Travis Rowley: Pilgrims and the Pope
Saturday, November 30, 2013
And, like any other pro-collectivist argument, it is grounded in ignorance.
Forcefully correcting Francis’ claim that free market economics have “never been confirmed by the facts” – and that free markets fail to “[bring] about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world” – editor-in-chief of Reason Magazine Matt Welch penned an article that neutralized the Pope’s claim, providing numerous “facts” that would at least force Francis to modify his opinion.
This proud Catholic couldn’t help but agree with Welch when he wrote, “Francis's hyperbolic rants about the role and allegedly dictatorial power of free markets are embarrassing in their wrongness…To look upon the miracles of this world and lament the lack of ‘means of escape’ is to advertise your own ignorance. To call [capitalism] a ‘tyranny’ is to do violence to any meaningful sense of that important word.”
Thanksgiving vs. The Pope
Perhaps the timing couldn’t have been worse for Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium was offered on the Eve of Thanksgiving, when conservative pundits were reminding everyone of this national holiday’s true history and the real source of the pilgrims’ plight. As the governor of Plymouth Plantation William Bradford reported, after having ended the practice of a “common stock” for all the settlers in favor of private land ownership, the “face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.” Bradford wrote, “Any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”
Another historical testimony came from Colony Secretary Ralph Hamor. Apparently, under the organization of “common stock,” the pilgrims “reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now.”
Four hundred years later the Bishop of Rome will denounce this anti-poverty system as a “selfish ideal.”
Pope Francis asks, “Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving?" – Astonishingly incurious as to the structure that provided so much food to discard in the first place.
But Francis seems to be in agreement with the most radical of leftists, obsessed with material “equality” and philosophically averse to a world of plenty: “The culture of prosperity deadens us.”
Pope Francis also writes, “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”
For the Pope to proclaim that “today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest” is pure hyperbole to the point of complete inaccuracy. Indeed, the Tea Party movement sprung up in 2009 in defiance to the socialism being administered within the housing market, and in order to return us to a state of “competition.”
This particular statement manages to match the total oblivion represented by the Left’s repeated assertion that “free-market healthcare delivered us to this point” – the point where something like Obamacare was absolutely necessary. In reality, there may not be an industry that has been under more government control during the last 60 years than the markets dealing in health care and health insurance.
Pope vs. Pope
There is much less wiggle room for conservatives in this instance than there has been in recent months, when progressives were attempting to take advantage of more ambiguous remarks made by the Roman Pontiff.
In his exhortation, Pope Francis doesn’t merely encourage the wealthy to individually decide to care for the less fortunate. Rather, he calls on “the more fortunate” to “renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others.” Among many unmistakable remarks, Francis declares, “Inequality is the root of social ills” and calls on us to “[attack] the structural causes of inequality.”
While progressives again became giddy over the Pope’s latest comments, they likely won’t be asked by brokers of information to balance them against the anti-socialist comments made by popes of the past.
Most people understand that the Church is despised by progressives for its resistance to abortion and gay “marriage.” Less known is the fact that the Church has a long – while uneven – history of denouncing collectivist ideologies.
Pope John Paul II wrote, “The fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated…Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice…From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property…[Socialism] makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community.”
In 1878, Pope Leo XIII was emphatic in his understanding that the “special object” of the Church’s “doctrines and precepts” is “the uprooting of the evil growth of socialism.” He warned of the socialist desire to “debase the natural union of man and woman,” that socialists are “lured…by the greed of present goods,” that they “assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law,” and that they “strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one's mode of life.”
Leo XIII had a prophetic message for today’s unionists: “It is no matter for surprise that men of the lowest class, weary of their wretched home or workshop, are eager to attack the homes and fortunes of the rich.”
