The Johnstown native is working on a fictional book that is, in part, set against the backdrop of the May 31, 1889 flood. It tells the story of a young Slovak immigrant – a character based on his grandfather – who lived in the area at the time of the disaster. The plot then moves forward to the character's granddaughter working as a reporter in Europe, covering the fall of the Berlin Wall.Read More
The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics sponsored a special report on Faith and Work, which was prepared by The Washington Times Advocacy Department and published May 12, 2016. The report is entitled, "Faith at Work: Individual Purpose, Flourishing Communities" and it includes thirty authors from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, including business, political, cultural, and theological sectors. The entire report can be found here. I was honored to be one of the 30; my essay, adapted from my book “Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life” (Free Press, 1996), was originally published is here.Read More
The Fourth Birth of Freedom: 1776, 1861, 1981, . . .
By Michael Novak on National Review Online on April 27, 2016
On the weekend of Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts (celebrating the battles of Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill), students from leading American universities met at Harvard to formulate conservative principles for the 21st century. They began an exploration of the best thinkers of the past, searching the historical record of what had worked best to extend and preserve the blessings of liberty both for the present and for posterity. The event was organized by the Harvard Prospectus team, with the support of the Princeton Tory and the Stanford Conservative Alliance.
The following was the first of five keynote addresses.
I spent almost five years in graduate school at Harvard and three years teaching at Stanford, and in all that time I was to the left of American liberalism. Then, during the Carter years, I came to see that this nation required a new birth of freedom and a powerful new commitment to natural rights, not only on this continent but worldwide. And in America we desperately needed a dramatic explosion in new technologies, new industries, and new jobs.
In those years, I was captivated as never before by two American faces: the suffering face of Abraham Lincoln, who in this divided land at enormous cost barely defeated slavery, and the happy warrior Ronald Reagan, whose presidency brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the birth of some 70 new democracies on this planet.
Lincoln saw in his time an inexcusable evil, and Reagan saw that half the world was living under totalitarian control. Day by day, quietly and insistently, Reagan built relentless pressure against the Soviet Union until, like an eggshell, it finally cracked. Simultaneously, he launched an initiative to encourage, teach, and assist a worldwide movement of human rights and the strategic institutions of democracy.
It greatly surprised me as a lifelong Democrat that these were the legacies of the conservative movement — not just talking about caring but actually bringing about the end of slavery, even at great cost. And then, under Reagan (with the help of Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II), lifting oppression and inspiring democracies worldwide.
In reviewing the history of the conservative movement, I also came to admire two other conservative presidents: Teddy Roosevelt, for launching the great conservation movements across the country, especially in the national forests; and Calvin Coolidge, who changed conservatism by grasping the crucial role of cuts in tax rates, generating economic prosperity from the bottom up.
I remember writing speeches for more than one Democratic presidential candidate with lines like this: “My administration will have three priorities: jobs, jobs, jobs.” But one simple point had not occurred to me: You cannot have employees without employers. I understood that those who think of starting new enterprises are fearful, knowing that about half of all new enterprises fail within five years, and only about one-third remain in business for ten years or longer. I began to understand that we could reduce that fear by creating higher incentives for risk-takers. A large portion of Americans (and of people all around the world) work in small businesses, so the rate of small-business formation greatly influences the rate of new employees hired nationally. A simple insight, but it took me much too long to grasp it.
I was surprised to find that conservative leaders did not talk much about caring; they actually made social revolutions happen. The conservative movement is not given to words about caring. It is about achieving liberty and ending poverty in the real world. I see now that this has been a serious mistake on our part. Beginning in the 1840s in Europe, the new parties of the Left put intense focus on “caring.” They disguised their totalitarian tendencies by shouting, “The poor, the oppressed!” The bourgeoisie, they said, doesn’t care about them.
The conservative movement made a fatal mistake by allowing tyrants to capture the language of caring. In a civilization originally steeped in Judaism and Christianity, compassion matters. One indicator is the common perception today that conservatives are hard-hearted. People who buy in to that stereotype are not inclined even to listen to conservative arguments. We have ourselves to blame.
