The attack on non-existent Catholic “libertarians”

Please check out this piece by Austin Ruse, head of C-FAM, over at Crisis.  HERE He looks into the truly bizzare claims from the catholic Left that anyone who doesn’t agree with them about redistribution of wealth and Pope Francis’ every delphic utterance related to economic issues must a … wait for it… “libertarian”!  And we all know that being a “libertarian” is, for the catholic Left, worse than being a dog catcher or tow truck driver or even a defender of marriage.

You might recall that the Wile E. Coyote of liberal catholicism, Michael Sean Winters of the National Schismatic Reporter (aka Fishwrap), had a couple meltdowns about the evils of “libertarians” (who exist only in his imagination, of course).  Just mention Acton Institute to these folks and then make popcorn.  For example, HERE.

Anyway, Austin Ruse has a good piece which you won’t want to miss.  Some samples:

A Trap Set for Catholic Conservatives

Influential Catholics—many of them supporters of Barack Obama—are advancing a proposition that may have the result of sullying the reputations of Catholic conservatives and those Catholics arguing for a robust market economy.

They couch their arguments in Catholic Social Teaching; the common good, political community, love for the poor, subsidiarity. They compare this over against libertarianism; a radical individualism where each man sets and makes his own course that—damn all the rest—leads to his flourishing unless the heavy hand of the state interrupts it. Above all—to radical individualists—the State is the Enemy. [NB] Except some of what these people call libertarianism, isn’t.

This proposition got at least a partial airing out last Summer at a conference called “The Catholic Case Against Libertarians” hosted in the lovely offices of Bread for the Poor, offices far larger and far nicer than the poor pro-life group that I run and most others that I know.

One of the overarching questions, at least for some of us in the room, was where are the libertarians you all are talking about? [Good question.  Of course, they exist only in the imaginations of those who are out to get these straw men.] Why weren’t any of them invited to speak, perhaps to engage, to explain themselves. One of the organizers answered that when he said, quite unbidden, that libertarians were not invited to engage the conference “because we are here to instruct them, not to engage them. It is similar to the Church’s instruction of communists.”

I do not want to suggest that any of the speakers were cagey but as I recall only one of them even mentioned the name of a group that is suspect. Matthew Boudway of Commonweal [Commonweal?  I’m shocked!  Shocked!] drew a bright line right at the real target if the conference. The line began with libertarianism and went straight to political conservatives and to free marketeers. “Most Catholic defenders of laissez-fair ideology describe themselves as conservative.” [Are there lots of “laissez-faire” types out there?  I don’t think so.] But even they know such an ideology is really the “great disrupter, its gales of creative destruction sweeping away traditions, institutions, and communities that stand in its way.” Where no others did, Boudway had the courage to name names. He named the Acton Institute. More on Acton below.

Boudway also said, “Show me a country that has surrendered its politics to the dictates of the market, and I will show you a culture where personal attachments of every kind are less secure than they once were and where the poor and every other vulnerable population are at most an afterthought.” To that I would say, yes please, show me that country.

John DiIulio of the University of Pennsylvania gave perhaps the most disappointing talk. He went after “self-professed Catholics” who had dared to challenge some of the Pope’s economic pronouncements. One expected more from him, who is greatly admired by Catholic conservatives, than his repeated suggestion that Catholic conservatives are “radical libertarians” and therefore not “true Catholics.” [See what’s going on?] He said such as these are fine with families living in the streets, Third World children suffering from malaria and HIV/AIDS, and indigent elderly with curable diseases. It could have been an Obama campaign commercial.

Stephen Schneck, who runs the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, gave among the most interesting talks, tracing libertarian ideas from Barnard de Mandevile’s 1704 poem The Fable of the Bees to the French Revolution to the Scottish Enlightenment to Civil War America and down to the present day.

He began, though, with Ayn Rand and John Galt. He took the detour through history to demonstrate “that I do understand libertarianism: its roots and its branches.” And he ended his historical tour back with Ayn Rand and John Galt.

That is the thing that occurred to some of us that day and subsequently. Any support of a market economy equals libertarianism equals Randism equals heresy.


Read the rest over there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. chantgirl says:

    The catholic Left has made an idol of the State. Note that when the HHS attempts to force Catholics to violate their religion, the catholic Left is silent.

    I count myself as a libertarian because I think that the Church and families will best flourish with less State interference. However, less government does not mean less charity. It means charity with less waste, fraud, and strings attached.

