04/26/2012 01:11 am ET Updated Jun 26, 2012

Of Catholics, Capitalism, and American Conservatism

Easter isn't over yet, at least not for Catholics. The Easter season will end this year on May 27 when the Church will celebrate Pentecost.

Instead of taking a lunch break, I go to mass daily at St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's a blessing to work six blocks from the place I consider to be the most beautiful and sacred space in Manhattan. As the early April days warmed, I would walk back to my office and delight upon the display of bunny rabbits in the windows of the Brooks Brothers store. The white rabbits were to me a symbol and a welcome visual as I collected my thoughts to enter the building where I work.

Easter isn't over but the bunnies are gone now.

Something about this is profoundly devastating for me. Perhaps it is because the situation reminds me of that moment in Brideshead Revisited when Sebastian Flyte recounts how he misplaced his teddy bear, Aloysius. He says, "I took Aloysius and left him behind I didn't know where. I prayed like mad to St. Anthony of Padua that morning, and immediately after lunch there was Mr. Nichols at Canterbury Gate with Aloysius in his arms, saying I'd left him in his cab."

No matter how much I might pray to St. Anthony of Padua, I highly doubt I'll see those bunnies again. They've been sacrificed to Baal for the sake of new displays pushing more products in the American WASP tradition.

Despite enduring capitalism's abuse of yet another Christian holiday this past week, I'm still enjoying the Easter liturgy. Since Easter started and until it ends in May, the first reading on practically every day, has been and will be from the Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the New Testament and the first book after the four Gospels, which open the New Testament. The Acts of the Apostles narrates the stories of what happened after the crucifixion to the people who followed Jesus while he was alive. The zeal of Jesus's first followers sets a mighty example for today's Christians who cannot boast of experiencing the kinds of miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit that are said to have taken place at the time chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles.

On April 15, the second Sunday of Easter, I was thrilled by the first reading at mass:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

In plain words, the Acts of the Apostles documents the communist nature of the earliest Christian economy. I'm sure that a good number of the executives and bankers I see at St. Patrick's Cathedral -- supposing that slicked-back hair and large shiny watches are identifying factors, a representative number of the people there daily -- wouldn't like to consider that the way they earn a living and the way they handle their money is probably the exact opposite of how the earliest Christians would have done so. I don't mean to pick on the Catholic one-percenters upon whom I wish peace after the Lord's Prayer. Our church bears a good deal of responsibility for the wealth gap in the United States because it has endorsed the Republican Party. Now the Church is trying to address the immorality of the wealth gap and I commend it for doing so especially this past week when, as Catholics, we were directed to read about the communist tendencies of the earliest Christians.

I've been heartened by the way Catholic bishops in the United States have criticized the Republican Party and the House of Representatives for its recent budget. A letter by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops addressed to Congressmen on April 16 -- one day after the reading quoted above was read at mass -- stated, "Just solutions ... must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs. The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria."

John Boehner, the Speaker of the House and a Catholic, responded to the bishops on Wednesday asking them to "take a bigger look" and consider that without cuts these programs won't exist in the future. I don't understand this request, especially because it seems to me that if the GOP got its way, the programs would be done away with entirely, and today. The cuts the GOP wants to impose in the federal budget would effectively cripple these programs, and almost immediately.

Representative Boehner said, "I don't know how often some of us have to talk about the fact that you can't spend $1.3 trillion more than what you bring in -- that's what's going to happen this year, $5 trillion worth of debt over the last five years -- and think that this can continue."

The issue then is that the federal government doesn't have enough money to keep these programs going. The GOP refuses to consider tax increases on the wealthy in order to ensure that the poor, who have been most adversely affected by the Global Financial Crisis and the Great Recession, which one-percenters at Lehman Brothers caused, continue to be protected during these difficult times. Effectively, the GOP wants to get our fiscal house in order on the backs of the poor. While the GOP prances around Washington on a religious moral high-horse calling upon the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of life in promoting the unequal treatment of the LGBT and women, respectively, in the eyes of the law, the GOP also hypocritically picks and choses what morals are convenient for the purposes of winning votes and raising money from people like the Koch brothers and their Kochtopus to get those votes. On the issues of the wealth gap and inequality, the Republican Party is choosing to ignore the model set by the earliest Christians-Jewish converts who opposed the inequality, injustice and intolerance perpetuated by the priestly class in Roman-controlled Judea at the start of the Common Era.