But we don’t have to keep hurting ourselves. Today, in 2016, millions in this world bear immense suffering. Conservative principles have the best chance of eliminating it. Conservative principles — natural rights — helped end slavery, and economic creativity and invention have lifted up more than a billion of the world’s poor in our lifetime. Conservative principles will once again liberate the world, in the generation to come even more so than in the past.
For example, dear young friends of liberty, a horrific new type of slavery has exploded across the earth: sex slavery. A cruel sexual trafficking is now condemning millions of helpless women and young men around the world to misery. This slave trade has spread throughout the United States, where young women are now being bought, savaged, and traded in shadowy markets. Alas, their numbers are growing.
One can see in the paper Challenging the Caricature the vivid photographs revealing the rapid destruction of just a few of these victims. To allow them to be described as “sex workers” is an outrage; they are slaves. Look at the photos, and endure them if you can. It is now your task, dear young conservatives, to move the House and Senate of the United States to establish a human-rights caucus to end this sordid traffic.
Still more practical tasks:
What inspired the free minds that brought down Communism from 1980 to 1989? Free communications through Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, the massive distribution of cell phones, and the explosive reach of the Internet. But nowadays, nearly a billion people, especially in Asia, are kept in mental captivity by governments blocking the Internet. For just a small investment, this blockage could be blasted open. How? A practical job for you to imagine and execute. The activism of Michael Horowitz has prepared the ground, but you need to finish the job.
But neither is that the whole of the unfinished tasks of this blessed land. Consider also the following:
Our own tough and good Chuck Colson came out of jail to remind us of the cries for help still emanating from American prisons and from yet more-wretched prisons around the world. We need to stimulate more worldwide organizations like Colson’s Prison Fellowship.
Nina Shea and other brave human-rights activists have brought to our attention the miseries of so many millions of women, especially in Africa, made wretched by genital mutilation, stonings, and “honor killings.” Nina has chronicled the epidemic of obstetric fistula, which has turned millions of young African women and girls into pariahs. Making media attentive to these evils, and inspiring more political leaders to mobilize to correct them, will help right a massive wrong.
And there are still other millions of slaves and wretched ones on this suffering earth. Hordes of political radicals across the world are forcing Jews, Christians, and other believers, one by one, to choose between renouncing their God — their inner Light — and being bloodily hacked to death. Those victims who are not put to death are subjected to continuous rape, humiliation, enslavement, and painful tortures. A practical measure: Shine an intense light from the media; stir activist associations around the world; and oblige governments to apply political power to extend life and liberty.
This persecution is not merely trampling religious liberty underfoot. It is a rabid campaign to wipe whole religions from the face of the earth — not just Christians and Jews but scores of other ancient religious groups, including the Yazidis, Baha’is, and Zoroastrians. How can it be that the most religious nation on earth, the people of the United States, can sit by and let this slaughter continue?
If we do not care to protect the religious conscience, who will care to protect the non-religious one? Either all consciences are safe, or none are. And what would a human being be without conscience? I recognize that in our day a strong and growing minority of Americans mock those of us who are not secular. Some outrageously claim that religious persons do not deserve respect. They lie when they say we do not offer reasoned arguments. We beg to differ from theirs.
Jewish and Christian faiths have implanted the anti-totalitarian axiom in human consciousness: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Not everything belongs to Caesar. The power of Caesar must be kept limited.
Jürgen Habermas, one of Europe’s most prominent atheists, shows us that the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity originated not in Greece or Rome, or in Islam, or in the blood-spattered French Revolution, but were nourished under Judaism and Christianity. Atheists ignore this only in bad faith. Honest persons do not have to believe in Judaism or Christianity; Habermas doesn’t. But honest persons must give credit where credit is due.
In America today, Christians must and do defend the liberty of conscience for non-believers. But the “New Atheists” do not defend it for religious people. What kind of moral seriousness is that?
Finally, it has become fashionable in America to declare that the primary economic problem of our time is inequality. But equality is unnatural. It can be imposed only by force. (It does not appear even among children in the same family.)
Those who prioritize equality curtail liberty. Those who prioritize liberty typically raise standards of living for all. The goal should be to raise the standard of living of the poorest, decade by decade. That would help more than cutting down the most creative and wealth-producing. Beware of those who use the term “equality” carelessly.
Abraham Lincoln singled out the right set forth in Article I of our Constitution, the right reserved to authors and inventors to patent or to copyright their own creations, as one of six vital principles that revolutionized the world. For the first time in history, the most valuable form of property became not land but ideas. Ideas are open to the poor and the landless! After the founding of America, this right became the main dynamo of the wealth of nations.
Following the economic “malaise” bemoaned by President Carter, President Reagan changed the country’s direction dramatically. He ended the oil shortage, brought interest rates down by two-thirds, spurred the creation of 16 million new jobs, and put a higher proportion of American adults to work than ever before in history. Under Reagan, the American economy added to its wealth the equivalent of the whole economy of West Germany. This American boon lasted another 20 years after Reagan, through Democratic and Republican administrations. Reagan pointed out that government bureaucrats do not put more citizens to work; millions of new business startups do. He gave priority to sparking business startups.
What has been done often before can be done again. It’s now your generation’s task to empower millions more job creators. The age of social invention is not over. Your generation can be as inventive as any in the past.
In sum, dear daughters and sons of liberty, you are the new generation of Americans. You will carry extraordinary burdens. You are born to duties that will test you mightily. Over and over again, you will have to overcome nearly unbearable odds. Yet you were born in the land of the free. You were brought up in the home of the brave. So let me conclude with a story my generation first heard from Ronald Reagan.
Joseph Warren, the most famous physician in Massachusetts, joined the Minutemen pursuing the British from the Lexington Green back toward Boston. He took a bullet through his wig, just above his ear. Then later, standing in the front lines at Bunker Hill, he was felled by a bullet through the head.
However, before that battle, as a new major general, Joseph Warren told the assembled men of Massachusetts: “Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of. . . . On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rest the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”
TBT: Lady Margaret Thatcher Credits Michael Novak
The Victorian Lady
Presidential Candidate and Governor of Ohio John Kasich appeared on the FoxNews "Hannity" show on April 11, 2016. During the discussion, Kasich highlighted Michael Novak:
KASICH: No, no, no. But people say that. Look, redistribution of wealth is just dead wrong. The free enterprise system works. But the quote -- a great Catholic theologian, Michael Novak, a free enterprise system that's not underlaid by a decent set of values is bankrupt. That's not liberal. That's common sense. It's conservative and it's right!Read More
Michael Novak speaks at Catholic University of America’s Conference on “Human Ecology: Integrating 125 Years of Catholic Social Doctrine”. This conference is the greatest gathering of Catholic business leaders in North America. Speakers vary from academics to business CEOs to Catholic Church leaders. Business executives, CEOs, Clergy & Religious leaders come together to promote business as a force for good.Read More
One of Novak’s key themes is a reflection on the notion of “social justice.” He intends to rescue the concept from an ideological trap and tries to define it using four criteria: 1. It must be consistent with the tradition of the social teaching of the Church; 2. It must contain in itself the lead features of democracy and liberalism: the principle of representation and the rule of law; 3. It must stand up under the criticism of those who consider it logically inconsistent (Hayek); 4. It must be inclusive and non-partisan, making sure that everyone can contribute to the common good: local communities, nations, and the international community, both in the public and private spheres.Read More
What Exactly Is Social Justice?
Pope Pius XI Defined the New Virtue, Focusing on the Common Good, in 1931
By Carrie Gress on National Catholic Register on March 3, 2016
Few would argue that the notion of social justice hasn’t stretched the limits of sanity in the public square: So-called “Social-Justice Warriors” at Brown University are complaining that they can’t get their homework done because of the demands of their activism; bakers are being forced to bake cakes for events they don’t condone; and a group of nuns currently awaits the judgment of the Supreme Court about paying for birth control.
And yet all of these are done in the name of social justice. Social justice is perhaps the most over-used phrase in our political lexicon, but what exactly is it?
Gratefully, in Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is (Encounter Books, 2015), Michael Novak, Paul Adams and Elizabeth Shaw clarify once and for all what it is and why it has been so abused. Like taking shears to an overgrown hedge, the authors make short order of the sloppy use of social justice in our own public square.
The first part of the book, “The Theory,” is written by Templeton Prize winner Novak, while Adams, professor emeritus of social work at the University of Hawaii, tackles the second part, “The Practice.” Employing wit, clear insights and stirring examples from Novak’s Slovak roots, the authors make the touchy topic a delight to read, while heavily rewarding the attentive reader.
