Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Beginning in 1979 and continuing at least into the second decade of the twenty-first century, the Roman Catholic Church underwent a “movement,” or “step,” back—in the sense of turning back from the shifts made possible by the Second Vatican Council. Aspects of the reactionary agenda include a greater distance between the clergy and the laity (as eventuated in less emphasis on lay ministries, ironically as the proportion of priests decreases) and more emphasis on two particular political issues: abortion and stem-cells. In other words, the clergy in the movement tend to hold themselves in a more elitist position vis a vis the laity while feeling more confident in asserting their particular partisan position. One such priest at a parish, and indeed diocese, “gone reactionary” is reported to have added a prayer in the petitions at Mass as the campaigns for the Republican primaries were revving up in 2011, “We pray for the election of a pro-life president.” As Barak Obama is pro-choice and most of the Republican candidates are pro-life in terms of being anti-abortion, the prayer was in fact for a Republican to win the White House. There are a number of problems with this sort of petition—none of which evidently had swayed the overconfident “high” priest

First, the partisan nature of the petition could be expected to turn off any independents and Democrats in the congregation. In fact, they could have felt alienated—some strident Obama supporters may perhaps have even skipped taking Communion. In attending the Mass, the members of that parish had agreed to take part in Roman Catholic religion; they had not agreed to attend a Republican or even a politically partisan club. Indeed, you can bet that priest would have quickly dismissed any members identifying themselves as intending to vote for Barak Obama. The priestly arrogance falls particularly flat when politics, wherein each person has one vote, is the priest’s chosen field of endeavor. Lest he object that religion is everywhere and thus preemptive in other domains, one might wonder whether he has any self-control or restraint, not to mention humility—particularly as it is his favored ideological stance that reigns supreme and trumps all others.

Second, the petition itself may be self-defeatist. According to the New York Times, “attacks on the E.P.A., climate change science and environmental regulation more broadly” are red meat to many if not most Republican voters. Some
of the Republican candidates would do away with the E.P.A. outright. Michele Bachmann, for instance, said, “I guarantee you the E.P.A. will have doors locked and lights turned off.” Now, if we let corporations and drivers send our climate to a new equilibrium that is incompatible with the human species, then any pro-life political agenda would be thwarted, at least with respect to human life. The partisan priest could take solace, however, in that there would not be any abortions.

In fact, not only is the petition narrow-minded and self-defeating, it bears a contradiction if universalized (i.e., everyone votes anti-abortion) that renders the maxim immoral, at least according to Kant’s categorical imperative. For the maxim “Vote anti-abortion” universalized could bring with it a trashing of the environment to the extent that the maxim no longer makes sense because there is no possibility for abortions when there are no human beings remaining. In other words, the maxim universalized is self-contradictory, so the maxim cannot be taken as a fact of reason (i.e., as having the necessity of reason, as in 4+5=9) and thus the maxim is immoral. This is obviously a rationalist method of assessing morality.

The main oversight by the reactionary politicized priest is that voting on a single issue opens one up to the risk of having voted recklessly with respect to other issues. Moreover, the tenet that one single issue is so much more important than all the others, such as social justice and aiding the poor, even with respect to the religion (and religious morals) not to mention politics is faulty at best. In Christianity, for example, Jesus is depicted as urging aid to the poor—the least of us or the lowly being exalted. Considering the Republican condition for raising the debt-ceiling in July 2011 that unemployment compensation be ended, it is difficult to see how voting for a “pro-life” candidate on abortion could be
consistent with Jesus’ admonition. Even from the standpoint of following Jesus, the self-vaunted ideology of the priest is problematic for him. With respect to humility, which the Catholic Pope (Joe Ratzinger) has maintained is God, a partisan petition is at the very least unseemly and ultimately self-defeating with respect to union with God.

See John M. Broder, “Bashing E.P.A. Is New Theme in G.O.P. Race,” The New York Times (August 18, 2011).

Read Full Post »

As Madrid prepared for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in August 2011, many people, including 120 priests, were raising objections to the Pope’s visit. Rev. Federico Lombardi, a spokesman at the Vatican, said at a briefing at Rome that the protests were not very surprising. Dismissing the objections, he said, “It’s part of life in a democratic country.”  I contend that there is a certain arrogance in this statement. Would the spokesman use the same statement regarding protests against apartheid, for example?  Oh, well, what can you expect; there are always protests. To be sure, the frequency of protest does indeed rarify the impact of any particular protest. Surely, however, the gravity of the causes differs. Exterminating the Jews, for example, should not be treated as of similar importance as saving some bird species, yet both causes could be expected to eventuate in protests.

In the case of the Pope’s visit to Madrid for the youth festival, priests who work with the poor objected to the “lavish $72 million celebration.” That some of this sum would be paid with tax dollars even as Spain was in an austerity program affecting the poor had more than some people shaking their heads at the priorities of the Vatican and Spain. It was not as though the Pope had not visited the state. In fact, Esther Lopez Barcelo, a youth coordinate for a political party, observed, “They still can’t tell us how much the pope’s visit cost two years ago. Every time he comes here, the figures become opaque.” Cost-containment is obviously not a priority at the Vatican.

To be sure, having more than a million visitors in Madrid could be expected to benefit both local business and the government’s coffers, though it is doubtful that the spending by the youth would match the increased municipal expenses such as trash removal. In short, Spain—one of the PIGS in the E.U. in terms of the debt crisis—was in no position to host a church’s youth day. The Pope’s home region of Bavaria in Germany would have been a better pick, considering the state of the German economy.

For the Catholic Church, the Vatican’s dismissiveness of the protest signed by 120 of its own priests plus others rings of the sort of heartlessness in ignoring someone. It is the sort of heartlessness in someone who has no qualms about enjoying himself even as he knows that some people nearby are suffering. There is a fakeness to such a smile that involves willful blocking of something that is not convenient.

In a broader context, the Vatican’s indifference regarding objections to its lavish spending was amid a trend since 1979 away from social justice and human rights and toward a hypertrophy in abortion and stem-cell protests. I wonder, by the way, whether “It’s all part of life in a democratic country” could also be used by pro-choice groups to dismiss pro-life rallies? Furthermore, I wonder if the Vatican would object to that use of its statement?  Would the Vatican be willing to contend that using a human stem-cell in research is more objectionable than diverting religious and public funds from the poor in a time of need?

On the Church’s “own turf,” one could point to Jesus’ use of the five loafs and two fishes to feed the multitudes. Furthermore, one could recount the saying attributed to Jesus about the rich man getting into the kingdom of heaven being like a camel getting through the eye of a needle. Surely, profligate spending for a festival as the poor are suffering from austerity-program cut-backs is hard to square with Jesus’s teachings. Higher human love (caritas), and especially selfless divine love (agape), manifest justly in terms of universal benevolence (benevolentia universalis). Leibniz, for example, based this justness of this obligation on the fact that we all share in being—God is perfect Being. Augustine based the justness on caritas applying even to one’s enemies (as opposed to merely one’s friends—Cicero’s amicitia).

Similarly, John Rawls points to the unfairness involved in knowing beforehand where one is situated in benefiting from the benevolence. Under a veil of ignorance concerning one’s station, it is only fair to see to it that the least fortunate position benefits. Practically speaking, one never knows if one will someday occupy such a position. For a person (or organization) to ignore the poor while using funds that those people who are barely surviving badly need (from the state)—particularly when one knows one’s station (i.e., as not poor)—is to add selfishness and a hardened heart to the unfairness. This is not exactly a station of the Cross. Rather, it pertains to the lofty, who are justly brought low, rather than to the lowly, who are to be exalted.

To refuse to take part in the exaltation of the lowly by ignoring the obligation of redistributive justice, particularly as arrives at a festival as the star of the show, reflects on one’s underlying attitude toward the teachings attributed to Jesus (or Gandhi, for that matter) as well as the ethical principle of basic fairness. It is, in short, to practice hypocrisy, if one represents a Church in the name of a simple carpenter who may well have gone from meal to meal.

See Suzanne Daley, “Catholic Clergy Protest Pope’s Visit, and Its Price Tag,” New York Times, August 16, 2011.

Read Full Post »