Thursday, November 08, 2012

A New Vision

Reading a few Amereican blogs, it strikes me that the US Church has rather painted itself into a corner,  what is inevitable the Church  will continue to wrestle with the Obama regime. I have to admit here, I would have struggled if I was an American voter. I certainly could not have voted for someone as funndamentally toxic towards Family and Life issues as Obama but then Romney was no friend to the poor, to immigrants, to those on the edge of society.

What has happen in the US is also happening everywhere else in the West: the willful destruction of the family, the promotion of a contraceptive based libertine culture, the great growing gulf between rich and poor and the real plight of the poor, of families who are working, if they have employment, and still not maintaining a minimal lifestyle, and then there is massive unemployment too, Spain has 45% youth unemployment, 25% of the population are without work. A Greek friend was telling me that the Orthodox Church feeds a 10,000 people a day in Athens; that children are being abandoned, families breaking up, married women seeking abortions, because the simply can't afford another mouth to feed.  Alcoholism, drug taking, crime, prostitution, suicide are all on the increase. Greece is at the extreme edge but many other western nations are following, even parts of the US. The infra structure of so many cities is falling apart.

The Pope speaks of hope in the present financial situation; it strikes me that many people have giving up on a sense that the future will be good place, that their children will be better off than they themselves. In Italy and Spain in particular but in the rest of Europe and maybe in the US too, we have become dependant on immigration to maintain tax revenues to afford, not only old age pensions but also the social support structures we have at least in Europe expected the state to supply. The centre is not and will not hold, Capitalism, at least as we know it, is crumbling. Not only is it crumbling but we are increasingly becoming disillusioned with it.

It is easy for the Church to adopt a harsh hectoring tone criticising new social initiatives, such as Cameron's redefinition marriage or Obama's healthcare initiative based on abortion and contraception, I do it myself because it is easy but how effective it is, I wonder. For those in the Church, as the voting statistics in the States seem to suggest, the devout take notice but most simply ignore the bishops and clergy, as they do everywhere, presumably shrugging their shoulders saying that they would say that wouldn't they.

 What is needed is a new vision of what society could be and the Church really should be able to make that vision visible. Perhaps we should have had a national campaign before "equalities legislation" robbed us of our adoption agencies to get Catholics, and maybe others, involved in adoption and fostering. Maybe we ought to have combatted "civil partnership" by pressing the right of adult siblings who live together having the same rights as homosexual couples. Perhaps we should be championing a "fair wage" rather than minimum wages, or even a cap on extreme wages, the Church could begin by ensuring its own employees could raise and house a family on one persons wage, and that it is always a fair and just employer. I wonder if the Church ought to be demanding people like me who live in huge houses should be taking in lodgers, or even the homeless. Shouldn't every parish have some kind of social care project for the poorest in their area? A friend of mine has a vision of one London church that specialises in the spiritual care of people in Debrett's starting to serve consomme and canapes to the homeless by cassocked clergy, assisted by Dowagers in furs. To start with shouldn't we insist that all Catholics give away 10% of their income to those less well off than themselves, and give at least 10% of their time and skills?

Humanae Vitae has social and economic consequences. We can't expect people to implement unless we change the structures of society and make a society that welcomes and supports the family. We cannot treat it as stick to beat individuals with, we should treat it as a visionary document that is a cornerstone of our social teaching.

There was a commendable initiative by our own Bishops to share something of Catholic social teaching too businessmen and politicians recently; could we not ensure that our social teaching was actually taught in all its Christological sharpness in our schools? Should we not be promoting rights of women with a feminism that sprang from an orthodox Catholic perspective, with emphasis on a woman's right to have a financially socially secure family.

One last thing, I could never imagine an English bishop being photographed and filmed at dinner, even with the Prime Minister at the Ritz, is it really appropriate for Cardinal Dolan to give dinner to the presidential candidates at the Waldorf Astoria, especially in the present economic situation, aren't there soup runs they could have gone to? It just gives the impression of a smug, wealthy Church, the stands alongside the powerful. A picture is worth a thousand words, what did the picture say to the worlds poor?


Fr Ray Blake said...

Sorry Gem, this isn't an occassion for your normal political, I am much more concerned about how to get across the Church's social teaching.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sixupman said...


