Freedom

Image Freedom.

This word that we hold dear. This ideal. This right. This concept that people throughout the centuries have fought and died for.

Freedom.

My last few posts have caused a bit of debate. In fact the last one caused a bit of a stir on social media.  Ironically, the criticism of the post and of Pope Francis only further prove the point. To make an economic concept a demi-god, to allow one’s ideology to become one’s “religion”, no matter how good or just that ideology may be, is to create an idol. This is, in part what Pope Francis was talking about in Evangelii Gaudium.  He was also warning against the danger of forgetting that the whole point of an economy is to benefit people.  It has to be about people. Not things. Not wealth. Not accumulation. People. A good friend of mine (who is smarter than me) summed it up quite nicely when he explained, “Without the governing influence of the Christian ideal, both socialism and capitalism value efficiency, profit, or the illusory workers paradise more than individual persons and the family. The individual human person is simply seen as a cog, a means to an end. This is the point that Pope Francis is trying to make. It is the same point that every Pope since Leo XIII has been trying to make to both the socialist and the capitalist. It is point Chesterton and Belloc tried to make.”

While I think this is an excellent summation, I recognize that there are still those who are not willing to concede the point, either from misunderstanding, stubbornness, or simply because they have never really thought about it before. So I want to address a particular criticism that I have heard: that which says Capitalism is necessary for freedom, and that freedom and capitalism must co-exist in order for a society to be truly free.  So let’s talk about freedom.

Here in America we hold our Freedom very dear. We know that brave men and women have died defending it. We ask ourselves if we would do the same. We learn our history and teach our children how American came to be. We hope that we are passing on the noble and brave ideals that our forefathers put into writing so eloquently in the 1770s. But what is Freedom?

It’s easy to see how we have linked an economic concept with the idea of freedom.  We even call it a “free market” economy.  Often times “free market” is synonymous with capitalism.  But we are limiting ourselves and our definition of freedom if we believe that it is dependent upon economics.  Those who defend this view will point to the fall of communism in Russia and say that it was due in large part to a triumph of capitalism over communism.  While I do not dispute the economic aspect of the fall of communism, there was a lot more behind it than Reagan, a red phone, and a push for a “free market;”  and any student of world history knows that something such as the fall of communism is a lot more complex than a simple economic equation. But that is a topic for another post. I want to talk about freedom.

The best definition of freedom I have come across is from Pope John Paul II.

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This sums it up so succinctly.  Freedom is not merely something bestowed by a government, or even by another person, and it is inextricably linked with faith. First and foremost it is a right. It is interior.  Secondarily it is external – having the right to do as I ought. There is a duality to Freedom.  It is personal – interior – am I enslaved to sin? Am I enslaved to an idea? Am I free to love God?  and it is exterior – communal – am I free to do as I ought? Can I worship God as He has commanded? Am I free to live my faith publicly? Am I able to serve my neighbor and raise my family as God has instructed?

To further understand freedom as it pertains to society, we again look to John Paul II:

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“When Freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.”

Once again we see Freedom as something at once internal and external. We also see that Freedom needs a purpose.  This is instructive. It means that Freedom is made for man, not man for Freedom.  It means that Freedom can be lost, that we can forfeit it. It also means it can be reclaimed.  On a personal level this is best illustrated by man’s relationship to sin.  Sin strips us of freedom.  It chains us – makes us slaves to ourselves and our base desires.  It is this slavery – this non-freedom – that compels men towards greed, towards accumulating power and wealth and profit as an end in itself. It is what propels us to use other people .   This utilitarianism is quite apparent in the Marxist model.  It is also present in a Free-Market that is devoid of the morals and “laws written in the hearts of men and women.”   So one can be living in a so called “free society” and yet not be free.   Conversely, one can also be living in what would be considered a society devoid of freedom (think North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela etc) and be free.  Interior Freedom is not dependent upon circumstances. It is dependent upon one’s relationship with God.  It is linked to Faith.  It is written in our hearts. If we are free to Love God – and truly it is only sin that can remove from us our ability to love God – then not even man, not even death can take from us our Freedom.  Freedom to Love – to love our neighbor as ourselves, to love even our enemies, to Love God above all else. This Freedom is not contingent upon our circumstances. It is not dependent up on a Government, a society or even other people. It is Freedom in its deepest sense.

But what of our first definition? “Freedom to do as we ought?” Isn’t this more of a public form of freedom? Well, on the surface it certainly seems that way, and we will address it in a moment, but if we ask ourselves “What is it that I ought to do?”  we will again arrive at the same answer: I must love God above all else, I must love my neighbor and love my enemy. I must love.” That is what I ought to do. It is why we were created; to know, love and serve God in this life so we may worship and adore Him for all eternity in the next.   Again, this knowing, loving, and serving Him is not contingent upon our external circumstances, but rather on our interior state.

Now, when it comes to an American concept of freedom you can usually assume that it is the external, societal freedom that is being spoken of.  Here we can also rely on both definitions given to us by Pope John Paul II.  According to him, a society would be defined as free if the individuals in that society were able to do as they ought. Not at they want, but as they ought.  This is where we usually see a discussion of the difference between freedom and licence. A free society is not a society that allows its citizens to do whatever they want, whenever they want.  Our more libertarian friends sometimes have a difficult time with this definition. That is because they are thinking in terms of licence, not of freedom.  Remember that Freedom, when not tied in with the laws of conscience, when it has no purpose, “turns against society.”  This is anarchy. It is not freedom.  This is why we have laws. Laws, according to the Catholic understanding of them, are necessary to maintain and protect freedom. They are not meant to detract from it.  When a law is created from one’s conscience and is bound to the natural and moral laws, that law promotes freedom. It allows for the individuals of a society to “do as they ought.”   Think of the Ten Commandments – the Law of Moses. These laws ensured freedom to the Israelites.  They created an atmosphere and a societal framework in which Israel could flourish – and do as they ought; namely, Obey and Worship the I Am. God.  When any of those laws were broken (or are broken today) because someone took the licence to break them, what follows is not freedom, but a breakdown of freedom and a harming of the society.

