Pope Francis and “Unbridled Capitalism”

I thought that the fuss about Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) had died out, but The Cincinnati Enquirer recently devoted a full page story (Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014) headlined “Papal shot at unbridled capitalism stirs debate.”  Coming more than six weeks after the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation, the content of what the Pope said was no longer news, so the subject was political commentary.

One Catholic politician said, “I don’t dwell on what the Pope has to say about economics.  I’m more mindful of what the Pope has to say about faith and morals.”  He might be surprised to know that economics has to do with human behavior, not just numbers, and within the Catholic Church the subject started as a part of moral theology.

The subject of debate is what the Pope wrote about “unbridled capitalism.”  Please note that the words “unbridled capitalism” do not appear in the document.  Others seem to recognize that certain behaviors deserve that title, including behaviors criticized by the Pope, but the Pope does not use even the word “capitalism” in this document.

My father’s sense of justice was agitated by the unbridled capitalism that he had witnessed.  John D. Rockefeller and a partner became wealthy in the produce business  and then built an oil refinery during the Civil War.  By the end of the war, he had bought out some of his partners, and by 1870 he formed Standard Oil.  He would enter a geographic market, price his product below cost, drive the existing marketers out of business, and then raise the price and extend his growing monopoly.  That sort of abuse led to the formation of the Sherman Anti-trust Law of 1890, thus putting at least somewhat of a bridle on the previously ruthless and unbridled Rockefeller capitalism.

It is probably true that in the United States and in much of Western Europe, we no longer have the economics that can be called “unbridled capitalism.”  But that doesn’t mean that economics is no longer part of moral theology or that our systems cannot be greatly improved for the betterment of those who are excluded from participating in the benefits of a prosperous economy.

The remaining Rockefellers remain at the top of the economic sphere, and Pope Francis is on solid ground when he writes about the growing separation of the very rich from the very poor.  He rightly urges the wealthy and would-be wealthy to be less concerned about growing more wealthy and to be more concerned about the poor.  He does not, however, address the issue of what the poor can do to help themselves.

As I have written before, one of the great impediments to participation in the benefits of a prosperous economy is fornication.  In the United States, the single greatest source of new poverty is the household headed by a single mother with children.  The American elite have tried to address this with condoms, the Pill, the Shot, and abortion, and the rate of illegitimacy has only proceeded to rise.  The answer is and must be spiritual and moral.

It is time for the Church to affirm this over and over again until it finally sinks in, first within the social-justice agencies of the Church and then within the culture.  But how can the local Church expect to have any influence on single young men and women, many of them unchurched, if it won’t even attempt to do what it can do among its own pew-sitters?  And what it can do, but largely refuses to do, is to require that engaged couples attend the right kind of NFP course, one that includes Catholic morality as well as ecological breastfeeding and the full sympto-thermal method.

What is needed is a new book on the subject of Catholic teaching on economics.  It should place its foundation in Sacred Scripture and moral theology.  Then it should place each of the social justice encyclicals and exhortations in their historical context.  It should also include the centuries-old moral theology concerning breastfeeding and the needs and rights of babies as Fr. William Virtue, PhD, did in his masterful work, Mother and Infant: The Moral Theology of Embodied Self-Giving in Motherhood in Light of the Exemplar Couplet Mary and Jesus.  It is my hunch that many folks, including Catholics, are quite unaware of both the content of this body of teaching and the social ills to which it has responded and continues to address.  In the meantime, I suggest that most of us will benefit by a careful reading of Evangelii Gaudium and also re-reading Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae. 

Kathleen Parker and Moral Certitudes

In my blog of December 22, 2013, I wrote, “If Pope Francis were asked the same questions [about sin], how would his answer have differed from that of Phil Robertson?”

That question became more interesting just two days later when Kathleen Parker criticized Phil Robertson in her Washington Post syndicated column for his “moral certitude” that sodomy is wrong, and she concluded this way: “But fundamentalism, regardless of religion, finds refuge in the toxic swamp of moral certitude.”

By way of background, Drew Magary interviewed Phil Robertson for an article in the January 2014 issue of GQ.  About 60 percent through the article, Phil was commenting on the decline of morality in the United States and said, “…the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around. . . Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong.  Sin becomes fine.”

Magary:  What, in your mind, is sinful?

Robertson:  “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Now, what if Kathleen Parker had asked Pope Francis, in the context of a conversation about the moral decline of the United States, “What, in your mind, is sinful?”  To be sure, he would probably have commented on the growing chasm between the rich and poor as he has made clear.

