Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
In response to one of my periodic bleats arguing that Catholics would be better employed getting their instruction in social teaching from the Church than from Talking Hairdos on TV who teach their viewers to hyperventilate about Imminent Nazi Takeovers, a reader writes:
I know that you, and many other people like yourself, who get low television ratings and feel that you need to boost them by directing your comments to individuals who are looking out for the american people.
You learn something every day. It turns out that the reason I write what I write is because my television program is getting low ratings, not because I think Catholic should learn their faith from the Church. This is exciting news to me, since I didn’t know I have a television program. However, my reader knows me better than I know myself, so I’m not gonna argue with him. My reader continues to read my mind.
You have been blinded by the liberal left because they continue to give and give. But we know that is wrong!
I didn’t know about the liberal left blinding me. I thought I had said that we should be taught by the Church, not by shallow ideological tribalisms, whether left or right. But my reader has set me straight. Clearly, as he says, nothing could be more wrong than giving and giving. So when Jesus said “Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42), he was wrong, as we learn from our Talk Radio catechism.
You help a person to get back on their feet. You DO NOT enable them. Living on welfare is a sin! Plain and simple!
Funnily enough, the Catechism tells us:
2427 Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.” Work honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.
2428 In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary. Work is for man, not man for work.
Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community.
And I have always agreed with that. Indeed, I think it obvious that staying on welfare when you can be gainfully employed is a sin and that a state system that encourages such learned helplessness is very bad. In the universe I inhabit, I’ve never said any different.
In the universe my reader inhabits, however, I appear to have said plenty in celebration of the welfare state. Apparently, somewhere in that universe, I said that people should live on welfare forever and never get off it. I don’t remember saying that, like, ever. But my reader is talking as though he is sure I did. Maybe I said it on my TV show. At any rate, he premptively rebukes my endorsement of the welfare state that I must have made somewhere. Then, he reveals to the world (and to me) that I seem to have been ordained at some point:
As a man of the cloth, I thought you were above this. Obviously, I’m wrong! Congratulations, you at least have one person who recognised you long enough to let you know my disdain for you.
It’s hard for a priest like me to endure the disdain of people who know me so very well. I feel naked! Exposed to the withering X-ray vision of somebody who sees through me, my personal history, and my motivations as though I were made of glass.
I almost can imagine from the article that is attached [the reader attached to his email a piece about the Nazi takeover of Austria], what would it have been like if there had been that one voice that warned these people about the horror that was about to enter their lives. Would he have saved some? Would history be changed?
Hmmmm… Appealing to the Anschluss and the rise of Hitler as a way of saying that FoxNews demagogues aren’t training their viewers to panic about Nazis under every bed seems like an unpromising way to argue, if you ask me. Likewise, passing from a rebuke of my liberal blindness to my non-existent endorsement of a permanent welfare state to my failure to oppose the imminent rise of National Socialism in America is also a dubious train of logic, particularly if you are trying to persuade me that dumping the Church’s teaching in favor of the rants of televised Talking Hairdos is the best way to learn how to think clearly. But I’m just a simpleton who listens to our socialist Magisterium instead of to authentic God-anointed teachers on TV.
We have already seen how this administration has used it’s powers to take over a car industry. Is this God’s plan? To have people work for something and the Government take it. I thought only God could do that?
Er, when did I ever say anything about Government Motors? Much less about God’s plan for GM? I presume that, being sovereign, He must have some plan or other for GM, but it beats heck out of me what it might be. From what I can tell, the State threw a ton of money at an incompetently run car company to keep it afloat, so that a lot of people wouldn’t get thrown out of work. Now that company appears to be getting back on its feet and the State is going to bow out of owning it. Not an optimal story of capitalist success, I’ll grant you, but hardly a sin against God’s almighty plan for America that i can see. Checking Ott’s Fundamentals of Christian Dogma, I in fact find nothing in the Church’s teaching about how Americans should deal with a bankruptcy crisis at GM. So it would appear that one possible strategy is to keep the company afloat with temporary infusions of capital till they figure out what they are doing and get back on their feet. It’s sort of like welfare, only for giant corporations. Now I’m not super keen on taking my money so yet another giant corporation can get bailed out. But if GM gets on its feet and starts earning it’s keep, it will probably be worth it in jobs saved. At any rate, that’s a prudential judgment, not a dogma of Holy Church.