The Natural and Moral laws written on our hearts cannot be separated from real freedom.  These laws of nature provide a framework in which we can “do as we ought.”  It is when laws begin to ignore the natural order and the morality that is stamped on our hearts that we see freedom being eroded.  When laws cease to be about ensuring that a society may do as it ought , that  society is no longer a free society.  We can see this in any number of examples: mandating that individuals pay for certain items that they may not want limits their ability to do as they ought.  Even if they “ought” to buy these things for their own good, the act of ordering them to do so and taking away their ability to decide to do as they ought limits their freedom.  Forcing people to do good (ie: spreading the wealth around) takes away a person’s ability to do as he or she ought (give to the poor). This is not freedom.  You cannot legislate freedom and a Government cannot bestow it.  The most a government can do is create an atmosphere that is conducive to freedom – a societal framework that allows individuals to do as they ought, and that respects the moral and natural laws that are written in the hearts of men and women.

Now one more time we need to mention what it is that I ought to do.  If we are to look at this through the paradigm of Catholicism than I already answered the question above: what I ought to do is seek to know, love and serve God, and to love my neighbor as myself.  We discussed what this looked like personally within the understanding of personal freedom, but what about publicly?  How does one “do as one ought” within the framework of society?  Simply put, Freedom in this context would constitute free exercise of religion. The ability to publicly live and express one’s Faith.  If the purpose of Freedom is to do as one ought, and if what one ought to do is know, love, and serve God, and love neighbor, then it stands to reason that within our definition of a free society, individuals must be accorded the opportunity to practice this “doing as they ought” with respect to their neighbors and fellow members of society.  This is the external definition of Freedom.  This is where we can easily see if a society is free or not.

Taken in this context, one could logically conclude that the economy of the society would flow from the ability or inability of its members to do as they ought, not determine their ability for them.  The economics of a society are the result of the freedom or non-freedom of a society, not the determining factor.  To take it a step further, I would argue that the more free (internally) individuals there are within a society, the more likely the the society is to be free (externally), and the economy of that society would at once be the product of and conducive to freedom – placing the human person and his or her dignity (and therefore his or her ability to do as they ought) as the object of that economy’s success.

Now take a look at the converse. I will even go so far as to suggest thinking of America in this example.  The more individuals enslaved to themselves and their base desires (internally) within a society, the more that society will limit the (external) freedom of its members – limiting or prohibiting them from doing as they ought in the public square – the more that economy will focus on wealth, power, greed, etc as its object, thereby reducing the human person as a means to an end, further limiting the (external) freedom of the individuals.

You see, I don’t need to name economic systems in this example. Whether they are communist, capitalist, Marxist, Utopian, trickle-down, distributist, anarchist, mercantile, Keynesian, feudal….etc is primarily irrelevant to our discussion of Freedom.  Of course you can look at our above examples and make some educated deductions as to which economic systems would best flow from a Free Society, but I shall leave that for you to deduce on your own. Besides, you already know what I think on that subject anyway!

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Fox News vs Pope Francis

national-prayer-day-cropped-proto-custom_2First it was The New York Times. Then it was MSNBC.  Next it was the HuffPo, Mother Jones, Time Magazine, Life Magazine… All to be expected. But then it was Rush Limbaugh. Now its Fox News.  Yes, its gang up on Pope Francis time and Catholics everywhere…. do what exactly?

The first bunch I expect. Heck, if the New York times didn’t misrepresent Pope Francis I’d be nervous. But Rush? Fox News? Et tu, Brute? Rush Limbaugh’s astounding ignorance I addressed here.  Enjoy.  But I have been stewing about the article posted on Fox News’ website this week.  I was actually going to go line by line and refute (and possibly mock) everything that was said.  But then Mark Shea wrote a brilliant piece here and saved me the trouble. (and he is a published writer with, ya know, an instant audience. Its all good, I say my Litany of Humility… )

Mr. Shea got me thinking though, after my initial relief, “Whew! Now I don’t need to go line by line,”  I started to really think and I realized, that this is EXACTLY to be expected, and, ironically, its EXACTLY what Pope Francis was talking about.  Let me elaborate.

The latest bru-haha with Pope Francis that has the likes of Rush and Fox all stirred up revolves around the Document Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). Particularly his alleged “condemnation of capitalism.”  Now, before we go further lets clear that up – Pope Francis did not outright condemn capitalism. He condemned the idolatry of money and rightly pointed out that idolatry of money and greed can be found within every economic system – including capitalism.  Now does that sound scandalous? No more scandalous than “Man cannot serve two masters, God and mammon.”  Nevertheless, Pope Francis is now being attacked by those who, while not necessarily the first to come to his defense, would at least normally give him the benefit of the doubt.

Why?

