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Klavan On The Culture

Did the Pope Speak Unwisely?

December 9th, 2013 - 8:46 am

Evangelii Gaudium is nearly 300 pages long and I haven’t read the whole thing. Still, I skimmed much of it and read the relevant parts carefully and, as a friendly outsider, I can’t help thinking Francis spoke unwisely here. As Novak points out, democracy and capitalism, with the proper restraints, are more likely to bring people out of poverty than state-mandated systems. And given the pope’s power and influence, and the unspeakable need of so many poor in the world, it does seem Francis ought to be clear whether he is criticizing the best system we’ve got or condemning it outright. Knock the consumerism and amorality of capitalism for sure, but why even appear to give aid and comfort to the socialists who have destroyed so many lives in the name of “equality”?

Hey, the guy’s still a rookie. There’s no call to jump down his throat, but by the same token, he’s the pope, there’s no need to make weak excuses for him or reinterpret him for himself as if he were Chance in Being There. (“Francis wants to get us thinking about what we should be thinking about. He wants to invite thought. And he’s succeeding, isn’t he?” writes Noonan. Meh.)

Free markets aren’t perfect — no system that involves human beings is perfect — and Ayn Randian blather that excludes the necessity for charity and compassion or even some regulation is ultimately going to be as destructive to the cause as socialism itself. But true, honest, regulated capitalism — so desperately needed in the most desperate economies in the world — is under fire everywhere from the power-mad do-gooders of the left. In the name of the poor — which is to say, in the name of Christ — it should be boldly defended by the moral man.

The pope, who seems pretty clearly to be not only a moral but a truly good man, might want to rethink and speak more clearly.

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And what do we see both in the vast majority of commentary on Evangelii Gaudium and here both in the article (which is more balanced than most) and in the comments?
1) A bunch of people commenting on a document they haven't finished (skimming will get you a B- in college)
2) People who are missing the point due to their ignorance of authentic Catholic teachings on economics and culture
3) People trapped in a false 'left vs. Right' dichotomy

I've read the entire thing (it is kinda' part of my job) and laugh heartily whenever some yutz claims 'it promotes Marxism!'. The document spends far more time denouncing Communism and Socialism than it does laissez-faire markets and never uses the word 'Capitalism' so - no. Stop saying that, you are beclowning yourselves.
Free markets *may* result in a moral good but positive moral outcomes are not certain, i.e., the market is not sufficient for the creation of moral outcomes. Since economics is just another element of human interaction we must intercede to provide moral outcomes of the economic systems. For example, while Mr. Klavan touts Capitalism as something that increases wealth HH Francis directly addresses this point (that's what skimming will get you!) by saying
""...some still defend theories of “spill” [trickle-down economics], which suppose that all economic growth, favored by the freedom of the market, succeeds in bring about greater equity and social inclusion in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system"
Or, 'having more money doesn't necessarily make you more free, more moral, or more in control of your own life'. Which is true - double the amount of money in the pocket of a North Korean and ask them if they are more free or have more say in their government.
The world is NOT divided between 'American Democrats and their favorite economic panaceas vs. American Republicans and their favorite economic panaceas'; the Church and Pope Francis certainly aren't, especially with the Centre-Left American political system where the 'Conservative' party embraces that very Liberal economic ideal of laissez-faire Capitalism! No, the Church has rejected the dichotomy of Communism/Socialism vs Capitalism for a very long time in very clear terms.
This is why claims that the Pope is calling for 'big government' or 'centralized planning' is ridiculous - Catholic teaching has condemned such ideas for 120 years+ and replaces them with the core ideas of solidarity and subsidiarity ('as small and local as possible', effectively). And since the Church has likewise affirmed a right to private property and a right for men to freely enter contracts, that hardly sounds Communist, does it?
No, the Pope is calling on *individuals* to be moral and ethical in all of their acts, including their economic acts, not for a nanny state.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
American conservatives need to realize that Rome is a very odd bedfellow which became an ally only when the Democrats veered to the far left on abortion.

Historically, Rome has been extremely hostile to the classical liberal ideas embodied in the American Founding, and to our tradition of religious liberty. As recently as 1898, Pope Leo XIII condemned our fundamental traditions as the heresy of "Americanism" and his encyclical Rerum Novarum condemned both capitalism and communism, saw the state as the source of social justice and was (and remains) a fundamental source of the Christian Socialism which has dominated center-right parties in Europe and inspired the radical anti-capitalism of the neo-Marxist Liberation theology which grew in the authoritarian soil of Latin America.

Rome has always been quite comfortable with authoritarian government, as long as it favored the Catholic Church, from the reign of the Sun King (Louis XIV, who revoked the tolerant Edict of Nante in 1685) through Franco.

If you think about the excesses of the French Enlightenment - Rousseau, especially - and the French Revolution, note that it was the authoritarian Catholic Church against which the philosophes were ranged. This goes a long way to explaining why the English Enlightenment was so different, growing as it did in the Whig tradition of the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, and the English Bill of Rights of 1688.

Anti-Catholic prejudice is to be eschewed, but one should never forget that American suspicion of the Catholic Church is historically rooted in the Church's hostility to Protestant England, the mostly Protestant (but tolerant) colonies, and the very ideas which animated the Founders.

The countries in which the Catholic Church has been dominant did not develop anything like capitalist economies
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Ayn Randian blather"

Ayn Rand did not blather and one can not truthfully say that about everyone.

As to Francis, forget about capitalism and money for a moment and focus on what he said about Islam.

This is what Francis is reported to have just recently said: "Our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations (sic), for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence."

He basically smears any and everyone who would say anything negative about islam as a hater. Has he never heard of the admonition against bearing false witness? Has he never read the koran, nor even perused it? Does he think he knows more about islam than every imam on the planet? Is he insane?

This bearing false witness, and such an extreme level of bearing false witness [Obama level on crack], is a far more existential threat to Christians and Christianity and America and Western Civilization than "gay marriage" will ever be. So, whose sin is greater? That of “Catholics” for “gay marriage” or that of this current "Pope"?

The man is a dangerous liar of a dangerous lunatic, and most previous Popes would have had him excommunicated.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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As with some of the other people on here, I too am an Objectivist and I, quite frankly, take offense at your continued smearing of Rand and of Objectivism as such.
And you've lost me as a fan, Klavan. I did and do enjoy some of your other works, but I cannot and will not endorse the work of someone who smears me and people like me. You don't have to like Objectivism; we're not expecting you to. The only thing we do expect is that you present valid criticism of it when you choose to criticize it, and claiming that Rand was against charity or objective law or government is smearing, not valid criticism.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is hilarious, Mr. Klavan. Not too long ago, you wrote:

"What is hilarious about this is the word “surprising.” Who, after watching this picture, could fail to see that it celebrates the presence of God in the universe? Oh yeah! Socialists..."

One or the other, eh? Those are the only choices?

Now, suddenly, you're faced with the "impossible" -- a Christian, Catholic socialist ... and suddenly it's all about nuance?

I think it's clear that you don't really think that the choice facing America is godless Socialism or Christianity, and that there is no other option. No, what is clear is that you fervently **want*** that to be the only option that you want the rest of us to see.

What else would explain that gratuitous swipe at an apparently uninvolved target - Ayn Rand? As an atheist and uncompromised advocate of liberty, individual rights and capitalism, she's about as far away from socialists, Catholics, and socialist Catholics as one can get... but of all people, she's the one who comes to your mind?

I think you know as well as I do that it wasn't a random swipe. You don't want her on the stage. You don't engage, you just dismiss.

Interestingly, the Left wants her out of the picture too -- that it's between them and religious conservatism. As the authors of the conventional political spectrum, they too don't want anybody else on the stage.

If Ayn Rand were anything like either of you, that wouldn't make any sense. Seeking to exclude (but crucially, not *engage*) her ideas from consideration only makes sense if their mere *presence* is a danger.

Danger to what, one might ask? That's easy.

There was a pair of old jokes I recall from youth, about making a cat bark like a dog and making a dog meow like a cat. Today's political version of those jokes runs like this:

Q. How do you make a Leftist sound like a religious conservative, and how do you make a religious conservative sound like a Leftist?

A. Bring Objectivism or Ayn Rand into the picture.

Here's an example: Can you really tell whether this was written by a Leftist or a conservative?

The "human nature " argument usually comes from conservatvies, and "extremism" from the Left; both are vacuous handwaving intended not to engage, but to wave off (don't look at this!)

That's what the principle of individual rights does when grasped; it reveals the Ackbar Spectrum for the trap it is, just by being there. All the Left and their Catholic siblings can do is wish it away.

Wishing will not make it so.
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Latin America is the home of Liberation Theology which attempts to marry Marxist thought to Christian theology. From what I've seen of the Pope's writing, that's what this was - Liberation Theology. It should come as no surprise given Francis' origins and service as a bishop.

The most disturbing thing about liberation theology is that it is a two step process that advocates social change, by violence if necessary with only the second step being spiritual.

However, given the world's current preoccupation with socialism and revolution everywhere you look. I'm not surprised. This fits the pattern.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Andrew, I always enjoy and respect your columns and your one-on-one's with Bill Whittle and I definitely miss your "Klavan on the Culture videos"; but this time you really missed the mark. Saying the Pope spoke unwisely is almost as bad as the MSM claiming that Obama misspoke when he said "If you like your current health plan you can keep it." [Actually, there is an argument that Obama actually did misspeak. He may have intended to way "If you like your current health plan you can shove it."]

I read Evangelii Gaudius and it is for the most part a liberal left possibly soft-Marxist document that infringes on economics, politics, international relations and free market economics." It is also a document that sladers Capitalism and even stoops to using leftist environmental propaganda to support its claims.

One small example (page 48): "In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule."

Furthermore, the section titles of the work exhibit The Pope's leftist agenda: "No to an economy of exclusion", "No to the new idolatry of money", "No to a financial system which rules rather than serves", "No to the inequality which spawns violence".

This is nothing but liberal left Marxist economic and political (class struggle) drivel combined with a little papal bull.

It gets worse. On page 49 Pope Francis quotes St. John Chrysostom, “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.”

That is pure Marxism (but not Christianity) despite its source.

The closest you get in the Gospels of someone parroting (pre-parroting?) Chrysostom on this matter is Judias Iscariot who reprimanded Mary Magdalene for wasting money anointing Jesus' feet with expensive nard. Judas like Chrysostom thought the nard (actually its equivalent in silver) should have been given to the poor (I guess it belonged to the poor and Jesus and Mary were stealing).

Fortunately Jesus rebuked Judas for his error and pointed out that the poor will always be with us but Jesus won't be. (John 12:3 .. 12:8)

It seems that Judas didn't learn the lesson. Neither did St. Chrysostom. Come to think of it neither has Pope Francis.

The Pope should be centred on saving the lives of Christians currently being murdered by the hundreds daily around the world. It is not a coincidence that this leftist pope has shown as little interest in this tragedy as has the leftist MSM and has the leftist darling of the MSM: Barack Hussein Obama.

I have to wonder whether the old question "Is the Pope Catholic?" no longer has any value when responding to questions that have an obvious affirmative answer.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Another point here: while it may be true enough that for the sake of our souls we ought to give to the poor, it does not follow from that fact that for a third party (Caesar) to take what we have at sword point in order to distribute it to some person Caesar determines to be a worthy poor beneficiary, is anything other than the theft prohibited by the 7th (if you're Catholic or Lutheran) or 8th (if you're Reformed tradition) Commandment prohibition on theft. If it is salutary for one's soul to give freely and voluntarily, how can it be so to be forced to give. The Church always seems to get this one wrong in its support for socialism and Marxism.

Charity not forced Redistribution of Wealth is what should be taught!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"I have to wonder whether the old question "Is the Pope Catholic?" no longer has any value when responding to questions that have an obvious affirmative answer."

Food for thought :)

It's great to be so generous of spirit that all of God's children belong under the umbrella, but teachings on abortion, marriage and related topics do happen to be central to the Catholic church's teaching and liturgy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I used to like using, "Is the Pope Polish", but that doesn't work any more...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Amen to your food for thought tanstaafl02. I hope our current Pope takes the time to reflect on it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Free markets aren’t perfect — no system that involves human beings is perfect — and Ayn Randian blather that excludes the necessity for charity and compassion or even some regulation is ultimately going to be as destructive to the cause as socialism itself."

Well Andrew, you've convinced me. PJMedia is no longer getting my money. Sad in a way, I've had a subscription since at least July of 2010. Cancelling Front Page was the first straw, but your strange need to insert denigrating comments against objectivists and Ayn Rand, without reasoned argument or evidence, is the last straw. In a piece supposedly defending Capitalism no less! Not to mention every time you mention Ayn Rand your desire to make a cogent argument seems to disappear. You named dropped her in this article, denigrated some straw representation of her ideas all in a single sentence, and never bothered to provide reason for any of it. Your opprobrium of her here did not serve a constructive place in this article at all. Just another example of argument by intimidation I suppose - I take it you don't want more people reading Ayn Rand.

I've enjoyed some of your videos and articles in the past, but I don't enjoy your new ones, so I won't be paying for them anymore. Besides, I can get my Bill Whittle fix and support him elsewhere, and I can support Glenn through my amazon purchases, without supporting you too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hi Ryan. Always sorry to lose a friend, truly, but I've read a great deal of Rand and my considered judgement of her is that she has many brilliant things to say about economics and politics but is a moral and aesthetic idiot. What's more, much of her economic theory can be found in the more cogent work of Frederic Bastiat. So yes, you and I disagree (these things happen) but please don't feel my opinion is off-hand or uninformed. Not sure what you mean about canceling Front Page. I've written for them and am a fan.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a writer Ayn Rand was a mediocre novelist.
As a philosopher Ayn Rand was a mediocre novelist.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I read The Fountainhead and Anthem decades ago and am sure they weaseled their way into my formative thinking.

Recently, I tried Atlas Shrugged but couldn't get into it. I found the key John Galt chapter (very long) and saw that Ayn Rand's "morality" is of a kind I resonate with.

Also "objectivist ethics"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Howdy Andrew
I'm rather with you on Rand. Didn't care for her distaste for religion and generosity much.
A "free economy" includes state methods to enforce the rule of law and contract. A genuinely free economy has no cronyism and the courts evenly enforce the law; as the Old Testament says, judging without regard to persons and favoring neither the wealthy nor the poor.
Generosity of spirit, matched at the purse when feasible, is a desirable trait for individuals -- in my opinion. I've nurtured it in myself (sometimes grudgingly) and in my family. I'm a great believer in freely-chosen generosity and I'm a great opponent of the state-sponsored impostor of taxed benefits.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What do you expect from a Pope who grew up under Juan and Eva Peron?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Hey, the guy’s still a rookie."

That's the problem. He claims to be infallible, and millions of morons believe him.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Infallibility in no way applies to this particular document. Any papal writings carry much weight with the faithful of course, and it is studied -and as we see here debated over. This is not Ex-Cathedra teaching. It really isn't saying anything particularly new to Catholic moral teaching and it is not new Dogma. Andrew has done a great job of fairly trying to figure out what he meant. I'd say using the Randian comparison is exactly what the Pope was talking about when he condemns amoral and atheistic views of capitalism- "unfettered" capitalism. Would "crony capitalism" have been a better choice of words? Maybe.

It might do you some good to study Papal infallibility before condemning all the morons who believe in it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Infallibility in no way applies to this particular document. "

I'm well aware of all the "nuance" involved in this kind of fetishism. My point was that a guy who believes he has the power to embue documents with the magic of "infallibility" is not one who gets to use the excuse "Hey, I'm a rookie". That and the fact that morons believe this hocus pocus is and was not a claim that this particular document was an example of his calling on the Powers of GreySkull. It was to demonstrate that he is not making these quite false claims out of the position of a rookie, but as an authority who with the swipe of the pen can make it "infallible" if he so chose. This magical thinking bears quite a bit of influence over the feeble minds of his followers.

"Any papal writings carry much weight with the faithful of course, and it is studied"

In complete agreement with my point.

"-and as we see here debated over. "
By a bunch of non-Catholics, and apparently including some Objectivists.

"It really isn't saying anything particularly new to Catholic moral teaching and it is not new Dogma."

No kidding. Likely something similar has already been declared infallibly correct. So you are in fact supporting, not undermining my comment. Plus undermining your own claim above that it is up for debate. If as you are claiming, it is dogma then there should be no debate about it.

"This is not Ex-Cathedra teaching."

So what? Really, if the pope asked a young boy to pleasure him, like many a Catholic priest has done, that carries authority due to all the magical claims surrounding his position despite any special mumbo-jumbo. The boys listen because unlike some drunk stranger whom they've been told to avoid, a priest carries authority with regards to claims made. The same principle applies to the Pope. Which is why he's getting press coverage when far more sane people get none.

"Andrew has done a great job of fairly trying to figure out what he meant. "

My comment didn't criticize Klavan's job at figuring out what he meant. I was criticizing the excuse made on his behalf, that he is just a rookie. Which frankly is ridiculous. He is not "just a rookie". He's the pope. The best the Catholics have got. Which is sad, really.

I don't think the pope really knows what he means because he doesn't understand the economic terms he is using, nor does he understand economic history.

"I'd say using the Randian comparison is exactly what the Pope was talking about when he condemns amoral and atheistic views of capitalism- "unfettered" capitalism."

I'd say he and you are putting words in the pope's mouth. [Note: I choose my capitalization consciously.]

Rand wasn't for "unfettered" capitalism, and she would didn't use such a term. It is a derogatory term used by others. It would be just like me saying that the Pope is for unfettered religion (where I define that as molestation of young boys).

I saw no reports of the pope that he "condemns amoral and atheistic views of capitalism" in regard to Ayn Rand. Does he mention her? I don't think so. In fact, it is moronic, to think there are compatible "atheistic views of captialism". Marxist atheists damn captialism for example. It seems like Klavan and you dragged atheists into this. Perhaps to get a cheap shot in.

You are also making a mistake (because you and the pope are fallible) in calling Rand's beliefs "amoral". They are quite moralistic. Stridently so.

"Would "crony capitalism" have been a better choice of words? Maybe."
Ayn Rand was not for crony capitalism. So which is it? Did the Pope mean crony capitalism or the kind of regulated captitalism that Ayn Rand had in mind? Note that charity and socialist style weath redistribution is not regulation.

"It might do you some good to study Papal infallibility before condemning all the morons who believe in it."

Not very compelling statement from someone who talks about Ayn Rand without a clue. I disagree with Rand but at least I don't distort her position.

Nothing you have said has changed my opionion of how much of a moron you need to be to believe in Papal infallibilty. The concept in and of itself is not something any human being can have no matter how it is scoped. You have to be a moron to think anyone is infallable on any subject, and especially one as broad as what the pope has dominion over.

I'm assuming there are millions of Catholics who buy into this and millions that don't. Perhaps, no one does, and if so he is a complete fraud, but I doubt it.

I have a Catholic friend who does not believe the pope infallible in any way on any issue, and his wife and mother are more traditional about it and believe all sorts of obvious baloney. He even jokes about it.

Yes, I believe them to be suckers, chumps, saps, and morons for believing what the Catholic church has to teach on a great many issues. The entire argument from authority inherent in the issue of in
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Novak points out that the original Spanish of the pope’s message is more nuanced than the English translation, ...

And given the pope’s power and influence, ... it does seem Francis ought to be clear ..."

Yes, he ought to be clear. We can do with a lot less "nuance" and a lot more plain speech, from the Pope and from everyone else in positions of leadership.

Paul boasted of his "great plainness of speech" in his epistle to the Corinthians. He pointed out that it left them with no excuse for misunderstanding.

The Popes? Not so much.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Because I believe we are DEFENDING a war against radical Islam and radical leftism, I was disheartened by HH choosing words, tone and tenor that clearly gives aid and comfort to brutal and totalitarian persons of no honor.

Lying, bearing false witness, murder, spying on citizens and national leaders...I see moral clarity of choice. If the best that can be said of HH's selection of words is that he was making a relativism argument, then I am crestfallen at his instinct and timing to do so now.

I will pray that the next time he seeks to give guidance, he finds it first himself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
His stated positions on cultural & social issues point to the notion that he is definitely oriented towards moral relativism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Francis' statements on conscience and Islam also suggest that you're right, bobbcat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Echoing an infamous radio personality who shall not be named...

Is there any greater celebration of and paean to WEALTH than the Vatican itself ?

Echoing myself...

The Catholic Church is reported to be the largest landholder in New York City but, apparently dropped to 3rd as the largest landholder in the world during Pope Benedict's tenure, lawsuit payouts and all that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I went to Spain back in 1999 for a couple weeks. The gaudy, ostentatious display of wealth in all the cathedrals I visited made it very clear to me that the Catholic Church speaks with two tongues on the subject of wealth. Poor, high unemployment communities would still have ornate, gilded cathedrals with glass display cases containing all kinds of riches. The hypocrisy was stomach churning.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
...and, of course, those things were usually given to the parishes by the poor people of the parish, the people in those neighborhoods. The poor want and deserve beauty and the churches of the word are the museums of the neighborhoods in which they rest. These objects show the strength and selflessness of the community, their desire to leave beauty for their great-grandchildren, not their creditors. The Church *can't* sell those things because they belong to the people of the local parish, the people who paid for them, made them, brought them from afar. When I go to my parish and see the golden reliquary of St. Pope Pius V I know that another member of the parish raised the money to have that made by a member of the parish so that its beauty would belong to me and my children. And I will strive to leave more behind for those who come after rather than another flat screen TV in another room of my house.
Next time you are 'sick to your stomach' why don't you ask those same parishes about their charity programs, their food aid, the way they train people to get out of poverty on their own? Ask how many clinics they are supporting, how many missionaries.
When a wise man points at the moon the fool looks at his finger
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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