But what if she had pursued and said something like this:  “As you have heard, Phil Robertson calls himself a Christian and is certain that sodomy is sinful.  Do you share that conviction?”

I suggest that Pope Francis would reply something along this line.

“As you know, in my plane interview last July I distinguished between sexual crimes and sins.  I had appointed to a Vatican bank job a priest who was reported to not only have a same-sex orientation but also was strongly suspected of having engaged in such behaviors.  Our investigation concluded that he had not engaged in any behaviors that were statutory crimes.  I did not say that he had not sinned.  In fact, I thought I made it clear that sins are sins.  I also made it clear that God forgives repentant sinners, and so must we.  Christians ought to have a moral certitude that sodomy is sinful and also that we need to follow God in forgiving those who repent of such sins.”

Imaginary Parker:  “So what do you think about my published comment that ‘fundamentalism, regardless of religion, finds refuge in the toxic swamp of moral certitude.’”

Imaginary Pope:  “Well, since you asked, I have to say that you need to learn how to distinguish between the time-tested, biblically based teachings of the Catholic Church and the wishful thinking of Western liberal revolutionists.  Your term, ‘the toxic swamp of moral certitude’ well describes the Leftist ideas that gave us the absolutism of Socialism, Communism, and a sexual revolution that cannot say ‘no’ to any imaginable behavior between consenting persons, the only qualification being the age of consent.  Communism was the liberal effort to root out all the moral certainties of Christianity and create a Leftist version of heaven on earth.  The founders of these “isms” were so certain of their rightness that they murdered millions of their own citizens.

“My predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, knew all too well the toxic swamp of the moral certitudes of the Left as he lived through the dictatorships of both National Socialism and Communism.  Very recently President Vladimir Putin said that the greatest thing that every happened to Russia was the introduction of Christianity some 1,000 years ago.  I suggest that you would do well to wake up and start reading Chesterton who predates both of these toxic swamps.”


If you find it difficult to concentrate while praying the rosary, you might find helpful the little rosary booklet I have compiled.  The Seven Day Bible Rosary has a different set of mysteries for each day of the week with a verse before each Hail Mary.  See the top of this page.

John Kippley, www.nfpandmore.org

The Poor and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development

The theme of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is “breaking the cycle of poverty.”  Unfortunately, its financial grants in the past have been directed almost exclusively towards those who are seeking to help the already poor, frequently by making them more politically active.  That doesn’t break the cycle.

There is a familiar saying about taxes and subsidies: what you tax you will get less of, and what you subsidize you will get more of.  I suspect that the latter applies also to the various ways to fight poverty.  For example, Aid to Dependent Children was and is envisioned as way to help needy children whose poverty is no fault of their own.  However, when a single mother has one surprise-pregnancy child and then another and then another…, the program becomes for some a subsidy for having children out-of-wedlock.

Judie Brown of the American Life League has recently written that in 2013 the CCHD made grants to “over 20 problematic grantees,” that is, organizations to which Catholic money should not be given.  On the good side, some previous grantees are no longer on the list, and the CCHD made one helpful step in the right direction—a $500,000 grant to the Birth Choice Health Clinic Network in California.  This is an anti-abortion association and, to its credit, it has a program on parenting.  However, even the grant to Birth Choice is still part of the overall problem of little or nothing being done to reduce the rate of new fornication-caused families.

The bottom line is that if the leadership of the Catholic Church in the USA wants to break the cycle of poverty in this country, it needs to focus on ways to stop the start of fornication-caused families.  Planned Parenthood and others have been trying for many years to address this issue with contraception and abortion, but that failed approach has served chiefly to increase the rate of fornication, out-of-wedlock pregnancies (OWP), abortions and out-of-wedlock births.  In 1965 the white OWP rate was 3% and the black OWP rate was 24%.  Enter government funded birth control.  Currently the white OWP rate is 24% and the black OWP rate is 70%.

The Catholic Church needs to use the CCHD and other vehicles to get across somehow or other the biblical idea that sexual intercourse is intended by God to be exclusively a marriage act, and that it should be a renewal of the love and commitment the marriage covenant.  Then the Church will truly lead the way in breaking the cycle of poverty.

John Kippley, www.nfpandmore.org

P. S.  Allow me to share the following letter that brightened my day.  I have been giving free rosary booklets to prisoners, and some of them really appreciate it.

