In a May 16 address to four new Vatican ambassadors, Pope Francis denounced the “cult of money” in today’s culture, stating that we are now living in a disposable society, where even human beings are cast aside.

Phil Lawler, at CatholicCulture.org asks if this means the pope is a socialist. Not so:

Socialists make their arguments in moral terms, because if the argument is stated purely in practical terms, the socialists will lose. By the same logic, capitalists prefer to state their arguments in practical economic terms. Unfortunately, in doing so, they cede the moral high ground to their opponents. With rare exceptions—one thinks immediately of Michael Novak and of the Acton Institute–defenders of capitalism have not taken the trouble to state their case primarily in moral terms. And that’s unfortunate, because a powerful argument can be made that capitalism, tempered by a Christian moral framework, is the best available solution to the problem of poverty.

Nothing that Pope Francis said—nothing that any Pope has said—would rule out that approach. (Pope John Paul II opened the door to a Christian defense of capitalism in Laborem Exercens, then pushed it wide open in Centisimus Annus.) To be sure, the teaching magisterium has been critical of the excesses of capitalism, and of capitalism raised to an all-encompassing ideology. Pope Francis today repeated that condemnation of “ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.” Hard-core libertarians will be uncomfortable with that language, certainly. But then hard-core libertarians are often uncomfortable with the Ten Commandments.

Read “What capitalists should learn from the Pope’s critique” at CatholicCulture.org.

IRS agents appear to need a refresher course on First Amendment freedoms. While applying for tax-exempt status in 2009, an Iowa-based pro-life group was asked by the agency to provide information about its members’ prayer meetings:

On June 22, 2009, the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a letter from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio, that oversees tax exemptions requesting details about how often members pray and whether their prayers are “considered educational.”
“Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3),” reads the letter, made public by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that collected evidence about the IRS practices. “Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.”

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, May 20, 2013
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The Common Good: Instrumental But Not Just Contractual
Robert P. George, Public Discourse

Is the fundamental and essential point of forming the polity the polity itself, or is the polity primarily a means of protecting and achieving many other valuable ends?

Balancing Work, Family, Community, and Faith
Taylor Barkley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

What is the right amount of time to spend at work?

International Conventions, the Human Rights Regime, and Religious Freedom
Rick Plasterer, Juicy Ecumenism

As was noted in an earlier posting, there are several prominent instruments that can be used to impose socially liberal rules on an unwilling nation state or an unwilling majority.

Complaints of IRS targeting by religious groups on the rise
Jordy Yager, The Hill

The number of religious groups reporting they were improperly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is increasing.

Our planet contains about forty tons of bugs for every human, says Helena Goodrich, offering and “ongoing ‘all you can eat” insect buffet.” While snacking on cicadas probably won’t catch on in the U.S. anytime soon, could eating more bugs help solve world hunger?

eating-bugsAccording to a recent U.N. report, insects could indeed be part of the solution to some of the world’s food security and health problems. More than 1,900 species have reportedly been used as food and insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. So why isn’t entomophagy (consumption of insects as food) more popular among Westerners?

The main reason, of course, is that cows and chickens taste better than crickets and cockroaches. But that shouldn’t stop us from promoting insects as an edible alternative:
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The Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh on April 24th killed 1,127 people, including almost 300 whose bodies have not yet been identified. In the article, “Buy Yourself a Cup of Tea” — A Collapse in Culture”, PovertyCure’s Mark Weber highlights a complex and deeply-rooted problem within Bangladeshi culture that has contributed to numerous disasters like this: corruption. The reversal of this pattern requires a commitment much stronger than any government regulation can provide, he maintains.

He says,

Corruption disguises what is true and what is untrue, what is safe and what is unsafe, what is legitimate and what is illegitimate. It disallows the ideal of a free market because the economic actors are not truly free, for they are subjects to a thousand cronies. This is why, while the push for increased corporate standards is indeed of utmost importance, a deeper conversation about corruption needs to take hold. Government regulations in the many forms of building codes are already well established; they’re just not being honored. Western companies are increasingly careful, if not by their own volition then by the powerful push from consumers, but they’re inevitably limited in their powers of supervision. For an end to the factory fires and structural disasters that kill innocent Bangladeshi workers every year, the culture of petty corruption needs to be overthrown. Such a revolt will necessarily have to come from within…

View the entire article on the PovertyCure Blog.

Sometimes parents in low-income areas get a bad rap. Many are thought to be negligent and uncaring about their children’s education and futures. While that may be true in some extraordinary cases, you will rarely ever meet a parent who wants to enroll their child in a low-performing school. In fact, research suggests that when parents are given free choice about where to place their children in school, they will choose the best school they can find.

The positive outcomes for parental choice have been demonstrated yet again in a new study by Matthew M. Chingos of the Brookings Institution and Paul E. Peterson, Director of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.

In “The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City,” Chingos and Peterson studied the college-enrollment outcomes of school voucher programs and found that the percentage of African-American students who enrolled part-time or full-time in college by 2011 was 24 percent higher for those who had won a school voucher lottery while in elementary school and used that voucher to attend a private school.

The study concludes the following:
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, May 17, 2013
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Man the Political Animal: On the Intrinsic Goodness of Political Community
Michael W. Hannon , Public Discourse

Our arguments for limited government should recognize political community as an intrinsic good, not mistake it for a merely instrumental one.

What is Social Justice?
J.J. Ziegler, Catholic World Report

The teachings of Vatican II, Paul VI, John Paul II, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Report: IRS denied tax-exempt status to pro-lifers on behalf of Planned Parenthood
Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner

IRS officials refused to grant tax exempt status to two pro-life organizations because of their position on the abortion issue, according to a non-profit law firm, which said that one group was pressured not to protest a pro-choice organization that endorsed President Obama during the last election.

Four Ways Christians Live and Work In the Marketplace
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

The original theories of Adam Smith, which have often been misinterpreted, were based on the firm belief that business would work for the greater good of society. As a professor of ethics, Smith believed markets, by their origin, were about morality and doing the right thing.