Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: An Opportunity for Authentic Protestant-Catholic Dialogue

Nov 26th, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

On the close of the Year of Faith, Pope Francis has promulgated an Apostolic Exhortation titled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). A pdf version of the document is available here. This is the first papal document largely written by Pope Francis himself. Though the document cannot adequately be reduced to one sentence, it aims at reforming and renewing the Church in her mission of bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world. It does this by focusing on seven areas: a) the reform of the Church in her missionary outreach; b) the temptations faced by pastoral workers; c) the Church, understood as the entire People of God which evangelizes; d) the homily and its preparation; e) the inclusion of the poor in society; f) peace and dialogue within society; g) the spiritual motivations for mission. The document affords an opportunity for Protestants and Catholics to find more common ground and new ways to work together toward greater mutual understanding and reconciliation. In the forthcoming days in the comment box below we will be discussing this document and its ecumenical implications. I’d especially like to hear from our Protestant readers regarding this document. In what ways do you see this document advancing Protestant-Catholic reconciliation? What challenges does it raise or entail with respect to ecumenical dialogue? For all our readers, in what ways does this document challenge or help you? What part or parts raise questions for you? Discuss.

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Pope Francis prays while holding a small casket containing the bones of St. Peter, on the last day of the Year of Faith

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  1. Here’s one initial observation. In the section labeled “III. From the Heart of the Gospel” (paragraphs 34-39), Pope Francis explains the importance of situating the law in the context of the gospel. His explanation here further illuminates his comments to Fr. Spadaro in September regarding the issues of abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. (See comment #158 in the “Habemus Papam” thread.)

  2. In paragraph 95, Pope Francis criticizes those who have an “ostentatious preoccupation with the liturgy,” and I wonder to whom he refers. Presumably, every Catholic who comments here is very concerned about the liturgy being celebrated correctly and reverently. I live in a region of the US where abuses in the liturgy happen every day, and a reverent atmosphere is rare to find. So am I being criticized here?

    It just seems like the things that I care about – a solemn liturgy, sound doctrinal teaching, etc. – are not priorities for Pope Francis. In fact, in paragraph 27, he talks about a “missionary option” where everything can change to suit evangelization on the ground. So should I give up on my efforts to get the liturgy and catechesis where I live back to sanity?

  3. 1. What is the authoritative weight of such a document?

    2. I found paragraphs 53-60 interesting yet a bit ambiguous (perhaps intentionally). The Pope is careful to stress how society no longer recognizes the dignity of the human person, particularly the excluded, and the poor. He also speaks of the “idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.” However, the ambiguity comes in when he critiques what he calls “…trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market…”. He refers to the earnings of a minority growing and a new tyranny forming as a result. But he also encourages the rich to be generous, saying

    The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor.

    My confusion is that his exhortations and critiques are so general (perhaps intentionally) that it is difficult to discern what he telling Catholics to support. The general message of supporting the dignity of the excluded, giving to the poor, and actually recognizing the poor and excluded persons of society is loud and clear. The policies he is criticizing or supporting are not.

    For example, NJ this month voted to raise the minimum wage. Many people would argue this is good for low-skilled workers because it raises their wage, while others argue it is either pointless (if they were already making above the new Min. Wage) or harmful to low-skilled workers as it causes more unemployment among them. I wonder if the Pope would criticize Catholics who voted against raising the minimum wage.

    Peace,
    John D.

  4. I was particularly drawn to the section on “the homily” (3:2 and 3:3) but like most commentators treated these in isolation as if they made up some sort of recipe book for sermons. It is not be accident that this was fitted in to the context of 3:1 which describes the ministry of the whole people of God. Joined thus, pastoral sensitivity to the local context and language is more than just a strategic advantage for the preacher; it is the preacher occupying his (or her) place within the whole people of God.

  5. Cormano, (re: #2)

    His criticism is not of those who have an “ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy,” but rather those who have “an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time.” He is not criticizing the rightly ordered concern for the beauty and reverence of the liturgy, but rather a disordered liturgical fixation devoid of concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and for the concrete needs of the present time. Our concern for the liturgy can never be rightly ordered if it is not accompanied by genuine love for our neighbor. If that’s not you, then you’re not being criticized.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  6. Our concern for the liturgy can never be rightly ordered if it is not accompanied by genuine love for our neighbor.

    Very well stated. Thank you.

  7. As a light aside, I love the fact that the Holy Father jokes in the Exhortation!

    We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them!

    (§135)

    Has that ever happened before in the entire history of the papacy’s publications? The personal touch of Pope Francis is quite surprising at times, and inspiring at others.

  8. JohnD (re: #3)

    As an apostolic exhortation, this document is not known to be infallible, but it is authentic teaching of the Magisterium requiring [of Catholics] adherence with religious submission of will and intellect. Here the purpose of the document seems not to be to teach or define doctrine, but to exhort the faithful to follow the practical guidelines he provides regarding evangelization. So we (Catholics) should adhere to these practical guidelines.

    Regarding paragraphs 53-60, you write:

    My confusion is that his exhortations and critiques are so general (perhaps intentionally) that it is difficult to discern what he telling Catholics to support. The general message of supporting the dignity of the excluded, giving to the poor, and actually recognizing the poor and excluded persons of society is loud and clear. The policies he is criticizing or supporting are not.

    Pope Francis is not here speaking at the level of particular policies, but is instead speaking at the level of principles, especially operating principles implicit within policies.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  9. For your readers who might be interested in an ebook version of Evangelii Gaudium: sperolaus.com/2013/11/download-evangelii-gaudium-ereaders-etc-mobi-epub-pdf-docx/

  10. Bryan (re:#8),

    Thanks for the reply.

    1. You said the document is not “known to be infallible” but does that mean it could be and we just don’t know it?

    2. Does authentic teaching require absolute adherence? For example, if Pope Francis were to assert that all Catholics should support a living wage in America of $12 an hour minimum, would Catholics be bound by conscience to obey?

    Peace,
    John D.

    PS – I’ll have more comment on the document when I sit down and read more of it.

  11. JohnD (re: #10)

    You said the document is not “known to be infallible” but does that mean it could be and we just don’t know it?

    Yes. When Catholic teaching does not meet the specified conditions for infallibility, this does not mean that the teaching contains errors; it means that we do not possess the guarantee that it is free from error, though of course it could be error-free.

    Authentic magisterial teaching requires religious submission of intellect and will. (See Donum Veritatis.) The Church’s competence does not extend to particular prudential judgments regarding the political application of moral principles in social circumstances, so she does not propose specific legislation (e.g. $12 an hour minimum wage). Of course she can and does teach concerning moral principles, such as that of providing workers with a just wage. (See CCC 2434, and paragraph 8 in Centesimus Annus.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  12. In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis writes of three dialogues that are involved in evangelism:

    238. Evangelization also involves the path of dialogue. For the Church today, three areas of dialogue stand out where she needs to be present in order to promote full human development and to pursue the common good: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – including dialogue with cultures and the sciences – and dialogue with other believers who are not part of the Catholic Church.

    One of those dialogues is ecumenical dialogue. Concerning ecumenical dialogue, he writes:

    244. Commitment to ecumenism responds to the prayer of the Lord Jesus that “they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). The credibility of the Christian message would be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions and the Church could realize “the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her”. We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face. Trusting others is an art and peace is an art. Jesus told us: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9). In taking up this task, also among ourselves, we fulfill the ancient prophecy: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares” (Is 2:4).

    245. In this perspective, ecumenism can be seen as a contribution to the unity of the human family. At the Synod, the presence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Rowan Williams, was a true gift from God and a precious Christian witness.

    246. Given the seriousness of the counter-witness of division among Christians, particularly in Asia and Africa, the search for paths to unity becomes all the more urgent. Missionaries on those continents often mention the criticisms, complaints and ridicule to which the scandal of divided Christians gives rise. If we concentrate on the convictions we share, and if we keep in mind the principle of the hierarchy of truths, we will be able to progress decidedly towards common expressions of proclamation, service and witness. The immense numbers of people who have not received the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot leave us indifferent. Consequently, commitment to a unity which helps them to accept Jesus Christ can no longer be a matter of mere diplomacy or forced compliance, but rather an indispensable path to evangelization. Signs of division between Christians in countries ravaged by violence add further causes of conflict on the part of those who should instead be a leaven of peace. How many important things unite us! If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another! It is not just about being better informed about others, but rather about reaping what the Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us. To give but one example, in the dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, we Catholics have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and their experience of synodality. Through an exchange of gifts, the Spirit can lead us ever more fully into truth and goodness.