I live in North Manchester and am surrounded by large churches with equally large presbyteries, some unused and others underused. I certainly do not suggest they are sold, but I do suggest they are put to some social use. I realise it does not lend itself to a simple solution, but that should not deter an attempt.

The diocese continues to find funds for 're-ordering' which, over the last fifty years, could have been utilised to alleviate social problems within the congregations. If they had, perhaps the collapse in congregation levels would have been avoided?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yet again Gem, "this isn't an occassion for your normal political, I am much more concerned about how to get across the Church's social teaching."

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

who could imagine a Catholic Cardinal belly laughing with a pro-abortion (BO has a long rep' for this:, and - put all the pros anti-s yourself least this goes on too long - "love bombing" president - what a photo-op (whatever's op) was an image that confused and conflated everything that the Cardinal represents and all the twisted turnings of, what some see as a Soros-stooge.

When Christ said, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's"; it seems for the most part American Shepherds did well in reminding the flock of 'the things that are God's'.

Why do we not not 'recognise' the voice of the shepherd?

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think HEC Dolan should have chosen a more fitting turf for his encounter but let us not get fixed him either.
I am more concerned about the Church's mission.

nickbris said...

The people of America voted for a safe pair of hands,they could see the danger in a Republican foreign policy that could bring about Armageddon.

If as has been said by dissidents that the majority were Catholic Hispanic immigrants it must show that they see through the fog and misinformation being given out by pro-life & pro-choice groups.Some controversial agreements have had to be made but it all has to be sorted out.

One very important point to bear in mind is that Obama has not got to fight for another term so this he has a very good chance of getting things done.

johnf said...

No matter what is done to put the Church's social teaching across, it will be ignored by the media which is triggered to produce an anti Catholic spin anything Catholic. The only way that we might get round this is by better catachesis and history, so that our children, (future parishioners, we hope) will have some fundamental background to filter out the drip drip of poinson.

Down our way, our children will at best go to an anglican school after the Catholic Primary.

The headmaster of our primary school is concerned that since the local authority stopped paying the bus costs for taking the children to the catholic primary, parents have been sending their children to the nearest state school. The shortfall is being made up of non catholics. This is a school which our forefathers scrimped and saved to build. So the Catholic message is being diluted here.

Meanwhile our parish enthusiastically raises funds for third world causes, which is all very laudable. But as far as the Faith is concerned, we are a third world country.

Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

Father, Cardinal Dolen is a good fighter; that this photo was scandaled left right and centre is no surprise to those who get paid to scandalise, but why are goobahs like myself, hopefully past and hopefully not future, so easily led by easy evil? is it just because it's easy?

Mercury said...

Father, what is a fair wage and how does it differ from a minimum wage? And let's say we were able to get the US or UK government to push for something like that - what ways could we avoid things like reduction in the number of available jobs, layoffs, and the overall raising of prices?

I just want to know - it seems the best thing to do would be to let wages fall where they may, according to market price, but to use government funds to supplement wages to bring the person's earnings up to a satisfactory level - I think this is what they do in Germany. This way you avoid things like "well, if we have to pay our janitors $20/hr then maybe well have to just do without janitors"

Fr Ray Blake said...

A fair wage would be enough to feed, clothe, educate and house a family, to a reasonable standard, with a little left over ensure something could be saved. The amount depends on the size of the family and location

Nicolas Bellord said...

A living wage. This is not an easy one. There was an interesting article on this in a recent copy of the "Chesterton Review". It said that in the past the unions campaigned for a living wage to enable a man to keep his family at a reasonable standard of living. Then the idea of equal wages for men and women took over. The result of this is that both husband and wife have to go out to work in order to have a joint living wage. If one paid a living wage to a man sufficient to ensure that his wife could stay at home and look after the children what would happen if the wife still decided to go out to work and demanded equal pay with her husband?

There is a dilemma here which does not seem to me to have an easy solution. Perhaps it should be dealt with through the tax system - perhaps bringing back husband and wife being taxed jointly so that where the wife stayed at home to look after the children the husband would pay far less tax than if she did not. I wonder if anyone has thought this through and come up with a sensible solution?

Gatepost productions said...

I am not dwelling on the political, but is it 'family' or 'marriage' that should be at the heart of the Church's social teaching?

