Friday, October 20, 2006


Friday is Payday for many people, and has me thinking about the writings of Leo XIII, Fr. McNabb, Chesterton, and Belloc in the area of finance and wealth.

My local parish is doing a "Stewardship as a Way of Life" campaign. Although factually true, I believe that slogans like this are just that......more slogans competing for consumer dollars in the marketplace. These drives leave me with a bad taste in my mouth, they are really nothing more than attempts to change some numbers in the check book with the idea of sending some more to the Church.

The writings of the Distributists are what eventually took the bad taste away. The distributist outlook seamlessly blends human dignity, work, ownership, art/culture, and even sexuality and liturgy into a (somewhat) coherent form that you can work to implement into your life.

The Gospel counsels of poverty and possessions are challenging in all times and places. We suffer from the fact of being far removed from Semetic culture to truly grasp the nuances and power of the original meanings of those words. This misfortune is multiplied by the fact that those most interested in economic justice are almost universally marxists in their orientation.........Especially within the Churches.

I consider myself to be a Distributist on a 5-year plan. :-) I work in finance, invest a bit, and study a great deal the workings of trade and wealth generation. The more I study distributism, the more I believe that there are economic forms of pornograpy, adultery, disloyalty, and all the other vices. There is the old maxim, "Be the change you want to see in the world." I truly believe this, and it is an achievable goal. I think to truly live as a distributist, one should be willing to forego certain things, but I can see the rewards in living a truly just life, and truly living in touch with one's humanity.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. More explanation of what you mean in more practical terms would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

My local parish is doing a "Stewardship as a Way of Life" campaign also. I think you are being a bit hard on this campign. It is designed to get people to THINK about the amount (time & treasure) they are returning to the Lord. Many people, our priest noted, gave $1 bills as their Christmas gift last year. They are just not thinking.
Yes, and a practical explaination of distributionism would be helpful.

Anonymous said...

Re: Christmas gift.

I've been told that a large portion of the Christmas offering goes to the parish priest as a bonus, with the remainder kicked up to the bishop. Is that accurate?

I don't find it objectionable or anything, but no one in my diocese talks about it. I think people should know if that's what the money goes to. Some might be more generous, others might clamp their wallet shut. But they should at least be told.

Any insight?

Kyro said...

Sorry about over-assuming familiarity with all things Chestertonian.

There was a renaissance in Catholic Social Teaching in the 19th century centered around the reign of Pope Leo XIII, and particularly his encyclical, Rerum Novarum. The industrial revolution and the rise of marxism and capitalism as opposing forces complicated the relationships between ownership, worker dignity, and the role of the state.

One of the intellectual movements in response to this was Distributism, a means to cut a balance between capitalism and socialism.

In a practical way, distributism tries to make "capitalists" out of as many people as possible. Much like a modernized guild system, a distributist society would consist of a large number of small business people, artisans, and shopkeepers. I could expand this thousands of words, but that should give enough of a start to search for more. IHS Press has done a great job of getting the writings of the distributists back in print.

Christmas.....I dont know about that stuff. I still think the Stewardship slogan is still irritating. If you are trying to make a teaching moment, we have so much better material to draw from, such as distributism, Franciscan spirituality, Rerum Novarum, and a number of other places. If our intention is to help people understand the relationship between discipleship and money, use those. If you are just funding a building campaign, use a slogan.

Practical investing terms...CS Lewis wrote something in Mere Christianity about usury that I think applies here. Money begetting money out of nothing, and gain not tied to risk is the placing of a burden. This are rather simplistic terms vs. the complexities of option trading, selling on margin, etc. These are complicated waters to swim in but we know the following for certain: be legal, operate in just businesses, do not burden the poor, share in gain and loss - should not gain while a partner or someone down the chain should not have to lose in order for you to profit.

I think Phil Lenehan(sp) has written a great deal on these topics for Catholic Exchange. If it is part of your vocation to be in business, I think you are called to extra discernment as to the just use of capital.

Anonymous said...

You've probably been told such a falsehood by individuals making up any excuse they can not to contribute to the church.