Pope John Paul II (1920-2005), Pope Benedict XVI (1927-2022) and Pope Francis (1936-present): the guardians, interpreters, defenders and promoters of the Catholic faith in our time… Are there limits to the magisterial teaching of the “social Gospel”? The beginning of an assessment…

    I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” —Pope Francis, in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, on the care of the environment, speaking of the reason why he chose the name “Francis” as a guide and as an inspiration for his pontificate. Francis announced yesterday that he will soon complete and publish “Part Two” of that encyclical

    Letter #119, 2023, Tuesday, August 22: Pope Francis to issue a new encyclical on the environment

    Pope Francis has announced that he will soon publish an extension of his teaching on the environment, developing and expanding upon what he wrote in his encyclical of 2015, Laudato Si’ (dated May 24, 2015, published on June 18, 2015, just two months before Pope Francis’ September 2015 trip to the United States).

    The work is said to be the “second part” of Laudato Si’, and will focus on “recent climate crises.”(link, full text below).

    This announcement provokes the following question: are there limits of the doctrinal competence of the Church’s magisterium, expressed in an authoritative way in papal letters and encyclicals?

    Is there a risk that Church authorities, and chief among them, the Pope himself, may attempt to offer authoritative teachings on matters of human moral and social life where there are intrinsic limitations or barriers to doctrinal precision?


    If we recall the doctrinal affirmations of the Apostle’s Creed — the central “symbol” of the Christian faith, the central text which sums up what Christians believe, we find that the text is centered on God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    It begins with an affirmation of a belief in God as the creator of everything, continues with the central affirmations about the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father, and concludes with affirmations about the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

    It is a “Christocentric” text.

    And therefore we say that what Christians believe, what comprises the Christian faith, concerns, in the first instance, Christ Himself — who He was, what he suffered, how he rose from the dead.

    In this Creed, there is little mention of human society, or the environment, of any of the social, economic and political concerns of this world, this earthly life.

    And yet, beginning with the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII(May 15, 1891, link) there has been a development of “Catholic social teaching” which has now provided more than 130 years of preparation for these “environmental” encyclicals Francis has written and is now writing.

    I have been seeking assistance to better understand the reasoning which underlies this multi-decade expansion of the teaching of the Church beyond Christological matters to matters of social, economic, and environmental morality.

    I have only just begun this effort, so what I am offering here is only a modest, preliminary and unfinished prologue to a reflection on this question.

    But the question that seems to call for an answer remains, and it is this one: are there areas beyond the Christological proclamation of the faith, expressed in the Creed — areas like the environment and “climate change” — where the Church’s doctrinal teaching may wish to speak compellingly and wisely, but my not speak authoritatively, because of the inevitable complexity of the issues involved, that is, because of our inevitable lack of knowledge, as humans, about all of the variables involved in these matters?

    Here below I give the following texts as a preliminary help to reflection on this matter:

    1) The Vatican News announcement that Pope Francis is writing a “Part Two” to Laudato Si’ (link)

    2) A very useful piece by John Allen, published just three weeks ago, on the use of modern Catholic social teaching in Italy after World War II (link)

    3) A very thoughtful, witty piece by John Zmirak from 2014, nine years ago, on Church social teaching over the centuries, and how it has sometimes changed on matters such as usury and slavery (link)

    All best wishes as this summer of 2023 now draws toward its close, with continuing prayers for peace in the world, and in all hearts. —RM    


    P.S. Please consider supporting this writing. Thank you. (link)    

    (1) Pope Francis writing a second part of Laudato si’ (link)

    The Director of the Holy See Press Office says the second part of the Laudato si’ encyclical letter which Pope Francis mentioned on Monday will focus on the recent climate crises.

    August 21, 2023

    By Vatican News

    Speaking off-the-cuff to a delegation of lawyers from member countries of the Council of Europe on Monday, Pope Francis said he was writing a second part of his Laudato si’ encyclical to update it to “current issues”.

    The Pope was expressing his appreciation for the attorneys’ commitment to developing a legal framework aimed at protecting the environment.

    “We must never forget that the younger generations have the right to receive a beautiful and livable world from us, and that this implies that we have a grave responsibility towards creation which we have received from the generous hands of God,” said the Pope. “Thank you for your contribution.”

    In a statement later on Monday, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, explained that the new updated version of Laudato si’ will focus in particular on the most recent extreme weather events and catastrophes affecting people across five continents.

    Laudato si’ is Pope Francis’ second encyclical letter. It was published on 18 June 2015, and bears the date 24 May of the same year, the Solemnity of Pentecost.

    The document on the “care of the common home” draws its title from the incipit of St. Francis‘ Canticle of Creatures and opens with these words:

    “’LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore’ – ‘Praise be to you, my Lord’. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

    Shortly after its publication, the Pope himself sought to clarify the meaning of this encyclical during an audience he held on 21 July 2015 with participants in the Workshop entitled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change the Commitment of the Cities”, in which he said: “This culture of care for the environment is not simply a ‘green’ — I say it in the true sense of the word — attitude, it isn’t just a ‘green”’attitude, it’s much more than that. Taking care of the environment means having an attitude of human ecology. That is, we cannot say that mankind is here and Creation, the environment, is there. Ecology is total, it’s human. This is what I sought to express in the Encyclical Laudato Si’: man cannot be separated from the rest; there is a relationship which is reciprocally influential, both the environment on the person, and the person in a way which affects the environment; and the effect bounces back to man when the environment is mistreated. For this reason, in response to a question I was asked I said: ‘No, it’s not a ‘green’ encyclical, it’s a social encyclical’. For in society, in the social life of mankind, we cannot forget to take care of the environment. Moreover, looking after the environment is a social attitude, which socializes us, in one sense or another — each person can give it the meaning he chooses — on the other hand, it enables us to welcome — I like the Italian expression, when they speak of the environment — Creation, what we are given as a gift, namely, the environment”.

    In the encyclical, the Pope recalled that he chose the name Francis as a guide and as an inspiration for his pontificate: “I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”

    And he launched his urgent appeal for protecting our common home to build a better future for all humanity, with no exceptions: “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: ‘Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation’. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.”

    Recalling Camaldoli, maybe history’s greatest dream of Catholic social teaching

    By John L. Allen Jr.

    Jul 30, 2023

    ROME – At the end of the 2007 movie “Charley Wilson’s War,” about how covert American support for the mujahadeen in Afghanistan helped bring down the Soviet empire, a quote appears from the real Texas congressman played in the film by Tom Hanks: “All these things happened, and they were glorious and they changed the world.”

    “Then, we …”

    Well, I can’t actually quote what Wilson said at that point, because this is a family news outlet. Suffice it to say, his point was that the people in charge didn’t handle the aftermath very well.

    If a movie is ever made about the famed Italian Codice di Camaldoli (“Code of Camaldoli”), a blueprint for a just society produced by a cross-section of Catholic intellectuals and activists in July 1943 at a Benedictine monastery in Tuscany, that Wilson quote easily could serve as its denouement too … though, perhaps, not quite its final word.

    Among the participants in that fabled summit eighty years ago this month were two future Prime Ministers of Italy, Aldo Moro and Giulio Andreotti; the future Mayor of Florence, Giorgio La Pira; and a future Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Pietro Pavan, who would go on to ghostwrite the social encyclicals Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris for Pope John XXIII.

    The work was coordinated by Italian economist and intellectual Sergio Paronetto, a leader in the Catholic Action movement and a close friend and advisor to both Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, who would become St. Pope Paul VI, and Alcide de Gasperri, who would serve as Italy’s Prime Minister from 1946 to 1953, and who would also become one of the founders of the European Union and a candidate for sainthood himself.

    It’s almost impossible to overstate the centrality of Catholicism for this cohort.

    Andreotti, who would serve as Prime Minister in seven different governments, first met de Gasperri when both were young activists in FUCI (the “Italian Catholic University Federation,” basically the youth arm of Catholic Action) and they were studying together in the Vatican Library. When a prominent journalist later would say the difference was that when de Gasperri went to church, he talked to God, while Andreotti spoke to the priests, Andreotti shot back: “Priests vote, God doesn’t.”

    Organized in seven sections and 99 individual propositions, the Codice di Camaldoli would become a key source for Italy’s post-war constitution and also serve as inspiration for the political platform of the Christian Democratic party, which governed the country for the next 50 years.

    The backdrop to the gathering at Camaldoli was the stuff of high drama. Just eight days before the group assembled, American forces had launched the invasion of Sicily; the day after the meeting began, American bombers strafed Rome, dropping more than 1,000 tons of explosives and killing 3,000 people.

    One day after the Camaldoli meeting concluded, Mussolini was ousted by the Grand Council of Fascism and placed under arrest, which would lead to the German occupation of northern and central Italy by September.

    As a result, it was clear to the thinkers in Camaldoli that the old order was crumbling, and that something new would have to be built. It was, to some extent, an Italian analog to the U.S. constitutional convention in 1787, in that participants weren’t just considering reforms to an existing system but trying to imagine a new government from the ground up.

    One key difference is that unlike what happened in Philadelphia more than two centuries ago, these Italian founding fathers were all Catholic and self-consciously trying to imagine a state rooted in Catholic social doctrine. To extend the analogy, the Codice di Camaldoli is akin to the American “Federalist Papers,” in that it reveals the aspirations of the architects of the novus ordo seclorum.

    In terms of content, the Codice di Camaldoli identified two core pillars of a just society: The “common good,” and “social harmony.”

    Beyond that, it listed eight principles which should govern economic activity (listed below in my translation from Italian).

  1. The dignity of the human person, which requires a well-ordered freedom of the individual also in the economic field.
  2. Equality of personal rights, notwithstanding deep individual differences as a result of different degrees of intelligence, ability, physical strength, etc.
  3. Solidarity, that is, the duty of collaboration also in the economic arena to reach the common goals of society.
  4. The primary destination of material goods for the advantage of all people.
  5. The possibility of ownership in various legitimate ways, among which work is preeminent.
  6. Free commerce of goods with respect for commutative justice.
  7. Respect for the exigencies of commutative justice in payment for work.
  8. Respect for the exigencies of distributive and legal justice in the interventions of the state.

    One of its best-known prescriptions is this: “A good economic system must avoid excessive enrichment which damages equitable distribution. In any case, it must prevent the excessive power of small groups over the economy through the control of a few [individuals] over concentrations of wealth.”

    In effect, the Codice di Camaldoli was an attempt to answer one of the most fascinating thought exercises in Catholic intellectual life of the last 150 years: What would an actual, real-world government based on papal social teaching since Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 look like?

    In some ways, the Codice was a rousing success.

    Led by statesmen such as de Gasperri and the Christian Democratic coalition he founded, Italy negotiated the transition from fascism to democracy, constructed a social welfare state that aspires to guarantee a certain minimum dignity to citizens, held Communism at bay, and tried its best to balance growing secularization and religious pluralism with respect for the country’s traditional Catholic identity. In general terms, the Christian Democrats were also able to hold the political left and right together in a rough consensus.

    On the other hand, we all know how the story ended: The Christian Democrats imploded in 1994 amid a series of corruption scandals known as Tangentopoli, or “Bribe City,” and many of the core principles of the Codice di Camaldoli were more honored in the breach than the observance. Despite the emphasis on a right to work, for example, Italy has long been plagued with one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe, especially in the chronically underdeveloped south, where talk of the “common good” and “social harmony” often seem little more than a cruel joke.

    De Gasperri himself seemed to anticipate that the real-world application of the Codice would fall short of the ideal.

    Here’s what he said at the time: “Approaching this session of Catholic Action is like climbing a great mountain. You find yourself in an oxygenated atmosphere. When you come down, it’s not always possible to maintain the same atmosphere … [one] has to seek a third way between the aspirations of principle and the possibilities of action.”

    And, yet.

    Despite it all, the Codice di Camaldoli remains arguably the most thoughtful, thorough and provocative effort in history to apply the principles of Catholic social doctrine to the hard work of real-world governance. The fact that it took shape in a famed monastery of the Benedictines, who have been in the business of sustaining and saving Western civilization for 1,500 years, probably isn’t an accident.

    Perhaps the dream the Codice represents has never been fully realized … but that, by no means, suggests the dream is dead.

    Follow John L. Allen Jr. on Twitter: @JohnLAllenJr

    The Myth of Catholic Social Teaching

    by John Zmirak

    SATURDAY, AUGUST 30, 2014

    Self-styled Catholic critics of the free market and “Americanism” have adopted the term “social Magisterium” to suggest that there is a coherent and morally binding body of papal teaching on politics and economics, from which we can derive specific policy initiatives and firmly condemn alternatives as “un-Catholic” or even (that dreaded word) “dissenting.”

Hence defenders of market economics, or opponents of mass immigration, can be tarred with the same brush as those who favor women’s ordination or homosexuality. Indeed, if we accept the premise of a “social magisterium,” we are led to believe that we can actually build up a detailed Catholic political economy that is a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, which bravely “cuts across” the lines dividing Left and Right, and between America’s political parties.

We can start, of course, with Belloc and Chesterton, who laid the groundwork for an officially Catholic system of economics, distributism. We can move forward bravely by reading the fruits of bishops’ conferences and statements by the Vatican’s various social justice officers. As we proceed, compiling divinely approved answers to each burning current question, we can fill in the empty spaces of politics and economics, then present it to a rudderless world like a completed crossword puzzle.

I won’t spend time here talking about the practical effects of such talk in Catholic circles. My hope is that it has none – that patriotic, prolife Catholics simply ignore the posturing that fills the blogosphere, the tortured statements that emerge from bishops’ conferences, the rants of leftist, anti-Semitic cardinals, and the questionably translated fruits of interviews with the pope.

I hope this not simply because I want people to vote against the persecutors of the Church, to whom the rise of illiberal Catholicism gives active aid and comfort, but for a much more important reason: the explosion of irrational and false political statements that carry some vague imprimatur of Church authority will undermine people’s faith: “If I have to believe that nonsense to really be Catholic….”

But there are smart, sincere people out there who struggle seriously with the idea that the papacy is a 2,000-year-old Delphic oracle, that a “spirit-led Magisterium” inspires and guards from error the statements of popes about economics and politics. Even if such statements are not infallible, we are obliged to grant them a docile “religious submission,” as we are to other non- ex cathedra assertions of Catholic teaching. Or so people say.

I have read earnest attempts to collect everything that popes have said on these subjects since Leo XIII, and treat them as a kind of divine wish-list, which Catholics are obliged to accept as the first principles of politics – and defend against every criticism, as St. Ignatius did the honor of Our Lady. Such attempts demonstrate filial piety, and ought not to be sneered at. Nor should the papal statements in question, which are largely wise and often profound, and in fact serve as worthy digests of much of the best that has been written or thought.

One of my favorite reference books is The Pope Speaks, which collects the allocutions and conferences of Pope Pius XII, on subjects ranging from ophthalmology to bee keeping. It’s amazing how well informed and thoughtful that good man was.

But is it true? Is there a “spirit-led” “social Magisterium” that works by accretion over the centuries, gradually building up a coherent, defensible program of economics and politics, which can be drawn by simply reading what popes have said and fitting those statements together like Lego blocks, to construct a Catholic city? Is that what Jesus intended to give us when He founded the papacy?

If we really believe that, and expect every Catholic to form his views accordingly, then we should be able to survey papal statements over the centuries on economics and politics, and find in them the same exquisite consistency we see in papal teachings about the natures of Jesus Christ and the sacraments – the slow, organic unfolding of that divine revelation which ended with the death of St. John the Apostle.

If we found that this was not true, that papal social teaching did not exhibit the same crystalline integrity, we might be tempted to leave the Church – or else to descend into cognitive dissonance, in bad faith blocking out or distorting the inconvenient facts of history, to cling to a “faith” that has morphed into a modern-style ideology. I am not sure which of those two temptations would be more deadly, to abandon faith or to corrupt it.

But those are not the only choices. A third way is to see Catholic social teaching not as analogous to Eucharistic doctrine and Marian dogmas, but as something much more akin to the Catholic literary tradition – a treasure trove of often-brilliant insights and deep investigations into the best ways for men to live which claims our respectful attention.

We could quote a papal encyclical where it is apropos as we might a piercing insight from Dante or Walker Percy, aware that when popes spoke on economics and politics, they claimed no divine authority, but instead addressed key implications of natural law as best as their intellects and advisors advised them.

Of course, a pope has the power to invoke ex cathedra authority to settle a question of natural law – but there is no consensus that any pope has ever done so. Pope Paul VI’s spokesman denied that the pope had done so in Humanae Vitae, and the pope did not contradict him, nor have subsequent popes, even when they reiterated that authoritative teaching, which does demand our religious submission. When Paul VI offered that teaching, he was speaking in consonance with centuries of previous Church teaching, as even John Noonan admits in his impressive (if dissenting) book Contraception. In that sense, then, Pope Paul was exercising the ordinary papal Magisterium, as applied to an issue of natural law.

The same cannot be said of papal statements on economics and politics – not if we’re honest. If we do not conveniently pretend that Catholic social teaching began with Leo XIII, that a new level of Magisterial authority descended from heaven in 1870, then we have to reckon with quite a number of papal statements whose language sounds every bit as authoritative as that used in Humanae Vitae, which were subsequently contradicted by popes or a council.

Let’s leave aside, for the present, the issue of which papal positions are true or false. (In each case, I have seen traditionalists who cling to the earlier papal assertion and condemn later Church authorities for “innovating” and betraying the “true” Catholic teaching.) The only important point here is that these positions are different, sometimes radically.

Be not afraid. I will not catalog every assertion by any pope that makes modern Catholics cringe. Some quite liberal Catholics did compile a book like that: Rome Has Spoken. Its authors intended to minimize papal authority to a vanishing point, to remove it from faith and morals as well. Their case is overstated. But the statements they collected on politics and economics ought to give pause to anyone who asserts that Jesus meant to make the popes political and economic oracles. In attempting to discern God’s will from the evidence of history, these cases demand our candid reflection, not tortured, last-ditch defenses of preconceived ideas.

Here is a short (and non-exhaustive) list of issues on which, over the course of time, papal positions have made what can only be honestly called a 180-degree reversal. Entire scholarly books have been written to explain how and why – and sometimes to suggest that “development of doctrine” can be stretched to accommodate such reversals.

I do not have space here to argue why such rationalizations are unconvincing. Suffice it to say that the plain meaning of “development” suggests something organic, not a Hegelian dialectical leap from “A” to “the opposite of A,” not even one that happens gradually over centuries. When a tadpole turns into a Steinway grand piano, that’s not an organic development.

  • Lending at interest. Condemned for centuries by popes and councils (Clement V; Lateran II, III, IV & V) as a sin against nature akin to sodomy (Dante, following Aquinas, put bankers alongside pederasts in Hell), usury was later redefined from “any interest” to “excessive interest.” That is not a minor tweak, but a fundamental change. To appreciate its significance, imagine a future pope redefining “contraception” to make room for its general use, withholding permission only when it was employed “abusively.” Pius VIII and Pius XII each allowed for lending at interest, and the Vatican runs its own bank, which charges interest.
  • Slavery. Several popes (Gregory I, Urban II, Nicholas V, Paul III) explicitly allowed for the owning of slaves by Christians and Pope Pius IX’s Holy Office was still defending the moral licitness of slave-owning as late as 1866, three years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It took until Leo XIII – after slavery had ended in most major Catholic countries – for a pope to condemn this practice outright. The Catechism of the Catholic Church now calls the practice “intrinsically evil.”
  • Religious liberty. A long list of papal statements in the 18th and 19th centuries, echoing previous papal bulls and centuries of Church practice, denounced the notion that “error has rights,” and reaffirmed the positive duty of Catholic rulers, whenever prudent, to repress and punish heretics. This is completely contradicted by the Second Vatican Council, which teaches that state coercion in matters of conscience violates both revealed and natural law – which means that it is intrinsically evil. When the Council reaffirms the part of the old teaching that insists on the rights of Christ the King, it explicitly speaks not of “states” but of “societies” as having the duty to recognize and advocate religious truth. To equate “society” with the state is to slide right into totalitarianism – one of the evils that the Council was called to address.
  • Torture. In service of the repression of heresy, countless popes were knowingly complicit in the use of torture to extract confessions, and a means of execution (burning at the stake). Pope Innocent IV explicitly called for such use of torture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church now teaches that torture is intrinsically evil (2297).

Were those Catholic bankers who charged non-excessive rates of interest before the popes reexamined the question really committing sins against nature? Were Catholics who joined the abolitionist movement also sinning, by claiming that the institution was evil prematurely, before the popes got around to it? Were advocates of religious liberty before Vatican II material heretics, until that day in 1963 when the Council came round to agreeing with them? Were opponents of torture culpable for teaching a position before the Church approved it?

Or could it be that the notion of a “social Magisterium” is simply false, that Christ never intended the papacy to serve an oracular function on politics and economics? Instead, the popes try to act as shepherds, and consult their knowledge of Church tradition and natural law, to come up with the wisest, most prudent ways to apply the timeless principles drawn from both at a given moment in time. . .and sometimes they make mistakes.

Sometimes the pressure of secular society, or long-engrained evils, or institutional self-interest, or personal foibles, overwhelm them and lead them astray. Clearly this is what the Church believes, or else it would have felt duty-bound to cling fetishistically to the first thing said by any pope on any subject. Pope Francis (like each of his predecessors) would feel obliged to go right on denouncing banking, defending slavery, and allowing for the torture and imprisonment of Protestants – for fear of discrediting the Oracle.

Then-cardinal Ratzinger said approvingly in 1982 that the constitution Gaudium et Spes was a “counter-syllabus” to that issued by Pius IX. The future Pope Benedict XVI knew that the Church is not sacramentally married to every assertion on economics and politics by any pope. Nor are laymen. If popes could be wrong about something like slavery – when Protestant laymen like William Wilberforce were right – they might also be wrong about immigration or economics. Popes might be hearkening too closely to secular wisdom, liberal opinion, or dominant forces in powerful countries (like the EU), just as previous popes were when they defended slavery.

Our Lord has made His intentions perfectly clear by letting popes contradict each other on such subjects – when He could easily have prevented it, as he prevented them from erring on faith or morals. He never meant to leave behind an oracle. When we invent one for our convenience, we are forging a golden calf.

    [End, John Zmirak’s 2014 piece]

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