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I Only Turn Screws

Whether or not the potential attacks on Syria transgress the stringent conditions of a just war, what should be said of the money accruing to investors shrewd enough to have invested in it?  A friend sent me this intriguing story from USA Today, and I found myself wondering, in Baltimore Catechism terms, about war profiteering.  Is it a sin to accept an unsavory dividend from investments in, say, Northrop Grumman or Boeing, when the weaponry they help produce is deployed in a “just war?’  Blessed Pope John Paul II never pronounced on this, but when he was Karol Wojtyla, he wrote a suggestive poem about something like it.

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Of course not!  Dividends are the fruits of prudential capitalism, one of the marks of the church ... right?

This is a question that seems to bug sensitive consciences more than it does moral theologians. Moral theology so often seems rooted in the 13th century, oblivious to the age of democracy and "people's capitalism." Moral theologians talk about "legitimate authority," for example, but in this country the final authority is we, the people. (You can look it up in the Constitution.) That has consequences.

For example, abortion is permitted in the United States. Capital punishment is more than permitted; it is government policy. No one has ever been aborted for me, and no abortions are committed in my name, but the state of Florida kills people for me and in my name. It seems to me that I am complicit in executions, but Catholics treat abortion and capital punishment as if it were the other way around.

In my youth, the stock market was played by steel-eyed experts with the intensity of the folks I see at the paddock at Gulfstream Park studying The Racing Form. But then we were encouraged -- in some cases, forced by loss of pensions -- to become "investors" ourselves. Most of us, with lives to live, invest by putting money into a mutual fund or funds. And then someone decides how and where to invest if for us. I get quarterly newsletters telling me how to "take charge" of my investment, but unless I want to emulate the big players following the ticker (and lose my shirt), I have little idea what "my" money is supporting. Heck, I could own condom stock and not know it. That ought to wake up some theologian.

Or does doing things en masse mean, morally, that we never have to say we are sorry?

"we never have to say we are sorry?'

No guilt for me. My money is invested  in  sector ETFs .. So remote, it's like breathing the same city air as dictator/murderers.