• Early this week, Michael D. Greaney, CESJ's Director of Research and Notre Dame graduate (1977) got into an e-mail discussion with Mr. William Dempsey of "Project Sycamore," a group formed to "protect the Catholic identity of Notre Dame" and describing itself as the "Guardian of the Grotto" (the "Grotto" being a reference to the replica of the famous Lourdes Grotto built on the Notre Dame campus. Mr. Dempsey had sent Mr. Greaney an e-mail expressing "guarded hope" that the scandal caused by the conferring of an honorary degree on President Obama by Reverend John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, in violation of a directive from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, would soon be resolved satisfactorily. Mr. Greaney sent a response to Mr. Dempsey proposing that the best way to resolve what has become a public relations disaster for Notre Dame is to remove Father Jenkins as president, and replace him with Reverend Edward Krause, C.S.C., Ph.D., Notre Dame '63 (son of Notre Dame's noted Athletic Director, Edward "Moose" Krause), whose orthodoxy and commitment to social justice and Capital Homesteading as a Pro Life economic agenda are without question. Mr. Dempsey's position was that suggesting Father Krause as a replacement would be perceived as "officious intermeddling," and that the Board of Trustees would handle the matter without interference from the outside. Mr. Greaney's position was that, through the "act of social justice" it is possible to change even the most impossible-seeming situation. The discussion broke down after Mr. Greaney recommended a number of times that Mr. Dempsey read Father William Ferree's pamphlet, Introduction to Social Justice.Those are the happenings for this week, at least 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 anyway, so we'll see it before it goes up.
• For the record, we do not object to Mr. Obama's having given the commencement address or participating in a debate or dialog on the Pro Choice v. the Pro Life position. "Academic freedom" or the right of an educational institution to sponsor talks or presentations on any topic under the sun or moon was never the real concern, although many in the media chose to cast the issue in that light. Such a debate (had it actually taken place, instead of having vocal protestors turned over to the civil authorities and silenced) could have been very useful, even profitable for both sides, especially if the students, faculty, and administration of Notre Dame had a sound grounding in the principles of the natural law, particularly the rights to life, liberty, access to the means of acquiring and possessing private property, and acquiring and developing virtue (i.e., "pursuing happiness"). The problem was that the head of America's iconic Catholic educational institution defied a direct order not to confer honors on pro-abortion politicians. This not only legitimized disobedience and dissent from duly-constituted authority, it gave an implied endorsement to Mr. Obama's position. This is what has scandalized so many of every religious faith concerned with the jettisoning of ordinary standards of ethical and moral behavior. Father Jenkins' act — fully endorsed, according to his statements, by the Notre Dame Board of Trustees — was a public act, and undermined support for all organized religious belief and practice, weakening the effectiveness of religion in its ability to fill its necessary civil role as the chief teacher and guide of moral standards and behavior. It is thus the concern of every member of society, and not an internal matter of the university, as many people continue to insist.
• CESJ had an interesting discussion early this week with Mr. Geoff Barkume of "Real Catholic TV." While CESJ is unable at this time to take advantage of a strategic alliance with the "first all-internet Catholic television station," we found ourselves in agreement on the need for people of goodwill everywhere, whatever their faith or philosophy, to join together and work for the common good through organized acts of social justice.
• CESJ member Dr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir is now a member of parliament in Bangladesh. CESJ is working with Dr. Alamgir to publish his book, Notes from a Prison: Bangladesh, an account of his imprisonment on trumped-up charges due to his progressive political stance.
• CESJ had a luncheon meeting with Tim Cusick, a priest from St. Augustine, Florida, who is looking for practical ways to integrate the principles of the natural law and ethics into business and professional life. The bulk of the discussion involved explaining how Equity Expansion International, Inc. works to incorporate essential principles of the natural law into business through Justice-Based Management, and the opportunities that exist in working with EEI to surface "servant leaders" in business to guide the restructuring of companies along lines consistent with the basic principles of economic and social justice.
