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Preparing to hear a Gospel

A good way of preparing for this Sunday’s Gospel, about the man who tore down his barns in order to build bigger ones for the abundant harvest he was about to reap, would be to read the annual report of Caritas Internationalis. In the first sentence of his Preface, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis, sets out one of the scandalous facts: 

This is a world where about 300 children die every hour from malnutrition and where nearly a billion people have no access to clean water. At the same time, there are over 1200 billionaires in the world, the highest number ever recorded.

Several of the Fathers of the Church and medieval theologians after them indicted the foolish man for the very fact that he anticipated having more than he would be able to store. That would not have been a problem, they said, if he had done what he should have done: distribute his wealth to the poor and needy. Some examples from from St. Basil the Great’s homily on this parable:

Consider yourself, who you are, what resources have been entrusted to you, from whom you received them, and why your received more than others. You have been mad a minister of God’s goodness, a steward of your fellow servants. Do not suppose that all this was furnished for your own gullet. Resolve to treat the things in your possession as belonging to others. ...

Let the example of the rich man who is under examination accompany you everywhere. By keeping what he already had, while at the same time endeavoring to gain even cmore, he committed tomorrow’s sins today. No suppliant had yet approached, but he showed his cruelty in advance. He had not yet gathered his harvest, yet he was already found guilty of avarice. The earth was welcoming all to its richness; it germinated the crops deep in the furrows, produced large clusters of rapes on the vine, makde the live tree bend under a vast quantitty of fruti, and offered every deliciaous varieity of the frtuir tree. But the rich man was unwelcoming and unfruitful; he did not even possess as yet, and already he begrudged the needy. ...

“But whom do I treat unjustly,” you say, “by keeping what is my own.” Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common–this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of pre-emption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no would be poor, and no one would be in need. ...

But you, stuffing everything into the bottomless pockets of your greed, assume that you wrong no one; yet how many do you in fact dispossess? Who are the greedy? Those who are not satisfied with what suffices for their own needs. Who are robbers? Those who take for themselves what rightfully belongs to everyone. And you, are you not greedy? Are you not a robber. The things you received in trust as a stewardship, have you not appropriated them for yourself? Is not the person who strips another of clothing called a thief? And those who do not clothe the naked when they have the power to do so, should they not be called the same? The bread you are holding back is for the hungry; the clothes you keep in your closet are for the naked; the shoes that are rotting away with disuse are for those who have none; the silver you keep buried in the earth is for the needy. You are thus guilty of injustice toward as many as you might have aided, but did not.

(St. Basil the Great, On Social Justice, translated by C. Paul Schroeder (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009) 59-71)

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.



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I wonder if greed is one simple emotional craving that gives rise to greedy actions.  Seems to me that some people are inspired to hoard because they were terribly poor at one time and are extremely fearful of not having enough.  This is a failure of courage or of confidence in God's generosity.  Other people accumulate wealth to buy signs of wealth, and this seems to be more a matter of pride.  Then there are the businessmen who crave only money, money as a sign that they are winning their competition with their competitors.  This also seems to be motivated by pride in being "first" or "the most".  Then of course, there is simply wanting more of something in order to enjoy it without cease, e.g., eating delicious food, but we call that gluttony. 

Or is there some primal craving at the bottom of all those wants -- some sheer wanting of whatever goods we don't have?

I wish the church would take this to heart as well and spend more of its money on the poor.  According to a story in The Economist last year, the church in the US spends only2.7% of its wealth on charity, and of that percnetage, more than half is donated to the church by the US government in grants  ....

"According to a story in The Economist last year, the church in the US spends only2.7% of its wealth on charity,"

Crystal --

It seems to me that the story as a whole isn't clear cut about the percent spent on the poor. While the chart says that 4.5B (i.e., 2.7% ) is spent on "national" charities, the chart also shows that an additional 98B is spent on health care (of which over 30% is not government money).  Surely, a sizeable portion of  that 30+% is also spent on the poor.  Further, it spends many billions more on education, and, again, a sizeable portion of that must also benefit the poor.

Too bad there is no transparency -- the hierarchy might look a lot better if there were.  But then again .  .  .   


The report mentions Syrian refugee children in Lebanon who are so hungry that sometimes they eat dirt. What do you do when your children are hungry and there is absolutely nothing to eat? You mix dirt with water to make some kind of mud cake and give them that to eat. It does not nourish at all, but it temporarily calms stomach cramps from hunger.

That is something I had heard of about Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, left behind by development. But Syria is far from that level of poverty. It's a "lower middle income country": it has oil, agriculture, had tourism, and is not prone to natural catastrophies. I bet that before the war eating dirt would have been unheard of. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.


Hi Ann.  What the article seems to say is that the church is a business which spends most of its money on itself.  It spends money on health care and education, but those aren'tt charities.  It's very expensive to go to a Catholic school, though I know there are some scholarships, and Catholic hospitals are not charities either.  My mother died in a Catholic hospital and they dunned us ferociously to get the money that the insurance hadn't yet paid. 

Crystal --

Maybe things have changed a lot since I knew more about such things, but when I was young the Church did give a lot in the way of scholarships and free health care to the poor.  Remember:  the Church is not just the hierarchy.  I know that in my own grammar school there were many children during the Depression who paid nothing because their families had nothing.  Consider especially  the huge contributions of so many of the religious orders, including especially the nuns.   (My mother volunteered to teach free one year free because the parish didn't have the money to pay for a full complement of teachers.)  I knew of  three boys in one family who were educated free by the Jesuits because their family simply didn't have the tuition.  And i was told that the Jesuits even paid for some boys' uniforms and shoes.  Such generosity from the orders was far from uncommon. 

Also consider such institutions such as Charity Hospital here in New Orleans which was founded by the Sisters of Charity back in the 18th century.  Eventually the State took it over and the nuns were hired by the State to run it as employess of the State of Louisiana) until Hurricane Katrina destroyed it eight years ago.  They were great administrators.  They gave their services practically free and the patients received first rate care from the faculties of Tulane and LSU medical schools who practiced there.  They still do, if I'm correct.  The  contribution of American nuns to American health care is still enormous.  

Ann, you may well be right.  I haven't had much experience with Catholic institutions, not growing up Catholic, but a Jesuit brcame my spiritual director and helped me with the  30+ weeks of the Spiritual Exercises 'in everyday life' all for free  :)

When I read these stories, it reminds me that compared to people in these very poor countries, I'm that rich man myself.  It's very hard to live the Gosples. 

I wonder if the Economist's analysis included entities such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Assn. or Catholic Relief Services which do great work outside the USA.  Or what individual dioceses do: e.g., the Inner-City Scholarship Fund in NY.  Or what individual parishes do by way of soup-kitchens, etc.  And that's apart from what individual Catholics do and give.

I think that Irene is correct: By comparison with hundreds of millions of people around the world, we are the wealthy farmer in tomorrow's Gospel or the anonymous rich man outside whose gates Lazarus lies. But what to do?  Last time this reading came up, I said in a homily:

What a challenge this poses to us in our American culture! I am probably not talking to many millionaires in this congregation, but I am talking to people whose lives are far more comfortable and secure than those of hundreds of millions of people in the world today. We are living in a society where conspicuous consumption still gets all the attention, where the advertising industry exists to convince us to buy things we don’t need. A story in the local paper last week told of a U.S. Senator who owns a 7 million dollar yacht. Chelsea Clinton’s wedding is said to have cost millions of dollars. The average wedding in the U.S. costs between $20,000 and $30,000. A Christmas or two ago I went into a huge Best Buy store and remarked to my brother that no one really needed about 90% of what was on sale. How many of the gifts we give, and get, at Christmas are things people really need? And I would be willing to bet that most of us–including myself–have more than one coat, more than one pair of shoes, in our closets.

Of course, if everyone followed St. Basil’s advice immediately, the worldwide economy would probably collapse into an even deeper recession. Still, isn’t there much more that we could do than we are doing? We could start by keeping in mind the distinction between things necessary for life and superfluous things. Maybe we should all go home and go through our closets and drawers and bring what we really don’t need–or can’t fit into!–to local charities. Couldn’t we at least consider making our lives simpler? Many people have decided to let care for the environment determine how they will spend their money, what sorts of things they will buy. Could we not let care for the needy enter into our decisions about such matters? Maybe we could decide that every time we buy something we don’t really need, we’ll give an equal amount to the poor. Or perhaps we could revive the old biblical requirement of tithing, that is, giving 10% of our income to God. Could that not be a guide? A commitment to give 10% every year to the poor and needy? St. John Chrysostom had a good rule, I think. “It is not required that you give a lot, but that you not give too little, given what you possess.”

This stutters a bit, I know.  

I don't think it's the hierarchy's task, or competence, to propose specific solutions to the vast systemic problems, but it is its role, and ours also, to keep the scandal before the eyes of everyone. Another 300 children will have died of malnutrition during tomorrow's Mass.

And I think our Catholic colleges and universities ought to be involved. I wonder how many of their departments of economics or business offer courses or sponsor research on the matter. (At the 1993 Georgetown University Symposium on Ex corde Ecclesiae , David Hollenbach held up an advertisement from The New York Times which featured the bold headline: "DARWIN WAS RIGHT!" The text beneath invited those who were interested in learning the skills that would make them among the fittest who alone survive in the Wall Street jungle to come study economics--at the Fordham Business School! Everyone laughed. It is worth reflecting on why we laughed: presumably it was because of the incongruity that Social Darwinism was the economic theory appealed to in order to attract students to a Catholic institution. But why should that be considered incongruous except because of a felt sense that Catholic faith has some implications for the economic realm and that these ought to be reflected in the way a Catholic university undertakes a study of that realm?)

It's a lot easier to think about our own greed and what to do about it than about alleviating other people's needs. It's easy to remember that everything we have comes from God, and that when we die we'll leave all our "possessions" behind us.

What's much more challenging is to articulate the relation between what we accumulate and what the very poor are lacking. How are we "robbers"? How does "making our lives simpler" have an impact on Syrian refugees? Is it that we are more free to take the time that would have gone into being consumers, and use it to educate ourselves about their situation instead? Is it that we buy fewer things but require them to be the product of fair trade, and hope that somehow it will help? Or that we buy fewer, cheaper things, automatically send the savings out to something like Catholic Charities, and hope that it will make a difference?

It seems all so remote.


Claire- I've been hearing a lot in recent months about "food waste". This year's World Environment Day theme "Think. Eat Save." focused on it, and I believe the pope also spoke to it.  

My daughter has a poster in her room  about the Think.Eat.Save. campaign highlighting the many benefits of food conservation. We waste huge amounts of food each year- over 1 billion tons-  and that means we also waste the resources used to create that food.  For example, global food production accounts for 70% of fresh water consumption, while lack of clean water is oneof the leading causes of infant mortality.

Just by consuming no more than we use, we would have a  beneficial impact on the enviroment and on the resources we all share.


Today at 9:06 am Fr. Komonchak rightly says: "I don't think it's the hierarchy's task, or competence, to propose specific solutions to the vast systemic problems, but it s its role, and ours, to keep the scandal before the eyes of everyone."

Here's a suggestio for a small but nontrivial way to influence public opinion about poverty and our attitudes toward the poor. This suggestion is modeled on the traditional parish Holy Name Society. That society's fundamental purpose was to honor and respect the holy name of Jesus. The society , or association, of lay people, both men and women, would have as its overall objective service to the poor, understanding that whoever serves them serves the Lord.

Members of this association would pledge never to say anything that disparages or demeans poor people. Furthermore, they would look for ways, both as individuals and as a group, to express disagreement with any talk by others that is disparaging or demeaning. They would also pray individually each day for the alleviation of poverty and would gather periodically to pray together in church or at some other appropriate public place and to discuss ways to keep the multifaceted scandals of poverty "before the eyes of everyone."

Whether units of this association were organized at the parish level or, as the case with the K of C, into councils, is an open question. The key point is that this association should be a lay organization, one whose members decide on its projects. It would be desirable for eachsuch unit to have as its chaplain some member of the clergy, priest or deacon, or some member of a religious community.

I would hope that a suitably rrefined version of this suggestion would find easy acceptance and encouragement by the hierarchy. It's hardly a sufficient religious response to the massive problems of poverty, but it is a response that lots of ordinary people of differejnt ages, experience, and talent, could be encouraged to make.

It used to be that all parishes around here had men's St. Vincent de Paul societies to help the needy people in the parish.  They helped the poor directly.  They were, of course, limited in what they could do by the means of their membership.  Now in well-to-do suburbs where is little or no poverty so I assume those societies don't exist anymore.  

I do think people would take the church's advice to help the poor more seriously if the church set an example.  The pope has already done that at least symbolically with his decision not to live in the apostolic palace, but fo the most part, the church is an example of wealth, not poverty with the poor.

Fr. K,  Most of the money used to fund both Catholic Charities and CRS comes from US taxpayers who act as contractors for the US govt. Catholic Charities gets money from HHS and other agencies, and CRS is heavily funded by the US Agency for International Development. It is not really Church money that is being spent by taxpayer money.

I forgot to add to the suggestion I offered above, that there should be some effort made to encourage poor people themselves to be part of these associations. How eles would the members hear the voices of the poor when they decide how to speak out on their behalf? In all likelihood, many parishes are too homogenious to attract many poor people to such an association. In those cases, part of the association's work would be to get to kknow some people from poorer parishes.  The objective would be to break down the wall that would divide the well-to-do from the needy so that they would pray together and help one another think about how to keep the entire community focused on the needs of the poor.

I don't have the skill to make a perfect plan, but I do think that the sketch I offer could serve as a useful point of departure.

Crystal, I do think that the pope has called all of us to look for ways to serve the poor. It follows, I think, that we don't need to wait for the hiefrarchy to start calling the shots about how to do that. It's actually important, I think, to take some initial steps and see what comes of them.

For my part, I'm taking my idea to a local priest for some advice. I'' also considering contacting our local bishop, about whom I have some reason to be skeptical, to see how he'll react. Whether I'll do that will depend on some conversations I have not yet had. I don't want to give anyone the impression that I, or anyone, needs permission to look for opportunities to serve the poor.


Yes, I'm not saying we should wait for the church before we ourelves help, just that it seems hypocritical for a wealthy church to call on others to help the poor.  I live at about the poverty line myself so that may be skewing my opinions.

I kind of like Bernard's idea. Have you thought about what kinds of activities the association would offer to members? We had some meetings on human trafficking in our parish two years ago but were stymied on the action front. We've settled for keeping everyone who is interested informed, including occasional updates in the bulletin for the uninterested.

Our parish has a food pantry that serves 250 people a week, and we have a St. Vincent dePaul Society that other parishes are officially encouraged to emulate (although only a few do). Despite this, parishioners learned only recently that the parish office gets 125-150 walk-ins a month of people needing food or transportation or help with utility bills. This has been building up, and our "part time" parish nurse handles a lot of it. We are, like it or not, a social service agency, but even so only a fraction of the parishioners are involved in any of it.

I like Bernard's idea as well.  I think it is really important to give your time, not just your money, to people in need. A lot of  us live in economic ghettoes; how does my middle class parish show solidarity in a meaningful way with the poor? It's not hard to find ways to give service as an individual; there are plenty of places we can all go volunteer, but how do we serve the poor as a community? Tom's parish sounds great, but how do we get beyond socal action programs involving a small number of parish members, and create a culture of service for the whole parish? 

Bernard's idea has some appeal. Instead of being poverty amateurs, who occasionally have a passing perplexed thought for the very poor, one would become more knowledgeable and maybe have a better understanding and more ideas of what can be done. It would make addressing poverty a priority.

Ms. Chapman:  I wish your last sentence above reflected the qualification that is found in your first one.

The Economist says that the Catholic Church "is the largest single charitable organisation in the country," and It reports that "its organisations distributed $4.7 billion to the poor in 2010, of which 62% came from local, state and federal government agencies." 38% of $4.7 billion is $1.9 billion, which is not chump change. 

Now that I don't go to church anymore, I try to help by donating $ to otganizations, mostly ones that help animals, like the National Anti-Vivisection Society ... ... and I contact my government reps about legislation that helps the environment, the poor, animals, etc (action alerts).  There's really a lot that can be done to help others.

Fr., K, you are right - it's not "chump change". Please don't take offense. I make the point because it's important for Catholics to have some facts and some perspective as well. Catholics are not the only generous people in the country.

As you note from the Economist article,  most of the money does come from taxpayers (which the bishops fail to mention in their speeches).  But the the percentage of the total of funds distributed by Catholic Charities that comes from tax money is signifcantly higher than more of of the organizations on the Forbes Top 100 list (The YMCA, American Red Cross, and Goodwill Industries, like the Catholic Church, also have lower percentages of private funding  compared to World Vision, Salvation Army etc). And,  the money that does come from the "church" comes from the people in the pews primarily, which is not something that bishops usually mention. The generosity of Catholics is indisputable, but it is too bad that so many forget who exactly is being generous - is it an institution or is it the people who make up the church?  

The Catholic church is the "largest single charitable organization in the country (2/3 funded by taxpayers) and it is also the largest single religious group in the country, with more than 23% of the entire US population. 

Catholic Charities is the third largest charitable giving organization in the US. According to Forbes (The 100 Largest U.S. Charities for 2012), it raised about  $1607 million privately of about $4600 million. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee only raised $279 million ( a bit less than CRS which gets about 1/3 of its funds from private sources) - but this was 100% from private sources.

The numbers change depending on how the counters are counting, but there are at least 60 million Catholics in the US. There are about 6.7 million Jews in the US (depending on how the counters count also) - roughly 10% of the number of Catholics. The total charitable funds for the major Jewish charitable organization is less than 20% of Catholic Charities, but it was 100% private donations from a dramatically smaller number of members.

None of this is meant to disparage the work done by Catholic charities (lower case "c"), but it should help to put it in perspective.  The Catholic church's affiliated charities counted together may be the largest single charitable organization in America, but most of its funding does come from public monies, and it is at least a question as to whether or not it is the most "generous", in terms of the private monies used on a per capita basis, given the huge size of its membership as a percentage of the US population


Or is there some primal craving at the bottom of all those wants -- some sheer wanting of whatever goods we don't have? 

Like Adam and Eve suddenly realizing that they are naked and wanting something to hide their nudity?

"Mine!" is one of the first few words that toddlers learn. The concept of possession comes very naturally to most of them. 

More and more things can be the object of economic transactions, I think. I always have the vague worry that some day I will have to pay for things that are now free: for clean air, for example; or for stepping out into public space.

The one possession I have, that comes from God too but that is really mine from the time of birth, is myself. Some people choose to "give themselves to God" but it is always a choice. It's entirely up to each of us what we do with ourselves, and we  renew our choices every day when we act according to previous commitments or walk away from them.


I believe that all those large Catholic charitable organizations make their annual reports available on the Internet. 

What I like about Bernard's proposal is that it is grass-roots, that is, it recognizes that when we think about the Church's duties towards the poor we shouldn't think first of that abstract "universal Church" much less about the hierarchy, but about local Churches, and the responsibilities of us all, laity and clergy, parishes and schools, colleges and universities. What does it mean for all of us, and each of us, to be (in the words of Pope Francis) "a poor Church for the poor"?

I'm glad people are talking about concrete proposals. I think making parishes visible sites of mutual aid is extremely important. There is also no reason why parishes could not be important sites for promoting the following: 1) Community-supported agriculture and food cooperatives, to address the significant injustices currently perpetuated by our food system. We already have "Market Day" and other such "fundraising activities" - we should be thinking differently about food, and there are existing resources in our communities that would be greatly helped if the parish was a site for facilitating corporate action on a real scale. Imagine the eucharistic overtones! 2) Making fair and equitable banking and lending available to the poor, by using excess funds from the rich in our communities. There is no reason why a parish could not have a credit union specfically targeted at poor and insecure households who depend on a rapacious system of payday lenders, rent-to-own emporiums, and rip-off tax preparers. Imagine if the parish became a place that did not take advantage of people's poverty. I read an article in Christian Century about a group of Protestant churches in Pittsburgh doing exactly this. 3) Supporting reasonably-priced child care and afterschool care programs. One of the great burdens on the poor is the exorbitant cost of child care, and this is service parishes are in a good position to deliver.

And 4) Thinking seriously about a shared responsibility to "live among the poor" as a parish by overcoming the middle-class tendency to isolate in class enclaves removed from real encounters and neighborliness. The fact is we have many parishes - which are gorgeous - located in areas with extremely affordable housing, AND there are decaying schools attached to many of them. Why don't groups of people get together - because doing this alone is really not wise, or very effective - and move there. Get a network of 50-100 people from 4-5 adjacent suburban parishes and say, ok, let's move together, support one another, and become a presence of hope and support for the poor. Again, there are real stories of this happening... check out a book called Real Hope in Chicago, where it happened on the west side. I visited; it's pretty amazing.

David --

Excellelnt ideas all!  

No one has picked up on my point about the role of Catholic colleges and universities. I wonder in what respects a program in economics or in business in a Catholic university differs (or should differ) from similar programs in other universities. (I once asked the parallel question to a professor in a law school at a mid-western Jesuit university; she couldn't point to anything different except perhaps an ethics course. Nothing, for example, on natural law.) Where, I wonder, might the social encyclicals be taught? Are they being taught any longer? Or perhaps law and economics departments and programs can get along quite well without them: after all, isn't that the sort of thing that can be fobbed off onto the new-fangled programs in "Catholic Studies," leaving the rest of the university free to be content to join lock-step in what other universities are doing?  

Serious systemic questions surely arise in view of the enormous disparity between wealthy and poor nations. My question is whether our institutions are sponsoring the kind of thinking needed to address the questions. I thought it was typical academic arrogance when Theodore Hesburgh said that Catholic universities are "where the Church does its thinking." They certainly are where certain types of thinking can be undertaken, the kinds needed to think our way out of our present Dives and Lazarus situation--we know how that ends up.

FWIW - virtually every parish in the deanery where I live has some sort of ministry to those in need.  Ours started as a St. Vincent de Paul Society (which, btw, Ann and everyone, is no longer a mens-only ministry), and currently we have about 50 parishioners who offer direct, face-to-face, one-to-one assistance to those in need.  Most of our clientele are homeless people.

One of the weaknesses of the parish-based ministry system is that each parish is independent and autonomous, and we don't leverage the possibilities of combining and coordinating our resources.  You'd never know we were all members of one Catholic church!  I think we could accomplish much more if we could all work together.  (And then take that a step further and add an ecumenical dimension by working hand-in-hand with the mainline Protestant and Evangelical churches in the community, most of whom also have outreach ministries of some sort).  But on the other hand, the fact that what we do is so intensely local does seem to appeal to some of our parishioners': this is *our* ministry, and *we're* responsible for it - if we don't do it, it won't get done.


In addition to the excellent practical suggestions offered here, I'd like to call out a problem whose proportions are enormous but which goes unaddressed around here: public utilities.  The ability to make an electric bill payment in a particular month is something that determines whether or not a poor household (frequently a single mom with one or more children) is going to be a viable home.  If a water bill payment isn't made and service is shut off, typically the tenant is evicted.  My own experience in trying (ineptly, no doubt) to advocate for our clients by negotiating with the monopolistic behemoths that supply these vital services is that "preferential option for the poor" is not really part of their vocabulary.  Why can't they have sliding rate scales depending on income?  Why can't a poor householder be permitted more than one or two strikes before they're out?  The electric and gas utilities, in particular, are gigantic, privately-owned, politically-well-connected for-profit businesses for whom a missed monthly payment by a poor customer means less than nothing on their balance sheet.  I really believe that the US system of private, for-profit, monopoly utility providers is unjust to the poor.


"My own experience in trying (ineptly, no doubt) to advocate for our clients by negotiating with the monopolistic behemoths that supply these vital services is that "preferential option for the poor" is not really part of their vocabulary."

I don't think that's really ture.  Where I live the utility companies do help people with financial problems - the gas company and the electric company and the phone company all have reduced rates for people who meet financial criteria.

No one has picked up on my point about the role of Catholic colleges and universities. I wonder in what respects a program in economics or in business in a Catholic university differs (or should differ) from similar programs in other universities.

FWIW - my undergraduate degree is from Loyola University Chicago's School of Business, with an economics concentration.  I was class of '84, so this was rather a long time ago now.  My experience is that the business-school courses - accounting, finance, business law and so on - really didn't have any particularly Catholic content.  The approach seemed to be to prepare students to be successful professionals in the world of business.  We did, as you note, have an ethics class requirement - but even that didn't have any notably Catholic content.  (A lot of it was Galbraith vs. Friedman - that may give readers an idea of the era in which I was in school).

The undergraduate core curriculum (not part of the school of business per se) included requirements for nine hours apiece in theology and philosophy.  And if one lived on campus, there was a very active campus ministry, including Jesuit priests and other professional chaplains living in all the men's dorms (I lived next door to a Jesuit for three years).  And there was a sort of Catholic ethos that permeated the university.  When I pursued a graduate degree at a public university, I learned in retrospect that the university staff at Loyola were all much more caring, kind and oriented toward serving the students.  

But I'd have to say that the Catholic ethos permeated the school of business less than some of the other schools.  The school of business was at the downtown campus at which there were no dormitories and campus ministry was virtually invisible.  I'm sure there was a chapel down there but I have no memory of it.  

It really was kind of just another business school teaching business curriculum.  I attribute it to the professors (none of mine were priests or religious for any of the business classes).  I'd think that most of them had at least some autonomy to inject Catholic content into their curriculum, but I can only think of one who ever did in the four years I attended.  The impression I had was that they were trying to build their careers as university professors, and if they got a better offer from a Big Ten or Ivy League school, they'd leap at it.  In other words, I didn't have the impression that many of them approached their work as a Catholic vocation.  

Perhaps I'm not being fair;  my impression of the Economics department, several of whom I got to know pretty well, was that they were good  and decent people who really did care about their students.  So it may be that the faculty as a whole were the same, trying simultaneously to succeed in their chosen profession and be good Christian professors to their students.  But as I say, it didn't extend to injecting explicitly Catholic content into the curriculum.



Thanks to claire, Irene Tom  and Fr, Komonchak for their encouragement of ther ide I'm trying to formulte and make practical. My wife is inclined to agree that my idea is pehaps more modes than the situation calls for. If I'm not mistaken, and i often am, she'd be indlined to push for the expansive program that David Clouthier proposes. By no means do I want to oppose his idea. It's just that I fear that at my stage of life I couldn't contribure much to support his ideas. I do agree that all thei things he wants to promote are worthwhild. Similarly, I think that Fr, Komonchak is right to ask about what contribution to social justice Catholic universities are making. All my experience has b een in public higher ecucation, so I don't think that I have much to add to his formulation of the problems.

If the threads onthis blog site make it feasible, I will report what happens wheen I try to get a hearing for my prposal. If nothing el;se, it's a sort of test case.

Big ideas need to be localized.  My parish of 400 "actives" feeds 125 homeless, 2 nights a week, every week.

It's not the usual walk the line and fill you tray routine.  Rather, the guests are seated at table, with linens, flowers and candles, and are served family style by waiters.  Anyone who is really hungry can have all (s)he wants.

Sandwich bags are available for those who cannot be seated because of space limitations.  They are also available for the already-fed to take with them when they leave.

There is a country store that dispenses travel-sized soap, toothpaste, tooth brushes, deodorant, etc.  The guests do not have a lot of storage space, so things are sized to accommodate their capacities.

We have a parishioner who is a doctor and she comes once every 2 weeks and answers questions, diagnoses problems and makes necessary referrals.

The other week a dentist is there ... ditto program.

The funding and country store donations come from parishioners and other "angels." No government assistance is sought nor needed.

This is a small effort in a city with huge problems.  But this effort works and could be easily replicated in all different sizes and locations of parishes, schools, etc.  It takes the dedication and hard work of (unfortunately) a few relentless souls who are as dependable as the need.


Would not St Vincent de Paul society fill that requirement? both parish and council based.

JAK ==

It seems to me that for universities to recognize the need to integrate philosophy and social studies they'll first need to recognize that just because philosophy is abstract that does not imply that it isn't useful.  It answers fundamental questions about values and conflicts among values, and that means it's very useful for formulating solid goals.  This implies that philosophy is in fact a *practical* subject, but try convincing educators who see value only in immediately practical things like health breakthroughs, innovative engineering, ways to maximize commercial activity, and how to win law suits. 

I must admit, however, that I find that law professors generally see the value of philosophy quicker than those in other disciplines, and law schools generally recommend philosophy highly as a pre-law major.  Maybe it's because lawyers are more likely to see the consequences of ignoring what philosophy has to say about values and conflicts of values

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