Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | Poland

Jan/14

26

On Papal Economics

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACross-posted on Ricochet.

Over at City Journal, Guy Sorman has something to say about the pope’s demagogic attack (although he’s too polite to describe it as such) on the free market:

In his December apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis had harsh words for “the new invisible tyranny of the market.” This familiar denunciation of capitalism brings to mind a famous text by the French economist Frédéric Bastiat, published in 1848. Addressing the socialists of his day, who were already attacking the market economy, Bastiat replied that it is easier to identify and criticize what one can see (poverty or inequality) than it is to discern what one cannot see: the relentless economic growth that the market engenders.

With all due respect to the pope, he has fallen into a rhetorical trap. In the name of the poor, to whom his life as a priest has been devoted, he denounces the visible and ignores the invisible…

That’s too kind. The pope did not fall into “rhetorical trap”. Francis is a smart man and he knew exactly what he was doing. And no, that says nothing good about him.

Then Sorman throws in some history:

One of Francis’s predecessors, John Paul II, also pronounced on political economy. When Poland was freed from the Soviet empire in 1990, John Paul tried to prevent his country from slipping into capitalism, which he then abhorred as much as does Pope Francis. John Paul II believed sincerely in a Third Way, neither socialist nor capitalist, which would lead Poles from poverty to prosperity and social justice. Lech Wałesa, who had moved from union leadership to the presidency of the Polish republic, was singing the same tune. Post-Communist Poland soon sank deeper into poverty. John Paul II, honestly concerned, then took some lessons in economics. He chose as one of his mentors Michel Camdessus, then managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a fervent Catholic. Camdessus helped convince him that the market economy was only a mechanism, which, however imperfect, was the most effective means ever discovered for reducing mass poverty. Poland, still Catholic and converted to capitalism, is now the only European country to have escaped the crisis of 2008. Average income there has doubled over 20 years.

Camdessus was right: we should judge the market economy by its results, not by its values. Thus, Pope Francis is mistaken when he claims, in Evangelii Gaudium, that “the market is held up as divine.” I know no one who considers the market “divine”—certainly neither economists nor entrepreneurs. Similarly, when Pope Francis recommends “returning the economy to the service of human beings,” we can only agree, while observing that the market never functions except in the service of human beings. What human beings do with the products of growth, as well as how they distribute them, is an entirely different matter, and the Church has a legitimate interest in employing moral suasion in this area.

Meanwhile, as the economic crisis deepens in his native Argentina, the pope has an excellent opportunity to see where the sort of economic policies and attitudes that he advocates tend to lead. It will be interesting to hear what, if anything, he has to say about it.

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Nov/12

3

Leviathan vs. Behemoth

EUObserver reports:

BRUSSELS – The European Commission has said that Poland’s prosecution of a rock group for “blasphemy” is against European values.

It said on Wednesday (31 October) in a written statement for EUobserver that “national blasphemy laws are a matter for the domestic legal order of the member states.

But it added that EU countries must respect international pacts.

It cited the European Convention of Human Rights, a Poland-signatory treaty attached to the Strasbourg-based rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, on freedom of expression.

“This right protects not only information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also those that offend, shock or disturb,” the commission said.

The statement comes amid a row in Poland over a heavy metal band called Behemoth.

Its lead singer, Adam Darski, while on stage in 2007, ripped up a Bible and called the Roman Catholic church a “murderous cult.”

In a case with echoes of Pussy Riot in Russia or Mohammed cartoons in Denmark, the Polish supreme court on Monday said prosecutors can go after Darski on the basis of article 196 of Poland’s penal code on “the crime of offending religious sensibilities.”
In theory, he faces two years in prison. But nobody expects a jail sentence if he loses.

A few points:

1. The EU Commission is, as usual, being disingenuous. All EU countries are required to subscribe to the (non-EU) European Convention of Human Rights.

2. No self-respecting country should pay much attention to what the supranationalist “jurists” of the European Court of Human Rights has to say about its internal affairs.

3. No decent country should have blasphemy laws, particularly blasphemy laws so intrusive that singer cannot rip up his own copy of a book and say a few (admittedly) harsh words about a religious faith.

Poland should scrap this shameful law.

The Guardian has more here:

“We’d been doing that for two years on tour before it happened in Poland,” Behemoth bassist Tomasz Wróblewski told Decibel magazine (via Blabbermouth). “We [were] not offending any particular person. We [were] just offending the religion that we’ve been raised in.”

Despite this intention, Darski was pursued by Polish courts for having offended Catholic fans. After being cleared by judges in 2010 and 2011, the singer/guitarist is again on trial. Officials in Gdansk asked the supreme court how Darski could be “offending religious feelings” if most of Behemoth’s fans expected theatrical sacrilege?

“The crime of offending religious sensibilities is committed not only by he who intends to carry it out, but also by he who is aware that his actions may lead to offence being taken,” the court said.

Ah yes, “offense”. That again.

Pathetic.

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Aug/12

5

In the Public Square

Via the Economist:

…One issue that pits the Catholic Church against the majority of [Poles] is in vitro fertilisation (IVF), a subject of intense debate in the Polish media. The Vatican regards it as a sin because it splits sex from conception and because unused embryos will die. Polish bishops famously described the practice as “refined abortion” and have threatened to excommunicate MPs who vote for anything other than to ban it.

Yet more than two thirds of Poles oppose any ban on IVF treatment. And 85% of couples in the 25 to 30 age range told a recent study that they would consider using IVF if necessary. In the absence of any legislation, IVF is legal in Poland – but it has to be done privately. The people, and the European Union, have long been demanding a law that would regulate the use of the technique and allow the state health service to cover at least part of its costs.

That the EU could have any say in this matter is appalling. This ought to be something for Poles—and Poles alone— to work out. The Polish Catholic Church is fully entitled to campaign for a ban on IVF. Those are the democratic rules, but, if it chooses to play the democratic game, it must accept the results.

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Mar/12

28

No Longer?

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Pope’s visit to Cuba here.
Three details.

First this:

One incident at the start of the papal visit left little doubt as to the state of political freedom in Cuba. Before an outdoor mass in Cuba’s second city of Santiago, an unidentified man yelled anti-government slogans before being bundled off by security agents.

Video of the incident showed him being escorted out from the crowd and accosted by an apparent first aid worker wearing a white T-shirt with a large red cross.

The Vatican confirmed the incident, but said it had no further information.

Cuban dissident groups expressed concern for the young man’s safety and urged the government to release him unharmed. “Until now, we’ve been unable to locate the whereabouts of this man who protested peacefully and was assaulted … and beat violently,” said a statement by Elizardo Sánchez, who leads a group that tracks detentions

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I may be wrong, but I cannot see that sort of thing happening in the course of John Paul II’s visits to Communist Poland.

And then this:

On his way to Mexico last week, the pope bluntly criticized Cuba’s official orthodoxy, saying Marxism “no longer corresponds to reality.”

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No longer? When did it ever?

And finally:

But on the island itself, the pope’s message has focused heavily on spiritual matters, and his potential criticisms of Cuba’s regime have been oblique and open to interpretation.

Again, contrast the behavior of John Paul II when, as Pope, he returned on a number of occasions to a homeland still under Communist rule. The code that he used to criticize the regime was easy to translate and sometimes it wasn’t even (really)code.

See, for example, this description of the Pope’s words at a mass held at Solidarity’s Gdansk birthplace:

The highlight of the 1987 visit was John Paul’s homily during his “Mass for the working people” in Gdansk-Zaspa (the district of Gdansk where Lech Walesa lived). In this homily, delivered on “Solidarity’s” and Walesa’s home turf, John Paul II spoke openly to delirious applause: “There cannot be a struggle more powerful than solidarity. There cannot be an agenda for struggle above the agenda of solidarity”. (Note the characteristic ambiguity: solidarity or “Solidarity”? Is he speaking religion or politics? Is he talking about moral or political struggle?) After an interval of deafening applause, he added the most famous words of this visit, which also rank among the most famous of all his words: “That’s exactly what I want to talk about, so let the Pope speak, since he wants to speak about you, and in some sense for you”. In his visits to post-communist Poland in the 1990s, John Paul referred to these words several times as expressing one of his main missions during his earlier visits: to give voice to the silenced nation, to speak what they could not and to speak in their name to those who would not talk with them, as well as to the world at large

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To be fair, the Roman Catholic Church was much more of a national symbol in Poland (even if we exclude the extraordinary impact on a captive nation of seeing one of their own being made Pope) than it is in Cuba today, and, to be no less fair, this current Pope may yet surprise his hosts in Havana.

Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that, when it comes to confronting a dictatorship, Ratzinger is more Glemp than Wojtyła.

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Nov/10

13

Neither Hobgoblin nor Foul Fiend

Here via the Daily Telegraph, a little reminder of what lies beneath:

Polish exorcists are gathering in Warsaw for their national congress confident in the knowledge that their numbers are increasing as more and more Poles struggle with Satanic possession. Since 1999 the number of Polish exorcists has surged from 30 to over a 100, despite the influence of the Catholic Church waning in an increasingly secular Poland. Exorcists attribute the increase in their numbers to growing scepticism in psychology in the wider Polish population, and people looking for spiritual reasons for mental disorders.

In recognition of modern science, however, exorcists now work in tandem with psychologists in order to distinguish between psychiatric problems and the work of the devil. But while some cases of Satanic work are difficult to diagnose others manifest themselves in shocking circumstances explained exorcist Father Andrzej Grefkowicz.

“An indication of possession is that a person is unable to go into a church, or, if they do, they can feel faint or breathless,” he said.

“Sometimes if they enter a church they are screaming, shouting and throwing themselves on the ground.”

The national congress comes as part of a policy by Poland’s Catholic Church to lift the veil on what was once a secretive practice. Frustrated by the Hollywood image of cross-wielding exorcists engaged in dramatic conflicts with demons the Church intends to show the complicated and often more mundane world of exorcism.

Father Grefkowicz stressed that the most of the time exorcism required quiet prayer.

Amazing. Of course, nobody should overlook the calming power of a tranquil, reassuring chat (and that’s what that “quiet prayer” could, at its best, amount to), but it is impossible to avoid the suspicion that much of the exorcism process tends to feed hysteria rather than cure it.

Perhaps we should ask Governor Jindal, the Linda Blair of Louisiana, for advice on this question. No, thinking about it, we probably shouldn’t.

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