  2. Phil_NL says:

    To summarize their odd positions: libertarians = bad ; libertines = good.
    Need I say more?

  3. TheDude05 says:

    I’m trying to figure out how they can claim to be Catholic when they are OK with the state telling people how to worship God. I will also go to my usual rant that the USCCB tends to like the government issuing charity to the public rather than the old Catholic way of rolling up your sleeves and getting out to the people (smelling like the sheep). If people are generally taxed less and their taxes aren’t going to bloated and corrupt welfare programs, they will be more inclined to give money to the Church who isn’t looking for votes, just for betterment of life and the salvation of souls.

  4. cpttom says:

    Wait, I’m always lectured by the Progressive Catholics that we shouldn’t judge a person’s orthodoxy, that it’s baaaaaad. That we can’t judge what is in a person’s heart or their actions, because that makes us Pharisees. What a load of bunk. We are looking at Alinsky Rules for Radicals in action:

    RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

  5. DonL says:

    Ah the mighty state. I am thrilled to read of Caesar’s magnificent efforts to care for the poor and downtrodden–and ever so much more to learn in my Gospel readings, over and over, that Christ continually demanded we exercise our charity by given through the Roman economic structure. If it wasn’t for the goodness of those Romans….why they even fed the lions–out of charity of course.

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    The fact is that Libertarianism as defined – “a radical individualism where each man sets and makes his own course that—damn all the rest” cannot exist in the real world. We are all dependent on others in some way. The role of social structure, which in its most complex form comprises government, is to provide a set of agreed upon rules that allow for fair interactions of a society’s members. A further starting point for Catholics is the understanding that ultimately all things belong to God. He grants us stewardship in the form of licit ownership. With this ownership comes the task of ensuring that we not succumb to the sin of avarice, so in effect, the burden we bear is far greater and the ultimate stakes in the event of transgression are far higher than any that a government could impose. What we must pray for is that individuals of good will seek to find ways to live in accordance with the instructions that Our Lord gave us while He was on Earth.

  7. Thorfinn says:

    Recent daily passages from Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI on self sufficiency & relationality got me thinking about this issue. Self sufficiency is impossible, heretical, when it comes to salvation. Relationality is essential to our identity as Christians; no man is without neighbors — the most isolated hermit is intimately connected through the communion of saints. These pricipals are abused and misapplied when “self suffiency from government support” is called heresy and “relationality through the mediation of the government” identified as the essence of Christianity.

    Fundamentally, as chantgirl notes above, it is about worship of government vs. worship of the Lord. Rep. Elijah Cummings professed the other day, “People come to government to feed their souls.” CNN host Chris Cuomo: “Our rights do not come from God…[t]hey come from man.”

  8. To be quite frank, those Catholics who issue blanket condemnations of libertarians, almost universally fall into the category ignoramus.

    I utter this assessment as a convert to Catholicism who self-identifies as a libertarian. What makes me a libertarian is a dedication to Christ, with its necessary concomitant recognition that He requires me personally to meet the needs of my fellow men, and to do so with the resources He places at my disposal. In doing so I am not permitted to use force fraud or coercion against any person, leaving me with two primary tools by which I may move others to act similarly, to wit, setting a personal example of what a Christian response to the needs of another looks like, or using moral suasion —using the civil law to compel my fellows to act as Christ would have us all act is not an available option if I wish to act in accordance with our Lord’s will as I understand it.

    Sadly, people who equate Ayn Rand’s Objectivism to libertarianism do nothing other than demonstrate their ignorance.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  9. wlinden says:

    “Randism”? People, people, Ayn Rand hated libertarians and denounced them as “concept-stealers”, as her epigoni have continued doing.

    And I thought it was atheists who kept insisting that Christians can not be “real” libertarians.

  10. govmatt says:

    I certainly don’t mind being their bogey-man.

  11. wolfeken says:

    On Randism, it may be possible to be a practicing Catholic and support Rand Paul, but it is certainly not possible to square Catholicism with Ayn Rand. She was one of the 20th century’s most vocal enemies of the Roman Catholic Church. Just listen to her own words:

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I have noticed a sharp up-tick in the number of strawmen being attacked by certain ecclesiastics lately (that, or I have just become fed up with such attacks and now perceive each one more intensely), one example of a hundred: “Some dicasteries are needed in Rome, but there must be a limit!”

