Can we have a Catholic Capitalism?

I was recently asked, “What makes up a Catholic Budget?”  In short, I believe the answer is: we all do best when we’re doing best together. Budgetary battles are about priorities, but so often we let them fall into the drudgery of “us-against-them” politicking. Faith leaders have an important responsibility to remind the 100% that the 47% and 1% are both harmed by the growing gap in our society.

The Holy Father aptly explains how “growing instances of inequality between the rich and the poor” are creating “hotbeds of tension and conflict.”  He cites “the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset” as the source behind this great inequality, which he also sees as the source of international crime and terrorism. These statements should raise a series of moral questions for Catholics who view the market as a player in morality.

We’re forced to remember the standard set by Jesus and wonder how our society will be judged based on our treatment of the vulnerable.  We must ask ourselves, “Can we be both Catholic and Capitalists?”

Unregulated (and inadequately regulated) capitalism has created a culture of “profits before people”—certainly at odds with our Catholic faith.  Many have tied the creation and retention of wealth to the concept of hard work, generating the idea that monetary rewards must be the result of hard work, and those who are poor simply do not work hard enough. As Catholics, we share in the responsibility of lifting up the voices of the poor who are working hard to provide for their families, but are still left behind in an unforgiving system.

What we are afraid to admit is that capitalism isn’t the problem; too often, we Catholics are. We go to mass on Sunday and hear the Gospel message—and then we go on with our week. We do not do enough to stand against a culture of greed, in favor of a more inclusive culture of “common good” policies.

Capitalism can be a system for good, and globalization has the potential power to elevate the developing world so that they can meet the needs of their people. Yet these remain economic systems in a world of economic realities. Catholics must heed the Pope’s call to live as a witness for the marginalized and provide the human dimension to our political practices.


Following @Jesus outside #FollowFriday

I remember that day a few years ago when the Pope sat at his desk with an iPad in front of him. Surrounded by his staff, he lifted his hand and tapped the screen, sending out a (prepared) tweet to launch the Vatican news portal. It was an endearingly awkward moment of traditional meets modern and, let’s be honest, no matter how much we love the Holy Father, that whole set-up was a little strange. However, when all the hype and (prepared) tweets faded away, we had a unique opportunity to realize an important message for the New Evangelization.

Politics, our faith and our culture all rely on a communal experience that we often forget about. In 2012 the world is more networked and intertwined than ever before. We can have global conversations in real time—video chat with friends on the other side of the world—and broadcast a message to billions of people with a tap of a screen. Yet, more and more people feel isolated, alone and only artificially connected with one another. We feel as though we’ve lost the human element—which is detrimental to our faith and our more holistic human experience.

Hearing from bishops on twitter and tweeting out the latest trends from the Vatican (is there such a thing?) are not the most “Catholic” way to use this new global network. To harness the power of this network we need to remember a very simple mantra: it’s all about community.

Facebook users and Tweeps (twitter users) have an overloaded sense of confidence. They attack people online and write heinous diatribes because they suspect they will never meet that person face-to-face. When did we become a society that deems it okay to be cruel, as long as it is done online? Catholics have an important responsibility to not only bring Christ’s love to the world—but to bring it to the masses (pun intended) online.

Catholics can and should be a voice of civility online, and by example, use these incredibly powerful tools of social media to bring the world into a common dialogue about the issues that matter. Too often, the prominent Catholic voices in the blogosphere and twitterverse spend all their time talking about inside-baseball at the Vatican and the hottest gossip out of the USCCB, while throwing in a periodic latin quote to show how worldly they are. We rarely talk about the issues that Catholics deal with on a day-to-day basis.

I have nothing against people who study theology and spend a great deal of time studying the ins and outs of our faith. Yet we need to realize that the average layperson does not have the time, resources or desire to share in this capacity. We build the kingdom here on earth, by talking about our present community, rather than solely what we should be.  After all, this is what Jesus did! He met people where they were in life and led by example. Now it’s our turn.

Take out your smartphones or sit down at your computers.  Let’s have a Tweet-up on the Mount or a Google Hangout for Poverty Reduction. Let’s use these tools for the purpose they were intended: global community for the common good.

John McCarthy is active in both the political and non-profit sectors. You can follow him on twitter @JohnWMcCarthy.