The National Catholic Review

Here's a quiz.  Who said this? 

"Disturbing factors are frequently present in the form of the frightful disparities between excessively rich individuals and groups on the one hand, and on the other hand the majority made up of the poor or indeed of the destitute, who lack food and opportunities for work and education and are in great numbers condemned to hunger and disease....It is no secret that the abyss separating the minority of the excessively rich from the multitude of the destitute is a very grave symptom in the life of any society. This must also be said with even greater insistence with regard to the abyss separating countries and regions of the earth."

Paul Krugman?  Robert Reich?  Karl Marx?

Well here's a recording of the man speaking these words to the United Nations.  I'm sure you'll recognized his voice.  And here's a hint.  He's now referred to as "Blessed."

James Martin, SJ

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Tom Maher | 10/6/2012 - 2:08pm
Popes, even "Blessed" ones, are also bound like by reason and reality.  It is not valid for a Pope to say:  1 + 1 = 7 even in support of some spitirual end.  As everyone knows the ends tdo not justify the maeans where the means are faulty or non-rigoorously reasoned arguments.  

Reason applies to Popes and Bishops becasue reason and logic are the rules of the Creator.  Sloppy reasoning does not become valid because a Pope or Bishop declares it.    
Vincent Gaitley | 10/4/2012 - 8:38pm
Popes, even "Blessed" ones, are not economists.  No one would describe the Bible as a book of science anymore either, so why so many proclaim it as a book of economics?  The Apostles were mostly fishermen were told.  Did they catch only enough fish to feed themselves?  Or did they trade and sell the surplus? Joseph the Worker, the carpenter, likely traded his labor for food and cloth and other necessities.  I'm sure he earned some coins, too.  All that is great for a first century economy; the Church has little or no competence in economics except to remind the productive to be charitable.  When the Church that has prospered and survived from the fruits of its donors starts to preach HOW to earn, and HOW MUCH to earn, then it is time to demand again for the whole Church to open its books.  Until then, silence please, some of us are working.
William Marvel | 10/4/2012 - 11:42am
That the free market is "practiced all the time in this country" is simply contrary to history. From the very beginning, those in the market have sought unfair advantage and have frequently manipuated government to ensure this advantage. The history of the transcontinental railroads povide a useful example, and is this regard railroads set the pattern that Amerian industry has followed ever since.
The natural tendency of a "free" maket is to monopoly. It is also to the exploitation of labor. The reason workers do not toil under 19th century conditions is not the benevolence of the marketplace. It is the power of unions, reinforced - in times past - by law. Those days are over, and we are now beginning to see how labor will fare under a "free market."
The market is a wonderful tool for generating wealth, a terrible tool for distributing wealth because it cannot answer basic questions about how and why that wealth is to be distributed. For that we turn to the Gospels, to the Church, and to our conscience.
To make the market the final judge is simply perverse.
And, Amy:
The Gospel is not about free-maket economics. But Jesus did have a lot to say about our obligations to the poor and about justice, about laying up treasure. The reason these issues are being fought over now is precisel because not everyone "is provided for" in our society. Far rom it. We seem to be able to provide less and less for the poor.
Joseph J Dunn | 10/4/2012 - 9:28am
The good news is that most  people-a very large majority-with large incomes do contribute substantial sums to charity. This is a finding of numerous studies of philanthropy, and former President Bill Clinton acknowledges it in his book Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World. That charitable giving is just as much a part of our economic system as the savings, investment, and innovation that gives rise to large fortunes, and the taxes and regulations we enact through government. Our challenge is to use this system efficiently, to promote the common good.  

I think we need to be careful about taking a sentence out of an encyclical, or using a brief quote from a pope or from scripture to make one's whole evaluation of the justice of our economic system. That denies the richness of the encyclicals and of scripture. Yes, encyclicals tend to be long, and initially seem excessively wordy. But the complexity is appropriate for the topics being addressed. They also contain frequent references back to scripture, and to the Doctors, to set them in context with basic and constant principles of the faith. 

Much is expected of us as citizens of the richest country in the world. Knowledge of what has worked, and what has failed, in our system, can allow us to move forward in ways that are consistent with both justice and charity, and which truly advance the common good.
Joseph J. Dunn   Author of After One Hundred Years: Corporate Profits, Wealth, and American Society. 
Vince Killoran | 10/4/2012 - 8:53am
"once everybody is provided for. . ."

