First, I haven’t seen Michael Moore’s new movie, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” and I have no plans to do so. But from friends and the media I’ve heard a great deal about how Moore “gets religion” in his new movie, or at least how he gets religion to say what he wants it to say. In this case, the religion exploited is Catholicism, a religion I know a little something about.
Is anyone else tired of Hollywood types and politicians who spend most of their public lives ignoring Church teaching, but who suddenly show reverence for the Faith when it appears (even superficially) to complement their already determined position?
I’m told that near the end of his “love story” Moore lines up a series of Catholic clergy to agree with his general premise that Capitalism is evil. Moore’s hypocrisy aside (is he charging people to see his movie?) this premise is not at all Catholic.
As the Holy Father reminds us in Caritas in Veritate, “the market” as such, is not evil, nor is participating in free market economic activity for personal gain. The problem arises when one is only acting for his personal gain and when one exploits others for one’s own ends. Greed is evil, and it is people who put greed above the common good who commit evil acts, and who can create an evil system. We have certainly seen the fruits of this greed in the ongoing economic crisis, but to reduce capitalism to the worst actions of its evil practitioners is simply nonsense.
When you take money that you earned from your job and tithe to your Church (or, ahem, your favorite international pro-life organization) you are participating in capitalism. Of course, when you greedily exploit the market and hoard your winnings or spend them on bad things, you are also participating in capitalism. Generosity is good, greed is evil.
And if Mr. Moore is offering socialism as the preferred Catholic economic/political system, he has an entire other “documentary” to make (although one might say that his pro-Castro “Sicko” comes close). But as anyone who is familiar with his work knows, he’s not very big into presenting both sides of a story, or explaining anything beyond his carefully crafted narrative.
If he were to make this second documentary, honesty requires that he show us something about how socialism was also the chosen system of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao – the greatest murderers of all time, who exploited their centralized economic power to depersonalize and destroy all those who didn’t go along with the program. The 20th century that saw atheistic socialism rise on a populist tide in Europe, and come crashing down, its murderous echoes still ringing in our ears today.
Moore might say that this was only the “bad socialism”, but he wants “good socialism” like they have in Europe. He may even call this, as many do, “Christian socialism”. If that is his alternative, then he owes us an explanation about why socialist Europe’s churches are empty, why the European Union has intentionally written God out of its constitution, and why Europe is in suicide mode, with birth rates well below replacement levels and falling. Is this his hopeful alternative?
The catastrophic idiocy of Catholic Leftists offering socialism as the preferred alternative to supposedly unfettered capitalism never ceases to amaze. Only the poorest student of both history and the Catholic faith could say something so audacious and act, like Moore and many Leftists today do, as if it is so obvious that it is hardly worth discussing. These superficial thinkers even recast Jesus as a sort of Che Guevara of Nazareth – a rebel who cared only or even primarily about delivering the poor from oppression here on Earth, and who would certainly have supported the policies of our current president.
This distorted view of Our Lord has got to go. His was and is an eternal Kingdom – the Kingdom of Heaven. He lived in solidarity with the poor (and continues to do so today!), he didn’t use them as props to campaign for Caesar’s power, or for supposedly “just” laws like so much of the modern Left which replace greed with envy as their guiding sin. So many of these people also ignore or soft pedal the murder of over one million unborn children each year, making one wonder what their definition of “justice” really is.
Our Lord called us to love God above all, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to follow Him. Salvation is His gift, freely given – it is absolutely not from the state, and certainly not a function of achieving Earthly power.
Obviously, this is no endorsement of “the Right” or even capitalism per se. Capitalism itself has no check against evil, especially the greed which infuses so much of our current economic system, which is why it requires good Christians to act virtuously within the market, freely and consistently choosing to serve generously in solidarity with the poor, ensuring that the human person and his authentic flourishing are the end of our efforts, not greed and exploitation. Catholics are wise to question the pillars of our economic system and seek new ways to be generous and to break out of their comfort zones and live more authentically Christian lives, including serving the poor.
But beware of the alternatives offered by Moore and others who suggest that the government should decide where your resources should go, and beware any charlatan who only plays the Catholic card when it suits his pre-written script.