Papal silence on motherhood and the family wage

Among Catholics, “what the pope meant to say” often means “what I wish the pope had said, even though he didn’t”.  I’m guilty of such wishful thinking from time to time, and on the matter of women in the workforce, I’m afraid Mrs. Wood and her corresponders have interpreted the pope’s statements more honestly.  Reading the passages they cite, a patriarchist has no choice but to admit that JPII and BVI have been on this matter seriously misleading at best.

 When Caritas in Veritate was first released, Allan Carlson noted a related omission in the new Catholic social teaching–the family wage has disappeared.

…on one matter, the encyclical letter is ambiguous about a long-standing principle of Catholic social justice: the principle of a “family wage” resting on distinctive social and economic roles for men and women.
In his great encyclical “Rerum Novarum” (1891), Pope Leo XIII declared it “a most sacred law of nature that the father of a family see that his offspring are provided with all the necessities of life.” For their part, mothers were “intended by nature for the work of the home […] the education of children and the well-being of the family.” Consequently, Leo argued the principle underlying all employer-worker contracts must be that the wage be at least “sufficiently large to enable [the worker] to provide comfortably for himself, his wife, and his children.”
In “Quadragesimo Anno” (1931), Pope Pius XI termed it “an intolerable abuse […] to be abolished at all costs” for mothers to be forced by their husbands’ low wage to work outside the home, thereby neglecting their natural responsibilities, “especially the training of children.” He added that “[e]very effort must therefore be made” to insure “that fathers of families receive a wage large enough to meet ordinary family needs adequately.” He rendered “merited praise to all, who with a wise and useful purpose, have tried and tested various ways of adjusting the pay for work to family burdens.”

In contrast, “Caritas in Veritate” seems to assume that mothers will be in the workforce (No. 63). It makes no mention of the special work of women in the home, while acknowledging “the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family.” In discussing “decency” in regard to work, Benedict XVI describes “work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labor.” Earlier Popes would have added “and mothers” to that last phrase; Benedict XVI seems to have quietly accepted the two-earner or two-career family as the new social and economic norm.

Carlson notes that this jeopardizes the entire Catholic understanding of the family:

This may be a case of simply acknowledging current reality. In the developed world (and starting in the late 1960s), capitalism’s hunger for the labor of adult women broke though the legal and cultural barriers created over the prior 100 years to protect the mother in the home. In the developing world, women’s labor is now simply assumed. To progressive eyes, the mother in the home is at best an antiquarian curiosity.
However, this potential shift raises troubling questions about the nature of the Catholic family. Has the rich concept of complementarity — men and women being equal in dignity but different in function — been deemphasized? Has the Christian Democratic defense of the full-time mother subtly given way to the Swedish model of gender equality in the workplace?

Benedict XVI has spoken about the dignity of motherhood in many other settings, but the silence in this encyclical concerning familial roles has created an ambiguity that could undermine the very institution the Pope is strenuously trying to protect. Perhaps a future apostolic letter will clarify these points.

I suspect the last line is just diplomatic.  The muddle almost certainly extends to BVI’s mind.  Perhaps our best hope is that he won’t clarify these points, thus leaving a benign interpretation tenable.

The box

While traveling cross-country, my wife and I could only take with us what we could fit in the car–the rest we had to entrust to the moving company.  Most of the stuff in the car is clothes and other essentials, but we allotted ourselves each one small box for books and papers.  This is sort of like those trapped-on-a-desert-island/Time-Machine “which three books would you take?” dilemmas, but I actually faced it.  I based my selection both on what would be hard or costly to replace and what I wouldn’t want to be without.  In the end, I think it gives an interesting profile of me.

My box contains

  • A 1961 St. Joseph daily Missal, inherited from my late grandmother
  • A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist by Vonier
  • The New Science of Politics by Voegelin
  • A New American Bible given to me by my parents on my 11th birthday
  • Plutarch’s Lives complete in one volume
  • The Ancient City by Coulanges
  • Selected Philosophical Writings by Aquinas
  • The City of God by Augustine
  • The Basic Works of Aristotle in one volume
  • Man and Woman by von Hildebrand
  • The Meaning of Conservatism by Scruton
  • Numerican Recipes in C++ by Press et al
  • Black Holes, White Dwarfs, and Neutron Stars by Shapiro and Teukolsky
  • Stellar Interiors by Hansen and Kawaler
  • Accretion Power in Astrophysics by Frank, King, and Raine
  • Astrophysics I by Bowers and Deeming
  • Problem Book in Relativity and Gravitation by Lightman et al
  • Unified Grand Tour of Theoretical Physics by Lawrie
  • Rieman Solvers and Numerical Methods for Fluid Mechanics by Toro
  • my graduate school lecture notes for particle physics, quantum field theory, computational physics, general relativity, statistical mechanics, and fluid mechanics.
  • My PhD thesis
  • a folder of letters from my wife during our courtship

If you had one book box, what would you put in it?  I love book lists, so I’d actually be happy to hear.

MSNBC questions authority

This morning, I was eating breakfast in a Holiday Inn in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The television was on MSNBC, and I happened to watch a commercial for the station’s news programming.  One of the newscasters was talking about himself.  I didn’t get down the exact words, but here is a paraphrase:

When I was a kid, I saw a T-shirt that said “Question authority”.  I thought that was the most liberating thing I’d ever read.  I wished that I could have a job that put that saying into action.  At MSNBC, this saying is what I do every day.

This is beyond parody.  Their man actually admits to us, as if it’s something to be proud of, that his philosophy of life is a T-shirt slogan–and not just any slogan, but a particularly moronic expression of adolescent rebellion.  Hasn’t this guy grown up and stopped being angry at daddy yet?

Of course, the sort of “questioning” that the slogan recommends only has one answer.  “Why should I obey this?” always ends in “I shouldn’t”.  The questioning is certainly not aimed at understanding the rationale behind what an authority figure is doing, or the reasons why authority itself might be necessary and even good in some domains.  “Questioning” always means “subverting”.

A man with such an understanding of his job cannot report neutrally any public debate, because most of the great debates of the age are not between rival authorities, but between the partisans and the enemies of authority.  The Cold War was about the battle of a revolutionary movement–international communism–against all forms of traditional authority.  Therefore, our MSNBC journalist would have been obliged to be a communist propagandist.  There’s no need to question revolutionary insurgency, after all, just authority.  The battles in the Catholic Church since Vatican II have been between modernist revolutionaries and defenders of the authority of tradition.  An MSNBC journalist must, I suppose, be an uncritical cheerleader for the modernists.  There’s no need to question heresy, after all.  The same goes for a dozen other public debates.  MSNBC just announced it’s commitment to one side against the other.  No one really had any doubt which side they were on, but it’s nice to see them come clean about it.

When a woman should work

One of the nice things about blogging anonymously is that I feel more free to state things starkly.  To say something like “patriarchy is good” is refreshing for a traditionalist to write and, hopefully, to read.  Sometimes, though, distinctions must be made.  In an earlier post, I attributed to the Catholic Magisterium (and implicitly endorsed myself) the claim that the father should be the sole breadwinner of a family, and that the economy should be regulated under the overriding concern of maximizing single-income families.  This is, I think, more or less true.  Ideally, in an industrial society, most women should stay home to raise their kids and then do community volunteer work after their children are grown.  It is not true, though, that a woman should never do remunerative work.  There are at least three important cases:

  1. Economic necessity.  Sometimes two incomes are required to provide a family’s basic needs.  Then the mother has no choice but to work.  In this case, she does the right thing, but society as a whole has let her down by not providing a sufficient income to her husband.
  2. Family farms and businesses.  Some families are still living the pre-industrial model wherein the household itself is economically productive.  In this case, it’s natural that father, mother, and children all chip in in various ways.  Such a thing is even a valuable apprenticeship for the children.  A woman working in a family business or family farm is fundamentally different from her working outside the home.  There is no compartmentalization of work and family life which is more alien to feminine nature than masculine.  There is no erosion of the father’s authority from putting his wife under the rule of another man eight hours a day.  There is no illusion that the wife is making herself economically independent of her husband.
  3. Women with a special calling or genius.  The truth is that most people don’t find fulfillment in their work.  Feminists (who are, after all, really just corporate propagandists) go on and on about how “fulfilling” and “empowering” having a “career” is, but for most people–waiting tables, answering phones, filling in spreadsheets, carrying boxes–it’s just necessary drugery.  Most people–women and men–have no special talent or passion that lends itself to a career.  Some people, however, do have special callings to art, medicine, scientific research, or whatever.  A patriarchal society can and should be able to accomodate the extraordinary talents of an Emmy Noether, a Jocelyn Bell, or a Mary Douglas.  It can do so largely because such types are extraordinary (in either sex) and so have little influence on the general expectations attached to the male provider role.  This is, I think, how we are to reconcile the statements of recent popes, which have troubled Laura Wood and others, condemning unjust “discrimination” against women in the workplace and praising working women.  This should be taken to refer to women with special callings and in no way to call into question a tradition’s two millennia-long affirmation of gender role distinctions.

The one principle of Catholic social teaching

I keep reading in Catholic blogs that the Church’s social teaching is a combination or balance of two principles:  solidarity (meaning a sense of responsibility for our fellows) and subsidiarity (meaning a preference for small-scale organizations).  I must say that, if this is so, Catholic social teaching is not very interesting.  It’s not clear that these two principles add much to the twin liberal principles of equality and freedom.  In fact, the way they’re usually used, there’s a very close correspondence between the liberal’s “equality” and the Catholic’s “solidarity”.    Unfortunately, the two principles are very vague, and since they confilict, they could be used to justify just about anything.  It would seem that anything but wanton cruelty or centralization for its own sake could be justified by some combination of “solidarity” and “subsidiarity”.  Also, “subsidiarity” ignores the fact that the Church is much more interested in some small groups than others:  e.g., families are much more important than basketball teams.

Fortunately, the true Catholic social doctrine, as expressed clearly from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Piux XII, has exactly one principle, and it is simple and clear.  That principle is patriarchy.  More precisely, the guiding principle of Catholic social thought is this, that a man should be the sole provider for his family.  Everything follows from this.  Because a man must support his family, he should have property.  If he must work for a wage, it must be high enough to support a family.  State or collective bargaining action are justified to acheive this.  Socialism is bad because it means the state usurping the father’s provider role.  You see how both the “Right” and “Left” leaning consequences follow directly from this one principle?  (In reality, of course, the Church’s teaching is supremely conservative.  It is capitalism that has liberal elements.)

The pope’s themselves lay this out quite clearly.  Consider the following from Rerum Novarum:

13. That right to property, therefore, which has been proved to belong naturally to individual persons, must in like wise belong to a man in his capacity of head of a family; nay, that right is all the stronger in proportion as the human person receives a wider extension in the family group. It is a most sacred law of nature that a father should provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten; and, similarly, it is natural that he should wish that his children, who carry on, so to speak, and continue his personality, should be by him provided with all that is needful to enable them to keep themselves decently from want and misery amid the uncertainties of this mortal life. Now, in no other way can a father effect this except by the ownership of productive property, which he can transmit to his children by inheritance. A family, no less than a State, is, as We have said, a true society, governed by an authority peculiar to itself, that is to say, by the authority of the father. Provided, therefore, the limits which are prescribed by the very purposes for which it exists be not transgressed, the family has at least equal rights with the State in the choice and pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty. We say, “at least equal rights”; for, inasmuch as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature. If the citizens, if the families on entering into association and fellowship, were to experience hindrance in a commonwealth instead of help, and were to find their rights attacked instead of being upheld, society would rightly be an object of detestation rather than of desire. 

14. The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth. In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself. “The child belongs to the father,” and is, as it were, the continuation of the father’s personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born. And for the very reason that “the child belongs to the father” it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents.”(4) The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home.

There, my friends, is the true voice of reaction.  Of course, there are reasons why this sort of clarity is unwelcome to many.  Those who want to use Catholic social teaching as an escape from the Church’s alleged “obsession with sex” would not be pleased to realize how everything the Church says about both follows from a single vision of the natural, patriarchal family.  Some may also be displeased that the Chuch, in her economic thinking, focuses so exclusively on families.  This focus would not be scandalous to most societies, however, for whom marriage is the natural state for men and women.  Indeed, economics originally referred to household organization.  Liberal economic theory, I would say, sins far more greviously by essentially assuming that society is composed of unattached, androgynous worker/consumers. 

So far as I can tell, the “solidarity/subsidiarity” duality only became prominent during the reign of John XXIII, and it’s effects have been ruinous, just like everything else from that unfortunate pontificate.

Suppose we embrace the older, clearer version of Catholic social teaching.  In this case, we will–like all the pope’s until quite recently–see the explosion of female employment as a social catastrophe, something to be lamented rather than celebrated.  It means that society has greviously failed its families, that mothers are being torn away from their children and children from their mothers, that fathers are being emasculated by being denied the opportunity to fulfill their role. 

If we take Catholic social teaching seriously, we will greet every economic policy problem with the question “What will help more men support their families decently on a single income?”  The answer might be nationalization or deregulation, protectionism or free trade, government or union action, as the circumstances demand.   Since there is only one principle, there will always be one correct policy for a given set of circumstances, although we may not be smart enough to be sure what that policy is.  This in itself makes the old doctrine a superior analytical tool to the new one.

Liberalism takes on friendship

My thanks to Rod Dreher for bringing up this piece of insanity:

Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”
Read more:

Of course, we can’t have “exclusivity”.  That would mean discrimination–preferring one person’s company to another, confiding in one person rather than another.  Liberals hate all loyalty to the particular.  Logically, they can’t stop with condemning tribalism and patriotism; they must ultimately attack love and friendship themselves, because these things are inherently particular.  Why have a spouse or a best friend when you could give your love to “humanity”?

My feelings towards environmentalists

My feelings towards environmentalists are funny.  On the one hand, I think most of their demands are actually good and reasonable.  For example, we should be doing what we can to mitigate global warming.  The fact that we’re not is a serious problem.  On the other hand, I have a pretty strong dislike of environmentalists themselves.  Why is that?

It might the the ideological baggage they carry with them, such as their pronounced hatred of Christianity and Western civilization.  It might be their Malthusian tendencies–the way they use their moral clout to promote contraception and abortion.  It might be the way they seem to regard human beings as something unnatural, not part of the environment, but rather an invader or an overseer.  In a way, modern environmentalists are the opposite of the old conservationists.  The latter, who were often quite conservative (the Southern agrarians, for example), wanted to remind us that man was a part of nature, and that’s why we need to make peace with it, so that we can live in accordance with our own natures.  The environmentalists, on the other hand, are hostile to human naturalness–they especially hate it when we behave like normal animals by eating meat and reproducing.  The idea is that we can’t keep doing what comes naturally, because it’s ruining “the planet”.  Instead, we need scientists to tell us how to eat and how to have sex.  Nature is most definitely not welcome in the bedroom.

I think, though, that what really pisses me off about the environmentalists is the way they feel entitled to brainwash other people’s children in the public schools.