    Our call to bring the gospel of Jesus to all the world requires us take very seriously the scandal of “the counter-witness of divisions among Christians.” Evangelism and ecumenism are thus not at odds, but bound together. Anyone who seeks to bring Christ’s gospel to the world must seek to overcome that which divides Christians.

  13. Hi Bryan,

    Do Catholics who advocate for free market capitalism stand outside the teachings of the Magisterium? In other words, are the disagreements among Catholics about free market capitalism actually true divisions from orthodox Catholic teachings or has the Church allowed for a spectrum of opinions on this matter within the scope of the teachings of the Magisterium?

    I ask these questions because some Catholic commentators seem to be publicly contradicting both one another and Pope Francis, as well as diluting and explaining away the Holy Father’s reflections about free market economies.

    In Christ,

    - Gene

  14. Gene (#13):

    The Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (§335) says:

    In the perspective of an integral and solidary development, it is possible to arrive at a proper appreciation of the moral evaluation that the Church’s social doctrine offers in regard to the market economy or, more simply, of the free economy: “If by ‘capitalism’ is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a ‘business economy’, ‘market economy’ or simply ‘free economy’. But if by ‘capitalism’ is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not 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, then the reply is certainly negative”.[701] In this way a Christian perspective is defined regarding social and political conditions of economic activity, not only its rules but also its moral quality and its meaning.

    In view of that, the disagreements among Catholic commentators about Pope Francis’ economics can be seen primarily not as disagreements about moral principle, but about the practical application of those principles. Specific economic prescriptions call for correct understanding of what “works” to achieve the agreed-upon ends, and what doesn’t. To some extent, that understanding depends on correct empirical analysis of what is actually the case, as distinct from what ought to be the case. There can be legitimate disagreement about that. And Pope Francis himself recognizes that. Thus:

    …neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems. Here I can repeat the insightful observation of Pope Paul VI: ‘In the face of such widely varying situations, it is difficult for us to utter a unified message and to put forward a solution which has universal validity. This is not our ambition, nor is it our mission. It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country (EG §184).

    Hope that helps.

    Best,
    Mike

  15. Hello Gene, (re: #13)

    I’ve been tied up this week with other responsibilities, and cannot respond adequately at the present for that reason. In the mean time, if you can look past the somewhat over-the-top rhetoric I think the substance of Mark Shea’s response to the Fox News piece against Pope Francis is accurate, as is Thomas Storck’s “Catholic Memory Loss and the Response to Evangelii Gaudium.” More in a few days.

    Update: Storck again (Feb 5, 2014)

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  16. Gene (re: #13)

    Do Catholics who advocate for free market capitalism stand outside the teachings of the Magisterium? In other words, are the disagreements among Catholics about free market capitalism actually true divisions from orthodox Catholic teachings or has the Church allowed for a spectrum of opinions on this matter within the scope of the teachings of the Magisterium?

    This question cannot be answered without first precisely clarifying and thus disambiguating what is meant by the term “free market capitalism,” because the term is used in different senses, and the answer to the question depends on what is and is not included within the concept the person has in mind when using the term, and whether what is not included is only accidentally not included, or is essentially excluded. I’ve carefully followed the post-EG conversation regarding economics, and what I have observed in general is a failure to recognize the absolute importance of carefully defining terms, before evaluating or criticizing positions or claims. (Hence the critical importance of the sort of definitional distinction Mike makes above in the quotation from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.)

    Let’s consider some paragraphs from EG:

    53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. 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? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

    Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

    Here Pope Francis is not speaking about the explicit content of any economic or business theory. He is speaking of the situation on the ground in places where, in fact, “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.” He is speaking of a society whose values are distorted, as reflected in what is considered important to that society, as this is reflected in what its news media report, which itself is determined in part by what media consumers want to see and hear. In such a society, the poor and suffering are absent-by-exclusion from the consciousness of the public life and conversation of that society. They simply don’t matter. This is not about which economic theory is most efficient, or floats the most boats. It is about the disorder of the values of such a society. A survival-of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog value system is indeed contrary to Catholic social teaching. And hence if by “free market capitalism” one is speaking of a value system that excludes and marginalizes and devalues the poor, the weak, the disabled, the disfigured, the uneducated, and thus violates the principle of solidarity, then yes, “free market capitalism” in that sense of the term is contrary to Catholic social teaching. If, however, by “free market capitalism” one is referring to an economic system that does not include or entail this set of disordered values, and makes room for adherence to the principle of solidarity, then no, “free market capitalism” in that sense of the term is not contrary to Catholic social teaching.

    The problem here arises, as you can see, when economics displaces philosophy by usurping philosophy, treating economic values as the only actual values, just as the error of scientism results when empirical, quantitative science displaces philosophy by usurping philosophy, treating quantitative empirical scientific truths as the only actual truths. Hence we can rightly call this philosophical error economism, as the economic equivalent of scientism.

    Perhaps we could look at the next paragraph in EG:

    54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

    Here again Pope Francis is not criticizing any economic theory per se, but rather the notion that the implementation of some such theory is or ever would be adequate to address the exclusion problem described above. The problem he is addressing is fundamentally rooted in a disordered set of values. If persons’ appetites are disordered, then economic demand will be disordered, and so then will supply, insofar as supply conforms to demand. And what are these disordered values? The prioritization of the pursuit and attainment of a particular affluent lifestyle over the basic needs of our struggling neighbors, over compassion or empathy for those suffering and in need around us, over feeling a need to help them. The problem is not an economic theory per se, but selfishness, egoism, and indifference. This set of disordered values is not merely an individual problem, but a social problem. It is transmitted and propagated throughout all the members of the society as a ‘way of life.’ Pope Francis calls it the “culture of prosperity.” This set of disordered values he refers to as a “culture of prosperity” has spread around the globe, leading to what he calls “a globalization of indifference.”

    Again, the object of criticism here is not an economic theory, but rather a set of values within which we as a society are fixated upon and thrilled with new products or shopping deals (e.g. “Black Friday”), but unmoved by and indifferent to the suffering and poverty of persons around us. Our focus is on more and better stuff, not needy persons. That’s the disordered and idolatrous value system he is criticizing, along with the notion that the solution to this problem is a trickle-down economics by which we don’t have to concern ourselves with the poor among us; we need only consume more, and let the trickle-down effect take care of the poor.

    Concerning this idolatry Pope Francis is quite frank in the very next paragraph:

    55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

    Here he explains the disorder as that in which we value money and consumption over human persons. So again, if by “free market capitalism” one is referring to something that does not include or entail this disordered set of values, then Pope Francis’s criticisms are not of “free market capitalism.” He continues:

    56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

    This paragraph gets at the heart of the issue. Here he criticizes ideologies that defend the “absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation” such that they reject the right of states charged with vigilance for the common good to exercise any form of economic control. The highest value, in ideologies of this sort, is “increased profits.” Nothing must stand in the way of increased profits. So here the problem is the disorder of placing the value of “increased profits” over the common good. The pursuit and advancement of the common good requires pursuing and advancing conditions that allow every member of the society to flourish, not just some. We cannot simultaneously pursue the common good while ignoring the poor; that would be a contradiction. Hence if by “free market capitalism” one refers to an ideology in which it is permissible anywhere to value “increased profits” over the common good, then yes, free market capitalism” in that sense of the term is contrary to Catholic social teaching.

    Pope Francis continues in the next paragraph:

    57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.

    Here again, the problem is not economic per se, but an economic philosophy that rejects ethics, and rejects the obligations and limitations ethics places upon the market and the pursuit of wealth. So here too, if by “free market capitalism” one refers to a theory in which the ethical obligation to the common good and to the poor is positively excluded or subordinated to the goal of pursuing profit or maximizing profit, then yes, “free market capitalism” in that sense of the term is contrary to Catholic social teaching.

    He continues:

    58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

    Here Pope Francis is urging that we return to the proper valuation of money as subordinate to the human person. This is the ethical truth economists and political leaders should recognize, and by which we should order economics and finance. The purpose of the market is to serve the common good, not to maximize profit at the expense of the common good. The “ethical approach” is one that recognizes that the common good is of greater value than the GDP, and thus that sacrificing the common good for the sake of advancing the GDP is unethical.

    59. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.

    Here Pope Francis is referring to the obligations of social justice, by which each society has an obligation to provide the conditions that allow and enable all persons, according to their nature and vocation, to participate actively and productively in society and to obtain what is their due. (See CCC 1928; see also 410-414 in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.) When the obligations of social justice are ignored, the result is violence and insecurity. The solution to that problem is not technology, but virtue, namely, justice. Of course Pope Francis is not endorsing or justifying violence, only describing the inevitable social consequences of violating social justice by adhering to a socioeconomic system that is “unjust at its root,” inasmuch as it disregards or deprioritizes social justice and the common good.

