Tag Archives: morality

Investor’s eye on socialism shows why it never works

Prudent financial and investment management is crucial to the success of any corporate enterprise. Thoughtful CEOs know they must conduct their business lives with the knowledge that they stand under the watchful eye of God. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “Every economic decision has a moral consequence.”

Legatus has long emphasized that as business leaders, we must employ the culture of life in our organizations. We know that even among fellow Catholics, the horrors of abortion are often not taken seriously. Unfortunately, our world seems to be backsliding on abortion, the greatest evil of our time. Sadly and shamefully, today’s Democratic party is pushing acceptance of mass atrocities — some even endorsing barbaric infanticide. (God help us!) Planned Parenthood is defending that crime. Any clear-thinking person is repulsed by the idea that some newborn lives are worth less than others, since each baby is created in the image and likeness of God. I am ashamed and frustrated with ‘proabortion Catholics.’

In my new book, In God We Trust: Morally Responsible Investing, I elaborate on how odd it is that even as the U.S. economy has prospered from pro-growth policies like taxrate cuts and deregulation, there exists a rising tide of sympathy for socialism among leftist politicians and young people.

When it comes to capitalism vs. socialism, anyone with common sense knows socialism doesn’t work. Wherever it’s been tried worldwide it always hurts the ones it’s supposed to help. Socialism always increases poverty, eliminates incentives, hurts productivity, increases corruption, destroys the economy, and destroys the well-being of its citizens. It’s exasperating to hear these newly minted naïve congresswomen (and men) proposing silly policies, which if implemented, would significantly reduce prosperity for everyone. Capitalism obviously creates job opportunities and incentives, and it has lifted billions of people out of poverty. Capitalism also creates wealth and philanthropy, both of which result from private-sector success. One of my favorite quotes from President Ronald Reagan is, “Socialism can only work in two places, heaven where they don’t need it, and hell where they already have it.”

At my firm, we’re strong believers in the merits of democracy and free-market capitalism. We are also highly focused on the culture of life. Indeed, it is our mission. Schwartz Investment Counsel, Inc. manages five pro-life mutual funds, which comprise the largest family of Catholic mutual funds in the country — Ave Maria Mutual Funds. Our world-class Catholic Advisory Board, made up of individuals well known to Legatus members, have asked my team of analysts and portfolio managers to screen out from each portfolio companies that support abortion and pornography. In doing so, we invest in exceptionally well-managed companies that often have long histories of success in growing their sales, earnings, and dividends in a morally responsible way. In addition, each company must have a strong financial position and prospects for continued success. Tom Monaghan asked my firm to undertake this mission 18 years ago and since then we have has been blessed to attract 100,000+ pro-life shareholders to our mutual fund complex. We’ve grown dramatically, and today manage over $2.3 billion in assets in the Ave Maria Mutual Funds, all of which are invested in a morally responsible way, i.e., no companies supporting abortion or pornography.

The culture of life should and must be a priority for every Legate.

GEORGE P. SCHWARTZ, CFA is chairman and chief executive officer of Schwartz Investment Counsel, Inc., the investment adviser to the Ave Maria Mutual Funds. He is a member of the Ann Arbor Chapter, and author of three books including his newest, entitled In God We Trust: Morally Responsible Investing

The Longtime Low From Living High

In cities and suburbs across the country, recreational marijuana shops are mushrooming in strip malls and commercial downtown districts.

An adult can walk into one of those stores and legally purchase several different varieties of marijuana and edibles such as cookies and brownies, all formulated to get the consumer high.

No harmless indulgence

“It’s a pursuit of pleasure that has nothing to do with God. It’s a purely hedonistic experience that one is searching for,” said Dr. Jeff Berger, the medical director for Guest House, a rehabilitation center in Michigan for priests who suffer from alcoholism and other addictions.

Berger, who is also a member of the Catholic Medical Association, has been treating addicts for 34 years. Marijuana, he warned, is not the harmless substance that pro-cannabis advocates have been claiming it is in their drive to legalize pot in the states.

