Monday, December 23, 2013

4 ways pre-marital sex is harmful

The Marriage Feast at Cana by Juan de Flandes, 1500 (acquired from Wikimedia Commons)

There are many resources demonstrating the various harms that pre-marital sexual activity often induces. This post is intended to collect a few. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

All other harms of extra-marital sex should be supplementary to the moral harm done. The moral detriment to the individual can never be altered by any future technology or medicine. To recognize the moral quality of the sexual act, one not even need to be overtly religious, although, certainly Jesus Christ spoke to the proper order of marriage between the "male and female" and as it was "in the beginning" (i.e. Adam and Eve). (Matt. 19:4,8)1

But as was discussed in a prior post, What did the Church teach about marriage, men and women in 1880?, the very nature of the human body supports the idea that one man and woman belong together in the sexual order. One example is that a female egg naturally closes itself to receiving sperm from more than one father.

This is further fortified when we recognize the body's release of certain chemicals, which will be further addressed below, that tend toward attachment or even "addiction" to the recipient of a person's sexual attention. In other words, the body itself wants to move toward monogamous permanence when engaged in sexual activity.

These kinds of things are what belong to the natural law. For example, if someone came up to you and punched you for no reason, you would would rightly cry foul, that it was a violation of some kind to be struck unjustly. If you were at a restaurant and laid your wallet on the table for a moment and someone snatched it, you would rightly cry foul, as they took something that belonged to you. These examples speak to the sensibilities we have that human beings possess certain dignity and that it is morally wrong to violate that dignity.

In the same way, the various signposts of sexual activity toward committed, one-man, one-woman relationships communicate proper use of our human gifts, including our sexual faculties. Outside that committed relationship, persons engaged in sexual activity violate their own humanity and that of anyone else involved in the activity, whether or not they "feel" violated at that moment.

As I said, one needn't even be "religious" to draw such conclusions. But, certainly, if Jesus Christ is truly God, rose from the dead as witnesses attest, and taught his disciples about eternity for those living in accord with his teaching and damnation for those opposed, then the issue of proper sexuality is paramount.

As stated above and in a prior post, during sexual activity, various chemicals are released by the body, such as oxytocin, vasopressin, and endorphins, which cause attachment to the recipient of sexual attention.

A clear example of this, even in secular studies, is seen when examining pornographic addictions. When someone is looking at pornography, the chemical releases present tend toward attaching that person to physical imagery. This is one of the great harms of porn addiction, that it compromises a person's ability to see the beauty in a real person beyond the surface.

In a similar way, when these chemicals are released in the body outside of a committed relationship, the involved persons will tend toward that other person due to the physical bond they have exchanged. However, when those individuals move toward a decision for or against marriage with their partner, they may well make a decision induced more by chemicals rather than an objective analysis of their compatibility. This is not to say no couple that engaged in pre-marital sex could have a lasting, monogamous, or happy marriage. The point is rather to say how that potential is compromised by pre-marital sex.

The data supporting this is plenty. For example:
Dissolution rates are substantially higher among those who initiate sexual activity before marriage...and who cohabitated before marriage.2 
[M]arriages formed after cohabitation are rated as less stable and result in more divorces than marriages not preceded by living together. Cohabitation thus "does not seem to serve very well the function of a trial marriage... (Popenoe, 1993)."3
After marriage it was about 3.3 times more likely that a woman who had cohabited would have a secondary sex partner. ... If a woman has a previous history of multiple sex partners, the likelihood of her having a secondary sex partner during her current relationship greatly increases. This is particularly true for married women.4
Study results also indicate that out of divorced women, 81.8% had engaged in pre-marital sex as opposed to 17.8% who remained abstinent and did not cohabitate.5 Studies also indicate that once the number of sexual partners a person has exceeds one, so does the risk for marital failure.6 Divorces can be a detriment not only to the couple, but to any children who may suffer the consequences of the dissolution.

You can see the pattern here that the virgin bride and groom have the statistically and significantly superior advantage for a successful marriage. Reason alone communicates that this is so because the virgin bride and groom have not developed those physical attachments to another person that could otherwise cloud their appraisal of a lasting mate. To boot, there are numerous testimonials and studies indicating that sexual activity is more fulfilling when exercised in marriage alone.