Novak dives into the primary problem with social justice: its ambiguity. “The term is allowed to float in the air as if anyone will recognize an instance of it when he sees it.” This vagueness, however, Novak argues, is a feature — not a flaw. “Social justice is a term that can be used as an all-purpose justification for any progressive-sounding government program or newly discovered or invented right.” In fact, the word, like rights, feminism and a host of other political terms that are largely unmoored from their original meaning, work best when they are not well defined — allowing fluid and varied meanings, depending on who is talking (or listening).
But perhaps more important than the vagueness of “social justice” is its ingenious default position of rewarding those who use the title. Novak explains: “The term survives because it benefits its champions. It brands opponents as supporters of social injustices, and so as enemies of humankind, without the trouble of making an argument or considering their views.” Much like “pro-choice” is for abortion or “pro-love” is for same-sex “marriage,” who wants to be seen as an enemy of choice, love or of justice? The debate is over before it begins.
Defining social justice is no small challenge, given its broad use. Novak makes clear that it is quite different than simple charity, as many have defined it.
Going back to the origins of the term, Novak identifies Pope Pius XI as the true source (clearly, “Social-Justice Warriors” don’t know this). The Pope introduced it as a new virtue in his 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. He was responding to the shift in society away from the old agrarian order into the new industrial world, where entire populations were left to the wolves capitalizing off dramatic social change. The pontiff, going beyond the simple justice of what individuals owed to each other, saw the necessity of a type of justice directed at a community: hence, social justice. Of course, justice is inherently social because it engages at least two people, but Pope Pius was trying to emphasize the broader ramifications and ripple effect when people act unjustly.
So social justice is, as Novak explains it, a new virtue that emphasizes the responsibility of citizens to use their gifts and talents to improve the common good of their communities. Starting with the family as the foundational unit, churches, schools, unions and guilds, hospitals and other organizations related to human need are all beneficiaries of this active virtue.
The second part of the book, “The Practice” by Adams, offers a unique approach to thinking about social-justice-type issues. Adams, who has been in the trenches of social work, where the social-justice moniker is used most heavily, reconciles terms that most people consider to be mutually exclusive, such as individual or collective, justice or charity. Social justice is something of a lost art, and Adams uses hot-button topics, such as the marriage debate and the Heath and Human Services’ mandate, to explain the skills associated with social justice. Adam’s practical insights are infused with Catholic social thought, while providing a number of real-life examples to help professionals think through issues of justice and the common good in a new way.
Ultimately, Novak and Adams make clear that social justice has much less to do with public policy and much more to do with virtue. As Catholics, we have a long way to go in rehabilitating not only the term “social justice,” but also reintroducing the practice to generations who aren’t well seasoned in the art of community-building (which is quite different from community organizing). As Novak and Adams make clear, the first place to start is by strengthening our families, because they are the fundamental building block of society. Beyond that, we can stop lamenting the imperfections of our own communities and employ our own talents and gifts to improve them a little at a time. Small things, like joining the Knights of Columbus, getting involved in your local government or joining a 40 Days for Life campaign, can go a long way. The ideas are endless and as unique as each community.
It is an interesting thought experiment to consider those who currently promote social justice under the vague definition, in contrast to those great men and women who came before us and employed the virtue of social justice to make their communities more benevolent. The fourth-century Desert Father Evagrius said: “True charity leads to meekness; activism only leads to bitterness.” One doesn’t have to think too hard to figure out who are the meek and who are the bitter.
Copyright © 2013 EWTN News, Inc. All rights reserved.
Few would argue that the notion of social justice hasn’t stretched the limits of sanity in the public square: So-called “Social-Justice Warriors” at Brown University are complaining that they can’t get their homework done because of the demands of their activism; bakers are being forced to bake cakes for events they don’t condone; and a group of nuns currently awaits the judgment of the Supreme Court about paying for birth control.Read More
What is Social Justice
By George J. Marlin on The Catholic Thing on February 20, 2016
The term “social justice,” a potentially useful term, has – as we well know – been taken hostage by progressives in both the secular world and the Church. They have made it a catchall term to aid them in imposing ideological formulas and newly conceived rights on our common institutions, or to promote their favored causes de jure.
These “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs in digital parlance), who support state-enforced redistribution, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, Black Lives Matter, and Occupy Wall Street agendas, also portray their opponents as evil people opposed to all that is good, and often employ tactics designed to silence or repress those who dare to disagree.
Writing about these “dangerous pseudo-progressive authoritarians” in a New York Observer article titled “The Totalitarian Doctrine of ‘Social Justice Warriors’” journalist Cathy Young concluded, “Because SocJus is so focused on changing bad attitudes and ferreting out subtle biases and insensitivities, its hostility to free speech and thought is not an unfortunate by-product of the movement but its very essence.”
In an effort to rescue “social justice” from this fate and to clarify its true meaning, Templeton Prize winner Michael Novak, and Paul Adams, Professor Emeritus of social work at the University of Hawaii, have co-authored an impressive book, Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is.
The authors contend that “social justice,” rightly understood, is not a state of public affairs but personal virtue. To explain that premise and “to seek out a fresh statement of the definition of social justice – one that is true to the original understanding, ideologically neutral among political and economic partisans, and applicable to the circumstances of today,” the book is divided into two parts.
The first, “The Theory” of social justice is written by Novak and the second part, by Adams, is devoted to “The Practice.”
Social Justice was introduced as a new virtue by Pope Pius XI in his 1931 encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno. He called this form of justice “social” because its aim was to improve the common good of a “free and responsible people” by employing social activities closely related to the basic unit of society: the family. Activities could include the creation of local religious and educational facilities and the administering of essential services.
This virtue is also expected to reach ends that cannot be actualized by the individual alone. People are expected to learn three skills: “the art of forming associations, willingness to take leadership of small groups, and the habit and instinct of cooperation with others.”
Social justice wasn’t meant to be dependent on large, impersonal, domineering, and cumbersome federal and state bureaucracies that tend to smother individual and local initiatives. Rather it is a habit of the heart that brings people together to form associations that provide “social protection against atomistic individualism, while at the other pole it protects considerable civic space from the direct custodianship of the state.”
Novak concludes his portion of the work by stressing:
Both Catholic social teaching and the social-work empowerment tradition reject the individualist hypertrophy of the autonomous unencumbered self no less than the hypertrophy of the state. The space – of civil society or mediating structures – between individual and state is the one in which conscience is shaped and the virtues on which it depends are developed through practice and habituation. The virtue of social justice also requires and develops that space in which citizens join together in pursuit of the common good.
As for Catholic social justice in action, Professor Adams describes it as the pre-eminent virtue of free societies. Social workers are virtue-driven and are called to act with people “to improve the common good of families, a local neighborhood, a city, a whole nation, the whole world.”
Social work, Adams argues, is neither individualist nor collectivist, but is devoted to strengthening the caring and self-regulatory capacity of the family and to reduce dependency on the “bureaucratic-professional state.”
Adams greatest fear is that social workers who adhere to Judeo-Christian teaching on life, death, family, and marriage will be driven from their professions. Conscience exemptions are being eliminated in most medical and counseling fields. Conscience has been redefined as merely “personal values that must be left at the office door when duty calls.”
Today clients or patients are sovereign. Any legal practice they demand, the social profession must provide or participate in providing. The professional’s right and duty, Adams observes, “to use her judgment about what is required or indicated or morally permissible is nullified.” The balance of rights between professional and client no longer exists, however, and client empowerment “radically disempowers, even dehumanizes, the professional.”
All too often social service professionals and healthcare workers must either execute policies or perform procedures they find morally degrading – or find a different line of work.
The war on conscience aims at destroying subsidiary associational life, particularly in Church and family. And if Social Justice Warriors succeed, religious freedom will be reduced to freedom of worship and the Church will have to abandon a prime corporate responsibility of caring for the poor, sick, homeless, and orphans.
Because battles over conscience in the public square are so daunting, Novak and Adams conclude that the most important words of Catholic social justice must become: “Do not be afraid.” They call on us to aspire upward and to “draw strength from the example of so many heroines and heroes who have gone before us, winning small victory after small victory, even in the darkest of times.”
True social justice demands nothing less.
George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic Voter, and Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative. His most recent book is Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy.