Bishop Barron on "Capitalism: A Love Story"



well I admit I wasn't gonna go see Michael Moore's new movie capitalism a love story and so one of my students in the seminary alerted me to a very interesting debate between Michael Moore and Sean Hannity the right-wing commentator it was available on YouTube so I watched this and I was expecting the usual left-wing right-wing polemics but what struck me was this Michael Moore turned to Sean Hannity at one point said are you a Christian and Hannity said well yeah I'm a Catholic and Moore said well did you go to Mass last Sunday and he said yeah sure did well what was the gospel more Astin and Hannity said the I I don't remember what Moore said I'll tell you what it was it was a story of the the eye of a needle you know so it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven what do you think Jesus would say about capitalism more a sanity well the discussion went on from there but I thought that's kind of intriguing I knew that Michael Moore was a Catholic but I didn't know that he had brought his Christian faith so strongly into the argument so my interest was piqued and I did go see the movie the movie is typical of Michael Moore's style its kind of brash its irreverent it's it's funny it's over-the-top as broad-brush all of that but it did strike me that he does bring his Christianity into the argument he interviews a number of of clergymen including Thomas Gumbel ttan who's the retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit and all the clergymen he interviews say some version of capitalism is an intrinsically evil system it just goes simply contrary to the teachings of Jesus there's a section that I admit maybe laughs in the movie when he brings out these old clips from Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth film from the 70s and he has the rich young man running up to Jesus what must I do to gain eternal life and then he puts in the mouth of Jesus something like well you know keep your 401k and Jesus has all these sort of nystrom's from the capitalists playbook obviously Moore is mocking certain members of the Christian Right who just Cole opt Jesus to justify current economic and political structures okay to give Michael Moore his due there are elements of the Catholic social teaching tradition that are critical of I would say corrupt and decadent forms of capitalism go right back to the beginning to leave the 13th and rerum Novarum Publio there says it's a line that's always stayed my minds always bothered me he says once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met in your life everything else you own belongs rightfully to the poor again I think that that's like a little bomb going off in your mind and heart if you really let it sink in once in your own life you've taken care of necessity and propriety now those are you know properly widely definable terms but nevertheless once that's taken care of everything else you own belongs to the poor Publio also sternly warns the wealthy that their salvation to a degree depends upon their generosity visa vie the poor my own boss Francis George of Chicago echo leo xiii some years ago when he addressed a group of wealthy donors in Chicago he said well the poor need you the wealthy to stay out of poverty but you need the poor to stay out of hell he's making the same point about salvation depends upon our generosity toward the poor and more to it every Pope from leo xiii through benedict xvi will say some version of this the government has a right and an obligation to intervene in the economy when gross injustice azar obtaining so for example with our current economic meltdown in the measure that this was caused by a sort of irresponsible deregulation of the financial markets people like Michael Moore I think have a right to raise a legitimately Catholic voice in protest against it so I think all of that he can he can validly claim support in the Catholic social tradition but is he right therefore to say it's Catholic teaching that capitalism is simply evil well no is the Saran sir to that question here's why again every pope from leo through benedict xvi have affirm that the essential structures of what they call a market economy pope's rarely talk about capitalism but a market economy the essential elements of it are morally praiseworthy they mean private property they mean the right of each individual to determine his economic life they mean the entrepreneurial spirit they mean even the profit motive all of that is recognized as morally praiseworthy and in line with human freedom and dignity about halfway through the film Michael Moore shows his cards he's not only anti-capitalist he's very clearly pro socialist even at the end of the film has a kind of contemporary version of the Communist him.the Internacional a every when I heard that I thought oh brother this is really taking it too far because any attempt to claim Catholic social teaching in support of socialism or communism is never going to get off the ground again that is a consistent teaching from the beginning to today that socialism in its essential structures is repugnant to human dignity and human freedom the Pope's acknowledged not only as socialism practically inefficient but it's again repugnant to the dignity and freedom of the individual now if one has any doubts about that all one has to do is consult those pretty brutal socialism's of the last century and to see the moral quality of them so what do we make of this question what how do we determine finally Catholic social teaching visa vie capitalism I think one of the best places to look is in John Paul the second great letter called Santa Zemo Sano's that's Latin for the hundredth year so it's written at the hundredth anniversary of ramavaram John Paul says this I think it's worth quoting directly he says the church is in favor of capitalism if by that term we mean quote an economic system which recognizes the positive role of business the market private property as well as free human creativity in the economic sector we're in favor of that capitalism but the Pope continues the church stands against capitalism if by that term you mean quote a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework that places it at the service of human freedom in his totality so can the government intervene yes should intervene yes when gross injustice –is are undermining the integral structure of the market economy freedom yes but freedom circumscribed by a legal situation and a moral law that prevent it from becoming totally self-absorbed and dysfunctional I think it would be hard to improve on the clarity of John Paul the second statement so I mean I would say in summary I enjoyed elements of Michael Moore's movie I thought partment was funny and I've enjoyed some of the righteous indignation that's coming up out of his you know kind of prophetic imagination but I would say this if you're really interested in finding out what the Catholic Church thinks about capitalism save the money you would have spent on Michael Moore's movie and go buy centésimos autos