It does not take a great intellectual leap to realize that sexually transmitted diseases (or infections; i.e. STIs) are significantly reduced in persons who are abstinent. They are likewise reduced in a permanently monogamous relationship, i.e. marriage. As the Mayo Clinic puts it, "The more people you have sexual contact with, the greater your overall exposure risks."

Secular culture responds to this with the promotion of various contraceptives. However, this "solution" does not only not always solve the STI problem, but can perpetuate and even foster the other chemical and moral problems described. Contraceptives also instill a mentality toward the sexual partner that tend to objectify that person. A man who is closed to conception with a woman and contracepts with her will view her differently than if he had to consider her as a mother and a partner with whom to raise a child. One tends toward objectification, the other considers her more completely. (For resources on contraceptive information and on child regulation in accord with Catholic teaching, see some of the resources below.)

In reviewing all of the above detriments of pre-marital sexual activity, we can see how this would harm society at large. Working our way back up the list, if extra-marital sexual activity contributes to the spread of STIs, persons facilitating or engaging in that behavior are contributing to that spread. And a variety of STIs are currently on the rise despite all the medical remedies and solutions which foster promiscuity.

As well, if greater pre-marital sexual activity clouds one's judgment toward identifying a marriage partner, then those persons have in some way contributed to the normalization of that behavior, and hence, the resulting marriage failures and STIs.

And finally, the moral decay resulting in the spread of pre-marital sexual behavior, supported by the emotional and physical data, literally de-humanizes us. That is one reason why proponents of abstinence before marriage invite everyone to embrace the beauty of reserving the sexual faculties for the marriage bed. The more individuals who embrace sexuality exclusive to marriage grows the pool of available mates with that disposition, and in turn, will result in more solid marriages. Such a movement could also help current practitioners of abstinence, who have the call and self-giving disposition to serve a spouse, in finding a suitable mate they may otherwise have difficulty finding.

Those who may not have practiced abstinence outside of marriage should not be discouraged by the data. It's never too late to practice a moral virtue. Such persons could be considered particular kinds of heroes of society, along side those who already practice abstinence, by embracing a virtue against what the pressures of a sexually addicted society might impose. See also the previous post, On Reconciliation: Can virginity be restored?

Even if such a person has already married, it is never to late to encourage others to practice proper use of the sexual faculties, teaching their children or others. Plus, simply learning about humanity can help married couples "see" each other for the unique beauty instilled in each other, and the unique value and societal pillar extant in the stable foundation of a family.

Effects of Cohabitation Research Summary
Premarital sex and greater risk of divorce
What does the Church teach about Birth Control?
The Harms of Contraception
What a Woman Should Know about Contraceptives

1Some writers and commentators like to talk about a confusing message in the Bible, going so far as to say the Bible endorses polygamy or divorce. Yet there is are no such passages making such moral definitions. Typically, those who claim the Bible supports polygamy will point to examples of characters in Scripture practicing it and interpret that as a moral endorsement, which does not automatically follow. This is especially so when one realizes that the events and figures of the Old Testament are often an inferior form to that which is to come in the New Testament. This is basic Christian typology. Something in the OT reflecting the natural law, like thou shall not kill, remains in the moral order. The behavior of any individual may or may not be proper.
2(Heaton, Tim B., Factors Contributing to Increasing Marital Stability in the United States, Brigham Young University, 2002) 
3 (Smith, Tom W. American Sexual Behavior: Trends, Socio-Demographic Differences, and Risk Behavior. National Opinion Research Center University of Chicago. March 2006)
4(Forste, Renata and Tanfer, Koray. Sexual Exclusivity Among Dating, Cohabiting, and Married Women. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 58, No. 1. (Feb. 1996) p. 43, 46)
5Teachman, Jay. Premarital Sex, Premarital Cohabitation, And the Risk of Subsequent Marital Dissolution Among Women. Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (May 2003): 444–455
6The National Survey of Family Growth. 1995. Cited at The Wintery Knight.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Comparing papal quotes on economics

Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, Rembrandt, 1637 (Acquired from Wikimedia Commons)

Recently, Pope Francis again acquired media attention with his statements in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? ... Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. (#53)

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. (#56)
Some commentators equated his comments with Marxism, interpreting him as one handing complete control of the markets to a government entity. Pope Francis, when later asked in an interview with La Stampa what he thought of being called a Marxist and about an economy that kills replied:
The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended. ... The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.
Focusing on these quotes, you have two principles flowing from Francis: 1) That something is wrong with the world's current economic systems because the gap between the wealthy and poor continues to expand (Recent studies have asserted that the income gap is at its worst in 100 years); 2) a Marxist approach is not the answer.

