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High Dudgeon

Comments on the three posts just below are amazing in their variety of snark and disdain. Gene McCarraher is in high gear and that is always bracing.

I knew nothing of the TV interview with Langone, only what I have read here. But the name struck a bell. I looked it up and found that the Langone Medical Center at NYU is named after Kenneth (the wicked) and Elaine Langone who contributed $200 million to the Center (in keeping with Christian humility they probably should have kept their name off...Peter and Paul not knowing, etc.).

Recently wandering through its lobby on the way in and the way out of the hospital, I was struck by how many halt, lame and the poor were sitting there, or coming and going like me, well not like me; I had a coat. So if I had $200 million!! Maybe I wouldn't give it to NYU, but I wouldn't give it for the renovation of Saint Patrick's either. On the other hand, the Langone Center has probably done more for the halt, the lame, and the poor than Saint Patrick's ever has [I do not speak of Catholic Charities, etc.].

Wiki: "In 2008, Kenneth and Elaine Langone made an unrestricted $200 million gift—the largest in the Medical Center's history—and the NYU Medical Center was subsequently renamed the NYU Elaine A. and Kenneth G. Langone Medical Center. Kenneth Langone is the chairman of the board of trustees."

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The Langone Center is one of the nicest hospitals I've ever been in; it's the kind of project any donor should be proud to have his name attached to. I don't think any of the posts here have suggested that Langone is not generous with his wealth (the comments are perhaps another story). His generosity speaks well of him.

But his notion that it is appropriate for him to use his influence with Cardinal Dolan to try to get the pope to speak less forthrightly on the subject of economic justice reflects less well on him, especially since he publicized his concerns and the related (let's say) consequences via an interview with CNBC. He seems genuinely confused about what the pope has actually said, given that he seems to think it consists of attacks on the character of wealthy individuals, rather than a challenge to work for a more just society. AEI certainly isn't going to clear up that misconception, but it would be nice if his friend the archbishop would. Maybe the reason money is said to make it harder to get into heaven is that the people who are supposed to help you get there are too distracted by your money to give you appropriate guidance.

Mollie: Do you think Cardinal Dolan too might be confused about what the pope is saying? Or perhaps, like Mr. Langone, he thinks the pope doesn't know what he's talking about.

I think the editors (past and present) of Commonweal are confused about what the pope is saying.  You are not exempt from Jesus' command:  GO and sell ALL that YOU have and GIVE it to the poor.  YOU do it first.  

Why all the top posting about something utterly theoretical?  What is rich?  You are rich.  And yet you presume to give "appropriate guidance" to others.  

 

I wonder if Cardinal Dolan has even had a chance to read all of Evangelii Gaudium. He's pretty busy. And he may have skipped ahead to the parts that speak most directly to him, like the section about what makes for a good homily. He probably realizes, though, that the whole point of the exhortation is to challenge people. If it makes even the generous rich uncomfortable, then it's doing it's job. I wish he'd said so on CNBC. I do have to laugh imagining him taking the pope aside to suggest he'd catch more flies with honey.

A study has shown that  ...  ""The poor, say with family incomes below $30,000 and $25,000, are giving about 4.2 percent of their wealth away, whereas the wealthy are giving away 2.7 percent." ... http://www.independentsector.org/giving_volunteering#sthash.epEeaaE2.dpbs

As the NYT opines; "Rich People Just Care Less"  ...  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/rich-people-just-care-le...

Interesting that The Economist wrote that the Church gives on;y 2.7% of its wealth to charity  ... http://www.economist.com/node/21560536

A question ....

With all the mentions of Cardinl Dolan, I have to ask those who seem to respect and like him:  does it really not matter to you that he lied about and committed banckrupsy fraud, hiding millions of dollars in church assets from clergy sex abuse claimants?  I don't understand how he can be taken seriously on anuthing else, given what he has done. Is it that easy to morally compartmentalize?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/opinion/cardinal-dolan-and-the-sex-abu...

On the other hand, the Langone Center has probably done more for the halt, the lame, and the poor than Saint Patrick's ever has [I do not speak of Catholic Charities, etc.]

