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Keith Downey: Taking issue with the archbishop - don't confuse higher spending with moral good
St. Paul Pioneer Press ^ | 6/25/11 | Keith Downey

Posted on 06/26/2011 3:24:31 PM PDT by rhema

Catholic Archbishop Nienstedt recently asserted in a letter to state officials that the state budget is a moral document and higher state spending is a moral good. At a time when society needs the Church's teaching more than ever, unfortunately in this case the Archbishop's reasoning creates more confusion than clarity and sheds more heat than light.

Many of us who share the Archbishop's faith-based heart for the poor disagree with his conclusion that more state spending is the answer. In secular terms we would call it a confusion of means versus ends. In Catholic terms it is a confusion of prudential versus moral judgments.

The heat stems from well-intentioned people implying that other well-intentioned people must support higher government spending to be morally fit before God. Policy debates devolve to accusations about moral intent, including this year that some are not willing to pay their fair share.

For policy makers, attaching a moral imperative to state spending hinders serious and sincere questions about the efficacy of state programs. In the name of compassion, we dare not ask whether this spending might in fact be creating an economic incentive for the very behaviors and circumstances we are trying to mitigate.

More broadly, a moral compunction emerges from the idea that the truly compassionate person should always be willing to pay more taxes. The result? Families and faith-based institutions, having the greatest ability to truly change people's lives, slowly shift the mission to serve each other to the state. True community and freely given person-to-person compassion are edged out, not built up. And eventually a divisive mutual resentment grows between those receiving benefits and those forced to pay for them.

As a Christian and person of faith, I fully appreciate the proper and important role of government. But I also believe that true compassion is sustainable - support that works today, tomorrow, and for future generations. And true compassion is often hard - requiring both opportunity and accountability which are the practical necessities for human dignity.

As a public official, simply raising taxes and spending falls far short of the structural reform and rebalancing our system needs right now. The state's unsustainable status quo will not adequately deliver on any needs let alone mercy to our most vulnerable - that is fiscal reality.

Also real, and misunderstood, is the impact of ever-growing taxation. Once the financial incentive to avoid taxes on the next dollar of income becomes greater than the incentive to earn it, we propagate attitudes that only serve to hurt our economy and all of us who rely on it.

All of these prudential policy judgments tell me that only when our budget is responsible and sustainable for everyone can we call our work a success.

This budget situation is certainly a challenge. But it is also ripe with opportunity-- to make positive change and create a stronger Minnesota.

So in the debate, let's avoid directly equating certain state spending levels with morality. The harm such a perspective brings to the process, and ultimately to the institutions that hold everything together, is all too real.

Keith Downey, R-Edina, is a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Editorial; Government; US: Minnesota
KEYWORDS: biship; bishop; catholic; dayton; downey; justice; shutdown; social

1 posted on 06/26/2011 3:24:39 PM PDT by rhema
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To: rhema
WELL why not request passage of a church tax and then the church gets to use the money to help only those who adhere to the 10 commandments as recognized by a board of nuns...
2 posted on 06/26/2011 3:37:05 PM PDT by flat (s)
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To: rhema

The clergy may be well-meaning, but they know nothing about economics, with a few rare exceptions. And he’s not one of them.


3 posted on 06/26/2011 3:39:42 PM PDT by livius
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To: livius; rhema

agreed.
maybe well-meaning. but flat wrong.

(but, at least he’s not condoning homosexual acts,
or promoting “Chrislam” like Rick Warren and others.)

taking money from people, against their will, even if for a “good” cause, is STEALING.
last i checked, that was still one of the big 10.

and some of that money, IS going for abortions, and other things a church leader should not wish to contribute to, even indirectly.

great article btw. thanks!


4 posted on 06/26/2011 3:47:00 PM PDT by Elendur (the hope and change i need: Sarah / Colonel West in 2012)
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To: rhema

The sad thing is that Archbishop Nienstedt appears to be sound on most issues. He is pro-life, he has lobbied for a bill against gay marriage. He strongly attacked the President of Notre Dame for inviting Obama:

http://minnesotaindependent.com/30918/archbishop-nienstedt-calls-obama-anti-catholic-vows-to-pull-support-from-notre-dame

But he is completely off the tracks on this one.

I think someone has got to educate the bishops on the basic realities of economics. Maybe explain to them that government sucking money out of everyone’s pockets, keeping 90% of it to run their bureaucracy, and then helping the poor with the other 10%, is not an efficient way to do charitable works.

The Church is not finding much money in its collection plates these days. That’s because the government is sucking it all up—and NOT spending it in the best possible way.


5 posted on 06/26/2011 3:51:43 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Elendur

Tell the good bishop that the additional revenue will be spent making abortion services more easily available to the poor.


6 posted on 06/26/2011 3:51:44 PM PDT by 17th Miss Regt
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To: Elendur
taking money from people, against their will, even if for a “good” cause, is STEALING.

Bingo. Ever since Pope John XIII promised Russian commies that there would be no condemnation of Communism at Vatican II, the bishops have become full fledged socialists. Catholics (and I am one) need to pick up the encyclical letters of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI condemning Communism and Socialism while upholding the inalienable right to ownership of private property. Yes, government transfer payments are theft, not charity.

7 posted on 06/26/2011 3:55:10 PM PDT by eens (beware the errors of Russia)
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To: Elendur

I’m not even convinced it’s well meaning. At the very best, it’s sinfully wrong-headed. Social justice, and the “collective salvation” to which it leads, has no part whatsoever in the Roman or any other church purporting to easing the path to life hereafter. I, too, hope he’s as exercised about gay marriage when Minnesota’s turn for cowardice and linguini-Christianity comes round. If he’s so concerned, he might initiate a diocese-wide collection!


8 posted on 06/26/2011 4:08:04 PM PDT by Mach9
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To: eens

I know the Vatican has made several statements about abortion, but does it typically issue other specific policy positions?


9 posted on 06/26/2011 4:08:50 PM PDT by sthguard (The DNC theme song: "All You Need is Guv")
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To: sthguard
I know the Vatican has made several statements about abortion, but does it typically issue other specific policy positions?

Economic policy? Governmental policy? That's not in Tradition, unless Faith or morals are being violated, e.g., abortion, which is murder. It's an inversion of truth for a bishop to attribute a positive moral attribute to transfer payments. Clear thinking is not a strong suit with bishops these days. It is sad to think that the world's slide into Socialism is due to the abdication and abuse of authority by modern bishops.

10 posted on 06/26/2011 5:06:55 PM PDT by eens (beware the errors of Russia)
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To: sthguard; don-o
I'm on my way to bed, so I haven't time to do justice to your good question... but let me just throw this before I say nighty-night. The clergy have no particular authority on "public policy" questions, as distinguished from questions directly bearing on faith and morals.

To give just one example, bishops have the right and duty to teach that "abortion is murder" and that actions that justify, promote, fund, facilitate, advance, or lead to the acceptance of abortion, make one an accomplice or accessory to murder.

But in terms of policy, there is no direct authority to say, "Ending abortion must be accomplished by a Constitutional Amendment worded in thus-and-such a way," or "this must be accomplished by interpreting the Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to apply exactly like so," or "the faithful must vote such-and-such a party" -- in other words, the policy specifics.

The same goes for questions about economics, foreign and military policy, protection of air water and soil resources, etc. The moral obligations are to be preached; BUT the "how to do it" (which political party, which candidate, which legislative or judicial strategy) are within the comptence of the laity, not the clergy.

And the presumptioon is always that the obligations are to be carried out at the lowest and most local level that can handle the job, e.g. the individual, the family, the parish, the charitable organization, the voluntary association, the city, the county, etc.

Start fromt the personal.

This principle is called "subsidiarity" -- a keystone of Catholic teaching --- and it's disappointing that it's so rarely mentioned, even by people like Archbishop Nienstedt, who is a smart guy and should know better.

11 posted on 06/26/2011 6:33:20 PM PDT by Mrs. Don-o (La paciencia todo lo alcanza. Solo Dios basta.)
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To: rhema
Catholic Archbishop Nienstedt recently asserted in a letter to state officials that the state budget is a moral document and higher state spending is a moral good. At a time when society needs the Church's teaching more than ever, unfortunately in this case the Archbishop's reasoning creates more confusion than clarity and sheds more heat than light.

"Where the Bishop is..." ping

12 posted on 06/26/2011 6:38:16 PM PDT by Alex Murphy (Posting news feeds, making eyes bleed: he's hated on seven continents)
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13 posted on 06/26/2011 8:26:19 PM PDT by MplsSteve
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14 posted on 06/26/2011 8:28:30 PM PDT by MplsSteve
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To: rhema

Ephesians 4:28.


15 posted on 06/26/2011 8:54:49 PM PDT by Colonel_Flagg ("Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are not rivals, they're running mates." - Rep. Thaddeus McCotter)
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To: Cicero
I think someone has got to educate the bishops on the basic realities of economics. Maybe explain to them that government sucking money out of everyone’s pockets, keeping 90% of it to run their bureaucracy, and then helping the poor with the other 10%, is not an efficient way to do charitable works.