Before I answer that, I want to share an excerpt from the article by Mark Shea (bold emphasis mine):

And sure enough, it is the strategy of FOX who–swimming in money and able to pick from a vast pool of real talent ranging from Fr. Robert Sirico on the Right, to Fr. Robert Barron in the center, or John Allen, Jr. on the Left (all of whom have sufficient credentials to offer something like a serious analysis and critique of Francis’ thought)–instead tapped a young video game reviewer named Adam Shaw to pen the hit piece. Why? Because hit pieces need no qualifications beyond “I was raised Catholic and I can tell you…” The unthinking platitudes, shallow analysis and mendacity can flow, unencumbered by the thought process when your sole goal is to poison the well.  Then all you need do is make sure Drudge links it (as he dutifully has) and the conservative Catholics FOX seeks to poison against Francis are sent the clear message that this is not some Outsider attacking the Church, this is a True Catholic defending the Church from our dangerous new pope.

Now, why in the world would Fox News act so nefariously as to want to “Poison the well” of conservative Catholics? And furthermore, what in the world do we do about it?

In order to answer that we have to understand two very fundamental realities at play here: reality one – This is America. Reality two – America is not a Catholic country.noirish500_MG_7624

Americans (at least those with voices loud enough to be heard above, or at least amidst, the media noise) tend to see everything in political terms, ideologies and monikers. Liberals and Conservatives.  Democrats and Republicans.  Left and Right. Socialists and Capitalists, Communists and Patriots… The problem is, “Catholic” doesn’t squarely fit into any of those.  Catholicism isn’t an ideology. Its a religion. Its a faith. It is who you are, not what you are.  In America this is a problem.  Its also grounds for a lot of misunderstanding and mistrust.  “Christianity” in America has never included Catholicism.  (This leads us to our second point, and makes it necessary for me to mention that Catholicism IS a Christian religion. It is “Christocentric” meaning, centered on Jesus Christ; however for the purpose of this post it is necessary for me to differentiate between Catholicism and the other Christian denominations in the US).  In fact, Catholics in America were originally societal outcasts, being relegated to living only in Maryland, harshly persecuted, unable to find employment and subjected to extreme prejudice, and almost always at odds with American politics.  American Christianity, however – starting with the Puritans, Quakers and early Episcopalians and Lutherans  and developing into an evangelical, Baptist, and mainline Protestant conglomeration grew up largely along side the American political system.  This morphing of Christianity and politics has created an uniquely American Christian experience where the majority of Evangelical Christians and several Christian Denominations practically identify Capitalism, patriotism, and national pride as important parts of their “religious identity.”

Herein, my friends, lies what is at the root of this latest “conservative” attack on Pope Francis, and by default, the Catholic Church.  Pope Francis, in presenting the Truth (much the same as Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II did) and has stated that capitalism is not the be-all end-all of economics.  In fact, he was so brazen as to actually say that unfettered capitalism can become a breeding ground for materialism and greed and that this is unhealthy for a society, because an economic system not focused on people – real people – is an economic system that will end up harming them.  Now, for your average non-Catholic “bitter clinger” this is heresy! Capitalism and its defense have become such a part of mainstream Christian conservative culture that many are unable to separate it from their religious and political identities.  So here we have Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh and the like experiencing a knee – jerk reaction to what is, and always has been a Catholic economic philosophy.  The difference is that the “Left, Liberal” factions in America have been doing their utmost to claim Pope Francis as one of their own and twist his words to suit their needs.  This tactic may have been working up until they couldn’t ignore his no-nonsense words on abortion, contraception, and homosexual marriage.  They tried mightily to co-opt the new Pope to suit their liberal agenda when it came to sexual morals (which in their narrow world view, is all a Pope is really supposed to talk about).  But then Pope Francis did the unthinkable! He kept talking! And about a lot more than just moral issues confined to the bedroom! The left, still bent on trying desperately to make him out to be “on their side” kept reporting.  So now we have a left-leaning media trying to figure out why a Pope would talk about the economy and doing so while interpreting it all through their “American” paradigm, which we have already established, is a political one. This of course gets the right-leaning media all fired up. While correctly reporting how Pope Francis is – like his predecessors – holding fast to the teachings of the Church on sexual ethics, the right -leaning media starts having conniptions when they start reporting on his foray into economic theory. The problem is that Pope Francis is an “anomaly.”  He isn’t fitting into a box! He doesn’t fit the mold of either ideology!  The left could not successfully label him as a liberal, and the right is now terrified of him because he didn’t simply tout the glories of Capitalism. To those on both ends of the political ideological spectrum this is unthinkable, and since they can’t fit him squarely into their own small, ideological box, well, then he must be the enemy! So here we are, with the Left beating their chests and ranting over how he is a patriarchal, woman-hating man after all (but at least he understands the plight of the poor), and the Right grabbing their “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and snarking about how he “must” be a Marxist because he isn’t a die-hard Capitalist – which clearly means he isn’t a real Christian either and MUST be secretly supporting Obama (but at least he hasn’t backed down on abortion and gay marriage).

Truly, my friends, it’s laughable.

It’s hilarious.

It’s CATHOLIC.

Pope Francis is doing exactly what Christ did all those years ago. He is shaking things up. He is challenging us. He is speaking the Truth, unencumbered by ideology or politics. He is speaking in love, about love, and for love of Christ. He is Shepherding his Church.  He is walking the very walk he is calling the Church to. And the talking heads have no idea what to do about it. And that scares them.

Fear is a powerful motivator.  Fear is what motivated the hearts of those who placed Jesus on the Cross, and what martyred the early Christians.  Fear is what causes otherwise sane and conscientious people to lash out.  Its what makes Rush Limbaugh yell “Marxist” and Fox news try to alienate Conservative Catholics.

It’s time to pray and it’s time to be bold, because, my friends if you want to follow Christ, if you want to seek His Truth, well you aren’t going to fit into a box either.  Pope Francis is calling us to something much more radical than ideology. He is reminding us that all things – be they economics, sexual morals, or world hunger – MUST be centered first on Christ, and second, they must be at the service to the human person and his dignity.  When anything – economics included – ceases to be about the dignity of the person and instead becomes focused on the acquisition of wealth or things, or prestige, or power etc. for its own sake, than it is no longer good for society – or for the human person.  This philosophy, which is at the heart of Catholic social and economic teaching, isn’t going to mesh well with any American political party. It is going to challenge both the right and the left’s perceptions of reality. It’s going to be considered a threat by the mainline Protestants and Evangelicals who have adopted a political ideology as part of their faith.

Be Not Afraid. 

You were born for this. You are part of the Church Militant! We have a Shepherd in Pope Francis who is sharing the Gospel in a way that is touching lives, opening hearts, and turning the status quo on its head. Be ready to have his back! Be ready to share the faith! Be ready to be a part of this New Evangelization and not only defend your faith, but invite others to come experience it!  Truth is attractive, my friends! The media, and those in it would have us believe that the Truth is divisive. We know better.  “The Truth will set you free.”  Lets us join our Holy Father in proclaiming it. IMG_1538

 

****A note to my dear non-Catholic friends who may be a tad miffed at me.****

If you know me, then you know I do not judge.  This post is in no way a judgement on the character or depth of the faith of any one of you.  Rather, it is an observation of an unique American reality – the coupling of faith and politics that is part of our American culture.  In other parts of the world this same sort of cultural phenomenon can be found – Poland for example and some of the old European nations have a vast cultural experience that intertwines an old world Catholicism into the fabric of their political systems. Granted they are becoming more and more secular, but the fact remains that many nations have built cultures upon a religious identity and have over time combined religious and political thought into an ideology.  So please do not take my observations as disrespect or indifference. That, as you can see, is not how they are intended.

On another note, if you feel so inclined to learn more about Catholicism, I leave you with this thought from Ven. Fulton Sheen, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

Catholic means “Universal” – our doors are always open!

(Sorry, couldn’t help it.)

 

 

A Response to Rush Limbaugh

Well, folks, its the day before Thanksgiving and I am prepping for a houseful, yet here I sit writing a blog post. (Something I haven’t done in a while because well, life gets in the way.) So why am I sitting here pounding the keys instead of baking and cleaning?  Because I need to set something straight.  Over the past few days as parts of Evengelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) are being passed around press and social media, I have had more than one debate over the accusation of Pope Francis being a Marxist.  Today Rush Limbaugh took it upon himself to become another voice in that small, loud, misinformed chorus. Where are they getting this idea? Quotes like this: “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies” and (gasp) this one: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Oh yes, Karl Mark is clapping his hands in his grave. Not.  Seriously, Pope Francis uses the phrase “common good” and people go ape.

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I generally like Rush. I enjoy hearing his take on things, mostly political things, and I am intrigued by his foray into children’s historical literature. But I have to say, this is one of the the 0.04 times he is wrong. (You know, he monitors his correctness and is right “99.6 percent of the time…”)

So because I can’t bear an accusation against our Holy Father and feel it is my duty and privilege as a daughter of the Church to defend him, here it goes.

Mr. Limbaugh: (My kids used to call you Uncle Rush and knew that the sound of your intro music meant lunch time here on the East Coast), and those who accuse Pope Francis of being a Marxist:

He is not. Eloquent of me, no?

Let me expand on that.

Pope Francis spent has spent much of his life fighting many of the scary “isms” that he is accused of ascribing to. He has a history of personally saving people from the government in Argentina. He has never been a Marxist, Communist, or Socialist. And he never will be. American Catholics tend to forget that Catholicism is not an ideology.  We in America think in terms of politics and ideologies.  Are you a Conservative? Are you a Democrat? Are you a capitalist? For a Catholic the answer to all would be “no, I am a Catholic.”  Catholicism isn’t an ideology. Its not a economic principle, and its not political party. Its bigger than that.  Its also a lot more simple and a lot more complex.  What do I mean?  I mean its simple because everything in Catholicism is going to spiral towards one end: Christ.  And within that spiral, within that move towards Christ is another very simple end: the dignity of the Human Person.  Therefore, as the Church proclaims the Truth, she keeps two things in mind: that all leads to Christ and that the dignity of each person is paramount, because after all, each person is made in the image of God, and each person, as Mother Teresa so famously pointed out, is a Christ in disguise.  Recognizing that my fellow humans are created in God’s image, however imperfect they are, is what should motivate my political leanings, my economic decisions etc.  This is where it gets complex.  Catholics (Practicing Catholics) don’t fit neatly into a ideological box. Just ask Sean Hannity.

Catholics are pro-life, and anti-death penalty. This means they don’t fit into the Conservative and Liberal boxes. They are not isolationist when it comes to immigration, and they don’t think massive deportation is the end-all-be-all of illegal immigration but they believe each country has a right to determine its own immigration policy and enforce those laws.  There go the hard lines differentiating between Republican and Democrat.  Catholics believe in the principle of subsidiarity – returning decisions to the lowest level of Government involvement possible – but they also believe that it is the right of the Government to uphold Natural Law, which means sometimes taking a hard line and saying that some things are wrong all the time. That crosses off Socialism and Libertarianism. See what I mean?