    Take that!, O ye advocates of unlimited Roman dicasteries!

  13. Barto of the Cross says:

    I respectfully submit that the crux of the matter is this question: Is it always IMMORAL for the State to take by force (without compensation) some of the lawfully-obtained private property of Citizen Ken and give it to (or spend it on) Citizen Kevin?

    A very large number of Catholics who view themselves as “conservatives” in the political sense answer that question with a strong and definite “yes, it is always immoral” and, furthermore, see that principle as an inviolable MORAL principle.

    Now then, the next question is this: Does the official magisterial Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church teach that it is always IMMORAL for the State to take by force (without compensation) some of the lawfully-obtained private property of Citizen Ken and give it to (or spend it on) Citizen Kevin?

    No. The official magisterial Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church does NOT teach that. On the contrary, it teaches that, in some circumstances and for certain purposes, it IS morally permissible for the State to take by force (without compensation) some of the lawfully-obtained private property of Citizen Ken and give it to (or spend it on) Citizen Kevin?

    THEREIN lies the conflict between the Conservative political movement and the Catholic Church, as regards economic issues.

    Now perhaps you would like me to PROVE that the official magisterial Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church teaches that, in some circumstances and for certain purposes, it IS morally permissible for the State to take by force (without compensation) some of the lawfully-obtained private property of Citizen Ken and give it to (or spend it on) Citizen Kevin. It’s hard to prove anything in a comment, but here goes.

    In 2004, the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice issued the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. In 2004, John Paul II was pope, and Joseph Ratzinger was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Thus, I think we can and must accept the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church as stating the official teachings of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI never withdrew it or revised it. It is still on the Vatican web site:
    Here are some quotes from that document:

    300. In some countries a REDISTRIBUTION OF LAND as part of sound policies of agrarian reform is indispensable,…land ownership is being concentrated in a few hands….Agrarian reform therefore becomes a MORAL OBLIGATION….

    303….Authentic economic well-being is pursued also by means of suitable SOCIAL POLICIES FOR THE REDISTIBUTION OF INCOME….

    353. ….There exist certain sectors in which THE MARKET, making use of the mechanisms at its disposal, IS NOT ABLE TO GUARANTEE AN EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF THE GOODS and services that are essential for the human growth of citizens. In such cases the complementarities of STATE and MARKET are needed….

    355. …In the REDISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES, public spending must observe the principles of solidarity, equality and making use of talents.

    363. Looking after the common good means making use of the new opportunities for the REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH among the different areas of the planet.

    Now perhaps you would like me to PROVE that some leading Catholic conservatives reject the above quoted teachings of the official Social Doctrine of the Church as regards the redistribution of wealth by the State.

    I think the Internet is full of examples. But I will give just one recent example. The National Catholic Register, on February 6, 2015, published (online) an article by Professor Andrew Abela titled “Pope Francis’s Catechism for Economics.” See:

    Dr. Abela is a dean and professor of business at Catholic University of America, and has also written articles for or given speeches to the Acton Institute and Legatus.

    Here is exhibit A from Dr. Abela’s article: “Too often, he [Pope Francis] is interpreted as calling for statist solutions to social ills. The Pope is not so naïve….”

    Yet nowhere in Dr. Abela’s article does he make any mention or reference to this statement from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium: “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the RIGHT OF STATES…TO EXERCISE ANY FORM OF CONTROL.”

    Dr. Abela claims in the article that Pope Francis is being misinterpreted by other people. Yet, I think any honest reading of Evangelii Gaudium will show that in it Pope Francis is calling for more robust State intervention in the economy in order to secure greater economic well-being for the poorest of the poor. It wasn’t for nothing that Rush Limbaugh said that “pure Marxism” was being promoted in Evangelii Gaudium.

    Here is exhibit B from Dr. Abela’s article: “The social doctrine of the Church has taught consistently that there are two aspects to private property. The first is that it is legitimate and indeed ‘wholly necessary for the autonomy of the person and the family’ (Gaudium et Spes, 71). The second is the ‘universal destination of created goods’: God created the world for the good of all, not just for those who are rich; therefore, we should use our private property to serve others. As Pope Leo XIII wrote in Rerum Novarum(Capital and Labor), ‘When the demands of necessity and propriety have been sufficiently met, it is a duty to give to the poor out of that which remains’ (36).”

    That’s all true, as far as it goes. Private charity is an important part of social life. Private charity is a moral duty. But Professor Abela gives the impression that the private charity is THE ONLY action to remedy poverty that the Catholic Church views as moral.

    I recommend that you read the whole of Dr. Abela’s article. From it you would never learn that the Catholic Church approves of redistribution of wealth by the State. In fact, you’ll get the impression that the Catholic Church does not approve of that.

    You can read more from Dr. Abela over on the web sites of Legatus and the Acton Institute, and see more of the same.

    Want more proof of rejection of certain elements of Catholic Social Doctrine by conservatives? Read George Weigel’s savage criticism in National Review of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate. SEE:

    In sum, I think there REALLY is a conflict between the social doctrine of the Conservative political movement in the U.S. and the social doctrine taught by the official magisterium of the Catholic Church. This is not just something cooked up by progressive agitators. These progressives are saying that Catholics who says that redistribution of wealth by the State is always immoral are “libertarians” who reject the Social Doctrine of the Church on the issue of redistribution of wealth by the State. Setting aside the label “libertarian” (which means many different things to different people), these progressive are basically correct on this point.

    Of course, these progressives reject the teaching of the Church on the direct killing of unborn children, which is a much, MUCH graver offense against God and neighbor than being against all minimum wage laws as a matter of moral principle.

  14. Anyone can play the straw-man name game.

    Why not have a conference teaching real Libertarians about Catholic Teaching? You know those Libertarians: “progressive” Catholics who use Progressive as a label hide there real libertarianism: They say hands off what sexual unions people want to have, hands off what forms of sexual expression they want, hands off what I do with my unborn child. And again: hands off what translations (and readings) I want at Mass; don’t force your rubrics on my personal prayers; keep you rules off who gets ordained, etc., etc.

    You know all “progressives” are really pro-same-sex, pro-divorce, pro-abortion license, pro-give the Eucharist to everyone (including dogs?) Libertarians! Obviously the reject official Church teachings!

    Oh, and be sure not to invite any to the conference: they need to learn, not teach!

  15. Imrahil says:

    using the civil law to compel my fellows to act as Christ would have us all act is not an available option

    Sed contra:

    But since some are found to be depraved, and prone to vice, and not easily amenable to words, it was necessary for such to be restrained from evil by force and fear, in order that, at least, they might desist from evil-doing, and leave others in peace, and that they themselves, by being habituated in this way, might be brought to do willingly what hitherto they did from fear, and thus become virtuous. (St. Thomas, Sth. I/II 95 I)

    Note that there is no reason why “evil” in that sense should be restricted to force and fraud.

  16. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Martial Artist,

    I applaud your committment to live the Lord’s will as closely as possible. I think though that some form of civil law is licit. For example, take the example of a householder with a wife and children who rents an apartment. If his landlord does not keep the property he is renting in good repair and refuses the just entreties of the householder to make the repairs, is not the householder obliged to seek just redress through the civil law on behalf of his family who are suffering injury?

  17. PA mom says:

    I do not know any conservatives who think that the government should abandon all charitable efforts.

    I know many who think that the charitable efforts being performed by the Government have become encrusted in layers of government bureaucracy and favors, corruption and waste.

    I know many who believe that is uncharitable to encourage people to be dependent upon Government so as to be deprived of the dignity of work.

    I firmly believe that the over aggressive efforts of government in the charitable realm have elbowed out regular people’s expectation of charity towards their actual neighbors.

    And, does the near constant assumption of bad will of conservatives from the left count as false witness?

  18. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Barto of the Cross,

    Thanks for the Compendium link! When I start to examine your examples in context, I get a very different impression than from your excerpts.

    Foe example, 300 concerns “the obstacles that an unproductive system of latifundium […] places on the path of genuine economic development” and is intent to address “a hindrance in these countries to the benefits arising from the opening of markets and, generally, from the abundant growth opportunities offered by the current process of globalization.”

    And it is not at all clear in the context that “a redistribution of land as part of sound policies of agrarian reform” is seen in terms of, or even as including, “the State [taking] by force (without compensation) some of the lawfully-obtained private property” of citizens.

  19. Funny how if you’re not a liberal you must be a libertarian (a political ideology that is basically right wing opinion with left wing ideology).I`m a catholic conservative and I’m a monarchist, so, yea… :D

  20. B Knotts says:

    wlinden is quite right. Rand and her objectivist movement was staunchly opposed to libertarianism, and frequently engaged in polemics against it.

    That these people, many of whom I suspect are really Marxists (and therefore promoting a philosophy explicitly condemned by the Church), equate libertarianism and objectivism, really demonstrate how ill-informed they are on the subjects.

  21. Gratias says:

    The State does not provide Charity. It buys votes. To give an example, 50,000,000 are corrupted by receiving FoodStamps in the USA. The welfare programs promoted by Catholic Marxists lead to the corruption of society through the subsidy of huge masses of idle citizens. Catholic bishops wish to break Legal Immigration laws but retain tax free status when the State will force homosexual marriage on Catholic parishes in the near future.

    One Church is a ready made institution that the extreme left has been corroding for decades. Charity is a religious obligation, has nothing to do with the expansion of the State.

    Evangelii Gaudium is mistaken about trickle-down economics.

  22. Gerard Plourde says:

    Concerning the issue of redistribution: Those of us who live in nations that recognize that all humans share the same basic rights and should have equal access to avenues of opportunity need to remember that societies exist where these principles are not acknowledged. The result is that land can be held by a collectivist state or could be held by individuals who are in the country’s elite in a form reminiscent of feudalism. The Church speaks out about the injustice of these arrangements. Whether our economic system could allow for similar abuses arising from some from a corporate structure is an open question. Our history shows that workers did suffer exploitation that was tolerated and in some cases abetted by governments (the Coal and Iron Police in 19th Century Pennsylvania are a ready example). We as humans must always be on guard against the belief that any system we devise is exempt from being twisted to an evil end as a result of the temptations of Satan.

  23. Gerard Plourde says:

    In any discussion we must be careful not to allow our words to become “buzz words” that stifle discourse. Take the word “redistribution” for example. Research shows that about 50% of food stamp recipients work. Given those circumstances it appears that the wages they earn from that work are insufficient for them to sustain themselves and their families. It would seem that justice calls for an increase in the minimum wage. An increase in the minimum wage would require that employers use more of their company’s earnings for this. A government entity (local, state or federal) passes legislation to increase the minimum wage. By definition this would be a redistribution of the employer’s weath. Is this redistribution licit?

  24. Imrahil says:

    I do not know any [libertarians*] who think that the government should abandon all charitable efforts.

    [*Conservatism is philosophically a different position from that nowadays termed conservatism.]

    Neither do I, but does it fit with their principles that government provides charity?

    It may be a prejudice of mine (though I don’t think it is), but I think abstract theory has always more practical effects than we might at first think.

  25. Barto of the Cross says:

    Samuel Gregg has written a new book titled “Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy and Human Flourishing.” I found a web site on which Mr. Gregg says “I’m neither an anarchist nor a libertarian.”

    I heard Mr. Gregg interviewed on a national Catholic radio program. If you put Mr. Gregg in a room with 100 people who do call themselves “libertarians” and asked them to vote on various proposed laws, I’m pretty sure he’d vote with the libertarians 99% of the time.

    In politics, it doesn’t really matter what you call yourself, or what economic model, theory or philosophy you espouse. What matters is how you vote. Don’t you agree?

  26. Barto of the Cross says:

    I think Thomas E. Woods might be credibly classified as a “Catholic libertarian.” I believe he teaches that not only is Catholic Social Teaching largely wrong, but that the Church is even incompetent to teach on the topic of economics. I haven’t read his writings in several years, but that is my recollection.

    See: The Trouble with Catholic Social Teaching, 2004, by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

  27. Barto of the Cross says:

    I once attended a Catholic Social Justice meeting at the church connected to our local Jesuit university. That night’s guest was a former nun who had been in El Salvador in the 1980s, during the awful civil war. This former nun was an American. She had been in El Salvador as a visiting teacher. But she got involved in supporting the armed rebels who were trying to overthrow the U.S.-backed government of El Salvador. In her talk to our group, she painted the Reagan Administration, and the U.S. gov’t in general, as the greatest evil in the world. This ex-nun even told us of how her rebel friends consulted with her on what to do with the president’s brother (kill him or something else) after they had kidnapped him. During the question and answer time that followed her talk, someone asked this former nun if she and her rebel friends were Communists. She replied that neither she nor her rebel friends were Communists, and not only that, there never was a single Communist in the whole nation of El Salvador. Several us were flabbergasted by her answer. How could that be correct? I think she wasn’t actually deceiving us, in a way. I think she justified her answer by the fact that the name of the organization that her armed rebels friends fought for didn’t have the word “Communist” in its title. In her mind, the fact that they were trying to replicate in El Salvador the revolution and form of government that Castro set up in Cuba, was besides the point. In a way, I think her example can, perhaps, help us understand the sense in which there are no libertarians in the Catholic Church, and particularly not among the Catholics in Congress or running for President. These Catholics aren’t libertarians simply because they don’t call themselves libertarians, just as there never were any Communists in El Salvador because the didn’t go by that name. Those rebels in El Salvador were freedom fighters, liberators, social justice activists, and so on. And our Catholics in Congress and running for President are conservatives and Republicans–you won’t find “Libertarian” on their letterhead, so, there, the whole matter is solved. There is no relevance whatsoever to the fact that our Catholic non-libertarians always vote exactly like libertarians–that’s completely off the point, don’t you know! Let those silly progressives harp about us all they want, but there are no libertarians in the Catholic Church, and there never were any Communists in El Salvador either–thank God! Thanks what I think, thank you. (Do you think I might be on to something? Have I, great fool that I am, perhaps stumbled onto to something, by chance?)

  28. Gerard Plourde, you write:

    … I think though that some form of civil law is licit.

    Libertarians including myself, do not generally dismiss the importance of the Rule of Law, nor of private property. The simplest form of libertarianism is a devotion to what is often termed the “non-aggression principle.” In it’s simplest form this is nothing more than the principle that no one has the right to initiate the use of force, fraud, or coercion against another. Nowhere have I asserted that the civil law, properly implemented, is anything other than necessary to society. The problems arise when the civil law becomes an initiator of the use of force, fraud or coercion against the citizen, particularly against one citizen to the benefit of another, in a manner which denies any licit contractual agreement between the two citizens.

    Clearly, if I have voluntarily entered into a contract with my neighbors, they and I have every right to have recourse to the civil law to resolve any dispute involving a breach of the terms of our contract. On what part of my comments do you rely for thinking that I am asserting any principle to the contrary?

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  29. Barto,
    I do believe you do Samuel Gregg a disservice. I read his book hoping to find an exciting new defense to bring to bear against the annoying catholic left, only to find the most basic conservative defense of free markets, encouragment of private charity and bemoaning government waste and “good intentions.” Nothing opposing Catholic Social Teaching, but at the same time, no vile libertarianism there.
    Would he vote to establish gold or bitcoin as national currency or follow some of the other hare-brained schemes a Woods or Ron Paul would be pursuing? From what I’ve read of Gregg, I think not.
    I recently purchased Redeeming Economics by John D Mueller, which I hope to be a more informative read.
    Its undeniable that markets alone cannot save us, but going full prog as a Bruenig might suggest is utterly uncalled for. The problem for Catholics is that as we promote “choosing life” it is harder and harder for one wage earner to support a family and both husband and wife are expected to work. I don’t think minimum wage laws are the answer here, but perhaps the Acton policy wonks can figure out some reorganization of the tax code to encourage corporations to pay their employees more. Tax code will always giveth and taketh (ok, mostly taketh) so why shouldn’t it exist to promote the family as basic unit of society rather than the modern liberal concept of the individual as basic unit? Problem solved, no grand socialistic redistribution required.

  30. Barto of the Cross says:

    1. This blog was originally called “What Does the Prayer Really Say? For priests like Fr. Z, on matter of Catholic doctrine, I think the first matter is determining what the Church actually teachers on the matter.

    2. In the political conservative movement in the U.S., it is widely held that redistribution of wealth by the government is ALWAYS IMMORAL. (Not just unconstitutional, not just destructive to the whole economy including the poor, but actually immoral—a sin.)

    3. Conservatives generally do favor assistance to the poor, but hold that material assistance should come ONLY through private voluntary charity. Also, they think the main weapon against poverty is the promotion of moral living, and that the main way of promoting moral living is by promoting the conservative Christian faith and practice.

