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whatever impact the bishops’ letter might have by arguing in advance that, if they advocate socialist approaches to problems of unemployment and poverty, then the bishops are departing from the true spirit of Catholic social thought as it has evolved over the last two centuries. He has amassed a tremendous amount of selective evidence to support his belief that a free-market economy is the true legacy of Catholic social thought not the welfare programs of a socialist agenda and certainly not the Marxist-oriented “theology of liberation” that Latin American clergy have embraced and with which U.S. bishops have sympathized. He charges that many Catholics have “drifted” into leftist interpretations of world problems without intense and probing discussion. It is hard to take Novak’s assessment of Catholic thought’s evolution at face value. He is obviously prejudiced against Pope Paul VI and his Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace established in 1967. He disdains the concern for problems of world development that emerged from Vatican II. And he reveals his own lack of cross-cultural understanding when he derides the church’s attempts to sympathize with other cultures’ economic problems. According to Novak, developing countries have no one but themselves to blame. It is their own fault for choosing cultural ethos that are not conducive to economic growth. NOVAK IS bitter that Catholic social thought has not emerged as a champion of capitalism. He resents Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council for opening the door for American bishops to use Marxist analyses in examining economic problems. To a neo-classical economist like Novak, Marxism’s premise that inequalities in wealth are caused by dominant “elites” oppressing powerless workers seems dangerous and inappropriate. But to advocate socialist programs within a liberal society, as the U.S. bishops have done in their pastoral letter, or even to analyze economic problems in Marxist terms, is not exactly declaring an alliance with Marxism as a revolutionary ideology. The bishops are not interested in entering into the ideological debate among Marxist, Keynesian, or neoclassical economists. Even if, as Novak writes, “Paul VI’s flirtation with Marxist analysis and his disdain for the ideology of liberalism have unleashed a mischevious dualism in the Catholic world,” the U.S. bishops at least seem to be trying to steer a middle course between the extremes of this dualism: “The church’s teaching opposes collectivist and statist economic approaches,” the bishops write. “But it also resists the notion that an unimpeded market automatically produces justice.” Such a middle course or “third way” has been a long-standing position within the evolution of Catholic social thought as even Novak demonstrates. Traditionally, he says, Catholic social thought rejected both individual liberalism and collective socialism: liberalism because of its priority of the individual over the common good, its emphasis on material acquisitiveness rather than spiritual well-being, and its failure to articulate common purposes; socialism because, despite its natural symbiosis for Catholic thought, its advocates were even more anti-religious than the liberals. A third way, first called “solidarism” by Heinrich Pesch in the nineteenth century, evolved as a middle course, an organic vision of natural associations among persons who share a common view of the good. Today, this “Catholic Middle Way” has evolved into a concern for social justice, cooperation, and state protection of the weak and dependent from the excesses of an atomistic society. It is disturbing to read the way in which Novak derides Catholicism’s solidarity with human rights activists in order to advance his own version of Catholic economics. He puts quotation marks around “social justice” almost every time he mentions it, treating it as if it were a code word for something akin to charismatic Marxism: in Novak’s view, concern for the poor and distributive justice are part of a cult to which one must be converted. He equates a concern for social justice with utopianism, perfectionism, a lack of realism, a disregard for workable solutions and a fanatic obsession with the poor. All terrible vices in Novak’s world, where pragmatism reigns and everyone knows that “the poor may have things wrong. Their opinions are not necessarily God’s nor do they necessarily carry the warrant of truth.” But neither the bishops nor the poor are claiming a monopoly on truth. The very fact that Novak and the bishops disagree and yet find nourishment in the same intellectual roots shows what a radical change the Church has undergone in the past 20 years. Vatican II opened the door to a greater degree of pluralism and, consequently, dissent, even among those who profess to believe in the same God. We must assume that, as Catholics, Novak and the bishops agree on matters of moral philosophy. It is only when they begin to talk about economics, which demands practical solutions, that they so radically diverge from those same roots. Novak accuses Catholic social thought of lacking the “habit of mind” appropriate to economics. Rather than being prudential. keeping their analysis in line with the facts, he says they rely on intuition and a sort of religious “consciencization,” which awakens them to the awful oppression the poor suffer at the hands of the wealthy. This supposed failure is summed up in a December article in The New Republic by Charles Krauthammer an article reminiscent of Novak’s book in its content, its condescension, as well as in its title. \(“Perils of the Prophet Motive” is partially lifted from that the bishops blundered in their pastoral letter by confusing two modes of discourse. “Moral philosophy and economic analysis entail radically different epistemologies. One would hardly know it from reading this document.” This is Novak’s point exactly: Catholic social thought fails when it attempts to translate its moral teachings to pragmatic economic solutions. It has yet to bridge the gap between saying, :”We must help the poor and nurse the sick,” and saying, “This is how we can most successfully achieve such a goal.” Its failure, Novak thinks, is its inability to grasp how wealth is actually created. Instead of seeking ways to raise the income levels of the poor by encouraging economic activism to increase the total wealth of a nation, Novak chides the bishops for focusing on the gap between the rich and the poor. Such a concern, Novak says, is a red herring. There are too many occasions when argument seems to fail Novak and he must resort to discounting the opposing view by calling it a red herring. Or else he simply states that the true understanding of something is -counter-intuitive,” again implying that those who fall for the intuitive way of looking at things are naive laymen who ought to leave the economic arena to the experts. The “intuitive.” idea, for example, that the best way to achieve economic development is through government planning is wrong; whereas the “counter-intuitive” notion that a free-market is a better social device than a statist economy is right on target. Such tactics do nothing for Novak’s argument. Instead they serve to reinforce the reader’s awareness of Novak’s ideological bias. A red herring, by definition, is something which draws attention away from the issue at hand. And as anyone familiar with economics knows, what THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27