Catholic Democrats and Economics

Over the break I read a letter to the editor in our town's local paper, the Webster/Kirkwood Times, by a woman named Patricia Flynn who was disgusted with her alma mater's decision to host an event with Glenn Beck. Here is a portion of it:

Many residents living in Kirkwood, Webster, Glendale, and Oakland have graduated from the Jesuit institution, St. Louis University. I did in 1973. I was taught to value justice. I was taught love of my neighbor no matter the color of their skin. The Jesuits taught me to stand up for doing the right thing while living in a society that often ignores the underprivileged. I was taught that poor people, who may not have the benefit of my Catholic education, were equal to me in the eyes of God and deserved to be treated fairly in a society that often caters to the wealthy.

She goes to express shock that the same university who taught her tolerance and love of mankind invited Glenn Beck to speak. According to Ms. Flynn, Beck spews distrust of our leaders and makes a mockery of women -- among other things. But don't ask her for proof: The standard retort would no doubt be, "No, I would never watch his show!" Which of course begs the question: Then how do you know what he believes?

More to the point, however, is that Ms. Flynn's Catholic tutelage has gotten in the way of her politics. Catholics have a great handle on faith (in my opinion), but they're hopelessly lost when it comes to politics. Catholics are split down the middle in terms of which way they lean, but Catholic Democrats are big in my town. Here's the problem with Catholic Democrats:

Catholics are very attentive to the poor -- which is a wonderful thing. Indeed, Catholic churches truly put their money where their mouth is when it comes to taking care of the needy. The problem is that many Catholics cannot rectify their desire to help the poor on a tangible level with the kind of politics that's required to help the poor on a bureaucratic level. In other words, doing things to help the poor at the local level always works; but the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor at the government level does not do anything to help the poor. Nor is it fair to the rest of the population who worked hard for their money, only to have someone take it away from them.

People who truly don't understand economics -- which is to say, liberals -- always want to throw more money at something because they vote with their heart rather than their head. Giving money away makes them feel like they've done something good. But just throwing money at something rarely produces results.

For example, my family and I adopt a family every Christmas. We choose one from a list of hundreds of families and rather than dropping the goods off somewhere, we hand deliver the gifts to the family -- which is always in a "bad" area of town. The difference with this kind of giving is that it's not in the form of cash, so you never wonder whether the money is being squandered. Also, you're handing it directly to the people you want to help. This is a far cry from a bureaucratic system that stockpiles money from its citizens and then "throws it out there" to get lost in the shuffle.

The kinds of values Ms. Flynn talks about having learned in her young life -- "justice," "love of neighbor," "doing the right thing" -- are Christian values. No doubt Ms. Flynn would be surprised to learn Beck shares her same values. What distinguishes Ms. Flynn from Beck isn't compassion, as she believes. It's that Ms. Flynn was taught that America "often ignores the underprivileged and caters to the wealthy." This is a misguided view of America. In fact we are a country known for taking care of its citizens (not that there aren't flaws, of course). There will always be poor people; no amount of giving can change this fact.

And as far as politics go, it has been documented (see Who Really Cares, by Arthur Brooks) that conservatives -- not Democrats -- are the more compassionate when it comes to their time and money. Imagine.

If Ms. Flynn wasn't taught that America is an unfair country that "caters to the wealthy," she would be able to look past Glenn Beck's personality style and hear the substance of his arguments. You don't have to like him to understand that his political philosophy -- conservatism -- is more in keeping with genuine compassion than modern liberalism.

5 Responses to “Catholic Democrats and Economics”:

  1. shevrae says:

    Just as an anecdote of this sort of thinking, I have a friend who was raised about as conservative Christian as they come. Now, however, she is steeped completely in the academic, intellectual world. She wants universal health care, more and more money for "social programs", you name it - she's probably on the bandwagon. It's because there are so many poor people, you see, and what kind of society protects a rich man's money when there are so many in need?

    But if you can get her alone, in a non-threatening situation, she admits that on a day to day basis, her family members (still as conservative as they come) actually DO a lot more for those around them. She will admit, "We (referring to her and her colleagues) TALK about helping the poor all the time, but we never do anything. We live in our heads." I was pretty surprised that she would admit it so openly - maybe she's feeling a little guilty.

    My point being, that if all the talking heads got out of their heads and actually helped someone, there may be a lot less need for all those government programs in the first place.

  2. If they wish to throw money to lost causes let the money be only their money thrown. Might just change their ideas as what works. Just my 02 worth.

    Free American's are the most generious.

    See Ya

  3. joanne says:

    What a timely post for me. I was raised as as Catholic Democrat, but am now a Catholic conervative. While spending the day with my parents yesterday,I mentioned the book the 5000 year leap , which I am currently reading. My Dad completely agreed with the book's premise that the freedom ( and in turn capitalism) this country founded changed the world( well he didn't say capitalism but what else can you call it ). Then not 5 minutes later talked about how evil the rich are and how they only think of themselves etc.

    Catholic Democrats do seem to view wealth as sinful.

  4. Terro says:

    A libertarian friend of mine who was schooled by Jesuits would point out that during the period Patricia Flynn was at university, the Jesuit order was heavily under the spell of Marxist-influenced "liberation" theology that teaches salvation is absolute social justice or liberation from oppression (racial, social, economic or political). As with most things Marxist, the real world is crudely caricatured to meet the proponent's purpose.

    And Mrs. Flynn was, apparently, taught to love her neighbor without regard to skin color, but not opinion.

  5. Jesuits take a vow of poverty, which when you think about really is not real. Basically the theory is communal living. And they, for the most, depend on others to donate money to them for their survival. Jesuits live a simple life but I would not call it poverty. They travel, they have access to a car etc.

    None of this is to say that I dislike Jesuits. In fact, I have great respect for them. They taught how to be a Catholic. I attended a Jesuit High School.

    Ms. Flynn, in my opinion, has not done the true examination of her own beliefs. She blankly accepts what the Jesuits tell her without doing her own homework. For instance I recall seeing a film in high school about how evil American companies are in other countries. How there are no regulations that keep the companies in check in regards to how people and the land are treated.

    Yet if you look into it more, those employees, if you will, are not complaining because the companies actually provide jobs and income that would not be there had the company not established a plant in that region. Without the company, those people would be much worse off. I did not figure this out until I reached college. But mind you it was not the college that taught me this. I learned this from a foreign student.