As to the rest of your complaint, I can’t figure out what you mean. I’m not sure what it is you think only God can do. If you mean only God can run GM, I’m pretty sure that’s not true. If you mean only God can take a portion of what we earn for the common good, then I suggest you familiarize yourself further with the concept of taxation in Scripture. If you mean that I think the government takeover of a failing company is terrific, I can only ask where you got this impression since I have not held forth on the subject as far as I know. If you mean I approve of the ginormous bloated government bequeathed to us by Democrats who believe they can create the Great Society domestically by gouging us out of our hard-earned wages to supply a welfare state (whether for corporations or individuals), then you are mistaken. If you mean I approve of the ginormous bloated government bequeathed to us by Republicans who think they can create the Great Society in Iraq and Afghanistan to supply a militarized empire by gouging us out of our hard-earned wages, then I again must question my reader’s mind-reading powers.
Because Christians feel that it is our obligation to help our fellow man, they look the other way when Democrats give things away. I’ve witnessed people living off welfare. “Why should I get off welfare. Ain’t nothing like free money!”. That was the 70’s. Now I see their children on it! Was this what Jesus envisioned! Don’t say that you understand and that we need to ween them off slowly!
Why should I say anything when you are doing such a marvelous job of reading my mind? I certainly had no idea that I look the other way when Democrats give things away, nor that this was due to my Christian faith. It must be one of those things they taught me in seminary that I talk about on my failing TV show.
I worked in the projects last summer. A caseworker was walking towards my coworkers and I. We stopped him to ask what they pay. He said that the house he had just left pays $19 a month with her and her daughter. Two bedrooms. The guy that lives there, does so illegally because she sneaks him in at night (they have already warned him three times, but do nothing). This is one of three woman he does it to in the projects. He gets into a fight with one, goes to one that will take him in. He has a child to two of them. The taxpayer has to pay for this!!! When do we say “Enough is enough”!! How bad has it gotten for people giving from their hearts? Pretty bad I’d say.
Okay. And this has to do with anything I’ve ever said how?
This administration has caused a lot of peoples hearts to turn black, yet you are going after someone that wants us to defeat it. Not with guns and violence, but to elect people who will look out for the working man. Shame on you!!!!!! Read the document and tell me that this can’t happen in America. When one man tells the country “your vote doesn’t count. The Government knows what’s best for you! Illegals over running your state and you want to combat that, how dare you! You want to ban gay marriages, how dare you! You don’t want to purchase my government run healthcare, how dare you!” When a majority speaks, the government is supposed to honor it. We all answer for our individual sins.
So… if I criticize panic-mongering demagoguery about America being on the verge of a National Socialist regime of mass murder, the proof that I’m wrong is that you believe the demagoguery about Obama as Hitler Redivivus and feel that comparisons of America 2010 and Austria 1938 are perfectly sane? And if I’m skeptical that Obama=Hitler, that means I support endless welfare, gay marriage, and judicial usurpation of democracy? And from this airtight syllogism, I am to conclude… what (apart from the fact that Catholics who get their primary social catechesis from self-descibed “rodeo clowns” instead of the Church are not as good at reading minds as they suppose)?
I’m afraid all I can glean from this illogical farrago of extrasensory perception (and not the first I’ve received by a long shot) is that people who choose to get their catechesis primarily from TV and not from the Church should, for once, listen to the man who said, very wisely, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.” My beef is not and never has been with the Talking Heads on Fox or The View primarily. They are earning a living ginning up hysteria and passing along pseudoknowledge as they are paid to do. The business of corporate news and opinion media is to sell beer and shampoo by screaming about fear, sex, and power and trying to pull in viewers like carnival barkers. My beef is with Catholics who ignore the Catechism, let their TV do their thinking for them and who can’t even be bothered to find out the first thing about those they ignorantly denounce as “blinded” when these facts are pointed out to them.