The Politics of Envy . . .and Silence

 Why are the Bishops silent?

On the stump, politicians who would be President speak of the “politics of envy” and “class warfare.” Mormon Mitt and conspicuously Catholic Rick and Newt want the hurting poor to get over their “envy” of what one of their own, Texas Governor Rick Perry, called “vulture capitalists. ” They want the millions who have lost their jobs and their homes to be less angry about the voracious appetite of the largely unrepentant one percent. Too many amongst the ninety nine percent go hungry and homeless because too few amongst the one percent choose to temper their greed. But that should not make them envious, says Mormon Mitt. Ordinary wage earners should not take it personally if they lose their jobs as a consequence of the ebb and flow of investments by those who have the money to make more money. This is how “free enterprise” works, we are told, and it should not be put on trial.

But if anything is on trial, it is the very idea of Christianity. The politicians who would be president cannot declare strongly enough how earnestly “Christian” they are…and therefore mightily ready to lead America to new glory. They fall over themselves trying to woo evangelicals by the sturdiness and conservatism of their faith. They parade their families and their children and, in the Newt’s case, his capacity for redemption and for finding God in America despite the sins brought on by an excess of patriotism, wives and the treasures of Tiffany.

 If a man has two coats, Christianity tells us, he should give one away to the man who has none. How does that jive then with an unstoppable appetite for buying up companies, putting some out of business and pocketing the not inconsiderable change?  How does professed Christianity fit with multiple mansions and a tax return too embarrassing in the story of disproportionate wealth it will likely tell that the candidate is still coy about showing it?

The Catholic candidates are the really interesting ones for how they work the faith and the faithful to their political purpose.  It is equally interesting—and deeply disappointing—that the brand of Catholicism they peddle seems not to trouble the US Bishops. There has been little to no sign of discomfort at Newt’s dismissal of the Palestinians as an invented people and the Bishops are unperturbed by the fact that Rick seems to have missed the class about the “preferential option for the poor” being one of the foundational tenets of Christianity. 

 The discussion of poverty in terms of racist stereotypes has also drawn no fire from the Bishops. The deliberate, repeated distortion of President Obama’s efforts to address practices and policies that systemically keep the poor from moving out of poverty have been derided as the efforts of a “food stamp President,” a favorite epithet frequently dispensed by the newly redeemed Newt. President Obama’s calls for the top one percent to give a little more from their abundance to the national tax coffers is dismissed as “class warfare.”

The Bishops have publicly articulated their grave concern about so called threats to the faith as a consequence of President Obama’s historic healthcare and LGBT policies. This President’s initiatives if anything do not go far enough to serve those in need and to right old wrongs. But he clearly demonstrates by his persistent efforts to speak for the middle class and the disenfranchised that if he has a preferential option, it is for the poor.

What then are we to make of the silence on the part of the US Bishops in the face of very un-Catholic demagoguery from Catholic candidates who wear their faith on their sleeve and on the stump ?

Is the politics of silence on the part of the US Bishops perhaps the more real threat to the Catholic faith in America—and the newest failure of leadership in the church today? If Catholics are not single-issue voters as the Bishops assert, we need to hear a response from these Church leaders to the faux Catholicism peddled by politicians.

New: Some Catholic leaders chastise the Newt and Santorum publicly!

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Posted in Business and Justice, Catholics and Culture, Christian Politicians, Devout Catholic Policians, Fighting Poverty, I BLOG, Justice, Politics and Religion, Religion and Political Discourse, Uncategorized, US Bishops, Workers' Rights
8 comments on “The Politics of Envy . . .and Silence
  1. Pat Gozemba says:

    Whoa, I love your righteous indignation, Dawn. Latest news in: Mitt’s got multiple accounts in the Cayman Islands. I’m miffed that Mittens pays 15% on his earnings while I just had to pay 28% on a measly sum that I withdrew from my retirement account. .Who do these guys think that they are kidding? With voices like yours singing out the truth, maybe our voting allies will remember their outrage long enough to make sure none of these Bozos is smiling on election day. I sentence Newt and Ricky to the Stations of The Cross in perpetuity. And Mitt to a really scratchy hair shirt

  2. Pat,
    I just burst out laughing at the sentences you handed out to the Newt and Ricky–and especially like the really scratchy hair shirt for Mittens!!! Thanks for reading and responding. You help keep me going 🙂

    Following the circus from far off Malaysia–which has its own brand of circus, replete with clowns and deeply flawed ringmasters–and good people who are thankfully fighting back. A very brave and principled Bishop here who speaks out fearlessly–Bishop Paul Tan.Thank God for him and others.

  3. K.C. says:

    It would be fun to print a Republican political candidate bill of individual rights: (off the top of my head so forgive the lack of finesse)
    1.I have the right to bear arms and if I kill you for whatever reason, then you are dead and I am not.
    2. Tampering with our personal rights to text, use cell phones,and wearing helmuts on motorcycles is blasphamy. God made lines on roads to keep cars in their place and stop light systems to blink green in the face of adversity.
    3. I have the right to lie, cheat and steal like we did in the wild west during expansionism. We have the right to own the entire world, not just parts.
    4. I have no responsibility for any one else’s suffering.
    5. Hurting 99% is reasonable…they enjoy the pain of suffering to find meaning in their envy of me
    6. Make deals to make money….Gone with the Wind was about my favorite two sided systems that create money and those guns we need to stay real.
    7. Organized religion needs organizational money to run “nonpolitical ” agendas: fear not 99%…your monies in the coffer help the other 99%…we all know who pays the real bills and keeps the lights on for the sheep.
    8. You must bear and raise those mangled children born from circumstances that we don’t care about…you worry how to keep them alive and don’t ask me or legislation to keep them subsidized. Liberal bleeding hearts can provide services for them. That is what they do best.
    9. Women, remember your place at all times. Same goes for the rest of you and you know who you are. Real American Old White Men take what we want and you enjoy the leftovers.
    10. America is owned already. Find your place as a squatter. Duke it out at your own level of squalor. The 1% need entertainment.

  4. Sheela Jane Menon says:

    Thanks for this post, Mum. I’ve been feeling a little confused and frustrated since Mass on Sunday, when our local priest read the following letter from Bishop Vasquez of Austin:

    The letter passionately condemns President Obama and his administration for “[casting] aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so).” He urges Catholics to pray for this “unjust law” to be overturned, to learn more about the legislation, and to write to legislators calling for this law to be repealed.

    In the midst of the Church’s silence on the issues you discuss in your post, and in the midst of so many other more pressing social justice concerns, (not to mention the complex nature of the women’s health issues that are being granted coverage thanks to this legislation), it’s hard to stomach this letter during Sunday morning Mass.

    I’ve been struggling to articulate my thoughts since then, and I had planned to spend some time actually looking up the legislation. Your post helped get me started and gave me the context I needed to wrestle with this.

  5. SJ–thanks for the comment and for alerting me to Bishop Vasquez’s letter– a good example of the selective indignation of our Church leaders to what they see as threats to our faith. I see no threat greater than their conservative activism, their misogynist policies, their criminal disregard for the welfare of children, their self-serving protectionist approach towards predatory priests and their witchhunt with regard to genuine representatives of faith like the women religious quietly doing their work in the community and dissenting voices like Fr. Roy Bourgeois who stand with women against the Church’s reactionary views. You have motivated me to get started on another post! Love, Mum

    • Sean Sullivan says:

      Wow, that was temperate! Christian really: “Criminal disregard for the welfare of children”, “self-serving,”, mysogynist policies”, “selective indignation”,” “reactionary views.” The Church speaks on faith and morals, not politics, as you clearly would prefer. Faith and morals. There are many ways to help the poor, capitalism being the prime method, as history clearly demonstrates. But I don’t need to hear the Bishops prat about it. Faith and morals. The great moral issue of our day is abortion. Certainly the clearest “self-serving mysogynist policy” relates to those who support aborton on demand, which results in literally millions of female foetuses being killed each year in favor of a preference for a son, among other reasons. That is certainly true in India, probably Malaysia and the rest of the developing world. Faith and morals. THIS is what the Birshops must speak about, and have, not the absurd belief that Big Government has the answer to all society’s needs. You need to read more Chesterton and Hayak and spend less time with The Times. Love you though.

      • John Webster says:


        I understand your libertarian views (though I don’t agree) – I understand your faith in capitalism (many parts of which I do agree) – and I defend your right to assert what you believe to be the “great moral issue of the day” (though I’d rank many others higher) – but, how can you possibly not see that the church speaks and acts on politics in countless way, in countless places and on countless topics?

        Yes, they may do so in their belief that hey are rightfully protecting their interests – just as any interest group does the same. But don’t deny their political activity – from pulpits everywhere.

        And you can’t possibly read the above blog to hold that “big government has the answer to all society’s needs.” Why do you retreat to such extreme position? One can disagree on the right size and role of government but true dialogue can’t seriously advance by resorting to such exaggerations.

        More in June when we meet – if we have the stomach for it.


  6. Sean,

    Love the Times. But it is that gem of a “religious paper with worldly interests” as it describes itself that I look to for my continuing education on matters of faith and politics. Check it out

    Also, just began reading Tom Roberts’ book, “The Emerging Catholic Church”–a look at how lay Catholics across the US are envisioning a leadership that is “less prone to royal bearing and distance from the everyday lives of its people.” In other words a Vatican II church that will not be stifled despite the threats, denunciations and excommunications from the current leadership.

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