Wake Up Call for the West: The Church Moves South. A Reflection on a John Allen Article

A recent article by John Allen provided some interesting background and commentary on the much disputed statement by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am not planning to comment directly on the document here since others have adequately done so. I will only say here that I share the concern of others  about any calls for a “Global Authority” to resolve matters and figure that such a body can only make matters worse. That said, Catholic Social teaching remains one of the most poorly understood bodies of teaching among Catholics.

But what makes John Allen’s article interesting is the way in which he uses the recent and rather public debate about the document to illustrate a possible sea change in the composure and worldview of the Roman Catholic Church.

We Catholics in the West, and especially here in America, tend to be very parochial and we presume that Catholics everywhere think largely as we do and share our Western priorities, moral, economic and political views. Or at least they “ought” to.

But, as John Allen points out, it is isn’t necessarily so. And, further, we in the affluent but decadent West are increasingly being outnumbered by Catholics in the Southern Hemishpere who represent a growth sector and an increasing proportion of Catholics.

I would like to present excerpts from John Allen’s article in the usual format of this blog. His remarks are in bold, black italic text. My remarks are in red plain text.

I am presenting excerpts, the full article can be read here: Southern Wave

Whatever you make of it, does the note [of the Pontifical Council] reflect important currents in Catholic social and political thought anywhere in the world. The answer is yes, and it happens to be where two-thirds of the Catholics on the planet today live: the southern hemisphere, also known as the developing world.

It’s a powerful number. Two-thirds of Catholics do not hail from the affluent West. While we have been becoming  secular, and are depopulating ourselves through abortion and contraception, the Church is growing steadily in the developing world. They are less industrialized, cosmopolitan, and formally educated. The have larger families, and often live in parts of the world where many grave economic injustices exist and where the market economies and more stable governments we have are not their experience.

There are almost 750 million Catholics scattered across Africa, Asia and Latin America, and generalizations about such a vast pool of people are always hazardous. Nonetheless, on matters of sexual morality and the “culture wars,” Catholics in the south generally strike Europeans and Americans as remarkably conservative — opposed to gay marriage, anti-abortion, devoted to the traditional family.

And indeed many conservative Catholics have often rejoiced in the outspokenness of Bishops from Africa and other places about the issues stated and compared them to Bishops of northern and affluent West, especially those of Europe who were often too discrete or even in dissent or conflict with official Church teaching.

When the conversation shifts to economic policy and geopolitics, however, Catholic opinion in the developing world often comes off in the West as strikingly progressive. To be specific, Southern bishops, priests, religious and laity often are:

  • Skeptical of free-market capitalism and unregulated globalization;
  • Wary about the global influence of the United States;
  • Pro-United Nations and pro-global governance;
  • In favor of a robust role for the state in the economy.

Now, many  Conservative Catholics will argue that this sort of thinking will keep the developing world from attaining a robust economy. I do not dispute the genius of free market Capitalism and what it has done for us economically and do not really wish to debate economic policy here.

Again, the point worth pondering is that many of our Catholic Confrers to the South simply do not share our enthusiam for Northern and Western views on this.

And the question is how we will  attain a consensus on these sorts of matters or even whether we need to?

More personally, how will we in West, especially those of us who are more economically and politically conservative, regard our brethren to the South who may have some very different outlooks than we do?

Their views, of course, emerge from a rather different experience than we have been privileged to share. We have abundant resources, and relatively stable governments. It is easier for us to assert that the free market can meet most of our needs. Perhaps it is less easy for them to say this.

Further, it may actually shock us to find that there are people in the world who do not consider our affleunce as appealing as we do. They may, in fact, look with grave concern at our decadence and the breakdown of our families, social structures, and moral vision, and wonder if afflunce has a role to play in that.

I do not have enough data to speak to this definitively but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how an African or Asian Bishop might not look to Europe or even America in our present decadent condition and say, “Yeah that’s what I want for my people.”

In June 2005, a group of Catholic bishops from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, Somalia and Djibouti declared, “We are particularly horrified by the ravages of unbridled capitalism, which has taken away and stifled local ownership of economic initiatives and is leading to a dangerous gap between the rich few and the poor majority.”

Catholic leaders in other parts of the global south hold similar views. For instance, in a 127-page report issued in 2004, the Catholic bishops of Asia declared that “neoliberal economic globalization” destroys Asian families and is the primary cause of poverty on the continent.

It’s fitting that the Vatican official responsible for the document is an African, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, because it articulates key elements of what almost might be called a “southern consensus.” One way of sizing up the note’s significance, therefore, is as an indication that the demographic transition long under way in Catholicism, with the center of gravity shifting from north to south, is being felt in Rome.

This is not the dying echo of warmed-over European socialism. For better or worse, it’s the first ripple of a southern wave.

[John L. Allen Jr. is NCR’s senior correspondent.]

Wow! I realize that these sorts of statements from our brethren to the south and far east may strike us a “rich” considering that many of these same parts of the world look to us in the West for economic aid.

But at some point, after we finish bristling I have a few questions I would like to ask.

1. Are we wrong, in the West to be perturbed and the characterization of of our economic system? While no economic system is perfect, free market capitalism has produced a standard of living higher than any other system. And this is not only true for the wealthy. Most free market Democracies have a large and stable Middle Class. Further, there are greater varieties of products, efficiencies of market, and quality of products due to economic incentive, such as profit. We also live longer and healthier than ever before and have perhaps the greatest economic and social mobility of any other system. Hence, while no system is above critique and surely not sinless, free market capitalism has a lot of strengths and virtues.

2. But are we above reproach? Surely not. Bishops and Catholic Laity in the southern hemisphere and to the Far East have good reason to be concerned with the decadence of the West and the pernicious influence that decadence wields in their sphere. Some of that decadence comes from our affluence and what has come to be an exaggerated notion of freedom.

It is also a true fact that greed often leads to wrongful priorities that emphasize money and possessions at the expense of families, children and faith.

In recent years it has also become evident that no economy in the West, including America is in good shape. We are laden with debt and suffering from a legacy of buying things we cannot afford.

Further our wealth has also led us at times to overextend our power and involvement.

It is also a fact that free markets cannot meet all human needs. Some things, such as the care of the poor, the disabled and the elderly are just not lucrative enough to be solved by a profit driven market.

No we are not above reproach.

3. Can both sectors of the Church benefit one another? Certainly. And this is where the Vatican can possibly be of the most help in bringing insights and concerns together.

I was reacently talking with an economic conservative friend who had grave reservations about who was advising the Vatican and the U.S. Bishops, for that matter, on matters of economic policy etc.

I have little answer to these questions but it occurs to me that Economic and social Conservatives (with whom I often identitify) are long on complaints and short on solutions to the problem of influence. Influence begins when people like my friend joining together and begining to form relationships with Church leaders, such as the bishops and their staffs.

There are many valid economic approaches that fit within Catholic social principles. I would hope that those who support open market captialism or various versions of it would be in discussions at the Vatican and with world Bishops sharing ideas. I would also hope they would be open to other insights that offer healthy critique of our system which is not perfect and can afford some challenges.

4. What do we in the decaying West need to develop as a proper awareness, aside from the economic questions? I would say simply, that we are small and getting smaller. Currently we are only on third of the Church and dropping.

Most of us who are older were used to thinking of the Catholic Church as primarily a European membership and our critics often pointed this out. But that, if it ever was the case, is no longer. And we are going to have to get use to the fact that the attention of the Vatican and other Church leaders is going to increasingly be to the South and Southeast where the Church is growing.

We shall see how long trends like these continue, but for now, humility and sobriety are important. Europe and America are not the only thing on the Vatican’s radar;  a fact of which we are sometimes forgetful.

Western concerns about permitting contraception and approving of divorce, and any number of sexual sins, along with preocupations about why women can’t be priests and endless issues about Church authority, are just not the things that matter to most of the rest of the Church. And the pouting in the decaying West about why the Vatican doesn’t update Church teaching must look pretty silly to rest of the world.

We are out numbered folks. And when we do want to legitimately be part of discussions at the Vatican about economic theory, science, etc, we ought to enter those discussion with some degree of humilty, knowing that we bring important things to the table and many successes, but also remembering that the Church is bigger than just us.

