Lesson 81- Church as an Alternate to Capitaism and Communism
In my last program, after discussing the well planned and executed program by the secular humanists to replace our Judeo/Christian values with the pre-Christian pagan values of ancient Greece and Rome, I then went on to outline some of the major ideas contained in the Communist Manifesto. Communism, as I have mentioned before, is a spin-off of the French Revolution of 1789 and, even though it has collapsed in the Soviet Union, its aims and objectives are still a powerful influence in our world today. In fact, it may be more powerful as an idea than it ever was as a system because ideas don’t have to stand the test of reality until they are implemented and thus, those who are influenced by them can gloss over the imperfections that only reality can reveal.
There are still many idealistic people who believe that the theory of Communism or Socialism is the answer to all of our problems and this is because they are able to contrast it with the problems of Capitalism. They can point to the problems of unemployment, the unequal distribution of wealth, the environmental impact of industry, the wasteful use of natural resources, and a host of other problems that always plague any operating system because there never was any system that didn’t bring disadvantages along with its advantages. And that is why linear minded societies are always dealing with reforms aimed at correcting the disadvantages.
The only perfect systems are in our imaginations where everything follows the script as we have written it. Once our theories move from the drawing board to concrete reality, a multitude of antitheses arise to challenge the flaws that naturally flow from the impact of millions of human beings operating according to their own interests and design. As a result, there are constant dialectical adjustments, like the high wire artist with his balancing pole, taking place in any operating system where first it swings too far one way and then too far the other way. The word utopia means “nowhere” and anyone who is looking for a dynamic system that remains in perfect balance is a true utopian. Some system are better and closer to perfection than others but “nowhere” is there a perfect system that doesn’t contain some flaw and most, if not all system, are constantly struggling with entropic forces which are trying to bring them back to chaos.
Thus, every dynamic system requires constant vigilance to keep it true to its original vision. And every system involves some types of trade-off and the best that we can get is a system that bestows more advantages than disadvantages. Therefore, to say that any operating system contains problems is an oxymoron because operating systems always contain problems.
Thus, Capitalism has its problems and so does Communism and, as Christians, we make a big mistake when, in opposing one system, such as Communism because its atheistic view is totally incompatible with ours, we fail to recognize the flaws in another system, such as Capitalism, that we are defending because it pays lip-service to God. In fact, as Christians, we make a big mistake when we bring any political or economic system completely under the umbrella of our belief system when in reality our belief system, which seeks goals beyond the natural level, supercedes all natural systems.
Some Christian evangelist, in their opposition to atheistic Communism, sometimes speak as though the economic theory of Capitalism was part of the Ten Commandments that Moses received on Mount Sinai or the Beatitudes that Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount. Christianity stands above both Capitalism and Communism and is willing to accept and incorporate those parts of both systems that are compatible with its own aims. It likes the freedom and competition of Capitalism, because it reflects the laws of nature, while, at the same time, it supports the order and cooperation of Communism, because it reflects our rational nature. However, too much freedom leads to chaos, and too much order leads to a dictatorial stagnation.
Thus the Church is neither Capitalistic nor Communistic and although it is willing to incorporate and approve elements of both systems, it is also critical of other elements. By the same token, politically it is neither democratic nor totalitarian although it can exist in either system. In other words, the Church is a system unto itself that has goals and objectives of its own and it is able and willing to exist and thrive in any system that allows it to pursue its own vision.
However, its ultimate vision is the freedom and dignity of every human being and, although it will temporarily tolerate totalitarian systems so long as they respect the human dignity of their members and work towards their development as human beings, its ultimate goal is to create an environment in which the individual takes personal responsibility for his own life. Thus, it seeks to eventually bring every human beings to full maturity by leading them from “other control”, which is necessary when we are young and immature, to “” self control”, which is the true sign of adulthood. In other words, the Church’s role is to lead us from the “law” of the Old Testament where behavior is controlled through the promise of reward or the threat of punishment, to the “spirit” of the New Testament where rational understanding takes the place of external compulsion. When this happens, then we and the world will see the fulfillment of God’s plan when, as the Scriptures say, He will write His laws on our heart and no longer will we have to ask or be instructed in right behavior because our “hearts of stones” will be replaced by “hearts of flesh” and we will know the Will of God just as we know ourselves. To put this in the imagery of the Medieval philosophers, the blind giant or Will, which was made to seek “the Good”, will join with the seeing but powerless Intellect, which was made to seek “the True”, and together they will lead us to the “Truly Good”, which is just another name for God.
Thus, sooner or later, it is freedom and self-determination that the Church seeks for everyone and, to that extent, the free economy of Capitalism is more to its liking than the controlled economy of Communism. Not because Capitalism contains a higher morality, because, of itself, Capitalism has no morality other than the values of those whose choices it reflects. Capitalism, like God, gives each of us the freedom to move reality according to the dictates of our hearts and thus it is a true reflection of our values or lack of them. God, like Communism, could have eliminated sin and all the chaos that results from it, simply by removing “free choice.” He could have had created a controlled universe that only reflected His will, just as Communism has a controlled economy that only reflects the will of the leaders. But to do so would have violated His nature because, if as the scriptures say “God is Love” then love by its very nature requires “free choice.” “Forced love” is a contradiction in terms.
Thus, as an agent of this God, the Church’s ultimate goal is to lead us to freedom. But it is the responsible freedom of the Gospel, not the hedonistic, irresponsible license that we see today. The human heart wants to be free but, at the same time, it needs to have order because it can’t live in chaos. And that is why historians, like Will Durant, say that when “freedom destroys order, the need for order will destroy freedom.” History has shown that when freedom become license, such as it did in the French Revolution during the Reign of Terror, the human heart will seek a dictator to bring things back into order.
Thus, we have a dialectical dilemma because we have two conflicting needs. The creative artistic right lobe wants freedom to follow its creative impulses and the logical, legalistic left lobe wants the structure and order that is necessary for social living. When the right lobe and its quest for freedom goes too far, it results in chaos. When the left lobe and its quest for order goes too far it results in dictatorship. In fact, the root for the word “dictator” is the same as the one for “dictation”, which means ‘to speak” and it is the left lobe of the brain which is the source of language, law, and structure.
Thus, the freedom of “no control” is a false and self-defeating freedom because it leads to the “chaos” that results in a “self imposed” dictatorship in which we turn over the responsibility for our lives to someone else. Therefore, the only type of freedom that is compatible with our total nature is the self-control that results from moral maturity, rather than the enforced control that comes from totalitarian systems, such as Communism. Thus, the “other control”, which is necessary in childhood and chaotic conditions, should be only a passing phase on our way to real freedom and self-determination.
Unfortunately, this was not always clearly understood by those who directed the Church and instead of being “leaven in the dough” working towards the ultimate responsible freedom of everyone, some church leaders thought that their job was to support the “status quo” under the banner of “law and order.” I have already made reference to this concerning the situations which brought on the French Revolution where the Church became identified with the existing system and the conditions in some Latin American countries where Communism has flourished because the Church leaders became too identified with the ruling class and forgot their role as “Gentle Revolutionaries” who were obligated to remind the well-off members of their flock of their obligation to be concerned with the issue of “social justice”, especially as it pertained to their less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ.
However, whenever the Church has been true to its calling, it has been a champion for the freedom and dignity of every person and, whenever it has failed to do this, it has strayed from the path that Christ set for it. And that is why, the Church, like other dynamic systems, has a history of adjustment and readjustment through a dialectical process. Sometimes it was “too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good” and, at other times, “it was too worldly-minded to be of any heavenly good.” It was at its best when “it prayed like everything depended on God and worked like everything depended on it.”
Its history is one of “repentance and reform” as God inspired saints of different temperament to address the excesses of the times and to set it on the right path by bring it back into balance. Thus, its over-all thrust has always been towards the ultimate freedom of every person through the recognition of his basic dignity as a being “made in the image and likeness of God.” And since Jesus had come to “set us free” , freedom was the ultimate goal of salvation.
However, the Church never preached that freedom was the modern day concept of “no control” as expressed by slogans like “Let it all hang out!”, “I did it my way!” or “Just do it!” Rather, it always preached that our dignity as rational beings demanded that freedom meant “self control” in which the individual grew to full maturity by recognizing his duties and obligations towards his Creator and his fellow humans. In other words, his secondary purposes on the micro level always had to be subjugated to the primary purposes of the Natural Order and the society on the macro level.
This is obvious in the Church’s own history, as uneven as it sometimes was. It is a history very similar to the natural history of each human life as it moves from the ignorance and dependency of childhood, through the rebellious years of adolescence, to the self awareness and self control of adulthood.
Through most of its early history the Church was a mother dealing with barbaric people who, like children, could neither read nor write and thus, like a parent, it guided them through rules and regulations, backed up with warnings of serious consequences if they did not obey. And, like parents, it did it with very little explanation. This, historically speaking, was the Age of Faith, when the Church asked it members to accept its teachings on its authority even if they did not completely understand them.
As a result, its opponents today often accuse it of being dogmatic, undemocratic and totalitarian because throughout its history the Magisterium has stated firmly what the Church believed and refused to put it up to a democratic vote. In a previous program I quoted a letter that I wrote in reply to David Boldt, the editorial writer for the Inquirer, who charged the Church with being un-American because it was not democratic. However, this is based on a faulty premise that assumes that issues of truth and faith should be decided by the majority vote, rather than by those who, through their training and education, have been appointed to make those decisions.
Even in the secular realm, we do not allow the meaning of the Constitution to be put to a popular vote. Instead, for better or worse, we allow nine justices to make those decisions and even though we might disagree with them, we accept that what they say will be the “law of the land” either until they change their minds or Congress and the people alter to Constitution.
However, in the area of “faith and moral”, Catholics believe that Jesus, by bestowing the “Keys of the Kingdom” and the power of “binding and loosening” upon Peter, the Apostle and their successors gave them the “final say” and that He promised to send the Holy Spirit of Truth to guide them. Thus the certitude of the Church in areas of “faith and morals” is intimately tied to the divinity of Christ and His promises. Those who don’t believe in this have trouble with the Church’s claim to infallibility in these areas; those who do believe, don’t because it logically follows from their basic belief system. Thus, to criticize the Church for being undemocratic errs in two ways: first, because it assumes that Truth and morality must be based on a majority decision and second because if the Church were to deny it divine origin and guidance, it would undermine its very reason for existence.
However, even sincere believers with modern sensibilities sometimes winch when we hear of heretics during the Inquisition being tortured and burned at the stake and I doubt that many Catholic would attempt to justify these practices. However, it is unfair to judge the Church in the Middle Ages by modern conditions and standards just as it is unfair for one historical period to judge another historical period where conditions and perspectives were different. Aside from the abuses that flow from our defective human nature that infects and distorts every system and historical period, one has to view the past from the perspective and level of understanding that existed at that time.
Since the Church believed that it had been divinely commission by Christ to preserve and preach the Gospel, and that the eternal salvation of its members depended on its effectiveness in doing this, it sometimes acted or over-reacted when heretics threatened to undermine its efforts. One might not always agree with its methods but one should try to understand its motives and take into consideration that even the most divine plan must pass through the minds and understanding of the human beings who are trying to implement it.
However, when looked at over the long-term historical perspective, the Church, like any good parent, was not satisfied to allow its children to remain in ignorance and set out to educate them. The secular humanists like to believe that it was the Church that tried to keep people in ignorance and mental darkness but history doesn’t bear them out. It was the Church and her monks that through tedious handwritten manuscripts copied and preserved whatever was left of the literary past of the Roman Empire and the Vatican Library is one of the greatest sources for those who want to study European antiquity. Also, most of the great writers and thinkers of Western culture were Catholics or Christians. Also, contrary to popular belief, it was the Church that was responsible for the schools and universities of Europe. And, even in this country, it was the Christian churches who created most of the top universities like Harvard, which, unfortunately have drifted further and further away from their religious roots.
To those who believe that the goal of religion in general and the Church in particular was to keep people ignorant, I would like to again quote Professor Kors, a Jewish professor who teaches 17th and 18th century intellectual European history at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Kors said:
“Never, in the history of all (religious) creeds, has there been more intellectual dynamism, vitality, philosophical diversity, mutual criticism, and natural philosophical liberty than in the history of the Catholic Church… Against the crude, current academic categories of (political correctness based on) race, ethnicity, and sexuality, (the Catholic Church and Catholic education) affirms the moral truth of a common humanity based upon our existence as beings with rational and responsible souls…Catholic universities… must bear witness that freedom is a gift that distinguishes us from the beast.”
In other words, it is the “thought Nazis” of “political correctness” today, not the Catholic Church, who are the enemies of rational thought, discussion and learning.
When look at from an historical perspective, one can see the Church’s role in taking her children from infancy to full maturity by gradually replacing laws and rules with freedom and choice. We might see the period following the Crusades, and from the Renaissance to Modern Times, as the teenage years, when the growing sense of individualism and self importance led to rebellion against all forms of authority.
As the uneducated masses moved from childhood ignorance to adult understanding, the Church and society in general had to bear the dangers and problems that accompany all mental awakenings that began with Adam and Eve after they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Knowledge leads to self-assurance and self-assurance leads to questioning, and questioning leads to disagreement and disagreement leads to rebellion and division. But there is no way to escape it because it is a necessary part of our maturation process.
Thus, the general mental awakening that began in Europe during the Renaissance with the rebirth of Art and Science was a double-edge sword. It brought people out of the Dark Ages of Faith alone, into a new Age of Reason and it impacted different people in different ways.
Some, excited by their new found intellectual freedom and the power of reason, left the Church, never to return. Some, like Luther and other Protestants, rebelled and formed other groups that were hostile to the Church’s views. Some stayed in the Church but rebelled against it’s authority by refusing to obey the rules or by selective obedience. Some paid lip-service and, like children who only come home at Thanksgiving and Christmas, attended only special functions like baptism, weddings, and Mass at Christmas and Easter. Anyone who has ever visited Europe notices that religion in many of those countries is female dominated and the men, for the most part, don’t bother to participate.
The Second Vatican Council marked the beginning of our adulthood when the Church relaxed a lot of rules of obligation and called upon us choose to practice freely those thing that we formerly practiced under “pain of sin.” The result, unfortunately, was that for some the removal of compulsion spelled the end of participation. If missing Mass wasn’t a mortal sin that could cause you to end up in hell, then why go?
The Church was asking us to grow up only to discover that many of us were still only infants in the faith because the only effective motivator was the promise of reward or the threat of punishment. Church attendance, especially among the young, dropped drastically and some left the Church to join other churches or movements. According to some, the largest single Church in the United States is the Catholic Church and the second largest is composed of ex-Catholics. Statistics also indicate that Catholics make up the largest group of people who joined cults and New Age movement.
The Second Vatican Council had unearthed a fatal flaw in the transmission of our faith. For many people, because their faith was based on authority and compulsion rather than love and understanding, its roots were shallow and it collapsed under the first instance of testing. Many Catholics were doing the right thing for the wrong reason and when that reason was removed they stopped doing it. Thus, when they were set adrift without the rules, they fell apart and either led empty meaningless lives or sought salvation in some other church or movement.
I would like to say they “left the Church” but that would be inaccurate because many of them never knew the Church or ever understood what membership in it really meant. At best, they were nominal Catholics and at worst they were pagans who didn’t believe in Christ or the Church even though they used the title of Catholic and were a product of our educational institutions. They were the people that the secular media loved to interview and quote on issues involving the Church because they would always provide evidence that many Catholics did not agree with the Church on major moral issues.
Yet, Pope John Paul II has insisted that we should not be afraid because we are in the “springtime of the Church” despite the fact that the faith is dying or dead in many European countries and a similar process is taking hold in the United States.
What many see as the decline or death of the Church, the Pope sees as simply a “pruning” that the Church has gone through in previous historical periods. The dead and unfruitful branches are being cut away so that new growth can take place with the healthy and fruitful branches.
I just attended our monthly men’s meeting where a young priest who belongs to the Legionnaires for Christ, a relatively new religious order, made the same point. The history of the Church, he said, is like the swing of a pendulum that expands on one arc only to contract on the other, only to expand again. During these periods of contraction, God inspires and sends new spokespeople who are equipped to deal with whatever is threatening the Church at that moment and, through their efforts and insights, the Church blooms and blossoms once again with new vigor and vitality. Many who left, will return with a new commitment. Many who never belonged will join as they, like the pagans during the time of the Roman Empire, become disgusted with the moral decline and depravity of the culture. Thus the Pope is right. We really are in the springtime of the Church and when it comes to fruition the Church will have taken one more step towards its ultimate goal of leading its flock from the blind faith of childhood, through the rebellious arrogance of adolescence, into the full maturity of adulthood.
It’s only a matter of time before the logical consequences that flow from the premises of secular humanism and other modern movements prove their incompatibility with our basic human needs. And when that happens, the Church will be like a beacon on the hill calling us back to the fullness of life that Christ promised us.
My point is that there is a midpoint or synthesis between Capitalism and Communism which combines the best of both systems while eliminating their defects and, it is my belief, that the Church is the agent that will provide this synthesis. However, before it can do it, we must be willing to honestly evaluate both systems to see what is true and good and what is not. Therefore, I would like to end today’s talk by reviewing and evaluating some of the major points of the Communist Manifesto and its criticism of Capitalism. Where Marx is right, we shouldn’t be afraid to admit it because it has been my experience that often one can agree with the problems that are identified by one’s opponent and yet still disagree with his solution.
So let us once again look at the major points that Marx made in the Manifesto to test their validity. And, whether we agree or disagree with the goals of Communism, I think that Marx and Engel have to be given high grades for their understanding of history and sociology. Basically, the Communist Manifesto is a history lesson in how the Feudal System, with lords, serfs, and castles, which was the major survival method after the collapse of the Roman Empire, was itself destroyed when the trade with the East following the Crusades caused the merchant class to rise in economic, and later, political power.
There are a lot of observations in the Manifesto with which we can agree. For example:
It’s true that capitalistic societies are inclined to identify all revolutionary
movements with communism when often the driving motive is something else.
It’s true that trade with the East and the discovery of American set in motion
today’s international trade
It’s true that the hand-crafted methods of the Feudal Period could not keep up with the demand of the growing world trade.
It’s true that this caused the development of factories and manufacturing in which machine labor began to replace human labor.
It’s true that the development of factories began a movement of population from rural farm areas to urban areas that continues to the present time.
It’s true that this movement led to the breakdown of the close, traditional, and often genetic, relationships that tied people together in the rural farm areas.
It’s true that machines made it possible to hire women and children to perform jobs that formerly could be performed only by men, thereby shifting the power structure in the family when wives, and sometimes children, replaced husbands and fathers as the economic head of the family.
It’s true that money and profit became the major glue that bound one person to another and that lifelong traditional roles which gave the person security and an assured position in the social order were replaced by insecure shifting roles of urban life where economic factors led to reoccurring unemployment and the need for job retraining.
It’s true that as the business class rose in economic power they fought for and succeeding in gaining control of political power in the modern democratic republics. “Dollar Diplomacy”, in which our foreign policy, was shaped by the interests of our businessmen, is a fact of American history.
It’s true that businessmen, involved in world trade, are cross-pollinating cultures and, as a result, are creating a world culture.
It’s true that once any primitive or Third World group takes in any of the artifacts created by a capitalistic industrial society they are hooked because they will either become dependent on them to resupply them or else they will have to adopt the manufacturing form of production themselves. Thus, capitalism, for better or worse, is creating a world made in “it own image and likeness” where everyone will reflect the values and goals of the Western world.
It is true that Capitalism has created a dilemma by tying production, the amount of things that you make, to distribution, the share that one receives of what is produced. As a result, it can’t stop one without stopping the other. Consequently, it suffers from reoccurring recessions and/or depression due to over-production.
It’s true that it solves this problem by either expanding its markets to other areas of the world or by destroying what it has produced so that workers can be paid to produce it again. In other words, we have to keep production going, not because we need the products but because we need to keep people working so that they will have the money to buy what we have produced.
It’s true that the bankruptcies and economic disruptions caused by these swings in the economy will cause or motivate smaller companies to either sell out or be gobbled up by larger companies until eventually the market will be controlled by giant international conglomerates.
However, it is not true that this will eventually lead to a situation in which a small group of international capitalists, who are living is sumptuous wealth, will be surrounded by millions of starving workers. If anything, Capitalism has created a “pie so big” that even a small slice of it is greater than an equal share of the Communist pie and the businesses have discovered that they can’t exist unless the consumer has enough money to buy their product. It is Capitalism, not Communism, that has created the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” They just don’t realize that they are in control.
I’ll have more to say about this in my next program, but I see that my time is up. Here’s Dom…