John Livingston

Has The Church Lost Its Way?

The conservative Catholic Bishop from Tyler Texas Fr. Joseph Strickland, an outspoken critic of the current Pope was removed last week from his ecclesiastical responsibilities by Pope Francis. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Strickland’s use of social media, his anti-vaccine message during the Covid-19 pseudo faux pandemic, his calling out of President Joe Biden as an “evil president” over his support of abortion rights, and his support of weekly “Latin Masses” was the stated cause for his removal. The Pope like all of his predecessors dating back to the early Church Fathers and with Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum in the late 19th Century, Catholic Social justice and teachings regarding slavery, civil rights, workers, and women’s rights, have predated social movements and government legal statutes protecting the marginalized—especially the impoverished by generations. Reading of Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians, Colossians and Philemon, and Jesus own words “What you do to the least of my brethren you do unto me”, informs us of our obligations to each other and to God. It is the job of the church to define the problem not to prescribe a humanistic cure. Many—not all, in the “professional religious ecclesiastical communities” in both the Protestant and Catholic Churches are ill prepared to opine about issues of economics. In my opinion the current Pope falls into that category.

Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII and Quadrigeminy Anum by Pope Pius XI were both responses to the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. They both advocated for social justice through capitalistic processes and free markets. Both Popes were prescient in their predictions and discernment. The marriage between faith and political and economic philosophy are incorporated into both documents. Natural Law and Biblical truths merge into one continuing the march from Serfdom to Liberty that began in Athens and Jerusalem and continued to the Enlightenment and our own Great Declaration and Constitution. Popes have the right to make ecclesiastical decisions regarding the governance of their church. They have no deeper insight into empiric and scientific truths than everyday informed and educated citizens.

Pope Urban VIII in 1633 in his official inquisition of Galileo declared that the heliocentric theory of the universe was wrong. He was wrong and Galileo and Copernicus were correct. The church and church fathers should always be careful to stay in their own lane. Commenting about issues of human nature and Biblical Truths are in their wheelhouse. When they stray, they get into trouble just like our current Pope has strayed—in my most respectful and humble opinion.

Before we conclude let’s look at the success of the economic and political systems supported by Popes Leo, Pius and most recently John Paul II—capitalism and liberty (free will) are the “Biblical Way”. Despite two world wars, communist and totalitarian genocides and government precipitated famines that killed over 500million people in the 20th Century—here is the scorecard that validates the teaching of previous Popes and “The Church” throughout all of history—in contradistinction to our current Pope’s political and economic philosophy.

“Despite the impression sometimes given in Church documents, as an empirical matter we can observe that the past 50 years have seen the largest reduction in poverty the world has ever known. Not only that, but we have also seen the first substantial and meaningful reduction in inequality at a global level in the economic history of the world. This is important. Something has gone right in the past 50 years, and we should learn from that.” Acton Institute

That something is liberty and Capitalism. The current Pope blind to that reality—in my opinion.

In 1967 47% of the world’s population lived in poverty—mostly living subsistence lives with daily incomes for families less than $1 per day. Today that number is 10%, and improving yearly as the overall population increases. In that time the number of people living in subsistence abject poverty has halved, while the number of people living above the poverty level has increased from 2 billion to 7 billion people, with the highest standard of living being in capitalistic free market countries—even China has embraced a hybrid free market economy.

“There has been enormous progress in relation to other measures of well-being. In 1970 around one-third of the world’s population was illiterate. By 2016 this had fallen to 14%. The ratio of the average years of schooling for girls to that of boys rose from 57% in Sub-Saharan Africa to 82% in roughly the same period. In the past 20 years alone, the proportion of women who die from pregnancy-related causes has fallen by more than a third”. Acton Institute Phillip Booth

All measures of poverty and individual material wellbeing are improving in capitalistic systems. In places where capitalism, free markets, and liberty are being replaced by command and control totalitarian political and economic systems—not so much. Look at how Eastern Europe is growing and thriving, and Western Europe is struggling. Look at how our own country is slowing down because of intrusions into the free marketplace by government. I believe and will prove in later arguments that capitalism has lifted the mass of humanity from the bounds of “grinding poverty” more than any other system of distribution and allocation. Capitalism and liberty are grounded in Christian and Natural Law Principles that when followed will do more for humanity than any church or government. WE THE PEOPLE are THE CHURCH. The economic and political theory should follow church teachings. When that happens material and spiritual poverty are all but eliminated. When the Church Fathers start to incorporate socialistic progressive ideas into Church Teachings the moral predicate is lost and in all the history of the world there have only been bad outcomes.

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