Comments
  1. Moore was wrong about capitalism. Christ said the poor will always be with us. Communism is not the answer, millions have died in it's name. If the Catholic Church believes in helping the poor then sell all your belongings and use it to help the poor. Michael Moore is a hypocrite and a lier.

  2. Bish, you'll notice that the movement of human beings to find work is from Catholic countries to Protestant countries- (South America to North America, Italy, France and Ireland to England and Germany)

  3. Bishop, I hope you’re having a wonderful day. Not sure if you will get the chance (or the time) to read my comment, but I hope you do because I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. I think I can agree on the fact that capitalism itself is not the problem. But what about consumerism? Do you think there is a difference between the two, and if so, would consumerism perhaps be more relevant to the camel-needle statement, since it’s grounded on a belief that happiness, identity, and purpose can be “bought”?

    I think that Jesus never really attacked economic or political systems per se (including, for example, patriarchy and slavery), perhaps because when people begin to enter into relationship with Christ, and their will begins to conform to God’s will, everything else sort of falls into place and all power dynamics become loving as opposed to oppressive or exploitative. As such, capitalism as a system is only a problem when it is divorced from God (just like everything is a problem when divorced from God). I would even exaggerate slightly here and say that a dictatorship run by saints may ultimately be preferable to a democracy run by demons (hyperbole, of course). So capitalism is the best system we have come up with so far.

    The thing is, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that today it seems to be acceptable for me, as a catholic, to be largely ignorant of the impact that consumerism can have on:
    1- my soul (since it is corruptive to hoard possessions and overindulge in luxury, to be greedy and vain, and to run my work around the maximization of profit at the expense of the health of the planet or the health of society, etc)
    2- other people (for example, buying products that are only available to me for so cheap because someone at the other side of the world is paying the price by sacrificing their childhood, health, dignity, etc. to produce that product). (Watch “story of stuff” for a good example of this)

    Basically what I’m trying to say is that I believe that the culture of consumerism is a problem.

    It’s possible to live in and support a capitalist system, and to consume moderately, prudently, and consciously.

    However, it’s equally possible to dismiss the importance of moderation, prudence, and community when living in a culture that equates capitalism with consumerism and applauds the pursuit of wealth as the most holy of pursuits.

    What is the role of asceticism in the life of the lay catholic in the 21st century? What is the role of abnegation?

    Is vanity O.K now? Avarice? Pride? Because the glorification of consumerism waters down those vices and makes them seem less fierce. What would Jesus do, if He were walking around a shopping mall today, with advertisements on every side telling his children they’re imperfect and need to buy their way to perfection through consumer products, plastic surgery, and Instagram likes?

    I believe we are desperately in need of re-examining these things. I feel like no one wants to talk about these things anymore. “Just give a bit to the poor and you’ll be fine. Be generous, but define generosity yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re vain, greedy, and self-indulgent.” That’s the kind of response I’ve been getting (indirectly) from the Catholic Church these days, in the name of anti-radicalism and modernity. I’d like to know how you feel about this.

    P.S I’m a huge fan of yours, from all the way in the Middle East (Lebanon). You’ve had a huge impact on my life, and my mother’s as well. I live in a significantly different environment than you do, but I hope you’ll be happy to know that your words are touching the hearts of people all the way here.

  4. Capitalism + Christian =.Best sydyem EVER.
    America is no longer a Christian nation. Capitalism has become a system of Greed.
    I know Socialism always end in Genocide and starvation.
    We need to bring Christian Charity back to Capitalism

  5. Interesting image Michael Moore offers, the camel and the eye of a needle, I guess for it's obsequious symbolism in contrast to today's overwhelming "attitude" by capitalists. I guess we can own things, but we can not let them own us.

  6. Hahahahahah….why doesn’t he change his name to Arius? After all, Barron denies so many Church dogmas.

    The Catholic Church has always believed in subsidiarity. That’s the Thomistic principle which basically states whatever the smaller unit (ie: the individual; then family; then neighborhood; then town…right on up the line) can do, it should do. Subsidiarity is the antithesis of socialism. Socialism relies on “central planning” which is some bureaucrat making decisions which do no suit you and stealing your money to do so.

    Furthermore, Catholicism has always promoted private property as the basis of just society. Socialism is the abolition of private property.

    Understand what is going on here: the Catholic Church beginning over 100 years ago, was infiltrated by communists. That has been well documented by authors like Bella Dodd. Mr. Barron here is simply using a communist tactic, known as Hegelianism, to push the line away from catholic teaching. Go study your faith. Read the councils. Read every pre-Vatican 2 Bull, encyclical and especially decrees of councils and resist people like Mr. Barron

  7. Barron, you betrayed your biases in the first 27 seconds. You gave no label to Moore, but called his critics 'right wing.' Why isn't Moore and his hangers on labeled 'left wing?'

  8. Bishop I'm afraid you have fallen into the the trap of "freedom" where accumulation of capital is glorified. It's freedom for capital and serfdom for labour. David Bentley Hart has a more nuanced understanding.

  9. it's funny how so many people focus on Karl Marx as "a Jew" when in fact he was raised Lutheran and had become an atheist by the time he wrote his "manifesto." if anything, he took the it from the book of Acts ("each according to his need…"). his was a kind of social gospel, but rather than using persuasion, he was in favor of using force to compel people to do the "right thing." this is what gets me by those who try to act like such a system is all about freedom, while religion (specifically Christianity) is all about slavery. in actual practice it seems to tend to work out the opposite. for the communist, there is no God, so the state ends up becoming God, and as such, God will not give up his power voluntarily… (even then, the Word of God, Christ set aside his heavenly glory in order to become man, in order to die for our sins… so even here Christianity wins where "Communism" fails). and yes, I know "Communism" is the term for the final utopia that is supposed to be achieved after "Socialism" does its work (when in actual fact, the revolution "never ends" and Communism is never achieved… because it is an attempt to create a "heaven" on earth, by atheists, through the use of force…).

  10. I believe, when it comes to the nature of capitalism and socialism, as is with most things, there is a proper way to act and an improper way to act. If a capitalist is smart he wants the world in witch he lives to be better. He wont cheat his employees or his workers and he will live honestly. If he is stupid he will take all the money to himself, not realizing that its better to be moderately rich in a rich country than very rich in a poor country. If the socialist realizes this he will act to defend the good capitalist, as an honest creator of material whealth, and to stop the bad capitalist, as the thief he is. Doing so, he will provide an important conter-point to those who create whealth for it's own sake, without destroying the economic forces that sustein the nation. However, when the socialist refuses to see the difference between the good capitalist and the bad, and refuses to see the difference between the legitimate demands of the poor and the unreasonable demands of those who simply hate the rich, he becomes violent and creates even more poverty.

  11. Americans live in a glass house. They should go to 3rd world countries so that they could appreciate Capitalism. That is what Pope Francis is always saying.

  12. "Socialism" means socializing and society. "Communism" means community. These words have light, warmth, joy, beauty and harmony.

    Capitalism means ignorance and greed. These words have no light, warmth, love, joy, beauty, meaning or truth.

    Yet we are brainwashed into thinking society and community are pure evil. And that greed and Capitalism are benevolent and wonderful. Go figure.

  13. Micheal Moore is using the term Catholic when it suits him….he is no man of faith but a wolf in sheep's clothing….ask him what he thinks about abortion…he is an elitist..and the same type who questioned Jesus for befriending the tax collector. All power and glory to Jesus Christ our king.

  14. Thank you Bishop Barron for all your videos. You are a blessing.
    Jesus never asked people to give Caesar their money so that Caesar could help the poor did He? Milton Friedman explained that the best way to help the poor is to give them the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty. That's how my family did it. I'm afraid I don't have the faith in the human nature of the members of Government to take care of charity. I would not be setting up any situations where the Government becomes 'King' in a way, intervening in things that should be the responsibility of God-fearing people.

  15. Completely unbridled, unrestricted, laissez faire capitalism is truly is a real form of worship to Satan. Capitalism is the only viable economic system however. But here we go again; we are NOT saved by works(including giving to the poor) however, I feel compelled to give to the poor be to be a good Christian instead of a junky one(and God will discipline me and whip me if I don't ).

  16. If the Catholic church won the world it would control the laws it would be like communism or worse. One wrong word about the pope would you be going to the firing squad. The church would have the secret police everywhere. Today we are lucky to have laws outside of religion. Look at Saudi Arabia they control one religion. They are forced in that religion. Same with any religion it is forced guilt if you believe different. So Capitalism is a good thing you earn what you worked for. If you feed a bear he will come back for more and if denied later he would start tearing apart until he is feed again. The Catholic church says give to the poor only I believe in a hand up not a hand out otherwise the poor will say why work let the rich give. Earn what you make.

  17. Marxism is not a good philosophy. Postmodernism is anti Christian. Salvation can only come by Faith alone and not by the church. Narrow is the path, Narrow is the Gate and difficult the way that leads to life. Give to the poor, But don't put your responsibility at the feet of the Government. Pick up your Cross and carry it.

  18. Bishop Barron, you're almost never wrong, but this time you'll have to admit that your knowledge on economics gives you very little to even start to understand the complexity of the issues of the Free market, or what others call Capitalism.
    You have to understand that by the protection of property rights the pharmaceutical companies in the free market have the right to let you die if they wish to do so just because you have no money to pay for their medication, or have no posiblity for an alternative medicine just because tha patents are protected under property rights laws. That's what we call capitalism. That's what Michael Moore is talking about. You never paly dumb, please don't disappoint us this time.

  19. catholics are bad at money and economics, look at spain, italy, france, latin america, high taxes, big government, little respect for freedom and the individual, catholicism is a collectivist culture, it is the anglosphere that is the only inndividualistic culture, with the only small exceptions like ireland, even that is in anglosphere, anyway that is just some of my observations, i cant find any research into this, ive seen the numbers used logic and come to this conclusion

  20. Bishop, what do you think of Bishop Fulton Sheen's position on capitalism and communism as opposed to distributism and ownership of the means of production by the individual(s) that participate in the labor and management and not a capital class?

  21. You say we should look at the socialisms of the 20th century and the moral quality of them. You mean the socialism that doubled the life expectancy from 35 to over 70 everywhere it was implemented? You mean the one that sacrificed almost everything to save the world from fascism, which much of the Church so sinfully collaborated with? You mean the one that had a lower incarceration rate than the U.S. does today? The one that had a security state apparatus that wasn't one tenth the size or one hundredth as invasive as the current security state in the U.S. The NSA spies even on heads of state in "ally" countries like Germany for goodness sake. You mean the socialism that decolonized the nations imprisoned within the Russia Empire, while the West continued to colonize the world and commit genocide? Never forget that capitalists gave rise to the fascists. Hitler got all his money from capitalists in the coal and steel industry to put down the workers. Privatization skyrocketed under Hitler. Communists, socialists, anarchists, and unionists were sent to the gas chambers. And it was communists that saved us from annihilation at their hands. 27 million Soviet people gave their lives. The equivalent of the 9/11 attacks every single day, 365 days a year, for 24 years straight. I pray that you will reevaluate your analysis of economics, politics, and history in regards to this matter. Your other videos have been a joy to watch, but this one brought a lot of pain to me.

  22. Jesus was willing to resort to violence just to get some merchants and money lenders out the temple. How do you think he would react to seeing that in the 21st century, at least 20 million people die every year from systemic poverty, from completely preventable causes? You really think he would pedantically preach nonviolence or respect for private property? The biblical penalty for usury (loaning with interest) is death. What do you think God thinks of JP Morgan Chase bank? And how can you talk of some abstract conceptual alternate version of capitalism that isn't inherently evil when that's not the one we actually live in?

  23. Early Christian communities didn't have private property (Acts 4:32-37). For it's early history, Christianity was mostly practiced by slaves. Jesus was a tekton, a day laborer, not a guild craftsman carpenter as many imagine, and was considered lower than a peasant. He hung out exclusively with the poor, with sex workers and the disabled, said that rich people will most likely go to hell, preached the overthrow and reversal of current conditions (the first last and the last first) and barely interacted with the wealthy classes unless he was condemning them, or being murdered by their cops and soldiers.

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