Monday, December 4, 2023


In my 1970’s seminary, we were taught that Vatican II demanded a preferential option for the poor and that the Church most go to the poor and others on the margin of society with the Good News, that in their poverty they were blessed. And by way of extension, the Church would be blessed by being poor.

Thus, the Church taught us would-be priests to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

Well, afflicting the comfortable will only go so far until they are pushed to the margins and fed up with being afflicted by those in the Church they stop practicing the faith and become nones. 

And the poor, fed up with the paternalism of the Church, which tells them they can’t help themselves so let us do everything for you and keep you subservient in your poverty, they too get fed up and become nones or only come to the Church for a handout not a change of life by God’s grace!

And the rich and not so rich fed up with being afflicted for what they have stop giving to the Church and the poor suffer as programs must be cut.

It is no secret that Pope Francis’ desire for a poor church and afflicting the comfortable has backfired. Those most generous to the Vatican and supporting papal efforts directly with their money have been the rich in the Church, most of whom are conservative and traditional. But Pope Francis has bitten the hand that feeds the Vatican so much by afflicting them with name calling, pop psychology diagnosis, and marginalizing those who don’t agree with the heterodox direction the pope seems to be leading everyone, that they have stopped giving and now the Vatican is in a financial crisis, not just from their own financial corruption and ineptness but because the rich are no longer giving because they are alienated by this pope.

This is from the Pillar as it concerns Pope Francis’ desire to charge market price to Cardinal Burke for his place of residence. (You would think the pope would offer him a room next to his at the Vatican Motel Six!)

From the Pillar:

In March, the Vatican announced that it would end its customary practice of providing free or subsidized accommodations in Vatican-owned properties to cardinals, prefects of dicasteries, presidents of Vatican bodies, as well as senior curial staffers, in light of the Vatican's economic crisis.

The obvious question that must be asked is, who in the past ten years has exacerbated the financial crisis of the Church by alienating Americans, rich as well as poor Americans (and other nationalities) who have always been generous to Peter's Pence and other needs of the Holy Father? Just who might that be?


TJM said...

I never got a job from a poor person. Leftwing loonism is not a good look

the Egyptian said...

I'm sure the defenders will be out in volume, cutting and pasting paragraphs on the beneficence of Francis.
Sadly the truth could hit then like a hockey puck and they will continue to bleat like sheep that it's all those horrible conservatives fault.
BTW Francis did it again
He wonders where the money is going!!!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The preferential option for the poor is much more than a demand of Vatican II. It is a biblical mandate. And that mandate has afflicted the comfortable since the Lord said, "And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’"

Failure to show this preferential option has consequences. "The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side."

If the rich, those who have been supportive of the Holy See and who, in your estimation, are among the "conservative and traditional," are now discomforted by the Holy Father, the fate of Dives should be their wake-up call.

As for cardinals residing in Rome, if they are employed by the Holy See, then they ought to be supported as priests and bishops working for a diocese. If they are not so employed, they do what other retired clergy do. Note that the retirement support for a bishop, such as Cardinal Burke, is very generous, exceeding significantly the retirement support provided to priests.

rcg said...

This is a case of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Those of us of means completely agree with God’s will to care for the poor but can make money only so fast. It is also important to know what a person needs to get by. Finally, the Church in general and Pope in particular are in a position of responsibility to speak Truth to power as the saying goes. Rather, by Encouraging immigration and acquiescing to evil leaders and justifying irresponsible behavior in lieu of unpleasant confrontations they defeat both sides of the argument by allowing the circumstances that produced the situation to continue and squandering the solutions offered.

TJM said...

Our resident lefty does not realize without the rich, there would be NOTHING for the poor. Capitalism has lifted millions upon millions out of poverty, communism, just takes care of its leaders. Think Clintoon, Obozo, and China Joe.

rcg, spot on!

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The only person here - TJM for those who do not recall - who has trumpeted that he is a WEALTHY man, now chimes in to defend the wealthy.

If saying, "And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’" makes me a "lefty" then Jesus was a "lefty" too. And I am more than content to be in company with him.

Mark said...

TJM is surely correct that capitalism has lifted millions out of poverty. But is it really a binary choice between capitalism and communism as he seems to suggest? Are there not better and worse forms of capitalism? To pose this question begs the prior question of the standards for better/worse, good/bad. At least one standard might be whether our current late-stage capitalism preserves or corrupts the integrity of practices. The following article in yesterday’s New York Times, focused mainly (but not exclusively) on the effect of corporate bureaucratic micromanaging and performance metrics on the practices of health care professionals, is not encouraging in this regard:

A sample:

“For years, many doctors and pharmacists believed they stood largely outside the traditional management-labor hierarchy. Now, they feel smothered by it. The result is a growing worker consciousness among people who haven’t always exhibited one — a sense that they are subordinates constantly at odds with their overseers.

‘I realized at end of the day that all of us are workers, no matter how elite we’re perceived to be,’ said Dr. Alia Sharif, a colleague of Dr. Wust’s at Allina who was heavily involved in the union campaign. ‘We’re seen as cogs in the wheel. You can be a physician or a factory worker, and you’re treated exactly the same way by these large corporations.’

The details vary across health care fields, but the trend lines are similar: A before-times in which health care professionals say they had the leeway and resources to do their jobs properly, followed by what they see as a descent into the ranks of the micromanaged.”

I recommend reading some of the comments following the article as well.

Mark J.

Jerome Merwick said...

I know I'm going to regret entering into the fray, but as I read the kind exchange between TJM and Fr. Kavanaugh, I cannot help but think that
A). They both seem to be presenting two extremes
B). They seem like two extremes, because instead of discussing anything, these two men are trying to define each other
C). There's probably more agreement between these two men than either is willing to admit.

We seem to live in an age that can't seem to reconcile its position about economics. To coin a hackneyed phrase, "No society ever taxed itself into prosperity." Yet we punish the rich, we denounce the rich and we condemn the rich and we help create the obscene disparities of wealth in spite of ourselves. I can't help but think of that horrible film, Titanic, which treated the rich like cartoonish characters, all selfish and evil, when in fact, many of those titans of industry willingly died honorably on the ship so that others could live.

For all of our knee-jerk condemnations of the rich as greedy, we do know that the majority of millionaires are not "old money" privileged people, but people who earned their wealth, usually through hard work. Or, as I often say, how many poor people hire people to work? How many jobs do the poor create?

But our view of the poor is often equally as distorted. Many people ARE poor because of poor decisions, poor impulse control or just plain living badly. If there were no consequences for poor choices, more people would make such choices. But there are also a lot of poor people who are simply victims of the time in which they live. Compare the salaries of media executives, who (I'll admit I'm biased here) profit by poisoning the public consciousness to the salaries of school teachers, who fight a daily losing battle against a culture that has no value for literacy or self-control. Many people just can't or won't work at jobs that are utterly empty of any merit or value.

We like to sanitize our vision of the poor. It's much easier to just stick an envelope in the collection plate or the mail rather than encounter these people face to face. G. K. Chesterton insisted on keeping money in his pockets to give beggars on the street:

"And the plain fact is that some modern men have as much difficulty in believing in organised charity as they have in believing in their own personal charity. Why should a man send five shillings to the secretary of a society, instead of giving it to a navvy asking for a bed? He has seen the navvy. He has never seen the Secretary.

"Some schemes of organised charity declare that every other scheme does more harm than good. There are stupid organisers as well as stupid alms-givers."

Unfortunately, our public discourse as Catholics has been dominated for a long time by left-leaning bishops (think Cardinal Mahony or Cardinal McElroy) who enthusiastically talk about a "Church for the poor" while not so subtly demonizing the rich--the same rich they depend upon for all the perks they enjoy in their insulated lives as bishops.

Does caring for the poor automatically mean we must embrace the proven failures of socialism? Does caring for the poor automatically mean that we have to demonize the rich? Is there any balance between these two extremes? I can't help but think that Catholics (for lack of a better terminology) on the "left" and the "right" have both missed the mark for some time now.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Jerome - You needn't fret about joining the fray. A good discussion, even among folks who have disagreements, can be fruitful.

Taxes are not a "punishment" on the rich - or anyone. Taxes are the dues we pay to belong to the club. Taxes pay for national defense, for infrastructure, for safety (think FAA, FDA, OSHA, and a host of other agencies the work to keep our flying, food, work places, etc., safe.) Taxes also pay for public education, something every single person in the country benefits from, directly and indirectly, every day. No agency does anything perfectly, but that does not mean the work they do is worthy of defunding.

The rich who hoard, who have a disordered attachment to material possessions, should be denounced and condemned. That's the point of the Dives and Lazarus story. That's the point of the story of the rich young man who went away sad for his possessions were great. Many, many rich folks are, on the other hand, very generous. In my younger days I spent many hours in the Carnegie funded Savannah public library. Well-to-do members of every parish I have served have been most generous.

When a rich person hires poor people to work, it is not the "hiring" of the worker that benefits him, it is the work of the poor that increases his wealth. Third class passengers weren't locked behind gates when the Titanic was sinking - that a fantasy of the director. The first-class passengers were given priority at the lifeboats However, when a new public works project - a landfill, a road expansion, a public housing development - is proposed, you can bet that these will, in the vast majority of cases, NOT be placed near the neighborhoods of the wealthy.

Warren Buffet once noted the unfairness of the taxes system when he stated that he pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary. "The Buffett Rule is the basic principle that no household making over $1 million annually should pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families pay. Warren Buffett has famously stated that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, but as this report documents this situation is not
uncommon. This situation is the result of decades of the tax system being tilted in favor of high-income households at the expense of the middle class. Not only is this unfair, it can also be economically inefficient by providing opportunities for tax planning and distorting decisions."

As of 2012, the average tax rate paid by the wealthiest Americans had fallen to it's lowest level in 50 years. The wealthy make the rules, either as legislators or those who influence legislators. Is it any wonder that the rules benefit them?

TJM said...

Fr K Orwell trumpets that he votes for intrinsic evil!