Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dr. Daren Jonescu, the Church's Embrace of Progressivism, and Naturalistic Reduction

For several decades, the presumption of the Catholic hierarchy, from the Vatican on down, has been that since socialism seems, on its face, to have similar goals to Christianity—caring for the less fortunate, charity, devoting oneself to a goal higher than self—it is the natural political affiliation of the Church. There are a variety of major problems with this presumption of a Christian/socialist affinity, of course: Christianity is doctrinally committed to individual salvation, socialism to collective achievement, at the expense of the individual where necessary; Christianity is doctrinally committed to a higher purpose beyond the material world, socialism fundamentally materialistic in its focus on earthly “equality”; Christianity has a doctrinal reverence for the past (including the extremely distant past), while socialism has grown out of materialist historicism’s disdain for the men and ideas of the past; and so on. [...]

[According to Thomas Aquinas, l]aws do not prohibit all vice, because that would be to restrict unduly the free will of the majority of men, who are imperfect. In other words, virtue in general is a private, which is to say non-legal, matter. The purpose of human law is to restrict the kind of vicious behavior (“murder, theft and such like”) which directly harms other people, thereby, if left unchecked, causing the breakdown of human society. That is, the law ought to restrict only those behaviors which the majority of men, though imperfect, can and will abstain from of their own free will. Stated differently, the law ought not to touch the actions of the majority of men. Laws ought to be of a limited and “negative” character. [...]

This is much more than a matter of Catholic doctrine. It has the deepest implications for all religions, and for moral philosophy in general. Leftist progressivism seeks to impose specific behaviors on all citizens, in order to bring about “desirable” social outcomes, of a material nature. But what is the goal of religious and moral teaching? Is it to achieve materialistic social outcomes, or individual moral outcomes?

By limiting human law to the restriction of those violations against others “without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained,” St. Thomas reinforces the proper Christian theological focus on the salvation of individual souls, which is only possible (short of divine intervention) when men are able to exercise free will in the practice of the virtues which perfect the soul.

In short, there is no virtue in doing that which one is compelled to do. Charity, for example, is only charity (i.e. a Christian virtue) if it is a freely chosen course of action. Government-imposed “charity,” in addition to violating constitutional rights, also short-circuits the moral growth of individual citizens.
Source: Daren Jonescu, "Santorum and St. Thomas Versus the Catholic Bishops," Canada Free Press Website, February 6, 2012, accessed December 5, 2013,

The Catholic Church's recent history of sympathizing with, and even supporting, Marxist progressivism is clear, sad, and indicative of a deeply irrational and anti-individual streak within the modern Church hierarchy. Catholics who care about the Church, its history, and its future -- and also about humanity, reason and freedom -- must stop making excuses for their current spiritual leadership's collectivist authoritarian impulses. [...] 
For generations, the global Catholic Church, at leadership levels, has been deeply invested in progressive collectivism. This has been an awkward relationship, in as much as hardcore Marxism seeks to abolish religion in favor of the deification of the State, and doctrinaire collectivism runs counter to any notion of the value of individual souls. As a result, the Church has, at times, spoken with some force against both communism and socialism. These moments of reasonableness have allowed thoughtful Catholics to defend the Church's political position as basically non-leftist: "See," they repeatedly tell themselves, "the Church is fighting the good fight against Marxism." 
In so far as Marxism includes atheism, the Church could hardly do otherwise. Soviet-style Marxists openly declared religion their enemy, and persecuted believers. Obviously the Church defended itself against this direct assault. But while abhorring atheistic dialectical materialism, practical elements of Marxist theory -- "social justice," economic redistribution, the condemnation of wealth -- struck a sympathetic chord within the Church, which gradually adopted such Marxist language as its own. This baptism of the Marxist vocabulary in the waters of Christian faith has allowed generations of good men and women to deny the disturbing truth before their very eyes, and to persuade themselves that this language, when used by the clergy, is somehow legitimate Catholic moralism. [...] 
Notice that he is specifically calling on political leaders and "financial experts" (57) to undertake a "vigorous change" -- fundamental transformation, anyone? -- in the direction of "balance" and a "more humane social order" which "favours human beings." In other words, [Pope Francis] is not advocating Christian charity, which is, and must be, a private moral decision, since it is through the correct application of his God-given free will that man is to find his path to God. Rather, to state the obvious -- let us finally apply the famous "razor" of a truly great Catholic philosopher here, and dispense with sophisticated explanations of the indefensible -- Francis is advocating socialism: a political system which obviates the morality of free will, and thus violates the foundations of the Catholic faith on the most profound level. [...]

In the U.S., the Catholic bishops firmly and enthusiastically supported ObamaCare, the penultimate step towards completely socialized medicine, until they "discovered" -- or, I suspect, until the Catholic laity discovered -- that abortion and birth control were part of the deal. Like their leaders in Rome and their brothers throughout the Catholic world, the U.S. bishops support progressivism in principle -- the Church has declared healthcare a universal human right, an expressly socialist ploy -- but will criticize particular progressive parties or factions when matters of doctrinal import are directly in dispute. In effect, the Church's war against collectivist tyranny extends only so far as that tyranny encompasses atheism or some other specific affront to Catholic practice. [...]

In its socioeconomic position, a large proportion of today's Catholic hierarchy is unofficially progressive, socialist, even Marxist.
Source: Daren Jonescu, "Catholics and Communists," American Thinker Website, December 3, 2013, accessed December 5, 2013,

But on the other hand, many people, such as Rush Limbaugh and his league of listeners, may very easily fall into the trap of a reduction of the supernatural to purely natural principles.
The point is this—this is impor­tant to under­stand: The pope’s words about the “idol­a­try of money” can­not be under­stood within an ide­o­log­i­cal or dual­is­tic pol­i­tics of Cap­i­tal­ism vs.Marx­ism. Instead, they must be under­stood within the frame­work of the teach­ing of the Church about ethics and our respon­si­bil­ity to the poor. [...] 
The pope attacks both Marx­ism and trickle-down. [...] 
Any defense of the pope, and any crit­i­cism, is wrong if it is meant in the con­text of liberal-vs.-conservative. Catholi­cism tran­scends such cat­e­gories; its teachings—which the pope is con­sis­tent with—are premised on eth­i­cal cat­e­gories, not polit­i­cal ones.
Source: Scott Eric Alt, "A Counterblast to Rush Limbaugh on Evangelii Gaudium 54," Logos and Muse Blog, December 3, 2013, accessed December 5, 2013,


What the last quotation is getting at is the distinction between looking at the world either with supernatural faith enlightening reason or without supernatural faith enlightening reason. Without faith it is sensible to analyze the Holy Father's words through a political or economic hermeneutic. But here I quote Dr. Scruton as I've posted elsewhere on reductionism:
Here we encounter a peculiar use of the phrase 'nothing but' [...] justice is 'nothing but' the power requirements of the ruling class [....] Reductionism of this kind does not merely involve a host of philosophical confusions. It is essentially anti-philosophical, based in the desire to simplify the world in favour of some foregone conclusion, whose appeal lies in its ability to disenchant and so demean us. The reductionist 'opens our eyes' on to the truth of our condition. But of course, it is not the truth at all, and is believed to be true only because it is shocking.
Source: Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey (New York, NY: Penguin Books USA, 1996), 28.

That being said, Dr. Jonescu provides many disturbing facts about the actions and either de facto or explicit positions of many Catholic hierarchy (and laity, I might add), especially regarding relativism, progressivism, and other ways of viewing the world that have been enhanced and crystalized in the post-Enlightenment West. (Here I find it unfortunate that Dr. Jonescu on the one hand praises the development of natural law thought into modern political theory that allows for a capitalist economy or a democratic nation like the US but on the other hand neglects to mention—although he is most likely aware of it—the fact that these post-Enlightenment errors could occur only in such an intellectual milieu as has developed in the modern era. And regardless, despite his Catholic upbringing, he seems more deeply influenced by his political-philosophical views than any faith that can cut through peripheral and symptomatic issues to the core of the problem before us regarding what the Pope may or may not have said about modern economic systems, namely, whether growing in the love of God is our top priority or not.) 

But as Dr. Jonescu rightly pointed out, the pursuit of virtue can be pursued only freely, individually, and with the assistance of laws to protect the majority from the grievously-vicious minority. Charity, whether of the non-profit or supernatural variety, cannot be forced but only desired with all of one's heart. Until then, we will have quite a fuss about how to sort out the obvious fact that we are imperfect.

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