During the government shutdown billionaire philanthropists Laura and John Arnold gave $10 million to the National Head Start Association to keep the program for low-income children running. Mr. Arnold made it clear, however, that he did not believe this was a permanent solution, as “private dollars cannot in the long term replace government commitments.”
But some people thought Arnold’s generosity itself undermined the government’s power. As The Nation’s Amy Schiller said, “The entire shutdown is undergirded by a fantasy of a world in which the government’s power is vastly reduced and private citizens step into the breach with better, more innovative ideas for solving social challenges.”
On Friday afternoon, Saumel Gregg, Acton Institute Director of Research, joined host Al Kresta on Kresta in the Afternoon to discuss the ongoing government shutdown from a Catholic perspective. In the course of his introduction, Kresta referred to Gregg’s latest book, Tea Party Catholic, as “the single best work to help us get into a Catholic understanding of our social responsibilities.” As usual, Al and Sam provide us with a fine discussion, which you can listen to using the audio player below.
In Tea Party Catholic, Samuel Gregg draws upon Catholic teaching, natural law theory, and the thought of the only Catholic Signer of America's Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton—the first “Tea Party Catholic”—to develop a Catholic case for the values and institutions associated with the free economy, limited government, and America's experiment in ordered liberty. Beginning with the nature of freedom and human flourishing, Gregg underscores the moral and economic benefits of business and markets as well as the welfare state's problems. Gregg then addresses several related issues that divide Catholics in America. These include the demands of social justice, the role of unions, immigration, poverty, and the relationship between secularism and big government.
In Becoming Europe, Samuel Gregg examines economic culture - the values and institutions that inform our economic priorities - to explain how European economic life has drifted in the direction of what Alexis de Tocqueville called "soft despotism", and the ways in which similar trends are manifesting themselves in the United States.
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says it’s time for the politicians in Washington to listen to the bishops. In a blog post, Sr. Walsh points out that the bishops have a few points that our government servants might do well to heed, reminding the reader that the bishops have no political affiliation:
They are neither Democratic nor Republican positions. They are simply principled.
Consider, for example, an October 1 letter from Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chair of the Committee on Domestic Policy and Human Development, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace. The letter urged Congress to fulfill the role of government and meet the basic needs of people. The bishops told Congress that they “welcomed earlier bipartisan action which averted a federal government shutdown and the hardship that would have come with failure to reach agreement.” (more…)
The panda cam at the Washington, D.C. zoo is down. The IRS is still taking our money, but not refunding anything. Barricades are up around open air monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and the WWII Memorial. Only 15 people, instead of the usual 90, are looking after the First Family. There are a number of government employees, such as the National Weather Forecasters, who aren’t getting paid. (By the way, the weather forecaster is South Dakota went to work anyway, because of a massive snowstorm. They are stand-up folks.) During this government “shut-down” only 17 percent of the federal government is really shut down. Most of us are going about our daily lives feeling very little effect (except perhaps a news-induced headache.) (more…)
There is a shortage of Catholic priests who serve members of the US military and their families, and it looks as if the government shutdown is going to make the situation worse. According to John Schlageter, general counsel for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, priests (whether they are active military or priests privately contracted by the military) will not be allowed to offer Mass or offer other religious services on military installations. (Some Protestant services may also be affected, but the shortage of Protestant clergy is not as extensive as it is for Catholics.) (more…)
Mike Coyner, who is the Bishop of the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church, penned a thoughtful essay reflecting on the dysfunction in our federal government. His main point: It’s our fault and our defective culture is the engineer of the political rot. Coyner declared:
All of the traits in Washington that we decry are actually an outgrowth of the messed-up values in our whole culture.
We complain about over-spending by Congress, but the average American household is spending 103% of their income.
We complain about the rising debt level, but the typical American is increasingly in debt (and that is even mirrored in our churches which are increasingly in debt).