Here we go again.  Who or what determines this? The bare calories necessary to take your next breath? A hut? Clean water?  Is that it-or do we acknowledge the need for safety, good health, quality education so that one can develop one's talents and contribute to making the world a better place?

Our sense of what constitutes poverty is fluid.  And that is the way it should be. We certainly don't say about medical care, for example, that the year 33 C.E. is the standard and any attempt to improve past that marker is fanciful.

Jesus did not endorse people accumulating "fabulous wealth" and the Catholic labor teaching had much to say about the rights of workers and the theory of surplus value and the need to address alienation in the process of work beyond the mandate that people have just enough to see the sun rise each day.
J Cosgrove | 10/4/2012 - 2:34am
''then we can safey say the free market you preach has never been practiced in this country.''

I have to disagree with you.  It is practiced all the time in this country and is one of the things that has made the United States great.  A free market does not mean there is no law.  In fact the main purpose of government is to ensure that the laws are fair and do not favor one sub group over another and protects the rights of all.  There will always be things that have to be protected and regulated by the government.  Something that is not always successful but because it is not completely successful does not mean that our society does not try to implement a free market or approach it.  We have to continually guard against restrictions of the free market that tend to favor one sub group over another and generally make the economy less optimal.

A free market system does not guarantee that everyone will be winners but it can guarantee basic minimums for all and that over time this minimum will grow so that on the average it improve things for all.  Any restrictions on that freedom will lessen the total amount for all.  The track record is that the more free the market the more an economy will be able grow and thus the more there will be to share with all.  We have seen that in the United States and in other countries that have promoted freedom as even the poor today live better than the wealthy of just a few generations ago.

And around the world where the free market is approximated the more likely that country will prosper and provide a better life for its citizens.  Where it is restricted the ones who suffer the most are the poor.  The evidence is overwhelming that the more people are free and not constrained by sub groups the more the people will prosper.  So to decry that it isn't perfect is no reason not to support it as much as possible.
William Marvel | 10/4/2012 - 12:35am
If "captive, oppressive, chains, bribe, insider trading, screwing someone etc." have nothing to do with the free maket, then we can safey say the free market you preach has never been practiced in this country. In fact, I doubt that a truly free market has ever existed anywhere, nor is such a market even possible.
So we have to deal with the market that we have. That means some force has to level the playing field, some force has to police the market, regulate it, oversee it. For the market to police itself is an absurdity. So that force would, of necessity, be an outside authority. Governent.
In regulating the market, which now no longer seems so "free," the question arises by what standards is it to be regulated? Fairness, justice, morality? But these are extra-market considerations, considerations that can be applied to questions of wealth, profit, distribution, labor, but are not in themselves primarily economic. What's a moral, or just, distrbution of profits? How is the power of the seller of an essential commodity, say energy or water or health care, to be ballanced against the buyer's need for that commodity? No economist can tell you this.
Several commenters here have noted that the Pope is not an economist, does not operate a business. But the Pope does deal with those larger considerations that must govern a fair marketplace. It puzzles me that Catholics who claim to follow the Church's teaching in some matters - sexuality, for example - have such difficulty following its teaching when the issue is social justice and economic fairness. The Church's mistrust of untrammeled free-market economics is not just somthing cooked up in the last century or so. It has been embedded in Catholic teaching since the beginning. The Epistle of James is especially eloquent on issues of economic unfairness and oppressionn of the poor.

J Cosgrove | 10/3/2012 - 10:22pm
''I would just like JR and other believers of the free market to show how that reconciles with the words of Jesus.''

I know of nothing that Jesus said that is conflict with the free market or nothing in the free market that is in conflict with Catholic teaching.  I had 16 years of Catholic education by very knowledgeable religious instructors including Jesuits.  You use words such as captive, oppressive, chains, bribe, insider trading, screwing someone etc.  These have nothing to do with the free market where by definition no one is in chains, captive, oppressed, their rights are protected and they are free to make choices etc.  What you are describing is not the free market.  It may exist in some places but it is not the free market.
Bill Mazzella | 10/3/2012 - 8:58pm
I would just like JR and other believers of the free market to show how that reconciles with the words of Jesus. I am not against capitalism. But I don't think it can be reduced to the fastest one to the prize. Lacking that JR one would have to counter you by "quot gratis asseritor, gratis negatur."
William Marvel | 10/3/2012 - 8:17pm
Te trouble with "free-market Catholicism is that it measures The Good wth the yardstick of economics. The proper measure is the yardstick of justice. Only justice can tell you if the economics yardstick is accurate.  
Bill Mazzella | 10/3/2012 - 6:31pm

