This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Afghanistan Peace Conference

There needs to be a peace conference to redraw borders. The Uzbek and Tajik areas of Afghanistan should go to Uzbekistgan and Tajikistan. The Pashtun area should go to Pakistan, since they have been making progress on this front. Baluchistan should become a country and get parts of Pakistan and Iran. Iran should get Shia Iraq. Kurdistan should become a country with territory from Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Gaza should go Egypt and parts of the West Bank and Arab northern Israel should either be a Palestinian state or be ceded to a newly unified Syrian kingdom under the Hashemite Dynasty (which will also include Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and western Iraq.

The final piece of the puzzle is to get the Heck out of Saudi. We should still have the Navy patrol the area, but a ground pressence is no longer necessary.

Marxists in the Vatican

American Magazine's blog repeats a report from the Times of London that Marxian economic theory is surfacing in the Vatican. Approving remarks of Marx's theory of alienation have appeared in l'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. Here is part of the quote from the Times article, as stated on America's blog.

Georg Sans, a German-born professor of the history of contemporary philosophy at the pontifical Gregorian University, wrote in an article that Marx's work remained especially relevant today as mankind was seeking "a new harmony" between its needs and the natural environment. He also said that Marx's theories may help to explain the enduring issue of income inequality within capitalist societies.

"We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system," Professor Sans wrote. "If money as such does not multiply on its own, how are we to explain the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few?"

Given how the Holy Father despairs of the loss of Social Security systems in his new encyclical Caritas in Veritate, we should not be surprised by the shift. Indeed, there is a marked difference between Marxian economic theory and the Marxist-Leninist tenants on revolution. All the Catholic social encyclicals are a reaction to Marx, not only to condemn, but also to compete. They are hardly a glowing endorsement of Capitalism.

Will this automatically lead to statist systems? No, indeed it should not. Distributists have based their ideology on opposing capitalism and socialism - both of which are statist, although the latest encyclical does not endorse a "third way" or any particular solution. The new encyclical argues for "the gift" which brings to mind the Focolare movement. It is up to us to design systems which meet the requirements set out in Church teaching - however it does not seem that resisting health care reform for its own sake is one of them (resisting funding of abortion is a separate issue).

My own take on this problem is expanding employee-ownership of the workplace, which can be brought about by the Employee Stock Ownership Plan movement, the possible conversion of union pension funds into more direct ownership (which would require a change in law allowing them to do so) and the establishment of personal accounts as part of Social Security containing shares in the company one works for, rather than shares in an index fund. The latter should be backed by a mutual insurance fund of all such companies and should include mechanisms of not just ownership, but also control. Such firms could also provide medical services, housing services, mortgage services and line of credit services rather than having their owner-members seek these services in the private market. They could also extend their ownership structure to their overseas workers and suppliers - which would both stop the movement of jobs offshore and raise the standard of living in those countries, leading to greater democratization as well. Such a scheme would be disastrous to the military-industrial complex and the financial sector, but would be good for everyone else.

Of course, getting there requires the courage to embrace new ideas. Anyone for a hug?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Musings from the Christian Left

Geocities has gone away. The essays from the Musings have been transferred to various blogs. Here are the links to the Christian essays:

What is the Christian Left

A Catalogue of Musings

Proof of God

The Nature of Soul and Spirit

How Christians Understand God

The Death of Jesus and its Meaning to Us

Liberation Morality

Rebuilding the Body of Christ

The Limits of State Power

Education, Welfare and Religion

Drugs, Mental Health and Crime

Racial Justice

Gay Rights

Birth Control and Stem Cell Research

Roe v. Wade and Reproductive Freedom

Abortion and the Christian Left

The True Nature of the Social Security Crisis

Comprehensive Tax Reform

Social Security and Ownership

Corporate Governance

Pay Equity

21st Century Homes: Interindependence

The 21st Century Career

Professional Sports Teams and the Entertainment Industry

Employee and Union-owned Multinationals and Trade

Converting Socialist Enterprise to Employee Ownership

Fighting for Justice

An International Bill of Rights

Bringing Peace to Israel

Lessons from the War in Iraq

Toward Allied Government

A Private Space Transportation System

Ending Government as We Know It

Taking Action

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bill Donahue's latest screed