We complain about the culture of entitlement, but the typical American has an “entitlement” attitude (just watch the way people drive over the speed limit, cut off others in lanes, and ignore simple traffic rules – all of that reflects an attitude which says “I am entitled to break the rules that I don’t like.”).
We complain about the rising cost of healthcare, but most Americans are over-weight, out of shape, and in poor health by virtue of lifestyle choices.
We complain that the politicians are not able to work together, but Americans seem to be more and more disagreeable and unruly (If you don’t believe that, just go to a Little League baseball game and watch the behavior of the parents. Or watch a local school board meeting and listen to the inability of people to listen politely to those with whom they disagree. Or you can even see that unruly behavior in some church meetings.)
In “Churches & Government Shut-Down” by Mark Tooley, he focuses on Jim Wallis’s insatiable appetite for more government and contrasts his views of the government shutdown with more measured responses by other church leaders. Joe Carter addressed Wallis yesterday too on the PowerBlog. Tooley points out a few errors in Coyner’s essay but praises his larger point as the kind of faithful and responsible witness needed in the Church.
“How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed?” asked Alexis de Tocqueville. Instead of parroting partisan talking points and shifting even more power away from personal responsibility and virtue, leaders in the Church need to be asking the deeper questions why the government is broken in the first place.
Today there is a severe lack of unity and leadership in America that can speak clearly to our culture and address the root problems. In truth, we are infested by sin and sin by its nature is divisive and separates us from our true purpose. And if you know anything about theology, you know that unredeemed sin, in the end, always gives us what we deserve.
Acting on behalf of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines have issued a letter to the US House of Representatives. The bishops state that they wish to “address the moral and human dimensions of the ongoing federal budget debate,’ saying that the choices facing American politicians have a moral dimension, as well as political and economic ones. (more…)
Christians are frequently accused of conflating politics and religion. And not surprisingly, Christians like me are often frustrated by such claims. Whenever I hear such slurs my first inclination is to push back by asking who exactly can rightfully be accused of such confusion. Can they name even one person who does that?
And then I remember, “Oh yeah, there’s Jim Wallis.”
In the 2004 presidential election season, Wallis’ group, Sojourners, put out a bumper sticker with these words: “God Is Not a Republican, or a Democrat.” Wallis frequently repeats that claim yet he always makes it sound like God is a moderately pro-life Democrat. Take, for instance, his most recent claim that the government shutdown is “unbiblical.”
Wallis claims that those who support the government shutdown are “against government per se. They want to destroy the House.” The most generous thing that can be said about such a claim is that it is idiotic. But I can’t be that generous to Wallis because I know he is an intelligent gentleman. He’s not an idiot, he’s just dishonest. He knows that supporters of a government shutdown (and for the record, that does not include me) are not anarchists. Yet that is exactly what he is claiming. He knows it’s a lie and yet repeats the claim anyway.
His second claims is equally stupid. He says, “Because the government has a Biblical responsibility to care for the poor, they are against poor people. They get hostile to the poor because they are hostile to government. That’s also wrong. It’s unbiblical.”
By Wallis’ logic, opposition to the government of the Soviet Union was unbiblical since hostility toward a government is hostility toward the poor.
(It’s rather telling that Wallis has no problem with the government providing funding for abortions or forcing citizens to pay for abortifacients, yet thinks that laying off non-essential government workers is “unbiblical.”)
With the ongoing budget battle and the possibility of a government shutdown looming, the Acton Institute has released its “Principles for Budget Reform.” The Acton Institute developed four key principles to reforming the federal budget that will be important to not only providing a sound fiscal budget but a budget that also has a strong moral basis.
In addition to the four principles, readers can also find staff written commentaries that are related to each principle, additional articles written by Acton staff, related blog posts, video of Rev. Sirico discussing morality in the federal budget, and audio from a radio appearance made by Rev. Sirico talking about the “What Would Jesus Cut?” campaign.
As the federal budget process continues, the Acton Institute will continue to update its “Principles for Budget Reform” with the most up-to-date articles available.
To navigate to the “Principles for Budget Reform” webpage click here.