    In the last paragraph of this section he writes:

    60. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.

    Again here he points out that the economic mechanism [conceived as a system of values] according to which the actual value of things (including persons) is determined by markets, the contextual dynamic is survival of the fittest, and the goal is maximizing profit and consumption rather than advancing the common good, promotes inordinate consumption and significant social inequality. This engenders violence, and technology and weapons cannot restore true peace. Once again, if this is what is meant by “free market capistalism,” then yes, this is incompatible with Catholic social teaching.

    In a later section of the document, he writes:

    202. The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality,[173] no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

    Structural causes of poverty are any social or economic or political arrangements which by their very nature bring about as a consequence the impoverishment of some persons from the goods and resources needed for human dignity. Pope Francis gives the “absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation” as an example of such a structural cause of poverty. By “absolute autonomy” he does not mean that such markets have no regulation. (Hence the response by critics, “Where are there any unregulated markets?” attacks a straw man.) Rather, he is referring to markets that are not governed and guided in relation to service to and advancement of the common good. This problem is not ultimately solved by welfare projects, because that solution does not address the structural cause of the poverty. The resulting disproportionate inequality in wealth and opportunities lies at the heart of internal social unrest, because it is contrary to social justice, to the principle of the common destination of goods (see Quadragesimo anno, 45), and to the principle of solidarity.

    203. The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies. At times, however, they seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development. How many words prove irksome to this system! It is irksome when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked, when the distribution of goods is mentioned, when reference in made to protecting labour and defending the dignity of the powerless, when allusion is made to a God who demands a commitment to justice. At other times these issues are exploited by a rhetoric which cheapens them. Casual indifference in the face of such questions empties our lives and our words of all meaning. Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.

    And here we have the fundamental problem Pope Francis is addressing. What is missing in present large scale economic practices and policies is the prioritization of the common good and human dignity over the GDP and other such economic indicators. Those motivated by greed, without adequate regard for the common good, find it “irksome” when the principles of ethics, distributive justice, protection of the rights and dignity of labor, and global solidarity restrict or diminish the potential maximization of their pecuniary return on investment. The purpose of the vocation of business is not the maximization of financial profit, but service to the common good. Of course this requires profit, but not profit at the expense of the common good. Merely producing consumable goods and thereby making profit does not ipso facto order one’s activity to the common good.

    204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.

    Economic growth, measured in terms of sales, profits, consumption, investment, stock prices, etc. is not ipso facto growth in justice. A society can have a growing economy (in that sense of the term) while simultaneously becoming a less just society. And again, the solution isn’t merely a “simple welfare mentality” that throws money at the poor, while leaving them socially in the condition that traps them in poverty. Nor is the solution to streamline the efficiency of production, and thereby reduce the workforce. This is simply “adding to the ranks of the excluded.” The solution requires addressing remedially the conditions that lead to disproportionate income distribution, restructuring social and business practices so that the poor are positively and proactively invited and equipped for meaningful participation in society, space is made for their involvement and contributions, and they are thereby elevated and incorporated with dignity and solidarity into the life of society ordered to the common good, a society grateful for their place within it and contribution to it.

    205. I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.[174] We need to be convinced that charity “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)”.[175] I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare. Why not turn to God and ask him to inspire their plans? I am firmly convinced that openness to the transcendent can bring about a new political and economic mindset which would help to break down the wall of separation between the economy and the common good of society.

    Here Pope Francis prays that God would give us more politicians capable of the sort of dialogue that aims at healing the deepest roots of the evils in our world. The purpose of the political office is to serve the common good, and the political leader as such, when carrying out the proper task of that office, serves the common good in a more profound way than does the laborer or craftsman. But since the common good involves the flourishing of all the members of society, the political leader must work “to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.” Merely advancing the economy is not necessarily advancing the common good. When the politician by his policies effects economic growth though at the cost of greater social injustice and marginalization of the poor, the politician is failing to perform the fundamental responsibility intrinsic to the political office, namely, advancing the common good. When Pope Francis speaks of “the wall of separation between the economy and the common good” he is referring to an economic structure and focus in which the value of growing the economy is placed above advancing the common good, or growing the economy is viewed as just what it means to advance the common good, or at worst, the conception of and obligation to the common good is lost altogether, and growing the economy becomes the end-all-be-all of government.

    Finally, much later in Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis writes:

    218. Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence resulting from the domination of one part of society over others. Nor does true peace act as a pretext for justifying a social structure which silences or appeases the poor, so that the more affluent can placidly support their lifestyle while others have to make do as they can. Demands involving the distribution of wealth, concern for the poor and human rights cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority. The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised.

    Here again Pope Francis is speaking of social justice. The wealthy within a society have a moral obligation under justice to help the poor who are struggling to survive. A social structure which silences or merely appeases the poor, but does not address the social injustice, does not effect or constitute true peace. Here again the dignity of the human person, and the common good, are greater goods than the comfort of the wealthy who refuse to help the poor. An ideology that seeks to secure the comfort of the few, while allowing disregard for or indifference to the poverty of those in need, is incompatible with Catholic social teaching. And the solution also isn’t merely transferring wealth, again, because the fundamental problem isn’t simply unequal social or economic conditions, but rather a set of values in which the poor and needy do not matter. That’s the problem Pope Francis is addressing. And that’s also why socialism is not the solution.

    In Catholic social thought, the term ‘socialism’ originally included what later came to be called ‘communism.’ In 1891 Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, for example, opposed “socialism” which he characterized there as opposition to private property, common possession of all goods, and the intrusion of government into the family. Forty years later, Pope Pius XI described in Quadragesimo Anno (paragraphs 111ff) how socialism had subsequently divided into communism and a more moderate form of socialism. But he explained that even the more moderate version of socialism, as he defined it, was intrinsically incompatible with Christianity, for the following reason:

    Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth. For, according to Christian teaching, man, endowed with a social nature, is placed on this earth so that by leading a life in society and under an authority ordained of God he may fully cultivate and develop all his faculties unto the praise and glory of his Creator; and that by faithfully fulfilling the duties of his craft or other calling he may obtain for himself temporal and at the same time eternal happiness. Socialism, on the other hand, wholly ignoring and indifferent to this sublime end of both man and society, affirms that human association has been instituted for the sake of material advantage alone. Because of the fact that goods are produced more efficiently by a suitable division of labor than by the scattered efforts of individuals, socialists infer that economic activity, only the material ends of which enter into their thinking, ought of necessity to be carried on socially. Because of this necessity, they hold that men are obliged, with respect to the producing of goods, to surrender and subject themselves entirely to society. Indeed, possession of the greatest possible supply of things that serve the advantages of this life is considered of such great importance that the higher goods of man, liberty not excepted, must take a secondary place and even be sacrificed to the demands of the most efficient production of goods. (Quadragesimo Anno, 117-119)

    So the problem with socialism (of this sort) is teleologically the same as the problem Pope Francis is addressing in this section of Evangelii Gaudium, namely, that of placing the value of the pursuit of material goods above the common good, which includes the “higher goods of man,” including both liberty and the dignity of the human person.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  17. My reply to Judge Napolitano regarding Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium.

  18. Bryan (re:#17),

    1. You said:

    According to Mater et Magistra, the government does have an obligation under justice to make efforts to remove or minimize economic imbalances.

    The Judge (and others from his perspective) would argue this that the government will do best in effecting productivity and flourishing for all by not intervening in the market. You may be aware of this.

    2. You said:

    Judge Napolitano is presupposing that the public authority has no responsibility to aid positively the marginalized and impoverished. So the first thing to say is that according to Catholic social thought, as shown above, the public authority does have such a responsibility.

    In all likelihood, the Judge is not presupposing that public authorities have no such responsibility. Rather, he would argue that they have no capability when it comes to bringing about those desired ends. Or at least, that when trying to achieve those ends by intervention in an economy, they will always do more harm than good.

    3. You also said:

    This is why, according to Catholic social teaching, when the public authority, abiding by the principle of subsidiarity, takes fairly (i.e. proportionately) from the goods that are common, even if privately possessed, what is necessary to procure the basic needs of the poor and alleviate their suffering, this is not stealing; this is serving and advancing the common good, all other things being equal.

    That last phrase, ceteris paribus, is the key phrase. Judge Napolitano (and other advocates of the unhampered market) would deny that the public authority is able to those things described without doing great violence to the common good. In other words, pubic authorities are impotent to improve the common good through economic intervention since these interventions are necessarily less effective at bringing about good ends than the unhampered market. I’m not arguing for that position at the moment; I’m just pointing out where the judge and others like him are coming from.

    None of this proves Pope Francis is ignorant from economics. But, from the view of the critics, a Pope or Bishop who calls upon public authorities to do more to help the economically excluded is economically ignorant since such “doing more” will cause more harm than good.

    Here is a link to a podcast from a Catholic, Tom Woods, who is critical of the Pope’s comments on economics. He comes from a similar perspective as Judge Napolitano: http://www.schiffradio.com/pg/jsp/verticals/archive.jsp?dispid=310&pid=63250

    Peace,
    John D.

  19. JohnD (re: #18)

    The Judge (and others from his perspective) would argue this that the government will do best in effecting productivity and flourishing for all by not intervening in the market.

    The “they would argue” response, without actually providing the argument, is a bit of sophistry. Merely trading assertions is worthless. But so is referring to the argument without providing it. The problem with an absolutely autonomous market is that it is not ipso facto ordered to the common good. This is why, for example, we have laws, including regulations preventing monopolies, laws regarding product safety, meat inspectors, etc.

    In all likelihood, the Judge is not presupposing that public authorities have no such responsibility. Rather, he would argue that they have no capability when it comes to bringing about those desired ends. Or at least, that when trying to achieve those ends by intervention in an economy, they will always do more harm than good.

    Again, the phantom argument fallacy is a fallacy. Nor is it helpful to speculate what he would say. Moreover, it cannot be the case that the public authority has a God-given responsibility to defend and advance the poor, but then of necessity harms the poor when attempting to do so. That’s not a theistic universe.

    Judge Napolitano (and other advocates of the unhampered market) would deny that the public authority is able to those things described without doing great violence to the common good.

    Again, let’s see the argument, rather than merely refer to it without providing it.

    In other words, pubic authorities are impotent to improve the common good through economic intervention since these interventions are necessarily less effective at bringing about good ends than the unhampered market. I’m not arguing for that position at the moment; I’m just pointing out where the judge and others like him are coming from.

    I understand. But he provided no such argument. So I don’t see how that is helpful in determining whether what he actually said refutes anything Pope Francis said.

    But, from the view of the critics, a Pope or Bishop who calls upon public authorities to do more to help the economically excluded is economically ignorant since such “doing more” will cause more harm than good.

    It might bring down the GDP some, but the GDP is not the common good.

    Economists who defend the unhampered market believe that such policy advances the common good more than any government intervention in the economy.

    That’s because they mistakenly conceive of the common good in terms of economic indicators, when in actuality it refers to a condition in which no part or class is marginalized or deprived, but all classes are flourishing.

    Here is a link to a podcast from a Catholic, Tom Woods, who is critical of the Pope’s comments on economics.

    Woods simply dissents from certain Catholic social teaching (e.g. just wage, see Rerum Novarum, 43-46, and Quadragesimo anno, 71), on the ground that the popes didn’t know what they were talking about. (See his book The Church and the Market.) Charles Curran said the same about Humanae Vitae. And Martin Luther said the same about popes of his time.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  20. Gene (re: #13)

    In addition, one response to Evangelii Gaudium by some politically conservative Catholics is to claim that nobody, themselves included, supports an absolutely autonomous market. (See, for example, Acton Institute’s research director Samuel Gregg’s article in the National Review.) In this way they portray the Pope’s words as if he is criticizing a straw man, or at least criticizing a position nobody holds. But what is somewhat (though unintentionally, in my opinion) misleading about this response is that the autonomy these persons deny is not identical to the autonomy Pope Francis is criticizing. The autonomy they deny is anarchic autonomy, that is, among other things, the absence of the rule of law by which violation of contractual agreements is prohibited and penalized, the absence of virtue, the absence of private property rights, and the absence of, for example, regulations prohibiting monopolies that undermine market competition and thereby increase costs for consumers. They tend to treat the wrongness of what in actuality are violations of subsidiarity as a basis for rejecting what is required by solidarity. Pope Francis, however is criticizing the conception of a market that is autonomous with respect to the common good, which includes not only maintaining commutative justice, avoiding monopolies, defending private property, etc., but also upholding distributive, legal, and social justice. (See, for example, paragraph 12 in Centesimus Annus.) And Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

    [T]he pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods. This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching on the State and by the Church’s social doctrine. (Deus caritast est, 26)

    Some of these politically conservative Catholics, however, deny the very concepts of social justice or distributive justice. As for Acton Institute, see, for example, this article from March of this year, hosted on Acton’s site, and see the comments following it. (It is the standard Misesian/Hayekian rejection of the very conception of distributive justice.) So they either deny the subordination of the market to the common good, or conceptually reduce the common good to something that does not include social or distributive justice. In this way, their “we also deny autonomy” response is a case of equivocation, because the autonomy they deny is not identical to the autonomy Pope Francis criticizes, and the autonomy they allow (i.e. non-conformity to social and distributive justice) is part of the autonomy condemned by Pope Francis and previous Church documents. Likewise, when they say that opening markets has reduced poverty in some countries, the “opening” to which they refer is not a departure from social or distributive justice per se, but from violations of the principle of subsidiarity. So when in response to the Pope’s criticism of the autonomy or markets, they point to good effects of autonomy, they are equivocating on the term ‘autonomy.’

    Acton does face a credibility problem here, because when others raised concerns earlier this year about the unfairness of widening inequality, Acton attributed this to envy (see the link just above). But when the Pope makes this same claim, (both in EG and in his message for the World Day of Peace) Acton seems to take quite a different tone. It becomes very difficult to claim fidelity to the Pope when the Pope is decrying the injustice of widening inequality, and one is saying that claims that widening inequality is unjust are rooted in envy.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  21. Bryan (re:#19),

    Moreover, it cannot be the case that the public authority has a God-given responsibility to defend and advance the poor, but then of necessity harms the poor when attempting to do so. That’s not a theistic universe.

    If public authorities have such a responsibility, then they certainly should not aim to do the opposite of what advances the poor. It is a mistake is to assume that government intervention in the economy is the only thing public authorities can do to advance the cause of the poor. One reason I did not produce any arguments in the last post is that it would defend on the policy one is critiquing. Showing the futility of raising the minimum wage would be different from showing the ineffectiveness of high taxation aimed at redistributing wealth to the homeless and unemployed. If you want to specify a government intervention in the economy that promotes the common good more-so than an unhampered market, I will be happy to link to economists arguing against such a conclusion. In the podcast I linked to in #18, Woods critiques Pope Paul XI’s policy recommendations, explaining how they have been shown to have disastrous economic consequences.

    If people like Woods and the Judge are correct that public economic intervention causes more harm than good, then it does not seem wrong to oppose such intervention. Moreover, such arguments regarding the effectiveness of a certain policy to bring about desired ends take place in the realm of economics, not ethics.

    That’s because they mistakenly conceive of the common good in terms of economic indicators, when in actuality it refers to a condition in which no part or class is marginalized or deprived, but all classes are flourishing.

    This is a straw man. Woods, the Judge, and Austrian economists argue the unhampered market is precisely what promotes flourishing for all, and that public economic interventions serve to deprive and marginalize specific groups.

    Woods simply dissents from certain Catholic social teaching (e.g. just wage, see Rerum Novarum, 43-46), on the ground that the popes didn’t know what they were talking about. (See his book The Church and the Market.) Charles Curran said the same about Humanae Vitae. And Martin Luther said the same about popes of his time.

    Can you clarify the terms since I am honestly unfamiliar with them. What does it mean to be a “dissenter”? Does disagreement with something in an encyclical make one a dissenter? Is John Salza a dissenter for writing against the practice of communion in the hand? Are dissenters heretics? I’d appreciate more info on the Church’s teaching in this regard.

    Peace,
    John D.

  22. JohnD (re: #21)

    If public authorities have such a responsibility, then they certainly should not aim to do the opposite of what advances the poor.

    Of course. No one is claiming otherwise.

    It is a mistake is to assume that government intervention in the economy is the only thing public authorities can do to advance the cause of the poor.

    Of course, except no one is “assuming” this.

    One reason I did not produce any arguments in the last post is that it would defend on the policy one is critiquing.

    I don’t understand that sentence.

    Showing the futility of raising the minimum wage would be different from showing the ineffectiveness of high taxation aimed at redistributing wealth to the homeless and unemployed.

    I agree that showing the futility of x would be different from showing the ineffectiveness of y. But that is fully compatible with what I have said above.

    If you want to specify a government intervention in the economy that promotes the common good more-so than an unhampered market, I will be happy to link to economists arguing against such a conclusion.

    The “there are people who disagree with you” response is a well-known fallacy, in the genus of the phantom-argument fallacy. For any position, there are always people who disagree with it. That fact does not show it to be false, for the same reason that the democratic fallacy is a fallacy.

