DOING WELL AND DOING GOOD: The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist by Richard John Neuhaus

DOING WELL AND DOING GOOD: The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Catholic priest sets out to explain that the union of a free society and a free-market economy is not a shotgun wedding but a marriage made in heaven. Neuhaus (America Against Itself, p. 595) wears not only a clerical collar but numerous hats: editor of First Things magazine, head of the Institute of Religion and Public Life, neoconservative scholar. Here, he combines his skills, examining the relationship between ""taking care of business and taking care of each other."" The American dream of justice for all, he says, shines brightest when lighted by religion--witness Martin Luther King. But today Protestantism is demoralized, he contends, and moral leadership thus falls to the Catholic Church and its social teaching, exemplified by Pope John II's ""remarkable"" 1991 encyclical, Centesimus Annus. Neuhaus first explains the nature of papal encyclicals as guidebooks rather than as marching orders; he then offers a thematic analysis of Centesimus. According to Neuhaus, John Paul contends--and recent events in Eastern Europe prove--that socialism is inherently totalitarian; markets must therefore be free. But freedom is of value only as a vehicle for love, and free markets must be driven by ""moral reconstruction,"" above all by a Gospel-based commitment to the poor. This will demand an inversion of American attitudes: our duty to enrich the poor isn't a burden but a gift, n chance to increase the solidarity of all humankind. All nations must affirm the spiritual ""dignity of work""; rich and poor must see that the free market is a source o|f wealth that can bring wealth to all. A worthy unpacking of the Pope's dense social theology, although Neuhaus admits that liberal thinkers have found in Centesimus a far more severe criticism of capitalism than be does. In any case, a moral call to arms, trumpeted wi spirit.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Doubleday