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A Poor Prince?

Born rich. Friend of the poor.

 

Another very interesting blog post from Father Ray Blake concerning, among other things, a poorer Church.

Whilst this is not the only interesting point Father makes, I would like here to write some reflections on this issue.

It seems to me that particularly after V II poverty has been vastly overrated, if not almost deified. Reading about the Church of the past I never got the impression that the Church feels the need to be poor, or that there be any particular grace in being poor. True, God's providence works with everything, and poverty can be an excellent way to grow in holiness; but in others, poverty will lead to degradation or outright revolt against God, so again there is no indication poverty is a blessing in itself.

Padre Pio did not treat his rich followers differently than the poor ones, nor did he consider them second-class followers. In all ages, pious people have used their riches to give us the massive monuments to Christianity that we find all over the Christian world. Even today, in many countries, an awful amount of the expenses of the Church is actually paid by the rich (I wish I remembered where I read here in the UK donations from wealthy individuals make 40% of the total income). Whilst everything can be a vehicle of God's grace, and God may use poverty and financial misfortune as a medicinal remedy, or even as a special sign of affection for those He loves – and whom He will allow to get, through their poverty, nearer to him – I don't think it can be said that poverty is desirable in itself. If it were so, Catholics would not seek to alleviate poverty, but would rather limit themselves to congratulate the poor for the blessing so copiously showered upon them from God; and the more starving, the better.

In fact, we see that the contrary happens: the poor is given the chance to grow in holiness through patience, perseverance in prayer, lack of envy for the rich, gratefulness for their help and useful activity to better his situation if he can; and the rich can grow in charity by helping the poor, using God's grace ad maiorem Dei gloriam, and grow in charity avoiding the sin of pride, loving the poor and the afflicted, and understanding wealth is, like every other grace, given to one so that he makes good use of it.

This is not the narrative I see too often around me, and which rather states the childish equivalence “poor, good” and “rich, bad”. In this I see the sin of envy that causes socialism, communism, and liberation theology, and that this envy is covered under a blanket of supposed pious feelings makes it the more odious.

I make a point of saying a prayer for every obviously rich man I see on the streets of Central London – you see a lot of Ferraris, and the like – in the same way as I pray for every one I see on a wheelchair or with an obvious disability; not because I think that the rich is more in need of prayers than I am, but because it helps me to understand that God's providence works in the rich and the poor alike, and I do not need to be despondent, much less envious, because others have infinitely more earthly goods than I have.

I know, the one or other can take some saint out of context and let him state that rich people go to hell, & Co;, but these generally colourful encouragements to embrace one's condition or use one's wealth properly can never be used to go against the univocal Church teaching on wealth, about which I have written in the past (the search function is your friend).

The mentality that wealth is “bad” unavoidably leads to the other mistake that the Church and Her components must, consequently, be poor. Again, it is not known to me this is the way the Church traditionally saw itself. Rome alone has several thousands churches all telling a different tale. Granted, it can be part of the rules of a religious order that its members be poor, but such rules do not extend to the order itself, nor to parish priests, much less to the Church as institution.

If you ask me, the Church must not only be rich, but she must be splendid. She must have beauty and splendour to honour God, and the financial muscle to intimidate her enemies; her priests and bishops should be always ready to suffer persecution and death for Christ, but they should also live, whenever possible, in a way at least proportionate to the dignity of their office; if they have special powers and responsibilities, their outward appearance, residence, transport and general way of life should reflect their special role.

Modern bishops don't want to live in palaces, but they would also not be able to justify, with their Christian zeal, their living there. Their modesty is the modesty of the mediocre, and their simplicity the somplicity of the philistine who doesn't know beauty, and therefore thinks doing without it is no big deal; it's the modesty of the one who refuses the fine wine, because his horizon does not go beyond Pepsi. Many agree with such bishops, and with the Pepsi mentality.

Of course such people don't understand why the Church should be rich and splendid and powerful: they would want the Church to be as mediocre and little as they are. Of course they want the bishop to drive a Ford Focus and live in an apartment: they would be envious if he had a Mercedes S-Class and lived in a palace. Of course they want the Church to “sell her treasures”: they will never understand their beauty.

There is nothing wrong with a Prince of the Church living in a palace, provided he is a true Prince of the Church. Princes are not called to be poor. But they are called to be true Princes of the Only Church, rather than caricatures of social workers desperate for approval.

Give me a strong Bishop, truly committed to Christ, truly ready to fight the fight. I will, with many others, make some sacrifices so that he can have the palace and the S-Class Mercedes, the cooks and the servants, the glory and the splendour of the Only Church.

Mundabor

 

How Envy Became Socially Acceptable

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “Envy”

There was a time when Envy was considered a sin.

Not a sin whatsoever, but one of the Capital Sins, that is, something serious and requiring the faithful to be alert against it, because it can become a path to damnation.

This was in the past, when priests told one to think of the kingdom to come and insisted on the Beatitudes, and wise people knew that this earthly journey is both too short to ruin it with envy, and too important to run the risk of compromising what comes afterwards.

Then, it changed. Starting from the Sixties, Christianity became less and less “Christian” and more and more “social”. Some Protestants drove this to the extreme, and nowadays the Archbishop of Canterbury will  make extraordinary efforts to be only heard on social issues – unless, of course, he talks about the sin of not being “social” enough -.

Not that Catholics are entirely innocent, though. The so-called “Liberation Theology” made a mess of things for many years amidst the spectacular inaction of Paul VI, and even John Paul II slept rather soundly for some five years before finally mowing down the heresy. After Liberation Theology was gone, vague traces of its devastating message remained, more or less masked, in the daily living of many priests and religious, and are present to this day. I can vividly remember the Jesuit coming  to the Oratory and asking for money by means of a savage anti-Capitalist rant. Not a penny from me, since you asked.

In fact, through our entire societal fabric envy has become socially accepted. What was once the preserve of the Socialists and the Commies has now become the favourite pastime of all those who, not having an alternative system to propose, have nothing better to do than to criticise the present one. They are “against Capitalism”, but what they are for once the rhetoric is removed remains an enigma.

Other – several priests among them, in my experience – take refuge in a fantasy world; a world in which everything goes as it is supposed to, the cat says hello to the dog and the entire planet is magically recycled into something that, very probably, doesn’t even need Christianity anymore. This is a dangerous fantasy, an escape from reality that doesn’t solve any problem, but creates new ones. First of all, envy.

Let us reflect for a moment on the world our, say, grand-grandparents lived in. Inequalities were, by any conceivable standards, far more pronounced than they are today. Being born outside of the middle-class would severely – if not irremediably – curtail one’s chances of getting to white-collar respectability. Once you were born, most of your choices were already made for you and whilst the one or other always managed to escape the constraints of birth – it is today conveniently forgotten that, say, the Victorian era was an age of was wider social mobility than it is generally accepted – it is unquestionable that the chances were much more unequally distributed, and the ticket drawn at birth a much more important one.

I wonder how people dealt with envy, then. I think they did in the Christian way. They knew that in the end, their passing few decades had their main value in the opportunity to attain eternal life; that it is therefore not necessarily a tragedy, but perhaps even a blessing that one is born, or must live, in a way teaching him patience, perseverance, humility; that the one really in trouble is not the poor laborer, but the arrogant plantation owner, and not the humble miner, but the spoiled and unfeeling daughter of the mine’s owner.

They knew these things, our grand-grandparents. They knew all this, because they were Christians. They weren’t interested in making of this world a paradise, and were under no illusion that the cat would magically start to say hello to the dog. Most of all, they knew about the power of envy, and had the means to defend themselves against it.

Fast forward to the beginning of the XXI Century, when every religious wants to be a politician. Targeting the rich is fair game, even if the rich – let us not forget this, unpleasant as it is – pay a disproportionate amount toward the functioning of the modern societies whilst a bigger and bigger part of the population pays, actually, nothing at all. Who do you think will be screaming “What Would Jesus Do”? And who do you think will be their favourite target? How Christian it is, to want to take away property? How Christian it is to even talk of “redistribution of wealth”, as if private wealth were something intrinsically available for compulsory redistribution?

I must say that unfortunately, too many among the Church’s rank continue to fuel this creeping, all-pervasive envy tinged with socialism – but in the end the fruit of envy, as socialism itself – . Social slogans bring them easy popularity points, which they desperately need because they have persuaded themselves that they need to be popular. They have, themselves, forgotten Christ, who never pleaded for socialised social security, or for the welfare state, but for the charitable bond between rich and poor, allowing the rich to get to heaven by clothing the poor, and the poor to get to heaven by exercising the virtues mentioned above.

This is no more. The poor think that they have rights on the wealth of the rich, and that it be Christian to expropriate them of their own.When the beatitudes are mentioned, it is generally to make some pacifist propaganda. Mala tempora currunt

If one would find a slogan for the years of the early XXI century one could find the reverse of Gordon Gekko’s one:

Envy is good.

Mundabor

The Utterly Surprising Jesuit: James V Schall On Redistribution

James V Schall

This man – apparently rather well-known; my bad for ignoring his existence, I suppose – is so endowed with common sense and strict reasoning, that I couldn’t believe that he is a Jesuit. I can easily imagine that he will feel very much in the minority among his confreres. Be it as it may, Fr James V Schall has written such a good piece on redistributing wealth, that yours truly couldn’t resist the temptation to spread the sanity.

The arguments are not new, and in fact by reading classics of factual information and common sense like the excellent “The Sceptical Environmentalist” (written, mind you, by a leftist homosexual activist, not yours truly’s favourite kind) one would be perfectly informed about pretty much every one of them. What is notable here is that these arguments are expressed in such a beautiful, pithy way and that they come from, of all people, a Jesuit. Every day a new lesson…

Enjoy some of the most brilliant quotes I have chosen, but I encourage you to enjoy this very short article in full.

Mundabor

Because someone is rich, it does not follow that he is therefore greedy. A poor man is free to be both greedy and envious.

The primary causes of wealth production are brains, effort, and virtue.

At first sight, the oft-repeated lament that the world’s goods need to be “redistributed” for the benefit of the poor seems logical. Usually behind this apparently innocent approach is the idea of the limitation of the world’s “goods.”

Ecology is potentially the best thing ever to have happened to socialism and absolutism, as their advocates realize.

Do we worry about the oil supply for the good folks, if there be any, in AD 4678? in AD 7842? in AD 11369?

America was said to be overcrowded when Columbus discovered it

Suppose, when oil or coal were first discovered that they were defined by some early save-the-earth politician.

If we really want to help the poor to become not poor, the first thing we must do is stop talking of “redistribution,” which is, at bottom, a branch of envy theory. We have to look elsewhere, at innovation, thrift, incentive, proportionate justice, virtue, markets, culture, and growth.

If we really are concerned with the poor, talk of “redistribution” is not worthy of us.

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