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with a Pope who has a duty and feels it it necessary to remind the world that no “ism” is perfect and that money – even money that is exchanged in a capitalist system – can and often does become an idol. This isn’t Marxist. Its the Gospel. Seriously, its in there… more than once even.

If I had to assign an “ism” to Pope Francis, because lets face it, us Americans aren’t happy unless we can put someone into a box that labels them as something, well then I’d say Pope Francis is most likely a Distributist.  Now hold your horses. Not a “spread the wealth around” type. Far from it. Distrubitism is about as far from Marxist or Communist thought as Capitalism is. In fact, that’s the ONLY thing it has on common with it.  For a brief explanation of Distrubitism, I defer to Mark Shea:

Distributism is the wild idea that property, power, and wealth should not be concentrated in the hands of a few tyrants running the State, nor in the hands of a few oligarchs running a corporation, but should instead be owned by all human beings, who have a natural right to private property, work and the fruit of the labors supplying their needs and the needs of their families. It is hostile to both communism (the concentration of wealth, power and property in the hands of the State) and capitalism (the concentration of wealth, power and property in the hands of a few oligarchs). It is in favor of the ordinary person being able to use his gifts and talent to create goods and exploit resources for human flourishing. It favors private property, freedom, and human dignity that puts the person before Mammon. It prefers the small over the ginormous, the local over the multinational corporation, the family over the economic machine.

Now, that doesn’t sound Marxist to me. It sound like quite the opposite. In fact the only thing that Distributism and Marxism agree on is a critique of capitalism, but even those critiques are vastly different. According to the Distributist Review:

Distributism argues that the ownership of the means of production by the few makes economic independence and political influence by the many non-owners impossible, or at least unreasonably difficult; the solution to this is to encourage the wider distribution of productive property among the people. As G. K. Chesterton famously noted in The Uses of Diversity, “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” Marx, on the other hand, held that even the few private owners of productive property in capitalism are too many; the means of production should not be owned by anyone, but should rather be owned only by the state, making not only most but all of the people non-owning workers. In other words, Distributism’s complaint against capitalism is that the means of production are owned by too few; Marx’s is that they are owned by too many.

To put it very simply: Marxism wants the means of production within a society to be controlled by the government, or by a very few corporations that are in the pocket of the Government. Distributism wants it to be controlled by the people themselves. On an extremely local level.  The more the merrier – and the wealthier.

Distributism and Marxism further diverge on a philosophicaal basis.  Marxism being purely materialistic and Distributism being the exact opposite. Marxism and Capitalism actually have a commonality that is opposed Distributism; that of class and caste.  Marxism needs to have social classes in order to work. The Proletariat; the workers being the focus, and the owners of the means of production being the powerful others.  Capitalism is no different. Just look at America. We have arrived at what Hillaire Belloc called the “Servile State.”  We have classes of “haves” and “have-nots” and the disparity is growing.  Has that been exacerbated by a creeping socialism? Yes. But Capitalism, in its materialistic purest form, also leads to this same result.  It can’t not. By its very nature, there will eventually be those who push Capitalism to the brink, acquiring for themselves great masses of wealth and power, leaving those who work for them nothing else to do but reach toward some unattainable dream of one day owning their own means of production while never being able to attain it because Corporations and the Government are in each other’s beds.

Distributism is focused on the good of the society.  “Common good” refers to what is best for the people of society as a whole. It says that individuals have a right to self-determination.  It places the Government in the position of being a Guardian of the Good of the People – but not in a materialistic sense- in a sense that Natural Law, and the “Freedom to do as we ought” need to be protected. It says that massive Federal Bureaucracies are the antithesis of Freedom. Now, does that sound even remotely Marxist? No. It does not.

If you want an example of Distributist thought in action, look no further than the Solidarity Movement in Poland following the Second World War.  It was this movement that threw off the chains of Socialism in a peaceful, cultural, people-driven way.  This was not a Marxist “Rise of the Proletariat.”  Far from it. It was Marxist-Socialist thought that caused the peaceful Solidarnosc “Revolution.” This was Distributism in action in the 20th Century.

So my friends, please stop referring to the Holy Father as a Marxist.  Caring for the Common Good of all people is hardly something that Karl Marx had a corner on.  (I’m laughing because I hardly think he cared for the good of anyone except himself). Referring to money and greed as idols of the 21st century is not a Marxist thought. It is a Christian thought. It was Christ Himself who said, “You cannon serve two masters, God and mammon.”

Perhaps before making sweeping accusations against Peter’s Apostolic Successor, a little self-education is in order.  Of course, what do I know, I’m just a Catholic…

Sincerely,

Laura

 

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The most Bizarre Thing You Will Read About Abortion This Year, Thanks to Nancy Pelosi

In a bizarre response to Fr. Pavone’s Open Letter, House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi made the following comments.  (My observations are in blue).

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My faith is very deep and has been my whole life. I love my faith and my faith has nothing to do with whoever he [Father Frank Pavone] is.   Oh she knows who he is. If she didn’t she wouldn’t be responding.  And the Catholic Faith which she claims to have might have *something* to do with a priest, who is, according to that same faith, “In the Person of Christ the Head.”

The arrogance of it all! It’s like something ancient, medieval….   Ahh appealing to the tired, old, second-wave feminist sisterhood for back-up.  Next can we expect bra-burning?

The Church taught me as I was growing up that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live up to a moral standard. And I respect women’s judgment and values to do that. Whether this priest thinks his judgment should be another woman’s judgment is absolutely ridiculous to me. But nonetheless it’s what they say.  Absolutely ridiculous? What I think is absolutely ridiculous is the moral relativism veiled in an attempt to be upholding the dignity of women in this asinine paragraph. While the Church was teaching you about “Free will”, did she not also teach you about sin, Madame Minority Leader?  Because Priests DO have a right, nay, an obligation to inform the faithful (you say you are faithful, right?) about sin. Its not his judgement, its God’s. “This priest’s” job is to help you get the message. 

I grant the Church where they are on abortion. That’s where they are, that’s where they have to be. But my faith isn’t about what their position is.  This is the one that boggles my mind. So basically, what the former Speaker is saying, is that she is in fact, not Catholic?  I mean how else can this be interpreted? 

My faith is about, Christ is my savior, the church is his church, and has nothing to do with Priests for Life….   Well it might have a little bit to do with Priests for Life…hey…wait a minute..didn’t she say she didn’t know who Fr. Pavone was?  Silly, Nancy, you almost had me there! 

I wouldn’t even dignify whatever it is they said. It was a highly emotional statement that they made. If it were more intellectual I might have paid attention to it. He was acting hysterically. Hmmm… yet you felt it necessary to make a completely nonsensical rebuttal, what some might say is a fairly hysterical (read also hilarious) attempt at defending a position you were called out on.  

The ruse is up, Mrs. Pelosi, the cat is out of the bag.  You were called out, someone finally had the courage to stand up and say, No, you are in fact NOT acting or speaking as a Catholic and I think you are afraid that you are, in fact, being found out.  Using Catholicism for political purposes is disingenuous and quite frankly, old news.  

You know what, I think that we should give Mrs. Pelosi the benefit of doubt. After all, we are all sinners in need of Christ’s redemption, and we absolutely MUST pray for our Public Leaders, even as we emulate Fr. Pavone, and in charity, speak the Truth to the them.  I think, as a fellow Catholic, in the spirit of “am I my brother’s (ahem, sister’s) keeper” I am going to send Mrs. Pelosi a Catechism.  I will even highlight the sections that she will find most helpful.  Who will join me?  Who will send Mrs. Pelosi a Catechism?  If you can’t afford to send the whole big book, I recommend photocopying the appropriate sections.  Let’s start something here: Send Mrs. Pelosi a Catechism.  How appropriate during the Fortnight for Freedom, no?  (Oh, and when you send it, say a sincere prayer that it will touch her heart, and that she will be open to the Truth.  The Truth will set you free…) 

Nancy Pelosi’s Office Addresses:

Washington DC Office:

235 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

San Francisco Office:

90 7th Street, Suite 2-800
San Francisco, CA  94103

Relevant Catechism References:

Abortion: CCC 2271, 2274, 2770, 2272, 1867 (sin that cries to Heaven)

Priesthood: 1544-45, 1562-68, 1572, 1143, 1142, 1551, 1548 (in the person of Christ the Head), 900, 983, 1461-67

Holy Orders: (Capacity [of Priest] to act as Christ’s Representative) 1581

Sin: 1849-50, 1868, 943, 1866, 1867, 1854, 1869 (social sin), 1434-39 (ways to obtain forgiveness of sin)

Credit to JillStanek.com for the text of Pelosi’s letter and to ThinkProgress.org, June 24, “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “laughs off” Fr. Frank Pavone’s open letter denouncing her for calling abortion “sacred ground”‘ for first printing the text.

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Out With the Old…What are We To Do?

Having made a bit of a name for myself in some conservative, TEA Party, and political circles I have been asked more than a few times “What are we going to do!?” ever since November 6th.  On the cusp of a New Year, and the brink of careening off a fiscal cliff, I think perhaps its time to answer.  Image

What am I going to do?  I am going to pray.  I am going to continue to home school.  I am going to work to change the culture through the Guiding Star Project.  I am going to exercise my second amendment rights.  And I am going to have babies, God willing.

You must be out of your mind. You actually want to bring more children into this mess!?

Why yes, yes I do.

We are in an abysmal state here in America.  Taxes are about to skyrocket, food prices keep going up, the price of gas is going to rise again, the cost of living is astronomical compared to what it was a few years ago.  Healthcare costs are going to rise while doctors become scarce.  The HHS mandate could plunge us into a medical disaster as Catholic Hospitals close across the country.  Its going to become more dangerous to be a Catholic.  And yet….

God is still God.  He is still watching over us and caring for us.  He is sill the God of miracles who can and will provide for us – if we let Him.  Over and over again His Word tells us children are blessings.  We need blessing now more than ever!  Should He allow us to bring more children into the world, it will not only bless us, but it will bless the world too.  In the face of the contraceptive culture that is being rammed down our proverbial throats, what better way to witness to an openness to life?  Yes, we WILL be open to any and all new life that God sends us. I am more than ready to be counter-cultural to the extreme. *gasp* A lady who doesn’t buy into the contraceptive garbage and who believes she is empowered by her ability to give birth  – not hindered by it!  Yep, that’s me!

How better can we bring about the change that is so desperately needed in our nation than to raise up Holy, informed, well educated, young men and women of faith!?  In this time of moral relativism, uncertainty, and declining social skills how better to save our culture and society than by teaching our kids the arts of rhetoric and logic; the skills of debate and argument.  What better way to reclaim our society than to form the minds and hearts of the leaders of the next generation – ready to serve and grounded in Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Wisdom?   This is what I plan to do, with God’s help, to the best of my ability.  All is not lost.  There are faithful citizens across the “Fruited Plain” who are doing just this.  We will see the fruits of our labor as these, our children, grow older.  But it doesn’t mean we do not have to fight for them now. There is a war being waged for the hearts and minds of our children.  As parents, as adults, as educators, we MUST prevail.  We must not allow an overblown Government to strip us of our rights as parents.  We cannot let our children become wards of the “nanny state.”  They are our responsibility.  It is our privilege and our task to raise and educate them.  No one else’s.

ImageWe also cannot sit by and allow our culture to become so debased that we don’t recognize it at all.  This is why I am now working for the Guiding Star Project.  I realized that politics wasn’t going to cut it.  Politicians are sort of like symptoms.  They are only as “good” as our culture.  If our culture is sick, the politics Washington churns out will be even sicker.  If our culture is strong and morally grounded, the politics of Washington will reflect that as well.  So I stepped aside from my political work and decided to work on the culture.  What a gem I have found!

The Guiding Star Project truly speaks to my heart, and actually to the mission I had in mind back when I created this blog! Guiding Star is at the forefront of promoting New Feminism  – the kind Papa John Paul II urged for.  The mission is to open Guiding Star Centers — holistic, pro-life centers nationwide that will unite pro-life and pro-women resources to provide support for natural means of family planning, fertility care, childbirth, breastfeeding, and family life.  I urge you to check them out, and if you can, make a contribution.  We are a non-profit, and are poising ourselves to take on Planned Parenthood – that’s no easy or cheap feat!  The response has been overwhelmingly positive and I really look forward to what the next year will bring!

So there you have it.  That is my plan for the New Year and beyond.  Things may have looked bleak after November, but they are not impossible.  They may be challenging, but I’m up for a challenge!  The important question is, will you join me?  Will you join me in taking this culture head on?  Will join me in not being afraid to live the Truth, speak the Truth, and witness to it?  Will you join me in not backing down when our faith is challenged or ridiculed?  Will you join me, together on our knees? Will you….

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Ideological Blahs and Gun Control

We have baby birds.  Four of them.  Nestlings now, since they have grown out of the hatchling phase.  They are safely in their nest in our grape arbor and all day long they peep the most ear-piercing sound I have ever heard.  I actually took an aspirin because my head was throbbing from hearing their helpless high-pitched squawks all day long as the parent birds continuously fed them. 

Why am I talking about birds?  Because the intensely annoying sound these helpless little things make reminds of the noise that hard-core ideologues make.

You know the type, the people who can take any event, comment, circumstance or holiday and put on a political spin on it and then use it to serve their own ideological values.  Then they don’t stop harping on it.  I know this type because I went through a phase like it myself.  (it takes one to know one?) Happily though,  I have matured through that stage in life and (if you read my last post you would already know) I am happy to simply identify myself as a faithful Catholic.

What has me on this anti-ideology rant?

See if this sounds familiar:

A crazed lunatic gunman enters a movie theater in Colorado and kills 12 innocent people, while wounding about 50 others.

The breaking news story as reported by the “liberal” press is that he is  T.E.A. Party member.   The liberal ideologues celebrate and cheer.

This is later proven false, the network apologizes.

Later it is discovered that the gunman was a member of the “Occupy Movement.”  The Conservative ideologues cheer and celebrate.  The media is silent.

The same day we begin to hear calls for gun control.  The liberals rallying around the horrible crime and proclaiming that it never would have happened if the government would just “get the guns already.”  The Conservatives for their part start their own raving and ranting about how it was a “No Gun Zone” and if someone had a gun they could have taken out the gunman.  Both ends of the ideological spectrum screaming and reciting their lines by rote.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

“How many innocent people have to die before there are stricter gun control laws passed?”

“Protect the Second Amendment!”

“Ratify the UN Small Arms Treaty NOW!”

And around and around in circles they go.

Now, for the record, I am what ideologues call “Pro Second Amendment.”  I have an NRA sticker on my minivan and since I can’t haul around a policeman with me everywhere I go, I will settle for a Kimber micro-pistol tucked safely in my purse (or diaper bag) and pray I never ever have to use it.  That said, the talking points that are being spewed by both sides make me ill.

Now that we are in the throes of Presidential Political Mania everyone is looking for a political angle.  But that, my friends, isn’t exactly reality.  More often than not, evil is just evil.  It’s not concerned with ideology insofar as it allows the evil to happen.

And Evil happens.

That is what happened in Colorado.  An evil act carried out by a very sick, twisted individual.  What the gunman did was plain evil.  He should be punished and not made out to be some quasi-ante-hero, glorified by the never-ending news cycle.  Instead he should receive swift justice and then his name should not be spoken of.  He should receive counseling and if necessary an exorcism or prayers of deliverance. (For truly how can anyone commit such acts and NOT be under the willed influence of evil?)  We shall pray for his conversion and hope he repents.

There is a twistedness in our culture that makes us fascinated by those who commit acts such as these.  Remember the Uni-Bomber Halloween Costumes?  How much to you want to bet there will be people dressing up like this lunatic gunman?  We need to call a spade a spade, er, call evil, evil and then move on offering prayers and support to the families whose lives were forever changed that early morning.

Yet we have those who profess to be compassionate using this incident, as they use so many others, to advance a purely political agenda.  This is sick, folks.  Those families aren’t concerned with the political ramifications of what happened.  They want their loved ones back.  They want to be healed and whole.  They want this despicable deed to have never happened.   They deserve our compassion, our love, and our respect for their deceased.  NOT our politically motivated ideological spewing.

There is a time and place for politics, but politicizing a tragedy is beneath the decency of our humanity and I for one am quite sick of it.   I think I will go back and listen to the cheeping, squawking baby birds now.  At least their noise is innocent.

