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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Robert Miller

It seems that an hysteria has erupted over the PCPJ's note on Catholic social teaching?
Popes Paul VI and Benedict XVI long since have parted company with Whiggery and Toryism.
Both have acknowledged (obliquely), in their magisterial writings, that the fall of the millennial Empire and cultural order (Christendom) requires a profound rethinking of the relationship between "the Church and the 'modern world'".
Once again, as in the "Dark Ages", the Church carries the pallia of both Peter and Caesar.
Faithful to Her Lord, the Church cannot but search for that Caesar who will protect Her liberty to preach the Gospel, gather the 'nations' into a 'civil society' and sanctify the world with the celebration of Her sacraments. This, if anything, is the real "message of Vatican II" -- even if unartfully and ambiguously expressed at the time.
The Vatican seeks structures of secular governance that will achieve these goals. It is not concerned about the contemporary balance of political forces. And it shouldn't be.
The Holy Roman Emperor-in-exile just died three months ago, after a reign of 89 years in exile. I think we all need a little time for reflection before we go flying off, as Mark and many others have done, with right-wing rejections of Papal documents.
Pope Benedict is talking about what we need, not about what is likely to happen in the immediate political status quo.
To paraphrase Barry Goldwater in 1960: "Let's grow up ( US Catholic) 'conservatives'".


If the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is trying to make the Catholic Church sound as if she’s living in a fantasy world or trying to portray Catholic social teaching as completely irrelevant to real world problems, I’d say, “Mission accomplished.”

Well said Mark. I sometimes shake my head. Even vast portions of Gaudium Et Spes seem wishful thinking if not read in the context of the first parts regarding the dignity of mankind, the role of the Church and the family.

As you said at the beginning of your essay, Mark, we are talking about the ideal. As I have pointed out many times in the context of political/social/economic philosophical discussions here and there, any system would work perfectly if every person on earth were in a state of perfect charity. In fact, there would be no need for any government at all, because government's function is to protect citizens from other citizens, ensure that contracts entered into are honored and protect the entire society from attacks from without.

So that is the ideal. There is another somewhat modified ideal, and that is a society wherein the majority of the people uphold a high moral standard and act in a moral way most of the time. We have seen periods in history where this was the case. But those periods have usually been relatively short. However, we can draw conclusions from those periods of relative morality and peace, the primary one being that the relative morality of a society is directly related to the level of religious faith and practice.

Coming from an evangelical background the answer then seems to me to be staring us in the face. For that reason I applauded JPII and now applaud Benedict XVI for weaving throughout their writings, messages and encyclicals the constant and consistent call to evangelization.

But you know as well as I that conversion of heart is the work of the Holy Spirit. So what is to be done? It seems to me there is a two part track here, two rails if you will. Recalling my youth I remember that when a high-profile evangelist, like a Billy Graham, for example, was to come to a certain region to conduct a "crusade" one of the prerequisites was that large numbers of the local churches of the evangelical mindset would begin many months before the event to conduct prayer meetings (perhaps in today's context of the term we should call them intercessory prayer meetings because they were outward focused) with a specific and single mindset, that being to beg, to implore, to incessantly ask God to send his Holy Spirit into the hearts and minds of people, to prepare them to hear the message and experience that conversion of heart. (Get saved, in their parlance)

That, it seems to me, is something they did have right. At least in those days they did, I don't know about right now. It was hard work, it was hitting the floor with the knees consistently and single-mindedly over a long period of time, in groups, as individuals, in the liturgy, etc. It was war on Satan, to be honest.

And think about the prayer meetings we can have as Catholics. Every one guaranteed to be packed to capacity if we just call upon all of the saints to pray with us, especially including the Blessed Virgin Mary.

That is how you start to approach the ideal in a society and in the world, the description that Vatican II gives as well as the Pontifical Commission. It also seems to me that we are going to have to get busy with this job without the leadership in some, perhaps many cases. But so what? We can pray for them too, to get on side. And if we seem to be short of evangelizing voices, having seen some of them go down in flames, we just need to pray for more workers in the vineyard, more voices.

I am reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew's gospel chapter 7;
[7]"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
[8] For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
[9] Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
[10] Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?
[11] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Is not the conversion of hearts among our neighbors, our nation, our world the very definition of a good gift that God could give us? But as James says in chapter 4, "you do not have, because you do not ask."

Mark Brumley

The Vatican seeks structures of secular governance that will achieve these goals. It is not concerned about the contemporary balance of political forces. And it shouldn't be.

Well, if the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is concerned with addressing real problems, in the real world, today, which it presents itself as being, and not with 24th century solutions to problems, then it is going to have to be concerned, to some extent, with "the contemporary balance of political forces". Otherwise, we'll have to call in the Doctor to rewrite time.

Talking about the value of world authority, whether political, economic, or both, is fine. I'm all for great philosophical discussions. I see the logic of world government. Whether it is probable/practicable or not, is another issue. But to present this as anything other than a very-difficult-to-achieve, very-long-term goal, and to overlook the fact that it does not solve problems right here and now, is to make oneself largely irrelevant to solving today's problems.

What's more, the emphasis on world government in the council's statement tends to obscure the contributions of massive government and statist intervention and management to our current problems. I am not suggesting that the problems are wholly the result of government regulations and that a "laissez faire" approach would solve all the problems, without creating any problems of its own. But massive government debt and massive government intervention into markets does create certain other difficulties, as we have seen with the housing crisis in the U.S. To ignore that doesn't help our situation.

Mark Brumley

I think we all need a little time for reflection before we go flying off, as Mark and many others have done, with right-wing rejections of Papal documents.

Which "right-wing" rejections do you refer to?

Which "papal documents" have I rejected?

Before we can speak fruitfully about the issues, Robert, we need accuracy of statement and precision of thought.

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