“Seventeen percent of those who begin marijuana use in adolescence will become addicted to the drug,” Berger said. “And of those who are daily users, 25 to 50 percent of those will become addicted to the drug.”

Those statistics are backed by a 2014 study in The New England Journal of Medicine which also found evidence that frequent marijuana use is linked to cognitive impairment and an average IQ drop of about ten points.

“Interestingly enough, there is a diminished life satisfaction achievement,” Berger said. “People who were queried after several years of marijuana use are more likely to have dropped out of school, generally have lower incomes, and are more likely to be on welfare and unemployed.”

Steve Bozza, a moral theologian and bioethicist who serves as the director of Family Ministries for the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, said the research also indicates that marijuana, despite assertions to the contrary, does serve for many people as a gateway drug to harder narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.

“It’s not harmless,” said Bozza, who also recently co-authored an article with Berger on the morality of municipalities creating “safe injection sites” where addicts can obtain clean needles to shoot up heroin.

In recent years, at least 10 states, including the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana, while 33 states allow for medical marijuana.

 Under-realized dangers – health and moral

Pro-cannabis advocates, who are well-funded and well-organized, have used several arguments to convince state legislatures and voters in referendums to legalize recreational marijuana. In addition to arguing that prohibition has failed to stop people from smoking weed and has led to countless nonviolent offenders to be imprisoned, advocates say marijuana is a harmless drug that is no more dangerous than caffeine or alcohol.

Not true, said Berger and Bozza.

“You can use alcohol without becoming intoxicated,” Berger said. “But the whole purpose of using marijuana is to get intoxicated. That’s a critical difference.”

“The only reason why someone smokes marijuana is to get high,” Bozza added. “That changes the whole dynamic.”

There is no defined, specific Catholic teaching on cannabis. But Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Church documents condemn drunkenness and recreational drug use that impair the mind and body. The Catechism describes the use of drugs, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, as a grave offense (#2291)

With those principles in mind, the nation’s Catholic bishops have frequently spoken out against marijuana-related ballot measures in the states.

“When you’re high on drugs, you lose autonomy. You lose your ability to make proper decisions based on reason and freedom of choice. It puts you in slavery,” said Bozza, adding that smoking marijuana to get high is contrary to human dignity

“Therefore, we have moral issues with that,” Bozza said.

High potential for abuse, addiction

The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, along with other drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, and LSD. That classification indicates the federal government considers marijuana to have a high potential for abuse.

“If you’re smoking cannabis regularly, you’re likely to have withdrawals when you stop,” Berger said. “Some of the symptoms might be irritability, aggression, anger, restlessness, and insomnia. The more marijuana you’ve been smoking, the worse the withdrawal symptoms are going to be.”

While marijuana is composed of more than 80 chemical compounds, THC is the chemical that creates the euphoria, “the high,” while also at times inducing hallucinations and delusions. Berger said THC is the chemical in marijuana that causes addiction.

“When they think of marijuana, a lot of older people think of the pot from the 1960s and 1970s,” said Berger, who added that the marijuana of decades past had a THC level of about 4 percent. Marijuana today has a THC level around 30 percent.

“It is much more potent now,” Berger said.

That potency may explain the evidence of modern marijuana’s addictive quality. A 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 4.3 million Americans have “marijuana dependence.” Many of those respondents were adolescents

Other studies found that slightly more than a third of American high school seniors in 2013 reported using marijuana. The 2014 study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that roughly 17 percent of teenagers who smoke pot regularly become addicted.

“The disease of addiction is deadly and produces significant suffering or death to the individual and the individual’s loved ones,” Berger said. “The studies are very clear that not only is marijuana addictive in and of itself, but desensitizes the brain to more harmful substances.”

On the medical front, marijuana contains a chemical known as cannabidiol, also known as CBD, that appears to have therapeutic qualities that can be used to treat a variety of maladies to include bipolar disorder and epilepsy, while also relieving nausea in chemotherapy patients.

However, Berger warned that the data on medical marijuana is still not yet complete.

 No FDA regulations

“If this were a drug being approved through the regular system, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would require some additional proof that the negative effects of regular marijuana use were not happening,” Berger said, adding that there are also concerns about how regular use of medical marijuana may affect pregnant women and their unborn children.

“With medical marijuana, there are no FDA regulations,” Berger said. “You don’t know how pure it is. You don’t know what the potency is. You don’t know whether pesticides were applied to it. You don’t know if anything else was added to it.”

Threshold of epidemic

Berger said the evidence also shows marijuana addiction is linked to higher risks of impaired short-term memory, difficulty retaining information, and impaired coordination that interferes with driving skills, which increases the risk of injury and death.

The push to legalize marijuana is occurring while hundreds of thousands of Americans across socioeconomic lines are overdosing and dying from opioids like heroin and fentanyl. Just as the national opioid crisis is ravaging communities across the country, Berger is concerned that another public health disaster is brewing.

“At this point,” Berger said, “We are at the beginning of an epidemic.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Thriving society hinges on health of the family

Regardless of creed, national origin, or cultural background, a nation’s strength and survival fundamentally depend on the stability of the family.

The family and marriage need to be defended and promoted not only by the State but also by the whole of society. Both require the decisive commitment of every person because it is starting from the family and marriage that a complete answer can be given to the challenges of the present and the risks of the future. — Charter of the Rights of the Family, ¶9

Because of the weakening of families, society is plagued by a host of violent behaviors. Evils ranging from promiscuity, pornography, contraception, abortion, the rejection of parental rights, divorce, co-habitation, legalization of same-sex unions, and human trafficking, lead to societal and family violence, chronic poverty, and the abandonment of society’s care for the aged and handicapped.

If a healthy society hinges upon the health and vibrancy of the family, then we must defend its immutable role as instituted by God. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote, and defend the institution of marriage, an indissoluble and exclusive union between one man and one woman, as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Within natural marriage, man and woman give themselves completely to one another, begetting and raising children. Within this sacred environment, the first school, children learn: love, goodness, care, responsibility toward their neighbors, forgiveness, mercy, and charity.

Man Needs God

We should note here that while governments can adopt policies that to some degree protect the family, the real work is at the cultural level, which both determines and is determined by politics. The wealthy nations and NGOs that are promoting the radical redefinition of rights and values have great access to governments, but they often are thwarted where the Church has a toehold, and where she is still often leading the fight to protect the natural family and sacredness of human life.

When faith is central, the Church is a key component of daily life and her teachings are integrated in the life of the community; there is life, joy and peace – a healthy society. When faith is rejected and acceptance of immoral teachings become normative, the community begins to wither and violence against life and family prospers.

For many in the world, science, technology and man’s own abilities are sufficient for life’s dilemmas and resolutions. We have seen the fruit of such a perilous direction and the consequences resulting from the rejection of God. All we need do is turn back the pages of time to the 20th century to experience one of history’s most violent and murderous periods. It is a testimony to man’s ability to self-destruct without a Truth outside himself guiding him, calling him, and giving him purpose and identity.

The human person is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake. — Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1703

Do you love Me more?

We cannot say this task of conversion belongs to others, for the task belongs to each of us. In order to authentically redirect society from its hazardous direction and transform it into a Culture of Life and Civilization of Love, we must defend the natural family and protect every life; all Christian people must live fully integrated lives in Christ, being light and salt and determined through heroic virtue and witness to regain what has been lost.

When one’s strength is anchored and sustained by faith in Christ Jesus, animated by the Holy Spirit and nourished in prayer, he or she is unstoppable – able to overcome the challenges of the world, thwarting evil from its destructive will, renewing the face of the earth.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

Morality of behavior hinges on three elements

I was pleasantly surprised a few years ago when visiting our parish CCD class. A young boy simply said: “You have to be good in order to be happy.” I told him that St. Thomas Aquinas would be pleased to hear him say this. But how do we make good choices in life? The simple answer is that we need to learn how God wants us to live, and then do that – “Thy will be done.” Our Divine Savior revealed God’s will to mankind by word and example. Jesus commanded His apostles to teach this revelation to all nations. The Church over the ages has set forth clear teachings to instruct the faithful in the way of Christ’s truth.