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I am NOT a Conservative…

Something has been troubling me as of late.  I am attempting to put it to words here and hope to do justice to the Truth behind what I am about to write.

As you may or may not know, I have been quite busy in the political arena over the last year.  That (and a very serious hospitalization) have prevented me from writing as often and regularly as I would like.  My foray into politics has been quite an adventure, and as I become more involved I find myself facing a serious dilema.  I’m not a Conservative!

(the music stops and the soundtrack screeches as it rewinds)

That got your attention didn’t it?  I know what you are thinking,  “I’ve read your posts on here, hun, and you are so far “Right” that you put “Left” in its own time zone. 

Still I assure you,  I have to admit,  I am not a Conservative.  I say this with conviction.

What am I, then?

I am a Catholic.  A faithful Catholic. Yes, I am an American.  I am proud of my country.  I believe in the Founding Principles and the vision of the Founding Fathers.  I defend the Constitution and demand the same of my elected officials.  (Actually, I’d be floored if most of them would just READ it!)  I say the Pledge of Allegiance with my kids every morning and Sing “God Bless America” as loudly as I can.  I am your typical Southern “Gun-toting, Bible-reading, pro-life, bitter-clinger, less Government, more private enterprise, birther.”  I dress my kids up in red, white and blue and march on the Capitol when Congress disregards the will of the people.  All of this would seemingly qualify me for the ideological crown “Conservative.”  Yet, I do not subscribe to it.  I will not simply call myself a “Conservative.”  “Catholic Conservative”….eh…. maybe.

Why do I bother to make the distinction?  Because too often those who clothe themselves in ideological garments forget that ideologies are not perfect.  In fact ideologies can become a quasi-religion and that is dangerous ground.  Ideologies create “group think”  and “group think” lends itself to distortion and too easily forgets the Truth.  You see, when you have “Group Think” you cease to have individual persons thinking for themselves.   You also end up with issues that become “black and white” and sometimes they really aren’t that simple. Image

What got me started on this politically themed tirade is none other than President Obama’s blatant disregard for our Constitution and his defacto Executive Order granting “amnesty” (immunity…call it what you will) to thousands of illegal immigrants.  Now before you get upset at what I am going to say next, let  me preface it with this:  What Obama did was WRONG.  He went outside the law and that is not acceptable.  The President is not above the law nor is he above the Constitution and his enumerated powers.  The Obama Administration’s complete lack of respect not only for the will of the people in this nation but for our laws as well is astonishing and frightening.  Furthermore, this action is so obviously a campaign stunt to appeal to a particular voting demographic its embarrassing.  He is using a group of people (in this case illegal immigrants) to play political games.  This is disingenuous at best and cold-hearted utilitarianism at worst.

That said, I have to admit that it is this issue that has crystalized for me the reasons why I am not purely “Conservative.”  I have seen and heard so much hatred and anger from self-proclaimed conservatives directed not only at the President but at “illegals”  that I have been cringing. The issue of immigration reform is widely accepted as a Conservative platform issue.  We all know the hot points: secure the border, enforce the laws on the books, empower the states to protect themselves, no amnesty, deport deport deport and so on.   The problem is, in becoming – dare I say it – ideologically narrow minded – is that conservatives become issue focused and not people focused.

That, my friends is at the crux of my dilemma.  It is why I will not settle for being called a “Conservative.”  I believe that politics should be and must be person-centric.  Not issue-centric.  Not group-centric. Person-centric.  Conservatives on the whole tend to be person-focused when it comes to the unborn (except sometimes the suffering mom, the poor abortion minded woman gets stuck in the crossfire).  But when it comes to other issues, especially immigration, person-centric politics goes out the window.   This is troubling.  It is also dangerous for a Nation who is striving to get back to her Judeo-Christian roots.

I am completely in agreement that those who break our laws should be held responsible.  A Nation who enables law breaking is sick.  A Nation who encourages it is even sicker.  I believe that the path to citizenship should be streamlined and made accessible to those who wish to become Americans.   I am all for English as a National Language and for tight border security.  I am not, however, in agreement that illegal immigrants are evil bloodsuckers that are sucking the life-blood out of our country.  They are people.   Lumping them into an ambiguous group “illegals”  dehumanizes them, and therefore makes it easier on our consciences to say things about them that one would never think of saying to them in person.

The issue of illegal immigration is NOT as easy as “deport deport deport” simply because it is an issue about people.  As such, we must approach the issue while keeping the person- their plight, their situation, and their dignity – at the center of it.  If we do this we can then, and only then, begin to develop an answer to how we solve the problem that illegal immigration is to our society.  I do not pretend to have a full and comprehensive solution at the ready.  I do have some ideas on how we keep the issue focused on people and not on depersonalized groups. But more importantly, my goal here is to point out that my Faith informs me that I cannot simply subscribe to an ideology that may cause me to forget or give up my understanding of politics as service to people, and that even in the case of illegal immigrants, who many argue are not deserving of the benefits of our politics, we still MUST be focused on their individual humanity.  They are still people and any immigration solution we develop must respect their dignity as such.

These are heady issues, and in many cases, if we strive to see political issues through the light of Truth and Faith we are forced beyond the confines of pure ideology or political party politics.  This is GOOD!  This is going out into the deep and seeking to see persons, nations, and issues through the eyes of Christ.  Christ was compassionate, He was also Just.  Surely if we see the issues facing us today through HIS eyes, we can come up with solutions and laws that reflect not only Justice but that are created for the good of the people that this Nation’s politics serve.

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