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St John Paul II & Ven Fulton J Sheen & the Political Climate in America

February 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Book Club, Mercy, Vicki Burbach

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The Church of Mercy (Week 5 of 6)

It is not enough to offer someone a sandwich unless it is accompanied by the possibility of learning how to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that leaves the poor person as he or she is, is not sufficient. True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice; it demands that the poor find the way to be poor no longer. – Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy, p. 107

St John Paul II and Ven Fulton Sheen and the Political Climate in America

America is in the midst of a political season – again. For Christians, this is a spiritual season, as politics are an intricate part of our spiritual lives. After all, isn’t the goal of our spiritual lives to love God above all things and to love our neighbor as ourselves? Doesn’t loving our neighbor directly correspond to helping our community, and – by extension – our nation, to run in a way that best serves the common good? In a way that serves our neighbor whom we love?

For this very reason, Christians have an obligation to vote. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country. (CCC # 2240)

Of course, the obligation to vote presupposes an obligation to be informed.  In that light, voters should keep in mind the admonition of Pope Francis above. His words clearly do not bode well for larger government intervention into the lives of a free people. Saint John Paul II stated unwaveringly that the so-called welfare state which has grown into a bureaucratic nightmare is not good for the poor:

“By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them who act as neighbors to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need.” – Pope John Paul II Centesimus Annus

As with the last election, however, we stand in grave danger of electing a candidate who will continue to grow our government, perhaps even at a pace from which we cannot recover.

American compassion and Christian good will are at least partly to blame.

We are a people that feels great sympathy for the have-nots, but sadly, have become a people devoid of personal contact with them. The welfare state has separated us from the plight of the poor in a way that is devastating for us as well as for the poor. We look at the deterioration of the family and the increased poverty of children and conclude that the only solution is greater spending. We must need more programs, more access, more, more, more – which translates into an upwards of 90% tax rate proposed by at least one candidate who seems to be growing exponentially in popularity.

But Venerable Fulton J. Sheen prophetically described the situation we face in the West. He laid out the dangers of our current spiritual climate. Dangers which will eventually undermine the very freedom we hold dear:

The Western post-Christian civilization has picked up the Christ without His Cross. But a Christ without a sacrifice that reconciles the world to God is a cheap, feminized, colourless, itinerant preacher who deserves to be popular for His great Sermon on the Mount, but also merits unpopularity for what He said about His Divinity on the one hand, and divorce, judgment, and hell on the other. This sentimental Christ is patched together with a thousand commonplaces, sustained sometimes by academic etymologists who cannot see the Word for the letters, or distorted beyond personal recognition by a dogmatic principle that anything which is Divine must necessarily be a myth. Without His Cross, He becomes nothing more than a sultry precursor of democracy or a humanitarian who taught brotherhood without tears.” – Fulton Sheen (Life of Christ)

Let’s be frank. Because of this sentimental version of Christianity – Christianity without the cross – our nation is on a fast-track to socialism. This progression is evident in the surprising popularity of Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist who promises a “political revolution” in the form of a living wage, income equality, racial justice, a humane immigration policy, the expansion of welfare, social security and family leave, and even a free secondary education.

Laudable policies, perhaps, but, in sum, they threaten the freedom, not only of those who can “afford” to bankroll such policies, but also the very people we are trying to help.

While Sheen believed capitalism had its faults, he had a few choice words to say about socialism and the dangers therein:

Socialism began as a protest and a reform, as does every party. Its protest was directed against those political parties which ignored the economically submerged part of the population, and in particular the workers. It was also directed against capitalism which by its avarice for profits refused to give the worker, in many cases, a living wage. Their protests were right: their reforms were wrong…

Since 1917, socialism in Europe has been a kind of wet nurse to communism. It marched in the parades of communism, but figuratively speaking carried no bombs. Lenin always said of socialism that it wanted the same things as communism, but it would not use the same means, such as violence…Socialism…wanted to do away with private property in production by legislation: communism by confiscation and exile and concentration camps. – “Capitalism and Socialism Or Capitalism and Communism are Related?”

Sheen was absolutely against doing away with private property:

The denial of the right of ownership to a man is a denial of his basic freedom: freedom without property is always incomplete. – “On Being Human

Be careful, America…

The tragedy of misapplied American compassion could take us down a slippery slope to subjugation by the very state to whom we delegated our responsibility to serve.


READERS, PLEASE NOTE: Next week we will conclude our current book as well as  announce our next book and post the first assignment.  The Second Greatest Story Ever Told by Fr. Michael Gaitley promises to be a great book. Please find a copy of The Second Greatest Story Ever Told as soon as possible so you can begin reading with us on February 9 – it’s sure to be a great book!

Reading Assignment:

Parts IX-X (finish the book)

Discussion Questions:

1. What resources or prayers can you recommend to fellow readers to help us pray for our nation and our nation’s leaders?

2.  Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!


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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. You can also find her at

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  • Tammy

    Very good article!

  • Estefania

    Hi, I have a few questions. ( Anyone can feel free to answer)
    What are the suggestions to those who do not make a living wage in this country? I guess they should work harder or rely on family. What if they cant afford the childcare prices and do not have anyone who can lend them a hand because others are barely making ends meet as well?
    Government should not have allowed so many employers to pay unliveable wages but we are way past that point.
    Should we nowmake people who use public assistance feel guilty when they have very few choices?
    I actually agree that these programs are not good for people, I think they’re humiliating. But certain statements such as saying the solution is more jobs feeds into the misconception that people who use govt programs do not work when most of them work very hard. I think the solution needs to be family oriented, how do we help families stay together and be able to have decent wages.

    • Vicki

      Thank you so much for your very astute questions and comments. I think you are right that the solution needs to be family oriented. Our nation’s welfare state has virtually destroyed the institution of the family among certain populations. Personally, I do not believe there is an instant fix. However, I certainly do not believe that the answer to a disaster is more of the same. We do not need more social programs of the same, nor do we need more money thrown at the same problems. The greatest power of the presidency is the bully pulpit. I think it would be an amazing thing if the executive branch spent more time promoting the institution of the family as sacred, and less time blaming the problems on the economy, bigotry, police brutality, etc.
      God bless you!

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