Category: Christian Social Thought

TaxCollectorDuring the 20th century, the option for the poor or the preferential option for the poor was articulated as one of the basic principles of Catholic social teaching. For example, in Octogesima Adveniens (1971), Pope Paul VI writes:

In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the most fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods generously at the service of others.

Yet while all Christians — not just Catholics — should express a kinship for the less fortunate, Nathan Duffy reminds us that Jesus also expressed a “special, unique concern for wealthy tax collectors.”
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In this short talk, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, offers some general observations about this week’s meeting between President Obama and Pope Francis at the Vatican, and reflects on the differences in philosophy that make a Presidential/Papal alliance such as what occurred during the time of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II unlikely.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, March 28, 2014

AGIOS-LOYKASAt Patheos, Joel J. Miller discusses how God uses work to fashion our souls:

Not long ago I looked at an icon of Archbishop Luke of Simferopol and Crimea, a recent Orthodox saint who lived from 1877 to 1961. Following the fashion, the image was timeless. It could have been painted a thousand years ago. But there in the icon — to my surprise — were surgical implements!

The archbishop worked as a surgeon and scientist. He was well known for his prowess with a scalpel and the quality of his research work, captured in his many articles and papers.

“I help people as a physician,” he once said, “and I help them as a servant of the Church. . . .”

It’s common in icons to see holy objects: scrolls, books, crosses, prayer ropes. But here were tools of a trade. Of course, in the rights hands, for the right service, those tools are seen by the church as holy objects too.

Read more . . .

In USA Today comes this story from the Associated Press:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Wednesday permanently removed a German bishop from his Limburg diocese after his 31 million-euro ($43-million) new residence complex caused an uproar among the faithful.

Francis had temporarily expelled Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg in October pending a church inquiry.

At the center of the controversy was the price tag for the construction of a new bishop’s residence complex and related renovations. Tebartz-van Elst defended the expenditures, saying the bill was actually for 10 projects and there were additional costs because the buildings were under historical protection.

But in a country where Martin Luther launched the Reformation five centuries ago in response to what he said were excesses and abuses within the church, the outcry was enormous. The perceived lack of financial transparency also struck a chord since a church tax in Germany brings in billions a year to the German church.

The Vatican said Wednesday that the inquiry into the renovation found that Tebartz-van Elst could no longer exercise his ministry in Limburg and that Francis had accepted his resignation, which was originally offered Oct. 20.

Back in October, I was part of a panel of guests on the BBC program World Have Your Say, discussing the question, “Should Religious Leaders Live a Modest Life?” The springboard for the conversation was the scandal surrounding Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.

At the Boston Globe yesterday, John Allen sees this as a potential sign of a social gospel alliance between Pope Francis and President Obama, whose first meeting is today: (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

dv1693021Modern rhetoric of income inequality is driven by covetous envy, says Russell Nieli. Caritas, humility, gratitude, and goodwill toward others are a healthy society’s answer to the ancient curses of envy and pride:

The problem of the chronically poor is that they are chronically poor, not that some people make a lot more money than other people and bring about “inequality.” The fact that some fail to earn enough to live at a decent level is a genuine social problem. The fact that those who are not poor are widely dispersed in terms of how much they earn is not.

Under the rhetoric of “inequality,” covetous envy—including that of the upper-middle-class for the truly affluent—has reared its ugly head. Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to fund universal pre-kindergarten education by an income tax increase solely on the income of the highest income earners making more than $500,000 a year, who already pay city income taxes at the highest graduated rate, is an iconic example of this newer tendency to combine genuine anti-poverty concerns with envy-driven, soak-the-rich taxation policies. It is perhaps no accident that New York’s upper middle class (those making between $100,000 and $200,000 annually) voted for de Blasio in greater proportion than many New Yorkers in lower income brackets.

Read more . . .

“Social Justice” is a term you hear almost every day. But did you ever hear anybody define what it actually means? In the latest video for Prager University, Jonah Goldberg says that if you ask ten liberals to define social justice you’ll get ten different responses.

Goldberg, referencing Frederick Hayek, says that underlying the term “social justice” is a pernicious philosophical claim that freedom must be sacrificed in order to redistribute income. A few years ago on his radio program, Glenn Beck made similar claims and encouraged listeners to leave their church if it proclaims a concern for social justice:
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This past Saturday, I attended the Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship (APTE) 2014 summit. APTE is a student group at OSU in Columbus, OH, and they put together a wonderful cast of ten speakers on the subject of the future of social entrepreneurship. With seven pages of notes (front and back), I unfortunately cannot cover every detail of the conference, but instead I will briefly focus on a theme that recurred throughout the afternoon: private, often for-profit, solutions to public service problems facing the poor.

APTE brought together an impressive lineup of speakers for two rounds of individual presenters, followed by a Twitter Q&A, with a panel discussion on the city of Detroit in between the two groups: (more…)

Forgotten FaithToday at Ethika Politika, I review Fr. Philip LeMasters’ recent book The Forgotten Faith: Ancient Insights from Contemporary Believers from Eastern Christianity.

With regards to the book’s last chapter, “Constantine and the Culture Wars,” I write,

… LeMasters does a good job in acknowledging the line between principles of faith and morality on the one hand, and prudential judgments that may not be as clear-cut on the other. He does not give the impression of advocating any specific political program; indeed, he explicitly disavows such a project:

Religious groups that are strongly identified with politics risk becoming so entangled in debates shaped by interest groups that their distinctive witness is obscured. To give the impression of being merely a political party at prayer is a good way to make people think that the church has little to say to the world that the world does not already know on its own terms.

He does not use this as an excuse, however, to disengage from political life.  He only highlights that in applying the teachings of the Church to our present, political context, we ought not to expect any concrete embodiment of our ideals, and we should be wary of any person or group that makes such a claim.

This is a point, I believe, worth dwelling on. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Thursday, March 20, 2014

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly featured the following video on Dorothy Day. Her cause for canonization in the Catholic Church has been championed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who says Day’s life represents so much of the struggle of our times.

So there was sexual immorality, there was a religious search, and there was a pregnancy out of wedlock and an abortion. Her life, of course, like Saul on the way to Damascus, was radically changed when she became introduced to Jesus Christ and his church, and after that she became an apostle.

The Catholic Worker Movement, which Day founded, continues to feed people across the globe, and has never received government funding. It remains both a local organization, staffed by neighborhood folks, and an international community, reaching nations like Uganda and Scotland. Day is described in this piece as an “independent woman” who looked for guidance from the community of saints.

Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman"

Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman”

The 1990 movie “Pretty Woman” is still wildly popular; it relies on the Hollywood canard of the “hooker with a heart of gold.” In the movie, a prostitute is paid to spend the weekend with a wealthy handsome gentleman. The two fall in love, and she is swept off her feet by the courtly man who initially wished only to utilize her. Cue the hankies, sigh for the romance, and fade to black.

Now, the movie is being made into a Broadway musical, which the Huffington Post declares will carry the message from the movie of ” the importance of true love, being yourself and shaming snooty salespeople in public.”

Currently, a young woman, Belle Knox (whose real name is Miriam Weeks), has been making a bit of an entertainment splash, doing the talk show circuit. Knox is currently finishing up her freshman year at Duke University as a women’s studies major. She’s financing her education by working in the porn industry. Visiting the tv show “The View,” Knox said she felt empowered by her work. (more…)