The Grim Consequences of Growing Wealth Inequality in the U.S.

French economist Thomas Piketty’s 2014 best seller, Capital in the 21st-Century, is a historical study of wealth inequality since the industrial revolution. He demonstrates that an increase in income inequality was inherent to capitalism. The formula was simple, if the rate of growth on income derived from invested assets (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.) is higher than the gross domestic product (GDP — the rate of growth of the economy), then national wealth will be gradually concentrated in the hands of existing holders of investment assets.

The author’s painstaking statistical analysis was the first of its kind and his work is admired by a broad range of economists. He notes that there are troubling social consequences when inequality reaches a certain level, as it did just before WWI and WWII. He also discovered that the inequality is never corrected by economic growth.

He warns that while inequality had been gradually decreasing and was stable in the period after WWII, in many countries it has steadily increased since about 1980, growing the fastest in the U.S. where it is at the highest level since just before the war.

But Piketty’s study only goes back 200 years. Inspired by his work, Stanford researcher Walter Scheidel examined the same question in light of all human history in The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. His conclusions were the same:

“…[T]he big equalizing moments in history may not have always had the same cause, but they shared one common root: massive and violent disruptions of the established order.”

He found that these generally take the form of warfare, revolution, or the collapse of the state.

Citing the rising “Gini coefficient” in western countries, (a commonly-used statistical measure of income distribution, see the chart above), British market analyst Albert Edwards puts the blame on the central banks like the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Since the financial crisis of 2008 they have pumped trillions in newly printed money into their respective economies, consequently inflating the values of investment assets and exacerbating wealth inequality. He notes that this has already had political repercussions:

“There is a lot of anger out on the streets, as demonstrated most visibly in recent elections. Even in France where investors feel comforted that a ‘moderate’ has gained (absolute?) power [Macron], it is salutary to remember that the two establishment parties have just been decimated by a man who had never before stood for public office! This is perhaps even more radical than Trump’s anti-establishment victory under the Republican umbrella. The global political situation is incredibly fluid and unpredictable. While a furious electorate has turned its pent up anger on the establishment political parties, the target for their rage is misguided. I am not completely alone in thinking it is the unelected and virtually unaccountable central bankers who are primarily responsible for the poverty of working people and who will be ultimately held to account in the next crisis.” [link]

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group found that the process of wealth inequality is rapidly accelerating in the U.S., suggesting that it’s gone into “overdrive”. The country is home to seven million millionaires and that figure is expected to rise to over ten million by 2021.

The era of the Grey Wolf, the only era left before the arrival of the Antichrist, is described by St. Hildegard as a time of extreme civil violence resulting from economic disparity. She portrays it as a period of class warfare and revolution (in another chapter she adds that it will include persecution of Christians):

“And the last is like a grey wolf; for those times will have people who plunder each other, robbing the powerful and the fortunate. …And they will divide and conquer the rulers of those realms”*

…rjt

*Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias, translated by Columba Hart and Jane Bishop. The Abby of Regina Laudis: Benedictine Congregation Regina Laudis of the Strict Observance, Inc. Paulist Press, 1990, Book 3, Vision 11, chapter 6.

Johnny Rotten’s Anti-Abortion Video

The punk rocker admitted in an interview that the song was intentionally anti-abortion. It’s based on a true story about a groupie named Pauline who lived in a facility for people suffering mental illness. On the grounds was a tree house which she made her home. She once showed up at Rotten’s home wearing clear cellophane and holding an aborted baby.

The reason I am posting this in spite of the vulgarity is that I think the video can be used as a powerful statement on abortion for high school or college students because of its inherent credibility. They were not around in the Punk era, which began with performance artists violently heaping scorn on a conformist society. The movement had an authentic character and that is communicated in this video. The reaction of the students will be one of fear.

Because so many Catholic educational institutions get a low score on pro-life issues, a video like this exposes their conformism. Incidentally, a week after this performance (Jan. 1978) the group disbanded.

The Church as a ‘Maternal Womb’

Illumination from Scivias, Rupertsberg Ms., 12th-century

In her book, Scivias (book II, vision 3), St. Hildegard explains the symbolism of her vision of a woman with many children in her womb. The woman is the Church and the children represent the life of all baptized Christians. She describes differences among these children and notes:

“…some direct their attention to spiritual purity and shine with serene virtue, treading earthly things underfoot.” These, she states, “…are marching forward vigorously in the womb of the image” (p.195).

“…[Some] tear away from her and attack her and break her established rules. They abandon the maternal womb and the sweet nourishment of the Church” (p.196).

The life-giving sacraments which are administered by the Church to her sons and daughters are like the “sweet nourishment” of a mother’s womb. When Christians cut themselves off from this sustenance, they are spiritually aborting themselves. Continue reading “The Church as a ‘Maternal Womb’”

St. Hildegard on Our ‘Fleeting Times’

The five beasts from a 13th-century manuscript of Scivias

Hildegard’s Scivias (abbreviated form of the Latin for “Know the Ways of God”) is her record of a series of 26 visions that encompass the whole of salvation history. When she gets to the last days, specifically the time leading up to the Antichrist she makes an interesting comment on the nature of the passage of time during these days:

“All things that are on Earth hasten to their end, and the world droops toward its end” (Book III, Vision 11, chap. 1).

She is stating that one character of these times is that history will progress rapidly. She refers to the five beasts which symbolize the succession of individual historical periods leading up to the Antichrist, as “fleeting times”. She also compares them to the end of the day when the sun is setting, explaining that in her vision it is why the beasts face the west. She also likens them to end of the life of a person: Continue reading “St. Hildegard on Our ‘Fleeting Times’”

Montfort on Mary’s Role in the Last Days

Statue of Montfort, St. Peter’s Basilica. Satan is holding a copy of the Treatise.

In his Treatise on True Devotion to Mary, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort included a chapter on Mary’s role in the last days which stressed the necessity of appealing to Her intercession in order to combat the forces of Satan. He wrote the work in 1712, four years before his death at 43. Curiously, it remained hidden away until 1842 when it was discovered by accident in a home for priests of the “Company of Mary” in France.

Montfort explains that in the days leading to the Antichrist, a powerful group will emerge from among the clergy which, through their devotion to Mary, will be granted special powers to fight Satan:

“But what will they be like, these servants, these slaves, these children of Mary? They will be ministers of the Lord who, like a flaming fire, will enkindle everywhere the fires of divine love. They will become, in Mary’s powerful hands, like sharp arrows, with which she will transfix her enemies” (56).

“They will be true apostles of the latter times to whom the Lord of Hosts will give eloquence and strength to work wonders and carry off glorious spoils from his enemies” (58).

“…[T]hey will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love. They will point out the narrow way to God in pure truth according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world” (59).

It is through these men that there will be major conversions to the faith: Continue reading “Montfort on Mary’s Role in the Last Days”

Are Practicing Catholics Becoming Irrelevant in France?

Author Joseph Pearce recently wrote an article with a hopeful title that caught my eye and I’m sure many others, “The Son Rises in the West: France & the Resurrection of the Faith”. It’s based on a piece from the Jesuit magazine America by Pascal-Emmanuel Goby, who cites evidence for what he sees as the early stage of a Catholic renaissance in France. He noticed that his church was getting increasingly crowded on Sundays:

“I have started going to other, random parishes on Sundays, just to see if this is a real trend. And indeed, Sunday high Mass is packed in most parishes in Paris. This is also true in Lyon, the second biggest city in the country.”

Perhaps he’s on to something, but he comes up with the curious notion that since the percentage of practicing Catholics in the country is so small (1.8%), they may be less relevant to this revival than a much larger segment within the 48% who are non-practicing. Continue reading “Are Practicing Catholics Becoming Irrelevant in France?”

St. Hildegard’s ‘Five Beasts’ in a Nutshell

In 1150 St. Hildegard completed her first major work, Scivias (“Know the Ways of God”), a description of 26 highly symbolized visions that manifest the history of salvation. Soon after her death, inexplicably, Scivias and Hildegard fell into obscurity. It wasn’t until the late 20th-century that the work was rediscovered by Latin scholars looking for material for their students. The first complete English translation appeared in the 1990s.

In Book Three, Vision 11, Hildegard describes five symbolic animals as the forerunners of the Antichrist: a Fiery-Red Dog, Yellow Lion, Pale Horse, Black Pig, and Grey Wolf. She explains that each one represents individual and brief historical periods that follow each other in succession. She also reveals how each animal symbolizes a particular evil that afflicts society during the corresponding period.

In my book The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, I start with an examination the 20th-century with the intention of seeing how historians divided it up and then how they characterized the individual eras that the divisions would unveil. It turned out that there is general agreement among them; certain years marked major social and geopolitical changes in Western society: 1914, 1945, and 1991. Continue reading “St. Hildegard’s ‘Five Beasts’ in a Nutshell”

The Celestial Phenomenon on Sept. 23 and Revelation 12

Stellarium screen shot, 9/23/2017

The following will occur in the daytime sky on Sept. 23rd:

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered” (Revelation 12:1-2).

As the sun envelopes the constellation Virgo (a virgin maiden in Greek mythology) the moon will cross beneath her feet. At the same time twelve stars will congregate just above her head, nine from the constellation Leo plus three visiting planets: Mercury, Venus, and Mars.* The planet Jupiter (mythological king), which had entered Virgo’s torso back on Dec. 1, 2016, will have just exited between her legs on Sept. 12th, 9 1/2 months later. (Recall that Jupiter’s entry into the constellation Leo represented the birth of a prince in Babylonian astrology and inspired the journey of the Magi). Continue reading “The Celestial Phenomenon on Sept. 23 and Revelation 12”

Contraception and Spousal Accountability

Everyone knows that millions of Catholic married couples are using contraceptives irrespective of the Church’s condemnation of the practice. What is interesting about this reality is that the common methods being used place the responsibility on either the man or the woman, but not both. This means that only one of the two is actively facilitating contraception. So, for example, what if a Catholic man has a change of heart on moral grounds and would rather his wife switch from the pill to natural family planning and she refuses? According to Pope Pius XI, he would not be culpable for the sin of contraception:

“Holy Church knows well that not infrequently one of the parties is sinned against rather than sinning, when for a grave cause he or she reluctantly allows the perversion of the right order [contraception]. In such a case, there is no sin, provided that, mindful of the law of charity, he or she does not neglect to seek to dissuade and to deter the partner from sin” (Casti Connubii, 1930, #59).

Continue reading “Contraception and Spousal Accountability”

A Costly Misinterpretation of Scripture

While numerous passages in the Bible are ambiguous in meaning and can be validly interpreted in multiple ways, certain passages are so clear one would have to try very hard to get them wrong. One of those is Matthew 25:31-46, the separation of the sheep from the goats and Christ’s judgment upon His return. The ethical imperatives that will form the basis of that judgment are the treatment of those people he regards as His “brothers”. Identifying Jesus’ brothers is the key to understanding the passage:

“‘When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (vv. 37-40).

Throughout Church history the “brothers” were primarily interpreted as referring to Christ’s followers. More recently however, the modern concepts of social justice and universal brotherhood have influenced the way this text is read and most interpreters wrongly identify “brothers” as anyone who suffers hunger, thirst, etc. But that isn’t what Matthew wrote or intended. Continue reading “A Costly Misinterpretation of Scripture”