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Poor little rich Catholics

Eduardo Penalver has already flagged my favorite holiday report on the Francis effect (published just in time to influence year-end charitable giving). And as we ring in the New Year, let's spare a thought for the persecuted rich. It's bad enough Francis keeps talking about the poor all the time, but now he's suggesting that someone other than those same poor people may be responsible for their poverty -- and worse, that Catholics are called on to work for a more just distribution of the world's goods. He wants us to change the system, but has he given any thought to how that might affect the people who currently benefit most from that system? CNBC is on it:

[Home Depot founder Ken] Langone said he's raised the issue more than once with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, most recently at a breakfast in early December at which he updated him on fundraising progress."I've told the cardinal, 'Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don't have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don't act the same as rich people in another country,' " he said.

One of the things that makes this story so jaw-dropping is the presumption -- on the part of Langone, and as ever on the part of CNBC -- that those who see or read it will sympathize with the petulant wealthy. Do you really want to make things harder for people who are so much wealthier and more successful than you? CNBC constantly asks its viewers. Do you think we can afford to let them get upset?

I do feel for Cardinal Dolan, caught between the demands of fundraising in a wealthy city and the clear teaching of a very popular pope. I wouldn't want to be explaining Evangelii Gaudium to any prospective donors over breakfast. Still, I'd like to think that, if pressed, I could do a little bit better than "The pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people. He loves people, alright? He's not into the condemning game."

I do not think CNBC's reporting on this story was motivated by a desire to get people thinking about how relying on the goodwill of wealthy donors compromises the integrity of the church. But that's where this story left me. What might it mean if bishops like Dolan had to square off with a few sulking multimillionaires and tell them, Look, here's the social teaching of the church, and here's a chart demonstrating how income inequality has increased, and if all that makes you feel less generous then I'll just have to ask someone else? Historians of the church in New York often point out that its many beautiful parishes -- which some now consider an embarrassment of riches -- were built by immigrants giving from what little they had. And hey, maybe that wasn't such a bad system. The widow's mite doesn't go quite as far, but at least it doesn't carry with it the obligation of downplaying the spiritual risks of wealth and soft-pedaling the cry of the poor. The widow, unlike her seven-figure-donor coreligionists, would probably like what the pope has to say.

There are, of course, great minds working hard to make sure it doesn't come to that.

Langone said he is also on a campaign to explain "the vast difference between the pope's experience in Argentina and how we are in America."...

Arthur Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that promotes free markets, said he agrees that the pope's beliefs are likely informed by his Argentine heritage.

"In places like Argentina, what they call free enterprise is a combination of socialism and crony capitalism," he said.

Brooks, also a practicing Catholic who has read the pope's exhortation in its original Spanish, said that "taken as a whole, the exhortation is good and right and beautiful. But it's limited in its understanding of economics from the American context." He noted that Francis "is not an economist and not an American."

See, when the pope says,

we have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion.

...he is obviously talking about less developed parts of the world, because as you know, here in the United States the problems of the homeless are recognized as an urgent priority by everyone (and every news outlet), while it is the rare news organization that bothers to cover the stock market's ups and downs. And when he directly criticizes proponents of "trickle-down theories of economic growth" -- well, if you read that in the original Spanish it doesn't sound anything like what AEI argues in its policy papers.

And when the pope says this:

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.

You'll have to excuse the crudeness of his worldview -- remember, he's not an American. As Robert Christian writes at Millenial:

The pope couldn’t possibly be reiterating over 120 years of Catholic social teaching. No, he lived in Argentina, the North Korea of South America, where there is no information on the outside world.

Someone looking to make trouble might point out that what Francis is saying about inequality and the trouble with capitalism and globalization is not fundamentally all that different from what Benedict said. And yet somehow Pope Francis is harder to ignore. (Benedict, for one thing, was more "careful about generalizations.") As a result, his fellow bishops are being asked to smooth some ruffled feathers. Maybe it would be better to wait and see what happens if those feathers stay ruffled a little bit longer?

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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I don't think Cardinal Dolan will get tough with rich donors over Francis' teachings -  Doaln is the man who defrauded sex abuse victims by hiding 57 million dollrs of church assets.

I think that was is required is a clear, comprehensive reflection on Catholic social teaching around economics. Take unions, for example. Whatever the problems with unions, and granted there are problems, legislation that severely restricts or frustrates organized labour is not something that should ever be supported by Catholics. Yet, there are right to work states, and that movement is in large measure supported by Catholic Republican governors.

Also, free trade agreements rarely, if ever, include labour and environmental standards. Yet Liberals, Democrats, conservatives, and Republicans consistently support expanding trade.

Then there is the war on the poor and the restriction of Medicaid, not supporting  certain prescriptions, some doctors can refuse Medicaid patients. Yet Wall Street banksters are bailed out for their choices.

Catholic politicians need to be driven by solidarity and noblesse oblige. Some of these limousine liberals lack any sense of solidarity or understanding of the needs of their working constitutents. Their public political policy positions consistently work against the poor who many claim to represent.

As for business, they should be fair and pay workers a living wage. The CEO should not make more than 100 times more than the lowest paid employee. 

American businesses do make a fair point when they say that the system is different in the US than in Argentina. This is no doubt true. There should be a level playing field but that does not mean that we should level the playing field by stripping back environmental standards and labour costs to be competitive. We should insist that other countries raise their own.

Most, if not all, of these issues are expertise that properly belongs to lay people. The teaching should be driven by lay people. What bishops and the pope should be doing is establishing meaningful and broad consultation with business leaders, labour leaders, and politicians and not just theologians when developing Catholic social teaching.

See “Pope Francis's Economics Hurt the Poor He Aims to Help” By Thomas Hemphill


“The Pontiff's lifetime experience with Argentina's economic system has undoubtedly influenced his view of capitalism. According to The Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation 2013 Index of Economic Freedom ("Economic Freedom Index"), Argentina ranked 160 out of 177 countries on the basis of economic freedom. The Economic Freedom Index measures the following ten categories of economic freedom: property rights; freedom from corruption; business freedom; labor freedom; monetary freedom; government spending; fiscal freedom; trade freedom; investment freedom; and financial freedom. Argentina's overall score of 46.7 falls into what the Heritage Foundation analysts categorize as a "repressed" economic environment. Argentina now ranks 27 out of 29 countries in the South and Central America/Caribbean region. Argentina's political economy is far from representative of how capitalism should effectively operate, as it is a poster child for market distorting trade protectionism policies and political cronyism. According to the Economic Freedom Index:

“ ‘The foundations of economic freedom in Argentina are increasingly fragile, severely hampered by structural and institutional problems caused by growing government intrusion into the marketplace. The judicial system has become more vulnerable to political interference, and corruption is prevalent.’

“Pope Francis also exhorts ‘the rich must help respect and promote the poor.’ Thus, the global financial system must serve rather than rule. He believes that existing financial system represents both ‘a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God’ since ‘ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace’, one who ‘calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement.’ The Holy Father's solution is to call for an ‘[E]thics - a non-ideological ethics - [that] would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order.’ And what would it take for ‘[A] financial reform open to such ethical considerations?’ According to Pope Francis, ‘a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders.’

“No doubt that establishing ‘a non-ideological ethics’, or universal business ethic for global capitalism, is a major and laudable challenge for business leaders, as business ethics matter. But if the Pontiff is citing ‘political leaders’, then he is referencing those individuals who are lawmakers. These ‘political leaders’ enact and enforce the laws that regulate national and global financial systems. And as Samuel Gregg notes in his article, ‘[T]he lack of law not only ranks among the biggest obstacles to their [developing nations] ability to generate wealth on a sustainable basis, but also hampers their capacity to address economic issues in a just manner.’

“Pope Francis has a deep, genuine concern for the poor and the disenfranchised - a subject of which he has first-hand knowledge - and a concern shared by this author and others. But when it comes to capitalism, his writings reflect what I hope is a naiveté, a lack of a deep, critical understanding of how the dynamics of political and cultural institutions and markets interact, and an appreciation of the empirical evidence that reflects the reality of this dynamic political institution-market interaction. This knowledge is readily available to the Pontiff, and for the sake of the 1 billion Catholics who he leads, I hope that Pope Francis will recognize the societal benefits that capitalism has brought to much of the Western world, and more recently the rapid improvement in the standard of living for hundreds of millions of people throughout Asia. Pope Francis needs to understand that "unfettered" capitalism - if it exists in the 21st century - is by no means how capitalism successfully operates in modern society. When allowed to operate with a reasonable level of efficiency governed by the rule of law and established ethical custom, capitalism can effectively emerge as the primary global driver for moving tens of millions of people out of poverty - a socio-economic end-game that Pope Francis should both encourage and applaud.”

See also: “Is the Pope Right About the World?”, by Marian Tupy,

My own takeaway from the article was heightened discomfort that we're spending $170 million to renovate the cathedral. Doesn't that seem to fly in the face of what Francis has been preaching?

"RealClearMarkets" is a site dedicated to Real Obfuscation of History.  Like Poor Plutocrat Langone, it invokes the old American exceptionalism argument, just in different guise.  Just as Little Lord Ken points to "our" capitalists as "different" from "their" capitalists, so here "real" capitalism -- a pure abstraction, never encountered in history-- is inexorably productive of prosperity, justice, morality, all things good, true, and beautiful.  A similar strategy characterizes the AEI, whose employment of Michael Novak should be enough to discredit it.  (While we're on the subject of "poor little rich Catholics," it's worth recalling that Novak once compared the business corporation to the Suffering Servant.  It suffers for you, don't you know.) 

Capitalists and their ideologues are wont to decry the "idealism" and "naivete" of anyone who dares to point out the inequality, injustice, and avarice fostered by really existing capitalism.  People who wail about such things just haven't graduated from the School of Hard Knocks, or they haven't Had the Headaches That Come With Running a Business, or they haven't experienced Real Capitalism.  They also love to fetishize "productivity," one of the biggest, brashest idols of the marketplace.  It's well past time we stopped paying homage and respect to the Hallowed Entrepreneur, St. John of Galt's Randian  Gulch.  We've been kowtowing to Bidness for forty years or more, and what we have to show for it is stagnant wages, lower benefits, the increase of low-wage "bullshit jobs," a growing chasm of inequality, and escalating ecological despoliation.  

And then we can all look forward to working at Home Depot when we're older, accumulating capital for Ken Langone.  Maybe he'll provide boxes to carry us out when we drop dead in the plumbing supplies isle.

One of the talking points of the one percent (uttered most recently by Rand Paul) is that government aid is a "disservice" to the poor and should be replaced by private charity.

If the United States had the social safety net that western European nations have, there'd be less need for private charity because there'd be fewer poor people.  If the minimum wage were a living wage, the need for food stamps, Section 8 housing, student loans, and Medicaid would shrink drastically.  

Hey, hold on a minute, guys.  As I understand the article, it's mainly about Ken Langone and his opinion of his fellow rich American capitalists.  He is appealing for justice for them -- that they be recognized for their justice and generosity.  I say fair enough.  The question then becomes:  how just and generous are they?  There's the rub, the great big fat rub.

I've forgotten where I read it, but many years ago I read that from the very start-up of  Home Depot it encouraged its workers to buy into the company, that the company made it easy for its employees to buy shares in the vibrant new company.  Many employees did and some quickly became millionaires.  So apparently Mr. Langone is himself (or at least was) a decent employer.  I can also tell you from my own experience at Kaiser Aluminum when it was a start-up that it was very fair to its employees:  it was insane about safety, and it paid us well and supplied extremely cheap health benefits.  

So there ARE some fair capitalists, so Langone is right when he says so.  No doubt  members of Legatus, a philantropic group, does have more than one decent member, though I suspect that Langone is terribly naive about some of the members, human nature being what it is.  And no doubt it's true that, as he implies,  when liberals condemn *all* capitalists as unjust that they hamper the cause of the poor.  Further, it is simply unjust to call names when they aren't deserved, even when the name-calling is done by self-satisfied liberals.

Anyway, let's not say that "All capitalists are thieves".  They're not.  But let's identify the ones who are.  To do that, however, we'll need a theory of fair wages, which doesn't exist yet.  Blame the philosophers and moral theologians for some of that.

Ann -- No matter how nice and generous they are (kings and slaveholders can be nice and generous, too), capitalists are, by definition, thieves.  First, because their ownership of the means of production enables them to reduce everyone else to wage labor.  You work for capitalists (and note that phrase "work for") only so long as your employment is conducive to capital accumulation.  Second, because the accumulation of capital -- which is what capitalism is all about, not the production of useful goods (which are themselves produced to accumulate capital) -- requires that workers produce more than they need to reproduced themselves.  The surplus is extracted by the capitalist -- that's why owning the means of production is key.  (The most important line in Wall Street is not Gordon Gekko's "greed is good."  It's his telling Bud that "I produce nothing. I own.")  And there is not and can not be a "theory of fair wages."  Wages are determined by power, not "skill" or "education."  The only justice workers have ever been able to win in capitalist societies didn't stem from a "theory of fair wages"; it stemmed from class struggle, union movements, progressive political parties.  And if you think all of that is just Marxist hooey, listen to none other than Warren Buffett:  "Of course there's a class struggle.  And my side is winning."

Can capitalists be nice people?  Of course they can.  They give to charities, they endow libraries and scientific foundations, they "take care" of their employees.  (Andrew Carnegie was a nice capitalist, and even he admitted in his autobiography that his millions were the product of chance, not his own diligent, arduous labor.)  But they do so only so long as the capital piles up.  (Note also the significance of the phrase "give back to the community" -- an implicit admission that they took something.)  When wrecking unions and eviscerating benefits and stagnating wages and automating jobs becomes more conducive to capital accumulation -- which is the history of the last forty years -- that's what they do. And that's why their niceness or generosity is utterly beside the point.  


...capitalists are, by definition, thieves.


I thought you especially would appreciate it.

Me especially?

My father, born in Manhattan in 1890, often told the story that the funds to build St Particks Cathedral came from young clerics visiting the wealthy mansions on 5th ave on Sunday afternoon and getting the five dollar monthly pledges from the Irish maids and housekeepers. No mention was made of the rich Episcopalians in the mansions chipping in. My father often exaggerated.but someone ought to check it out.  

Do most American Catholics have the spiritual maturity - personally and institutionally - to take to heart and respond to the message Francis is preaching?  I'm not sure.  US Catholics, even through the present era, have been more concerned about being good Americans and succeeding in the American system than challenging it through the lens of Gospel values.  Francis is calling us to live the Gospel in an authentic and deep way, not just admire and pay lip service to it.  He is calling us to actually follow Jesus, not just worship him.  I'm not sure that Americans are ready for that.  Benedict talked about a smaller church.  If Francis' message is taken seriously, we might actually get that, but for reasons other than what the trads were hoping for.  Francis is a wise and spiritually mature man; a true elder.  I don't think most Catholics recognize that or know what to do in the face of that reality.

Prof. McCarraher -  off topic, but I liked your lecture on corporations and its mention of "The King's Two Bodies"

Brian -- Sadly, I couldn't agree more.

Crystal -- Thank you for your kind words.  My hair has grown a bit whiter since then.  But it's still the same length. 

"by definition capitalists are thieves".

Mr. McCarraher --

By *your* definition they are.  Other's use the term in a different sense.  You don't help the poor by exaggerating.  You just add to the injustice in the world.  Granted, name-calling can be fun, but it isn't always just.  

Be constructive.  Tell us how how to figure a fair wage.  And don't way what a fair wage isn't.  Say what it is.

FWIW, Langone recently gave $200 million to NYU Hospital. I hesitate to mention this because I know the reaction here will be furious that such a successful businessman isn't doing more to undermine capitalism, per McCarraher.  I don't have a complete total for all his contributions (and taxes) and neither do his critics. But their view seems to be that any wealthy person is guilty of a great crime until proven innocent.  All this based upon McC's  class struggle analysis.  For one "tired" of the exceptionalism theme put forward by Langone he shows no shame in putting forth an even more "tired" leftist pseudo-science.  I hope responsible adults keep him concealed when they invite donors to his campus.


How inspiring it would be if Eduardo would resign from the University of Chicago, an institution founded with Rockefeller money!  Or is it only Langone money that is tainted?  Academics at Catholic institutions could also follow suit by renouncing any privileges deriving from less than pure sources.  Catholic periodicals enjoying tax benefits could also do without those favors.  Tax favorability was granted on the theory that some benefits would "trickle down" to the needy and as Pope Francis declared that has never been true.  Let the purges begin.

Ann -- You're missing the point.  I'm neither exaggerating nor name-calling.  I'm being utterly serious.  And let me say it again:  There is no such thing as a "fair wage."  The wage system itself is unjust and immoral.  

If you don't accept my terms, offer an alternative.  What, in your view, is a "capitalist"?  And don't say "rich guy," or "property owner," since we had rich people and property owners long before capitalism.  And how do you account for the very existence of the wage system?  Did it fall out of heaven with the Mosaic tablets?  

Molloy (since we're using last names and invective now) -- Are you referring to the pseudo-science of economics taught in the business schools, the one the great John Ruskin once compared to alchemy, astrology, and other occult disciplines?  And I note that you don't offer a shred of historical evidence to rebut a thing I wrote.  Because you can't -- as David Graeber concludes in Debt, economics as described by economists has nothing whatsoever to do with what anthropologists and historians have recorded.  Moreover, it appears that your acquaintance with "leftist pseudo-science" is of the most sophomoric sort.  Capital is worth more than an Everest of publications by the Chicago school of "economics"; you ought to crack it open some time. The New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal did a few years ago, and were astonished at its perspicacity.  

I'll also have you know that my university -- Villanova, by the way -- appears to be quite proud of me.  No responsible adults hide me when donors come knocking.  

Mr. McCarraher --

You used the term "fair wage", you must at least know what your own meaning of the term is.  Be constructive.  Tell us what do you mean by "fair wage".  Then maybe we can communicate.

(I'm not going to engage in a name-slinging match with you.  It's a waste of time, and i"m old.)

Ed Gleason at 8:34 pm

Money for the building of St. Patrick's Cathedral came from a cross-section of the population.  Archbishop Hughes didn't start the project until he had pledges from the richest Catholics of the time.  Along the way he got help from such as Thomas Fortune Ryan, the Drexel family, the Delmonicos and many other well-to-do Catholics.  Ryan was a partner and sometime rival of J.P. Morgan.  Morgan once said that if Ryan lived long enough he would have all the money in the world.  One story has it that Ryan attended a very crowded Mass at St. John Baptiste on Lexington Ave.  He asked the pastor how much it would cost to build a new church, was given a figure of a few million (19th century money) and pledged the full amount on the spot.  Of course many less fortunate people donated as well.


James Renwick, the architect, a wealthy Episcopalian from an old New York family, returned nearly 90% of his commission in the form of side altars and stained glass windows.  Apparently he learned of the project through his Irish maid.


I don't want to castigate Kenneth Langone as some here do.  But if he is guilty then so are many of his predecessors in the Gilded Age, when inequality was not unknown.  For my part, I'm extremely grateful for the opport Ed Gleason at 8:34 pm

Money for the building of St. Patrick's Cathedral came from a cross-section of the population.  Archbishop Hughes didn't start the project until he had pledges from the richest Catholics of the time.  Along the way he got help from such as Thomas Fortune Ryan, the Drexel family, the Delmonicos and many other well-to-do Catholics.  Ryan was a partner and sometime rival of J.P. Morgan.  Morgan once said that if Ryan lived long enough he would have all the money in the world.  One story has it that Ryan attended a very crowded Mass at St. John Baptiste on Lexington Ave.  He asked the pastor how much it would cost to build a new church, was given a figure of a few million (19th century money) and pledged the full amount on the spot.  Of course many less fortunate people donated as well.


James Renwick, the architect, a wealthy Episcopalian from an old New York family, returned nearly 90% of his commission in the form of side altars and stained glass windows.  Apparently he learned of the project through his Irish maid.


I don't want to castigate Kenneth Langone as some here do.  But if he is guilty then so are many of his predecessors in the Gilded Age, when inequality was not unknown.  For my part, I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities offered to minorities during that period, despite its departure from an egalitarian ideal. And I hope it would go without saying that donors of yesterday and today, of whatever means, should be honored, not vilified.  

Ann -- Again, I'm not name-slinging.

And again, I don't think there is such a thing as a "fair wage."  The quotation marks around it indicate that while I'm using the term, I'm doing so ironically.  A wage for labor is a consequence of the separation of workers from direct access to the means of production -- one of the historical foundations of capitalism.  (And neither Molloy nor Mark Proska can gainsay that historical reality.)  Because that's a relationship of power, there is no "scientific" or philosophical or theological way to determine the "fairness" of a wage; it's all about the negotiating power you have.  That's why workers do better when they bargain collectively rather than individually; they have more power.  When unions -- or capitalists -- appeal to a "fair wage" (or to a "fair day's work, for that matter), it's an utterly rhetorical appeal.  Even ideologues for capital concede as much when they say that wages are set by the market -- "fairness" is whatever happens.

I think that you're stuck here because, like most Americans, you probably have little or no acquaintance with the long and rich tradition of the radical left in economic and political thought.  That's a pity, because it keeps the political conversation of this country intellectually and imaginatively impoverished.   

I do feel for Cardinal Dolan, caught between the demands of fundraising in a wealthy city and the clear teaching of a very popular pope.

Mollie - isn't fundraising from wealthy New Yorkers precisely the sort of thing that Evangelii Gaudium and its predecessors in church social teaching recommend?  Isn't that income distribution in action?   Personally, I hope Cardinal Dolan, in his fundraising excursions, is speaking forthrightly about the responsiblity of the wealthy toward the poor.  FWIW, my own experience of fundraising is that this Gospel message is very welcome among the Catholic elite.


If capitalists want credit for being generous, they need to lobby Congress to raise taxes on the very rich, who are currently being taxed at some of the lowest rates in history.  

Philanthropy is commendable, but we can't fund a social safety net by passing the hat.

There is a big difference between the Catholic Third Way of the rich giving donations to the poor via charity, and the economic justice of wealth diftribution. 

You can an example of the first going on in the UK with Cameron's advisor Phillip Blond's 'red tory' ideas ...  ....  the conservative wing of Catholic Church is on board with that stuff ...

It's kind of the opposite of the second pov that's more like John Rawls' idea of justice as fairness, which I think is more in tune with gospel values.

Mr. McCarrahar --


You haven't called names?  Like "Poor Plutocrat Langone",  "Little Lord Ken", "the Hallowed Entrepreneur, St. John of Galt's Randian  Gulch"?


I taught in a predominantly black university for many years, and I'm quite aware of there being a radical left in American social and economic theory (both academic and non-academic).  I've also read some Marx and have some sympathy for his criticisms of European/American capitalism.  (Many people don't realize that he worked for the New York Times for a while, so he had some aquaintance with what was going on in this country in the 19th century.  It's part of what inspired his work.)  But I'm old enough to realize that in a fight it is rare that one side is all right and the other all wrong.  I'm also old enough to know that exaggerations sometimes convince adolescents, but they're most likely to turn off adults who are looking for truth.


It seems clear that you are indeed concerned with the welfare of the poor and that you have a good bit of theoretical knowledge, and that's why I'm interested in your theoretical position on fair wages. Since you talk about "unjust wages" I assume that, contrary to your rhetoric, you do have a meaning for "just wages".  But please spare me the rhetoric.  It's a distraction.

When the hate session on Langone has expired I suggest a new target.  It seems that Villanova has some very questionable associations with major players in the "class struggle."  It staggers the imagination how Catholic academics could be associated with such blatant plutocratic skullduggery, so clearly legitimizing the extraction of surplus value.


"Villanova has partnered with several corporate partners to host VCAP networking receptions throughout the year, including: Bloomberg L.P., Morgan Stanley, Barclays Bank PLC, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, N.A. and JP Morgan Chase."


Where are the resignations?


A true sign of generoisty is when one contributes to charity and doesn't take the tax write off.


The line forms after me.

@Jim McCrea: that's a pretty long line already, made up of all those working slobs who take the standard deduction. 

Ann -- Thanks for your good faith remarks.  It's clear that you and I will have to agree to disagree about the "fair" or "just" wage question.  Still, I'd insist that our difference isn't just over "rhetoric."  As for "name-calling," what you're referring to is colorful writing, intending to provoke.  Or you can blame it on Mollie -- "poor little rich Catholics"??

Patrick -- There is no "hate session" here; that's disingenuous.  As J. Peter Nixon rightly reminds us in his post, God loves the rich too, Ken Langone included, and if God loves them, who are we to differ?  My lefty Catholic colleagues, at Villanova and elsewhere, we love the rich too.  We aren't calling for tumbrils and guillotines, or pitchforks and nooses, or summary imprisonment in Gulags.  (If anyone ahs raised the rhetorical temperature in the room over the last month or so, it's the Catholic right:  Kudlow, Varney, etc..)  The issue is not hating capitalists; the issue is capitalism.  We need a serious conversation, in the country and in the Church, about the nature and logic of that system.  We haven't had one since the 1960s -- arguably, we haven't had one since the 1930s -- and we're long overdue for another.  

So why "no resignations"?  Because we believe in the mission of the university, part of which is raising fundamental questions about the nature of any society in which the university exists.  And that's especially true of Catholic universities, which, in my experience, are among the last places these questions are being raised with any moral and intellectual seriousness.  (Read Christ Hedges' Empire of Illusion on the allegedly "left-wing" Ivies.)  There's a long and profound Catholic intellectual tradition, much of it in dialogue with the "radical left," on which we need to draw for such inquiry.  And besides, if such questions aren't raised in universities, where else will they be raised?  


This is addressed to the kinder, gentler Gene, not the provacateur McCarraher (the one using colorful writing, intending to provoke  - though they do seem to agree in substance).  It's refreshing to learn of your love for Ken Langone and all the other members of the "1% swimming with the sharks," the thieves and exploiters (your words).  Speaking only for myself, however, if I were the object of such love I would prefer a stony indifference on your part. 

I'm not surprised to learn that we shouldn't expect many tenured radical resignations, even from institutions that allegedly train graduates to extract surplus value from exploited proletarians.  Home Depot is not in the same league as the corporations associated with Villanova but I suppose a distant target is always safer than ones close to home. I'm quite impressed with the high mindedness with which the campus left always justifies its positions. Apparently no element of self-interest can ever be admitted.  But with such lofty goals it must be depressing to have to explain to lesser mortals  the stunning insights to be found in Das Kapital re surplus value and the economic "laws" first discovered in that tome. 

Didn't someone observe that Marx was so foresighted that none of his predictions have come true?  Of course, true believers should have no trouble in keeping hope alive.

Patrick -- I'll overlook the cynicism ("the high mindedness with which the campus left always justifies its positions.  Apparently no element of self-interest can ever be admitted") and the imputation of haughtiness ("explain to lesser mortals") and simply urge you to open Capital.

Which, by the way, I don't take as gospel.  I'm not a Marxist, believe it or not; there's no need for me to "keep hope alive" for a dictatorship of the proletariat.  But I do think that Marx's work does indeed contain "stunning insights," as you derisively call them.  And a lot of what Marx predicted has come true -- certainly not "the revolution," of course, but many of his stunning insights into automation, to cite one example, have been borne out.  And Marxist histories of labor, technology, and capitalism itself are well-respected and even lauded, even by non-Marxists.  Before you dismiss an entire tradition, you should acquaint yourself with it first.

I write that out of genuine concern, not stony indifference.  Take it as you will.



Ann's question is the million dollar question (no pun intended). It is where the rubber meets the road and all the ivory tower type theorizing around these issues (the economic corrolarly to the stereotypical angels dancing on the head of a pin) has signficance. No offence Gene, as I enjoy reading your posts. However, this question is one that really needs to be addressed. Not doing so feels like a dodge.

The reason I think it is important is that I just read another article on Obamacare and issues that medical doctors in rural areas are having with it. The central issue has to do with reimbursement and, yes, a fair wage for work being done!

So on the one hand you have with Obamacare the universalizing of health care which, I think, most Catholics would say is a human right with the realities of making it happen within an American capitalist framework. We can go on forever around the merits and demerits of it but the fact of the matter is that medicine is another industry with its own sets of interests and wages and benefits is one of those interests.

"but many of his [Marx] stunning insights into automation, to cite one example, have been borne out.'

That gets us back to Home Depot which has initiated  automatic check outs with many  fewer cashiers.

This gives HD less union members, SS, health care, pensions, vacations, sick leave, retirement watches etc. Safeway has been a big imitator of this labor saving initiative. But Tiffanys will never be a cashier automation customer.  (-:

Labor saving automation is not new but some stong unions have extracted some better wage  conditions at these initiations. e.g longshore unions especially on the West coast.

A few notes on Home Depot:

  • According to Forbes, Home Depot employs well over 300,000 people.  The theoretical question of the moral right of labor to own the means of production is interesting (at least to some people it is), but as a practical matter, if we've learned anything over the last six or seven years, it's that, for most Americans, the alternative to working for someone else is not working at all.  I think we should give Home Depot credit for creating 300,000+ jobs.  I don't claim to understand its business model, but inasmuch as the stores are sort of a combination of retail emporium and warehouse, I expect that most of its jobs are retail and warehouse worker jobs.  A nugget on its Wikipedia page, stating that the one and only attempt to organize workers in a Home Depot store was voted down by its workers, leads me to infer that its workforce is not unionized.  If its retail / warehouse workers are paid competitively, probably those wages are not living wages.  Personally, I root for retail and warehouse workers to organize.
  • Home Depot has a philanthropic arm which has donated $200 million+ since its founding in 2002 through whenever that section of its Wikipedia page was last updated.  The money seems to go to worthy causes, including Habitat for Humanity and heath care.  $200 million certainly is a lot of money.  On the other hand, Google Finance indicates that Home Depot's net income, quarter after quarter, is between $1.5 and $3 billion (with a b).  I wouldn't dismiss out of hand the opinion that the company could be even more generous in its charitable giving.  Particularly when the next bullet is considered ...
  • Home Depot made news a few years ago in a way that it probably wishes it didn't, when it infamously paid its exiting chief executive, Robert Nardelli, a golden parachute worth over $200 million, despite the fact that during his tenure, despite the fact that the stock price fell and he laid off many workers.  Because of this incident, Home Depot became a bit of a poster child for arrogant and dysfunctional corporate governance.  Just imagine if even half of that severence package had gone into the philanthropic arm instead.
  • In addition to the previous items, there are a variety of things in Home Depot's history that are grist for the Catholic social justice mill: it is a donor in support of LGBT rights and same sex marriage; it was once sued by a whistleblower who alleged he was fired for protesting unethical vendor management practices; it closed some stores and laid off some workers during the worst part of the recent recession; it markets a line of environmentally respectful home improvement products; seven people were killed in a Joplin, MO Home Depot store during an EF5 tornado when the store walls collapsed, a disaster that was attributed to its economical "tilt up" store construction technique.  (All of these are described on its WIkipedia page).  My view would be that, taken as a whole, this is about par for the course for a major American corporation in the 21st century.



Gene, thanks for the recommendation to dip into Capital.  I have to say that I've done that many times, especially in the sixties, but later also, not only by myself but in study groups, in and out of classrooms, at the feet of pro-Marxists as well as anti-Marxists.  Dare I say it, some of my best friends were Marxists.  But try as I might, I could not find what so many on the left, and you especially, seem to find there.  


My reading assignment for you is to look at Weber, Tocqueville, Durkheim, and if you have the time even some of the Chicago school of economists.  You'll quickly learn that your characterization of capitalism's defenders as claiming that it "is inexorably productive of prosperity, justice, morality, all things good, true, and beautiful" is at best a contribution to straw man theory that no doubt plays well on campus.


Forgive me if I misinterpret you as a Marxist. The statement below sounds as though you are enamored of some of the core tenets of Marxism (but perhaps you find Marx insufficiently radical). If you are not a Marxist you might understand how some could see you as at least a close "fellow traveler" when they read a comment like this (or find you referring to capitalist as thieves, and worse):


"because the accumulation of capital -- which is what capitalism is all about, not the production of useful goods (which are themselves produced to accumulate capital) -- requires that workers produce more than they need to reproduced themselves.  The surplus is extracted by the capitalist -- that's why owning the means of production is key."


When I think of the radical Catholic Left I'm reminded of Dante's observation about how behavior changes in different environments: "in church with saints, with guzzlers in the tavern" (Inf XXII, 14-15). In church it is easy to profess love for everyone, including the rich, but when speaking on the barricades the erstwhile lovers find it apparently irresistible to revile the rich as worse than common thieves.  Or have I quoted you out of context?

George D -- OK, if you and Ann press me against the wall, I'd say that a "fair wage" or a "just wage" -- paid in the context of a system that is fundamentally unfair and unjust -- would be one that enabled people who work to live a decent life.  If $15 an hour or even higher is that wage, then you have my vote.

Ed -- The most important thing there is the longshoremens' union -- collective, organized bargaining power.  And I'll just add that President Obama has done little or nothing to support the union movement.  It's one of his many, many deferences to corporate interests.  Despite his recent rhetorical nods to the fact of inequality, don't expect him to do anything about it -- and neither would I put any faith in Hillary Clinton, the "presumptive" Democratic candidate for 2016.  (Who "presumes" this is, of course, the Beltway punditocracy.)   



Patrick -- Obviously, you and I will have to agree to disagree about the wisdom of Marx.  And I'm well-acquained with Weber, Tocqueville, Durkheim, and the Chicago school.  I regularly teach the first three, though, like you with Marx, I can't understand the love many of my colleagues and friends have for Tocqueville.  (Some of my best friends and finest colleagues are Tocquevillians.)  The Chicago school -- well, I think you can guess what I think.  

I do think that Marx's description of the production and extraction of value in capitalism is pretty accurate.  Again, we'll have to agree to disagree.

My characterization of capitalist ideologues ("good, true, beautiful, etc.") was aimed at contemporary writers -- Thomas Friedman, Michael Novak, etc..  (I've never thought of Weber, Tocqueville, or Durkheim as defenders of capitalism, but that's another issue.)  As I like to remind business students (and yes, I get quite a few of them), one of the earliest critics of the human impact of industrialization was none other than Adam Smith. 

As for the rhetoric of the Catholic left, I don't think that strong polemic and charity are mutually exclusive.  Many of the Church Fathers railed against the rich of their day in rhetoric at least as strong.


I mentioned my collection of worthies not as defenders of capitalism but as providers of correctives to vulgar Marxism, the kind I find in your statements that I quoted.  If you want a list of defenders I can supply that too - it would not include Thomas Friedman. You disappoint me with your choice of opponents.

I reaffirm my astonishment that you are so committed to Marx's peculiar views on labor.  I do admire steadfast traditionalism though such unseemly dogmatism is to be discouraged.  There is still time to reconsider.  Late conversions are encouraged - You have nothing to lose but your chains.

When Our Lady of Vilnius had its day in the NYS Court of Appeals in November, 2011, a judge raised a hypothetical issue.  He speculated that,  if the Archdiocese planned to sell the church property for as much as they could get and and do something. like, say, a big renovation of St. Patrick's Cathedral, then "these people" (the plaintiff/parishioners) have a point.   Four months later, on St. Patrick's day of 2012, the St. Pat's renovation was announced.  Our Lady of Vilnius is now listed with Massey Knackal for $19 million.   It was built for $3000 in 1910 with money scraped together from Lithiuanian immigrants, including founding pastor, Fr. Sestokas, who continued to work as a longshoreman to help fund the construction.  The archdiocese has recently sold or will sell properties associated with parish suppressions of the 2007 "realignment".  Schools will no doubt be sold as the result of their "Pathways to Excellence."  More parishes will go on the block as "Making All Things New," the current parish planning initiative, unfolds.  All of this real estate has appreciated quite a bit since it was acquired.  Maybe real estate sales will soften the blow of any lost largess from these megadonors.   

"my own experience of fundraising is that this Gospel message is very welcome among the Catholic elite."

Would it be as welcomed if (1) there was not a tax deduction and (2) there was to be no public recognition by means of naming buildings, etc.?

Hi, Jim:

As a young girl I always wondered about the naming of high schools after bishops.  It seemed like a vainglorious thing to do.

Would it be as welcomed if (1) there was not a tax deduction and (2) there was to be no public recognition by means of naming buildings, etc.?

Jimmy - maybe not.  I think the tax deductions are a fine example of fiscal policy that encourages virtuous behavior, so I'm foursqare in favor of them.  (I'm pretty skeptical of simplify-the-tax-code proposals for the same raspon).


(Some of my best friends and finest colleagues are Tocquevillians.)

Serious question: Is there really such a thing as a Tocquevillian? And wouldn't such a person be more interested in sociology than in economics?

 Or was that jesting on one of my slow days?

Is contributing money with the expectation of public recognition ... and tax breaks ... "virtuous behavior?"


Robert Reich recently weighed in on the difference between charitable contributions that directly help the needy and those that foster institutions that, in the main, cater to  the elites (


The cogent (to me) part of what he had to say:

"It’s their business how they donate their money, of course. But not entirely. As with all tax deductions, the government has to match the charitable deduction with additional tax revenues or spending cuts; otherwise, the budget deficit widens.

In economic terms, a tax deduction is exactly the same as government spending. Which means the government will, in effect, hand out $40 billion this year for “charity” that’s going largely to wealthy people who use much of it to enhance their lifestyles.

To put this in perspective, $40 billion is more than the federal government will spend this year on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (what’s left of welfare), school lunches for poor kids, and Head Start, put together."



" I'd say that a "fair wage" or a "just wage" -- paid in the context of a system that is fundamentally unfair and unjust -- would be one that enabled people who work to live a decent life."

Thank you, Mr. McCarraher, I knew you had a meaning all along :-)  Now what do you mean by "decent"?

OK, OK, so that's another one that we know when we see it.  But it won't do for an economic theory.  And I agree with Marx, who said, "There is nothing so practical as a good theory".  A theory is nothing but a clear understandings of something (including definition of terms), and we're desperately in need of that from the economists.

I would go even more to the left than you have with your definition.  It seems to me that a just wage should provide not just a minimum (i.e., a decent wage), but also, when a company prospers the workers should also have increased earnings.  It is only fair.  But how to measure these things is always the problems in economics -- how to express qualitative realities in quantitative formulas.  (Yes, that's  the sort of theoretical issue that everyone hates because there is no clear answer yet.)

As to Marx, contrary to popular belief, these days most economists seem to grant that Marx made major contributions to economic theory.  I've read (forgot where) that it is agreed that he is the first economist to have analysed out just what capital is and its crucial function in a market economy.  I read not too long ago that he is now generally considered by economists to be one of the three greatest economists ever, the other two being Adam Smith and Keynes.  No doubt that high estimation holds in spite of his great faults.  But at least the eonomists are more willing to look at his theories more objectively now.  Would that the general populace could get past the '20s and later image of Marxist economics as the worst thing since Satan.  That image has hampered  political discussions here in a very profound way, causing many people to equate socialism with Marxism and Marxism with demonology.

Complexity, complexity, complexity.


So far in these comments I have not seen one word about education, often cited by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium as a primary way to “work to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor.”

Education is a matter that transcends ideological discussions about inequality and wealth distribution.  It is the gateway, path for the impoverished to get out from under the enslavement of the safety net.

Before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 75 percent of the 128 public schools of New Orleans were failing. This prompted Louisiana to embrace a system based on choice allowing parents to choose any school in the system.  Dollars dedicated to education followed children to their schools of choice.

Now there are 33 traditional schools and 37charter schools educating the nearly 25,000 students in New Orleans.  Student performance has improved dramatically.

Other states where school choice has been embraced, few in number that they are (not to mention under Republican governors) can also point to similar results.

As long as our education system remains a federally run monopoly impoverished children will be destined to remain enslaved and dependent on the safety net.



As long as our education system remains a federally run monopoly impoverished children will be destined to remain enslaved and dependent on the safety net.

 Where is that? Where I live, school decisions are made by a school board in alliance with, or against, parent organizations and in conflict with superintendents, all the time overseen by the legislature and the very vocal governor whose main contributions seem to be trying to make everyone do more with less. If the federal gummint has a piece of that, it'd be hardly worth mentioning.

John Ryan 'a federally run monopoly ' ???? where are the federal grammar and HS??

kind of kills your points?

Good to hear from you Ed.  

How about "No Child Left Behind" and the most recent "Common Core Standards" emanating from Washington?  Schools that choose not to partiicpate are denied significant federal dollars.

How about Chicago's Superintendent of Education unilaterally shutting down countless inner city schools against the wishes of the parents, shuttling the children willy nilly to "better" schools in the outer city, which in turn did not exactly "welcome" the incoming impoverished students.

Parents of the impoverished students demonstrated outside the Board of Education building, went to court to no avail, some teachers in the "better" schools quit, and in the end, there were no winners....only losers all the way around.

My point remains:  Give parents a chocie, the system improves, and a gateway is provided.  What Pope Francis described as a "promoting the inegral development of the poor."  

In the long run, all of this is in the hands of the lawmakers, the politicians. As I read Evangelii Gaudium, they too are very much in the crosshairs of Pope Francis when it comes to "promoting the integral development of the poor."

John Ryan --

All I know about what is going on in the New Orleans schools these days is what I read in the papers.  According to the local papers, there has been a lot of federal money given to the schools since Katrina, most for school buildings, If I remember correctly.  But there has also been a huge amount of money contributed from private donors (God bless the generous American people) plus a great deal of help from young, very competent teachers from the top schools (e.g., Harvard, Stanford) who could afford to live here and while making less money than they would somewhere else.  

My point is that any equivalent effort in other parts of the country will probably not have the same effect unless there is a lot of money and semi-volunteer help invested in those systems.  And where would that money come from?

I should add that another reason that the new, largely voucher system seems to be working is that most of the old teachers had to compete for the jobs that became available in the new system, and a huge number of them couldn't qualify for the new standards.  Since many of the old schools went out of existence, those poor teachers were left without jobs, but the schools improved because of it.  Sad, and very unfair for them (they had "tenure" and no doubt good intentions), but the kids have profitted.  

I should also add that these reforms started before Katrina, but accelerated afterwards.  There was an extremely able  State Superintendent of Education who was willing to shake thinkgs up.

Again, complexity, complexity.

Oops -- I shouldn't have said "voucher school system", it's a charter school system.   


Thanks for that update on New Orleans.  

I would expect there would be differentiation across states that embraced a system of parental choice versus a system entailing underlying standardization.  

Schools competing for students and the federal dollars that go with them necessarily means teachers are competing for their jobs and unfortunately some wind up out of a job.   But also as you say, the students, espicially the impoverished among them, are the winners. 

New Orleans, and I believe wherever a system of parental choice is embraced, offers empirical evidence of what can be done.  It is not a matter of theory or ideology.  It involves a range of stakeholders, including the children, who in these cases are viewed as the first priority. 

And as you mentioned it takes leadership "willing to shake things up."


Ann -- I agree with you.  Workers should flourish, not just get by.  That's why we need to abolish the whole wage system and give control over production to them. . .but that's an argument for another day.

But what exactly are the children being taught in those New Orleans charter schools since Gov. Jindal signed the law permitting the teaching of creationism?

Angela -

I don't know what is being taught about creationism, if any thing anywhere.  Since the schools are allowed to differ widely, I suspect that there might be some variation about it, though our kooky legislature might have required teaching both or neither.  At any rate I don't think it's much of an issue.

Actually, there are some philosophers who are respected by at least some of their peers who hold that there are forms of "intelligent design" which are not the same thing as creationism and that ID should also be taught as a scientific alternative to neo-Darwinism.  As I see it, the arguments re ID (given what I know of them) include only biological and *philosophical* premises and could be taught in the schools without violating the Constitution.  (Nagel becomes relevant here.) Creationism, on the other hand, is another kettle of fish -- it is based on theological premises and, therefore, should not be presented as science in any sense of the term.  But that's a whole different thread or 10.  

If  "by definition capitalists are thieves" that would make our federal government the "mother of all robber barons."

Do the capitalist hating crowd ever, even for a second, stop and think about where the goverment gets its money?

And fyi, no one has exploited the poor in this country more than the  power-elite democrates, with overwhelming proof that they feed the "always necessary to keep them in power" underclass.

Francis is showing the emperors they have no clothes.  In reading the comments I am struck by the consistent slavishness to intellectual discussions.  Those who believe there can be symmetry with Christian faith and rapacious capitalism are deluded.  Catholic Americans have been very good at compartmentalizing their religion from the way they make money.  Francis is just telling us what Jesus would--and the backlash shows the stunning hubris of those complaining.

The goal of becoming wealthy is misguided, off the track as far as Christianity is concerned.  Nothing wrong with being wealthy if one has done something worthwhile -- something for the common good and not destructive of the environment -- to obtain the wealth.  But pursuit of wealth per se is a way of missing life altogether, according to Joseph Campbell.  The OT and NT are both shot through with the message:  the love of money is the root of all evil.  The desert fathers and mothers did not include lust in the seven deadly sins; it was listed under greed, treating people possessively, as objects rather than persons.  In our current deregulated form of capitalism, employers are relatively free to treat workers as possessions, as a commodity, rather than as persons, the pope is reminding us.  

The whole story seems a little suspect to me. We are given no clues to the identity of the Mr. or Ms. Big who is supposedly balking at making a seven-figure donation.  We can only rely on what Ken Langone tells us about his anonymous source.

The concerns of the anonymous Mr./Ms. Big seem very much like those that Langone expressed in a 2011 interview, also with CNBC: "We need businessmen and fat cats to feel like they're doing something good." [

I can't help but wonder if this is a case of that classic dodge, "I have a very good friend who has a problem with ..." Yes, Mr. Langone. Tell us about your very good friend.

CNBC should have been more skeptical.




The seven practices of charity toward our neighbor, based on Christ’s prophecy of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:35), that will determine each person’s, not presidents, politicians, nor government bureaucrats, final destiny was taught us from the Baltimore Catechism: 1. Feed the hungry 2. Give drink to the thirsty 3. Clothe the naked 4. Shelter the homeless 5. Visit the sick 6. Visit those in prison 7. Bury the dead For those who claim that Jesus was a big-government socialist provider with regard to helping those in need and reducing individuals personal responsibility to only “Love the Neighbor’ and replacing it with government programs is a misreading of His message. Jesus Christ made the point “to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” with no guidelines as to how the Romans were to spend the tax monies. “For you will have the poor always with you” Matthew 26.11 and nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus Christ lay the responsibility for caring for the poor, the sick the hungry or thirsty, the homeless or any oppressed people on any governmental body. He did not cite King Herod, the priests of the temple, the local politicians or the Roman powers as the source of Charity. He made it an individual responsibility time after time in His sermons, in His parables and in His own acts. The Good Samaritan was not an example of “Love thy neighbor” because he stopped at the inn to make a 911 call but because he acted, providing aid, comfort and financial assistance to his neighbor. Jesus Christ’s teachings cannot be used be used to support states becoming the major or only source of charitable acts. Eventually, hopefully sooner not later, Catholic Bishops and nuns will realize that the old adage “he who pays the piper calls the tune” is true.
Pope Francis's concern for the poor is admirable, however his criticism of capitalism is uncalled for as an economic system it has provided more opportunities for the individuals to rise from poverty than communism, socialism, fascism, monarchy and dictatorship combined. In the future the Pope needs to be more specific regarding his preferred economic system.

With progressive taxation and relatively high marginal tax rates, there is incentive to keep the money in the business, increase investment inside the business, and pay workers more. With flat taxation and low marginal rates, there is incentive to take money out of the business, increase expenditures outside the business, and pay workers less. With a strong labor union environment, there is a true trickle down effect, where labor gains in union shops trickle down generally throughout the labor market.

The root causes of wealth stagnation of the 90% and wealth growth of the ten percent and wealth explosion of the 2% are the neutering of progressive taxation and the collapse of the union movement.

The answer is not socialism, but rather a return to progressive taxation,a reinvigorated union movement, and strong environmental regulations.

Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA

Fr. Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame invited Marxist professors the likes of Gene McCarraher into Catholic higher education in 1968 with his promotion of the Land-O-Lakes proclamaton. Since then, these Marxists hve not only lunched off the unsuspecting generosity of orthodox Catholic alumni (mostly wealthy - if bovine- capitalists) but they have hounded classical scholars out of the faculty so they can more easily poison the minds of their captive matriculants free from threat of competitive ideas. Now 200 of our 235 U.S. Catholic colleges are anti-Catholic bastions of Marxism.

Jim McC - thx for that link to the Robert Reich article.  It's an interesting subject, the things that qualify for charitable donations.

He may have a point re: why should donations to Ivy League schools with their already-gargantuan endowments be tax-privileged?  I think I may have mentioned here before that when one of my children was going through the college selection process, Princeton sent an email promising a full free ride for four years.  My kid is bright but not such a stellar scholar that anyone else offered anything comparable.  Nor has any other college we've talked to discerned that we qualify for any need-based help at all; the consistent message to us has been, feel free to take out as many loans as you'd like.

Regarding theaters, opera companies and museums: I disagree with him.  It's true that all of these institutions host cocktail receptions and such things for the high flyers, presumably where a lot of mutual backscratching take place.  But in the case of major museums, they really do cater to a broad cross-section of the populace, and their entrance fees are quite affordable (including some that offer a free day each week), something they're able to do because large donors are subsidizing their operations.  In the case of the opera and theater - they're less affordable, to be sure.  In fact, around here, even if one can afford opera tickets, it's not easy to get hold of them unless one subscribes, and most seasons our leading company is subscribed at something like 102% of capacity.  But I'd argue that in these instances there is another class of beneficiaries: the artists who act and sing, the musicians in the pit, the guys who string the lights and paint the scenery and so on.  Having rubbed elbows with a fair number of folks in the artistic class, I can attest that most of them weren't born with silver spoons or silver anything, and they're pretty much completely dependent on the generosity of wealthy donors for their livelihood (and they also are entitled to just wages, and we should give due credit to unions for helping to secure these for them).  

Perhaps it could be argued, as Reich may unwittingly be arguing, that actors and musicians don't have a moral claim on the generosity of wealthy donors, not when other people are hungry and homeless.  Conservative ideologues certainly argue that such artistic ventures aren't entitled to a penny of our tax dollars.  I happen to like the world better when we have theater, and even opera (of which I'm not much of a fan), and I feel confident that we should be able to have these things and feed the hungry, too.


To Mr. Mosman, Jesus preached exclusively to rural communities, where population density was very low and neighbor helping neighbor was a more effective approach to poverty than in 21st century urban environments.  With regard to the urban environments of the first century, the admonition to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's was certainly made with full knowledge of the fact that Caesar had already instituted a robust welfare state:*/Frum...

- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

To Mr. Pauwels, To clarify, Princeton, Harvard, Yale and the like don't provide financial aid for any reason other than financial need, determined objectively (including submission of income tax returns).  The brightest students, most talented musicians, most gifted athletes qualify for financial aid on exactly the same basis as the least bright, least talented, least gifted member of the admitted class of students, that basis being entirely financial need.

You say:  "My kid is bright but not such a stellar scholar that anyone else offered anything comparable.  Nor has any other college we've talked to discerned that we qualify for any need-based help at all; the consistent message to us has been, feel free to take out as many loans as you'd like."

Consider the contribution of Ivy League attendees to the economy, science, and government. It's very disproportionate, and I think it's wonderful that these institutions have turned the admissions process into a true meritocracy, without burdening students and their families with decades of debt. 

"The root causes of wealth stagnation of the 90% and wealth growth of the ten percent and wealth explosion of the 2% are the neutering of progressive taxation and the collapse of the union movement.

The answer is not socialism, but rather a return to progressive taxation,a reinvigorated union movement, and strong environmental regulations."

Larry --


Dr. Weisenthal - thanks for those notes on Ivy League financial aid.  With Robert Reich, I am still not sure, though, that a gift to Harvard's endowment fund should be tax-privileged.


I think Pope Francis understands rich Americans (including Langone) very well.  He also understands the teachings of Jesus Christ as they pertain to the rich and the poor.  Sadly, some rich---even just well-to-do--- Catholics even hate the Pope because they equate Catholicism with capitalism.  


"Jesus preached exclusively to rural communities, where population density was very low and neighbor helping neighbor was a more effective approach to poverty"  No doubt Catholic and Christian theologians will be very interested to learn that Jesus Christ tailored His religious, moral and ethical teachings to his audience, one message for the rural population and another for the city dwellers. I could find no evidence that this was the case, perhaps you would cite examples.
Regarding Roman charity it consisted of Bread and Circuses, the Roman welfare system for Romans
Beginning with Augustus Caesar, the city of Rome provided bread, oil and wine to its urban population.

What this meant, is that almost 250,000 inhabitants of Rome consumed about 6 million sacks of grain per year, free.Rome provided citizens with food-- it also provided them with entertainment.

Of the poor, the poet Juvenal could write:"with no vote to sell, their motto is "couldn't care less,"there was a time when the plebieans elected generals, heads of state,commanders of legions: but now they've pulled in their horns, there's only two things than concern them: BREAD and CIRCUSES."

To Mr. Mosman, The point, as I stated, is that the teachings of Jesus, including parables, were addressed exclusively to rural people and were about rural people. The specific challenges pertaining to mass urban poverty were not addressed by the admonitions of Christ as presented to his audiences of the time. 

You are the one trying to interpret these teachings in a literal (and limited) fashion, to wit, that they only apply to the actions of individuals and should not be applied to society as a whole and to the ways that government policies should be formulated.  Very well, in this context it's legitimate to note that, In the preachings of Christ which relate to the relationship between government and citizens, the citizens have an obligation to pay taxes to a government which supports a robust welfare system then in existence.  This welfare system, in supplying the necessities of life to poor people, is consistent with the teachings of Christ.  Yes, these taxes also supported armies (as do the taxes of all governments) and they also supported "circuses" (analogous to the National Endowment of the Arts, one muses).  These latter aren't relevant to the issue of the responsibilities of society at large to its disadvantaged.  In the New Testament epistles, there is also the admonition to respect and obey government in a more general sense.  - Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

P.S. I csn't believe that I didn't consider a more relevant analogy to the actions of present day government in supporting "circuses" -- public money to support the Olympic Games and similar events, as well as public money to support the contruction of stadia and sports arenas.  As scripture notes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Are there good and bad rich people? Well of course there are, but I think most people are missing the Popes message. Rich people who have built their riches on companies that treat their employees well, who give to charity and actually produce goods and services are not what he is talking about. He is talking about those that got rich from playing the market, cheating their customers and employees. These people are not an asset to our culture. They are parasites. They do nothing productive and take from those less fortunate. They are morally bankrupt and rationalize away their immorality. They purchase our governments so they can practice their malfeasance with impunity. These are the ones creating the great inequality not the companies that actually produce goods and services and pay their employees a livable or better wage. 


The Pope is asking us to truly believe in Jesus, not to just say so. It lends to what is belief. If you really believe in Jesus is it just going to mass and reciting the Creed or is it listening to what he said. It is not just hearing his words but following them, living by them. It is following his example of love and compassion. 


You are not following Jesus if your life is consumed with making money. You are not following Jesus if you cheat your employees or your customers. You are not following Jesus if you pay off government officials so you can do these things and not be punished. You are not loving and compassionate if you take your employees labor and do not pay them appropriately for it. Neither are you following Jesus if you cheat your customers and investors. 


I believe this is what the Pope is talking about when he scolds the rich. So those rich folks who are loving, compassionate, productive, giving, and fair to their employees and customers should not take offense at his words. They know they are following Jesus. The others won't listen anyway and take no offense because they believe they are righteous in their blasphemy..

Michael Hiltzik at the L.A. Times has a good take on this today, and he picks up on the note of "I have this friend..." that Paul Moses mentions in his comment above. Also like Paul, he makes the connection with Langone's past activism on the part of his fellow thin-skinned fat cats (as in a PAC-sponsored open letter castigating President Obama for his "divisive" campaign rhetoric "aimed at successful people in the business sector").

He concludes,

Cardinal Dolan told CNBC that he'll strive to mollify his reluctant donor by assuring him that the pope didn't mean to be nasty. "The pope loves poor people, he also loves rich people--he loves people, all right?" If these honeyed words get that donor and others to unbelt for St. Patrick's, fine. But do they really need honeyed words so much? After all, they already have almost all the money.

This is a case where perfect freedom for everybody seems like a good answer. Let the Pope be free to preach the Gospel as the Spirit moves him and he himself sees fit, mindful that not everyone will agree with what he says but in no way tailoring his words to avoid giving offense to too tender sensibilities, and in that way imitating Christ.

And let donors to worthwhile causes be equally free to speak their minds and open or keep closed their purses as they see fit. Restoring the cathedral should be the work of joyful hearts, as I am told the original building of it was. As with any work of charity, there is no room for grumbling or grudges.

And if the restoration is delayed or even canceled because irritated donors withdraw their pledges or never make them, yes, even if the building falls down in ruin, Catholics will still find time and place to worship God, and perhaps renewed occasion to meditate on Paul's words to the Athenians:

For the God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands; nor does he receive man's service as if he were in need of it.

There have certainly been some interesting comments!  Despite the MSM (and Rush Limbaugh), clearly not understanding Catholic social teaching to properly understand Evangelii  Gaudium, few if any would disagree that Pope Francis isn’t coming from an authentic place of love of Christ, a love so transforming that it can only be the result of a devout prayer life and love of God.


And that most likely explains why the left and right are never going to agree.  In a nutshell, both want different things.  The right, which includes of course Pope Francis, is God /Gospel centered.  T he left is “equality/feeling” centered.  In fairness to the left, most believe (even probably President Obama) that they “have it right,” despite facts pointing otherwise. 


The never ending fight on the left is “equality.”  One would have to be living under a rock to not recognize that fact.  Consequently, in addition to being “feeling based” and not “God centered,” the root of every left issue is based upon feelings and equality.  Again, many are most likely good (albeit wrong) intentioned.  As noted in one wise comment in this thread, “the poor will always be among us.” 


And that comment alone from Jesus should make us all pause and consider what Jesus also said/taught about how the “wise and the strong” will be made fools by the weak.   Intelligence is worth little without the wisdom of God, which is why many on the non religious left are clueless as to why big government, money, high taxes, or even same sex “marriage” can never be the answer.  The reality is, the utopia dream has not only been tried and failed many times over, it also never ends well.  Look no further than Obamacare, which will not only destroy the best health care in the world, but leave more in this country with less or no health care and at a staggering price tag.


There are countless facts to support it, but sadly, liberals don’t like facts.   For those who do, look simply at education, the big ticket item every liberal thinks “big money” will fix.  Well, between state lotteries, five times more per student, and declining test scores in the US, in addition to the well known Sausalito and Kansas “big money” actual trials, we already know how much it doesn’t work, while the big elephant in the room, the family, gets “reinvented” from welfare rewarded fatherless to include everything from the loveless spouse of “Julia” to same sex parents, one parent, or soon to come, 3 parents. 


Getting back to Catholic social teaching, what Pope Francis clearly understands, and what the Catholic Social teaching has always taught, is the importance of the family (the number one  teacher of faith and morality in society), subsidiary, and solidarity, all opposite of what “big gov” can and does offer.  The more we tax, the more money is taken away from the charity of the human person, the one on one, and handed over to the state. 


Nothing has lifted more out of poverty than capitalism and a strong two-parent family of faith/or good values, and morals.  Yet, since the genesis of welfare, and even more so under Obama, poverty, especially of Latinos and blacks, has increased, yet is ignored, save for increasing more welfare.   At the same time, babies out of wedlock are not only socially acceptable, but financially rewarded and celebrated (at the same time increasing black genocide is ignored).  Even Obamacare gives more tax credits to the “unmarried” than to the married, creating more incentive to the demise of the America Family, the core building block of society.


It’s about time even the feeling based left come to realize that what this country needs most is what the government can never give, even if we were all taxed at 95%, love!  And no, not the “touchy feely love without consequences”, but the kind that Christ taught, and what Catholic Social Teaching, including Evangelii Gaudium, is still, and will until the end of time, continue to teach.


It’s about real love, not “capitalism.”  Everything always comes down to real love, the “Christ kind of love,” only available through the grace of God.






Sent the last post from my iphone, consequenly didn't attach the links at the bottom of the post

The word on fire link/F Barron video on Time Magazine very well explains much of my point.

The cato link gives reference to the failure "lots of money" on education.



When the young rich man asked Jesus what he must do, Jesus did not tell him to give his fortune to the Romans, to theTemple, to Herod or to any public entity. He told him to give his money to the poor. When you provide chapter and verse of Jesus requiring individuals to support public entities providing charity to the poor we can continue this discussion. Regarding the Romans I worked and lived in Rome for seven years and studied the Roman perods rather throughly, including a four week course at Christ Church,Oxford, on the "Roman Period of British History". At no time were the rulers of Rome and their territories deeply concerned about the poor, only enough to keep them pacified.

Mr Mosman, regarding chapter and verse, one could take the same position regarding gay marriage, abortion, or any of a thousand other issues and situations which Jesus did not address. Additionally, you comment about the motives of Caesar in providing generous welfare benefits is a peripheral straw man argument. I stand by my own prior arguments, which were directly on point.

To Pat, your interpretation of 100 years of papal encyclicals regarding Catholic social justice policies was breathtakingly creative.  One would think that the Popes were critical of the economic policies of modern liberal democracies, with regard to government health care and strong safety nets. And Pope Francis is really an economic conservative, endorsing Paul Ryan's interpretation of "subsidiarity!"

Other economic conservatives have already progressed to the anger phase; Pat appears to still be mired in denial.

larry weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA



It's a common response of free market defenders to free market detractors: They don't understand economics.  It's true, economics is a science--and its object, more or less,  is the study of how people behave in their own interest or perceived interest.  The point is the Gospel tells us this is fundamentally the wrong way to behave: Love your neighbor as yourself; it is better to give than receive; you cannot serve God and Mammon; etc.  It's not about the Pope not getting economics--he understands it for exactly what it is, it's about a lot of people not understanding the Gospel in in its most basic implications.

Patricia, the thing is, there's no love in capitalism, unless you count self-love and perhaps the natural extension of that to family and close friends.  "Liberals," btw are just people who think that government is not necessarily an evil thing and has great potential as a tool for promoting the common good.

So, according to some rich Catholics, we shouldn't listen to Pope Francis because he isn't an economist and he isn't an American?  Amazing!  The real question is:  Is the Pope a Christian---is he being true to the teachings of Jesus Christ?  I think he is.  Christianity is not capitalism and capitalism is not Christianity...they are not the same, period.  

In reading the Gospels, Jesus did not gently hold back in criticizing the Pharisees and the Saducees.  He was not worried about hurting their feelings.  In the same way Pope Francis, the vicar of Christ, is living and preaching the teachings of Jesus who we claim to follow.  Unfortunately, these Catholic multimillionaires have shown they do not understand the Gospel values, Catholic social teaching and certainly not the reality of the majority of the people of our country.  Instead of the American Bishops trying to placate these people, they should admonish them and stand up for what is truth and right  just as they do when it comes to abortion.  Perhaps Cardinal Dolan can find people that can write a document on the preferential option of the poor as he did with "Our More Cherished Liberty" and require preaching from the  pulpit on that topic as well.

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