The “Big News” this week is the release of Pope Francis’s “Apostolic Exhortation,” Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel.” Right off the bat we’ve seen four problems with the document. Before you go ballistic and start gathering cordwood to stack around the stake you’re preparing, however, read the problems:
One. Liberals are taking the document as endorsing everything they’ve been saying for decades.
Two. Conservatives are taking the document as endorsing everything they’ve been saying for decades.
Three. The claim that “the free market” is somehow responsible for the current global economic and social malaise. And what “free market” would that be? When a few control and benefit from the economy, whether in the private sector (capitalism) or the public sector (socialism), how is that in any way “free”? Pope Francis used the wrong word. What he describes is an unfree market.
We agree with Pope John Paul II, that, “the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.” [Emphasis in the original.] (Centesimus Annus, § 34; cf. §§ 156, 19, 24, 25, 42) We are all for a free market, albeit a free market or economy that consists of “a system in which freedom in the economic sector is . . . 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.” (Ibid., § 42.)
Sidebar: Having both the liberals and the conservatives saying the same thing puts us strongly in mind of the capitalist who said that what Chesterton called “distributism” is the same as what he calls “democratic capitalism,” and the socialist who said that what Chesterton called “distributism” is the same as what he calls “democratic socialism.” We’re not confused at all.
Four. Pope Francis tells us all we should be doing in the current state of society to meet people’s needs and address an emergency situation. That’s good. He then says nothing about how to get out of this situation so that such measures would no longer be necessary on the scale essential today. That’s bad. That means people will take the measures he advocates as a solution rather than expedients to address an emergency.
The upshot? Liberals will take the measures as an absolute mandate, while conservatives will take them as prudential matter. From the Just Third Way perspective, of course, both the liberals and the conservatives are partly right, which makes them both completely wrong. (How’s that for a Chestertonian paradox?)
• The series on “Saint Gilbert Keith Chesterton”? has been retitled, “Distributive Justice”? The new title, we believe, is more accurate, especially since Chesterton’s “cause” for canonization was just the “hook” to launch an investigation into the changes that have been forced on to today’s understanding of the natural law, and G. K.’s “cause” is of interest only to a limited audience.
• We haven’t had too much time to go through the materials we received early this week on Señor Alberto Martén Chavarría, the founder of Solidarismo Costarricense and Just Third Way supporter. Things like holidays and preparing for concerts and other things tends to get in the way of work. What we have found, however, will be considered earthshaking in some quarters, particularly those that posit a fundamental difference between the solidarism of Father Heinrich Pesch, S.J., and CESJ’s Just Third Way. It turns out that Señor Martén may have worked with Father Oswald von Nell-Breuning, S.J. “Father Nell,” as his friends called him, was a student of Father Pesch and one of two members of the Königswinterkreis discussion group called to Rome in 1931 by Pope Pius XI to consult on Quadragesimo Anno. (The other was Father Gustav Gundlach, S.J.) Señor Martén was convinced that CESJ’s Just Third Way is fully consistent with solidarism as reformed by Father Pesch.
• We’re still receiving comments on our analysis of Henry George’s thought that take assertions as conclusions, and conclusions as proof, and at the same time ignore contemporary evidence in favor of assertions made more than a century after the events occurred (to say nothing of ignoring explicit statements by George himself!). We prefer that, if you’re going to offer commentary, 1) get your facts straight, and 2) argue honestly, don’t just assert an opinion; keep in mind Mortimer Adler’s analysis of the difference between knowledge and opinion. Also, to claim that the pope is, at one and the same time, both fallible and infallible, simply does not make sense, whether or not you accept or reject papal infallibility. The statement itself is contradictory, whatever your opinion or belief.
• Again, the big news is that Freedom Under God is once again available after nearly three-quarters of a century. CESJ is now taking bulk/wholesale orders (please, no individual sales). The per unit price for ten or more copies is $16.00 (20% discount). Shipping is extra. Send an e-mail to “publications [at] cesj [dot] org” stating how many copies you want and the street address (no P. O. Boxes) where you want them delivered. We will get back to you with the total cost, how to pay, and estimated delivery time. All payments must be made in advance, and orders are placed only after payment clears. Individual copies are available from Amazon as well as by special order from many bookstores.
• CESJ offers a 10% commission on the retail cover price on bulk sales of publications. If you broker a deal with, for example, a school or civic organization that buys a publication in bulk (i.e., ten copies or more of a single title), you receive a commission once a transaction has been completed to the satisfaction of the customer. Thus, if you get your club or school to purchase, say, ten cases of Freedom Under God (280 copies) or any other CESJ or UVM publication, the organization would pay CESJ $3,920.00 (280 copies x $20 per copy, less a 30% discount), plus shipping (the commission is calculated on the retail cost only, not the shipping). You would receive $560.00. Send an e-mail to “publications [at] cesj [dot] org” for copies of flyers of CESJ and UVM publications. (CESJ project participants and UVM shareholders are not eligible for commissions.)
• So Much Generosity, the collection of essays about the fiction of Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman, John Henry Cardinal Newman, and Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson by Michael D. Greaney, CESJ’s Director of Research. The book is now available on Amazon and is also available on Kindle. Many of the essays incorporate elements of the Just Third Way. The book is priced at $20.00, and there is a 20% discount on bulk orders (i.e., ten or more), which can be ordered by sending an e-mail to publications [at] cesj [dot] org.
• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 64 different countries and 51 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, India, and Australia. The most popular postings this past week were “Thomas Hobbes on Private Property,” “Aristotle on Private Property,” “Distributive Justice”?, XIX: Henry George and the Catholic Church,” “The Fulton Sheen ‘Guy’,” and News from the Network, Vol. 6, No. 44.”
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.