I'd like to look at several other papal quotes expressing similar sentiments. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of popes or even of quotes from each pope included, but at least a decent sample.

We begin with quotes echoing concern about the wealth-gap phenomenon.
In any case we clearly see, and on this there is general agreement, that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class... The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself. (Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Norum, 1891, #3)
To each, therefore, must be given his own share of goods, and the distribution of created goods, which, as every discerning person knows, is laboring today under the gravest evils due to the huge disparity between the few exceedingly rich and the unnumbered propertyless, must be effectively called back to and brought into conformity with the norms of the common good, that is, social justice. (Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, #58)
Pius XI was not unaware of the fact that in the forty years that had supervened since the publication of the Leonine encyclical the historical scene had altered considerably. It was clear, for example, that unregulated competition had succumbed to its own inherent tendencies to the point of practically destroying itself. It had given rise to a great accumulation of wealth, and, in the process, concentrated a despotic economic power in the hands of a few "who for the most part are not the owners, but only the trustees and directors of invested funds, which they administer at their own good pleasure." (Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 1961, #35)
One must avoid the risk of increasing still more the wealth of the rich and the dominion of the strong, whilst leaving the poor in their misery and adding to the servitude of the oppressed. (Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressivo, 1967, #33) 
In this world crisis, more than two-thirds of the population are suffering from hunger, and the contrast in the standard of living between the rich and the economically poor countries is becoming greater. (Pope Pius XII, Guiding Principles of the Lay Apostolate, 1957, #14)
Our world also shows increasing evidence of another grave threat to peace: many individuals and indeed whole peoples are living today in conditions of extreme poverty. The gap between rich and poor has become more marked, even in the most economically developed nations. This is a problem which the conscience of humanity cannot ignore, since the conditions in which a great number of people are living are an insult to their innate dignity and as a result are a threat to the authentic and harmonious progress of the world community. (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for World Day of Peace, 2009, #1)
Notice how un-novel is Pope Francis' concern about the disparity of wealth among persons. Notice also how human dignity is emphasized, especially if you click the links for each quote and read additional context.

