Friday 31st October 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

A Potpourri . . . Can Distributism Be Imposed?

February 19, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By GEORGE A. KENDALL

Readers may recall an extended discussion in recent Forum columns on the topic of distributism, the economic system advocated by thinkers like Chesterton and Belloc and grounded in Catholic social teaching. The letters to the editor focused specifically on this question: Is it practically possibly to implement the distributist idea? In my contribution I indicated that, obviously, distributism, closely related, as it is, to the principle of subsidiarity, cannot be imposed, from above, by a central government, because that would entail a contradiction.
However, there is at least some hope, however faint, in the possibility of its being imposed from below, through the subsidiary units exercising their legitimate authority, grounded in the natural law, as well as, here in America, in our Constitution, to push back against bloated central power and “impose” it from below.
But this needs at least to be qualified. The reason we have huge, centralized bureaucratic organizations, both in government and the economy, with most of the power concentrated at the top, is that the obsession with the pursuit of wealth and power has become normative in our society. That obsession is a form of idolatry, and idolatry happens when people turn away from their relationship to God and substitute something other than God for Him, giving to that something the love that rightfully belongs only to Him. When that happens, people put all their energy into the pursuit of the false god.
People who have deep roots in the Christian faith don’t do this. They of course want to be able to support themselves and their families and work to get a sufficiency of worldly goods and maybe a bit more, and they of course want to have some control over their lives and their surroundings, but not in the obsessional way that characterizes both socialist and capitalist societies. They are interested in other things, and put a substantial portion of their energy into these other things — like the salvation of their souls, human community, and family life. It’s about where our energy goes. In medieval society, people simply expended energy for different things.
Eamon Duffy’s book, The Stripping of the Altars, which details the way Protestantism was forced on the English people during the 16th century, illustrates this in its portrayal of how people lived prior to the Reformation. Certainly, people wanted to make money then, and there were greedy people, then as now. But most people didn’t put all their energy into that.
For instance, there was a proliferation of holy days during the Middle Ages, days which involved, not just going to Mass, but having processions and pageants and such, taking time off work and putting energy into these activities instead. There was also a proliferation of fraternal organizations dedicated to works of mercy, which included having Masses said for the souls of deceased members. And so on. Because people put so much of their time and energy into these activities, there simply was nowhere near as much time and energy available for building huge organizations for the purpose of maximizing power and wealth, and so there were fewer such organizations and they played a smaller role in the life of that society.
When people deeply rooted in the Christian faith are at least a large and influential minority in a society, you get something like distributism, a way of living that follows logically from a Christian life lived in accordance with the true order of goods. It’s not a system which can be imposed, not even, strictly speaking, from below, but a way of life that happens when people deal with reality on the basis of Christian principles.
All of which means that when the Church gets its act together and starts to seriously proclaim the Gospel without kowtowing to the powers that be, while the people who sit in darkness begin to see how empty and meaningless the cult of wealth and power is, people will begin to act in accordance with the true order of goods, and a political and economic order in accordance with Christian principles will slowly emerge.
That doesn’t mean we can just wait for this to happen, on the principle that things will only happen when large numbers of people experience a change of heart. Trying to teach people what a Christian social order would look like is an integral part of proclaiming the Gospel and a step toward bringing about conversion. There is little most of us can do about getting the Church to stop kowtowing to powerful people and start carrying out its mission, beyond proclaiming the Good News ourselves.
Political action aimed at restoring power to subsidiary institutions is also a way of moving society toward conversion, but distributism is not a “system” to be imposed by anyone. To make it such is to turn it into just another ideology.

+    +    +

If we see relativism as the enemy, perhaps we are not defining the situation clearly enough. Relativism, as used by “progressives,” is a tool for debunking those who don’t agree with their agenda. But they do not apply it to themselves. So pro-homosexual ideologues tell us to be tolerant of homosexuality on grounds that there are no moral absolutes on the basis of which it can be condemned, then turn around and assert a right to live the homosexual lifestyle. But to assert a right is to assert a moral absolute (whether genuine or spurious), thus abandoning relativism.
A consistent relativism gives us no basis for asserting things like “gay” rights. It gives us no grounds for seeing tolerance of homosexuality as any more praiseworthy than intolerance. If everything is relative, then no one has any rights, and those who persecute homosexuals are just as entitled (or not entitled) to do this as are those who defend them.
On the basis of pure relativism, we would have to say that Hitler’s agenda was as legitimate as anyone else’s — anti-Semitism and mass murder were his “truth,” and that’s all there is to it.
Brad S. Gregory, in The Unintended Reformation, speaks of modern society, with its enthronement of relativism, as the Kingdom of Whatever. I would suggest that this means that the world is whatever I want it to be and those powerful enough to force their Whatever on everyone else will prevail.

+    +    +

The assumption of continuity in nature so beloved of evolutionists is closely tied to the assumption that nature is a closed system. Since nothing transcending nature must be permitted to act on it, events must always be explained in terms of antecedent events, so that, ideally, if we had a complete knowledge of what was happening in nature at the very beginning of the universe, we would be able to accurately predict everything that followed. Discontinuities in nature cannot be allowed, because such discontinuities involve something new happening, something that can’t be explained on the basis of what happened before.
Thus the problem of the Cambrian explosion, where, based on the fossil evidence, in a very short time, geologically speaking, we went from exclusively one-celled organisms to highly complex multi-celled ones, with no evidence of a gradual transition. The complex organisms simply appeared.
The reaction of evolutionists has always been to say — don’t worry, we just haven’t found the fossils yet, but we will. Now this makes a certain amount of sense. If you have been working with a particular hypothesis and, on other grounds, it makes sense to you, you don’t throw it out just because, at one point, you’re having trouble finding the evidence needed to support it — you keep looking and you keep thinking. (“If you like your hypothesis, you can keep it.”)
But there are limits to this. If you spend a century and a half, as with the Cambrian explosion, trying to find the evidence, to close the gap, without success, but adamantly refuse to admit the possibility that the hypothesis might be wrong, you are no longer practicing science but are defending a dogma. You are desperately clinging to the Darwinist hypothesis, convinced that it must be defended at all costs, because the alternative would be to open your mind to the possibility of a discontinuity in nature. There is the feeling that if that is acknowledged as a possibility, science is somehow doomed.
But, really, why shouldn’t there be discontinuities? Why shouldn’t there be surprises? Certainly, most of us, in our everyday lives, find that life is full of surprises. There is the old saying that if you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans. Most of us who are getting older can look back and realize that, if our younger selves had been told what we would be doing now, they would be astounded and probably refuse to believe it. Now of course the tendency of many, perhaps most scientists, is to try to reduce these apparent surprises to the events that preceded them and to show that the surprising events weren’t really so surprising after all, that they grew out of prior events which determined them.
This is called reductionism. It is the assumption that things that seem new and unique are always really nothing but something else, which in turn is nothing but something else, and so on (if you do this long enough, you make everything nothing but nothing).
But who says you have to do this? Certainly, events have connections with prior events, that is, causes, which help us to understand them, but the assumption that identifying these causes will do away with the newness of the events is just that — an assumption, supported by no evidence.
For Christians, of course, there is no problem with discontinuities. God is full of surprises, and the biggest surprise ever, the one that continues to astonish us and always will, is the Incarnation. We also affirm that, whatever connections human life may have with animal and vegetable life, the creation of the human soul at the time of conception is always a new event and a discontinuity. The appearance of man, a being endowed with reason, is also a huge discontinuity, though reductionistic “explanations” are hardly a rarity (Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man is devoted to this theme).
We can say the same for the coming of sanctifying grace into the soul of someone who was previously without it — the process of conversion. Those of us who were once outside the Church but are now within it certainly can testify to what a huge surprise, what a huge discontinuity, that is, however much we can trace the work of actual grace in us before our conversion. There is still something like the “leap in being” that Bergson spoke of.
Yes, nature and history again and again exhibit the gradual, continuous development that evolutionists speak of, and yet, surprises happen. Grace happens. The Spirit of God always broods over these waters, and at times there are clear signs of some mysterious, transcendent reality stirring them. It is not the proper work of science to dismiss this reality.

+    +    +

(© 2014 George A. Kendall)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Cardinal says church under Pope Francis is a ‘rudderless ship’

VATICAN CITY (RNS) American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the feisty former archbishop of St. Louis who has emerged as the face of the opposition to Pope Francis’ reformist agenda, likened the Roman Catholic Church to “a ship without a rudder” in a…Continue Reading

Angola: Catholic Priest Refutes Criticism of Church Practices

Lubango — The Southern Huila province?s Lubango city emeritus archbishop, Zacarias Kamwenho, rejected as false the claim that Catholic Christians worship images. Speaking on Sunday in the Muxima Diocese, in Lubango, the archbishop explained that Catholic Christians worship God instead,…Continue Reading

Ave Maria School of Law Wins Its HHS Mandate Case in Federal Court

The Obama Administration has suffered another defeat in its quest to force Catholics and people of faith to pay for abortion-causing drugs, as required by the HHS Mandate. Today the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida came down…Continue Reading

Catholic Educators Appeal to Obama Administration for Relief from HHS Mandate

Today a coalition including The Cardinal Newman Society, leaders of Catholic schools and colleges, and the expert attorneys of the Alliance Defending Freedom told the Obama administration that its latest rule mandating insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing…Continue Reading

Toronto schools hosting ‘LGBTQ’ conference for students as young as 11

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is hosting three student conferences within the span of eight days for the purpose of LGBTQ activism.  The conferences, which have been organized in collaboration with Jer’s Vision, will take place on October 28,…Continue Reading

The Synod and the Media: Culpable Naïveté or Shrewd Calculation?

Upon becoming director of media relations for the American bishops in late 1969, I quickly made a crucial discovery about my new employers. With just a handful of exceptions, the bishops were painfully naïve about the news business, yet convinced…Continue Reading

Chaldean Catholic patriarch suspends 10 priests, including 1 from El Cajon

SAN DIEGO – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church has suspended 10 priests, including one from El Cajon. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako issued a decree a month ago, demanding the priests return to Iraq or be suspended. Wednesday…Continue Reading

Retired Pope Says Interreligious Dialogue No Substitute For Mission

VATICAN CITY – Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation…Continue Reading

California Forces Churches to Directly Fund Abortions, Churches Refuse to Comply

To the dismay of California’s people of faith, the California Department of Managed Health Care has reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical…Continue Reading

Relax. God’s Still In Charge.

It’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families. Behind every arcane discussion of gradualism and natural law there are parents and…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: The “Relatio Synodi” Is “A Significant Improvement Over The Text Of The ‘Relatio Post Disceptationem'”

In a third short interview with CWR, conducted by e-mail late yesterday, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, offers his impression of the Relatio Synodi, comments on reports that the Synod has…Continue Reading

Synod Final Document Reaffirms Church Teaching

The final document of the Extraordinary Synod was released Saturday as the Synod Fathers voted to approve all 62 paragraphs, but with three paragraphs not receiving the normally required two-thirds majority vote. The three paragraphs, which in the past would…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope At Mass: Christian Life Is A Continuous Battle Against The Devil

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis described Christian life as a continuous battle being waged against Satan, the world and the passions of the flesh. His comments came during his homily at Mass celebrated on Thursday morning at the Santa Marta residence. He stressed that the devil exists and we must fight against him with the armour of truth. Pope Francis’s reflections…Continue Reading

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Writes Personal Ordinariate Of Our Lady Of Walsingham

ben1

(Vatican Radio) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has sent a message to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was established for former Anglicans in England in 2011.  The message was on the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which was released on November 4th 2009. The Pope Emeritus was responding to a letter he received…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Church Visible And Spiritual

pope650

(Vatican Radio)  “Often, we hear people say: the Church doesn’t do this …the Church doesn’t do that!’ ‘Tell me who is the Church? – ‘Well the Church is the priests, the bishops, the Pope …’ We are all the Church! All of us all of us Baptized! We are the Church, the Church of Jesus’”. This was the message at…Continue Reading

Pope At Angelus: Love Of God And Neighbour Are Inseparable

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St Peter’s Square beneath the window of the Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on Sunday. In remarks ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father offered some reflections on the Gospel reading of the day, which was taken from Gospel…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Does Contraception Lead To Abortion?”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 21 of The Facts of Life, “Contraception,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have seen that contraception fails frequently and so often leads to abortion.…Continue Reading

Pass-Fail Grading: For The Professors’ Benefit?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK S.M. writes to offer some observations about the proposal to introduce a “pass-fail” grading system for freshmen at Princeton University. The possibility of doing that was discussed in the October 9 edition of First Teachers. He sees the idea as a “form of grade inflation that is solely intended to accomplish…Continue Reading

Contemporary Culture Encapsulated In A Single Sentence

By DONALD DeMARCO It is remarkable how much a single sentence can reveal about the temper of a culture, even when its author is trying to be withholding. Jacalyn Duffin, a historian and practicing hematologist, is the author of History of Medicine (University of Toronto Press, 2000). It is a 243-page tome that was produced…Continue Reading

Synod Document Of October 13, 2014

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

Elite Judges Think The Highest Judge Never Will End Their Misrule

By DEXTER DUGGAN Today people worry about globe-trotting terrorists, the transmission of the deadly Ebola virus, and the way contagions can cross borders when the government insists borders must be open for everyone’s alleged benefit. Meanwhile, unaccountable U.S. judges continue their contagion of immorality, as if God’s judgment never will come, maybe in little germs,…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Regarding our recent column on advanced medical directives and particularly the Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), A.M.V. of Florida writes to say that the American Life League provides individuals with a document called the “Loving Will,” which corresponds to Catholic teaching. She said that this document was “crucial with my mom’s situation” when she was admitted…Continue Reading

Temples Of The Holy Spirit

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Feast Of The Dedication Of St. John Lateran In Rome Readings: Ezek. 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 1 Cor. 3:9c-11, 16-17 John 2:13-22 Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of a church building that many people have never heard of and also have no idea of its significance. In Rome, there are four major basilicas; the…Continue Reading

Message Of The Extraordinary Synod Of Bishops . . . We Ask You To Walk With Us Toward The Next Synod

(Editor’s Note: Below is the text of the concluding message of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, held October 5-19. This message was released on October 18. (See Fr. Kevin M. Cusick’s column in this issue, p. 2B, and the front page for reporting and commentary on the separate final document of the Extraordinary Synod.) + + +…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Redefining Marriage: Not About The Kids And The Picket Fence

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Following the Extraordinary Synod and the rollback on confusing language about same-sex attraction and the divorced and remarried in the final version of the Relatio Synodi document, the predictable reactions are coming in. Those who continue to hold Church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman are labeled as “bigots,” while…Continue Reading

Debunking The Sola Scriptura Myth… True Tradition And False “Tradition”

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 4 A classical objection: What Catholics call the “Apostolic Tradition” is just a human tradition, which Jesus clearly condemned in the Gospel, when He said to the Pharisees, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?…So, for the sake of your tradition you have made void the…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Wolfgang

By CAROLE BRESLIN October 31 has come to be yet another Christian holy day corrupted by our secular society. All Hallows Eve, Halloween, is now celebrated with emphasis on evil and horror. Corn mazes with frightening objects around the corner, haunted houses to terrify even the bravest of persons, glorification of vampires, and decorations of death and witches — these…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Mary Claret

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anthony Mary Claret has something in common with at least three other saints. Like St. Peter Claver, he was born in northeastern Spain — over 200 years later. Like St. Pio of Pietrelcina, when he heard Confessions, he frequently could read the souls of the penitents, asking them about a sin that they had not confessed.…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading