By the Rev. Robert A. Sirico
With the recent DVD release and London premiere of Michael Moore’s documentary, CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, Moore appears to be in the running as the first recipient of the Leni Riefenstahl/Borat Award in Mockumentary filmmaking. Combining the craft of a propagandist for vague and undefined left-wing propaganda and an inept attempt to mock people, Moore only succeeds in underscoring his own economic illiteracy while placing the very working class laborers (doormen, guards and the like) he claims to champion in embarrassing public confrontations.
Perhaps the most egregious bit of manipulative effort Moore displays in his latest attempt, which by all reports has failed miserably at the box office, is his attempt to use religion, in particular the social teachings of the Catholic Church, to grant an imprimatur to his un-nuanced critique of the business economy.
Having come out of his Catholic closet (who knew Moore ever considered himself a serious Catholic?), he enlists Catholic priests (among them two bishops!) to lend credibility to an unequivocal denunciation of capitalism as intrinsically, irrevocably and wholly evil. The problem is, that one of the priests and one of the bishops have no standing in the Catholic Church. The one “bishop”, James Wilkowski, is neither a Roman Catholic bishop nor even a Roman Catholic, but rather a member of something called the “Evangelical Catholic Church.” The man identified as the priest who performed Mr. Moore’s marriage is not listed in the US Directory of Catholic priests.
The other two clerics are indeed priests, both being from the most left-wing extreme of the Catholic Church. They are certainly entitled to their opinions, but the opinions they offer in the film are far from representative of the official position of the Church.
If Mr. Moore wanted a critique of free markets, he need only have looked at the most recent encyclical of Pope Benedict, “Caritas in Veritate.” But I am afraid it would not have served his propagandistic purposes, for there one reads:
“The Church has always held that economic action is not to be regarded as something opposed to society. In and of itself, the market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak. Society does not have to protect itself from the market, as if the development of the latter were ipso facto to entail the death of authentically human relations. Admittedly, the market can be a negative force, not because it is so by nature, but because a certain ideology can make it so…it is man’s darkened reason that produces these consequences, not the instrument per se. Therefore it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their person and social responsibility.”(no. 36)
To have included such balanced and profound thinking in his work would have made Mr. Moore’s effort a far more thoughtful one. But that is evidently not what Mr. Moore wanted and certainly not what one expects from a Riefenstahl, Borat or Moore.
Editor’s note: Fr. Robert Sirico is president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, MI (www.acton.org).