Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

Order 'Evolution for the Catholic Student' - Click on the image above

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Veto of Arizona's SB 1062

The Veto of Arizona’s SB 1062

Yesterday, the governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, vetoed SB 1062, a bill which would have allowed business owners to deny services to people based on their own deeply held religious convictions.  The bill sparked passionate reaction on both sides.

Proponents of the bill said that it is necessary to protect religious liberty, while opponents said it would have enshrined prejudice against homosexual people in law.  Republicans across the country, of course, were terrified of the bill, and urging a veto.  Many organizations were vocal in opposition, including some loud groups whose favorite political tactic is intimidation.  However, a bill of this magnitude should not be weighed by political calculations, but rather by moral ones.

I haven’t looked closely enough at how the bill is written to know whether it warranted a signature or a veto, but it seems to me that the underlying issue at hand is really not all that complicated.

The Church consistently teaches the dignity of every human person (regardless of sexual practice), and opposes unjust discrimination.  However, it also teaches that homosexual behavior is objectively sinful, and that there is no such thing as gay “marriage.”  Any proper understanding of religious liberty should free people from having to participate in or support activity they find morally objectionable.

Therefore, given our current climate, there is definitely a need for a law that protects people from providing goods and services that support or promote such activity, such as a wedding photographer being forced to work at a same-sex “wedding.” 

However, a person is not defined by his sexual identity, and it seems to me that discrimination that has no bearing on that activity should not be permitted.

Now, one of the most difficult things to do is to take politicians at their word.  Many are corrupt and easily bought.  Even many ethical politicians see lying, or at least “spin,” as a necessary tool of the trade.  However, though I do not live in Arizona and scrutinize Governor Brewer, she has not given me reason to doubt her sincerity.  So it is with every benefit of the doubt that I examine some of what she said upon announcing her veto.

There were two comments that particularly struck me.  (Others, of course, are relevant, as well, from a political and legal standpoint, and have been analyzed by others.)  The first comment of which I took note was her statement that the bill was too broadly written.  That very well may be true.  If so, it should be rewritten and passed again, with improvements.  I would have liked to see Ms. Brewer call for that.

The second statement was troubling.  Ms. Brewer seemed to imply that the protections in the bill are not necessary.  That sentiment is ludicrous.  Given our current climate, nothing is more necessary at this time, in every state.  The red herring of “gay rights” is a powerful tool being used to persecute Christians (and many others) all over the Western world.  Doubtless, there are many who see it as the key to destroying the Church.  They will never do that, but people willing to stand up for truth had better be ready to suffer for it.

On a human level, what happened yesterday is likely to scare most politicians.  But I pray that there are some heroic leaders out there who will see the grave necessity of a bill similar to SB 1062.  It needs to be written properly, respecting each person’s dignity, but it needs to be passed now, everywhere.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Simple Phone Call

A Simple Phone Call

It’s that time of year – when people are blindsided by pornography in the grocery store aisle, in the form of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.  Anyone who receives the magazine, by the way, can opt out of receiving the Swimsuit Edition and have their subscription extended by two issues.

This morning I went to the grocery store and saw, in the middle of the main aisle, a stand-alone display of the issue, whose cover can not be called anything but pornography.  I was actually shocked when I came upon it.  I figured I’d at least turn the front issues around backwards, but the back cover was just as bad. 

When I got home, I called the store and spoke to the manager.  I told him that it was bad enough I had to unwillingly see the cover, but as a father of four boys, I wouldn’t be able to bring my family back to the store.  His response both surprised and encouraged me.

He thanked me for calling and told me that the store is contractually obligated to provide the display.  However, once they receive a complaint, they are freed from that responsibility and permitted to put the magazine in a more inconspicuous place, with the cover….covered.  He promised to take care of it as soon as we got off the phone.

This may not be news to many people, but I found it enlightening.  How many store managers need only one phone call to clean up their stores?  Even if they don’t personally agree, as the one I spoke with seemed to, they know that no one will avoid a grocery store for not displaying the such things, but once they realize there are people who will when they do, no reasonable businessman would take the chance.

This is a great opportunity.  With one phone call, we can win back some dignity for the women in the magazine; we can protect the men who struggle with pornography, not to mention our own kids; and we can win one small victory over the devil for whom things like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition can be a powerful weapon.   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Go For the Knockout

Go for the Knockout

It’s said that you shouldn’t kick a man when he’s down.  That’s good, Christian advice.  But anyone who’s ever seen a prize fight also knows that when a fighter has his opponent weak and on the ropes, he goes for the knockout.

We, as people of God, are in one heck of a fight, and at least one of our adversaries is on the ropes.  We need to go for the knockout.

I’m talking about the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare.  There are many reasons for Catholics to oppose this law.  First, and most obviously, by funding abortion and forcing Christians to violate their consciences by participating in objectionable activities, the law can be defined as objectionably evil.

There are other problems with it, as well.  Its movement toward government-run health care is a dangerous trend and violates the social justice principle of subsidiarity.  The establishment of death panels, only a glimpse of what’s to come, I believe, makes little account of the dignity of every human person.  And as the law has begun to take effect, many of the problems that opponents predicted are coming to bear.

The law is on the ropes.  Just last week we saw another delay in the implementation of a key part.  Perhaps this was a prudent act to improve its implementation.  But certainly Democrats are excited that much of the pain to come won’t hit until after the upcoming election.

The stated goal of providing health insurance and quality care for everyone is a laudable one.  The problem is that Obamacare is not the way to get there.  Unfortunately, there have been many alternate proposals in recent years, none of which have been given proper consideration in Washington, or coverage by the media.

As the election season comes upon us, however, it is time to make our move, to go for the knockout.  Obamacare remains as unpopular as ever.  We must actively promote alternate ideas, and support candidates willing to repeal Obamacare.

As Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and others fight in court for our religious freedoms, we need to support groups like the Thomas More Society and the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty.

We need to get educated, write letters, call talk shows, canvas neighborhoods, and put our money where our mouth is, as we are able.  Another key element is working to ensure the integrity of our elections, which has been rightly called into question.  It is important that we contact our Secretary of State, for whichever state in which we live, and demand that the nonsense of 2012 is not repeated.  We can support project veritas, which is on the ground seeking legitimate election results.

And most of all, we must do everything with Christian charity.  We are not driven by a desire simply to repeal Obamacare, but to replace it, with a truly moral, compassionate solution that respects religious liberty and the right to life, provides quality health care services and coverage to all people without consideration of their “worth,” and that is implementable.  It is quite a job, but if we “work as though all depends on us and pray as though all depends on God,” we can have good reason for hope.   

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Distributism in Modern Economics

Distributism in Modern Economics
The past week, on this blog, I have explored the economic philosophy known as Distributism, specifically through the principles of Father Vincent McNabb. 

There are many economic perils in our world: poverty, injustice, lack of economic freedom, the impersonal and sterile nature some work can take on.  And, of course, there are many approaches at solving them.  We tend to fall into two camps: small government, free market enthusiasts; or big government, high regulation enthusiasts.

The Distributist speaks a very different language than these two groups, but he can often be easily dismissed by both.  He can be seen as overly romantic, nostalgic for a bygone era, and utterly impractical.  However, there is still much that Distributism can add to our modern economic conversation.

At this point I must remind people that I am far from an expert in this subject.  In fact, this post can be taken as nothing more than my thinking out loud.  Anyone whose interest is piqued would do well to seek out more learned sources.

However, it seems to me that the essence of Distributism is ownership.  It is based on recognizing the value of the widespread ownership of productive property. 

We often lament the widespread economic dependence of modern man.  Applying Distributist principles to modern economics would mean creating an environment friendly to small businesses and supportive of small farmers.  Mass production is often seen as necessary to sustain the world’s population, but often it only sustains a wasteful, consumer mentality.

As Catholics we are called to shun avarice.  Thrift is a virtue, though society scorns it.  Perhaps the widespread economic downturn of recent years will inspire people to examine our spending and consumption habits. 

We must take a spiritual approach to our work.  Certainly that can be done with any work, but work in which we produce something of real value, and in which we are personally invested in the big picture, is often the most satisfying.  For example, a craftsman is more invested in his work (emotionally and spiritually) than a worker on an assembly line

There are also interesting business models in which workers in a company also have an ownership stake.  Creative business people have realized that when a worker has “skin in the game,” it is easier to get an honest day’s work out of him.

All of these things would be celebrated by Distributists.  If some of these principles take hold in our collective values – ownership, thrift, the spiritual value of work, self-sufficiency – perhaps they can begin to shape government policy, personal habits, and even our spirituality.

Friday, February 14, 2014

An Economic Creed

An Economic Creed

This week I have shared some of Father Vincent McNabb’s economic principles, often celebrated by Distributists.  However, Fr. McNabb was not concerned about economics for its own sake.  He lived in a time when industrialization, mechanization, and urbanization were taking people, especially men, away from the home and family.  Work was becoming sterile.  Self-sufficient families were sometimes turning into wage-slaves.  As a priest, Father McNabb’s primary concern was for the spiritual.  The following is his economic “creed”:

1. I believe that human life, being a divine life, is not adequately paid by any human dividend, but only by a divine wage.

2. I believe that “the desire of money is the root of all evil” in our economic world.

3. I believe that a life organized for moneymaking is the error of taking “gain to be godliness.”

4. I believe that money values are false values: as money weights are false weights.

5. I believe that mass production on the land is not for the sake of the land, but for the sake of money.

6. I believe that what is called moneymaking is not wealth-making, but money-getting.

7. I believe that the growing of one commodity, such as fruit or flowers, finally impoverishes the country by making it the servant of the town; whereas the town should be the servant of the country.

8. I believe the salvation of our over-industrialized England must come from the land, but it cannot come from industrializing the land.

9. I believe that the business methods which have brought our towns to bankruptcy would bring our country to bankruptcy.

10. Finally, I believe that by organizing our land-work for a market, and not for home and homestead consumption, inevitably puts the landworker at the mercy of the market and the transport service which carries the market.

11. I believe in God, the pattern or the Mount, who has challenged us by a life and death given the service of mankind.

12. I believe that to service God by serving man is not to be a slave, but a king.

“Servire Deo Regnare Est.” God’s Service is Kingship!

Originally appeared in G.K. Chesterton’s Weekly.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fr. McNabb's Principles, 9-12

The Principles of Fr. McNabb, 9-12


9)      As Political Economy is the child of Domestic Economy, all laws that weaken the Home weaken the nation.


10)    The Family, not the Individual, is the unit of the nation. 


11)    There are only Things and Tokens.  The world-wide economic crisis, if it exists, is a dearth of things, not of tokens.


12)    Now a dearth of things cannot be met by the creation or redistribution of tokens.  A dearth of things can be met only by a creation or redistribution of things.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Principles of Fr. McNabb, 5-8

The Principles of Fr. McNabb, 5-8


5)      “Big” farming is mass production applied to the land.  Agricultural mass production is based on the Market, depends on Transport and, together with these, is controlled by Finance.


6)      A man’s state is not measured by his wealth; but a man’s wealth is measured by his state.  Hence, as state is social position based on social service, it follows that a man’s wealth is measured by his social service.


7)      The Divine Right of Property means, not that some men shall have all property, but that all men shall have some property.


8)      The natural defense of Freedom is the Home; and the natural defense of the Home is the Homestead. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Principles of Fr. McNabb, 1-4

The Principles of Father McNabb, 1-4

Father Vincent McNabb, O.P., is often considered one of the fathers of the English Distributist movement of the first half of the last century, though he did not consider himself a Distributist.  He often spoke at Distributist League meetings, but, being a priest, and not a politician or economist, he did not like labels, but instead focused on principles.

He laid out 12 particular principles I’d like to share over the next few days.  As each is worthy of reflection, I do not want to present more than four a day.  It requires a sufficient familiarity of Distributism to understand Fr. McNabb’s often very challenging points.  My hope is that they will inspire curiosity and further study.


1)    The “flesh pots of Egypt,” which must be given up, are to be left not for the milk and honey of Palestine but that “the people may go and worship God.” (Exodus 5:1)

2)    To cease to live in the town while continuing to live on the town may be serving Mammon rather than God; indeed may be serving Mammon under the guise of serving God.

3)    The area of production should be as far as possible coterminous with the area of consumption.  The utilitarians were wrong in saying “things should be produced where they can be most economically produced.”  The true principle is: things should be produced where they can most economically be consumed.

4)    Farmers should farm primarily for self-support.  They should sell as little and buy as little as possible.


Clearly, some of these principles would seem impractical in 2014.  They have to be understood in the context of a wider vision.  But they are certainly worthy of reflection.  And it is worth asking what value they can add to our often cold and impersonal economies.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Distributism - A Third Way

Distributism – A Third Way

About 100 years ago, some of the greatest Catholic minds – G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and others – were espousing an economic system known as Distributism.  Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to explore some of the principles of Distributism, and what practical contributions it may have to make to modern economics.

What is Distributism?  Simply put, it is a system in which there is wide distribution of productive property.  In a Capitalist society, the means of production, capital, is generally held by a relatively few number of capitalists, while most people work as laborers for a paycheck.  In a Socialist system, of course, the means of production are even more concentrated, in the hands of the government.  Capitalist societies are generally characterized by political freedom, whereas Socialist societies are not.

In a Distributist society, however, the means of production would be in the hands of many.  Most people would be self-sufficient.  It would be characterized by an overwhelming number of homesteads and small businesses.  Wealth would be measured by real goods rather than by tokens (paper money).  And the economy would be characterized by “economy” – thrift – not over-consumption and waste.  It is also a society with political freedom.

With almost all of the modern world vacillating between socialism and hyper-capitalism, a Distributist society is almost unimaginable, though it characterized much of the Western world for centuries.  But is it even practical today? 

Many believe the principles of Distributism still have much to offer to 21st century economies.  Over the next few days, I would like to consider some of the fundamental principles (many of which will sound very challenging) and explore Distributism’s practical relevance.

Note:  I am quite inadequate to do this topic justice.  The most I intend to do is pique interest.  For a more thorough and intelligent treatment of Distributism, I recommend Hilaire Belloc’s The Servile State, or more recently, Beyond Capitalism and Socialism, a series of essays on Distributism compiled by Tobias Lanz.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

True Extremism

True Extremism

"Who are they? Are they these extreme abolitionists, who are anti-slavery, and favor the equal rights for all people? Is that who they are? Because if that is who they are, they have no place in this state.” – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Okay, so that’s not exactly what Mr. Cuomo said, although it seems 150 years ago, it might have been. Because 150 years ago, the fundamental human rights issue in the United States was the end of slavery and the equal protection under the law of all people, regardless of color.  Today, it is the end to abortion and the right to life of all people, regardless of age or “desirability.”

And yet, the comment above was, in fact, launched by Mr. Cuomo against those of us who are right-to-life.  My purpose is not to attack Mr. Cuomo.  He is a politician, and he is playing politics as he prepares for a reelection bid.  It is sad, but it is not abnormal.  (And to be fair, he did backpedal a little, and "clarify".)  I will simply pray for him and leave it at that.

However, the sickening thing about this episode is what can, in the public square, be considered extremism.  Those who believe in the dignity of every human life, who believe the most innocent among us should have the right to be born, can be told there is no place for us in one of these United States?  Politics or not, the governor’s words are one of the most blatant examples of extremism I can remember, and that’s saying something.  But I doubt anyone wants to put money up against his being reelected.

I started this article with the quote I did because it is a quote that could plausibly have been made 150 years ago.  Today we would see it for what it is.  May the day soon come when Mr. Cuomo’s comments would be seen by all for what they really are.  And may his heart be converted.  There are no saints (save one) who are not repentant sinners.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Life on the Rock

Life on the Rock

The video below is a Life on the Rock episode featuring Kathy DiFiore, the inspiration for the film Gimme Shelter, and one of the women from her shelters.  It is long, but worth a watch.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Movie Review - 'Gimme Shelter'

Movie Review – ‘Gimme Shelter’

Gimme Shelter is based on the true story of Apple Bailey, a girl who grew up with a drug-addicted mother, a father she never knew, and in and out of foster homes.  At the age of 16, Apple finds herself pregnant and the victim of abuse, and decides to run away from her mother’s destructive lifestyle.

She seeks out the father she has never known, Tom, a Wall Street millionaire with a wife and two small children.  Tom’s wife is not pleased with having Apple in their home.  After Apple’s pregnancy is confirmed with an ultrasound, she is given an ultimatum: abort the baby or leave.

As Tom’s wife takes Apple to the clinic, she can’t take the eyes off her baby’s tiny form in the ultrasound picture.  Apple, who never wanted an abortion in the first place, runs off.  After a car accident she finds herself in a hospital, where an old priest, Father McCarthy, takes an interest in helping her.

Through God’s Grace, and the help of Father McCarthy, Apple finds herself at the shelter for teen mothers opened by Kathy DiFiore.  Here, for the first time, she finds support and a true family.

Gimme Shelter tells the true story of the shelter started by DiFiore who, in service to the Lord, opened her home and her heart to countless at-risk women and their babies.  During the credits, viewers are introduced to the real-life Apple Bailey and Kathy DiFiore.

The film is not suitable for children due to the mature subject matter and the lack of a message on sexual morality.  Of course, that’s not the theme of this film.  It is powerfully pro-life, and brings to light many issues that are so prevalent with women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies.

Surveys show again and again that most young women who have abortions say they would have chosen life if they had found just one person to support them in that decision.  More often, they are faced with pressure to abort, either from parents or boyfriends, as Apple received from her father.  (Her father, though, seems to have a bit of a conversion once he falls in love with Apple’s baby).

Many young girls make heroically courageous choices to give life to their babies and need someone to respect their dignity and offer them hope.

The film also clearly shows what data consistently prove: women who have ultrasounds – hear their baby’s heartbeat and see its pictures – are overwhelmingly more likely to choose life.  This is likely why some pro-abortion groups try to force crisis pregnancy clinics to obtain medical certification to perform an ultrasound procedure, while their own clinics, which perform surgery, are often immune.  It is also why groups like the Knights of Columbus have ultrasound initiatives that pay for the machines.

Gimme Shelter is a powerful film that defends the dignity of young women who are scared and pressured, but determined to fight for the lives of their children.  It also promotes the dignity of the unborn child, whose value is no less than yours or mine.  Finally, it highlights the important work of crisis pregnancy centers and shelters for unwed mothers.  Hopefully it will inspire changes of heart and an awareness of our need to support these wonderful institutions and the young women they serve.