    In the podcast I linked to in #18, Woods critiques Pope Paul XI’s policy recommendations, explaining how they have been shown to have disastrous economic consequences.

    I don’t have the time to listen to the whole podcast to find the place he talks about this. Perhaps you could provide the specific minute of the podcast in which he talks about this.

    If people like Woods and the Judge are correct that public economic intervention causes more harm than good, then it does not seem wrong to oppose such intervention.

    Of course. But that’s a big ‘if.’ Merely asserting it is unhelpful, because it does not advance the conversation.

    Moreover, such arguments regarding the effectiveness of a certain policy to bring about desired ends take place in the realm of economics, not ethics.

    The ends considered in economics do not include all the ends required by ethics. But that’s straying off the topic of this post, which is Evangelii Gaudium.

    This is a straw man. Woods, the Judge, and Austrian economists argue the unhampered market is precisely what promotes flourishing for all,

    What they mean by “flourishing for all” is not what is meant by a conception of the common good that includes distributive and social justice. See the second volume of Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty, in which he explicitly rejects the conception of social and distributive justice.

    Can you clarify the terms since I am honestly unfamiliar with them. What does it mean to be a “dissenter”? Does disagreement with something in an encyclical make one a dissenter?

    I’ve addressed this here. See also this article.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  23. Sections of Pope Francis’s message “Fraternity, The Foundation and Pathway to Peace” (December 8, 2013) also address economic topics discussed in Evangelii Gaudium. Reuters refers to this message in its article titled “Pope attacks mega-salaries and wealth gap in peace message.”

  24. Bryan (re: #22),

    I don’t understand that sentence.

    Sorry. Proofreading is a lost art. I meant this: One reason I did not produce any arguments in the last post is that it would depend on the policy one is critiquing.

    I don’t have the time to listen to the whole podcast to find the place he talks about this. Perhaps you could provide the specific minute of the podcast in which he talks about this.

    Sorry for not specifying. He makes brief comments at 36Min 30Secs – 38Mins. I appreciate you even taking time to respond in this thread and would not expect you to listen to the whole thing.

    What they mean by “flourishing for all” is not what is meant by a conception of the common good that includes distributive and social justice. See the second volume of Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty, in which he explicitly rejects the conception of social and distributive justice.

    I will look into this. But, can you describe how promoting flourishing for all could contradict distributive and social justice? Everything I have read from Woods shows that he honestly believes (and argues) that an unhampered market is best for all groups in society and at the very least better than policies of government economic intervention. If he is correct (and I know that’s a big IF), then I don’t think it’s fair to call him a dissenter for arguing that a misunderstanding of economics lies behind certain positions of 19th and 20th century Catholic social teaching. I will have more to say on his comments regarding the just wage in my next reply. Also, would you consider libertarian Jesuit Fr. Sadowsky a dissenter? (Some Q and A regarding his economic opinions are found here: http://anarcho-catholic.blogspot.com/).

    Peace,
    John D.

  25. Michael Pakaluk has an article on ZENET on how to read Evangelii Gaudium and uses EG 54 as an example. http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/how-to-read-the-joy-of-the-gospel

    That is, we must (1) understand its point; (2) grasp any limitations placed on method or approach; and then (3) interpret the parts as contributing to the whole. For most people, especially journalists, it would take days or weeks to do so. Not surprisingly, then, early commentary on the Exhortation involved pulling paragraphs out of context.


    Let us consider the much-maligned paragraph 54, which begins in this way:

    In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably [or “of itself”] succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.

    First off, let us accept the criticism that “inevitably” is not an accurate translation of the (probably original) Spanish, por si, and that “of itself” is better: a small point, but the more accurate phrase suggests that a free market, in accordance with Centesimus Annus and Rerum Novarum, is a necessary condition of greater justice, even if not a sufficient condition.

    Next let us read this paragraph as we should read any other intelligent piece of writing and observe its context. The paragraph actually invokes a context! It says, “In this context…” So what is that context? From the preceding paragraph it becomes clear that the Pope’s concern is precisely with cultures in which ”human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.” He calls this a “throw away” culture—signaling his willingness to use popular, catchy phrases, which quickly get the intuitive idea across, even if they are not technical terms used in academic discourse.

    In such cultures, the Pope says, people are necessarily excluded: “those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’” (n. 53). Another striking assertion! A careful reader will observe that when the Pope says that the excluded ones are not properly described as “exploited” he is specifically rejecting a Marxian or liberationist analysis of the problem in terms of exploitation and oppression! He is explicitly saying that the problem is different and requires a different analysis and solution. Obviously the Marxian or socialist solution of a command economy will not address this different problem. That this context– of exclusion not exploitation– is the governing context of paragraph 54 is evident from what the Pope says there, “Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

    It is worth reading the whole thing.

  26. JohnD (re: #24)

    He makes brief comments at 36Min 30Secs – 38Mins.

    Thanks. I listened to that section, and he does not provide any concrete evidence to support his claim. (I’m not blaming him; his purpose there isn’t to substantiate his claims, but only rhetorically to make a particular point.) But he does not give any concrete evidence or argumentation showing that any particular statement in Populorum Progressio is false.

    But, can you describe how promoting flourishing for all could contradict distributive and social justice?

    I didn’t say “contradict.” I said, “What they mean by “flourishing for all” is not what is meant by a conception of the common good that includes distributive and social justice.” Economic indicators look at averages, and these (even if sectioned by class) can rise even while some persons remain marginalized and abandoned, left on the street, gutter, ghetto, etc. But the common good includes social justice, in which no one is marginalized or abandoned, etc., but instead the society actively and directly provides solicitude for each of its weakest members (e.g. the man aided by the Good Samaritan) so that they too can flourish.

    Everything I have read from Woods shows that he honestly believes (and argues) that an unhampered market is best for all groups in society and at the very least better than policies of government economic intervention.

    I agree that he honestly believes this.

    If he is correct (and I know that’s a big IF), then I don’t think it’s fair to call him a dissenter for arguing that a misunderstanding of economics lies behind certain positions of 19th and 20th century Catholic social teaching.

    I don’t see how that conclusion follows. What makes one a dissenter is not being wrong, but dissenting. Hence being right, in an [hypothetical] case in which the Church’s teaching were wrong, would not make one not a dissenter.

    Also, would you consider libertarian Jesuit Fr. Sadowsky a dissenter? (Some Q and A regarding his economic opinions are found here: http://anarcho-catholic.blogspot.com/).

    I’m sorry, but I don’t have time at the present to read through all his works to figure out whether he dissents from Church teaching. And that’s not what this forum (CTC) is for.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  27. Bryan,

    I have two questions about the Popes exhortation and Catholic social teaching.

    (1) I understand that the Catholic Church’s social teaching includes the necessity of proactive justice and care for the weak and poor and abandoned as individuals (not as a class), but does this teaching specify the means by which this should occur? Is there latitude regarding the best means of pursuing these ends (government versus private charitable groups, etc). In other words, does the Church’s teaching require that government taxation and wealth redistribution be a means (or the means) to achieve this end?

    (2) I am trying to understand what the Pope means be proselytizing, and why it should be avoided. Take the following:

    “Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.

    Does the Pope (and the Church) exhort the faithful to explicitly lead individuals to a personal relationship with Jesus and to enter the Catholic Church? If so, is proselytizing negative only because of the way it seeks to achieve this end? I am pressing the specific meaning of these words because I am aware of instances where individuals were actively discouraged from becoming Catholic by Catholic priests. This (along with other admittedly anecdotal evidence) has led me to wonder exactly what is meant by Catholics when they speak of sharing the gospel. For some, when you drill down a bit, it seems that what they really mean is sharing Christ’s love through social justice, but they find offensive the “intolerance” implied by sharing an invitation to repent from sin and enter into a relationship with Christ and His Church. I want to better understand how the Catholic Church sees her mission in this regard.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Burton

  28. Burton,

    I don’t mean to “butt in” to the discussion, but I was hoping I could answer (at least in part) your first question. I think the Pope has been getting misinterpreted by many because (and this may not be clear enough in the exhortation) the context of his statements are on the level of the individual. While it plays out in political structures, Catholic social teaching is always an individual call, since social justice is by definition a virtue which dwells to varying degrees in the soul of each person. In the closing remarks of the section on social structures, economics, etc, he recognizes the fact that many will be “put off” by his words, but reiterates the personal call, regardless of specific structures or economic systems, to operate with a more selfless (i.e. Christian) disposition.

    That being said, I think he leaves plenty of room to implement these principles and achieve these ends by varied means. Moreover, free market capitalism is arguably the most effective way to do this (assuming the individual citizens cultivate the virtue of social justice actively in their own lives).

