Your April editorial describes capitalism as a “survival of the fittest” system. The description is false. Among millions of other instances, the very existence of the New Oxford Review shows its falsity.
The editorial boasts that the NOR is committed to the view that the East and West are “moral equivalents” — “or more precisely, immoral equivalents.” That view does a great injustice to the Constitution of the United States, to Madison, Jefferson, Lincoln, and others, and to the traditions of political economy proper to this nation. Further, it does an immense injustice to those of us who have relatives in the territories still controlled by the Soviet regime, relatives who know well the sad human conditions they are forced to endure.
Many in the West use the liberties denied to their families in the East with far too little holiness. There is not a chapter in the Bible in which this was not even then true. The number of the saints and holy ones is, alas, far smaller than the number of the free.
In his uncharacteristically mean-spirited piece about “Firing Line” in the May issue, John C. Cort both seriously misstates my own views and also makes a number of false assertions about matters of fact.
As the transcript of the show demonstrates quite clearly, I disagreed directly with Fr. McBrien on the legitimacy of “cafeteria Catholicism,” and asserted that this is the greatest difference between him and me. He thinks cafeteria Catholicism is legitimate; I insist that it is illegitimate.
Cort to the contrary, there is not a single theological or moral principle of Catholic social thought from which I dissent. As the popes themselves have reiterated, moreover, Catholic social thought is always in the process of growth and development, and it is my aim to advance its frontiers, subject to the final judgment of the Church. Further, Catholic social thought necessarily includes some descriptions of matters of fact and historical experimentation, whose exact validity is governed by the virtue of prudence. On these matters the Church has always welcomed respectful, civil, and charitable argument, since such argument is the very principle of the further development of social teaching.
I value John Cort’s criticism of my own views, but there are occasions when it seems to me that he goes beyond charity and justice, and bears false witness against me. This is one such occasion.
Again, Cort gives a false and spurious definition of capitalism. Further, he wildly distorts the meaning I attach to the phrase “democratic capitalism.” I use it to describe a form of political economy that is parallel to “democratic socialism,” meaning a democratic polity and a capitalist economy.
Finally, Cort’s assertion that the countries of Eastern Europe live up to a higher standard of social and economic rights is such patent nonsense that not even Gorbachev, let alone the intellectuals and citizens of Eastern Europe, any longer believes it. Many empirical studies published in the East and West have reported the actual conditions of homelessness, unemployment, medical care, and social decline in Eastern Europe; they expose the emptiness of Cort’s Utopian claims.
A fundamental loyalty of both John Cort and the Editor is to democratic socialism. Unfortunately, this claim sometimes leads them to distort both matters of fact and the full and wide meaning of Christian faith. There is plenty of room within the Catholic faith for democratic socialists, but there is not enough room within democratic socialism for all who share the Catholic faith.
American Enterprise Institute
Ed. Note: On pages 4-6 of our April 1983 issue, Stuart Gudowitz argued that you do indeed dissent from principles of Catholic social thought. Without repeating that argument, we will only note that you have long (and self-admittedly) dissented publicly from Catholic teaching on birth control. Hence, the principles of Catholic social thought could not be inviolable in principle for you.
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