There are a number of Catholics, thankfully not too many, who believe that it would be more pleasing to God if we all gave up our highly technical lives, or money, vacations, etc., and lived on a subsistence level. These same folks are always championing “Western Civilization.” They never ask what made Western civilization possible. The existence of great writers and thinkers does not make a civilization. A civilization is made up of all those people who have learned and accepted the values of the great thinkers of that civilization, and in the West, the teaching and contribution of the Catholic Church, not all of which is doctrinal, but intellectual as well. Notice that it is not just the teachings of the Church that made up Western civilization, but the accumulated wisdom of that whole civilization. Even the Church in its theological debates uses philosophical language and concepts developed by the great, and frequently pagan, thinkers.
But how did this wisdom get around? It got around because some folks had excess wealth to finance the development of schools to educate thinkers. The early Church Fathers were very educated men. The money of dedicated people sponsored schools which they attended. Think about it: one cannot spend time getting the required learning if one has to put food on the table. Learning requires leisure. Leisure is purchased for the student by someone else. That someone else gives that money to the student or the school, or both, so that the student and teachers do not have to spend their time putting food on the table by farming, or working in an asphalt plant (as yours truly once did) and the like. This means that someone in the society has to have discretionary funds. If we all lived in a subsistence mode, there would be no discretionary funds, and there would be no learning, no churches, no artists.
Nor is that all. The reader might notice that the life expectancy of people in the West has taken tremendous leaps since the 1800s. Why? Because in the West the free market system has discovered ways to create wealth. Much of that created wealth goes into the paychecks of households and is spent on medical care. But where did the medical care come from (“Take out two pints!”—Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber)? It comes from the fact that some people and the “evil” corporations take their discretionary income and save it. This money is then used to develop diagnostic medical equipment, medicines, and surgical equipment, and support medical schools which train practitioners who are able to use these great things for the health of every patient. The households pay these practitioners to keep them healthy. It is nice for the healthy 20-year-old to talk about living on a subsistence farm or owning a small shop, like you see in the movies—until he contracts cancer, or gets hit by a car. He does not run (or crawl) to old Theodoric (above), but he goes to the oncology department of a good hospital, or the trauma center of the same hospital, none of which would exist if these “back to nature” folks had their way.
Those people who think “small is beautiful” need to think how much of a disservice they are doing to the rest of us because of their fantasies disguised as Catholicism. If it was up to them, we would all die at 25 years of age. We would have little sanitation, little medical care, no education, and the creativity of mankind would be stifled, or limited to painting pictures on cave walls.
To many Catholics a martyr is one who dies for the Faith, usually by open persecution. We think of the Apostles, St. Stephen, St. Peter of Verona, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, among so many others. Few, however, know the origin and nature of the term “martyr,” and hence, the multifaceted aspects of martyrdom.
The word “martyr” means witness (martus) who gives testimony about something he witnesses (martyrian). The apostles were witnesses to Christ’s life, suffering, and resurrection. They died because they gave witness before the enemies of Christ. It is not the dying that made them martyrs, but the witnesses. It was only later in the history of the Church that the term was applied exclusively to those who died for this witness. When you read the Fathers of the Church, you see that anyone who suffered for his witness of the Truth is a martyr, even if they were not put to death because of it.
Wait, you say, because I am relatively safe in the more civilized West, the chances of my dying for the Faith are relatively low. While that might be true, all of us are called to be witnesses to the truth, and, as St. Thomas says, all truth, no matter who says it, comes from God. When we stand up for the truth, even in non-religious matters, we are being witnesses—and the world does not like the truth. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates asked his interlocutors what justice is. One of them replied that justice is always in the interest of the stronger. This meant that there was no objective measure of justice. The one who pays the piper calls the tune, as the old expression goes. Socrates tries to show that there is an objective nature of justice, no matter who has the power. It is the same with truth. Truth exists and can be discerned by reason and revelation no matter who has the power. But the people in power hate the objective truth and objective justice, especially because it threatens a concrete interest of theirs. (Refer to my article “What a Character” in the blog.) This is why we must be witnesses to the truth, and in doing so, we bring suffering on ourselves. We should say the truth with prudence, realizing that a baby cannot have solid food, and we should witness with love and kindness. But witness we must.
We also must witness in every area of life. The Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity says that the laity witness primarily in their families and in the marketplace. So this means that we are first called to be a witness by living an upright life, to be honest, concerned for the welfare of others, and actually do what is in our power to do, and love our families and raise our children to be true children of God. We witness to the doctrine of the Church when it is appropriate to discuss such things. We witness to truth and justice in political life by voting, getting involved, writing our representatives, and learning the truths of economics as the science has discovered them.
Doing these things is wonderful, but it will attract persecution. This is where the suffering comes in. So many good persons have been vilified because they support the truth in economics against the current administration’s intended policies. They have been labeled as not caring for the poor, as being paid by insurance companies, being liars and lunatics. It is a disgrace, all in the name of keeping political power and installing a more socialist and statist regime. Catholics even attack other Catholics because the first group has no knowledge of either Catholic Social Teaching or economics, and labels the second group as heretics, or, and one person has said and written about yours truly, “Dr. Luckey has single-handedly destroyed Catholic Social Teaching.”
When I was younger, I read somewhere that all those who go to heaven are called to be either wet or dry martyrs. Standing up for the truth may not get us killed, but it can make life miserable. As Jesus told us, even members of our own household may become our enemies.
It is the same thing with sin. Our catechisms, when we were young, assuming that we had a good religious training, told us about sin, but the sins written of were basic sins that anyone can be prone to: taking an orange from a grocery store, hitting someone, gossip, impure thoughts and desires, missing Mass when attendance is required, etc. Never do these catechisms tells us about the sin of respect of persons, whereby we become unjust by not judging objectively but according to the status of the person before us. But politicians do this all the time. They ask, especially on the margins, where does my support come from, both financial and in terms of votes, and formulate their positions on issues accordingly. Even principled politicians will, when push comes to shove, abandon their principles for the most part if their jobs are threatened.
We Catholics have to examine our consciences, all of us, even officeholders, and ask, firstly, are we saying the truth all the time, always with kindness and prudence; but, maybe more importantly, are we willing to be martyrs for it? Even when we commit less grievous sins (excluding words that might just slip out of our lips and the like), is it not because we are not willing to suffer to do what is right? It feels better to get our anger off our chest, so we act with uncharitableness toward someone who irritates us. Gossip is always so satisfying because we know something juicy that someone else does not know. Gossip is especially great if it is about a person for whom we do not particularly care. And then there is (unlawful) sex, where some people think they are actually going to die if they do not have it, although that would be a first in the history of medicine.
We are all called to be martyrs one way or the other. Many of us are called to be martyrs for the truth of the common good. Then let us resolve every day that we will not give in; that we will suffer, by and with God’s grace, whatever he allows for standing up for truth in our speech, and in our actions, whether in public or in private lives; whether in the religious or political/economic spheres. Do you want a better world? It has to start with you and me, here and now.
The population-control weirdos believe that people are a blight on the planet. (I am not being harsh calling them weirdos—wait until you see my argument). They think that all people do is use up resources, and eventually the planet will be void. In fact, as the late, great economist Julian Simon pointed out, national income accounting counts the birth of a calf as an increase in capital, but the birth of a baby as a decrease in capital. Those economists who worship mathematical methods divide amount of capital by population. So, if you have $1,000,000 in capital and you have 1,000,000 people, you have one dollar of capital for every person. But if you have $1,000,000 of capital and then give birth to 10 babies, you get $1,000,000/1,000,010, or .9999 cents of capital per person, clearly a decline. One thing that these folks never seemed to learn in Economics 101 is that everybody, except the most handicapped or the most lazy people, produce more than they consume. This is true even in less-developed countries.
These characters also believe that the amount of natural resources in the earth has already reached its limits due to population growth. For example, Paul Ehrlich, a professor of biology specializing in butterflies, wrote the book The Population Bomb in 1968, in the middle of the hippie revolution. In that book, he predicted that in the 1970s there would be worldwide famines and resources would run out despite any emergency programs that would be put into place. To show the nonsense of this, in 1970, Dr. Julian Simon, late economics professor at University of Maryland, bet Ehrlich that the prices of any ten natural resources Ehrlich chose would be lower in 1980. The bet was for $10,000. Simon won; the prices were lower. Why? The resources were more abundant, not less. Ehrlich’s theory of worldwide shortages was an Armageddon fantasy. Simon offered the bet again in 1980 to anyone, but no one took him up on it. Why was that? They knew they would lose, which meant Simon was right, but also they had too much invested in this fantasy. One needs character to admit that one is incompetent, didn’t do his homework, and sold a profitable book on a fraud.
But today the racket continues. It is said that we must cut down on population, especially in developing countries, so they do not have so many mouths to feed. But economists know better, and the studies are there to prove it.
In a very well-researched book, The Mystery of Capital, Latin American economist Hernando de Soto shows that there are two main (among many others, none of which is population) causes of poverty in developing countries. The first is bureaucracy. The charts in his book show that sometimes it can take 20 or 30 years to get a permit to run a business due to all the offices which one must visit and to which one must submit paperwork. This would and does discourage many people from becoming entrepreneurs. The other reason is a caste system. Many people in developing countries are not allowed to own property. Despite this handicap, they run businesses anyway, with the fear that the government would ask for a property title which they could not produce, and thus lose the property and thus the business operated out of it. Notice that this has nothing to do with population.
But the population weirdos will not go away. In 1977, when Paul Ehrlich was watching the prices fall on the resources he picked in the bet with Julian Simon, Paul and Anne Ehrlich wrote another great tome with a man whose name is John Holdren entitled Ecoscience. In this book, the three authors continued Ehrlich’s apocalyptic scenarios of death and destruction due to population burgeoning. They recommended required abortions, dumping infertility drugs in the water supply, and forcibly taking babies from teen and single mothers and giving them to couples to raise. But the big question is (drum roll), who is John Holdren? He is Barack Obama’s science czar! Despite all that has been studied by economists, not to mention the morality and constitutionality of this kind of thing, these people never go away. Would you give a position of trust to someone who was dead wrong and never apologized for it?
This is what we are facing, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. If these folks who surround the president succeed in getting their plans into law, we will all be in danger, and by all, I do not mean just those now living, but the future generation as well, who may never exist.