The 2001 census showed that over 50% of UK 'households' (they shied off 'families') were 'unmarried'. This seems to imply that it is marriage rather than family that is under attack... I accept that you probably mean traditional nuclear family. Nevertheless, if the sanctity of the Sacrament could be reinstated, good family values would follow.

I should add that I have been married for 53 years, albeit that Pat introduces me as her first husband, saying it keeps me on my toes.

Cosmos said...

I find the whole idea that "capitalism" has failed us hard to stomach. Capitalism has been regualted heavily since the mid-20th century. Further, polititians can excert huge influence on the markets though tax-policy, capital injections, incentives, etc. Some regualtions are necessary and good. Some governemnt activity in the market is good. But, at the same time, many of the problems we now face are a result of poor political or regulatory interventions in the market (Croony capitalism, etc.).

What are you proposing? Socialism? Can you honestly say it does not already exist? It exists much more inEurope than America. Unemployment in Ameica is 8%. Is Europe better off with its elites having more control? What then? Full state control? I can't believe that the 20th century did not scare us to death of that notion.

As for "living wage" Nicolas raises the obvious problems. Do households get 2 living wages? What about kids? What if people can't afford to pay a living wage? They just have to keep their money? What if you just want your house vaccumed and mopped once a week?

Fr Ray Blake said...

You Americans are so in love with Capital, in Europe I am pretty certain we are besotted by it. It is certainly as contrary to the Church's teaching as Communism, we'll have see what happens but economic circumstances will probably result in Europe in growth in some form of subsidiarity but also a greater involvement of individual in society and local communities.

Peter said...

the Order of Malta does help the poor. French TV even showed them doing so a few months ago.
Well said Nicolas Bellord, these economic issues do need careful thought. I would add that as two incomes are needed to pay the mortgage both parents have to work. If only one worked, as a rule, the price of houses would fall so offsetting part of the loss. But how do we get to that state without causing other problems? We have painted ourselves into a corner.

Mercury said...

I think it is unfettered an unregulated capitalism, and not free markets and capital as such, that the church opposes, right? Because I don't know if anyone is too keen on going to wage and price controls and command and control resource allocation,etc. A well-regulated free market is necessary just as railings are necessary to prevent death and injury by gravity - but we do not pretend gravity doesn't exist.

I like the way the old continental Christian Democrats like in Germany and Italy found a balance between a vibrant and free market and a generous social state that encourages family life. Unfortunately they stopped reproducing, thus seriously undermining their system.

I would like to see a minimum guaranteed income applied through the tax system - this would eliminate the need for wage controls, and would also allow the waste caused by having multiple overlapping welfare programs, while guaranteeing a living wage and minimal micromanagement in the economy. It certainly couldn't be *more* expensive that the way things are done now, could it?

Anonymous said...

Father, I read your blog often but have never posted. This is a subject where we agree in the principle but not in implementation.

I'm in Obama's maligned one percent. I'm 61 years old and only made it there in the past two years. Most of my adult life has been in business for myself. I have been bankrupt twice. I have been homeless. I have been hopeless.

You suggest we all give 10% to those less fortunate than ourselves as well as 10% of our time. That's an overwhelming expectation that will yield no long term results.

I tithe 10% to my parish. I rarely pass a beggar and fail to give. When the black bag at church passes by I give more when I can.

I work 60 hours per week so to give 10% to charity will require me to reduce my income. And you expect me to give 10% to others. That leaves me with 25~30% less income than I have today.

What will this sacrifice yield? Will those recipients find a change in their lives? No, they won't.

What may best help them? A job (or a better job if they have one.) How is that most likely to happen? I say through capitalism.

Your Europeans have been through many -isms: feudalism, mercantilism, socialism, communism, some capitalism. It seems that all have failed you. Or perhaps you've failed them.

We Americans in the past couple of hundred years have had only capitalism with increasing (very rapidly as of late) regulation & socialist policies. What is the result? We're broke and have no jobs.

Providing jobs is what I do best. I provide good, hi-tech jobs that pay very well. Over the years I have paid many good people a lot of money while until recently I have had little to show for it other than wrinkles, aches and pains.

