How the Kochs help the poor

Papa Francisco saluda religiosas ancianas

So these Catholic kazillionaires wrote an op-ed last year for the Washington Post about how the teachings of Pope Francis are kinda sorta misguided, and the poor are actually best served by making large donations to the various Koch foundations, because freedom! No, I am not kidding:

We support the Kochs’ efforts because they are fighting to replace this broken system with a limited, responsible government. They oppose the cronyism and corporate welfare that prop up the rich at the expense of the poor. They encourage personal responsibility, ethical business practices and community engagement. Indeed, given what we have seen, we believe the Kochs are doing more to help the poor than the “social justice” campaigners who so often attack them.

The two of us will continue to devote the vast majority of our money and time to the church and its charitable activities. Yet helping the poor also requires a fundamental change in how our society — and our government — understands and seeks to address poverty. For us, promoting limited government alongside the Kochs is an important part of heeding Pope Francis’s call to love and serve the poor.

Like, wow.

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter responded (go read the rest, it’s good):

The problem with crony capitalism is not that it violates some pristine economic laws but that it corrupts public life. The problem that the relationship some rich people develop with leaders of the church is similar. Will Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, or his predecessor, Archbishop Charles Chaput, who lavishes such praise upon them in the preface to the interview cited above, explain to the Saemans that they mischaracterize Catholic Social Teaching in this very public article? And risk however much they contribute to the annual archbishops’ appeal? Risk whatever they give to the schools program? You can bet if someone wrote an article suggesting that Planned Parenthood’s mission is consistent with Catholic thought, so that, as a Catholic, they give to Planned Parenthood, the bishops would be quick to speak up. The sad fact is that many U.S. bishops do not prioritize Catholic social teaching and do not care enough to risk losing a donor to defend it.

Having said all that, I wish the Saemans well. I hope they will continue to donate large sums of money to the charities of the church. I hope, too, that they will come to recognize that the libertarian ideology of the Koch brothers is precisely the “poisoned spring” about which Pope Pius XI spoke, the “erroneous autonomy” about which Pope Paul VI spoke, and the hyper-individualistic, materialistic consumer culture against which Pope Francis could scarcely be more clear in his denunciations. Hope springeth eternal. But, I would not publish their nonsensical arguments in the pages of The Washington Post and I would suggest to Pope Francis that when he comes to the U.S. next year, he recognizes just how ambiguous, and dangerous, a word like “freedom” has become in American political discourse. In actual fact, the chains of Catholic Social Teaching are binding, but they bind in order to liberate. Freedom shorn of solidarity is a false freedom for the Christian. And the Koch brothers and their friends are peddling a false freedom.