They still seem to be fixated on the idea of 'the preferential option for the poor'.

16 posted on 06/26/2011 9:47:51 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: SuziQ; Mrs. Don-o
They still seem to be fixated on the idea of 'the preferential option for the poor'.

Dear Mrs D:

Does the "preferential option" leak into the policy area where you have said the Bishops have no business?

17 posted on 06/27/2011 3:47:57 AM PDT by don-o (Please say a prayer for FReeper Just Lori.)
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To: rhema

this sounds to me like politicing to me. another way of saying, if the church can’t take care of all the poor, we’ll make sure the government does via confiscating your money,whether you’re religious or not.
I thought the goal was to win souls, not elections.


18 posted on 06/27/2011 5:18:47 AM PDT by WOBBLY BOB ( "I don't want the majority if we don't stand for something"- Jim Demint)
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To: don-o; SuziQ
The "preferential option for the poor" derives from Luke 1:53 and thereabouts. There is nothing in the passage (verse, chapter, book, or the whole collection of books) which suggests that this specifies a function of State action or power.

A case can be made that related verses ("He casts down prices from their thrones") imply a dramatic diminution of State power.

19 posted on 06/27/2011 5:19:38 AM PDT by Mrs. Don-o (La paciencia todo lo alcanza. Solo Dios basta.)
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To: don-o; SuziQ
The "preferential option for the poor" derives from Luke 1:53 and thereabouts. There is nothing in the passage (verse, chapter, book, or the whole collection of books) which suggests that this specifies a function of State action or power.

A case can be made that related verses ("He casts down prices from their thrones") imply a dramatic diminution of State power.

20 posted on 06/27/2011 5:19:58 AM PDT by Mrs. Don-o (La paciencia todo lo alcanza. Solo Dios basta.)
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To: rhema

Many Christian folks need to understand Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Though we tax great amounts of wealth and redistribute it, without love it means nothing. (To paraphrase the apostle to the gentiles)
The bishop is replacing charity with force, something Christ never did and would never do. It’s not so much a lack of economic understanding as a misunderstanding of human relationships, something an archbishop ought to be savvy about.
Christ did NOT come as Caesar, as some had expected. And His dictum to render to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s is a clever way of throwing the question back at us and making us responsible.
Does not everything belong to God? Those who turn away from God look to the State as their God. Those who worship at the altar of State are more atheistic. Those who worship God have little use for an all-powerful State.


21 posted on 06/27/2011 7:59:04 AM PDT by TradicalRC (Racist! is the new nigger.)
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To: rhema

I am Catholic. I love the Church, but I fear that just as there are RHINOs in the Republican Party, we have CINOs in the Catholic Church. Catholicism is about faith, the scriptures, and tradition.

Far be it from me to subscribe any socialistic tendencies to the Archbishop, but the Apostles clearly taught the examples to which Christians should adhere in helping the poor and less fortunate in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.

To wit, addressing the early Church in Thessolonica, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy provided this example of how we should behave:

6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, brothers, to keep away from any of the brothers who lives an undisciplined life, not in accordance with the tradition you received from us.

7 You know how you should take us as your model: we were not undisciplined when we were with you,

8 nor did we ever accept food from anyone without paying for it; no, we worked with unsparing energy, night and day, so as not to be a burden on any of you.

9 This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to imitate.

10 We urged you when we were with you not to let anyone eat who refused to work.

11 Now we hear that there are some of you who are living lives without any discipline, doing no work themselves but interfering with other people’s.

12 In the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.

13 My brothers, never slacken in doing what is right.

14 If anyone refuses to obey what I have written in this letter, take note of him and have nothing to do with him, so that he will be ashamed of himself,

15 though you are not to treat him as an enemy, but to correct him as a brother.

Here we see that Christians are required to provide a model to those in need, to teach them to earn their keep, and to provide them love and support.

This is vastly different than simply providing a stipend to the needy from the state, with no requirement towards the behavior of the recipient.

I am constantly amazed at those who say it is our “Christian duty” to pay taxes to support those that are clearly capable of supporting themselves, without requiring a change in any personal conduct that dooms them to their economic situation, such as sloth, and/or drug and alcohol abuse.

That is neither Christian nor helpful to the person in need. You are simply allowing the state to be an enabler of destructive behaviour.


22 posted on 06/27/2011 3:18:51 PM PDT by Optimus Maximus (The criterion of truth is that it works even if nobody is prepared to acknowledge it - L von Mises.)
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