Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lacking Definitions, But Sure of Themselves Anyway

Another bunch of Catholic Innerlekshuls has written another lecture.

Tiresome, ain'a?

We write as Catholic theologians, academics and ministers concerned for our nation and for the integrity of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.  We write to hold up aspects of the Church's social doctrine that are profoundly relevant to the challenges our nation faces at this moment in history, yet are in danger of being ignored.

The Claim to Authority is established!!  They're 'theo profs, academics, and ministers'!!  (And you're not, especially if your name is Paul Ryan.)  This is the argument from Chevy Chase.

It would be far more reassuring if they mentioned that they were parents and grandparents, wouldn't it?  And far more reassuring if all of them had scribbled lectures on the intrinsic evils of abortion and same-sex marriage.  You know, all that "integrity of the doctrine....relevant to the challenges" stuff.

But they didn't.  Instead, they pontificate on matters of prudential judgment, where well-informed people may differ.

And of course, they set up the Straw Man:

...At a moment when the ideas of Atlas Shrugged influence public debate and policy, we write to proclaim the Catholic truth that the stewardship of common good rests upon all of our shoulders together...

America is at a tipping point where the traditional commitment of our government to protecting and advancing the common good is in very real danger of being dismantled for generations.  Members of the "Tea Party," libertarians, Ayn Rand followers and other proponents of small government have brought libertarian views of government into the mainstream; legitimating forms of social indifference.

Can you say "hyperbole"?   Well, if you don't like the term, let's turn it around:  It's just as legitimate for Conservatives to say that ideas from Rules for Radicals influence public debate and policy....and that America is at a tipping point where the traditional commitment of the Government to the 10th Amendment,  the FIRST Amendment, and the separation of powers is in very real danger of being dismantled for generations.

It's not only legitimate, but mathematically certain that the financial health of the nation is in very real danger of being obliterated....for generations.

And what, precisely, is "social indifference?"  Telling someone that they can NOT have a free cellphone?  That they can NOT have free contraceptives?

Surely you jest, Professors, Ministers, and Theologians.

After their condescending swipe at Ryan:  "We do not question Paul Ryan's faith", followed by twenty lines of innuendo, vague generalities, and Scary Language!!!!, (Ayn Rand is mentioned more in this essay than in any Conservative beer-gathering)....they FINALLY announce what horrific programs draw their ire:

...he judged "defined benefit" safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare to be "collectivist" and "socialist based."...

The Professors, Theologians, and Ministers are silent, though, in applying an alternative nomenclature to SocSec and Medicare.   There's a reason:  those programs ARE collectivist and socialist-based.

...Congressman Ryan's concerns about the growing Federal debt are commendable.  [Oh, thank you, kind Theologians, Professors, and Ministers!!!]  It is clear, however, that he had a prior philosophical bias against publically [sic] funded safety net programs independent of these fiscal concerns.Given these values, it seems reasonable to conclude that Ryan's deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps are policy priorities themselves.  Thus, it is not surprising, that the savings achieved by these cuts are swamped by revenue losses resulting from massive new tax cuts for high earners and corporations.'s also clear that the Professors, Theologians, and Ministers have a 'prior philosophical bias' which obviates State and local governments.  To them, the only Gummint is the Federal Gummint, and we shall have no gods before it...


Oh, well.

We do not question the sincerity of his convictions, but must note that a shift from the social philosophy of Ayn Rand to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church is a radical change indeed.  Such a conversion would take much time and reflection.

If condescension had an odor, the reek of the above words would overpower Superman.

The Theologians, Professors, and Ministers proceed to issue a negative judgment on Ryan's motives, all very indirectly, of course, because it just wouldn't DO for them to be "judgmental."  Nosirree.  Not at all.  To avoid "judgmentalism" they simply imply that Ryan's 'prudence' could well be 'craftiness' instead.  Subtle, eh?

Next, they quote B-16 so that they can share in the halo effect.

Having created Straw Men, Boogey Men, God-Awful Rand-Men, and other not-so-veiled slurs, they finally get around to ....Catholic principles!

The Catholic view of the human person is social not individual.


 The Catholic Church does not espouse "individualism," but rather sees it as an error as destructive as collectivism.

Yup again!! 

We are radically dependent upon and responsible for one another.  Again, in the words of John Paul II, "We are all really responsible for all." This truth of the human person is tied to the central doctrines of the Church.  It reflects the very "intimate life of God, one God in three Persons."

Amazing how the Trinity got along all these years without a Federal Gummint to give 'em phones!

Government has an essential role to play in protecting and promoting the common good

Yup.  Who said otherwise?

The state exists to "defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies." long as those "intermediate bodies" aren't, ya' know, the several States, or local gummints--or Heaven forfend!!  that those 'intermediate bodies' refuse to  provide abortive 'contraceptives'!!!

...Catholic apologists for small government repeatedly invoke a single paragraph from John Paul II's Centesimus Annus which cautions against the excesses of a "social assistance state" ignoring the decades-long papal consensus supporting social insurance and welfare systems.

The Professors, Theologians, and Ministers wrote that with no sense of irony whatsoever.  If JPII 'cautioned' about the 'social assistance state,' then perhaps there IS ROOM FOR DEBATE about the size of that State and its 'social insurance and welfare programs,' right?


Subsidiarity has both negative and positive dimensions.  Negatively, it limits overreach by government (as well as other large organizations, including corporations).  Positively, the concept (which means "help" or "assistance)" requires that government act when problems cannot be solved on the local level.

I have yet to see a Church document which 'condemns over-reach by large corporations'.

The broader outlines of the budget plan will radically reduce the size of government and consequently cut funding for private and religious safety net providers such as Catholic Charities who depend upon federal grants and contracts for much of their funding.  This fails the positive obligation under subsidiarity to render needed assistance.

Note how carefully the Professors, Theologians, and Ministers avoid defining the term "radically reduce."  That's because it is NOT a "reduction."  And--once again--what about the States?  Locals?  Finally, Catholic Charities is no more entitled to Federal dollars than is Sesame Street.  It is the mis-management and hubris of Catholic Charities that made them "dependent" on the taxpayers and it is a criminal mis-use of the term "charity" when a "charity" cheerfully takes money which was taken at the point of a gun.

The "preferential option for the poor" demands both individual and collective action, including the acts of the state

...but not the "several" States.  Nope.

It should go without saying that poverty is not caused primarily by a too generous government safety net that becomes in Ryan's words, "a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency."

And it should go without saying that a too generous government safety-net causes bankruptcy of that government.  But more important, what is "poverty"?  What are "needs" as opposed to "wants"?  We note a distinct lack of specifics from the Professors, Theologians, and Ministers--again.

Ryan's 2012 budget achieves 62% of its designated savings from cuts to programs for low-income families and individuals while cutting the top marginal tax rate and the corporate tax rate

It DOES go without saying that the Professors, Theologians, and Ministers are astoundingly ignorant of the answer to the question "Who pays corporate income taxes?"  We should add that--in charity--many individuals COULD voluntarily send money to the Treasury.  Or they could send it to a charity.  Which of the two would the Professors, Theologians, and Ministers prefer? 

Economic forces must be reckoned among any serious account of the threats to society and human dignity.

Ryan's budget resolutions speak mainly of overbearing government and free individuals acting in a private sector whose justice is never questioned.  It is hard to reconcile this vision with the history of the past forty years, in which globalization has deindustrialized America and deregulation has increased the power of private corporations.  At the same time, unions, which official Catholic teaching has long recognized as indispensible to the rights of workers and the common good, have been severely weakened.

So the massive increase in regulatory burden is dismissed, out of hand, as a factor in 'globalization'?  And what "deregulation" do the Professors, Theologians, and Ministers speak about?  Dodd-Frank?  Did EPA disappear last week?  Did the Department of Education vanish?  OSHA?

They expect to be taken seriously with lines like that?

Finally, they reach a Conclusion!!

 ...We live at time when the social indifference of libertarian thought is achieving broad cultural legitimacy and political power.  This vision of the human person and society are fundamentally at odds with the Gospel and the principles of Catholic Social Doctrine....

(Just ask the Libertarian Party about its fabulously successful campaigns and candidates!!)

We've lived through 100 years of expanding Government which has NOT 'reduced poverty' but rather, has brought this country to 102% debt-to-GNP ratio and which has literally chased productive enterprises into foreign lands.  The expansion is largely Federal, in contradiction to the Principle of Subsidiarity.

Prudence, not "craftiness" assesses the damage and demands remedy.

Professors, Theologians, and Ministers ought to seek remedies instead of writing condescending screeds.


Grim said...

Perhaps "the poor will always be with you" was a prophecy as well as an admonition. Clearly religious groups have a mission to minister to the poor in many ways. By shifting that duty to the state, they have deprived the poor of all but one of the ways in which a ministry might help them. Perhaps the poor need the other parts as well.

Anonymous said...

After flipping thru the gospels to read what the Christ had to say, there weren't any references to baby killing or gays getting married. It was more about the Golden Rule and taking care of the less fortunate. I'll take the Gospels over catholic dogma anyday...

Billiam said...

Anon, Christ wouldn't have had to say anything about homosexuals, as his audience, the Jews, already KNEW the Levitical Law. Also, Paul speaks to it in Romans 1. As to abortion, how about Thou Shall not commit murder.