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Lesson 117- Internationalism and Subsidiarity

   In my last program, I gave an overview of the Communist Manifesto so that we might see Capitalism through the eyes of its greatest opponent. And before proceeding to evaluate Communism through the eyes of its opponents, let me just list and comment on some of the major observations that Marx and Engels made about Capitalism.

          First, they said that both the political system of Feudalism and the economic system of Mercantilism, both of which lacked freedom, were replaced by democratic republican forms of government and the economic theory of Capitalism, both of which involved freedom. This, they said, was the result of the growth of world trade after the discovery of America and the rising power of the business class.  As Christians who believe in a God of History who is using history as a stage to accomplish His final goal for Humankind, we should see both of these movements as part of the greater thrust of history and evolution towards freedom.

          Second, they said that Capitalism, which was based on self-interest and competition, had replaced the personal relationships based on kinship and community prevalent during Feudalism with no other connection than profit. Whereas in previous times, the “butcher, baker, and candlestick maker”, whose identity and place in their small communities rested on their service to their neighbors, they were now replaced by large businesses serving a city, state, national, or international market. People were hired and fired based solely on the basis of profitability and workers, who were also motivated by self interest and competition, moved to where the money was. Thus, we could say that there was a movement from personal relationships, based on feelings, to impersonal relationships, based on function. We might also say that this was a movement from the right lobe to the left lobe of the brain.

          Third, they said that Capitalism, because it used factories and machinery to mass produce goods, caused people to move from rural to urban areas, once again breaking down the personal relationships based on kinship and community that existed in the smaller towns. At first people tended to congregate in ethic communities with relatives, friends, or people who shared their own cultural view. However, in time, the following generations moved out of these ethnic ghettos and began to seek better jobs or better real estate in the suburbs. This was another blow to personal relationships as the distance between parents, child, and relatives began to grow. In a sense, we traded off relationships for real estate and our sense of connectiveness to other human beings is becoming more and more narrow. We have moved from the extended family, to the nuclear family, and now we are becoming atomistic human beings, the ultimate Lone Rangers, who have no connection or allegiance to anyone but ourselves. The negative side of this is that “loneliness and isolation” have become a major problem for many people, especially the old.

The positive side is that it is forcing us to establish new relationships based on affinity rather than genes. The genetic connections of the past based on the family had one major flaw. They were unfree. We were born into a family that we didn’t choose and we were obligated to be loyal to them and to defend them against any outside attack. On the personal level, the rule was “my family; right or wrong” which translated on the higher level to “my group, my religion, my community, my state, my country etc… right or wrong.” As a result, we often ended up defending the indefensible for no other reason than it was an expectation connected to our membership in the group. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant in one of His harder sayings that is rarely mentioned in any sermon. He said, “Unless you hate your mother, father, sister, brother, etc… you are not worthy to follow Me.” What is He talking about?  Hating those to whom we have the closest connection? Those with whom we share our genes? Why it goes against everything that we feel and believe. And that may be the problem. It’s based on feelings and, as I mentioned in a previous program, my wife had an experience in which it was revealed to her that in the eyes of God “feelings don’t count.”

Animals live by feelings but rational beings live by “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In short, rational beings live by Truth and, therefore, to follow Jesus is to follow the Logos of God who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thus, what Jesus is saying, is that anyone who places his loyalty to family or friends ahead of his loyalty to the Truth is not worthy to follow Him.

This is a “hard saying” as anyone who has ever had to stand in opposition to those with whom they had the greatest emotional connection will tell you when the Truth had to be told. Yet, that is what, according to Jesus, God requires of us. I must admit my own cowardice when faced with this dilemma because it threatens one of our basic needs: the need to belong. Yet, if the Truth is the only thing that can set us free, then we have to value it above everything else.

My brother, who now lives in Oregon, is probably the greatest practitioner of this because he constantly confronts people with the Truth and if his experience is any indication of what will happen then we better prepare ourselves for a lot of rejection. And that is exactly what Jesus predicted. He said, be careful when people praise and like you because it probably indicates that you have been compromising the Truth. He told the Truth and look what happened to him.

So what does all of this have to do with God and history? Well, it appears that eventually the time will come when relationships based on “hearts” will replace relationships based on “genes.” In another place in scripture Jesus said that he would give other fathers, mothers, sister, and brother to anyone who followed Him. And on another occasion when told that His own mother and relatives were waiting to see Him, He said, “Who is my mother and relatives? Those who do the will of My Father.”  He wasn’t rejecting Hkk his mother or relatives. He was only saying what the  Battle Hymn of the Republic”  says in the lines:

“He has sounded forth a trumpet that will never call retreat”

 He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat…”

Thus His most important connection to them was not the genes that He shared with them but the disposition of their hearts.