Through two bankruptcies and more than a few years living literally day to day I paid my employees. I live for them. They get paid first. They get bonuses first. When one has an extraordinary circumstance I ignore our company policies. Every new legal requirement causes me to pause and worry the impact on them.

I am not alone. Most small employers are in the same fix as I. We're not Robber Barons. We're just trying to get ahead & help others as we do.

By all means let's convey Catholic social teachings. But telling someone to give more money is a really sad and useless way to accomplish that. And you are only alienating the ones you wish to instruct. For my part I only once again see a clergyman whom I respect show how little he understands the life of the layman.

Victoria said...

The picture showing the archbishop and President Obama is being cropped to omit Mit Romney sitting on the other side of the archbishop. The dinner raised 5 million dollars for children's charities.

Victoria said...

For presbyteries to become homes for lodgers or the homeless they would have to be brought up to Occupational Health and Safety standards and public insurance policies plus what every other insurance policies would have to be taken out to cover the residents in case of accidents. Some of the homeless may have physical or mental problems and a qualified person may have to be on site at all times.

Gungarius said...

We in the English Church have one great Grace coming from the reformation. It decoupled us utterly from the establishment and enables us to teach catholic social teaching without being compromised as establishment "insiders". We should take advantage of this.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Well done Ray! I think giving away 10% to the Church OR another charity is commendable, just to stop us becoming mean and to instill in us a love of the poor.

Nicolas Bellord said...

I suspect the argument that "Capitalism" is contrary to Church teaching is an endless one and very much depends upon how you define it.

It seems to me that it is much more useful to take a simpler approach and deal with the kinds of sins committed by both Capitalists and Socialists/Communists:

1. Usury
2. Gambling
3. Lying
4. Fraud
5. Failure to bring wrongdoers to account.
6. Omissions by regulators

If the financial community could be persuaded to look at these areas much improvement could result. I submitted a paper to the select committee on banking on this but I suspect it ended in the WPB. There is coverup of improper behaviour at the highest levels and I believe it is unlikely to improve so long as politicians in power look to having a nice job with a bank when they retire a la Ruth Kelly and others.

Cosmos said...


You stated:

"[Capitlism] is certainly as contrary to the Church's teaching as Communism, we'll have see what happens but economic circumstances will probably result in Europe in growth in some form of subsidiarity but also a greater involvement of individual in society and local communities."

First of all, I agree with tithing and a lot of the stuff you've said. I am not a "true believer" in laissez faire economics and I know what the Church teaches in this area.

I am not sure why you think the Church condemns capitalism and communism. Communism entails the abolition of all property and control of the entire economy by a technocratic elite. It is a revolutionary, mesianic, materialistic ideology created by atheists. In practice, it has always, and will always mean that a hyper-educated elite will continually excert its will on the mass of the population in a totalitarian or near totalitarian manner. It is antithetical to freedom, responsibility, and religion.

Capitalism is economic short hand for a system in which private property is put to use by individuals in cooperation with other individuals in order to generate profits, and hence, wealth. It is compatible with every Church teaching, in the sense that people can agree to use their property in conformity with whatever external standards are assumed. (In my opinion, your vision of a community cased on subsidiarity would still be capitalist. ). JPII and BXVI always talk in compatible terms and it seems to be what Jesus assumes in his parables.

The Church only rejects unfettered capitalism where market forces are treated as the end all and be all (see below). But that kind of capitalism does not exist in the West. What we are witnessing now is not the failure of laizze faire capitalism, but the failure of our current model of socialized capitalism built around multi-national banks and centralized money systems.

BUt the real problem we are facing now is not capitalism, but atheism, materialism, and paganism. I agree that the idea of wealth in the hands of men without morals and love is frightening and destructive. But the idea of a government of amoral atheists in control of all aspects of life is more frightening and will be no more compassionate. The root of the problem--sin-- will still be there regardless of the system we create, and no set of laws will ever replace the Gospel.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2425: "The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with "communism" or "socialism." She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of "capitalism," individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.207 Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market."208 Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended."

Sixupman said...

Victoria 9/11/12 03:54:

I did not say it would be easy, but your solution would be to let them rot to abandonment?

At one time The Church was awash with social work of one sort or another - alas, no longer.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Cosmos, When the Church condemns anything, certainly in its social teaching, it is condemning an extreme ideology because our thinking is supposed to be formed by the principally by the Gospel.

Rerum Novarum condemns the type of Communism that denies an individual any private property but also the type of Capitalism that reduces someone to total dependancy, a type of slavery.

It seems as if both, taken to an extreme, reduce us to slavery and dehumanise us and society. The Church's aim is to humanise individuals and society.

Katie said...

Father: all those rich people at the Waldorf Astoria give the money to keep the enormous outreach of the NY Catholic Church afloat. Why is this wining and dining different from the Queen inviting the ABC and Cormac to state banquets? The nearest thing we have to a charitable fundraiser by the Queen (not that she would ever do one for charitable purposes of course) is the AB of New York hosting a dinner to sting rich folks for contributions. Would you not feed the poor with money from Rich Sinners?

Cosmos said...

Of course you are right, and I did not mean to imply any differently. I hope I was not being to argumentative.

My point may be as simple as pointing out that the kind of communism that the Church condemns is the kind that actually existed in Russia and China. Whereas the Church does not equally condemn the economic systems of America and western Europe as they actually exist. Most people call those systems "capitalist." Therefore, I think it is very confusing to say the Church condemns capitalism.

And where is all of this discussion leading? We have an incredibly high expectation for our standard of living and entitlements. So much of what we talk about as just is really the lifestyle enjoyed in capitalist countries. Can some other system actually come close to providing the amount of wealth required to live out this vision of "social justice"?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yet the Church must be a stern critic of all political systems and evaluate everything according to the Gospel.

The great strength of Am-Church is its wealth, its influence and its power, they are however directly opposed to the poverty, weakness and littleness of the Gospel. Hosting fundraising dinners for the rich at the Astoria doesn't seem very Christlike - won't American Catholics just give for the sake of Christ without dinner?

Victoria said...

I did not say it would be easy, but your solution would be to let them rot to abandonment?

You and I are lucky, we don't have to consider and pay for the logistics of caring for the poor in the 21st century. Litigation is a fact of life in the 21st century.

Perhaps you should be the one to pay for a cost benefit analysis of father's idea and present it to the diocese/archdiocese for consideration.

won't American Catholics just give for the sake of Christ without dinner?

It isn't just the Americans who are most generous with their money when they can mix with the wealthy and famous. Those who don't have to manage archdioceses and their charitable outreaches can scoff at five million dollars for the needy but those on the ground helping in the soup kitchens are very grateful for the money which helps them to keep their apostolate going I am sure. The wealthy are as in need of Christ as the poor.

JA said...

My good father: I don't think I understand your point about whether the Church should perhaps demand that people like you who live in large houses take in the homeless, or at least lodgers. If you think that's the right way to go, then why don't you just do it? I'm confused. Though I'd like to add that you might be sorry if you did. :-)


Mr. John Heuertz, OP
Kansas City

Sixupman said...


Where the **** does 'cost benefit analysis' come in when dealing with social and poor issues?

When was 'cost benefit analysis' applied to 're-ordering' or the creation of overinflated diocesan bureaucracies - against diminishing congregation levels?

Sixupman said...

Apropos my earlier comments on empty or underused presbyteries: this a.m. on the BBC TV News, was the subject of bringing empty houses back into use. One such was a modern detached presbytery which had ended-up vandalised.

Was there no one in the diocesan curia capable of arranging that property being put to some profitable use. Were there no Catholics in the area who would have been interested in renting the property? And, in this case there would have been none of complications to which Victoria has referred.

How many more instances of this scandal are there?

Sixupman said...

Re abandoned house: can be viewd on BBC TV News [06:00 to 09:03] start at 07:22hrs. Available on web-site.

gemoftheocean said...

JA, what you suggest, particularly in this day and age is untenable. Priests would be setting themselves up for false accusations of all sorts. Lawsuit chases would be advertising: "has a Catholic priest ever raped you when he said he was trying to give you a free room to live in?"

Please. Get a grip -- decent priests are vulnerable enough from phony accusations -- minimize potential of making such accusations.

99 people out of a 100 may be fine -- but that 1 out of a hundred who lies trying to win a big lawsuit could not only ruin a spotless reputation, but bankrupt the church.

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