Thursday, April 14, 2016

Curb Your Dog(ma)


Yesterday we looked at the problems that can crop up when you start “re-editing the dictionary” in order to get yourself out of some difficulty.  Not by coincidence, this sort of problem solving always ends up causing a problem far worse than the one being “solved.”

Today we look at the problem that results from claiming that the social, economic, or political system you advocate is not merely consistent with the teachings of your religion, it is the only “true” system of that religion.
Msgr. Ronald Knox
Uh, huh.  When you do that, of course, you just said that unless everybody joins your religion — or, worse, your particular brand of that religion — they are not merely outside of society, they aren’t even fully human, and have no rights as human beings.  That allows Muslims to kill Christians and Jews, Jews to kill Muslims and Christians, Christians to kill Jews and Muslims, Muslims to kill the wrong kind of Muslims, Christians to kill the wrong kind of Christians, Jews to kill the wrong kind of Jews, and so on, so forth, etc., and on and on.  This is because to such “enthusiasts” (as Ronald Knox called them), the “ungodly” (as defined by the enthusiast) have no rights, and you can do anything you like to them.
That’s why it should make people very nervous when, e.g., Chestertonians and distributists (or anyone else) call the faith (or lack thereof) of others into question when those others ask questions or have difficulties, and label those others heretics and dissenters from their personal understanding of Catholic social teaching when they espouse different economic, political, mathematical, or sandwich-making theories.
"Oy, weh! The only Catholic system is the Catholic Church!"
With respect to distributism, of course, there is the problem that, while the Catholic Church states specifically that it has no models to present (Centesimus Annus, § 43), distributists insist that what they tout is the only true Catholic system, and “excommunicate” (or at least disparage) anyone who dares disagree with them. In this they exhibit what Msgr. Ronald Knox called “enthusiasm,” which he defined as an excess of charity that causes disunity.  Some distributists try to get around this by claiming that they don’t really say distributism is the only true Catholic system, but that declaration always seems to come with a wink and a nudge.
The bottom line is that enthusiasm (which results from the shift from reason to faith) always leads to the conclusion that “the ungodly [as defined by the enthusiast] have no rights.” Consequently, because distributists as a whole have judged “the rich” (as defined by the enthusiast) as falling into the “ungodly” category, “the rich” (as defined by the enthusiast) have no rights to what they own.  What “the rich” (as defined by the enthusiast) have can be taken away from them and redistributed among “the poor” (as defined by the enthusiast).
Alas. Pope St. John Paul II seems to have zeroed in on this belief when he declared to the bishops of North and South America,
The ungodly have no rights.
“As I have already noted, love for the poor must be preferential, but not exclusive. The Synod Fathers observed that it was in part because of an approach to the pastoral care of the poor marked by a certain exclusiveness that the pastoral care for the leading sectors of society has been neglected and many people have thus been estranged from the Church. The damage done by the spread of secularism in these sectors — political or economic, union-related, military, social or cultural — shows how urgent it is that they be evangelized, with the encouragement and guidance of the Church’s Pastors, who are called by God to care for everyone. They will be able to count on the help of those who — fortunately still numerous — have remained faithful to Christian values. In this regard the Synod Fathers have recognized ‘the commitment of many leaders to building a just and fraternal society’. With their support, Pastors will face the not easy task of evangelizing these sectors of society. With renewed fervor and updated methods, they will announce Christ to leaders, men and women alike, insisting especially on the formation of consciences on the basis of the Church’s social doctrine. This formation will act as the best antidote to the not infrequent cases of inconsistency and even corruption marking socio-political structures. Conversely, if this evangelization of the leadership sector is neglected, it should not come as a surprise that many who are a part of it will be guided by criteria alien to the Gospel and at times openly contrary to it.” (Ecclesia in America, § 67.)
Henry George: agrarian socialist and good 5¢ cigar.
Attempting to discuss any of these or other issues with distributists or Chestertonians only gets you accused of stupidity, dissent, or whatever pejorative comes to hand. One of the leading lights of the distributist movement, a georgist socialist (!), has the unpleasant habit of calling anyone who disagrees with him a liar, but consistently refuses either to say what the accused is lying about, prove his accusation, or retract it.
And this leads to the final question: “If they integrate the Socialist Henry George how do they reconcile that with the Catholic Church’s condemnation of all forms of socialism of all kinds?”
As near as we can tell, they reconcile socialism and the Catholic Church by claiming either that the Church didn’t really condemn socialism, that what the Church condemned wasn’t “real” socialism, that what George promoted isn’t socialism, or that anyone who raises such issues just doesn’t “get it.”
The bottom line is that if you want straight answers, go to the CESJ website and, if you can, show up at next Friday’s Rally at the Fed.  Only, please: curb your religious dogma, especially if it’s one you invented yourself.
#30#

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