You might be more relevant if you explain the words of Jesus specifically as I did.  
J Cosgrove | 10/3/2012 - 6:24pm
Mr. Mazzella,

Every example you provided is not an example of a free market.  You are describing instances of non free transactions which would be abhorent to a free market advocate.  The fact that you reacted the way you did is an example of my point that few really understand what free market capitalism is about.  The essence of free market capitalism is the lack of coercion in every transaction.  So goons, selling 3 year olds for money or hoarding foods are not examples of a free market at work.
Sandi Sinor | 10/3/2012 - 4:42pm
David Power - agree with much of what you say, but the JPII center was the folly of the bishop of Detroit not the bishop of Rome.  And if ever a diocese didn't need that particular albatross and that financial loss it's Detroit.  Getting caught up in the rock star hysteria after his death that promulgated the name "John Paul the Great" was expensive. And embarassing in the light of day.
Sandi Sinor | 10/3/2012 - 4:39pm
#6 - Tom, since the speaker was John Paul II, do those who believe that this statement is not ''intellectually valid'' then concede that perhaps some of John Paul II's other beliefs and statements might also fall short on grounds of intellectual validity?  Many think TOB lacks a great deal in terms of ''intellectual validity'' as do his statements about women's roles? Are the popes' (both the current and former) statements on the war in the middle-east  ''intellectually valid''?  How about the statements on capital punishment? 

  How do you personally decide when something the pope says is ''intellectually valid'' and when it's not?
ed gleason | 10/3/2012 - 3:07pm
JR, Explain how the 'rent seeking' [your term] of Norway's distribution of oil profits into the world's largest pension fund for all citizens and their generous grants for all students to attend college in Norway or anywhere in the world[10s of thousands overseas . ask Jesuit admissions]  is leading that country into poverty? or your term= "bad to worse' ??
J Cosgrove | 10/3/2012 - 2:39pm
''Try as our conservative Catholic friends do they can't remake Catholic social teaching into the ''free market'' ideology.''

If free market economic policy (and I really mean a free market where both members of a transaction enter into the transaction freely) is the most productive and moral means for alleviating the problems of the poor and if free market economic policy is at odds with Catholic Social Teaching, what does that say about Catholic Social Teaching?  The reality is that free market economic policy is not at odds with Catholic Social Teaching because it is the most efficient way to help the poor.  Maybe the people who object to free market policies are susceptible to Agenda Driven Catholic misinformation.

What the problem is, is that too few Catholics really understand both free market economic policy and Catholic Social Teaching and I have seen that every day on this site both in the articles and comments.  They often associate rent seeking with free market capitalism which it is not nor is it any where close to a free market. Rent seeking which is what most people object to, always leads to a less optimal distribution of goods and is based on power usually physical or political.  Interesting is that do gooders usually want to replace one form of rent seeking with another while ignoring the basic problem.  Consequently we often go from bad to worse.
Vince Killoran | 10/3/2012 - 1:53pm
Try as our conservative Catholic friends do they can't remake Catholic social teaching into the "free market" ideology.

They are on firmer ground when they dissent from it, not when they assert that it somehow fits Ayn Rand's vision. 
J Cosgrove | 10/3/2012 - 12:59pm
''#2 - so was John Paul II also supporting ideas that create more poverty?''

No.  The statement is just one abhorring the difference between the very rich and the poor.  There is no policy recommendation in the statement chosen by Fr. Martin nor is there any historical context though I assume JPII was referring to the present when he made his statement.  Fr. Martin then chose three people to showcase who have recommended policies that hurt the poor.  That I find interesting.  Why that particular mix unless he chose three extremists who all recommend dysfunctional policies to indicate that they belong together because all theoretically want to help the poor but end up proposing things with unintended consequences that have the opposite effect?
Tom Maher | 10/3/2012 - 12:41pm
No matter who said it it is not intellectually valid.  The likely influence of this statement is Karl Marx.  Marx remains a juge part of world culture as he has for the past 150 years, especially of course in the 20th century.  This influence is very much a part of most everyone thinking but especially in academia.  Marxism has been massivley disproven but still remains as a very bad habit of thinking that can be found everywhere including in the Church.  

