least a basic standard, they can effectively conspire together to keep wages low, as they have in the past, resulting in a lower social-economic class of citizens who are economically enslaved by their employers. Another example is free-market trading practices, which effectively allow the rich and powerful to trade property (flash trading) at speeds beyond the reach of middle class citizens. Monopolies are another example, wherein competent middle class citizens are denied the right to commercial property due to market practices that unfairly undercut their competition for the purpose of driving all competitors out of business and maintaining the monopoly. The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. The Church would not even bother to address such things, if it didn't believe that free-enterprise property rights are the basis of economic social justice.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church...
2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with "communism" or "socialism." She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of "capitalism," individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market." Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.
So the moral of the story is that Michael Moore and Sean Hannity are both wrong. Each of these so-called "Catholics" subscribes to an ideology the Catholic Church opposes. Moore is a socialist, and the Church has condemned this philosophy by name, and historically has even gone so far as to excommunicate those who espouse this ideology as "Christian." (Better be careful Michael!) On the other hand Sean Hannity also subscribes to an ideology of "libertarian capitalism," a type of laissez-faire that goes far beyond what the Church approves. Both ideologies oppress the poor when taken to their logical conclusion, and both ideologies have historical examples where this is exactly the case. Both men are ideologues, and neither one of them makes a case for authentic Catholic Social Justice. Moore abuses Church teaching, and Hannity has no idea how to defend it.