No News is New

A Catholic view on old heresies in the news

Category: Capitalism


This article is in part why the Pope recently spoke out so strongly against capitalism.  In it, the author states: “At fifteen or sixteen, you likely possess no valuable skills, no worthwhile experience, and limited social awareness. You are worth less than others. And so you should be paid less”(empasis in original).

There are many philosophies that value people at different rates.  Even in America, slaves were only 3/5th a person for quite some time.  The idea was that “[slaves were] worth less than others.  And so [slaves] should be paid less.”  This stands in direct contrast with Catholic social teaching on work.


To begin with, work exists for us, not us for work.  In laboring at work, we partake in the creative act of God.  He made the world, and we mould it to how we would like it.  Good work well done is therefore gratifying.  Most people can attest to this with their hobbies.

Now, not all work is worth doing.  We use pay to make this jobs worthwhile.  What then is a job that is worth someone’s life?  It is a job that provides for that life.  If one spends all day at a job, that job should provide sufficient pay for that days life in both survival and enjoyment.  As it is, minimum wage provides enough to sustain life, but not enough to thrive.  All people deserve the opportunity to thrive and enjoy life, and so pay should provide for a person and their “family on the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level” (CCC 2434).

As St. John Chrysostom said,

“Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life.  The goods we posses are not ours, but theirs”

and as St. Gregory the Great said,

“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours.  More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

We can therefore see extreme wealth inequality as an injustice which should be righted by law.  Some might say the injustice isn’t that bad in America, so let’s look at it.

Change in income, the bottom 90% verses tiers in the top 10%

Change in income, the bottom 90% verses tiers in the top 10%

Almost all the gains from labor in America went to the top .01%.  The bottom 90% of workers lost 10% of their income.

But if videos are more your thing, look at this:

Clearly money is not well distributed in America.  This is not because the poor are “worth less”, they are people and all people are equally precious.  Capitalism fails to give value to people based upon who they are as children of God, and instead gives value to people based upon what they can do.

In this system, smarter people, prettier people, cleverer people, are all worth more than average people.  In this way, it is no less unjust than an aristocracy.  As a democracy, we should contact our legislators and petition them to enact more just laws regarding wealth.  Laws that fairly provide for the needs of those who work but are still excluded from society from poverty.  To allow the situation to remain as it is would be to allow the rich to continue to steal from the poor.


Pope says the same old thing, everybody freaks out.

The older I become, the more I realize when the pope says the same old news, everyone thinks it’s new.  This article is about the popes’ new encyclical, in which he criticises capitalism for ignoring the needs of people.  For quite obvious historical reasons, this issue is dear to the pope.  After all, he came from Argentina, which recently suffered a major economic depression after the liberalization of economic policies.  The Catholic understanding of Capitalism complements Pope Francis’ own experiences.  Our catechism (from the 1997 Latin revision) states, “A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable.  The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects” (Paragraph 2424).  The pope is making a claim the Catholic Church has widely publicised for a long time — the free market doesn’t work to provide social justice.

How capitalism treats people.

How capitalism treats people.

Does the Pope then support wealth redistribution through communism?  Hardly.  Our catechism teaches “Regulating the economy soley by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice… 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” (Paragraph 2425).  Within this context, the pope writes, “The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.”  The redistribution the pope argues for is one of just wages and opportunity, given by the rich to those who are less well off.  This could be by the wealthy influencing Congress to make just laws, or on a more personal path like Harris Rosen, and what he did at Tangelo Park.

Harris Rosen, best Millionare I know

Harris Rosen, best millionaire I know about.

The Degradation of Beauty


Sometimes I wish I lived in the Star Trek universe, where we have moved beyond the desire for money and peoples’ needs are taken care of so that we might focus upon self improvement.  Sadly we don’t, and so people degrade what is good and beautiful to survive in the harsh environment of capitalism.  The above Newsweek article dives into how increased costs for health care are driving an increase in prostitution.  Oh, euphemisms like “Sugar Daddy” are employed to try and mask what’s happening, but it’s sex for money/goods: which is the definition of prostitution.

People desire what is good, but in a ruthless capitalistic world, the good sought often becomes destroyed in the process of acquiring it.  The purpose of our lives on this earth is unity with others and God.  Sex is pleasurable and good because it helps to reinforce that unity of two people.  This is why the best sex is monogamous.  In seeking the pleasure without the attachment the good is degraded and the sex is less pleasurable.

I think this rise in prostitution is part of the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which now enslaves the hearts and minds of many”.   Our capitalist culture encourages wealthy johns to debase women rather than aid them; using their wealth as a tool to manipulate those who are poor.  Enslaved to greed, the johns misunderstand the purpose of sex, and so falsely think they are getting the real deal when the best sex is actually married sex.

EDIT: I just noticed this article which came out the day after I posted, which talks about how casual sex causes depression.

“I am a Person”, not “I do Personhood”

In a strange misunderstanding of person-ness, a professor at a Catholic university things dolphins might be people.

Relatedly, dogs are also seen as people by a professor at a university founded by Methodists.

