Thursday, June 7, 2012

Badger Spankings

Here's something refreshingly good from the Patheos blog. Kathy Schiffer posts on what labor unions are ideally supposed to be accomplishing in society. She notes

The noble ideal of a labor union reverberates through Catholic social teaching. There are many encyclicals and papal documents which address labor issues in depth; tonight, I’d like to highlight Pope John Paul II’s defense of unions in his 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens.

Then she excepts the encyclical with emphases which I will duplicate here.

Catholic social teaching does not hold that unions are no more than a reflection of the “class” structure of society and that they are a mouthpiece for a class struggle which inevitably governs social life. They are indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people in accordance with their individual professions. However, this struggle should be seen as a normal endeavor “for” the just good: in the present case, for the good which corresponds to the needs and merits of working people associated by profession; but it is not a struggle “against” others.

How can we claim that the behavior of unions in this country have not fallen short of this ideal? But the Pope continues:

It is characteristic of work that it first and foremost unites people. In this consists its social power: the power to build a community. In the final analysis, both those who work and those who manage the means of production or who own them must in some way be united in this community. Just efforts to secure the rights of workers who are united by the same profession should always take into account the limitations imposed by the general economic situation of the country. Union demands cannot be turned into a kind of group or class “egoism”, although they can and should also aim at correcting-with a view to the common good of the whole of society- everything defective in the system of ownership of the means of production or in the way these are managed.

Strike two. But the real kicker comes after the payoff pitch:

In this sense, union activity undoubtedly enters the field of politics, understood as prudent concern for the common good. However, the role of unions is not to “play politics” in the sense that the expression is commonly understood today. Unions do not have the character of political parties struggling for power; they should not be subjected to the decision of political parties or HAVE TOO CLOSE LINKS WITH THEM. In fact, in such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the framework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes.

Strike three. John Paul II was prescient when he predicted that unions closely linked to a political party would "easily lose contact with their specific role...instead they become an instrument used for other purposes." And the Governor and the voters in Wisconsin acted as the enforcer of this ideal.

So to sum up: Unions are to serve a purpose, they lose sight of their purpose, they misbehave, then they get spanked. Catholics in the public square don't have to feel a bit guilty about being "against the unions". Unions turned against the public first.

Real Catholic Political Analysis

As a palate cleanser for Liz Scalia's rather unanchored piece mentioned by Kathleen, I invite you to read George Weigel's recent discussion of real serious abuses in American Catholicism being promulgated by the liberal Catholic dissenters. Excerpt from his conclusion:

This new form of Catholicism Lite, a not-so-phantom hash of ideas that poses real problems for the integrity of the Church and its evangelical mission, breathes deeply of two winds that have long blown through American Christianity: the ancient Pelagian wind, with its emphasis on the righteousness of our works and how they will win our salvation; and the Congregationalist wind, with its deep suspicion that Catholic authority is incompatible with American democracy. As for the older Americanist controversy, I think the classic historiographers of U.S. Catholicism were largely right: The "Americanism" of which Leo XIII warned in Testem Benevolentiae was far more a phantom concocted by fevered, ancien-régime European minds than a heresy that threatened Catholic faith in the United States. But the problems that Leo flagged are very much with us over a century later. They are at the root of the internal Catholic culture war that has intensified as religious freedom has come under concerted assault, and as the new Americanists, who form a coherent party in a way that Isaac Hecker and his friends never did, have either denied that assault -- or abetted it.

If Catholics can't recognize and identify the political ideology from which 99.9% of the disobedience and dissent from the Magisterium is coming, then they are engaging in large-scale moral equivalency and willful denial. But they will see it as freedom from the shackles of lock-step conformity and the chains of ideological purity to continue confusing the beam and the mote.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Enter the Large, Wide, Nuanced Gate

"A point I frequently try to make, around here, is that Catholicism is too large, too wide, too nuanced, too small-c-catholic to permit ideological purity. Catholic politicians or ideologues who manage such “purity” have always had to betray a tenet of Catholicism to get to that place." 

"Always." So says The Anchoress, also known as Elizabeth "Lizzie" Scalia, big chief blogger at the catholic "portal". (Portal? to where? --Ed.) You might be surprised to find she's talking about conservative ideological purity which she claims exists on the right, and which, she seems to argue, sullies the soul of conservative Catholics everywhere. (It seems Elizabeth really, really, really doesn't like conservatives, so don't call her one.) Intrigued by her premise -- well, ok, more like baffled -- I pressed her about which Catholic tenets conservative politicians are busy betraying. The only example she could muster up was illegal immigration, citing conservatives' "absolute reluctance to consider the illegal immigrant as a human being, first and foremost". Right. I guess harboring monstrous thoughts that humans are not, in fact, human, would betray Catholic tenets. But even assuming it's true that conservatives betray tenets by being monstrous, does The Anchoress brand of "large, wide, nuanced" catholicism really teach that I can break any civil law I darn well please, without consequence, because I am a "human being, first and foremost"? Or would that only be true if I had brown skin and were from a poor country? I and others asked The Anchoress for clarification on that point, but this led her to accuse us of "bullying" and "refusing to engage". Then she disappeared the thread. (If this sounds familiar, note that Elizabeth Scalia hired one Mark Shea also to blog at the Patheos "portal".)

In a similar incident, The Anchoress (some of her followers refer to her as "dear Anchoress") indirectly but unmistakably referred to political conservatives as "Ameridolators". I can't really accuse her of trashing conservatives outright. She doesn't do that. What she does do is imply and suggest that they suck and aren't good Catholics. When called out on this, she refused to define the term "Ameridolator", explaining only that she uses it as a "portmanteau" -- which means "large suitcase" in french. The Anchoress is more right than she knows. The term conveniently hides the left's hideous mischaracterizations of conservative thought in her musty "portmanteau", and sneaks them into the "large, wide, nuanced" brand of Patheos-brand catholicism. Of course, the portmanteau explanation clarified nothing, and things only got muddier. The Anchoress proceeded to make a bizarre distinction between "sacred" and "holy", stating "The constitution, for instance, is a 'sacred' document, but it's not holy." When I confessed that I didn't follow this line of reasoning, she …. yes! you guessed it! She shut down the thread. I believe she also stated that dealing with my comments made her "tired".

So, Elizabeth "The Anchoress" Scalia really doesn't like conservatives, but either refuses to tell us why, or sneakily hides what she must know are irrational biases in her "portmanteau". One might think such intellectual bankruptcy unworthy of someone who regularly writes for the First Things website, as The Anchoress is apparently paid to do. Founding editor John Neuhaus was content to identify himself as a political conservative, and clearly believed his conservatism was totally congruent with his religious ideals. In fact, explaining this congruence was the reason he founded First Things, a publication whose stated purpose is "to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society." Therefore one has to wonder why the First Things website features someone like The Anchoress, who is not only unwilling to engage with politically conservative ideas, but brandishes her "large" "wide" "nuanced" religion as an all-purpose excuse to blow them off.