“But Catholic wisdom, sustained by the precepts of natural and divine law, provides with especial care for public and private tranquility in its doctrines and teachings…For, while the socialists would destroy the ‘right’ of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate. For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Pope Francis vs. The Future
The struggles against abortion and gay marriage are worthy – and even related to the collectivist effort. But I would venture to say that the widespread cry for economic socialism represents the most immediate threat to America’s future. Too many Americans – along with one of the nation’s major political parties – are now in full subscription to the collectivist ideal. If its unworkability and its evil roots aren’t decoded and outlawed soon, reaching the American ideal again will be made impossible.
This urgency is why a devout Catholic friend of mine decided this week, “If [the Pope] feels like wading into economics, I’m not gonna cut him any slack.” And this is why Matt Welch has declared that “cheering” for Pope Francis’ anti-capitalist sentiments is “like [liberals] donating money to a Creationist Museum, only with more potential impact.”
Conservative Catholics shouldn’t be afraid to speak out against the Pope’s promotion of collectivist theory. We should pray for Francis. We should remember that the socialist idea is seductive. And we should never forget that we have previous popes on our side.
Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of The Rhode Island Left.
Related Slideshow: The Best of Travis Rowley
Here are some of Travis Rowley's most well-read articles to date:
November 24, 2012
In the event of a victory by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney several weeks ago, I had prepared myself to draft a column intended to quell the anticipated jubilation of the political Right nationwide – my primary point being that, despite such a Republican triumph, America’s enduring crisis would have been that Barack Obama was practically guaranteed 47 percent of the popular vote simply by being the endorsed Democratic candidate (Obama ultimately secured 51 percent).
August 25, 2012
While Anthony Gemma’s highly anticipated press conference was certainly compelling, it remains unclear whether or not it will be enough to sink Congressman David Cicilline’s re-election hopes. At the very least, however, it seems Gemma is in possession of convincing evidence of large-scale voter fraud that would incriminate high-level officers within Cicilline’s inner circle.
January 5, 2013
The consequences of silence were on parade this week when Channel 10 aired a report titled “Same-Sex Marriage Could Help RI Economy.” The premise for saying so is that many people, while decidedly against the passage of a gay marriage bill, have been entirely bullied out of the controversy – and that this has resulted in a growing confusion over how to even begin defending traditional values.
April 20, 2013
In the midst of the ongoing debate over the 2nd Amendment, I discovered lessons to be learned from the events in Boston this week.
Let me start with this: Owning a gun is not a natural right. After all, how can a firearm be a natural right if man had to invent and manufacture it?
September 28, 2011
Dear Undocumented Student,
Regarding the Board of Governors for Higher Education, I had the chance to attend its meeting on Monday night, and also the chance to observe the body of teenage students – some illegal aliens, and some devoted friends – that you were a part of.
May 19, 2012
Bishop Hendricken High School president John Jackson set off somewhat of a Facebook firestorm this week when he penned a letter to the Providence Journal that criticized President Obama for “favor[ing] same-sex marriage,” and for essentially recapitulating the Catholic Church’s position concerning homosexuality.
March 10, 2012
Local property taxes in Rhode Island are among the highest in the nation. And it has little to do with what progressive Democrats claim. That is, that recent tax cuts for the state’s high-income earners are the cause of your skyrocketing property tax bill – that “the rich” are not paying their “fair share.”
April 7, 2012
Offering collective bargaining privileges to Rhode Island’s public employees was always an imprudent idea. And they should be rescinded immediately.
This is a simple conclusion to reach when one considers the nature and purpose of a union. That is, when a group of workers view themselves as having collective leverage over their employer, and find it in their best interest to threaten him with a work stoppage unless their demands are met – most commonly, a greater share of company profits.
January 19, 2013
It is no secret that both the conservative and the liberal often charge the other with ignorance, a natural imputation for those with whom one disagrees. You don’t know what I know. And that’s why you disagree with me.
August 10, 2013
Reverend Brian Sistare, the pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Woonsocket, is currently denying Holy Communion to Lew Pryeor and Pierre Leveillee, a gay couple who are members of Sacred Heart’s regular congregation.
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