As noted in the opening quotes by Pope Francis, although markets have often resulted in lop-sided distribution of wealth, the Church's idea of seeking a just wage for all is not some type of governmental usurpation of the market. Pope Francis denied the Marxist ideology. And every other Pope quoted above likewise shied away from a strictly government-controlled or socialistic market.
To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community. (Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891, #4)
Because of the fact that goods are produced more efficiently by a suitable division of labor than by the scattered efforts of individuals, socialists infer that economic activity, only the material ends of which enter into their thinking, ought of necessity to be carried on socially. ...[T]he higher goods of man, liberty not excepted, must take a secondary place and even be sacrificed to the demands of the most efficient production of goods. This damage to human dignity, undergone in the "socialized" process of production, will be easily offset, they say, by the abundance of socially produced goods which will pour out in profusion to individuals to be used freely at their pleasure for comforts and cultural development. Society, therefore, as Socialism conceives it, can on the one hand neither exist nor be thought of without an obviously excessive use of force; on the other hand, it fosters a liberty no less false, since there is no place in it for true social authority, which rests not on temporal and material advantages but descends from God alone, the Creator and last end of all things. If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which, moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist. (Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, #119-120)
Whilst the propaganda of communism, today so widespread, is readily deceiving the minds of the simple and untutored … [ B]y subjecting everything to state ownership and control, they reduce the dignity of the human person almost to zero. ... The Church has condemned the various forms of Marxist Socialism; and she condemns them again today, because it is her permanent right and duty to safeguard men from fallacious arguments and subversive influence that jeopardize their eternal salvation. … The dignity of the human person then, speaking generally, requires as a natural foundation of life the right to the use of the goods of the earth. To this right corresponds the fundamental obligation to grant private ownership of property, if possible, to all. Positive legislation, regulating private ownership may change and more or less restrict its use. But if legislation is to play its part in the pacification of the community, it must see to it that the worker, who is or will be the father of a family, is not condemned to an economic dependence and servitude which is irreconcilable with his rights as a person. (52) (Pope Pius XII, Evangelii Praecones, 1951, #49, 52)
While, through the concrete existing form of Marxism, one can distinguish these various aspects and the questions they pose for the reflection and activity of Christians, it would be illusory and dangerous to reach a point of forgetting the intimate link which radically binds them together, to accept the elements of Marxist analysis without recognizing their relationships with ideology, and to enter into the practice of class struggle and its Marxist interpretations, while failing to note the kind of totalitarian and violent society to which this process leads. (Pope Paul VI, Octagesima Adveniens, 1971, #34) 
Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism. The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being. ... Thus Pius XI's teaching in this encyclical can be summed up under two heads. First he taught what the supreme criterion in economic matters ought not to be. It must not be the special interests of individuals or groups, nor unregulated competition, economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort. On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity. (Pope John XIII, Mater et Magistra, 1961, #34, 38-39)
[W]e have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. ... A person who is deprived of something he can call "his own", and of the possibility of earning a living through his own initiative, comes to depend on the social machine and on those who control it. This makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community. ... The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. When a firm makes a profit, this means that productive factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied. ... Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business. (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #13, 35)
While it has been rightly emphasized that increasing per capita income cannot be the ultimate goal of political and economic activity, it is still an important means of attaining the objective of the fight against hunger and absolute poverty. Hence, the illusion that a policy of mere redistribution of existing wealth can definitively resolve the problem must be set aside. In a modern economy, the value of assets is utterly dependent on the capacity to generate revenue in the present and the future. Wealth creation therefore becomes an inescapable duty, which must be kept in mind if the fight against material poverty is to be effective in the long term. (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for World Day of Peace, 2009, #11) 
You can see the pattern among these citations recognize both the folly of socialist or communist ideologies which strip human beings of their proper dignity in favor of a collective State. You also see the recognition of legitimate commerce and wealth creation have a place in a just economic system. Each of these Popes have an emphasis in their writings on the dignity of a human person. It is this which rises above all other considerations, be they profits or prudent state regulations. The human person must be seen as the most valuable asset in the equation ahead of the rest.

In the La Stampa interview, Pope Francis said of his exhortation, "There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church." Just as he referred listeners to the Catechism when speaking on marriage, he is referring listeners to the Church's precedent on social doctrine. He thus should be read in concert with the heritage of his predecessors. This can help one see why being critical of a de-humanizing attribute of capitalism, such as commoditizing employees, is not automatically tantamount to proposing some communist, socialist, or Marxist solution. Rather, the human being must be held paramount when considering whatever economic system or adjustments may come.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Parallels in the economics of Andrew Carnegie and Pope Francis

Andrew Carnegie 

Andrew Carnegie was a 19th century Scottish immigrant and steel industry tycoon. Considering the wealthiest Americans in history, Forbes ranks Carnegie #5, having had wealth valued at 0.60% of the entire U.S. economy. After selling his company to U.S. Steel in 1901 at the age of 65, he focused on a life of philanthropy. In addition to multiple donations, perhaps his most well-known enterprise at that stage entailed donations of about $60 million to fund over 1,000 libraries in the United States. (See bio)

This behavior reflected a personal belief of his regarding the responsibility of those with great wealth to enrich the lives of others in a lasting way. In June of 1889, he published the article Wealth in the North American Review. The article begins:
The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship. The conditions of human life have not only been changed, but revolutionized, within the past few hundred years. In former days there was little difference between the dwelling, dress, food, and environment of the chief and those of his retainers. (p. 653)
Carnegie goes on to describe how the relatively wealthy in the past still lived in modest accommodations relative to the poor. But the industrial age revolutionized the disparity in wealth. He thus believed in a certain obligation of the rich for the poor "so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor."

On November 24, 2013, Pope Francis I released the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, also known as The Joy of the Gospel. Although an apostolic exhortation bears less authority than, say, a papal encyclical, and although this exhortation does not define faith or morals, it still calls for the reverential consideration proper to the papal office.

Pope Francis, like Carnegie, speaks of the phenomenon of a disparity in wealth between the wealthiest and the poorest:
While the earnings of a minority [i.e. the wealthy] are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. (#54)
Both men indicate this income gap is remedied when the wealthy grant certain ethical considerations proper to Christian philosophy. Says Carnegie:
The highest life is probably to be reached...while animated by Christ's spirit, by recognizing the changed conditions of this age, and adopting modes of expressing this spirit suitable to the changed conditions under which we live; still laboring for the good of our fellows, which was the essence of his life and teaching, but laboring in a different manner. This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of Wealth: First, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community... (661-662)
You see Carnegie here promoting the Christian virtue of modesty as well as the idea of the wealthy's call to utilize "surplus revenues" for the betterment of society. This sentiment finds itself presented anew in Pope Francis' exhortation:
In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule. ... Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. ... Ethics––a non-ideological ethics––would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”. ... Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings. (#56-58)
Carnegie also considers the difference between donation in the form of welfare to individuals and what I would describe as systemic donations that enable the many. In the below quote, he ponders the hypothetical donation of Mr. Tilden:
But let us assume that Mr. Tilden's millions finally become the means of giving to this city a noble public library, where the treasures of the world contained in books will be open to all forever, without money and without price. Considering the good of that part of the race which congregates in and around Manhattan Island, would its permanent benefit have been better promoted had these millions been allowed to circulate in small sums through the hands of the masses? Even the most strenuous advocate of Communism must entertain a doubt upon this subject. Most of those who think will probably entertain no doubt whatever.
This mentality does not seek to give where use of the contribution will quickly pass. It resembles the adage: "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime." Pope Francis describes a similar temperament with regard to welfare and systemic giving:
Welfare projects...should be considered merely temporary responses. ... Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. (#202, 204)
Both Carnegie and Francis assert a certain weakness in making small donations which result in "temporary" and non-"permanent" benefits. In other words, they believe the systemic problem will persist under such giving. Regarding Carnegie's mention of Communism, in TCV's previous post, I also cited the Pope acknowledging the Church's opposition to Communism.

Implicit in Carnegie's discourse is the notion that human beings have in themselves a dignity worthy of the assistance of others. His call to the wealthy to make use of their surplus wealth for the betterment of society reveals this. Although this parallel is less explicit than the others, I want to examine Pope Francis' reflection on the human aspect:
The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption. (#55)
Keeping with the Pope for another moment, I think he carried this idea forward to a vital moral issue of our time––the matter of abortion. Later in the encyclical, while describing various groups in society sometimes viewed as instruments of profit to others, the Pope tied in the matter of the unborn:
Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. ... Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. ... Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?
Pope Francis, at St. Peter's Square, Nov. 13, 2013

Strains of the same mentality which denies or forsakes human dignity can permeate both the most virulent profit-seeker, such as a human-trafficker, and the most sympathetic victim, a woman impregnated by rape whose choice for life communicates profound heroism. The Pope is exhorting souls to reject the idea that humans are commodities to be used or eliminated to solve a problem as if they were tools. I have seen online proponents of abortion defend it on the grounds that the child would cause financial hardship. In the examples in this paragraph, the human-trafficker certainly merits less sympathy than the young woman who reluctantly finds herself pregnant and seeks abortion, however, in both cases, the idea that human life is secondary to financial advantage exists in one form or other.

This article is not intended to claim that the totality of Carnegie's and Pope Francis' arguments are identical from top to bottom, nor is it intended to be viewed as an endorsement of every word in the respective documents. Rather, it is to focus on several characteristics in which Carnegie and Francis have overlap. I think part of the intrigue in this comparison is that one man is among the wealthiest in world history and the other is perhaps the most well-known contemporary religious leader in the world, known for carrying his own luggage and personally calling common citizens, including a rape victim. One could not automatically reject Pope Francis for being an economic outsider, ignorant about economics, at least not entirely ignorant, when several of his arguments reflect the sentiments of one of the most successful entrepreneurs in history.

Both men acknowledge an economic disparity among society. Neither speaks to eliminate the wealthy, but of the wealthy's call to assist others. Neither seeks to solve the disparity with mere welfare distribution. One could say these men are both opposed to free market "greed" while yet rejecting a Communist solution––which, as another Pope, Pius XII, described in Divini Redemptoris, culminates "in a humanity without God." Both men recognize due regard members of society are called to have for each other. And both include Christ in the remedy.

Carnegie photo at top is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.