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Update: The Pope Is a Mensch

December 16th, 2013 - 8:59 am

I don’t mean to make a profession out of commenting on the pope, but since I put up a post about his first exhortation last week, it seems only fair to update it. In the previous post, I put forward the opinion that — notwithstanding a range of defenses from loyal Catholics, and some virulent attacks from conservative commentators — the new Big Hat Guy had been a bit unwise in his remarks. It was impossible to tell from the text whether he was attacking free markets or simply criticizing them, and given that free markets help the poor far more than Marxism, clarity is important. Well, since the pope and I are like this, Francis immediately responded by clarifying his comments. This, I feel, is in keeping with the ancient church doctrine of Menschliness — which is to say, he did the right thing and good on him.

According to my friends at Truth Revolt, Francis responded to accusations he was a Marxist or some kind of South American Social Justice type by telling the Italian newspaper La Stampa, “Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church. I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on. The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.

This, in turn, means that Peggy Noonan — whose pope column I criticized — pretty much got it right when she pointed out the pope was not speaking as an economist.

Priests are like soldiers. I’ve never met a member of the military who cared much about taxing and spending. Their general view is that taxes should be high enough to allow a great nation to support a first-rate military to keep you safe, end of story.…  Priests tend to be like that, too.…  How high should taxes be? High enough for a first-rate country to help its citizens get the good things they need, end of story.

Having criticized Noonan, I (following the menschly papal path) have to give her props for “Coming Closest To Papal Intentions,” in her interpretation of the exhortation.

Mostly, I think, the story is a good reminder that you simply can’t see everything through a political or economic lens. For one thing, it makes you crabbed and angry all the time which isn’t good for you. And also, it distorts the points of view of people who are speaking from another perspective, like the pope. If you read some of the comments under my previous post, you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, to all those who attacked me for criticizing Ayn Rand, I double checked my facts and I’m right and you’re wrong. Glad we could clear that up.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
"Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

That is an incredibly deceptive, or at least inconsistant, statement.

If Marxist ideology is wrong, therefore it can be said that the followers of Marxism is wrong. For a Marxist to be "good" they would have to be ignorant of the ideology themselves. Therefore, any "good" Marxist would either be an ignorant twit or are lying to you. Neither of those is someone you should be taking advice from, and you should definately feel offended by being compared to them.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Mostly, I think, the story is a good reminder that you simply can’t see everything through a political or economic lens."

Except the pope's comments were political and economic commentary. To say, you can't view such "through a political or economic lens" is to render the commentary moot. It can't be judged by its nature. A priest who makes stupid economic commentary (and Francis did) should be just as open to criticism as a general who says we should spend 75% of our GDP on defense. To say, "oh well, he's blinkered" or "oh, but his heart's in the right place" is to dismiss the commentary out of hand. What you're saying is that his argument is unfit to be judged on its merits.

Yes, much of what Francis said was consistent with longstanding Church doctrine. But, that ought to stand as an indictment of Church doctrine, rather than a justification of his attack on free markets. Honestly, how a religion can judge economics on the consequences, rather than process is beyond me.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The following open letter to Pope Francis was written by Geert Wilders.

Your Holiness,
..... ....
..... .....

In your exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (paragraphs 252-253) you state that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Reality does not confirm this statement.

The Koran is full of bellicose and hate-mongering verses against non-Muslims. Your Holiness will be able to find them if he reads the Koran, but I will name just a few:
2:191-193: “And slay them wherever you come upon them, […] Fight them, till there is no persecution and the religion is Allah’s.”
4:89: “If they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”
5:33: “This is the recompense of those who fight against Allah and His Messenger, […]: they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off; or they shall be banished from the land.”
8:60: “Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to terrify thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”
9:5: “When the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush.”
9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah.”
9:30: “The Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them.”
9:123: “O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you; and let them find in you a harshness; and know that Allah is with the godfearing.”
47:4: “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks.”

I hope that the Holy Father will help us defend the West’s Judeo-Christian and humanistic civilization, to which even atheists and agnostics owe their freedom and democracy.

Nothing will be gained by a refusal to face reality.

We must speak the truth about Islam — the largest threat to mankind in this present age.

Very respectfully, Geert Wilders

Member of the Dutch Parliament Leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV)
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (53)
All Comments   (53)
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As a devout Catholic and a devout Conservative "Unfettered Freemarket" guy, I am real tired of my church's Socialism and Social Justice predilections. To the Holy Father----You're not an economist. You're a Priest. It's time the Vatican had Tom Sowell over for a visit and give them a series of lectures on Economics and how "Unfettered Freemarket Capitalism" can uplift the entire world that is now stuck in poverty due to those "Marxists" you say you like. And one more thing; Think carefully before you speak about issues. You have the American Leftists all confused that you are about to bring the world of Gaydom out of the shadows and into the full embrace of the Church, and elect your first woman Cardinal and have a free condom giveaway at every soup kitchen. Not helpful. And maybe spend some time with those Priests and Cardinals that have spent some time in Marxist Commie prisons in the Soviet Bloc. Would you say "Nazi ideology is wrong, but I've known some good Nazis, so I'm not offended." ??? As our Holy Father, I obey you in regards to Doctrine, but you are certainly not infallible in regards to economics. p.s. I pray for you and all your intentions and DO so admire your humble Priesthood. May Our Lady protect you.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The glass doesn't get bigger to prevent trickle down, it gets bigger to contain greater economic goods and services produced by greater numbers of workers and consumers. Alas, the glass is actually getting smaller due to the straws of Oligarchs sucking out its contents for themselves. The oligarchs include the business and banking elites at the top AND the politicians, special interest agitators, Labor leaders, media and entertainment elites, and poseur economists and academics who pontificate to feather their own nests and the nests of their particular ideology. We need a bigger glass or pie to include more folks participating in the largess of the market, not greedy thieves taxing and sucking up the glasses contents. His Holiness may be a good and godly Pope but he is a poor explicator of economic theory and imagery.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
As Cardinal of Argentina was a waffling pragmatist like his fellow Cardinal in Brazil...Arnz. There are more left leaning Brazilian Cardinals in both Sao Paulo as well as Brasilia. Pope Francis is thoroughly familiar with all Brazilian evolution of "the marxian worm" and it's application in all Latin America. Merely, Pope Francis is treading carefully in a wordy pronunciation, outlying these ongoing events now underway in all Latin America. THAT'S WHAT HE WAS REFERRING TO. See, marxism IS a reality in the three ABC's of Latin America...Argentina, Brazil and Chile. POPE Francis knows this, has studied it and will implement it with these Marxist/Leninist Dictators. This pronunciation was just "the shot across the bow" as it were. For proof, read Dilma Rouseff's books, Lula's Videos and ARnz's homilies. Wake-up America, you are being coddled into a deep slumber. Pray. Amen. God Bless America, She's on life support. Join a Tea Party.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I persist in my belief that the Catholic Church is the only institution on earth capable of extracting humanity from the intellectual and cultural rot that has inflicted us since the Enlightenment. The very name itself signifies the moral inversion that has resulted from the exaltation of the goddess Liberty above all other names.

Pope Francis' comments on economics is a non-event. He used the words "government" and "state" four times each in 250 pages of text. It takes a mighty spin to reduce a generalization about greed into a specific economic theory. It should be known that Catholic teaching on economics and social structure is the antithesis of socialism because Catholic social teaching demands decision making at the lowest possible level. The individual, the family, the local community. Only the necessity of greater resources than can be obtained at the local level would kick the decision making process higher. Socialism and its variants are top-down. The two are incompatible.

If you want to get distressed about Pope Francis' commenting his teddy bear description of Islam will do the trick. It certainly did for me. It would have been better had he said nothing than repeat the trope that Islam is a religion of peace. If it can be so then perhaps the spirit of Pius V will slap Francis silly about that one.

Like I said. I persist in my belief but it's looking like the road to normalcy is a very long one.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Then why, Mr. Boston, did a large number of US Catholic bishops favor ObamaCare, including Dolan? ObamaCare definitely does not allow "decision making at the lowest possible level." It is socialist. Dolan himself even said to Obama that he and other bishops wanted to be Obama's "cheerleaders" for ObamaCare, but elements of it such as the abortion mandate *supposedly* made Dolan and others change their minds about it, or hesitate (I have other theories on that, but that's another topic). There still seem to be some decent bishops and cardinals--Burke for one--but many other bishops are pretty far on the other side of the spectrum. Many of them are now suggesting, in effect, that we should disregard the lawlessness of illegal immigrants. And many of them seem obsessed with pushing or protecting all sorts of modernism that has already harmed the Church.

Subsidiarity as Catholic teaching sounds good, but in practice it seems that many Catholic big shots don't encourage it. In what I think is a related example, Francis himself was very derogatory about traditional Catholics who, I believe, preferred the Latin mass.

I'm afraid Francis needs to be "slapped silly" about several things that he has talked publicly about: Islam, conscience, tradition, economics, etc. I don't wish ill of the Catholic Church, but it seems that modernism and left-wing "Social Justice" have transformed much of it into a plaything for leftist progressives.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is an interesting sort of retraction because you, sir, are a thinking kind of guy. My immediate reaction was, "If Old Klavan trips up and says something that reflects a lack of understanding of the context of a Pope's comments (context in this case being an exhortation the size of one of those short westerns I love to read), then what hope is there for the rest of us?"

It must be the nature of the web. Things move so fast that they demand instant responses, and a measured response, which always takes time to formulate, gets left behind because people are afraid that by the time a measured response is arrived at, the world (wide web) has already moved on.