Your thoughts?

This video by Fr. Barron reflects on Caritas in Veritate and he expresses some concern too about a supranational agency proposed in that letter. His remarks about that are towards the end of the video

16 Replies to “Wake Up Call for the West: The Church Moves South. A Reflection on a John Allen Article”

  1. One major problem with anyone (bishops or others) from anywhere except the United States when it comes to economic matters is that they come from areas that have had a long history of either feudalism (Europe) or colonialism (Asia, Africa, S. America), and their economic thinking tends to be colored by such oppressive history.

    As for Church teaching, this much is clear — the Church has authoritatively stated time and again that it is NOT competent to determine specific economic systems. What the Church is competent to determine are matters of doctrine and moral truth. And up near the top of the list on doctrinal and moral matters is that man is made for freedom.

    Hence, the logical error that is implied by the statement — “It is also a fact that free markets cannot meet all human needs.”

    What are the implied answers to such a statement? That unfree markets can meet all human needs? That it is even possible in this world to meet all human needs? That a society of perfection, a heaven on earth, is possible, where there will never again be any poor? Every attempt at such a thing has indeed been accompanied by, not merely “unfree” markets, but by pervasive oppression.

    We are made to be free. The dignity of the human person is in freedom. That is fundamental doctrine.

    It is also an economic fallacy to state that the free market, properly understood, is in the slightest contrary to human dignity or violative of moral truth or social justice. Contrary to popular belief, the unbridled market is NOT a free market. Robber barrons are NOT the free market. An authentic free market is exactly that — free. And freedom, properly understood, is not the right to do what you want to do, but the ability to do what you ought to do. Freedom = morality.

    What the world needs is more freedom, not less. Freedom of opportunity for all, not merely for those that some omnipotent government authority allows. Anything less is contrary to the dignity of the human person. Anything less is a step backward from caritas in veritate, the concept and the Encyclical. The gratuitous that we are called to is not authentic unless it is freely given.

    Pope Benedict has said this multiple times. It is not a matter of the Church advocating one economic structure or another, one economic governing body or another — that is beyond the competency of the Church, as the Church herself has repeatedly stated. Rather, it is a matter of the Church calling man to pursue the freedom that God has made him for.

    Does that mean that there will still be some poor somewhere? Yes. Does that mean that there will still be suffering somewhere? Yes. Does that mean that people will still die? Yes. The only way we are going to have a perfect world without poor or without suffering is the new world that will be created by God after this world ends. And any desire or attempt to create that heaven on earth in the here and now always has and always will only make things worse. We can reduce these evils to some extent — through freedom — but we cannot eliminate them. Not in this world.

    1. Bender,

      Their is no “logical error.” Monsignor is paraphrasing JPII in Centsesimus Annus:

      34. It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are “solvent”, insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are “marketable”, insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish . . .

      As for your redefinition of what it means for a market to be free, I am in total agreement. I doubt however that many who champion “the free market” in our politics today would subscribe to your redefinition.

  2. Thanks for raising this topic. A few comments:

    While free market capitalism is unrivaled in its ability to produce wealth, we need to also remember the spiritual costs to a society dominated by this economic system. Everything (including religion) is commodified, and efficiency becomes our bottom line. From birth we are immersed in a culture that offers us a nearly infinite number of choices designed to cater to our every desire. Is it any wonder then that we have enshrined “choice” as our highest political good and people defend the right even to choose to take the life of their unborn children or their own life (in euthanasia) when life is inconvenient or difficult. Or is it any wonder that we feel free to create an a la carte menu of Church teachings that we choose to follow, or that we parish shop for the style of mass that fits our tastes.

    I don’t know what the solution is in terms of how much centralization or regulation of the economy is required. We’ve seen the evil that is wrought when you go too far in that direction (e.g. Soviet Communism), but is there perhaps a virtuous mean between the extremes? Monsignor had a brilliant post last year about how true freedom is limited freedom: http://blog.adw.org/2010/11/only-limited-freedom-is-true-freedom/ Would this not apply to economic matters also? It seems that Christians cannot fully embrace the free market because we have a fundamentally different understanding of freedom than the post-Enlightenment West.

    Regardless of what should be done on the regulatory level, I do know that if our present system is to be anything but suicidal it needs to be circumscribed by a strong anti-materialist social ethic. In this respect, I feel that the Church leadership in the West has not been nearly vocal enough. Whether they accept them or not, Catholics in general are quite aware of the Church’s teaching on sexuality (and for the record, that is a good thing) even if they aren’t well versed on the rationale behind it. Could the same be said for the Church’s teachings on lifestyle (wealth, consumption, etc)? Money matters having to do the poverty, greed, consumption, charity and the like are the moral issue that is talked about in the bible with more frequency and consistency than any other. From Torah commandments to the prophets to the wisdom literature to the gospels to the epistles, this is a constant concern. Would the average Catholic know that from the preaching in our churches? We are being badly out-evangelized by Madison Avenue.

    One last point:
    While it might be tempting to disregard (or even bristle at) economic moralizing from countries dependent on foreign aid from the West, we should recall that our own affluence comes at least in significant part from their suffering. We have a lot of excess wealth because we do not pay the full cost for many of the goods we consume. Whether it is coffee or chocolate grown on former Amazon rainforest, oil pumped (and spilled) in Nigeria, or cheap clothing and manufactured goods produced at poverty wages in Asia, our luxury comes in some ways at their expense. If the workers who produced our goods were paid a fair wage, and if the environmental cost of our consumption was factored into the price of our goods, the economic disparity between the first and the third world would not be what it is. This is actually where I see a tremendous opportunity for the Church. If we took the Church’s teaching on solidarity seriously by creating real relationships between communities or churches in developed and developing nations, we might be better able to see the real impact of our lifestyle on those in other parts of the globe. (We might also become more aware of how comparatively decadent we are.) It is one thing to know in the abstract that my clothes are made in sweatshops. It is another thing to come face to face with my brother or sister in Christ who works in that sweatshop. This is what the Church is good at and what it was, in part, founded to do: create loving relationships that cross the boundaries erected by human sinfulness.

  3. To add a little perspective to your essay, western and european decadence consumes 75% of earth’s resources…China and India want to model their economies like ours. It has been estimated that if that was to occur we would need five earths to provide the resources to maintain that decadent lifestyle. Clearly, this is not sustainable. I am relieved to hear south and eastern countries see things differently.

    And wow! What Father Barron shared with us in the video above resonates with me. Namely, that without truth and love combined we fail to grasp the things of God. I pray we all can reflect on this idea throughout the day every day and begin the dialogue that brings us together as a world community.

  4. @ Bender: “We are made to be free. The dignity of the human person is in freedom. That is fundamental doctrine.”


    We are NEVER free when the divinely ordained right to property is violated with impunity by the essentially coercive power of the collective.

    1. Late Scholastics,

      I fear that your understanding of the God-giveness of property derives more from John Locke than from Catholic doctrine. Consider what the Catechism says in the section on Private Property (paragraphs 2402 and following). The fundamental right is of all people to all the goods of the earth (i.e. “the universal destination of goods”). Property is a limited and acquired right that is legitimate for the purpose of ordering the distribution of wealth, but the universal destination of goods remains primary. Therefore, “Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.” (#2406)

      More JPII from Centesimus Annus:

      “42. Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?

      “The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”. But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.”

      1. @Vincent – I fear you lamely attempt to use the Catechism to distort its truths and shill for your Marxist economics.
        Contrary to your heresy that would have us believe that the conflict, violence, tyranny, and destructiveness that permeates modern society is the result of “bad” or “hateful” people, disparities in wealth, or lack of education, most of our social problems are the direct consequence of a general failure to respect the inviolability of one another’s property interests i.e. Commandments 5, 7 & 10!

        FROM New Advent
        “The Catholic Church has always regarded private property as justified, even though there may have existed personal abuses. Far from abolishing the commandments of the Old Law (Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, nor anything that is his) Christ inculcated them anew (Matthew 19:18-19; Mark 10:19; Romans 13:9). And though the Catholic Church, following in the footsteps of her Founder, has always recommended voluntary poverty as an evangelical counsel, yet she has at the same time asserted the justice and, as a rule, the necessity of private property and rejected the contrary theories of the Circumcellions, Waldenses, Anabaptists etc. Moreover, theologians and canonists have at all times taught that private ownership is just. Leo XIII, especially in several encyclicals, strongly insisted on the necessity and justice of private ownership. Thus the encyclical “Rerum novarum” expressly condemns as unjust and pernicious the design of the socialists to abolish private property. The right of acquiring private property has been granted by nature, and consequently he who would seek a solution of the social question must start with the principle that private property is to be preserved inviolate (privatas possessiones inviolate servandas). And Pius X, in his Motu Proprio of 18 Dec., 1903, laid down the following two principles for the guidance of all Catholics:

        (1) “Unlike the beast, man has on earth not only the right of use, but a permanent right of ownership; and this is true not only of those things which are consumed in their use, but also of those which are not consumed by their use”;
        (2) “Private property is under all circumstances, be it the fruit of labour or acquired by conveyance or donation, a natural right, and everybody may make such reasonable disposal of it as he thinks fit.””

        1. Wow. I quote from the chapter of Centesiums Annus where Pope John Paul II lays out his critique of communism and I get accused of being a heretic and a Marxist. Did anyone else follow that logic?

          Leaving aside these unjustified and untrue ad hominem accusations, I would like to point out that nothing in what you have quoted denies the fundamental truth I was articulating: Catholic teaching has never held that the ownership of private property is an intrinsic good, only that it is an instrumental good. It is good in as much as it facilitates a better distribution of goods and allows a greater number of people to enjoy the bounty of the earth (which has been given to all). The right to property is a real right, but it is a right that is limited and one that is always in the service of the universal destination of goods.

          I was trying to limit the length of my previous post by paraphrasing the Catechism rather than quoting it in full. However I see that in order to defend myself against the charge that I am distorting what the Catechism says, I will need to provide the full quote:

          In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.

          The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.

          “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.

          Goods of production—material or immaterial—such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.

          Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.

        2. A discussion of rights is never balanced, especially in a faith context, without mentioning corresponding responsibilities. You have extensively argued for what you are entitled to; but what do you owe to other human beings (as a Christian)?
          It is interesting that this discussion began by connecting the concept of poverty and injustice (in the Southern hemisphere) with a particular perspectives on sexual ethics, and has grown into a discussion primarily about economics. Economics would seem to me to be a demonstration of how morality is a relational reality–economic systems are judged (morally) by how they effect the social relationships involved. Not so with most issues of sexual ethics (at least from a traditional Catholic perspective)–these issues are usually considered right or wrong based on the act itself without regard to the bigger picture of the relationships involved (i.e contraception and homosexual activity are inherently wrong based on the acts themselves ). If that idea of a moral absolute based on physical structures is applied to economic issues it might result in someone canonizing one economic system as “absolutely” right and others as “absolutely” wrong without considering how they “ripple” out into the lives of all of the various members of society.

  5. Monsignor,
    The version of capitalism we are exporting and which causes so much harm in the developing world (and also in the West) is a secular distortion of what capitalism really is. Let me explain.

    Have you ever read Rodney Stark’s “The Victory of Reason – How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success?” Here is a short introduction:
    Stark describes, rooted in Christian philosophy, how capitalism had its earliest beginnings in the medieval monastic system, where for the first time in history you not only had a population where work was considered a virtue, but also a population that did not reproduce and thereby had no heirs. So despite all the charitable work each monastery engaged in you still had an accumulation of wealth. So what do you do with that? You reinvest it. This systematic reinvestment of wealth was a first in human history and is, as we all know, a key element of capitalism. With it came the necessity to keep track of all the assets and the beginnings of accounting. Later with the emergence of city states in Italy came the first true companies. You no longer had slaves to do the work for you, so you had to pay people to do the work, the first employees. One interesting part of the ledgers that survive, is that there was always a column named “God’s share.” With all the money these companies made, it was deemed natural that part of the profits were donated to charity in one form or another – because the wealth was understood as God’s gift in the first place.

    The gist is this: Capitalism can only reach its true form when it is firmly grounded in Christian virtues. When you eliminate greed, dishonesty, and other vices, and instead apply charity, living-wages, honesty, etc., capitalism then becomes a vehicle for good, not evil. So to come back to my statement from above, what we have been exporting – because we’ve become so secularized and do not apply true virtue, is a distortion. No wonder it gets rejected.

