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A rebuttal to Mark Gianfalla

Stephen Jakubowski | Sunday, October 13, 2013

Most of the “contradictory fiction” regarding Catholic Social Teaching I have encountered in my two months at this university has been found in Mark Gianfalla’s letter to the editor, “Blurred lines of Catholic Social Teaching” from Oct. 9, namely in his highly questionable premise that being a liberal university is antithetical to being a Catholic one.   
Mr. Gianfalla, “inspired by Bill O’Reilly’s interview” of a Notre Dame professor (why we are taking inspiration from anything produced by Bill O’Reilly is beyond me, but I digress), insists that redistribution of wealth is not demanded in the Bible. Rather, the verses which speak of how “the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor” are there merely to encourage charity. Clearly the example of the early church in which “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions” and wealth was “distributed to each as any had need (Acts 4:32-35)” should be ignored, as should Jesus’ directive to “sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor (Matthew 19:21).”
Additionally, Mr. Gianfalla defends being wealthy by giving examples of rich individuals who give large sums away. However, such an action is not simply a nice gesture or a demonstration of charity; it is justice. We speak of charity as a kind thing to do, but the Catechism tells us that “when we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours (CCC 2446).” The money that the rich gave away was not their own in the first place. The knowledge that there are people in our society who are lacking the essentials of life behooves us to restore their social justice, “justice” being that virtue by which we give to each his due. The poor are owed the essentials of life, not optionally given them when we are feeling particularly generous.
Later, Mr. Gianfalla argues that the new University policy to admit undocumented students is contrary to Catholic Social Teaching, stating that individuals brought here as children “have to be responsible for [their] own actions,” as if the “responsible” thing to do would be to leave the country. Nevermind the lack of opportunity to provide for oneself outside the country or the poverty to which one would be subjected (on top of the already trying economic situations for those already here) should one leave. No, the “responsible” thing to do is obviously to shoot oneself in the economic foot and leave our nation. God forbid the University helps the undocumented, many of whom would not otherwise be able to become educated and have a chance to climb the social ladder.
Mr. Gianfalla would be well-advised to revisit the Catholic Social Teaching principle of giving a preferential option to the poor and vulnerable. The undocumented, being among the poorest and most socially and legally vulnerable, must be given preferential treatment, being unable to acquire social justice themselves. Mr. Gianfalla argues the fact that they are in this nation illegally renders them ineligible to receive aid under Catholic Social Teaching. I question the ethics of the laws which make legal immigration a very long and expensive process. Are we obligated to uphold laws that make it nearly impossible for one to immigrate into this country?
Though certainly not all of the policies espoused by liberalism are morally sound, Mr. Gianfalla’s heavy-handed denunciation of one professor’s stance on Jesus’ social teaching and the University’s new policy on undocumented applicants is hardly a better reading of Catholic Social Teaching as it applies to our community. Instead, we must be mindful of the need to practice social justice for all members of the human family.

Stephen Jakubowski
St. Edward’s Hall