The important Just Third Way news this week is the Synod on the Family in Rome . . . at least, the distorted views of it we got from the media. Few people seem to be aware that such gatherings are merely for discussion. They are not planning sessions for a Crusade or to plot the overthrow of Religion As We Know It. We’ll weigh in with a few thoughts, below, but (aside from the fact that an interfaith group has almost as little authority to be commenting as the media on internal affairs of the Catholic Church) we have to keep in mind that, however high or low the level, it’s just talk, folks.
Now for some things that aren’t just talk:
• Sales of CESJ’s latest “Paradigm Paper,” The Political Animal: Economic Justice and the Sovereignty of the Human Person, are off to a good start. The Political Animal, like all CESJ publications, is available in bulk at substantial savings. With the 20% discount applicable to bulk sales (i.e., ten or more copies of a single title), a full case of 50 is $400, plus shipping. Enquire at “publications [at] cesj [dot] org” for details and cost of shipping bulk/wholesale orders. Individual copies are available now on Amazon, and on Barnes and Noble. Please note: CESJ does not sell retail.
• A number of recent postings on this blog on what some might consider rather esoteric subjects have been getting record numbers of readers. Part of it might be that there seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with Keynesian dogma, especially the fact that it contradicts itself so often, and slides into the “cop out” of redefining terms whenever it becomes necessary to get out of a corner that the principles have painted it into, e.g., the standard Keynesian line about something not being “real” inflation, savings, money, socialism, whatever, because it was redefined to force it to fit. The problem is that, while ordinary people are increasingly disenchanted with Keynesianism, the powers-that-be in academia and politics hold fast to it because it seems to get them what they want, when they want it.
• Demonstrating that there is nothing so silly that you can’t find someone who will say it, and others who believe it (e.g., Keynesian economics), rumors are already circulating that the terrorist attack on the Canadian parliament (and now a mall) was a staged, “false flag” operation by the Jews and the capitalists, with the murdered soldier an unwilling sacrifice to the political ambitions of the Jewish cabal that is presumably really running the country and everything else in the world. The presence of security cameras at key locations that were operating when parliament was in full session and cautious after the previous attack on two Canadian soldiers is cited as conclusive proof. The theory is that the attack was intended to promote hysterical rage against innocent Muslims, all of which are probably as horrified as any other normal person at what is being done in the name of their religion — as if other faiths do not experience “converts” intent upon saving orthodox religion from itself; can you say “modernist” or “theosophist”?
• The recent Synod on the Family in Rome illustrates the problems associated with trying to understand anything without a solid grounding in sound principles. If we believe the media, Pope Francis is either an inconsequential boob who has let matters get out of hand and allowed conservatives to maintain a lock on power (if you’re a liberal), or a Machiavellian monster intent upon destroying the last vestiges of truth and decency by actively promoting social, economic, and religious chaos (if you’re a conservative). The possibility that the vast bulk of analysis and commentary is carried out by “experts” who haven’t got a clue as to the absolutes underlying all Catholic teaching and faith, nor how to achieve the presumably “Catholic” (actually catholic — universal) ideal of “Old things, but in a new way,” as Benedict XV put it in § 25 of Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum a century ago, doesn’t seem to occur to the usual suspects. In other words, the fundamental principles must remain unchanged, but the application of those principles must be “elastic” and adaptable to current conditions in society — the essence of social justice. The problem today is that so few people seem aware that there are fundamental, absolute principles, that applications of principles are not themselves absolutes, and confuse the precepts of justice and charity, whether individual or social. Much of this can probably be traced to the lamentable influence of Msgr. John A. Ryan, whose redefinition of the natural law in general, and distributive justice in particular (vide A Living Wage, 1906, and Distributive Justice, 1916) directed and determined the interpretation of Catholic social teaching down to the present day, despite the contradictions involved in Ryan’s analysis.
• Speaking of the Synod on the Family (again, if we believe the media), they got diverted into so many “special interest” areas that they never discussed the one, sure way to restore and maintain the integrity of ordinary families. As Leo XIII pointed out more than a century ago, the only way to protect the family and ensure that it remains the cornerstone of society is to secure every family on a solid foundation of capital ownership (Rerum Novarum, §§ 12-14). Instead of discussing possible ways to achieve this overriding goal, however, participants discussed “hard cases,” which (so the legal adage goes) make bad law; trying to accommodate to special cases in every instance and ignoring the needs of ordinary people is a sure recipe for injustice. Even a brief discussion of something along the lines of Capital Homesteading would have been of immense value, but nothing has been reported that widespread capital ownership was even on the agenda, much less discussed.
• A telephone conference with a key person in Catholic intellectual circles scheduled for this past Tuesday was postponed due to illness, and is now set for November 4. This is important, because so few intellectuals of any faith these days acknowledge that faith itself must be built on a foundation of reason, and that, while charity and faith are “higher” than justice and reason, the supernatural (“above nature”) must be built on a solid foundation of nature. Consequently, there must be a return to reason and justice in a world suffering from an excess of charity causing disunity, as Msgr. Ronald Knox might have put it.
• Work is almost completed on the first draft of a journal article on business cycles. Written from a Just Third Way perspective, the article reconciles the precepts of the natural law with the science of economics, and demonstrates that the social sciences, just as the physical sciences, have a grounding on absolutes and are “true” sciences based on knowledge, not merely opinion.
• The script for a 3-5 minute video to accompany a crowdfunding effort to fund the completion of the “Campaign for Distributive Justice” is being finalized. We expect to develop a shooting schedule sometime next week, and launch the campaign soon thereafter. A teacher at a local Catholic high school is taking an informal survey of his students to gauge the level of understanding of the virtue, which we believe will demonstrate the need for education in this area. The campaign will also help CESJ and affiliated organizations determine the best means to raise funds for various projects, such as a presence at and input into next year’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
• CESJ Fellow Astrid U. may be returning to Washington, DC, in February 2015 to continue her research into alternative economic systems. Her university is sufficiently interested in her work with CESJ that they might be paying half her travel costs from Belgium. Astrid has also engaged in outreach to at least one European think tank that is looking into an alternative to the current European model.
• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 60 different countries and 48 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past two months. Most visitors are from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The most popular postings this past week were “Aristotle on Private Property,” “Thomas Hobbes on Private Property,” “The Purpose of Production,” “Response to Professor Shakespeare, I: CESJ’s Position,” and “A Note on Subsidiarity and Social Justice.”
Those are the happenings for this week, at least those that we know about. If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we’ll see that it gets into the next “issue.” If you have a short (250-400 word) comment on a specific posting, please enter your comments in the blog — do not send them to us to post for you. All comments are moderated, so we’ll see it before it goes up.