Margaret, if I may - I question this compare-and-contrast between St. Patrick's and Catholic Charities, with the implication that whatever the cathedral is about, it's not as important.  It's true that Catholic Charities feeds and clothes more people than the cathedral does, but feeding and clothing people isn't really the point of a cathedral (at least that's not its direct, primary mission).  Yet there is a sense in which the cathedral does indeed "feed" the poor: feeds us the bread of life.  I think we're sometimes too quick  to dismiss that.  And surely, sacramental life and alms and service all help to support and sustain one another.

I have no idea whether the price tag for the renovation is prudent or not.  But I do think the church in New York has an obligation to have a public center for its life in the community, and if it's possible to properly maintain what it inherited from previous generations without impacting its other pastoral and spiritual initiatives, I don't know why it should be a problem.

 

Jim P: Of couse, I completely agree with you.

Except: the archdiocese appears to be headed toward another round of school/parish closings (in a process called, "Making All Things New"). Perhaps we can agree that some of this may be necessary (as in Chicago). The Spiritual care and feeding of Catholics in NYC is mostly, even overwhelmingly, done in these parishes, and not at the cathederal.

So....renovate St. Patrick's for millions where hundreds will be spiritually attended each Sunday, OR use the money to keep more parishes open where thousands/maybe even a million are spiritually attended. [On that score, it seems to be the case that closings have more to do with the looming priest shortage than with finance, since the Archdiocese seems resistant/uninfomred about the parish administrator, pastoral assistant alternate route for parish management.]

Ms. Steinfels and Ms. O'Reilly - really amused at your Timmie Dolan musings.  Will bet this month's salary that he has never read the complete exhortation....OTOH, am sure that his minions have fed him excerpts complete with commentary.

Here is a link to a story today that is related to this topic:  http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/nj-diocese-purchases-500000-mansion

Find that this story appears to be a familiar theme among some bishops, university presidents, etc.  In Dallas, when our current bishop was installed, his first decision was to purchase a $1 mil+ home justifying this by saying that he needed a place to host *big donors* and to socialize.  Now, find that some diocesan pastors are doing the same - renovating rectories so that they can market big donors.  Has it really come to this - that we buy into the current corporate marketing and PR campaigns (how secularist).  Do we now march to big business mantras rather than listen to the gospel imperatives.?

This new bishop of Camden (of course, auxiliary in NYC, home of T. Dolan previously) appears to have ignored the example of Francis - who passed on the papal apartment; who lives, dines, prays, and meets with folks in the Vatican hotel; who drives a 1985 Renault that was given to him.  Wonder - why does the example of Francis seem to invite, call, and welcome folks...can one imagine that the response (financially, etc.)  might actually do better than the *corporate* approach?

Have folks such as T. Dolan stopped and thought about what living the gospel imperatives means to the folks in the pews, in the streets, in the alleys, etc?  

Have grown concerned when I see the almost total focus on diocesan big donors - in Dallas we have the Catholic Foundation allied with the bishop - it recognizes, awards, and highlights the 1% donors in the diocese; there is always a few pages in the diocesan rag that focuses on these people.  But what about the vast majority of the rest of the diocese?  It appears that if you don't have wealth; don't donate your wealth; well, you are just forgotten.  No focus on the thousands who donate or give of their time even when that donation/time given is substantial for that family or person?  It really does feel like the *tale of two dioceses* (to borrow a current phrase).

And wonder if Francis will impact the current Vatican system of big donors - Opus Dei; Knights of Columbus; Knights of Malta; LC, etc.  Stories from folks such as Jason Berry have painted a sad picture of influence buying in the Vatican halls; etc. and even folks such as KC head, C. Anderson sit on the IOR bank board?

Finally, you ask about T. Dolan's awareness or understanding of the exhortation....what is sad is that Dolan has the background, expertise, and ability to actually write a US version of Evangelii Gaudium in terms of US catholic church history......does leadership just not understand that living authentically; living the gospel; etc. is what inspires, motivates, and brings passion to the community of faith?

 

Excellent point, Ms. Steinfels.  Have become very concerned about some of the lavish spending on cathedrals (Oakland, LA, NYC, Orange County, etc.) when, at the same time, they close parishes and schools.  It does really appear to be a *cognitive disconnect*?

You do touch upon a pressing issue - parish/school closings.  Data (Boston, Cleveland, Camden, etc.) suggests that this is driven by a cleric shortage and bishops who don't or can't see that parishes exist, function, and flourish with or without a resident priest.......see the US Church experience in the 19th century.  (if only we had another Bishop Ireland)

There has been some push back on this narrow approach - some parishes have been re-opened based upon Vatican rulings but bishops continue to only see via *how many priests do I have on hand*.

Big donors will not solve this issue....eventually wisdom will lead to better insights; letting go of certain current man-made regulations; and realizing that the church is the pilgrim people of God - not how many clerics do I have available.

Well, Peggy, I'm glad you find me 'bracing."

Let me take this opportunity to make one thing perfectly clear.  (Cue the Nixonian jowls.)  The issue isn't whether or not Ken Langone and his fellow capitalists are generous people.  No one is denying the obvious truth that capitalists endow hospitals, universities, scientific foundations, religious institutions, etc..  What's at issue is how the money is made, and what it says about Ken Langone that he feels he can, as Mollie puts it above, get the Pope to speak less candidly about economic justice.  

Let's get some historical perspective here.  Slaveholders provided numerous universities with benefactions in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Eight of Yale's twelve colleges, for instance, are named after slaveholders.  Did the money come from the plantations?  Yes.  Were the slaveholders generous men to donate this money, often for needy students?  Yes.  Does that make slavery defensible?  No.

At the risk of skeering Ken Langone, the issue here is similar.  Is Ken Langone generous?  Yes.  Did the money come from capitalist enterprise?  Yes.  Does that make capitalism defensible?  In my view, no.  

Gene, you must be on semester break! from a modestly endowed university. Oil money? And me! I have left behind a string of non-profit institutions who more or less got by on the generosity of many with modest incomes (from capitalism) and now and again a large contribution (from a capitalist). So it goes...

You may not believe this:I have been to a Home Depot a few times. The people who work there always know a lot about what they're selling (sometimes made in China; sometimes in the USA, Germany, whatever). They seem to sell what you need for the faucet that is broken. I'm told that people who work for Home Depot, unlike Wal-Mart, etc., get paid, have benefits, etc. So Mr. Langone made it big; maybe it was his dad's money he invested; maybe he started from scratch. Presumably he is a big stockholder and presumably that's where he gets the gazillions he's trying to give away. And apparently he has given many people a job and a decent living. So what's the problem.

Marx never made a buck in his life except from mooching off Engles. Yes, he is a provocative and important thinker. So who's done a better job of keeping/taking people out of poverty Langone or Marx?

I admire Francis's joie de vivre, his spirit, his energy, his efforts to get us to live like we've read the Gospels. But as some have pointed out in the comments below, his experience of economic life in Argentina should be counted as dreadful, and probably his experience of politics too. And the native land of his ancestors--Italy--isn't much to brag about either when it comes to economic or politics. So it goes.

Have a good semester break.

So who's done a better job of keeping/taking people out of poverty Langone or Marx?

My parish is stocked with Polish immigrants who actually lived under communism.  I'm sure they don't tell me everything on their minds, but I've never heard one wax nostalgic about the good old days of totalitarianism and repression.  Their appetite for class struggle apparently isn't bottomless.

 

Peggy -- Yes, I'm on semester break, and obviously I'm using the time wisely.

Both you and I have depended on the kindness of (capitalist) strangers.  I agree --  so it goes.

But to your substantive points. So what if Marx was a sponge?  Trust the tale, not the teller.  The fact that he mooched off Engels for so long is utterly immaterial when judging his work.  If you think he's "a provocative and important thinker," what provokes you?  Why is he important?

I think Matt Boudway does a good job handling your final point about the Pope's experience in Argentina, a meme which is really just another way of asserting American exceptionalism.  

“With all the mentions of Cardinal Dolan, I have to ask those who seem to respect and like him:  does it really not matter to you that he lied about and committed bankruptcy fraud, hiding millions of dollars in church assets from clergy sex abuse claimants?”

Maybe I'm being too practical, but Parish funds in the Archdiocese’s accounts belonged to the Parishes who parked their funds there.  Should all the other Parishes' accounts, not parked in the Archdiocese accounts, be tapped to pay for settlements, as well?  Or just those unlucky enough to be stored alongside the Archdiocese’s funds? 

I don't think individual Parishes' funds should be used for settlements with the Archdiocese management.  So I don't have a problem with the transfer of funds.

Peggy - It seems to me that part of Marx's critique of capitalism is precisely to point out that it creates structures of dependency between "moochers" and benefactors in which the former are made to fall all over themselves with gratitude for the scraps thrown to them by the latter. So, it won't do to point out that Marx was a "moocher," since his whole point was to show that it's the "moochers" who will inherit the earth. Here, I think it's safe to say he was with Jesus.

Bob,

The question of the rightness/wrongness of what Dolan did is uncontested .... it's a federal crime to hide funds from creditors in a bankruptsy ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankruptcy#Fraud ... he was let off the hook by a judge who decided that waht was a criminal act for a civilian was not for a church.

What I don't understand is that no one seems to care that this cardinal and archbishop purposely lied and defrauded people. 

Eric -- Moochers of the world, unite!

Seriously, excellent point.  People like Ken Langone expect us moochers and takers to bow down in adoration of our Galtian overlords.  And the Sermon on the Mount contains some of the finest dismissals of the work ethic ever spoken.  The heirs to the earth are those who consider the lilies, not those who build big-box stores over them.    

They weren't the Archdiocese's funds.  It's like saying my bank was run by crooks and the money I deposited was subject to be taken by creditors. 

You asked if I would care, not if I thought it was illegal.  I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think Archbishop Dolan's moving the funds was something I would think less of him for.  At least the argument doesn't have traction with me.

If you dislike him for other reasons, including his actions or lack of actions regarding criminal activities of priests, I'll listen.  I'm more concerned about that.  But in this case, he projected parishes' funds, not defrauded the people who put their money there.   If it was my parishes' money, that's how I might feel.

Marx never made a buck in his life except from mooching off Engles. Yes, he is a provocative and important thinker. So who's done a better job of keeping/taking people out of poverty Langone or Marx?

And then there was that notorious moocher Francis of Assisi, a man who had a promising career as a merchant before him and gave it all up to gather together a band of fellow moochers who convinced themselves they were imitating Jesus. And what does this new pope do? He goes and names himself after this ne'er-do-well.

The question of the rightness/wrongness of what Dolan did is uncontested .... it's a federal crime to hide funds from creditors in a bankruptsy ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankruptcy#Fraud ... he was let off the hook by a judge who decided that waht was a criminal act for a civilian was not for a church.

No, he was let off the hook by a judge who decided that what Dolan did was non properly described as hiding funds from creditors in a bankruptcy.

I guess we just disagree.  I don't think belonging to a church is like putting money in a bank.  When you give money to the church it isn't your's anymore, as it is  when you put it in a bank, it is the church's.  And when the church does harm to people and must pay damages for that harm, then it's not just criminal to hide asses, it's immoral.  The people who are harmed by abuse can never get back the lives they had before they were harmed .... to then defraud them too is to do harm to them all over again.  And when we in the church say this doesn't matter, it gives the lie to all we say we believe in and live by.

Matthew,

The article that I saw about this states that the reason the judge ruled as he did was because of "First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act" and not because Dolan did not hide the funds.  And in fact, the judge's ruling appears to be conflicted by the fact that he has several relatives buried in the cemetery in question ... you can't make this stuff up!

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/04/us/judge-is-asked-by-creditors-of-arch...

Further reading about Dolan and the funds he moved  ... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/opinion/sunday/bruni-the-churchs-erran...

