Moore False Teaching

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.

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  • cpageinkeller

    Thanks Fr. Tom. Your message continues in the tradition of the writing and preaching of Pope Leo XIII:

    This “amtisocialism” message has been repeated by the Church consistently since 1898. How can people, including some of our own, be so consistently deceived? No knowledge of history? Valuing words and theory above actions and real-world outcomes? Believing that is somehow just to rob producers to redistribute to non-producers? Forgetting that charity emanates from individuals and the Church rather than the government? Not observing that “government compassion” and “government charity” always miscarry? Perhaps all are operative.

    Government should be focused on justice (Constitutionally limited government) and individuals and the Church on compassion and charity.

  • mallys

    Government largesse relieves individuals of any feeling of responsibility toward the poor. I saw a letter to the editor that was indignant about fundraising to fund a backpack project for poor children to get food for the weekend. She said that she shouldn’t be bothered because that’s what she paid taxes for

  • goral

    The “She” in mallys’s post is right; we do pay taxes and all sorts of fees so that there is a safety net for the disenfranchised. The money doesn’t get to its intended destination because the socialist institutions that dispense it are lacking the faculties and moral scope to get it done.
    Our money ends up at Acorn, public education, PP, ACLU and an endless list of left-leaning leeches who know how to extort what they want.

    Not an insignificant amount of this is funded by capitalists such as Gates, Trump and Buffett. They are at the forefront of spewing rhetoric such as:
    The market conditions…, the market dictates…, and the law of supply and demand…..
    The fact of the matter is that the market doesn’t dictate for our companies to go to China, the CEO’s do!
    The market doesn’t require for the employees to get a sub-standard wage while the investors skim the cream and ride the crest.
    Supply and demand doesn’t dictate that mostly nines be used in the pricing structure.
    The market never thought of futures, greedy capitalists invented it.

    Capitalism holds the upper hand because it’s the rational way to do business.
    Community oriented capitalism is what we used to have. Now nobody knows where their money is going and whom it’s profiting.
    Secular socialism is the cancer that creeps in when capitalism loses it’s immunity to the evils of greed and moral relativism.

    There is a reason why Jesus told the rich man what He did in yesterdays Gospel.
    The Church teaches the same lessons; use God’s wealth not just temporally but invest in the prime future – everlasting return.

  • toolboard

    Does Mr. Moore give away all the money from his documentaries? Does he voluntarily give say, 60-70% of his income and profits to the govt. to help pay for all their wonderful programs like abortion on demand; family planning; acorn etc.? Isn’t he a capitalist? What happens to these idiots out there in liberal land, I mean California? Instead of criticizing everything, especially systems that have made it possible for them to be able to do it, why not make a documentary outlining a better system? Why not some solutions instead of tearing everything down with groundless complaints and criticisms?

    Here’s a thought: We all remember Ebenezer Scrooge’s reply to the men from a local charity who came to him on Christmas Eve asking for a donation to alleviate the suffering of the poor; “Don’t they have workhouses for them?” “Isn’t that what I pay taxes for?” This will be most Americans attitudes once Socialism gets a foothold.

  • GaryT

    I’ve read some of the social encyclicals, but not all. I distinctly get the impression starting with Leo XIII’s encyclical that socialism is viewed as bad because:
    1. It violates the commandment of not coveting your neighbor’s possessions
    2. It can even violate the stealing commandment when you vote to transfer wealth from one person to yourself via taxation and social programs
    3. Government wealth re-distribution is NOT Christian charity (love). Charity is a gift, not mandated taxation. Socialism is incompatible with the “logic of the gift” as PBXVI calls it.

    When considering capitalism, we must consider a hierarchy of values.
    The law of supply and demand is a valid value.
    However, it must be subservient to the law of justice. Justice defined basically as people getting their due (CCC). Justice must always trump capitalism. There can be legitimate discussion on exactly what actions are just within the confines of capitalism, but I think we can all see examples that are also unjust:
    – refusing to pay people what they are owed
    – refusing to hire someone based on the color of their skin
    – refusing to honor a contract
    I would expect our laws to reflect justice and require capitalism to be subservient to justice.

    Finally, as Christians, we know that the law of love must trump even justice. Perhaps someone is only earning what they are due, but are in greater need than their income provides. That is our opportunity to step in and feed the poor, clothe the naked, etc. Unlike justice, love cannot be codified in our legal system, for love is a gift that must be given willingly. It is our Christian responsibility to expect these gifts to come from ourselves, not from the government through our taxes. Of course when we give, we can select how and where to give, rather than letting a Washington beaurocrat decide for us. And when we give willingly, we are spiritual beneficiaries as well.