Fr. Gerald Murray

On the question of the morality of our actions, the Church has given very specific guidance in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on how to judge what we should do, and not do. In paragraphs 1750-1754 we learn the constitutive elements of the moral evaluation of human acts: “The morality of human acts depends on: the object chosen; the end in view or the intention; the circumstances of the action.” Object, intention and circumstances: These three elements determine the moral evaluation of any human act.

Regarding the object the Catechism states: “The object chosen is a good toward which the will deliberately directs itself. It is the matter of a human act. The object chosen morally specifies the act of the will, insofar as reason recognizes and judges it to be or not to be in conformity with the true good. Objective norms of morality express the rational order of good and evil, attested to by conscience.” By a choice of our will we seek some good in our life. The question is: is it a true good, something pleasing to God? God gave us our reasoning so that we might discover what is pleasing to him in the variety of possible choices we make in life. Once discovered, we should act in conformity with that good, seeking the help of God’s grace.

Regarding one’s intention, the Catechism states: “In contrast to the object, the intention resides in the acting subject. Because it lies at the voluntary source of an action and determines it by its end, intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: It is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken.” We seek what we think will produce good in our life, but that alone does not make our choice good in itself. It is a good choice if we seek what is objectively good.

Our intention cannot change an evil act into a good act simply by claiming that we have the best of intentions when doing something that is evil by its very nature. The Catechism states: “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means.”

Regarding circumstances the Catechism states: “The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.”

The task at hand for each of us is, with the help of God’s grace, to conform our lives to God’s law and to the example His Son Jesus Christ set for us.

FATHER GERALD MURRAY is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY. He holds a doctorate in canon law from Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and appears as commentator on religious topics on TV and radio, including EWTN, Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC, NY1, Radio Maria, Relevant Radio, Fox News Radio and the Voice of America. He writes a monthly column for “The Catholic Thing” website. He served in U.S. Navy Reserve Chaplain Corps from 1994 to 2005.

Spotlighting objective truth in moral debates

Edward J. Furton, M.A., PH.D.

Debates over ethical questions often conceal a more fundamental disagreement about whether morality can be objective. A moral judgment that is subjective does not bind anyone, while a judgment that is objective is binding because it is grounded in something that is recognized to be true. The statement, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion” is a good example of the first approach. The second approach holds that moral judgments can be right or wrong because they stand in relation to something that exists apart from our feelings, desires, and personal opinions. Because this standard is external, it can serve as a common object of agreement among two or more people.

A fuller description of this objective system of morality begins with the term teleology, which comes from the Greek words: telos, meaning “purpose, goal or end,” and logos, meaning “knowledge, reason or science.” Our ability to know the purposes of things is the foundation of the traditional Western view about the nature of the good. Those who seek to defend a common and objective moral standard would do well to appeal regularly to the idea of purposes in nature.

To take a very simple example, food is a purpose, goal or end of human action. We devote a great deal of time and energy to growing, cooking and consuming food. Food is an objective good. This is obvious. We would laugh at anyone who said that this is just our opinion. Obviously, we cannot just eat anything we want. Babies may sometimes put dirt in their mouths, but it is not food. Because food is an objective good, it generates moral problems, for example, malnutrition and starvation, waste of food, and the transmission of disease. All of these evils are also objective. They inhere in the goodness of food and the possibility of its loss or corruption.

Life is likewise an objective good. All things strive to preserve themselves in existence. Again, no one would say that this is simply a personal opinion. We know this to be true through observation. Human beings strive to preserve their lives. By stressing that the unborn child naturally desires to live we compel our opponents to deny the obvious. Thus a fetus is just a “blob of tissue.” Of course, the fetus is a highly complex organization whose entire purpose is to grow, develop and perfect its own life. This too is obvious, and we win when our opponents deny what is as obvious as this.