Gene Mc: "So what if Marx was a sponge?  Trust the tale, not the teller.  The fact that he mooched off Engels for so long is utterly immaterial when judging his work.  If you think he's "a provocative and important thinker," what provokes you?  Why is he important?"

Marx is important for the same reason that Freud and Weber are important. He showed at great length that not all is as it appears to be. That is, beyond, beneath, around our common every day observations about money, people, events, there are structures, ideas, movements that shape money, people, events and which may not be obvious to the casual observer. Marx did it for the economy, Freud for the psyche, and Weber for culture. Pointing to these "unseen" factors, does not mean that any of them were good preditctors of where the ideas and structures were leading. Marx fell into bad hands, of course, and the seven decade experiment that was the U.S.S.R. has done him in.

However, post-1990, there is no reason not to consult his insight as to the current state of the economy and relations between classes. I am doubtful that Cardinal Dolan, Kenneth Langone, and CNBC "chief international correspondent,"  Michelle Caruso-Cabera are the people to consult on this.

Capitalism may be the worst of all economic systems, except for all the others, to paraphrase a non-economist.

I think Matt Boudway does a good job handling your final point about the Pope's experience in Argentina, a meme which is really just another way of asserting American exceptionalism.

Not necessarily.  Maybe it's a way of asserting Argentinian exceptionalism.  Or maybe it's just asserting that Argentina and the US have different roots, different histories, different cultures, different values, and different approaches to economics and justice - i.e., they're different.

When an American plutocrat asserts he's different than an Argentinian aristocrat, certainly that assertion may be largely self-interested.  But isn't it also possible that it's simply true? 

Matthew: And then there was that notorious moocher Francis of Assisi, a man who had a promising career as a merchant before him and gave it all up to gather together a band of fellow moochers who convinced themselves they were imitating Jesus. And what does this new pope do? He goes and names himself after this ne'er-do-well.

Promising career? Inheriting the family business in feudal fashion? Exploiting sheep and sheep shearers? Francis wed Lady Poverty. Did his Mom slip him a crust of bread now and then? Maybe. His followers have done quite well on the economic front down through the centuries. The point: if everyone behaved and acted as Francis is reported to have acted, we would all be dead or non-existent.

However, post-1990, there is no reason not to consult [Marx's] insight as to the current state of the economy and relations between classes.

Well, except for the complete and utter discrediting that you mentioned in your previous paragraph.

 My view is that economic theorists of past ages generally are unreliable oracles for what goes on today.  It's why I largely stay away from the Keynes/Hayek taffy pulls.  Like Marx, their insights, of whatever merit, were contingent on sets of conditions that no longer obtain.  Just as generals need to resist the temptation to refight the last war, economic policymakers (and, for that matter, popes who comment on economic policies) always need to realize that what was true yesterday, or six generations ago, probably isn't the same today.

I don't know if y'all have seen this Atlantic Magazine economic year in review piece.  There is quite a bit in it (it being, after all, Atlantic) that would give aid and comfort to folks of a progressive persuasion.  But there is one particular exhibit that is relevant to this discussion of Marx.  Unfortunately, the individual items in the roundup aren't numbered or sub-headed, so you'll need to scroll down to see it.  It's about 1/3 of the way down.  The exhibit is entitled, "Figure 6: A Non-Marxian world: Level and Composition of Global Inequality in the 19th century and around year 2000 (measured by the Theil index)".  It's a simple stacked-bar chart with just two bars.  What it purports to illustrate is the relative importance of social class and geographic location in determining global inequality.  The suggestion is that, whereas in Marx's time, social class was the primary determinant, today location is much more important.  The chart is accompanied by some commentary - and it's provocative - by Dylan Matthews of WonkBlog.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/12/the-most-important-e...

 

Herewith Jim Pauwels suggested reading from the Atlantic:

Dylan Matthews, Wonkblog: This is a very simple chart but I think it does a very good job of showing how much nationalistic blinders affect how we think and write about the distribution of income and wealth. Consciously or not, many of us are stuck in a vulgar Marxist mindset where decisions within countries about how much each group gets are of crucial importance. The Occupy movement's "99 percent and the 1 percent" frame gets at this explicitly, but there's a broader tendency, of which I'm as guilty as anyone, to focus obsessively on whether a given policy is "progressive" or "regressive" intra-nationally. But while that really was the most important cleavage in 1870, it just isn't anymore. Talking about a transnational proletariat made sense then; a working class person was a working class person, whether they were in Prussia or France or wherever. But someone in the bottom quintile of China's income distribution does not have much in common with someone in the same position in America.

We need to shift our thinking, in World Bank economic Branko Milanovic's words, "from proletarians to migrants." The key issue going forward isn't how the income will be divvied up within rich countries. It's whether rich countries are going to continue using men with guns to keep would-be migrants impoverished in their home countries

 It seems to me that part of Marx's critique of capitalism is precisely to point out that it creates structures of dependency between "moochers" and benefactors in which the former are made to fall all over themselves with gratitude for the scraps thrown to them by the latter. So, it won't do to point out that Marx was a "moocher," since his whole point was to show that it's the "moochers" who will inherit the earth

If you walk into a Home Depot and inform the workers that their work is the equivalent of sponging off their friends to support an upper-middle-class lifestyle, don't blame me if one of them drops a pallet on your toe.

And I haven't seen "Blessed are the moochers", either in Matthew or Luke.  On the other hand, I do see, "Blessed are the peacemakers", an admonition that Marx and his adherents don't seem to take much to heart.  The project to align Marx with the Gospel strikes me as about as promising as the one to align Ayn Rand with the Gospel, but I wish you luck. 

 

Margaret - thanks.  How did you do that?

 

"If everyone behaved and acted as Francis is reported to have acted, we would all be dead..."

Have you read the Gospels? I must have missed the alternate ending where Jesus decides to give up all this "my kingdom is not of this world business" and leverages his popular support to start a non-profit. Blessed are the pragmatists?

Jim P: Go to site. Highlight object/text by clicking at beginning and end. Go to Edit, click copy, return to dotCWL, go to comment box, click paste. Anyway, that's how I did it.

EB: Silly!

Margaret - thanks.  In the past I've tried to paste graphics and tables into comment  boxes but it hasn't worked for me.  Maybe it's a posting-related superpower that you possess.  Have you leapt any tall buildings in a single bound recently?

Eric -- That's "blessed are the entrepreneurs."  And it's the TED Talk on the Mount.

Jim P -- Langone may be right about his being different from an Argentine plutocrat -- maybe he is more generous and philanthropic -- but as you suggest in your remarks on Matt's post about American exceptionalism, Langone is blind to the structural injustice that helps put him where he is.  In that regard, there's little or no difference between Langone and his Argentine counterpart.

Also, I'm more inclined to think that social and economic theorists from yesteryear are still very much worth consulting -- Keynes, Smith, and yes, Marx.  Much more so, in fact, than wonks like Dylan Matthews or Ezra Klein.  The great economists may not have known about "Thiel mean log derivations," but they understood the dynamics of the system, which remain pretty much unchanged.

Jim P: No tall buildings today. Did go out in the 12 degree, sunny day; snow not as serious as predicted. Reminded me of my childhood trek five mile to school, five back in chicago's ten foot snowdrifts.

Also (sit down!), I agree with McCarraher that Keynes, Marx, and yes Adam Smith (not Hayek) are still worth consulting for their thinking about economic matters.

Peggy -- You show impeccable judgment.  About the thinkers, that is.

The issue is to build up people not cathedrals. To wash the feet of the poor as well as the wealthy. To have the intergrity not to prostitute oneself for the money. The widow's mite is more noble than Langone's million dollar gift. But you could not sell Langone nor Dolan on it. 

Peggy wrote: "The point: if everyone behaved and acted as Francis is reported to have acted, we would all be dead or non-existent.

"Do you mean crucified? Or that "the servant is not greater than the Master?" Isn't it in dying that we live?

Nothing so exalted. Only that if everyone was a celibate like Francis, there would have been no children. Or if he wasn't a celibate, his children would have starved, been frozen to death, or perhaps been eaten by wolves. We can't all be exemplars, that is all I meant.

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.