Noonan's best quote: "The desire to acquire blunts the conscience, crowds out God's voice, and keeps us from hearing the only invitation that will make us happy." I'm relatively poor, and likely always will be. And she's right: being poor helps you to hear God's voice. And once you start paying attention to what that voice says, it's amazing what you can do without.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The big risk is that the conservative movement may lose Catholics on the "social issues" of abortion and gay marriage if the Pope and the Church refocus on other priorities that are not traditionally "conservative". As a life long Catholic, I can say that the alliance based solely on social issues has always been tenuous at best - we will lose many Catholics unless we can discover new ways to speak to the concerns that the new Pope is raising
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. “

Demonstrably false.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Only if the poor are able to raise a fuss due to societal avenues like free speech and the ballot box.

Otherwise, company towns would remain with us as would domestics who could be fired the minute infirmities kept them from their duties.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why then is it that charities always have bad years when the economy is doing badly?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
A lot of "Social Justice" that is now pushed in the Roman Catholic Church is far-left in its ideology. Earlier popes might have used such a phrase in reasonably arguing for justice for the down-trodden, but in practice it usually means socialist economics. Michael Voris at Churchmilitant.tv has presented loads of examples of how this kind of "Social Justice" has evil results, and does not have its roots in what Christ taught.

Also, beware of a lot of the priests who made their reputations in the slums of Latin America. As the blogger Mundabor documented, many of them used their time in the slums to pursue children and young men for sex. And many of them gained influence among the slum inhabitants by encouraging dependency on handouts. I haven't seen evidence that Francis is guilty of those things, but a background of working with the poor in Latin America does not necessarily mean that one has good ideas. As others commented in response to the earlier Klavan article on the Pope, Marxist Liberation Theology has had a huge influence in Latin America, and Catholicism.

This pope does not seem to understand economics, and how capitalism has been much more beneficial to people than socialism. As his defenders claim, he might be "pro-life," etc., but he also seems to have a lot of misguided ideas.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
To add to the last paragraph: When a world leader speaks as an authority, it behooves him to know what he is talking about.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

That is an incredibly deceptive, or at least inconsistant, statement.

If Marxist ideology is wrong, therefore it can be said that the followers of Marxism is wrong. For a Marxist to be "good" they would have to be ignorant of the ideology themselves. Therefore, any "good" Marxist would either be an ignorant twit or are lying to you. Neither of those is someone you should be taking advice from, and you should definately feel offended by being compared to them.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like Andrew am glad the Pope understands that Marxist's are wrong. I could care less that he is not upset at being characterized as Marxist because he knows some that are 'good people'. He should be upset at being mistaken for a Marxist sympathizer because he wrote in a muddled fashion that sounded much like boilerplate Marxist rhetoric.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Listen to Klavan. Stop putting politics in the pope's words.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey, that quote is supposed to be directly contributed to the pope. Unless there is some sort of massive translation error, he is the one that brought it up.

I'm not a Catholic, never have been, never wanted to be; so I have no opinion on any of the rest of the Exhortation which I didn't bother to read. But what caught my eye was his statement on Marxism. That the pope, the leader of a major religion, doesn't find being called a Marxist ("Religion is the opium of the people," Karl Marx) offensive is striking.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nonsense. You can have bad ideas, be wrong about many things, and still be on the whole a good person. What makes a person bad is above all cruelty, which is compatible with any ideology -- though some ideologies tend to encourage it more than others.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
You actually interpreted his/her posting correctly.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I didn't say that you couldn't be a good person and still believe in Marxism. I said that if you are a good person and believe in Marxism, then you are an ignorant twit.

Marxism has been the root of many regimes since its conception and those regimes are directly responsible for millions of deaths.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
If one "wrong" opinion makes a person an "ignorant twit" then there is probably NO ONE who is not an "ignorant twit" in one way or another.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly! It is amazing how different the two great evils of the 20th Century, Communism and Nazism, are treated. No one would for a second think you can be a Nazi and a good person. But we are constantly expected to believe that communists can be good people. They are in fact both derivatives of that great evil Marxism and no one who believes in Marx can be a good person.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
By the way, can anyone tell me what in God's creation Francis means in saying "when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger"? This makes no sense whatsoever. More wealth, a bigger pie means that the wealth of the rich isn't denied the poor. It works utterly and completely against his argument.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
The glass, like the pie in a free market, always gets bigger but the Pope doesn't seem to understand the poor are helped while the glass is filling, while the pie is expanding.

Where he may find the problem is that Marxists depend on the government, not religious orders to supply the poor with sustenance. So, his Marxist associates probably didn't give to the Church; their glasses kept magically growing
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, doesn't it make perfect sense that the Pope - The Pope - believes in "magical thinking"? Hmmmmm...?

Didn't some dude at PJMedia.com go all ballistic over statists and their tendency to believe in magical thinking? I think he goes by the internet monicker "Klavan", or something equally ridiculous.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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