Other goods are more complex, but nonetheless show themselves to be inherently purposeful. Marriage, for example, has several interrelated purposes. Companionship and sexual intimacy are two, and these are directly related to the birth and education of children. The wider secular society tells us that marriage is just a social construct, as if it were produced by our own imagination. Nature tells us otherwise. The purpose of the male and female sexual anatomy is the engendering of offspring. So too are the psychological differences between men and women. Some couples are sterile and so cannot have children, but it is obvious that nature intends the difference between the sexes for the purpose of generation.

All of these examples take their bearings from what is objectively given within nature. This is the only proper basis for moral argumentation. When we form our arguments around the purposes of nature we compel our opponents to confront what I like to call “moral facts.” The goodness of food, life, marriage, and other similar examples, shows itself in nature. We want our opponents to deny what is obvious, namely, that these goods are objective, and when they do, ask them how they can take a position that is so contrary to self-evident fact. Nature exists as a teleological system. Our arguments are at their best when we appeal to the purposes of nature in defense of the objectivity of the good.

EDWARD J. FURTON, M.A., PH.D., is an ethicist at The National Catholic Bioethics Center (Philadelphia), Director of Publications, and Editor-in-Chief of NCBC’s award-winning National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly.

Who Am I To Judge?

Edward Sri
Ignatius Press, 2016
190 pages, paperback $16.95

In an age in which preference has replaced morality, many people find it difficult to speak the truth. They’re afraid of the reactions they will receive if they say something is right or wrong. Using engaging stories and personal experience, Sri helps readers understand the classical view of morality, and he equips us to engage relativism, appealing to both the head and the heart.

Subtitled Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love, the book teaches how Catholic morality is all about love, why making a judgment is not judging a person’s soul, and why, in the words of Pope Francis, “relativism wounds people.”

Order:  AmazonBarnes and Noble

Sex: the world’s obsession

Peter Kreeft says sex is the world’s obsession, not that of the Church . . .

Peter Kreeft

By its own admission, what our age finds most unacceptable in the Church’s perennial wisdom is her sexual morality. Almost every controversial issue dividing “dissenters” from the Church’s teaching is about sexual morality: fornication, contraception, homosexuality, divorce and most especially abortion.

The Church has always shared her Master’s holy unpopularity. But never before the “sexual revolution” did this unpopularity center almost exclusively on sex. In all eras and cultures, fallen man has never been very good at obeying any of God’s commandments. Man has always failed to practice what he preaches. But today he denies the preaching, the ideal itself, when it concerns sex.

Most other areas of traditional morality are still assumed to be rightful and attainable ideals. But traditional sexual morality is almost always assumed to be unhealthy and unattainable, and the Church is usually portrayed as obsessed with sexual morality. This obsession with sex is not the Church’s but the world’s. There is much more to the Church’s sexual morality than “just say no,” much more to the Church’s morality than sexual morality, and much more to the Church’s teaching than morality.

Each age has a different perspective. It seems incredible to most modern minds that, in the fourth century, the Church nearly endured a schism over the right date to celebrate Easter and did go into schism, in the eleventh, over whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only or from the Father and the Son. Our Catholic ancestors would be just as shocked at our preoccupation with sexual morality as we are at their very different priorities.

We should not expect the Church’s teachings to coincide with “the wisdom of the world” (1 Cor 1:20) in any age or culture, for her teachings do not come from this world but from heaven, not from man but from God. Man has gone off the track set for him by God. Sin means separation from God — so God’s track has always appeared to fallen man as “a stone that will make men stumble and a rock that will make them fall” (1 Pet 2:8), just as Christ himself did. We should expect that. Chesterton said, “I don’t need a Church to tell me I’m wrong where I already know I’m wrong. I need a Church to tell me I’m wrong where I think I’m right.”

This column is reprinted with permission from the book “Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Ignatius Press, 2001). Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, is the best-selling author of over 63 books.

Fighting the good fight

Mainstream thinking in the academy is that Christian morality has no place in education . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

The world is certainly a different place than when I attended college in the late 1980s. I studied at two secular schools and proudly lived my faith, joining Catholic clubs and attending Mass as often as possible on campus.