Take a good look at this intellectually sloppy premise that there is such thing as being "excessive rich".  This implies there is some kind of meaningful and agreed on standard of point that a person can be "excessivley rich".  This is meaningless nonsense that has no relationship to anything else.  Only Marxist theory with the arbitrary and disproven class warfare concept as the source of all of the problems of history does this ideas have any viability .  And most countries by the end of the century rejected Marxism.  

Deciding who has too much wealth is arbitrary political decision loaded with poltical implications.  Marxism has demonstated countires are much  better off keeping politcs out of the economy.  When the state is allowed to decide who has too much wealth all of society is in big trouble from the sates having such god-like power.  Power corrupts everything as has been demostrated by the collapse of the Soviet Marxist countries.   Deciding who should benefit and by how much from the wealth they created is too readily abused.  If this were valid Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Mao and LEnis would be a considered economic heros rather than just power brokers.

Keep po?w?e?r? ????????p?o?l?i?t?i?c?s? ?o?u?t? ?o?f? ?e?c?o?n??o???mics and rele?gion??.?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
ed gleason | 10/3/2012 - 11:57am
I suggest the above posters try and convince the citizens of Scandinavia and  then the Swiss that their leveling system is not working.   'Greed and ostentatiousness is good'. will not go over well. And Thanks for the deep observations by Ronald Reagan,  the wise philosopher who was converted to the ranks of the elite   in the halls of GE and the better golf link dining rooms. He is a perfect example of Aquinas' observation 'You become what you know'   
J Cosgrove | 10/3/2012 - 10:45am
It couldn't be Krugman, Reich or Marx because each of these three people espouse(d) policies that create more poverty.
Mike Brooks | 10/3/2012 - 10:12am
Blessed Bela Lugosi?

Disparities between rich and poor is not inherently a problem.  The problem is that there are people who do not have access to food, shelter, and health care; whether that's a function of income disparity is questionable at best.

Here's a fun video about how taking from the rich people in this country will solve all of our problems:
Bill Mazzella | 10/4/2012 - 6:55pm
"One should distinguish carefully between the duty to provide for the needs of the indigent and the desire to confiscate what has been honestly earned."

Honestly earned is quite an assumption. Freedom and free market is not the same. What made this country great is our great natural resources and democracy. Despite the abuse of the Rockefellers and the Fords the country survived because of anti-trust laws, estate taxes and equal rights legislation. Microsoft mercilessly and viciously destroyed the competition because it had the monopoly on windows. There were better browsers but Microsoft would not let them operate. Apple pays the lowest wages and is muscleing its way to exclude others. Some of it is surely and happily free market. But this does not free us from the preferential option for the poor. It is amazing how those "honestly earned" people jump out of windows when their fortune turns. Other countries do not have prosperity because basic freedoms are not allowed. Not because they do not have an unbridled market. 

If the free market were so free why do companies spend fortunes on lobbying so they can exclude the competition. It is true that bread and hunger are not as great a problem as they were at the time of Jesus and that many "captives" need more spiritual rather than material freedom, (See Maslows's hierarchy of needs)nevertheless money remains a certified source of evil and the day of reckoning will still be in danger if our "fabulous" wealth does not feed the hungry and heal the sick. And over 7,000,000 children die every year because of lack of basic food and medicine. The "Fabulously Wealthy" will be asked about that first. There is no way getting around Matt; 25:31-46. 

Finally, "fabulous wealth" is always tenuous because it is temporal and "where moths and rust destroy and theives steal. Francis of Assissi is still relevant when he deemed it necessary to take a vow of poverty because most wars happen because of greed. Still happens. 

Bill Mazzella | 10/3/2012 - 5:49pm
Let the free market reign. When workers complain about working conditions and strike I, since I have the money, will hire goons to beat the crap out of them. The Free Market is fantastic because it allows three year old females to be trafficked to all those admirable men who make our markets what they are. The free market is great I can store a years supply of the best food while the families of Spain and Greece can wait outside restaurants to salvage the scraps. What is Jesus talking about when he says: "I have compassion on the multitude." Does he not know they caused the hunger themselves? And surely Jesus is plumb out of his mind when he continues: "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,"

Set the captives free? They chose their chains. And error of all errors; the Good Samaritan. What was that man doing walking alone anyway. The priest and the levite knew that. But the stupid, hated Samaritan had a senior or non-market moment. Let the free market roar so I can bribe officials who want to stop me from insider trading and screwing anybody I can.

