“Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs.”

“Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs.”

These are the words of Saint John Chrysostom, fourth century Doctor of the Church and evil socialist minion, hell-bent on taking all of your hard-earned money, which he will no doubt give directly to all those “takers” on welfare. How dare he! Right?

Good thing we have come a long way since then, now able to recognize the benevolence of a capitalist market, buttressed by an unrestrained pursuit of self-interest which, as we all know, works to everyone’s benefit in the end — Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” and all that good stuff. Yes, humanity has progressed, the Doctrine of the Market has been globally embraced, and everyone (except for the occasional communist) has left those primitive notions of altruism far behind.

… And then we meet Pope Francis I. This last week, only two months after taking the Chair of St. Peter, he made his first speech on the global economic crisis. If it revealed anything at all, it revealed that he is deeply heretical when it comes to Orthodox Capitalism.

In his speech, he displayed his market-apostasy from the very start. He condemned our current system as a “cult of money,” which reduces man to one of his needs alone, that of  “consumption.” He observed that we live under a money “dictatorship,” which is utterly faceless and lacks any truly humane goal.

This has, according to him, fostered a “culture of disposal,” which has forced even man himself into disposability, revealed by the fact that we now classify human labor as a simple “commodity” to be minimized, traded, discarded and left blindly to the cold logic of market forces. It is as if he believes there is more at play in man’s heart than acquisitive calculation, and more to his needs than food, a newer car and a bigger house.

Continuing in his dissent, the Pope condemned also the fact that the wealth of a tiny minority continues “increasing exponentially”, while the incomes of the majority are “crumbling.” Finally, in direct contradiction to market-dogma, he concluded that the root of our problem lies in our “ideologies, which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.”

The State? Responsible for the common good and not just the mere protection of Rights?

Madness …

Yes, judged by the doctrines of the Church of Capitalism, the Church of Rome has gone gravely astray. In short, although we have reached a point in history where liberalism and the Cult of Money have gained almost universal acceptance, Pope Francis, like his predecessors, is obstinately refusing to drink the Kool-Aid.

And, I must admit, I’ve gone heretic with him.

You have to understand, I am part of a unique generation, born during one of those rare periods in which the assumptions of our forbearers are being proven false; where society is, quite frankly, falling apart; where no one can give us straight answers that make sense; and where, disenchanted with the conventional wisdom, we must look elsewhere for truth.

Some of us end up looking forward, placing hope in progress. Others, perhaps perceiving that there is “nothing new under the sun,” choose instead to look backward into history.

I am one of those who, for one reason or another, decided to look back. Since I am a Christian, looking back requires looking at the Catholic Church, and looking at the Catholic Church requires looking at the Popes.

I did this and found, to my dismay, what I can only describe as a hidden treasure of sorts.

It consisted in a body of literature produced by the popes beginning almost 200 years ago with a document titled “Rerum Novarum,” and continues accumulating to this day. It is called Catholic Social Teaching or CST.

It contains strange political and economic doctrines such as: the prerequisite of justice  before charity is even possible; that socialism and capitalism are not opposites but rather are two heads of the same monster; that human work is a divine gift to be shared, never minimized or mechanically degraded; that man’s attitude toward the earth is a reflection of his attitude toward himself, the neglect of one leading to the neglect of the other; that a preference for the poor is not optional for social health, and involves more than just a vague sense of guilt at their sad condition; that true liberty, when it becomes license, is only a more subtle form of tyranny; and it even seeks to prove that the churchless state is a self-defeating impossibility.

In short, CST provided for me a coherent and comprehensive Christian vision of politics and the economy, at a time when no one else could. It gave me just the answers I needed to clear away the confused cloud of dust kicked up by our current farce.

I am not a member of a Catholic Church, but I feel compelled to share these truths by offering this series. I obviously do not speak for the Church. I write only as thankful admirer of sorts.

Since my material in this series will be drawn almost entirely from the writings of the Popes, I have aptly titled the series “A Catholic Economy.” To call it anything else would be hypocritical pretense.

However, Christians of all sorts should take note that these teachings are universal, and not necessarily contingent on any specifically Catholic doctrine.

These same principles were once taught by E.F. Schumacher, who just as easily enunciated them in Buddhist terms. When questioned, he said simply that they were in accord with Buddhist teachings, and then added humorously: “I would have called it  Christian economics, but then no one would have read it.”

The opinions in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the The McPherson Sentinel or GateHouse Media. If you have any related questions or suggestions that you would like to see explored here, simply email me at daniel.schwindt@gmail.com.