The Iris and the Peony
It is that time again, when the peonies, inebriated by their own beauty, begin to keel over.
But is there anything lovelier than irises and peonies growing beside one another? Like chocolate and almonds, tequila and lime: some things just go together.
I still feel like I am waking up from a very long, very cold, dream.
The Visible Hand
For forty years we have been hearing about the wonders of the magic market. If the incredibly smart capitalists are left to pursue their selfish money making with minimum – some would say no- regulation, the argument goes, wealth will be generated, which by the workings of the Invisible Hand, will reward the creative and punish the indolent and secure prosperity for all.
Except it hasn’t exactly worked out that way, has it? Deregulation and low taxes have resulted, visibly, not invisibly, in unprecedented economic disparity, high unemployment, and a working class reduced to poverty wages.
Yet the free market ideologues yammer on, as if everything had worked according to their model.
Lest there be any doubt, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maridiaga, the so-called ‘vice pope’ has clarified that libertarianism is incompatible with Catholicism at a conference in DC devoted to a critique of libertarianism in light of Catholic Social Teaching.
In defending Francis against his critics the Cardinal said:
“No to an economy of exclusion” (53). With this title Pope Francis already denotes the essential characteristic of today’s economy, which he rejects. He ties in with the Ten Commandments. The commandment “You shall not kill” (Ex 20,13) defines a limit aimed at securing the value of human life. From this biblical view he says “no to an economy of exclusion and to inequality in income” (53). And Francis describes this in concrete terms very clearly: “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.” And I think each and any of you may know of similar fates from people in your country.
As a pastor in a very poor country I know how much of daily insecurity is connected with this situation of poverty- insecurity for the children in particular, but also big worries for mothers and fathers that do not know how to get drinking water, food, medical care or school education for their children. Global economy under the conditions of libertarianism excludes such people. Since their point of view a human being is a consumer. If she or he is incapable of consuming this type of economy does not need her of him, can do away with her or him. From this, Francis concludes: “It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underclass or its fringes or its disenfranchised- they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but waste, “rubbish” (53).
The full text of his remarks can be found at the end of this blog post:
Condescension, Thy Name is Novak
“Scholar Who Taught John Paul II To Appreciate Capitalism Worries About Pope Francis”. That is the title of an article from Forbes and if you guessed it is about millionaire theologian and armchair economist Michael Novak, you would be right. If, after you have thrown up a little, you can stomach more, you may read an interview with Mr Novak, rich in hubris and dogged ideological posturing, here:
Yes, I know, Mr Novak would not describe himself as a libertarian. Neither would Fr Sirico. But as far as I can see the only difference is that the neoconservatives and Actonites also are neocolonialists, while libertarians generally oppose political empire…
Francis’ Greatest Gift
As welcome as Francis’ direct criticism of economic liberalism has been -and there was a time, not so long ago, when it appeared triumphant, even in the Vatican- the pope’s greatest gift has been in his calling every one of us to a direct encounter, not with doctrine or moralism or human concepts of Christ, but with Christ Himself.
I need this, you need this, our friends need this, our enemies need this. How easy, amid all the distractions, temptations, controversies, and worries, to forget the One Thing necessary: the Joy of the Gospel, the Person of Jesus.
Icon by Sean Flaherty