DOING WELL AND DOING GOOD by Richard John Neuhaus


The Challenge to the Christian Capitalist
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 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, neo-conservative 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, a 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 of 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 he does. In any case, a moral call to arms, trumpeted with spirit.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-385-42502-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1992


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