Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A bit if a winge

I’ve been meditating on why it is so difficult to talk calmly and rationally with many good Catholic Americans about a cautions approach to Capitalism. So many think that is has to be the only way of doing anything, the only alternative being Socialism and this being intrinsically evil.

This is not intending to be a political post. I’m worried because some seem to hold the tenets of Capitalism closer to their hearts than their Faith. They use their Faith to justify their belief in Capitalism, they say “my Faith shows that Capitalism is the only valid economic process”. This is dangerous. Faith should never be used to justify any theory. It is absurd as using Faith to justify a particular theory in science as being better than another scientific theory. One place we end up in, if we go down that route is the academically unsatisfying backwater that is “Intelligent Design”. There is an embarrassing lack of academic rigour both for scientists and theologians in intelligent design, the Church is rightly sceptical of its merits. Incidentally, can it ever work the other way round, has anyone ever been brought to a deeper understanding of their Faith by wholehearted embracing of a political theory? Has anyone ever said “My wholehearted embrace of Capitalism/Socialism has deepened my faith, hope and charity”. Would you trust them if they did?

Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I am of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided?
1 Cor 1:12-13

How can we be a “right wing Catholic” or a “left wing Catholic”? The universiality of the Church demands that the C of Catholic is branded on our heads and pierces our hearts, it can not lead to unstinting political allegiance, or unstinting allegiance to an economic theory (we have to let go of this idea), our allegiance is to Christ alone. Christ in the poor, the naked, the hungry, the lame, the neighbour who tells you uncomfortable truths, the neighbour you like, the neighbour you can't stand and Christ manifest in the Magesterium of the Church and the great Sacraments of the Church.

So, why are our American brothers and sisters in Christ often such truculent political idealogues? Partly, I think as they see us in Europe as inherently leftist, they see the old world as a failure and leftism being the epitome of failure, it makes them love America more. Partly also because the spirit of Frontierism seems hardwired into the American psyche. Wagon trains roll and strive, achieve, make good by your own hands and love your liberty. A regulatory state such as appears in Leftist governments gnaws at the very soul of the Frontierist. He feels emasculated and threatened. Importantly, the American will also have a strong sense of family, and a sense that the family is the most precious thing. It could be argued however that some Americans cannot see beyond the family and a concept of wider networks of humanity and wider bonds of charity and affection. In many ways there is nothing to admonish in loving your country, Frontierism or strong family values, they are all valid and life-affirming. However they can be quite insular mindsets, firstly there is an inability to see and love much that is good in Europe and beyond, secondly Frontierists do not interact with their environment they conquer it and do not listen to its needs and thirdly a totally family centred approach falls apart if it is not thoroughly bound into the wider communion of the Church Militant, Triumphant and Suffering.

We all have mindsets, I’d like an American perspective on prevalent European mindsets. My grouse is a worry that some of us will hold onto these mindsets at the expense of failing to let Christ work in our hearts.


Archistrategos said...

I think it's because many Americans equate the suburban lifestyle with God's ideal for the world; and America, being the richest country on earth, with the largest middle class base anywhere, must therefore be 'God's country.' Church attendance is still seen as a badge of being a good, decent citizen in the United States, but with all the permutations of cults, sects, and fuzzy religion there, it would only be natural for the old capitalist guard to gravitate to the most conservative, seemingly most cultured religion of all. The Episcopal church used to fulfill this function, in fact I still think it's considered a 'wealthy church' there, but its doctrinal flip-flops and gradual descent into liberalism has shifted that 'honor' to Rome.

In short, I think many Americans 'go traditional' because it is convenient for them; but coming to Church with a preconceived notion that one is already fast tracked into being one of the elect (a very Calvinist notion) is the great danger here. But also I think it has something to do with the fact that the USA has never been a Catholic country. Sure, the RCC may be the largest denomination, but its integration into traditional American WASP society seems to have only begun in the middle twentieth century. Whatever the case maybe, this glorification of capitalism greatly disturbs me. Our Lord was certainly no milquetoast, but to think He came down from heaven to talk to a few cultured aesthetes is just as bad.

Rita said...

Thanks my friend,

You make some good points, especially about Calvinism being alive and well.
It will be interesting to see the reaction to the forthcoming Encyclical.....

Mrs.Pogle said...

Excellent post, Rita!
Mrs.P x

berenike said...

"Many believe in or claim that they believe in and hold fast to Catholic doctrine on such questions as social authority, the right of owning private property, on the relations between capital and labour, on the rights of the labouring man, on the relations between Church and State, religion and country, on the relations between the different social classes, on international relations, on the rights of the Holy See and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff and the Episcopate, on the social rights of Jesus Christ, Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord not only of individuals but of nations. In spite of these protestations, they speak, write, and, what is more, act as if it were not necessary any longer to follow, or that they did not remain still in full force, the teachings and solemn pronouncements which may be found in so many documents of the Holy See, and particularly in those written by Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV. There is a species of moral, legal, and social modernism which We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism."
Pius XI, Ubi Arcano Dei

Rita said...

Thanks Berenike,

I'm particularly fond of Pius XI