Volume 2, Part 9

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Laissez-faire capitalism would free markets from any and all government controls and therefore provide no protections for either capital or labor. Communism would subordinate the individual to the state. Either ideology leads to greater poverty. So how is a Catholic to show a wise and sincere "preference for the poor and vulnerable"?

To begin with, a Catholic must be aware of the dangers of "sentimentality." "Sentimentality originally indicated the reliance on feelings as a guide to truth. Current usage defines it as an appeal to shallow, uncomplicated emotions at the expense of reason. Sentimentalism would ground ethics and morality in sentiments or emotions.

In modern times, sentimentality was at the heart of the "flower power" of the 1960s and the 1990s outpouring of grief at the death of Princess Diana, just to touch on two of many well-known examples. Today, sentimentality is a factor in so-called "political correctness." Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007), a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist and political commentator, critically attacked the sentimentality of Western humanitarianism. He suggested that 'in the New Sentimental Order, the affluent become consumers of the "ever more delightful spectacle of poverty and catastrophe, and of the moving spectacle of our own attempts to alleviate it" (Wikipedia).'

There is also the problem of "sentimental fallacy" which includes the tendency for persons, individually and collectively, to think that we are wiser, better, more powerful than, in reality, we are. Remember, Christ said, "The poor you will always have with you ... (Mat 26:11; Mk 14:7; Jn 12:8)" and "You [personally and directly] give them something to eat. (Mt 14:16; Mk 6:37; Lk 9:13)" This is the least we should be doing. The most we should be doing, institutionally, should be guided by the "principle of subsidiarity." The danger being that as we "institutionalize" charity, we "institutionalize" poverty – and depersonalize both!

Deacon Joseph B. Gorini, Mechanicsburg PA <///><  [First Published October 23, 2011]

Category: Volume 2

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