Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Thoughts: Current Economic Crisis Preceded by Moral Crisis

Here’s a daring thesis statement for you on this Labor Day: The economic crisis was caused by a moral crisis.


Our economic crisis is simply the fruit and symptom of a society that has accepted a growing moral relativism.  There is a dangerously new type of relativism where the only one who decides morality is oneself. 

Power and strength, not objective moral norms and love, become all that matters.  We as a human race cannot survive like this.

But we can turn the tide by returning to a Culture of Love and Civilization of Life.

You might say, “But, Mr. P., society has already had bad things since the time of the Fall of our first parents and since Cain killed Abel.  There’s always evil in society.   So what’s the catch?  You’ve said nothing new.”

I reply that while it is true that evil has always existed since the first and original sin of humanity, we are experiencing a moral crisis not just in an exponential but a most decisive way during a moment unprecedented in the history of humanity.   

The 21st Century is seeing this moral crisis evolve into systematically institutionalized evil, primarily as a dictatorship under the guise of good.  Pope Benedict has warned us of this dictatorship of relativism even before he spoke of it in his homily at Bl. John Paul the Great’s funeral in April 2005.

The Church appears to be paralyzed at first glance, like the sun eclipsed by the moon. 

But more of this “decisive” and “unprecedented” point in another blog at another time.


Now for you social scientists out there who want empirical evidence, direct correlations, and statistical significance for this claim about the moral-economic relationship, let’s just say that all you need to do is read the front page of your newspaper or your latest blog newsreel.

Society cannot sustain institutionalized sin and death culture.  It will implode on itself.

Just look at one city – any city – as an example, whether large or small.  A city cannot run rampant with major crimes like, say, graffiti, corruption or daily murder or “whatever else you can think of” and “you fill in the blank.”  Someone has to financially pay for these things.

Or think of a state with a prison system bursting at the seams or an entire country at war.  How does one pay for all that?   

Then multiply that across the planet or across many countries internationally and you get…

….that’s right, an institutionalized moral meltdown with dire economic consequences.


….more importantly….

…a forteriori…

…when we look at the nuclear family, where it all begins, where love is first learned, and its deliberate breakdown in society by powerful forces, we see for example that broken families yield a higher poverty rate or single moms living off of one person incomes or kids with this kind of problem or that kind of problem or “whatever else you can think of” and “you fill in the blank”.  What do you get when the most fundamental cell of society is sick with moral cancer?  You get...

…well, you draw the conclusion.   


Having said that all above, with all this bad news floating around, there IS actually good news.  In fact, it’s the Good News.

And we have to be agents of hope.

We must remember, class, on this Labor Day where millions are unemployed, that work is still good.

On this Labor Day, let us remember that even in our difficult economic times with increasing unemployment, moral principles must still influence economic activity if we are to get out of this global mess.

Let us return to God and His moral law. 
The rest – financially speaking – will follow.

I’m not an economic major, but I do know that economics doesn’t exist in a moral vacuum.  In other words, the economy is not morally neutral.

In fact, the economy needs a morally solid foundation—one that is built on the dignity of the human person.

This, also, is a way to answer the 400-500 year old European Enlightenment.  The Enlightenment rejected God but kept Reason; however, in the post-modern process of rejecting God it produced an anti-Reason system of which dictatorship of relativism is its rotten fruit.

We need a New Enlightenment.

Or better yet, a New Evangelization!

The Good News is that God has intervened in human history to deliver us from this.  There is hope.  In fact, the Church centuries-old and time-tested wisdom is the best way to address this dictatorship of our time.

Here are some thoughts from Catholic social teaching which is based on the Gospel.  Let’s keep this in mind as we move forward.

What is Catholic social doctrine?   

It’s the Church’s application of the Gospel to modern industrialized society.  In the 19th Century, Pope Leo XIII responded to the economy of his day with his papal letter Rerum Novarum (1891).  Holy Mother Church, that beautiful Bride of Christ, however humiliated and purified in our time, brings over 120 years of social teaching to the world.  These teachings that come to us from the Apostles will bring true justice and peace if implemented.

Pope Leo XIII
In a way, these thoughts on Labor Day come under the 7th Commandment regarding proper use of human goods and property.  Here are some points from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on economic activity (CCC 2426-2436):

Through human work, human beings reflect the image of God (imago Dei in Latin).  Our gifts and talents honor the Creator who gave them.   

Like our Creator, we too must rest from economic activity.

St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, is an excellent role model for the worker.

Jesus, who labored in a carpenter’s shop, worked for our redemption from sin when He died on Calvary.
We participate in the work of God by sanctifying our human work.  Honest work takes on redemptive value.

Working is a human right, particularly to provide for one’s family.

And the state in particular has the responsibility to protect economic security.

Two immoral extremes of economic activity are atheistic communism/Marxism on the one hand (where the State is absolute and the human person is reduced to a mere disposable number), and unbridled liberal capitalism on the other hand (where profits are the only measure of success instead of the human person and where morality does not influence the market).

Of course, profits are good when they provide for future investment and guarantee employment.  That’s the purpose of profit.  Money is a means, not the end.

And it should be said that there is a difference between a just wage and a family wage.  The just wage sustains the human person, while the family wage is a wage meant to provide for the worker's family.

Unemployment is not good not just because it deprives an individual human person, but it is not good because it entails risks to the family for whom the worker works.

Even in our poverty, we continue to take care of the poor.


St. Joseph, please help those who are unemployed and underemployed to endure their unemployment during these difficult times.  Through your intercession, protect them especially the weakest among them.   Amen.

HW: Familiarize yourself with the papal social encyclicals.
Class dismissed.


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