The first image in my mind when someone says "two people hanging out"

Surprisingly, this is not the first image in my head when someone says, “Two people going for a swim.”

Both of these professors appear to have their conception of personhood corrupted by Capitalism, where function overtakes existence (in that the value of a person is related to how much capital they can generate).  In these articles dogs and dolphins do functions that people do (emotion and introspection, respectively), and are therefore assumed to be people.  In Capitalism and in these articles, functionality is seen as the defining characteristic of the value of a person rather than any inherent property.

In contrast to this, Catholic thought considers people to be people based on essence, not based upon capability.  Cats can walk, and people can walk, but that doesn’t make cats people because personhood is existential and not based on performance.  A human who has the brain functioning of an African Grey Parrot is still a person because we exist as persons, we don’t “do” personhood.  To say “I am a person” means my being is a person’s being and isn’t related to function — as “am” is a conjugate of “to be” rather than “to do”.

Relaxing confident in the knowledge she's still more "person" than a parrot.

Relaxing confident in the knowledge she’s still more of a person than a parrot will ever be.

Confusing who we are with what we do is one of the greatest dangers of Capitalism.  It means the wealthy, the successful, the powerful are all more “people” than the poor, the failures, and the the weak.  This view creates a hierarchy of people, where those only 3/5ths successful are only 3/5ths a person.

We all know what happens when some humans are seen are more "person" than others.

We all know what happens when some humans are seen as only 3/5ths of a person.

These are dangerous times we are living in, where some places already kill off the sick an the old at a rate nearly equivalent to the 6th leading global cause of death.  Rather than comforting those who feel they are a burden or who struggle with life, our societies agree and therefore kill them.  Death with dignity looks like this:


Not like this:


Until we throw off the dangers of Capitalism for some better system, we will face a constant struggle to remember our personhood and value come from our existence and not our contributions to society or our personal achievement.



Current pope says the same thing the last pope says!

This article confuses love for the person with love for all a person does.  In this way, it is somewhat like capitalism.  In capitalism a person has value based upon what they can produce, or what value they can add to a system or product.  In Catholicism a person has value because they are made in the image of God, and so reflect the value of God himself.  In Catholicism, what a person does or doesn’t do has no impact upon how much that person is worth.  As a college professor of mine once said, “Never confuse who you are with what you do.”

Pope Francis has a great track record of not confusing the two.  Those who have homosexual tendencies are just as valuable and loveable as everyone else.  In no way are Catholics supposed to judge those with same sex inclinations as less human.  However, this doesn’t do away with the other issue at play: whether or not acting on same sex attraction is good or bad.  The Church teaches same sex attraction is bad because it misunderstands masculinity and femininity and treats the two genders as interchangeable.  It denies the unique beauty of male and female by supposing male and female are meaningless categories that are not meant to complement each other.

Therefore, to claim that homosexual practice is a sin isn’t to try and be more Catholic than the Pope, but to more fully pass on Catholic teaching than one or two sound bites allows.  In our Capitalist society, it is easy to confuse what one does with how much one is valued.  These two are synonymous.  In Catholicism they are two separate things, and by misunderstanding that, this article thinks a shift in Church teaching has occurred when the reality is that this pope is teaching the same as the last:

“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”

~ Benedict XVI

How does Capitalism value people?

The heresy expressed in this letter is tied up with Capitalism, which isn’t exactly new.  Our first recorded modern usage of the word dates from the middle of the 1800’s.  For those who know the role of Blessed John Paul II in the decline of Communism, it might be a surprise the Church also believes Capitalism has it’s failures.  It’s not often priests preach against the negative aspects of Capitalism (this is because there is so much else to talk about, not because priests as a whole are delinquent), but there certain condemned aspects.  Mainly, Capitalism fails in terms of social justice.  By focusing entirely upon accumulation of capital and market forces, and incorrect hierarchy of values is created.  Instead of humans and God at the top of the value hierarchy, money and utility goes to the top.  This is why the unknown author the the letter suggests the boy be euthanized and his body used for science.  She sees the child as only good for how he can help society.  She further critiques that no employer will hire the boy. In other words, he’s not productive for market forces.  She even thinks the child is worth less because he won’t reproduce (“no normal girl is going to marry/love him”).  From her perspective, he offers nothing to society but a drain on resources.

This fits in with what I wrote yesterday.  In Protestant Capitalism we are not good based upon our being but based upon our actions.

Contrast this with the Catholic notion that we were made for communion, and our being is good because it is in the image of God.  The boy is of substance human, and only of accident autistic.  He has communion with his family who loves him (hence the mom cried in talking about the letter to the reporter).  The Catholic understanding is that we should all reach out to those in our communities like him, to ensure that his communion stays even when his family passes on.  In this way, we place the highest value on fellowship with others, and what the boy costs the community isn’t such a big deal, but the fact that we have made a friend is what’s important.  This shows the imprint of God upon us, giving money away and forging connections to others is what makes us happy.  Capitalism disrupts this hierarchy of values imprinted upon our nature, and that value disruption can lead to nasty letters like the one shown in the news today.