I can vividly remember talking to the Protestant students at the Campus Crusade for Christ table during orientation before later joining Catholic Christian Outreach, a dynamic movement of Catholic university students.

I encountered little hostility from students or professors. However, hostility toward Christians on secular college campuses has grown rapidly. (Click here for a related story.) A 2008 study by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA shows that college students tend to shift to more liberal positions on issues like gay marriage, abortion and religion from the time they are freshmen through their junior year.

That shift — facilitated by both peers and professors — was evident this summer as a number of students and professors who tried to live their faith on campuses across the country were summarily shut down.

Case in point: Dr. Kenneth Howell, a devout Catholic teaching at the University of Illinois, was terminated for simply answering a student’s email on what the Church teaches about homosexuality.

Mainstream thinking in the academy is that traditional Judeo-Christian morality has no place in higher education. No debate. No discussion.

So what’s a Christian student to do when standing up for what you believe can get you expelled? You can always keep your faith to yourself. But Jesus says we’re not to keep our light under a bushel basket (Mt 5:15) and St. Paul tells us that we must fight to win (1 Cor 9:24-27).

We’re called to be a light to those who walk in darkness. Our example, our courage and the truth — even if it’s shut out of the debate — will eventually win out. But if we walk away and leave those who don’t know Christ to their own devices, their future (and their eternity) could be awfully grim.

In Dr. Howell’s case, he kept the faith. Within days, students and the community rallied to his defense demanding academic freedom and a little common sense. The result? He got his job back.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The UCLA study I mentioned notes that despite the secularization of our public colleges and universities, 79% of college freshmen believe in God, and 69% pray and find strength, support and guidance in their religious beliefs.

The truth is that the vast majority of Americans outside the major urban centers are not sold on the secular left’s agenda to wean America of its religious heritage. We should never be afraid to stand up for the truth. Besides, God is on our side.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus Magazine’s editor.

The last acceptable bias

The depths to which secular journalists have sunk to attack the Church is deplorable . . .

Patrick Novecosky

The past few months have been painful for Catholics. Ever since March 25 when The New York Times published a slanted, skillfully deceptive article on Pope Benedict XVI’s handling of sexual abuse cases, a steady drip of stories has attempted to erode the Church’s moral authority.

Unfortunately, most Catholics only get their news from the mainstream media where political correctness is everything and the last acceptable bias is to loathe the Catholic Church and everything it stands for. But people are starting to see through the bias and deception. The number of people watching the network evening news and reading the Times continues to plummet.

One aspect of the abuse scandal that the secular media is not telling you is this: Almost all of the cases in question happened in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s by homosexual priests. Over the past 10 to 15 years, more stringent psychological evaluation methods are keeping pedophiles and homosexuals out of the seminaries. In fact, the one who helped implement these procedures was none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

Church leaders, psychologists and the justice system understood child abuse differently in the 1950s than they do now. And they treated it differently. That’s another great distinction the media doesn’t want you to consider.

Something else they won’t tell you: The latest report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, covering 2008-2009, shows exactly six credible allegations made against over 40,000 priests and tens of thousands of others working for the Catholic Church. That’s still too many. The goal is zero, and we’re getting there. But it’s a far cry from the numbers the media would have us believe.

Another fact the media is ignoring is that, according to a 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, “the physical sexual abuse of students in [public] schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” I reported on this study, authored by Charol Shakeshaft, when it was released. “The most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.” Where are headlines on this? Where is the outrage over educators abusing children? The media’s silence offers strong proof of its bias against the Church for its unbending moral stance on issues like abortion, homosexuality and contraception. The media has long foregone its commitment to truth in order to pursue an ideological agenda.

Don’t get me wrong. Those responsible for protecting children in the Church have made grave mistakes. Priests have committed horrible crimes. But an inordinate amount of ink has been spilled to condemn the Holy Father. Pope Benedict has, in his own words, been committed to cleaning up the “filth” in the Church for decades. Assuredly he will continue even as the “gates of hell” rail against him.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus Magazine’s editor.

Morality and the meltdown

Who would have imagined 20 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of socialism — or in the 1990s when so many made their fortunes in the new economy — that now in 2009 capitalism would be under heavy fire. The Cardinal of Westminster, Cormack Murphy O’Connor, reportedly went as far as to say that as 1989 marked the end of communism, 2008 is the year when capitalism came to an end.

What are we to make of capitalism in light of all these crises, fraud and government bailouts when even some traditional advocates of markets are supporting bailouts and seem to have lost faith in the market order? Is capitalism really to blame for all of the financial woes we now face?

Before we try to answer that question, it’s important to point out that the word “capitalism” is actually a Marxist term. While we use it interchangeably with “market economy,” the Marxist view of capitalism surprisingly still shapes the way we understand economics. The word “capitalism” gives the impression that the market is something out there — a nebulous force which can create great wealth but can also turn and harm us.

This impersonal understanding can lead us to blame markets when things go wrong instead of looking for reasons that are harder to diagnose and often reveal deeper cultural and spiritual issues. In his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II specifically rejected the term “capitalism,” preferring instead “market economy,” “business economy” or “free economy.” He did this not to be pedantic but to illustrate the important truth that markets are fundamentally networks of human relationships. Understanding markets this way sheds light not only on many economic problems, but also on the underlying moral nature of markets.

Markets are the combined activities of millions of individuals, not just some guys on Wall Street. But like all human institutions, markets are not perfect and can fail. If people become overly speculative and are convinced that prices can only go up, they will violate all norms of prudence and keep buying at outlandish prices. It happened in the tulip bubble in 1637, the dot.com bubble in 2000 and the housing bubble last year. Sooner or later, reality sets in and the bubble bursts.

Markets can teach us important, though often painful, lessons about life, and we cannot separate markets from human action and human responsibility. Despite their failures, however, free markets have lifted more people out of poverty and helped create prosperity and peace than any system ever devised — so much so that even in today’s financial downturn, very few people who live in mature market economies are desolate and on the brink of starvation. Notice that markets are often blamed for the downturns, yet we tend to forget the cause of the upturn.

In these days of financial turmoil, we often hear critics speaking about de-regulation or “unbridled capitalism.” Yet both of these are straw men. Unbridled capitalism is a myth. Try to think of one country where there are no regulations on the economy or business. In fact, for free markets to succeed and be sustainable, they require a framework with rule of law, contracts, secure property rights and so on. The real question is what regulations and what level of intervention we should choose.

It’s important to remember that many of the primary reasons for this crisis are precisely an overly invasive government that created regulations requiring banks to provide mortgages to customers who could not pay back the loans, the Federal Reserve which manipulated the money supply and thus exacerbated the housing boom, and the promise of bailouts which incentivized irresponsible behavior. These are prime examples of what Friedrich Hayek labeled “the fatal conceit,” the notion that bureaucrats and politicians have enough knowledge to plan an economy better than the individuals and businesses.

Sustainable markets also require a specific moral culture. This includes trust, diligence, collaboration, honesty, perseverance and prudence. If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s the importance of morality for a market economy. Wall Street bankers took imprudent risks with clients’ money and bought financial instruments they hardly understood.

Yet instead of learning the lessons of the past, we again hear calls for increased regulation and government involvement. Some regulation is necessary, but we must not look to regulation to solve our moral problems. Here is where the realization that markets are networks of human relationships is important. If we regulate too much, we concentrate the power of markets in fewer and fewer hands. This has led to all sorts of corruption. Socialist economies, cartels, oligarchies and union-controlled industries where the price mechanism cannot function lead to stagnation and create incentives for corruption.

It is a false hope to believe that regulation will make everything right, a utopian dream that ignores human failing and is the same promise that has been peddled by the socialists. It is likewise delusional to believe that markets alone are enough. Markets require more than just efficiency, they require virtue. Our Founders taught us that political liberty could not long be sustained without virtue. The same holds true for economic liberty. Yet without economic liberty there can be no political liberty. Like liberty, the market must be moral or it cannot be.

Michael Miller is the Director of Programs at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich.