An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Republic Windows and Doors According to St. Thomas
Capitalism is not an abstraction, it is a concrete fact that we live with every day. It has a nature that we can describe by observing what it actually acts like in the real world. That nature does not lend itself to increasing contributions to provide more and more of life's necessities first. It never has done that and it never will because the engine of capitalism is profit, not reasonable opportunities for self-actualization. As long as profit directs economic action, rather than the common good, then it will always tend to centralize wealth in the hands of the few. It does this not from malice, but because it's nature is to seek accumulation of exchange value - that is the engine that results in both its productivity and its destruction.
What I'm saying is that it is not a "neutral" economic system that has been tragically distorted by sin, but that it is the direct product of sin. I say this as a Catholic, basing my thought on the teachings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, especially St. Thomas Aquinas, and I would treasure a Catholic reply to my points which so far none has made to any of my postings.
It is self-evident that capitalism is based on avarice, on the lust for ever-expanding accumulation. St. Thomas Aquinas said the following about the motivating engine of capitalism, "Avarice gives rise to insensibility to compassion, because one's heart is not softened by compassion to assist the needy with one's riches...It also give rise to restlessness, by hindering one with excessive anxiety and care, for ' an avaricious man shall not be satisfied with money (Ecclesiastes 5:9)." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 118, a. 6 ad. 1
Every Christian knows in his or her heart that "... spiritual sins are consummated in pleasures of the spirit without pleasure of the flesh. Such is covetousness: for the covetous man takes pleasure in the consideration of himself as a possessor of riches. Therefore covetousness is a spiritual sin." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 118, a. 6
As we experience every day in the current economic crisis, inhumanity is the same as insensibility to compassion - indeed the capitalist mentality is a form of possession: "Chrysostom compares a covetous man to the man who was possessed by the devil, not that the former is troubled in the flesh in the same way as the latter, but by way of contrast, since while the possessed man, of whom we read in Mark 5, stripped himself, the covetous man loads himself with an excess of riches." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 118, a. 6
The words of Sirach were the common coin of wisdom in St. Thomas' time: "'Nothing is more wicked than a covetous man,' and the text continues: 'There is not a more wicked thing than to love money: for such a one setteth even his own soul to sale.' Tully also says (De Offic. i, under the heading, 'True magnanimity is based chiefly on two things'): 'Nothing is so narrow or little minded as to love money.'" - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 118, a. 6
Apropos of the Bank of America scandal, "When someone lends money...on the understanding that he will receive his money back and in addition demands a charge for the use of it, it is clear that he is selling separately the substance of the money and the use of it. In consequence he is selling something that does not exist, or he is selling the same thing twice, which is manifestly against the notion of natural justice." - St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo, 4.
The nature of capitalism has been well-described by St. Thomas: "The other kind of exchange is either that of money for money, or of any commodity for money, not on account of the necessities of life, but for profit, and this kind of exchange, properly speaking, regards tradesmen, according to the Philosopher (Polit. i, 3). The former kind of exchange is commendable because it supplies a natural need: but the latter is justly deserving of blame, because, considered in itself, it satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity. Hence trading, considered in itself, has a certain debasement attaching thereto, in so far as, by its very nature, it does not imply a virtuous or necessary end." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 77
The events at Republic Windows and Doors highlight the true nature of the current economic system, and the nature of De malo, which does not brutalize accidentally, distorted through avarice, but by its nature, which is derived from sin.