I have been remiss about posting here. This is the latest piece from my Examiner blog:

Those of us in the liberal Catholic press owe a great debt to Bill Donahue and those who publish him for providing us with something to write about. The Washington Post published his latest screed about how secularists are attempting to destroy Catholic culture and society as a whole - but that because of abortion and gay rights, all those God fearing right wingers will win out in the end.

Some issues are entirely secular or have secular aspects which must be addressed (like abortion). As far as culture, I have always found it abundantly amusing that Fox News is subsized by the Fox entertainment establishment, which has some of the raunchiest entertainment in the marketplace.

As far as sexual morality, it exists not for God but for people, because God loves people and because He is intrensically happy regardless of our moral behavior. When the Catholic hierarchy creates dogma that ignores this fact, the people in the pews are right to ignore it. Secularism is good here, since it prevents violence on the part of religious authorities to enforce their idealistic and wrongheaded views.

Bill Donohue seems to discount that the President of the United States started his career as a Catholic Charities employee and the Vice President and the Speaker of the House are Catholics and Democrats. Six Justices on the Supreme Court are Catholic - the last of which was appointed by the current Democratic President. Of course he has his own version of who is or is not Catholic. He is not entitled to an opinion on this, however.

Finally, it is the liberals in the Church and public life (and the voting booth for Obama) who see economics as the solution to abortion. We are begining to win the day - starting with health care reform and the raising of wages for the least among us. Don't count out our ability to increase the number of liberals once our economic agenda gets done. By the way, it is false to alledge that abortion and ideology are linked - many conservatives resort to abortion when their children end up pregnant, or when they cannot afford yet another child. Indeed, given the economic status of many conservatives, the Democratic economic proposals may not actually help our cause - however we are not so callous as to have political motivations for doing good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Archbishop Burke added to Congregation of Bishops, converting Anglicans welcome in Ordinates

Just when I had writers block, the Vatican comes through with a few topics to write about.

First comes the announcement that Apostolic Signatura and former Kansas City Archbishop Raymond Burke has been named to the Congregation of Bishops. The congregation is the curial body which advises the Pope on the consecration of new bishops and their assignments. Many have been reading the tea leaves for the significance of this, especially regarding A/B Burke's practice of denying Eucharist to pro-choice Catholic politicians. At the time of his Excellency's new assignment, many regarded it as a repudiation of his views, so it is natural that some of his supporters would regard this new development as vindication. Not so fast! Membership in the Congregation is ex officio for the Signatura. Indeed, the fact that this has been delayed for a year does not speak well for the Archbishop, as his inclusion in the Congregation should have followed more quickly from his new assignment. We will see how well he can play well with others. Let's hope he can, since the last thing the Church needs is more turmoil.

Much of the turmoil on this issue comes from a misunderstanding of the difference between any politician's opinion on Roe v. Wade and the possible impact that opinion may have on securing rights for the unborn. This misunderstanding largely comes from a misunderstanding of what Roe does and does not do and the difference between legislatively enacted abortion liberalization and the Court's ruling that abortion restriction by the states is unconstitutional as long as the fetus enjoys no legal status (which can only be granted by the Congress, not the states). By focusing on overturning Roe (which is impossible given that four Catholic justices of the six on the Court view it as settled law), the Pro-Life movement continues to miss opportunities to deal with the status of the unborn in Congress. The President stated rather strongly that he would deal with this issue in the third debate, however many in the movement would rather demonize him for electoral advantage than put down the boxing gloves and work with him in this. A/B Burke is widely seen as one of the politicizers.

The second development this week is the announcement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that Anglicans who have left their Communion can form "Ordinates" preserving their rites while joining with Rome. This is widely seen as a way to attract conservatives who have left the Communion over the ordination and consecration of women and gays. The Archbishops of Westminster and Canterbury have said that this is not an impediment to further ecumenical talks. One wonders, however, if this is not a form of Cafeteria Catholicism in the other direction. One would hope that if they are accommodating conservatives in this way, they might begin to also accommodate progressives in both the Catholic and Anglican communities who might find more in common with each other than with Rome.

Personally, I wonder whether both of these steps are part of either the Pope's or God's plan to eventually unify the Church, both in bringing home the Protestants and unifying the Eastern and Western Churches. This timing is apt, given the rapprochement between the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch and the prophesies of St. Malachy, which name Benedict XVI as the Glory of the Olive (which may refer to his name - the Benedictines are called the Olivetians - or what he will accomplish). After Benedict comes Peter the Roman, who if Benedict is successful in uniting with the East, may be an anti-pope who refuses to go along with these changes. Could that be A/B Burke?

Let no one tell you we don't live in interesting times.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Living wage as economic stimulus

Debate is beginning to intensify in our nation's capitol about the need for a second economic stimulus package to begin moving the economy. I suggest that Obama take a page from Catholic Social Theory in doing so, much the way FDR did when he asked Msgr. Ryan help him design Social Security.

A central tenant of Catholic Social Teaching is a fair and living wage, which can be defined as a wage large enough to provide for one's family. We have exemptions, the earned income credit and a child tax credit to move us in that direction - however these have not quite kept up with inflation. While the exemption is currently indexed, that indexing started after it had lost much of its purchasing power. Additionally, exemptions are not refundable - so they don't help you if you do not have tax liability. Finally, having three different sources of child income lends unneeded complexity to the system, forcing those who need it most (who often are the least educated) to turn to tax preparers - some of whom are very poorly trained.

I suggest combining several credits, deductions and exemptions - as well as most entitlement programs - into a single refundable child tax credit of between $500 and $1000 per month. The current monthly value of the child tax credit is a mere $83.33 That might by food. Shifting the exemption to a refundable credit would double that to $167. Ending the mortgage interest and property tax deductions and shifting those to the credit would bring the monthly value to $500. Now we are getting someplace. If you moved Food Stamps and some of the other entitlements to a refundable credit to children and the elderly you could raise it even higher. If state governments got into the act, especially those with a high cost of living, you could actually provide a living wage.

Many object to mandated living wage legislation because it would hit small business hard. Using the tax system to assure a living wage does not hurt employers at all.

Housing would not necessarily lose by this shift, since the biggest additional expense in adding a child to the family is additional housing. This might change the mix of housing demanded and it might even expand housing, as studies show that most wealthy people buy bigger homes regardless of whether they can deduct the mortgage interest. Most wealthy folks realize that even if you get thirty cents back on the dollar for mortgage interest, you are still paying seventy cents. Wealthy people most likely pay cash rather than incur interest to save on their taxes.

This proposal is economic stimulus for two reasons. In the short run, it will get more money into the hands of those who need it the most and who are most likely to spend it (and in a manner that won't increase the deficit). In the long run, when the economy is slow, increasing the credit could be a powerful tool to perk the economy up when it needs it the most .

If this idea appeals to you, spread it around, especially if you call yourself pro-life. The living wage is probably the most profound life issue there is. As his holiness, Benedict XVI said in Caritas in Veritate, the two are not separate.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Ending poverty with Catholic Charities USA

Catholic Charities, USA has been undertaking a campaign to end poverty in the United States. I know this because I am on their e-mail list. The campaign is outlined at last month's annual gathering in Portland, Oregon by CCUSA President Father Larry Snyder. On Friday, I got an e-mail about their new effort to solicit ideas on how this should be done. I created an account and looked over their three questions:

What can Catholic Charities agencies and staff do to spread the word among your peers, business leaders, and elected officials that we must end poverty in America?

