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Thursday, November 20, 2008



Well, I've read this speech fairly carefully, and the word "prophetic" may be a little strong. It's prophetic in the sense that saying "Ya know, it can't keep going like this" is prophetic, but not like "I anticipate an economic recession in the late 2000's." Rather, the Pope as Cardinal Ratzinger simply pointed out that economic activity devoid of morals and ethics cannot stand. Perhaps this was original in 1985, but I don't think it is nowadays (at least among people who count).

But of course, I'm glad this speech got unearthed and given attention. As always, B16 has a way of getting straight to the heart of the matter with very little fluff and very much scholarship. Marxism and Capitalism have the same axioms, as well as the same goals: scourge the world of religion and usher in a utopia of Rational Man. Silliness.

In terms of Catholic thought and economics, I'm heartened and disheartened. I read that the American bishop's council recently wrote a letter to Obamarama to let him know that they were ready to help him with solving social problems by pushing for "universal health-care." What are they thinking!? However, in a recent sermon, our local priest was talking about the world-wide economic down-turn and brought up the idea that free-functioning economic systems are not intrisically immoral, but rather that virtue is required in order to make these things work. This was a welcome observation. I'm weary (and wary) of Catholics who seem to think "Catholic social justice" = "Marxist Communism with a twist of Christ."


-I'm weary (and wary) of Catholics who seem to think "Catholic social justice" = "Marxist Communism with a twist of Christ."-

Absolutely. That article didn't give socialists a lot of comfort, although some have jumped on the article with glee because they think it is just an indictment of capitalism, not having read it I suppose.

The confusion and struggle for some Catholics who are trying to think these issues through carefully and prayerfully I think comes from not understanding that an "economic system" is always an imposition upon economic activity. Without governments, religious leaders, philosophies or systems, people will conduct economic activity anyway. They must in order to live, unless they are totally autonomous and can produce or make everything that they and their family need. This is heart of human activity everywhere.

Free markets are not the same thing as capitalism. Capitalism can exist in varying measure in some strange places where markets are far from free. What free market capitalism depends upon, and I think that Cardinal Ratzinger touched on it, is the tendency of human beings to look after their own self interest. That is it's built in efficiency.

If we set that up as the inviolable end in itself, a kind of radical individualism, and set up the predictability of what human beings will do in self-interest as economic laws, and separate that out has a realm free from moral consideration, then we have the determinism that Cardinal Ratzinger is talking about.

However, there is no contradiction between free economic activity and moral economic activity. That is what those Catholics do not understand or want to understand, who think that Catholic Social Doctrine teaches socialism.

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