This observation ties in with a previous talk when I was explaining Eric Fromm’s description of “destructive” and “productive” relationships. “Destructive relationships”, you might remember, were based on “power, dependency, and obligation” or what he called a sado-masochistic relationship. It is what today’s psychologists refer to as a co-dependent relationship in which one person needs to rule somebody and the other person needs to be ruled. In its healthiest form, it is a parent-child relationship; in it unhealthiest form it leads to sado-masochistic sex in which one person dominates and tortures the other with his/her cooperation. In its healthiest form it is a step towards the development of a productive relationship, which is based on love, independency, and choice.  In its unhealthiest form it is a permanent fixture that has no intention of ever changing. Thus, even in religion, our relationship with God begin as a destructive one based on “power, dependency, and obligation”. It is the Old Testament’s covenant based on law. However, God, the creator of all relationships, eventually wanted it to evolve into a productive one, based on “love, independency, and choice.” In short, “love that freely given want to freely be received…” Therefore a New Covenant based on spirit had to replace the old one based on law. In John 1, after speaking of Jesus as the Word who created the universe, he ends by saying, “The law was given us by Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

May I suggest, then, that God is taking us to a place in history when all unfree relationships based on law, genes or cultural pressure will be weakened or eliminated and the only valid ones will be based on personal choice. In other words, God is leading the whole evolutionary process towards freedom and that is both the heaven and the hell of it because everyone will receive whatever he has freely chosen. Unlike Adam, we won’t have anyone to blame, because God intends to give each of us our “heart’s desire.” Put another way, the Logos of God, Jesus Christ, will lead everyone to the conclusions that logically flow from the premises in their hearts and everyone will “reap what they have sown” and “will be measured by how they have measured.”

Seen from this perspective, the effect that Capitalism has had on personal relationships is just another step towards the fulfillment of God’s Plan. As we are stripped of those traditional ties based on genes and proximity, we are being forced to form new ones based on similarity of hearts. The growth on the Internet of “chat rooms” composed of people with similar interests may be just the tip of the iceberg. We are in the age when “birds of a feather, will truly flock together.”

Thus, today we hear of different lifestyles which, like cultures of the past, mold their members according to the values of the group. The separation of the “sheep from the goat” may have already begun and the Final Judgment may already be here. We are separating ourselves according to our hearts and the division of family members, that Jesus spoke of in the Gospels, has already begun as members of the same family discover, as they moved geographically to different areas of the globe, that they may share the same genes but different hearts.

Today, the words mother, father, brother, and sister have taken on a broader meaning as we discover that sometimes our connection to people with whom we have no genetic connection is closer and deeper than the one we have with blood relatives. More and more, a father, mother, sister, or brother is what they do rather than who they are. This doesn’t mean that a blood relative can’t also be a heart or soul relative. Instead, it means that in the future, “heart” will take precedence over “blood” and those “blood relatives” who don’t share the same heart will naturally cease to relate to each other. The fragmentation that we see today may merely the preliminary step to the reorganization that will take place later and when it is over God will have completed the “sifting out of hearts and men before His judgment seat.”

So to all those modern, super-tolerant parents who take a “laissez faire” attitude towards the shaping of their children under the belief that each generation must find its own values I say, “Don’t be shocked when you discover that you are the parents of their body but not of their soul and that the soul connection was the only one that had eternal significance.”

But let me return to my commentary on other major points of Capitalism that Marx identified in his Communist Manifesto.

A fourth point was that Capitalism would lead to the centralization of things, which is just another name for the Law of Complexification. For example, I have already mentioned how the centralization of the production in factories located in cities caused people to move from the rural to urban areas. There neighborhood  businesses were replaced by city-wise business, which in turn were replaced by state-wide, then nation-wide, and eventually world-wide businesses.  As the scope and size of businesses grew, the scope and size of government also grew to control, regulate, and establish the legal framework necessary for their operation.  Philadelphia, at one time, ended at Girard Ave. and was surrounded by separate municipalities such as Germantown, Nicetown, Kensington, Port Richmond etc…, all of which, are now sections of Philadelphia. Eventually, as populations became more mobile and moved within a state, the people’s perspective changed from local loyalty to state loyalty. Thus, Robert E. Lee, who was a graduate of West Point and an officer in the Union Army, fought on the side of the Confederacy because his loyalty to the state of Virginia was greater than to the Federal government. But then people began to move within the nation to the same degree they moved within the state and their perspective changed once again until today our focus is more on the national government than it is on the state. Now, we see the same process beginning to take place on the international level as people begin to move beyond their local, state, and national boundaries. What this suggests from past experience is that our perspective will change once again and future generations will lose their national loyalties and begin to view things from an international perspective. Catholics, because they belong to an international church, are often accused of being disloyal to the nation in which they reside.


Thus, the historical thrust seems to be towards the international level in all areas as, for the first time, the necessary conditions for world unification seem to be present.

In a previous program, I had mentioned that this has been a constant theme throughout history as one super-power after another set out to conquer and unite the whole world. The Chinese, Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans empires etc… all tried to bring extensive areas of the world under their control and each succeeded to a point and then collapsed. The reason seems to have been due to two things: first, their empires were built on force and second, they lacked a communication network that allowed for an effective response by the government to the problems and needs of the empire. There seems to be an immutable law that says that a biological body can’t be any larger than its nervous system permits and a social body can’t be any larger than its communication system permits. Thus, all attempts by these empires to unite the world in the past were doomed to eventual failure because the larger they became the greater was the force necessary to hold them together and the less effective and efficient was the communication between the head and the parts. Now it appears that Capitalism has solved both problems. It seems to have found a method for uniting the whole world without force and, in its need to communicate, it has led to the creation of a network of communication devices, the latest and greatest being the Internet, that allows for instant communication with any place in the world.

Capitalism is based on two principles: self-interest and competition, which, it should be noted are the same principles on which Nature is based. Therefore, it is the most natural system and Communism, which rejects both, may be the most unnatural system.

Since Capitalism is based on self-interest, a quality that every living thing has naturally, it causes things to unite willingly and without force. Entrepreneurs from all nations willingly seek to combine their efforts with other entrepreneurs to form international companies that are able to compete on the international level. Thus, the businessman is leading the charge towards “internationalism” because it appears that the attraction of profits cuts across racial, religious, political and ethnic differences. Even Mainland China has ignored its Communist past and has jumped wholeheartedly into Capitalism. A recent newscast reported that they are building the largest malls in the world and materialistic consumerism is rapidly replacing the atheistic dialectical materialism of Communism.

It should not surprise us that “self interest” is a more powerful tool in uniting things than is ideology or force since our own bodies are a composite of individual cells that have united for their mutual benefit and survival. And, since, according to our religious beliefs, our bodies are a product of God’s Wisdom, then “self interest” must serve God’s purposes. The moral laws of God, in the long-term, must be in our self-interest because morality, which mean righteous or proper behavior, is a product of wisdom. When Medieval philosophers talk about “good and evil” they hypothesized that our minds consisted of the Will, that was made to seek the “good” and the Intellect, that was made to seek the True. Evil occurred when the Will went seeking the “good” without the Intellect and ended up with a “false good” rather than the “truly good.” Thus, even evil results from a misguided attempt to seek what is in our self-interest and when St. Augustine says that our hearts were made to seek God, the Highest Good, he might just be saying that our hearts were made to seek what is in its own best self-interest. Therefore, we have to distinguish between selfishness, in which one tries to gain at the expense of others, and self-interest, in which one comes to realize that in a corporate world of interdependent beings what benefits the whole in the long term benefits the parts. Thus, the profit seeking motive that drives Capitalism is not necessarily wrong and it may turn out to be the very mechanism that God is using to unite the world on the international level since, unlike the world conquerors of the past, it is capable of uniting more through affinity then they ever could through force. 

The second principle of Capitalism, competition,  has forced smaller units to unit into larger units and the needs of international business will force everything else to move to the international level. Workers, along with the businesses for which they worked, have moved from the local to the state, to the national, and now international level. Students that I have taught have come back to report that they are working for businesses that are operating on the international level and, just as workers had to relocate to different states in the past, now they are relocating to different countries. It appears that every nation is going to become a polyglot of different nationalities as workers move from one nation to another seeking jobs with international companies. And as they move time again, they will begin to lose their national perspective and begin to adopt an international one.

And eventually, based on what has happened before, there will be a push for an international currency and an international government with the power to tax. The United Nations has already suggested that there should be a tax on international trade that would help finance its operations. Once it becomes financially independent of the contributions by its members nations, it will start to take on the stature of a real government capable of enforcing its decisions on its members. For someone who has study history, this has happened before on lower levels. It is following a script similar to the movement of our own country’s movement from 13 sovereign states with a weak federal government to 50 weakened states with a strong federal government.

Whether this movement is inevitable and just another example of the Law of Complexification which is part of God’s plan or whether it is the final step towards a world dictatorship similar to the one described in the Book of Revelation remains to be seen.

It seems that all the major forces at work in today’s world are driving us towards international organization. Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, predicted that Capitalism would create a world culture and that certainly seems to be happening right now. American entertainers, movies, fashions, and styles, for better or worse, have become a dominant force in shaping the younger generations throughout the world. Each year, my high school has an International Day on which students from various cultures put on their native dress and perform cultural folk dances. But once it is over, the traditional garbs and music are put away for another year and are replaced by jeans and rap music. Each time this happens, I have a sense of loss as the rich variety and beauty of various cultures, like endangered species, are being replaced by a more vulgar and ugly modern culture. It makes you wonder whether we are looking at progress or regression. Capitalism, as a shaper of world culture suffers from the fact that it is an amoral system that will play to the lowest common denominator in human nature.

However, Capitalism is not the only system that is driving us towards an international order. Capitalism is taking us there inadvertently because it is not driven by any overall plan to create a New World Order. It is simply seeking to maximize profits and, in doing so, it is creating a world culture in its search for new markets and customers. Communism, on the other hand, is a economic system with an international philosophy that actively seeks to create a New World Order based on its principles.

The ironic thing about it is that Capitalistic countries that claim to believe in God, act like they don’t, while Communistic countries that claim that they don’t believe in God, act like they do. While Capitalistic countries are grossly hedonistic, Communistic countries are puritanical. The reason is that Capitalistic economies are driven by the desires of the consumer and thus are a reflection of their values, while Communistic ones are driven by the values of the leaders, who like Plato’s philosopher kings, consider it their duty to protect the people from themselves. Thus, they restrict and censor what their people are exposed to. Just recently, the Rolling Stone had to eliminate a significant number of songs from their repertoire at the insistence of the government when they played a concert in Mainland China. On the other hand, law enforcement agencies in this country are protesting the growing popularity of a video game in which drug gangs are portrayed as using human shields in their attempt to assassinate police officers.

So as all forces seem to combine to drive us towards some type of international unity, what should we do? Are we headed towards the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of the Beast? Should we cooperate with it or oppose it? Is this the beginning or the end? It may be that, like so many other things, the movement towards internationalism may cut both ways and the final result will depend on how we respond. As Christians, it is our job to bring to the world the Wisdom that will be necessary to gain the benefits of internationalism while avoiding the potential evils. This has happened before as we moved from lower levels of organization to higher ones and, therefore, we have past experience to guide us. And, according to Proverbs 8, Wisdom comes from experience.

Each time this has happened in the past, political power became more centralized and, if it happens now, it means that we are moving- for better or worse- towards international law and government. I say “for better or worse” because both God and our Founding Fathers were distrustful of the centralization of power. In the Old Testament God warned Israel against having a king because power, once given, has a reputation for corrupting those who get it. That is why God said that it would be better for the people to be ruled internally by Him through the inscription of His laws on their hearts. In other words, they would learn self-control and be ruled by their consciences. Our Founding Fathers, operating from the same premise, feared giving any government too much power and that is why they went to such great lengths to provide for the “separation of powers” among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and the provision for each branch to have some type of “check and balance” on the others. We might say that both God and our Founding Father’s premise was “The government that governs least, governs best.” This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be laws and rules but rather that a government should be given no more power than is absolutely necessary. The Church calls this the Principle of Subsidiarity and it states that “the smallest unit in society that is capable of handling a problem should assume responsibility for it.”

In an encyclical in 1991 on  “The Vatican and the Welfare State” (Centesimus Anjnus)  John Paul II wrote

“ In recent years the range of (government) intervention has vastly expanded to the point of creating a new type of state, the so-called “welfare state”. This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands, by remedying forms of poverty and deprivation unworthy of the human person. However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoked very harsh criticisms of the welfare state, dubbed the “social assistance state.” Malfunctions and defects in the social assistance state are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the state. Here again the “principle of subsidiarity” must be respected: A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the social assistance state leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbors to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response that is not simply material but is capable of perceiving the deeper human need. One thinks of the condition of refugees, immigrants, the elderly, the sick, and all those in circumstances that call for assistance, such as drug abusers: All these people can be helped effectively only by those who offer them genuine fraternal support, in addition to the necessary care.”   This Rock April 2006   p. 32


And in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est,  his successor, Benedict XVI,

“ We do not need a state that regulates and controls everything but a state that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: It is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ,. This love does not simply offer people material help but refreshment and care for their souls, something that often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialistic concept of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone.” (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3)- a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.”

This Rock April 2006   p. 32

It is this type of Wisdom that the world needs now if it is going to avoid the pitfalls contained in our movement towards international centralization. It is as  useless to think that we can return to the previous level of organization as it is to believe that we can return to the Colonial Period of our history. We are involved in a movement towards internationalism and the best that we can do is to learn how to deal with it by balancing the movement towards centralization with a counter-movement towards decentralization through the Principle of Subsidiarity.

Well, I see that my time is up. Here’s Dom.