    Peace in Christ,

    Seth

  29. Bryan (re: #26),

    Thanks for the reply.

    I listened to that section, and he does not provide any concrete evidence to support his claim…he does not give any concrete evidence or argumentation showing that any particular statement in Populorum Progressio is false.

    True. In this article:, Woods refers to Peter Bauer’s critiques of development aid and asserts that “import substitution” policies have harmed third world countries. I could provide more specifics of the arguments supporting Woods’ claims if you are interested, but I suppose I’m already straying too far from the topic of this thread. Also, how do you do that cool thing, putting a URL link in a single word or phrase like “click here” ?? Now that I can do the blockquote thing, I would love to be able to do links more efficiently as well.

    I didn’t say “contradict.” I said, “What they mean by “flourishing for all” is not what is meant by a conception of the common good that includes distributive and social justice.” Economic indicators look at averages, and these (even if sectioned by class) can rise even while some persons remain marginalized and abandoned, left on the street, gutter, ghetto, etc. But the common good includes social justice, in which no one is marginalized or abandoned, etc., but instead the society actively and directly provides solicitude for each of its weakest members (e.g. the man aided by the Good Samaritan) so that they too can flourish.

    Thanks for expounding. On those terms, I suppose neither public economic intervention nor an economic policy of non-intervention can cause society’s members to actively/directly promote the flourishing of the weakest members. Welfare checks provided through taxation are just as impersonal as the cheap goods available because of the competition of an unhampered market. It seems the common good is best advanced when society’s members each strive to perform works of mercy. On those grounds, you are correct that economists do not mean “flourishing for all” in the same way as the Church means “common good”.

    What makes one a dissenter is not being wrong, but dissenting. Hence being right, in an [hypothetical] case in which the Church’s teaching were wrong, would not make one not a dissenter.

    That makes sense. I read the article you linked to about Catholic unity (good article btw), but I still remain confused on whether dissent is always serious sin or not. I did not raise this before, but I think it’s important. What is meant by submission of will and intellect to not-known-to-be-infallible magisterial teaching? Does it mean that Catholics are not permitted (on pain of sin) to argue against such teaching? Where should I go to understand this better?

    Peace,
    John D.

  30. Burton (re: #27)

    but does this teaching specify the means by which this should occur?

    No.

    Is there latitude regarding the best means of pursuing these ends (government versus private charitable groups, etc).

    Of course.

    In other words, does the Church’s teaching require that government taxation and wealth redistribution be a means (or the means) to achieve this end?

    Only conditionally. The government cannot justifiably stand idly by, while its poorest citizens starve to death or freeze to death in the cold, just because no other charitable groups have voluntarily stepped up to care for them. In such a condition the civil authority has a moral duty to act on behalf of the needy, helpless, etc., just as it does if its citizens are being attacked and killed. But given the principle of subsidiarity, if local voluntary groups are adequately addressing the problem, the civic authority then has no obligation to do so.

    Does the Pope (and the Church) exhort the faithful to explicitly lead individuals to a personal relationship with Jesus and to enter the Catholic Church? If so, is proselytizing negative only because of the way it seeks to achieve this end?

    The term ‘proselytism’ is not the same in meaning as the term ‘evangelism.’ (See footnote #49 in the CDF’s Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelism.) Proselytism connotes coercion, manipulation, a notches-in-one’s-belt approach that fails to respect persons as persons, and fails to affirm their freedom in love and authentic person-to-person friendship. It is inviting person to an event portrayed in one way (e.g. a meal, or entertainment), but then springing a sermon on them trying to get them to make a decision for Christ, such that they feel tricked, deceived, and manipulated. Evangelism is by attraction, to the truth in love, not by pressure, which is contrary to freedom, and contrary to love.

    I am pressing the specific meaning of these words because I am aware of instances where individuals were actively discouraged from becoming Catholic by Catholic priests. This (along with other admittedly anecdotal evidence) has led me to wonder exactly what is meant by Catholics when they speak of sharing the gospel.

    Some priests seek to make sure a person isn’t being coerced, and try to put on the brakes, to make sure a person really knows what he is doing. (Having worked in RCIA a number of years, there are people who show up claiming to be ready to become Catholic at that moment, and you have to slow them down, in order to make sure they know what they’re doing and have counted the costs. A good priest isn’t interested in “sheep-stealing,’” or adding notches to his belt. He is aware of his ecumenical relationships with the Protestant pastors in his community, and wants a person to become Catholic only for the right reasons, and only when properly understanding what he is doing. Sometimes the “active discouragement” is just to see how serious the person is. And sometimes it could be because of a faulty understanding of ecumenism, in which ecumenism leaves no legitimate place or role for evangelism, in large part because since Vatican II, the Catholic stance toward Protestants is consciously and explicitly distinct from the Catholic stance toward pagans, on account of our shared baptism. And possibly some priests have not yet figured out how that distinction works in practice, because since VII the performative stance toward inquiring Protestants has not yet been become standard, universal practice, balancing between the increased respect and rightly acknowledged elements of salvation existing in these communities on the one hand, and their continuing state of separation from full communion and from the fullness of the truth of the gospel and the full means of salvation deposited in the Catholic Church.

    For some, when you drill down a bit, it seems that what they really mean is sharing Christ’s love through social justice, but they find offensive the “intolerance” implied by sharing an invitation to repent from sin and enter into a relationship with Christ and His Church. I want to better understand how the Catholic Church sees her mission in this regard.

    I agree that for some, the gospel is best shared wordlessly. But I think (at least in my experience) in general what these persons find offensive is proselytism (as the sense defined above), not authentic, respectful, and mutually free communication of the truth about Christ and His Church. The call to repent requires that the hearers recognize both the authority, charity, and trustworthiness of the speaker. Apart from divine miracles, it takes time to establish one’s authority, charity, and credibility. The call to repent requires that the hearers recognize that there is such a thing as sin, and that they have sinned against God, and that the evangelist has the authority to speak on God’s behalf in calling them to repent. It requires that they see in this person God’s love, which leads us to repentance. Otherwise, it *is* offensive, because in such a case the person is presuming to speak on God’s behalf regarding our violation of divine commands, without even taking the time to learn what the other person knows or does not know about these things, whether he is sorry for his sin, etc., and thus he both elevate himself above the hearer, and engages in hortatory coercion. The natural response is the same given to Moses: Who made you ruler and judge over us?

    In my opinion, Pope Francis’s exhortation (EG) is exactly what the Church needed regarding evangelism, because it elevates in the mind of the whole Church the importance of evangelism, the essence of evangelism, and the compatibility of evangelism and ecumenism. That’s something we’ve needed for some time, I think. It would be easy to become focused on the economic sections, and miss the message of evangelization contained throughout n the whole document.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

    Update: Regarding proselytism, Pope Francis recently said, “The Lord does not proselytize; He gives love. And this love seeks you and waits for you, you who at this moment do not believe or are far away. And this is the love of God.” (source)

  31. On the ‘economic’ sections of EG, Vox Nova‘s article titled “Pope Francis reiterates Catholic condemnation of economic liberalism – and causes heartburn in America” is an insightful analysis, and provides a much fuller explanation of what I wrote in comment #20 above.

    Update: Mark Shea helps put things in perspective. And Pope Francis has commented again on this same subject (Jan 28, 2014), in a letter to Prof. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. See also Jeremy Beer’s “Communio, Economics, and the Anthropology of Liberalism,” and Patrick Deneen’s “A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching.”

  32. Bryan,

    Thank you so much for sharing that article! Reading it, I felt as though I were encountering an unfortunately rare thing in American Catholic media (by which I mean both the so-called “conservative Catholic” media and “progressive Catholic” media)– a presentation, without partisan agenda, of what the Church actually teaches, and has historically taught, on economics! What a breath of fresh air it is to read this article!

  33. Bryan (re:#19),

    Woods simply dissents from certain Catholic social teaching (e.g. just wage, see Rerum Novarum, 43-46, and Quadragesimo anno, 71), on the ground that the popes didn’t know what they were talking about. (See his book The Church and the Market.)

    I have had some trouble understanding the Church’s teaching on the just wage. In 2434 of the Catechism it says:

    A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.” Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages. [emphasis mine]

    It appears from the bolded section that men should not receive equal pay for equal work. For example: if X and Y are two guys with the exact same productivity doing the exact same job, yet X is single and not married while Y is married with 3 children, then the just wage doctrine implies that they ought not to be paid the same? Is it true that it would be unjust to pay them the same wages?

    Also, I recently heard a short talk in which the Catholic speaker explained that by “distributive justice”, St. Thomas meant “giving to each man his due”. Is that an accurate way to think about distributive justice?

    Peace,
    John D.

  34. JohnD (re: #33)

    It appears from the bolded section that men should not receive equal pay for equal work.

    That’s over-simplifying what it says, and therefore misrepresenting what it says. There is nothing intrinsically unjust about receiving equal pay for equal work, all other things being equal.

    For example: if X and Y are two guys with the exact same productivity doing the exact same job, yet X is single and not married while Y is married with 3 children, then the just wage doctrine implies that they ought not to be paid the same?

    Again, it is important not to oversimplify, which is one of the great temptations in our reductionistic culture. The positive truth here is that when determining remuneration, the situation of the employee, including his family obligations, ought to be taken into consideration, and thus justice can require paying him more than one would justifiably pay him if he did not have a family, and thus could require paying him more than another employee doing the same work but without that family obligation, all other things being equal.

    Also, I recently heard a short talk in which the Catholic speaker explained that by “distributive justice”, St. Thomas meant “giving to each man his due”. Is that an accurate way to think about distributive justice?

    No, that definition is too broad, because it includes commutative justice as well. That would be like asking whether it is accurate to think of man as a mammal. Yes, man is a mammal, but he is not a mere mammal, and thus ‘mammal’ is not the most accurate definition of man.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  35. Bryan (re: #34)

    That’s over-simplifying what it says, and therefore misrepresenting what it says.

    Fair enough.

    thus justice can require paying him more than one would justifiably pay him if he did not have a family, and thus could require paying him more than another employee doing the same work but without that family obligation, all other things being equal.

    Can you give an example when justice would require this? It seems like a very difficult thing to apply in real life. How can an employer know when justice would require this?

    Peace,
    John D.

  36. JohnD (re: #35)

    What I’ve described is already an example involving two employees. As for your “how can an employer know” question, the employer would have to know both (a) the nature of justice, which we learn through moral instruction/formation, and (b) the situation of his employee, which he would need to learn by personal communication/inquiry, the way humans ordinarily come to learn things about each other.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  37. John D.

    I employ over 40 persons and believe myself to possess a substantial grasp of Catholic moral theology and the nature of justice as it is understood within the social teaching of the Catholic Church and the boarder Aristotelian/Thomistic natural law tradition. I think the phrase “all things being equal” is of great importance here, since the circumstantial situations in which the general principles pertaining to justice must be applied within the workplace can be quite complex. For instance, in my line of business – just as in the wider economic situation – there are a variety of jobs available requiring greater or lesser degrees of skill and commanding more or less pay based on the difficulty of the job and skill set required. For instance, in my line of work (veterinary medicine) there are ‘entry level” jobs (such as janitorial positions, kennel cleaning, etc), clerical jobs (document filing, phone answering, ), managerial positions (administrators), and professional positions (doctors, professional pet groomers, veterinary technicians, etc).

    Though my businesses is more complex than that of two employees performing one monolithic form of work, the general demands of justice remain the same, though their application is more varied. If I did only employee two persons, then knowing that one of the two had a family wherein his income was the only income source available for insuring that he and his family had access to “the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level” would indeed require that I do what is in my power to insure that his income were sufficient to make such opportunity available.

    However, even in such a limited theoretical situation as that, there are a wide range of factors to consider. For instance, suppose that providing one of the two employees with an income sufficient to support a dignified life for his family entailed that the business, itself, could not meet its expenses; including among them, the employer’s ability to support his own family from business profits. In that case, the employer, in seeking to meet the demands of justice with respect to one of his employees, might be faced with dissolution of the business altogether, and the loss of opportunity for a dignified livelihood at the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level, for himself and both of his employees.

    One option (which I endorse), might be for such an employer to be competently aware, both of the capacities of his business, as well as the demands of justice, before initially hiring the man with a family. In other words, if he knows that he can only afford to pay a salary that would be appropriate to the needs of say, a single person in high school or in college, then he should make that point clear when recruiting for the job and when interviewing. Ideally, he ought not to hire someone whom he knows ahead of time has no other form of income, and cannot support his family with the wage which the employer is capable of supplying within the context of maintaining business solvency (of course, if the employer were to refuse to hire the family man because of this consideration informed by justice, he might ironically find himself in violation of hiring laws designed to prevent discrimination – the world is messy). There are other factors, however, which might make hiring the family man morally feasible, despite the limited wage rate. The family man might have a second job, or he may have a spouse who is employed elsewhere. In such a case, the known fact that the employer cannot provide a wage sufficient to support a dignified family life is acceptable since the employee has another stream of income which – taken together with the employer’s wage – combine to properly support his family.

    My own situation is far more complex than the two employee scenario just described. Many of our paid positions, such as managerial and professional positions, are clearly sufficient to enable the employee to provide a dignified life for his family at the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level. Other positions, such as entry level and some clerical positions, would not be sufficient – as a sole source of income – to achieve that goal. Hence, we try very hard to make that clear when recruiting and interviewing prospective employees. There are positions and pay rates designed for single persons, part time persons, young persons in school, etc. If a person with a family interviews for such positions we clearly explain entry level pay rates and try to force a discussion about the prospective employee’s financial needs and responsibilities before hiring such a person. Only if they have some other form of income (another job, a working spouse, etc.) do we give real consideration to their application for an entry level job. But also. the issue of social justice in the workplace is interconnected such that it is crucial to be clear and consistent in compensation related to various pay ranges based on job skill requirements. If our organization were to play willy-nilly with the established pay rates for the various job categories we employ for, injustice toward other staff members would ensue. For instance, if we were to haphazardly pay janitorial and clerical positions twice the established rate for those respective sorts of jobs, that decision would directly affect the financial health of the business as a whole; and therefore, the funds available to pay other persons throughout the organization, whose needs in justice must also be considered. Hence, the question of justice as applied to each decision in the employer / employee nexus has ripple effects which concern the application of justice. The key in running a just business in the modern age is to be aware of the moral law and to be creative and careful in applying it within diverse business contexts.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  38. Ray (re:#37),

    Thanks for your input based on your own business. The concrete example helps me to understand how messy things can be, yet how social justice principles can be applied in real life.

    There are positions and pay rates designed for single persons, part time persons, young persons in school, etc. If a person with a family interviews for such positions we clearly explain entry level pay rates and try to force a discussion about the prospective employee’s financial needs and responsibilities before hiring such a person. Only if they have some other form of income (another job, a working spouse, etc.) do we give real consideration to their application for an entry level job.

    But suppose the you do not hire the person with the family because you would not be able to pay him a salary that would allow for a dignified livelihood for him and his family. Also, suppose he has no skill set that allows him to apply for jobs that would pay such wages. It seems that the “just wage” teaching obstructs his ability to work and support his family at all. That is, injustice on the part of an employer would be required in order for him to find any work. This whole scenario just seems odd. Perhaps I am over-simplifying as I did before, but I am still having trouble understanding the teaching of the “just wage” and what it actually implies.

    Peace,
    John D.

  39. JohnD (re: #38)

    But suppose the you do not hire the person with the family because you would not be able to pay him a salary that would allow for a dignified livelihood for him and his family. Also, suppose he has no skill set that allows him to apply for jobs that would pay such wages. It seems that the “just wage” teaching obstructs his ability to work and support his family at all. That is, injustice on the part of an employer would be required in order for him to find any work.

    Those last two statement presupposes that regarding such a man the only options for a society following the obligation to pay a just wage are to (a) ignore him, and let his family starve, or (b) for an employer to hire him and pay him an unjust [less than living] wage, or (c) for an employer to hire him and pay him a living wage the employer cannot afford, and thus destroy the employer’s own business. But society has other options, obligatory under justice and the possession of sufficient means, among which is to create and facilitate opportunities by which such persons can acquire the means and skills to earn a just and living wage. The notion that the obligation to pay just wages obstructs workers’ ability to work and support their family is like the notion that a prohibition of prostitution obstructs women’s ability to work and earn money. Because under conditions of prostitution women are being treated unjustly as persons, the law is more accurately described as *protecting* them, even if it prohibits one way in which they could earn money. The positive obligation on the part of society on account of its obligation to the common good is to provide alternative, virtuous means by which such women can earn a living. I could lay out a similar example regarding the laws prohibiting the sale of heroine or cocaine, and the “obstruction” effect of these laws on those who sell such drugs. And the same is true regarding employers’ obligation under justice to pay just wages. This obligation protects workers from exploitation, and thereby in this respect promotes the common good. But it is not merely a negative prohibition on the part of employers. It is accompanied, under social justice and the principles of both solidarity and subsidiarity, by the positive obligation on the part of society to provide means and opportunities by which such workers can acquire the training and skills to earn a living wage. What is typically lacking in pragmatic evaluations of the goodness of the just wage requirement are the obligations and actions that are not governed by the [individual] profit motive, but by social justice, as if such obligations and actions do not exist, and as if pragmatic evaluations of actions governed by the profit motive are sufficient to determine what is best for workers and for society, and hence what is actually socially just.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  40. John D.

    The demands of justice, like all the general principles of the moral law, fall within that sphere of activity concerning which man has the ability to cooperate with divine providence. In other words, all free human act happen within the context of a universe over which man (and especially any particular man) has relatively little control. Not only are we subject to the events of nature (forest fires, tornados, floods, blizzards, earthquakes), we are likewise unable to control many of the consequences which flow from the fee decisions of others. Hence, as a business owner I might be affected by a tragic event (a fire that burns down my building), changes in human behavior (my service is no longer viewed as contributory to the common good – think of the horse-shoe industry after the invention of the Model-T), etc. On the part of the one seeking employment, there are events outside of his control which my entail that he is unable to secure a job capable of supporting his family, despite the availability of financially sufficient jobs, such as a injury. obviously, both employers and employees are subject to macroscopic events such as war, natural disaster, etc.

    Yet, none of these events or contingencies change the principles of the moral law itself. They only entail that there might arise scenarios in human history in which the demands of justice may be, practically speaking, unable to be realized. Still, the employer is not absolved – in any scenario – from applying the demands of justice to his concrete situation in so far as he is able. The demands of social justice concern the general principles for building a just society conducive to the common good and human flourishing, in so far as such are attainable through the free and cooperative acts of men. The realization that circumstances beyond our control (in nature or due to the disordered acts of others) may prevent the realization of social justice in particular cases, is one reason (among others) why the same moral law calls for all persons – not just employers – to consider the needs of the poor, and to give generously to others out of one’s own goods. This is also why the natural law can be used to defend the need for a social network to care for those who are in need, not only at the individual or private level, but also at the level of the community or polis. Above all, this is the reason that the Church is called to the works of mercy. In short, given the vast contingency inherent in the universe and in human affairs, not all that pertains to fostering the opportunity for families to lead a dignified material, social, cultural, and spiritual life lay upon the shoulders of employers, even if employers are obliged to apply the demands of social justice within their own sphere, in so far as they are able.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  41. Bryan,

    What is typically lacking in pragmatic evaluations of the goodness of the just wage requirement are the obligations and actions that are not governed by the profit motive, but by social justice, as if such obligations and actions do not exist, and as if pragmatic evaluations of actions governed by the profit motive are sufficient to determine what is best for workers and for society, and hence what is actually socially just.

    That is exactly right. I had not understood this problem until I began to study natural law theory and Catholic social teaching. It was an awakening.

    I am a Catholic businessman, not a businessman who happens to be Catholic.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  42. Bryan (re:#39),

    But society has other options, obligatory under justice and the possession of sufficient means, among which is to create and facilitate opportunities by which such persons can acquire the means and skills to earn a just and living wage.

    But, it seems, according to the just wage teaching, none of these created and facilitated opportunities can involve actually being hired at a wage that is less than just. So, a worker is not morally permitted to accept a job that offers opportunity to increase his skill/wage if that initial wage is “unjust”?

    The notion that the obligation to pay just wages obstructs workers’ ability to work and support their family is like the notion that a prohibition of prostitution obstructs women’s ability to work and earn money. Because under conditions of prostitution women are being treated unjustly as persons, the law is more accurately described as *protecting* them, even if it prohibits one way in which they could earn money.

    So, back to X and Y who both have the same, very low skill sets. X has 4 children and Y has none. So, Y could be hired at a just wage, but X would be “treated unjustly as a person” if he were to be hired at the exact same wage as Y, and if we assume that this wage would not supply him and his family with a “dignified livelihood for him and his family”. And since there is no other candidate, the employer is the one guilty of the injustice.

    Also, somewhat separate questions I brought up in #29: What is meant by submission of will and intellect to not-known-to-be-infallible magisterial teaching? Does it mean that Catholics are not permitted (on pain of sin) to argue against such teaching? Where should I go to understand this better?

    Peace,
    John D.

  43. JohnD (re: #42)

    So, a worker is not morally permitted to accept a job that offers opportunity to increase his skill/wage if that initial wage is “unjust”?

    I don’t see how that conclusion would follow.

    And since there is no other candidate, the employer is the one guilty of the injustice.

    I’m guessing you intended this as a question; if so, yes, all other things being equal.

    What is meant by submission of will and intellect to not-known-to-be-infallible magisterial teaching? Does it mean that Catholics are not permitted (on pain of sin) to argue against such teaching? Where should I go to understand this better?

    See the first link in footnote #11 of the “Catholic are Divided Too” post (linked in comment #22 above).

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  44. Bryan (re:#43),

    I don’t see how that conclusion would follow.

    I failed to make the point I was trying to make, so allow me to try again.

    You said:

    But society has other options, obligatory under justice and the possession of sufficient means, among which is to create and facilitate opportunities by which such persons can acquire the means and skills to earn a just and living wage.

    I would like to point out:
    1. If X does not have the skill set to obtain a job where he would receive a wage that affords “dignified livelihood for him and his family”, then he must make recourse to the “created and facilitated opportunities” supplied by society.
    2. Those “created and facilitated opportunities” cannot involve X being employed, since the employment would have to be at an unjust wage by the terms we have defined X.
    3. It doesn’t seem right that X could not justly acquire on the job training from an employer who would pay him based on the skill set he currently has (which would be lower than a “just wage”) and try to give him more training and skills to move up.

    Perhaps I’m being sloppy again.

    Peace,
    John D.

  45. JohnD (re: #44)

    It doesn’t seem right that X could not justly acquire on the job training from an employer who would pay him based on the skill set he currently has (which would be lower than a “just wage”) and try to give him more training and skills to move up.

    Because this X (who is actually a person, and not a mere X), would, in the mean time, starve to death, and starving people to death is unjust, even if one is training them for a future job while doing so.

    But at this point we’re far off the topic of this thread, which is Evangelii Gaudium.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  46. Bryan (re: #45),

    Because this X (who is actually a person, and not a mere X), would, in the mean time, starve to death, and starving people to death is unjust, even if one is training them for a future job while doing so.

    That is only the case if you equate a wage that affords “dignified livelihood for him and his family” with a wage that prevents death by starvation. That seems to be a false equivalence. And, I doubt that is what the catechism means (unless I am reading too much into CCC 2434). But at this point we’re far off the topic of this thread, which is Evangelii Gaudium. Fair enough. Is there a thread where Catholic social teaching can be discussed? If not, maybe there will be one in the future.

    Peace,
    John D.

  47. JohnD (re: #46)

    That is only the case if you equate a wage that affords “dignified livelihood for him and his family” with a wage that prevents death by starvation.

    No, the situation I described is not ruled out by what you said in comment #44. But as soon as you start adding qualifications to what you said in #44, then not only are you changing the situation you described, but the basis by which you add those qualifications but don’t include “just wage” will be ad hoc.

    Is there a thread where Catholic social teaching can be discussed? If not, maybe there will be one in the future.

    To your first question, not that I know of. To your second question, I hope so.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

  48. Bryan (re: #47),

    In #44, I said:

    3. It doesn’t seem right that X could not justly acquire on the job training from an employer who would pay him based on the skill set he currently has (which would be lower than a “just wage”) and try to give him more training and skills to move up.

    Then in #45, you said:

    Because this X (who is actually a person, and not a mere X), would, in the mean time, starve to death, and starving people to death is unjust, even if one is training them for a future job while doing so.

    I agree that this situation is “not ruled out” by what I said, but it is not coextensive with what I described. So, it’s only a response to situations in which the wage the person is offered would not prevent him and his family from starving.

    But then, the new question is: What if the wage he is offered would prevent his family from starving but is not enough to provide “a dignified livelihood for him and his family”?

    Peace,
    John D.

  49. JohnD (re: #48)

    I agree that this situation is “not ruled out” by what I said, but it is not coextensive with what I described. So, it’s only a response to situations in which the wage the person is offered would not prevent him and his family from starving.

    In #47 I already explained the ad hoc problem with your now-added qualification.

    But then, the new question is: What if the wage he is offered would prevent his family from starving but is not enough to provide “a dignified livelihood for him and his family”?

    Because nothing follows from a single-premise, questions of the form “What if x?” have only x as an answer if x is a single proposition.

    As I said in #45, this is way off topic, and I don’t want to have to delete your comments, but you’re almost forcing me to do so. Please, kindly stop. Thank you.

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan

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