Monday, August 8, 2011

The Market is Down, and So Am I

This is just a rambling of thoughts and notes this afternoon when fear and anxiety are impacting so many in America. Sometimes it’s hard not to be anxious, so perhaps this will just be a distraction for you.

The book Go In Peace is a summary (by topic) of various JPII speeches, books, and encyclicals. In the chapter on Forgiveness and Reconciliation, there is this quote:
“Sin’s essential nature is that it is an offense against God. It is an offense against the divine majesty. We must also say that it is an act that offends the divine charity in that it is an infraction of the law of friendship and the covenant God has established for His people. Therefore, it is an act of infidelity, and in practice, a rejection of His love.”

Only a person who has experience infidelity can know the impact of that statement. It’s your beloved telling you “I don’t love you anymore.” It’s a “I want to jump off a bridge and kill myself” feeling that cannot be explained, but only experienced. I know; I experienced it. And that is how JPII describes how God feels when we sin. This is a very hard-hitting sentence, for those who really understand it. (I found much of the rest of the book to be old news for me, but perhaps it wouldn’t be for you.)

Continuing in the commentary mode, there was an excellent article in the August/September issue of Catholic World Report. Titled “Only Part of the Story,” written by Russell Shaw, the article explores Catholic teachings on social justice. In the article he quotes Ronald Krietemeyer, a justice and peace executive at the US Catholic Conference in the ‘70s and ‘80s: “Social justice is not about private individual acts. It is about collective actions aimed at transforming social institutions … to achieve the common good.” This thinking is the type which culminated in the latter to Speaker of the House John Boehner from 80 Catholic college professors, including 30 from CUA, who complained that economic policies urged by Boehner and Paul Ryan would hurt the poor and were in social conflict with the Church.

As Mr. Shaw happily notes, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York promptly responded to that proclamation by thanking Mr Ryan for his “continued attention to the guidance of Catholic social justice in the current budget considerations in Congress.” It seems very confusing until he delves into the history and underpinnings of the Church’s teachings on social justice. It all derives from the 1937 encyclical Divini Redemptoris, as Mr. Shaw and others he quotes summarize. In it is stated: “It is the very essence of social justice to demand from EACH INDIVIDUAL (emphasis added) all that is necessary for the common good.” Contrary to the college professors’ and Kreitemeyer’s statements, social justice starts with the individual, not collective actions. “People like Ryan and Boehner might be right or they might be wrong, but calling them bad Catholics doesn’t work.”

It is a very thought-provoking article which every Catholic concerned with “social justice” in America should read. Contrary to what many believe, you CAN be Catholic and recommend cutting some governmental social programs; the Church does not teach that the solution to the problems of the poor is more government spending --- nor taking from the rich.

There’s one more article worth remembering here, and it was written in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal by Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoons. Mr. Adams wrote about a change in our culture which many consider to be a good thing: the tremendous number of high-tech toys now available to occupy our minds and answer our any question: immediately. Never does a person have to be bored again. Whether in a meeting or in a movie, if boredom starts you can always open your ipad and begin reading or watching something more interesting. Some parents seem to love this for their children; no more: “Mom, I’m bored” moments. But, Mr. Adams notes, this may not be a good thing. He documents that many/most innovative ideas have come about in times of quiet, when the mind is perhaps bored with events of the moment and then suddenly: a new idea pops into being. Boredom, he notes, may be a great stimulus for creativity, and might the country, and even the culture, be experiencing a great loss by creating this “no boredom” universe?

The article definitely left me thinking about things – and I wasn’t bored as I read it.

And I guess a final (and related) thought is from my notes from the Steubenville conference. There many speakers spoke about changes needed in our declining moral culture. They noted that in a culture, all big things come about from little things. Small trends lead to cultural changes, and the trends start with a change in one person. We see and can recognize this in clothing styles; there are certain clothing designers that are recognized as --- or want to be recognized as --- trend-setters. The mini-skirt designer, the maxi-skirt designer, or the croc shoe designer, we know these people; they started huge trends. We forget that in matters of faith and morals, however, that similar change has started with individuals. Changing the culture’s moral direction isn’t about making changes in Washington; it starts with changes in us.

Oh, I guess I should be clearer: It starts with positive changes in us.

Wednesday’s Dilbert Calendar page has Dogbert pointing to a chart in the boardroom: “I cooked the books by assuming your pension fund will earn 15% per year. Technically you aren’t crooks, just optimists.” Then, he notes, “If you hear a whistling noise, that would be your soul escaping through your nose.” The cartoon then shows the executives with little clouds coming from their noses, captioned with: “Tweet!”

May you go forth and change our culture, in peace, my friends.

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