“I have been saying the Rosary every day since I was incarcerated in May of 2012.  It was the traditional [way] until September of this year when Ernie Pavlock had you send me the “Seven Day Bible Rosary.”  Now I pray it every day.

It has brought such freshness and insight to my life I would like to share it with my parents.  They are both 86 years old, and faithfully drive 130 miles every week to come visit me in prison, and while they drive over they always say the Rosary.

I would love to share the Seven Day Bible Rosary with them.  If you would please send a copy to them, I would be so appreciative and grateful.

Thanks very much.  Stan H.”   11/16/2013

The rosary will be sent.  For more information, click on Rosary at the top of the page.  If you know a prisoner who might like this, just send me his name, number, and address.  Bur first check with her or him; I don’t want to be accused of sending unsolicited religious materials and thus be banned from any particular prison.

Pope Francis, the Poor, and Purity

Pope Francis has great sympathy for the poor.  He has criticized multinational corporations for their role in causing poverty, and he has adopted a simple lifestyle to show his empathy with those who have little or nothing by way of material goods.

I cannot address the issue of multinational corporations beyond wondering what their employees in third world countries would be doing if they were not employed by these corporations.  At the same time, one can safely propose that even if the employees are net beneficiaries compared to their condition if unemployed, there is most probably much more that can and should be done to improve their situation.

The issue of purity is more specific and has direct economic consequences.  The single greatest source of new poverty in the United States is the household headed by a single woman with children.  These children have two strikes against them from the day they are born.  Currently, about 70% of black children are born out-of-wedlock compared to about 24% of white children.  The respective rates for families living in poverty are just about the same.

Thus, the single greatest thing that can be done to alleviate poverty in these United States will be a rebirth of chastity.  That will take a considerable and sustained effort by the Catholic Church and all others who are concerned about the plight of the poor.  Somehow or other, every community needs to understand that sexual intercourse is intended by God to be exclusively a marriage act, a renewal of the marriage covenant.  “Waiting for marriage” is not just a nice thing to do, sort of an ideal from the past.  It is the moral norm based on Sacred Scripture.

For those who do not recognize the biblical moral norm, there is simply the hard statistical fact that starting a family without marriage is an invitation to lifelong economic hardship.  The Left has been arguing for more than 80 years that contraception will solve the problem.  As a result, almost no one of fertile age is unaware of contraception, and condoms are universally available.  Still the rate of illegitimacy has risen steadily for the past 50 years.  In other words, contraception has aggravated, not relieved, the problem of poverty.

Dear Pope Francis, please lead your millions of listeners to believe that purity is not a man-made hurdle but is an essential part of God’s plan for the alleviation of poverty.  There is probably nothing that you can do or say that will have more good social effects than your steadfast promotion of purity both before marriage and within it.

Sexual Obsession in the Media

In his famous interview published on September 30th in America and elsewhere, Pope Francis mentioned the life and sexuality issues and then noted, “The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

I certainly agree that the pastoral ministry of the Church should not be obsessed with sexuality.  However, what is to be said about the media obsession?  We subscribe to the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal because we like the book reviews and editorials.  It is not the sort of newspaper that one would normally associate with the word “sexy.”  I won’t call the paper or even the Review section “obsessed” with sexual issues, but they do reflect our culture.  Let’s take a look at the last three issues in October.

The October 12-13 issue started with an interesting article by Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, adapted from his new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.  On page 5, there was a good review of Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade.  How many secular papers will review this book?

But then the sex stuff starts with a review of two books on the subject of Norman Mailer (1923-2007).  We learn that he “made it his mission to experience, and write about, aspects of sex and violence that were considered taboo in mid-century America,” and also that he was “opposed to any form of birth control and masturbation, too.”  I congratulate him on the latter.  Thus he had nine children with some of his six wives.  The text is not at all titillating, but books about famous people let us know about their sexuality.

A few pages later, a review of two books on composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), tells us that at about age 17 or so he discovered he was a homosexual and had a long partnership with a tenor.  At the bottom of that page was a review of a book by Linda Ronstadt and a brief mention of her non-marital relationships with “several high-profile male companions over the years.”  Again, nothing racy in the writing, but just another example of the near omnipresence of references to immoral sex in the lives of the rich and famous.

Every issue of the “Review” carries a list of five books on a particular theme, the compiler usually an author.  That week’s list by Ian Buruma was “on novels of sexual obsession.”  Enough said.