• On Saturday, June 6, 2009, CESJ will be presenting an alternative to public-sector control of the health care system in a way that meets Mr. Obama's stated goals, but which relies on the private sector. The presentation will be built around CESJ's "Doctors' Plan for Universal Health Care" on which we've been working with a number of medical professionals. The presentation is a part of the "Organizing for America" initiative. All available spaces were filled rapidly, so CESJ expects a lively discussion.
• We recently received an e-mail very briefly describing a statement by German jurist Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, who is "highly esteemed" by the pope, calling for "the Church to write the definitive 'manifesto' against capitalism." Herr Böckenförde seems to have said that capitalism "must be overturned at its foundations, because it is inhuman," a statement with which we have little difficulty agreeing. The problem is that the title of the little snippet read, "And from Germany, Marx Reappears." This illustrates the problems with oversimplifications in the media, as well as among intellectuals and academia. (On the other hand, the report could be absolutely accurate.) The problem is that, as stated, "capitalism" is inaccurately portrayed as "inhuman," with the intimation being that Marxism — not mentioned in the short blurb — is therefore human. Capitalism is actually "semi-human," as it is based on a distorted understanding of a natural right (private property) and its exercise. Socialism ("Marxism"), on the other hand, is based on a total rejection of private property: "The theory of the communists may be summed up in a single sentence: the abolition of private property." (The Communist Manifesto, 1848). As phrased, the report comes across as advocating socialism, which has been explicitly condemned by more than one pope, whereas "only" the abuses and the malformed economic structures under capitalism are condemned; capitalism is not contrary to the natural law as is socialism. (Of course, polygamy, slavery, and the death penalty are not contrary to the natural law, either, which should probably tell us how we are to view capitalism.) Conditions imposed by capitalism are certainly inhuman — nearly as much as those imposed by the various forms of socialism. That "nearly," however, makes a significant difference . . . if by "significant" we mean that it is better to strangle slowly under capitalism than it is to be strangled and tortured quickly under socialism. The only realistic solution to the "tastes great/less filling" argument between capitalism and socialism is to restructure the social order in conformity with the principles of the natural law, especially with respect to the economic order and the three principles of economic justice. If His Holiness is still struggling with the encyclical, it may be because he hasn't heard of the clarification CESJ has worked out on economic justice, and the possibilities inherent in the Just Third Way, developed in large measure by a synthesis of the economic justice principles worked out by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler with the social doctrine of Leo XIII and Pius XI. Unfortunately, as far as we know only one book by Louis Kelso has been translated into German: How to Turn Eighty Million Workers Into Capitalists on Borrowed Money (1967), which was retitled, Two-Factor Theory, and translated in 1971 as Jeder Hat Ein Recht Auf Kapital — "Everyone Has a Right to Own Capital" (Econ Verlag GmbH, Düsseldorf/Wein). Of course, anyone who reads English can go to the CESJ website and download the free copies of The Capitalist Manifesto (1958) and The New Capitalists (1961), which (as we've mentioned before) are very bad and inaccurate titles for very good books. Dr. Moynihan said that he will try to locate contact information for Herr Bröckenförde while he is in Europe in the coming week so that a dialog can possibly take place between him and Norman Kurland.
• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 32 different countries and 40 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 UK, with Canada, Brazil, and Venezuela rounding out the "top five." People in Venezuela, Hungary, Malaysia, the Netherlands and the United States spent the most average time on the blog. The most popular posting is the letter to Judge Posner, followed by these news reports, with the postings on usury and Henry Ford's mistakes rounding out the list.
Friday, June 5, 2009
News from the Network, Vol. 2, No. 23
Possibly the biggest news during the past week is the odd belief on the part of many people in government and the media that the American taxpayer will somehow be the majority owner of the "new" General Motors. The problem with that claim, however, is that "ownership" and "control" are synonymous, and "ownership" consists in large measure of enjoyment of the "fruits of ownership," e.g., control, income, and so on. Unless someone has control and enjoys the income from what is owned, he or she cannot be said to "own." Apart from that, there are some substantive happenings this week in the network: