Monday, December 3, 2012

Catholicism, Capitalism, and Cannibalism

One of the most distressing things I read these days from liberal writers is the notion that the Catholic Church does not believe in free market capitalism. I am doing my best -- which at this hectic time of the year is limited at best -- to read more on the topic.  

Earlier this year there was a short piece out of Loyola University of New Orleans on "Catholicism and Capitalism" which discusses very briefly the positions taken by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict with regard to the "uneasy relationship between Catholicism and capitalism." Indeed I cringe when I read what comes across as an oxymoron when JP II said in his 1987 encyclical letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis:
"The tension between East and West is an opposition... between two concepts of the development of individuals and peoples, both concepts being imperfect and in need of radical correction... This is one of the reasons why the Church’s social doctrine adopts a critical attitude towards both liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism."
Yes, it is the pairing of the two words "liberal" and "capitalism" that I find antithetical. By "liberal" I surmise that JP II meant something more like "unbridled" rather than the meaning that "liberal" has garnered in this country -- synonymous with Democrat, in the same way conservative has become synonymous with Republican. One would never say "conservative socialism." I know well that so much of communication is about semantics, and the use of terms to mean things that they were not initially intended to cover or convey. That is a huge reason that education on all side of the issues is necessary today.

Father Robert Sirico, founder and president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, recently published a book called Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. I just ordered it, and hope to read it over the holidays, if I do not have a mental breakdown before then. Here is Fr. Sirico defending his free-market economics think-tank as being in line with Catholic social teaching.

 During an interview earlier this year with Joseph Gorr on teh Patheos Evangelical channel, Sirico had this to say:
Sirico: I really find helpful Blessed John Paul II’s delineation between what might be called “capitalisms” in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus where he says that the kind of “capitalism” which should replace the collapsed Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe and recommended to the developing world ought to be one “which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property, and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector…” but then he is quick to add, “even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy,” “market economy,” or simply “free economy” (see Centesimus Annus, no. 42). Such an expression of human liberty, grounded in ethical and religious tradition—especially natural law reasoning—and circumscribed by law, is to my mind, the best we can get on earth. This approach is neither libertine nor anarchistic.

One of the real reasons that discussion needs to be had on this subject within the Church is that Catholics on both sides of the political aisle are at each others throats. If we do not have tempered, intelligent, collaborative discussion on the subject, the next C'ism to come along will inevitably be cannibalism.


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