The next week’s issue carried a review whose title says it all:  “ ‘Johnny Carson’ by Henry Bushkin  A tell-plenty memoir by Johnny Carson’s lawyer depicts the star as a nasty, addictive womanizer.”

The issue of October 25-27 reviewed Patrick Leigh Fermor, a biography of that writer by Artemis Cooper who informs us, “Some readers will be unsurprised to learn that the handsome war hero was a serial philanderer” and that some of his prostitutes were paid for by his wife.

My point in all of this is that sexual immorality is practiced and talked about very widely.  Certainly the Church and its representatives cannot respond to every person and book that presents evil as normal because that would surely become boring.  At the same time, it would be remiss not to regularly preach the divine truth about human love.

Bottom line: The media is continually obsessed with sexual sins.  The Church has to respond occasionally.

John F. Kippley, October 30, 2013









Same-sex marriage discrimination is not unjust

The Cincinnati Enquirer has been running a series of briefs on candidates for City Council.  Each candidate responds to the same series of eight questions.  The second question is this: “Would you support efforts to repeal Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage?”  It was a relief on Wednesday morning to read the response of candidate Melissa Wegman as follows: “Because the definition of legal marriage is contained in the Ohio constitution, any change to that definition must be approved by Ohio voters, not Cincinnati City Council.  Factual, non-emotional, and to the point.

The liberal candidates have been tripping over themselves in their haste to state support for such efforts, and most of them cited “discrimination” as their reason, as they seek the votes of the same-sex sympathizers.  If they fear all discrimination, they should not seek to be on City Council, for every legislative body exists to discriminate in favor of something or against it.

Discrimination is the business of law, and most discrimination is not unjust.  For example, to stay in the area of sexuality, laws against prostitution are not unjust discrimination against working women.  Laws and rules against teachers having sex with their students are not unjust discrimination. Laws against parents having sex with their children are not unjust discrimination.  There is a natural- law basis for all of these laws as well as the experience of centuries.  The same is true about laws that limit marriage to heterosexual couples.  Marriage exists primarily for man and wife to have and raise children who have an inherent need of a male father and a female mother.

To the natural-law basis can be added the traditional Christian belief about the sanctity and exclusivity of heterosexual marriage based on the words of Jesus when he was questioned about divorce and remarriage:  “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female” (Mark 10: 2ff).  There is a divinely established order of creation, and men and women have a right to marry within, and only within, that divine order.  To believe and to uphold the traditional biblical teaching of heterosexual marriage is not an example of unjust discrimination.

John F. Kippley

October 23, 2013

If you want peace, Pray the Rosary

October 7 is the Feast of the Holy Rosary, and next Sunday, October 13, marks the 96th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun on that day in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal.  The miracle was witnessed by over 70,000 people and was well reported in the secular papers.

Part of Our Lady’s message at Fatima was to pray the rosary every day for World Peace, for the Conversion of Russia, and for the Conversion of Sinners all throughout the world.

Sometimes we are tempted to wonder if all that praying is having its desired effect as we look around and see continued conflict and increasing acceptance of immorality.  So it was with great joy that I read recently that President Vladimir Putin thinks that the introduction of Christianity to Russia in 988 A.D. is the best thing that ever happened to Russia.

In my opinion, that represents a very real conversion, the result of millions of rosaries.  It is certainly far from complete, but it represents a tremendous change from the Russia of 1917.  A recent article (see http://www.catholicscholars.org/FellowshipQuarterly) by a distinguished Catholic philosopher started with this sentence:  “The economist Yegor Gaidar, in his authoritative study, Russia: A Long View, has shown convincingly that ‘the Soviet Union of 1989, the Russia of 1992, and particularly the Russia of 2008 are different countries.’”

There remains much to be done.  There are still many Catholics who are not doing what Our Lady told us to do.  War is hell, and the price of avoiding it includes this small sacrifice.  This week, bracketed by these feasts, is a wonderful time to renew a commitment to pray the rosary daily for the Fatima intentions.

An old saying was transmitted for centuries in Latin:  Si vis pacem, para bellum.  If you want peace, prepare for war.  The new saying is this:  If you want peace, do what our Lady has told us to do—pray the rosary daily.

For those wanting an expanded version of the rosary with a bible verse before each Hail Mary, click on The Seven Day Bible Rosary at the top of this page,  Easily distracted people like myself find it helpful.