What innovative programs have you seen or developed that tackle entrenched poverty issues like homelessness, joblessness, and hunger that could serve as models for national solutions?

What should we do as a nation to reduce poverty?

I responded, as you would expect, that the key to ending poverty is to expand the Child Tax Credit to $500 a month and to make it refundable - and that Charities, its agencies and each dioceses should not only talk about a living wage, but pay one (a living wage being defined as the practice of paying workers more for each child, regardless of position). In the market place, the only way to get away with doing this is some kind of tax benefit, as firms who pay a living wage without such a benefit would become less competitive in the short run. I also suggested that the Church excommunicate Catholic business owners and stock holders who don't pay a living wage to their employees (which is consistent with the Epistle from James read at Mass last week), since failing to do so can lead employees to seek abortion.

I would submit that the tragedy of abortion in America is not the fact that it is legal, but that some people have them because they find it necessary. Our job as Catholics is to make it unneccessary for anyone to want an abortion. The living wage issue is as essential to building the kingdom of God as any question of personal morality. If scripture is to believed, it is indeed more essential. Recall that in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the assembled mass of humanity was not judged on their personal morality, but on how they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the captive and educated the illiterate. This is where we need to place our attention and this is what will unify the Church in the end.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Reaction to the Pope's comments to Michael Diaz: non-procreative sex, gay marriage and euthenasia

Thank you to Dr. Denise Hunnell, the DC Catholic Examiner for sharing the Pope's comments to the new United States Emmissary to the Vatican.

We on the left actually agree with linking life issues with economic issues. Indeed, while love and fidelity are essential to a family, a decent level of economic support are as important to affirming the Gospel of Life. Among other things, that mean decent hours and pay for medical students and interns and especially nurses. A just and living wage is an essential part of Catholic doctine. State sponsored contraception should not be used in development to relieve societies of the responsibility for providing for a just economy for the poorest of its members.Where some of us quarrel with Humanae Vitae and Evangelicum Vitae are the intrusion into married sexuality by celibates (saying that merely unitive sex is a lesser form of love is a slap in the face to those of us past our child bearing ages) and the inaccuracy of stating that life begins at conception rather than gastrulation.

I must add that I do remember that the sex was best when we were actively trying to make a baby - although that was likely as much about the fact that we were younger with better hormones. Raging ovulation hormones likely give a better experience than the regulated hormones that come with chemical birth control.Regardless of the interaction between the spiritual and physical, other, most Catholics nowadays do not see non-procreative sexual practices as inherently bad since their unitive purpose is inherently good. Once you let the unitive purpose of sexuality in as a good at all, you can't make that good conditional. Once that unitive good is seen as a good in its own existence, you can't call homosexuality disordered without being accused of prejudice and adherence to tradition over truth. Once you see that, the objections to celebrating gay weddings must evaporate. As I have written before, such celebrations are as much about the families of origin as they are about the couple - who I believe are sacramentally united before God (like all married couples) regardless of whether a public ceremony is performed or not.

The Pope also talked to the Dutch ambassador about end of life issues. I must agree with him that the Dutch are way too casual about killing the sick (although in his Utopia, St. Thomas More makes a good natural law case for the Dutch position). The hard right tack the Church has taken on end of life issues is a bit troubling as well. Some more work is needed in developing this teaching.

There is a significant difference between how you treat someone who is declining and how you treat someone, like Terri Schaivo, who has coded, was brought back harshly and has never woken up. While some trauma specialists have found that cooling the body while reviving these patients has stopped many of the harsh side effects in current resucitation techniques - if the current regimes are used after someone has been down too long the damage is likely irreversible and the patient should be considered dead. To some of us, it is goulish to bring someone back after natural death has occurred and keep them alive through medical means.