Thursday, September 6, 2012


   VISION TO REALITY, (continued)

   The 21st century Catholic is a spiritually mature, whole person (1) who looks for the whole picture and lives and acts in the whole world.  Vatican II changed the church from a European-based church that focused on devotions, novenas, Benediction, etc., to a world-wide church that focuses on prayerfully discerned, prophetic activity in the everyday world.  In sum, the "in-house," devotional faith has given way to a faith of active social justice that is intended to change hearts and transform the world in the grace of Christ.

   Today's Catholics, therefore, must have a wholistic world view.  It is necessary to, "act locally, think globally," in order to infuse today's social, economic, political and environmental activities with the wholeness of humanity and grace that they desperately need.  The butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon does influence the weather in Chicago tomorrow.  Giving food to a hungry person, or paying a just wage, or just taxes, sends waves of grace far beyond that single activity.

   Of course, we realize that we don't live in a Utopia.  Giving twenty dollars to a beggar is wonderful, but it does not in itself solve the problem of poverty.  Yet, some Catholics believe that personal and private charity can relieve the burden of poverty from society without the government getting involved.  They don't know, for example, that Catholic Charities receives over 50% of its budget from the government.  

   Unhappily, a prominent fellow-Catholic is presenting an economic policy for America that appears to show this restricted world-view.  Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan says, for example, that the job of issuing food stamps to the poor should be taken from the federal government and given to the states, and that seniors should pay a larger part of their health insurance.  In general, he would want all people to ultimately take care of themselves.  That sounds fine in the abstract.  But does it work in practice?

   My point is not partisan but spiritual.  Ryan justifies his policy by saying that it is in accord with the principles of Catholic social justice, particularly the principle of Subsidiarity.  Subsidiarity says that economic concerns should be taken care of at the lowest capable level of society--all the way down to the individual and family.  But there is another principle that is just as important as Subsidiarity.  That principle is Solidarity.

   Solidarity says that there must be a realistic way for the entire society to be taken care of before the levels of responsibility are determined.  In sum, Solidarity proclaims the basic principle that, "we're all in this together."  We are our brother's and sister's keeper.  Therefore, before the states are given the responsibility of issuing food stamps to the poor, they have to be economically able to do so.  Before seniors are forced to pay an added cost for Medicare, they have to be able to do so.  In both cases, this very well may not be so.  Ryan's plan may be able to balance the budget some years in the future, as he says, but in the meantime, will people go hungry and will many seniors be forced to have less health care?  If that happens it will contradict the principles of Catholic Social Justice and therefore be spiritually unacceptable.

   Given today's hyper-individualism in almost every sphere of human activity, being a wholistic, 21st century Catholic is a difficult challenge.  We should not try to do it alone.  Moving from our vision to reality calls upon us to prayerfully join together with others, to share insights and difficulties, and to encourage one another to keep global and to keep going.  The group can even be a "virtual" one, as in this blog.  We must walk our way in the Spirit of Christ, not alone but as the 21st century, globally united People of God.

(1)  See THE SPIRITUALLY MATURE PERSON, page on this blog.


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