  6. Hmmm As I read your blog Msgr., and listen to Father Barron, I can’t help but revisit Babel………..

    Always, good when you two get together! Why does man always lean toward complicating things???


  7. The trope that the West/North is more decadent than the South has been repeated so often that it is now viewed as unquestioned truth. However, it is wrong and is just the conservative Catholic version of the ‘noble savage’ myth. The gay rights parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil (global south) draws millions every year and is the largest in the world. Mexico City’s (global south) has some of the most liberal gay rights laws in the world. The fertility rate in Latin America has plummeted and, in some cases, is already lower than the United States. Yes, most people in Latin America use birth control just like they do in the West. Probably the only area where the South doesn’t match the West is in the legality of abortion.

  8. It’s well and good that the Church pontificate, council and evangelize for justice and peace. Leave global authority up to God. It’s above humanity’s pay scale. Nations, religions, races and cultures will always compete for rent space.

  9. I was at first appalled at the thought of a one global entity to oversee financial matters of the world. Any one could easily see the dangers in that if it is a political system. However, upon reflection it seems that the failure to address real needs in all societies occurred when the responsibility of meeting these needs changed from the Church to the government. When the Church had the responsibility for hospitals, schools and providing the needs of the poor, it certainly seemed to work better. When government began to “provide” for the many needs it could only offer money and it could never, ever be completely fair and equal to all, which as a government it had to be. When the Church provides it does strive to give love…and truth…along with money.

    Unfortunately when the government began to provide for the poor, the Church all too readily stepped away from their responsibility. Providing for the poor, the disadvantaged, the sick, the addicted, the whole host of human woes just can not be provided for by the government. It must be and can only be capably provided by the Church. Perhaps I should say the Body of Christ, rather than The Church, since that can be so easily misunderstood. This provision would work best when done on a very local level. That is certainly easier for us who live in small communities than those who live in large cities, but the principal stands. Simply giving money to people has never provided any real good, and it most cases causes more harm than good.

    To think that we can on a global level solve all the world’s problems with some kind of human bureaucracy is simply madness. History alone tells us that much. Still, there has been for 2000 years, and still is, one institution on this earth that has provided for the poor, healed the sick, and cured all sorts of human maladies.
    Governments and empires come and go, only the Church remains. The Church has more sinners than saints, but it still perseveres and it still provides for those who must need it. The Church, and only the Church is the only global authority that provides any hope for healing this hurting world.

    There is an answer to the problems our world faces. The answer came to us 2000 years ago with a fairly simple message. It was not a message to nations and governments, it was a message to individuals. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” The world will never be right, until I am right and do what I need to do to provide for the ones I love whether they be my family or neighbor or my loved one in Africa. If each of us could do that, our world would be a much better place to live. How simple, but how hard it is for us to do.

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if the world allowed the Church to actually have the authority to do what she has been called to do. It would also be interesting to see how the Church would do this. If she tried to do it as a “world organization” she would fail, just as the many governments has failed. If the Church commissioned each of members, as the Body of Christ, to do what they have been clearly instructed and called to do, then we could possibly see a change in this world.

  10. I’m not going to advocate any specific economic system, but I’m disturbed that many Catholics seem to have a poor grasp of Catholic social teaching and political philosophy. Everyone reading this is probably familiar with liberal Catholics who pretty much dress up Neo-Marxism in Catholic terminology and claim that it is the Church’s social teaching. However, a lot of more conservative Catholics tend to defend capitalism using Lockean-style philosophy and can sometimes act as though all of their religious and political views are “all-or-nothing.” In other words, being a good Christian is seen as intrinsically bound up with issues like the taxation, immigration policy, the death penalty, etc. I’m not saying people are wrong about specific political issues, but we need to take the Church’s teachings on the moral dimensions of these issues so we have a basis for charitable discussions.

    N. T. Wright has interesting comments related to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BP1PpDyDCw

    Disclaimer: I’m not denying the possibility that free market capitalism is compatible with Catholic social teaching under certain circumstances.

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