Posts tagged with: catholic

bannon-capitalismSoon after winning the election, President-elect Donald Trump created waves of controversy by naming Steve Bannon, his former campaign CEO, as chief strategist and Senior Counselor in the new administration.

Yet while Bannon’s harsh and opportunistic brand of political combat and questionable role as a catalyst for the alt-right are well-documented and rightly critiqued, his personal worldview is a bit more blurry. Much has been written of Bannon’s self-described “Leninist” political sensibilities and his quest to tear down the GOP establishment, but at the level of more detailed political philosophy (or theology), what does the man actually believe?

Offering a robust answer to that question, BuzzFeed recently unearthed a transcript from an extensive Skype interview Bannon gave to a conference held inside the Vatican in 2014. Though the topics range from ISIL to Russia to the racial tensions within the conservative movement, Bannon spends the bulk of his initial remarks on the intersection of economics and Christianity, offering what’s perhaps the most detailed insight to Bannon’s own thinking that I’ve found.

Given the growing mystery of the man and his newfound position of influence in the next administration, it’s well worth reviewing his views on the matter. (more…)

Samuel Gregg, director of research at Acton Institute, was recently interviewed by Carl E. Olson of Catholic World Report about his new book For God and Profit.  Gregg is a frequent contributor to CWR on the topics of political economy, economic history, ethics in finance, and natural law theory.

The first question asked of Gregg was “Is it fair to say that Church teaching about money and economics is widely misunderstood and often misrepresented? If so, what are some of the reasons?” His response:

Catholic social teaching outlines clear principles for people who want to addresses issues surrounding finance and economic life in a way that takes human flourishing seriously. These include the principles of the dignity of the person, solidarity, subsidiarity, the preferential option for the poor, the principle of common use, the principal of private property, to name just a few. These principles are drawn from Revelation and the natural law. But they are not well understood by some Catholics. One reason for this is that they tend to be buried—including, I must say, in the social encyclicals—amidst a range of historically-contingent reflections and the offering of prudential judgements on present-day affairs.

The English language version of Rerum Novarum (1891) is about 14,000 words. Laudato Si’ (2015) is approximately 40,000 words. More than one person has suggested that this partly reflects the magisterium entering into the details of far too many economic subjects, the vast majority of which Catholics are free to disagree about among themselves. If we’re interested in equipping lay Catholics to think through economic issues, more time should be invested in explaining principles of Catholic social teaching and how they relate to each other. Less time, I’d argue, should be spent addressing questions upon which Catholics may legitimately hold a variety, even sometimes quite different views.

(more…)

francisgmo62815“Defending capitalism on practical grounds is easy,” writes economist Donald Boudreaux at the Mercatus Center. “It is history’s greatest force for raising the living standards of the masses.”

What’s more difficult, it seems, is understanding its moral logic, spiritual implications, and which of each is or isn’t inherent to private ownership and economic exchange.

At what level, for instance, is freely buying a gallon of milk at a freely agreed-to price from a freely employed worker at an independent grocery store an act of sin, idolatry, and exploitation? Such basic transactions are, after all, the bread and butter of a system built on free enterprise and open exchange (i.e. capitalism). From here, it gets more complicated, of course, and even that basic starting point can surely involve corrupt actors and action.

Yet even Pope Francis, discernor of the discerning, seems to struggle in locating Point A of that basic logic, even when railing against its banner. I tend to presume that basic milk purchases are not, in fact, his actual target. But then he continues and without qualification, railing against markets at large and ripping at plenty of positives that dangle well outside the deserving injustices of cronyist corporatism.

The Pope prefers to argue not that capitalism “has its faults” or “demands a virtuous society,” but rather that it is a “new tyranny,” one that followed the ills of communism, but filled the void with something just as tragic. (more…)

A Filipino neighborhood just after Typhoon Haiyan

A Filipino neighborhood just after Typhoon Haiyan

I’ve read and heard a lot of horrible stories about human trafficking. Every time I think I’ve heard the worst, I find another one that horrifies me. This one certainly falls into that category:

According to a news outlet in the Philippines, girls in the countryside were lured away from their home with the promise of studying in Manila, and almost abducted into a life of human trafficking—by women dressed as Catholic nuns.

In a very twisted way, this makes sense. In the heavily-Catholic Philippines, there would hardly be a more trusted figure to young children than a Catholic nun. (more…)

monkIn a lecture on markets and monasticism at Acton University, Dylan Pahman gave a fascinating overview and analysis of the interaction between Christian monasticism and markets. He’s written on this before and has a longer paper on the topic as well.

In the talk, he highlighted a range of facts and features, from monastic teachings on wealth and poverty to the historical realities of monastic communities and enterprises. Over the centuries, monasteries have contributed a host of products and services to civilization and culture, often countering the common assumption that all such communities are flatly against trade, production, and wealth creation.

One point that stood out in particular was Pahman’s summary of a recent study by Nathan Smith, in which Smith ponders how these communities have managed to succeed for so long, particularly given their many (internally) socialistic traits. According to one study, the average longevity of monasteries is 463 years(!), which is far longer than the lifespan of most companies and states, never mind your run-of-the-mill secular commune (Portlandia variations included).

There are a variety of forces that may contribute to this, including unique pressures of lifelong commitment, corresponding theological reinforcement, etc. But when it comes to some of the more universal traits that help monastic communities thrive, they may offer some lessons to help orient and affirm our broader thoughts about community in the context of work, trade, enterprise, and worship. (more…)

declaration-facts-wideToday in The Federalist, Acton director of research Samuel Gregg looks ahead to Pope Francis’ American visit. Gregg, of course, cannot predict the future, but he can respond to others’ speculation; in particular, he takes issue with Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs, in America magazine

argued that another old-style Jesuit—Pope Francis—will be coming to an America uninterested in virtue, mired in consumerism, and fast becoming a hyper-individualistic society obsessed with rights.

Turning on the television soon confirms there’s some truth in Sachs’ analysis. Witness the relentless advertising that tells you that you’re not fully human unless you have the very latest whatever. Yet materialism and consumerism are just as widespread in, for instance, social-democratic Western Europe, klepocratic Russia, Communist China, and crony corporatist Latin America. Hence, it can hardly be described as a particularly American problem.

(more…)

PrintChristina M. Weber thinks so. She says that Christian women have been trail-blazers in showing us how to balance family life, work and worship. In the 20th century, Weber says that political ideologies tried to break down family life.

Marxists and communists promoted disconnection between children and their parents with incompatible work schedules. They also destabilized marriages with the encouragement of promiscuity and lust.

The agenda—dependence on the state above family and God — fueled the economic and political goals of their leaders.

But women know better. They know that family is the key to society, and keeping that in the forefront of their minds as they built businesses set them apart. (more…)