Wherein Fr. Z rants

From time to time I say Mass in the Sabine Chapel with the webcam on and Skype fired up so that a friend of mine serving our country in various capacities in the Sudan can see and hear and respond to a Mass.  He tell me from time to time how the people live there.  I also have a friend who is a Bishop in the Sudan.  He used to tell me some pretty scary stories.

As I was rustling up some grub tonight, a stir-fry aggregate of red pepper, hot red pepper, shitake mushrooms, beef a little oyster sauce and rice,  I had on an episode of The West Wing… sometimes I turn to these episodes to keep my sense of repartee juicy and vital… in which CJ the CoS of the White House tries to negotiate an oil sanction against Sudan in order to make an impact on the ongoing genocide.  CJ puts together a juggling act between various countries including China.

Then I started thinking about the Holy Father’s trip to Prague and his reflections on faith and materialism and who they are as a people.

Given the fact that 6 October is the Mid Autumn Moon Harvest Festival Thing I …

"WHOA! Father! But Father!", you are no doubt saying.  "You would please get to the point?  What are you talking about?"

Yah… right.  I am ranting. 

Back to The West Wing…

This was the dialogue:

Chinese Ambassador: You know what I think about a lot? Capitalism vanquished Communism. Obliterated it. And here we are having a discussion where you are trying to restrict our markets.

CJ: We are trying to address a humanitarian situation in the Sudan.

Chinese Ambassador: Exactly. But you have always taught us that liberty is the same thing as Capitalism. As if life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot be crushed by greed. Your American dream is financial, not ethical.

CJ: This is a good deal for the Chinese. I hope you’ll consider it carefully.

Chinese Ambassador: Of course.

CJ: Thank you.

Chinese Ambassador: No, thank you. You have taught us well.

I don’t believe that the American Dream is financial, but not ethical. 

I don’t think financial and ethical have to be mutually exclusive.

But I do know that our great enemies in life, as individuals and societies, are the world, the flesh and the devil.

I think we have to reassess and correct our course constantly.

Thus endeth the rant.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. John Mary says:

    Rant on, Fr., rant on!
    We cannot succumb to the extreme “socialism” that is godless and against human dignity, and I fear is the course this Administration is going to take.
    And if you really want to rant, please turn to this:
    Don’t want you have indigestion, but this is, just…too..much!
    Jesus, mercy!

  2. Jack Hughes says:

    or you could read Fr Richard Mcbrien’s latest piece praising Cardinal O mally :)

  3. Curiously, some skew Catholic social teaching to try and convince us that it’s really saying that making money is never ethical. Nowhere does it say that. People making money should do so ethically and should have the good Christian sense to share it. Most people I know that make money are much better at sharing it than those of the a certain political persuasion who think everyone (whether they have extra $ or not) should be forced to share it.

    Perhaps, the same folks who automatically think everyone is too dumb to “get it” also automatically think everyone is too un-Christian to share?

  4. MargaretMN says:

    I am a fan of the Acton approach which seems to be to say that a free market system without moral actors leads to perverse outcomes. We are the people we are and we have the world that we choose to have, since God gave us free will. Adam Smith’s free market world assumed moral actors. The constitution (which describes liberty in its American form) actually did to a much lesser extent (see Federalist #10) but hoped to create the machinery in the form of institutions to offset various negative behaviors that could undermine the entire enterprise. And, no, liberty is not the same thing as capitalism. Capitalism needs liberty but as a creative-destructive force can also undermine it. The passions and the interests.

  5. We all need to remember that the best way to long-term financial success is through ethical conduct. If a business owner treats his employees very well, they produce more for him in the long run. If a business owner squeezes productivity from his people, he may realize a short term gain, but a long term loss. It seems to me one of our negatives currently is an emphasis on corporations returning strong short term gains. People don’t want to own stock for 40 years and reap the dividends over the years, they want a tech-stock that shoots up 350% in 90 days.

    I wonder if this is in some way a symptom of our instant gratification culture. We want a big payday now, consequences be damned. The sad thing is that if we all made choices based on ethics and value instead of fast profit, we would all be wealthier and less susceptible to the economic downturns.

    Maybe I’m idealistic but I like to think that if we do the right things, the financial rewards will come.

  6. MikeM says:

    Thank you, Father.

    I’m a student of Economics and International Relations and hope to some day make my mark on the world, however small a mark it may be. While I’d like to think that my moral compass is strong, it’s sometimes hard to keep in perspective that my pursuits need always be oriented towards God and respect for humanity. It’s all too easy to get lost in ideas about profit/GDP maximization and Realist ideas of projection of power, or even to get lost in the conservative/liberal debate, and to forget that the real goal is the well-being of people. Priority checks like this one do me immeasurable good.

  7. frobuaidhe says:

    It’s hard to find a literary niche in which to place the rant, nevertheless rants have their uses even if only to prompt us to think out in a more structured way the truths of what we really want to say.

  8. MQ says:

    Father, I haven’t the slightest idea what you are talking about [That makes two of us! At least, two of us.] but the picture here is worth a thousand words or tears, or maybe a thousand of both.


  9. MargaretMN says:

    I think Fr. Z’s image of “course correction” is particularly apt. Morality in politics or economics is not like setting yourself on “auto-pilot.” There are tests and decisions to be made and it is by making them that we exercise our humanity and conscience, the way God intended. And I am not as sanguine as you, Patrick, that doing good will always win out in the end. But we can only be responsible for what we can control and the flip side is that we are responsible for what we can control. If we run a moral company into bankruptcy and it ceases to exist and puts people out of work, aren’t we responsible for that result too? If we vote to extend generous benefits to the poor that we can’t maintain and which causes the economy to tank and brings many other negative effects to society, isn’t that also wrong?

  10. One of my favorite episodes.

  11. Allan S. says:

    Christianity cannot be circumscribed by useless labels like “conservative”, “liberal”, “right-wing” or “left wing.”

    I have never understood why most “liberals”, who pride themselves as defenders of individual rights, and protectors of the vulnerable from the powerful, support abortion rights. Likewise, I fail to understand why many “conservatives” oppose taxation in a seemingly knee-jerk way, as if our obligation to our fellow man ought not be expressed by a properly funded state.

    As you say Father, our enemies are the world, the flesh and the devil.

  12. Tewkes says:

    I was just meandering around the site, catching up… I wasn’t prepared for the impact of the photo attached to your rant. The air was forced out of my lungs, then I started to cry in humiliation and shame for my complacency, my whining, my lack of charity and my greed. I had been telling myself how hard life is since my husband and I have no income, I’m disabled, oh woe is me I have only food bank groceries. Ha! ***Only*** food bank groceries – thinking only of myself, my neighbor not even registering on my horizon since I am so full of myself.
    I just got a 2×4 to the back of my head from my guardian angel in the form of seeing that person starving. Please, everyone pray for me that I learn my lesson with gratitude and humility. Blessed be God forever.

  13. Luke says:

    It’s a difficult lesson, Tewkes, be patient with yourself. May God speed you and yours in your own desperate circumstance.

  14. pattif says:

    Allan S – Let me try to explain. It is right and proper that each should contribute his fair share to the running of the state (‘render unto Caesar…’), but it is no part of the proper role of the state to usurp the duty of the individual to care for his neighbour. By way of illustration, would anyone remember the Good Samaritan if he had carried on to the inn and then telephoned Jericho Social Services to ask them what they were going to do about the mugging victim?

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