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LA bishops wise to disregard ideology-driven agenda

Social Justice U. strikes again with a pushing of a political ideology that carries the university further away from the spiritual to a secular agenda, one that Louisiana dioceses seem willing recklessly to follow that only can reduce its influence in public policy on things that matter.

Researchers at Loyola University in New Orleans, a nominally Catholic college under the auspices of the religious order Society of Jesus, has for years proclaimed itself “Social Justice U.” and is replete with trendy features to back its boast, such as its community participating in various marches and vigils to protest the outrage of the day, and with various centers with the phrase in their names or in their mission statements. One such unit, the Social Research Institute, decided to create a report arguing that not only should society see that all people live decently, but that they live quite “a modest, dignified life.”

According to its definition of this level, that equates, at a bare minimum for a couple with one child, to around $55,000 to ensure “economic security,” claiming this constituted a “no frills” existence. Contrast this with the federal poverty limit – the amount below which many welfare programs kick in, although some start lower and some begin higher – of the same kind of family, which is presently about $20,000. For this $35,000 annual difference, the authors recommend, it is the responsibility of people through their government to compensate.

Of course, the current structure of welfare programs varying by states is of such generosity that it pays more than a minimum wage job in 35 states and in 13 states it pays more than $15 an hour. Nonetheless, it seems according to these people that is not enough, and therefore Louisiana must embrace policy prescriptions such as a higher minimum wage, an increased earned income tax credit, and expansion of low- to no-cost health insurance.

That all of this pontification has an air of unreality if not outright ridiculousness seems obvious. In the 20th century a general consensus developed in America that anybody who was able bodied and without mental disability who made a good faith effort to work should from that work, if need be supplemented by government, be able to have basic necessities in life, and that government assistance could increase during temporary periods of misfortune. Towards the latter decades government began redistributing increasingly larger amounts of wealth that made the dole higher and higher than that minimal standard, where today’s “poor” in America enjoy amenities that relatively few in the world have and no one need starve, unlike hundreds of millions of the genuine poor worldwide – where there is true need that the Church and institutions under its imprimatur like Loyola should address.

Yet not only does the study audaciously insist that taxpayers don’t do enough, but it seems that Louisiana’s bishops are open to backing these policy prescriptions, which in fact would accomplish exactly the opposite. For example, a minimum wage forced higher would excise jobs, creating greater dependency and robbing people of the dignity of working for themselves.

Absent that, bishops have made approving noises about voluntarily paying higher wages, which in many instances, if these artificial levels do not already do so, overpay for the actual worth of the work. They are at liberty to do so, but should not expect parishioners to pony up more of their own hard-earned dollars to the collection basket just because bishops think it’s fashionable to do so when better means exist, such as dioceses going on diets that sheds some of their own voluminous (and not a matter of public information) net worths and discards amenities provided to its officials (in the spirit of the Holy Father) in order to jack up pay.

That’s because there is no spiritual or doctrinal reason to justify the support of such policy. It only is the obligation of the faithful to pursue addressing the needs of the less fortunate, not that they must do through using Caesar’s state and its currency. Over-eagerness to do so, when superior alternatives exist, turns into little more than violating the Seventh Commandment, and surely the Church would not want to be part of aiding and abetting that through rhetorical support.

As for Loyola, it continues its veer away from the eternal towards the ephemeral, mirroring the tragedy that generally has overtaken Catholic universities throughout the country where the lenses of secular ideology distort the living of faith. It helps explain why Loyola’s enrollment continues to dip, as those families who desire a Catholic education less distorted by ideology send their children to schools that avoid this.

Hopefully, the state’s bishops will disregard the conclusions of this advocacy piece in their decisions on what to influence in the public sphere. Failure to do so would lead to a loss of credibility that would aid them in other issue areas where their counsel not only would be more effective but also rests on doctrinal ground of greater authenticity.

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