Why free the captives when the market is more catptivating? Why free the oppressed when they spoil all the fun. And if the blind stay blind there is more for me. Preach the Gospel to the Poor? Let them stay "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" and let me have my party!!!
david power | 10/3/2012 - 4:08pm
Krugman ,Marx and Wojtyla have one thing in common and that is they theorize about wealth and where and how it should be spent and they moralize a bit too much in doing so.The former is a very rich man and the latter insisted that a swimming pool be built for him out of Church money.
Champagne socialists are the glibbest and their words laughable.I am now reading the memoirs of Pablo Neruda and it is hilarious to read.Having been to his houses in Chile to see him portray himself as one with the poor is nonsense.
Marx never claimed to be a saint and so his rancourous character can be overlooked as he was just expressing thoughts.
The Church needs the poor more than the poor need the Church.Priests love to play on the charity routine and brush up their ego with thoughts of how heartbreakingly good they are, how benevolent etc.Never seen a malnourished Priest in my life.Wojtyla lived in a palace for the last 27 years of his life.Never so much as sold one painting to give to the poor.Casa Santa Maria ,which he had built,is like a 5star hotel and the food there is sumptuous .The words quoted by Fr Martin above are banal and nothing more than platitudes.I knew who the speaker was after the first two lines.Read the statement again.It says nothing... 
Everybody can be generous with other peoples money..
The John Paul 2 cultural centre in washington lost up to 70 million dollars before closing I think.70 million....Disparity anyone???Abyss??  
Sandi Sinor | 10/3/2012 - 12:39pm
#2 - so was John Paul II also supporting ideas that create more poverty?

#3 - ''...government programs ruptured the bonds holding poor families together.'

Mr. Belna, could you please expand a bit on that thought? Specifically - please identify by name which government programs ''ruptured'' the bonds that held poor families together and describe exactly how these programs effected these ''ruptures''?
Amy Ho-Ohn | 10/4/2012 - 7:23am
Free market economics accords with the Gospel the same way gravity and thermodynamics do: they are inescapable features of the universe as God created it. You can make an airplane fly and you can make a refrigerator keep your meat frozen, but you have to do it by understanding the underlying principles, not by denying them or trying to abolish them.

What JPII said is intellectually valid, but not quite relevant to our situation. "Inequality" as we know it is very different from the inequality of Lazarus and Dives. The point of the parable is that Lazarus does not have enough to live. This form of inequality was quite common even in the developed world thirty years ago. Today, for the most part, even the very poor in America have the necessities of life; many even have luxuries unimaginable in the time of Christ; for example SUV's, iPods, dialysis.

It is immoral to tolerate economic circumstances in which some people do not have enough to live a human life. But once everybody is provided for, there is no obvious reason why some people should not accumulate fabulous wealth if they are able to and want to.

One should distinguish carefully between the duty to provide for the needs of the indigent and the desire to confiscate what has been honestly earned. Envy is not less sinful than avarice.
J Cosgrove | 10/3/2012 - 1:29pm
A priest I have never met face to face (I know his father) but have corresponded occasionally through email sent the following link about the issue at hand, namely how to help the poor.  It is about Catholic Social Teaching

One comment at the end hit home.  It was

''Don't let agenda driven Catholics lie to you about what Catholic Social Teaching actually says''
Tom Maher | 10/3/2012 - 12:43pm
# 6 continuation

Keep power politcs out of economics, theology and religion.
james belna | 10/3/2012 - 11:36am
My guess is that the mystery speaker was someone who had seen first-hand how a society based on class warfare and government control of the economy will necessarily devolve into tyranny. I am also guessing that he was a friend of the man who said this:

''We're in danger of creating a permanent culture of poverty as inescapable as any chain or bond; a second and separate America, an America of lost dreams and stunted lives. The irony is that misguided welfare programs instituted in the name of compassion have actually helped turn a shrinking problem into a national tragedy. From the 1950's on, poverty in America was declining. American society, an opportunity society, was doing its wonders. Economic growth was providing a ladder for millions to climb up out of poverty and into prosperity. In 1964 the famous War on Poverty was declared and a funny thing happened. Poverty, as measured by dependency, stopped shrinking and then actually began to grow worse. I guess you could say, poverty won the war. Poverty won in part because instead of helping the poor, government programs ruptured the bonds holding poor families together.''

Who said that? Here is a hint. He is now referred to as Ronald Reagan.