    4. So, what does the Catholic Church ACTUALLY teach on the points raised in #2 and #3 above? To the great dismay of Catholics who are also political conservatives, the Church does NOT teach that it is ALWAYS immoral for the government to engage in redistribution of wealth, and the Church does NOT teach that private charity and promotion of moral living are the ONLY things that should be done to assist the poor. This is all easily found in the official Compendium of the Social Doctrine of Church, on the Vatican web site. Pope Benedict XVI did disapprove any “all-encompassing welfare state.” But he did not disapprove of any welfare state that is LESS than ALL encompassing. Pope Benedict said this: “In many respects, democratic socialism was and IS close to Catholic social doctrine and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.” The Catholic position on the morality of government redistribution of wealth is a middle position, situation between the conservative/ libertarian/ U.S. Founding Fathers stance that says all such redistribution is always immoral, and the communist/ socialist/ Fidel Castro stance that sees a moral mandate for government to essentially own and control the entire economy.

    5. So, in the face of this reality, what do Catholics do who are also political conservatives?

    6. I see three ways that they respond:

    FIRST, deny, deny, deny. Deny that the official magisterium has ever said that government redistribution of wealth can sometimes be a moral option, and is even sometimes a moral obligation. This denial is easy, since virtually no one reads or studies official Catholic Social Teaching documents, and in-depth discussions of Catholic Social Teaching never occur on Fox News, CNN, or even EWTN.

    SECOND, abstract things up to a higher conceptual level. Assert that all that Catholic Social Teaching REALLY mandates on Catholics is that they have a decent regard for the common good and for the well-being of the poor. Assert that the Church doesn’t really get into DETAILS such as whether government redistribution of wealth is or isn’t sometimes moral, is or isn’t sometimes a moral obligation. This is the approach taken by Rep. Paul Ryan, and by publications such as National Catholic Register and Catholic World Report. I think the Acton Institute and Legatus may also take this approach.

    THIRD, deny that the Church has no competency to make authoritative, binding pronouncements on matters of economics. This is the approach taken by Dr. Thomas E. Woods, a prominent Catholic.

    7. The basic problem is that in the U.S. we have the Democratic Party that wants it to preserve the absolute right to slaughter unborn children, and we have the Republican Party that wants private property to be recognized as an absolute right. It’s a no-brainer that the Democratic Party is the far, far, far greater offender of moral law. But I think the honest person must admit that the Republican Party (or at least some leading members) is transgressing moral law too with its insistence on private property rights as absolute.

    8. The problem is that there is no party in the U.S. that conforms 100% to Catholic moral teaching. Catholics who want the Republican Party to win feel that conceding this conflict between Republican Party doctrine and Catholic Social doctrine will give ammunition to the enemy (Democrats) in the struggle to capture government offices in elections. Some Catholics have promoted the concept of the “Non-Negotiables” as a means to educate Catholics that advocating for abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, etc., is a much graver offense that advocating for a principle of absolute private property rights that excludes all redistribution of wealth by the government. But as the last 2 national elections have shown, Democrat presidents keep getting elected, with the help of many Catholic votes.

    9. What would be wrong with a new political party, or movement, that adhered 100% to Catholic Social Doctrine and Pro-Life Doctrine? It would get the votes of all those people who vote Republican Party mainly for it opposition to abortion and gay marriage, and would also get the votes all those people who want the government to intervene to a certain degree to boost the economic and health security and well-being of the struggling middle class and working class (sadly, we seem to have no name for our “lower class,” so I use “working class,” even though middle class are workers too).

    10. If there were a party or movement that adhered 100% to Catholic Social Doctrine and Pro-Life Doctrine, the Democrat Party would be reduced to the tiny group of people for whom absolute sexual liberty is the main issue, and the Republican Party would be reduced to the tiny group of people for whom absolute economic liberty is the main issue. Such a party would not be for Catholics or Christians only, but for any American citizen who agree with 100% adherence to Catholic Social Doctrine and Pro-Life Doctrine. This new party would be unstoppable, don’t you think? It would always attract a majority of voters, wouldn’t it?

    11. There is precedent for political parties that adhere to Catholic doctrine. For example, there was the Centre Party in Germany. See:

    A great-uncle of Pope Benedict XVI, named Georg Ratzinger (1844-99), was a priest who was very active in the Centre Party. See:

  31. Supertradmum says:

    It is the large majority of Catholics who vote Dem who call conservatives “libertarians”. Those Catholics who are in disobedience to over 100 years of Church teaching against socialism call financially conservative Catholics “libertarians”.

    Until Catholics repent of the evil of socialism here and in Europe, these straw men titles will continue in the press, and even in sermons.

  32. Celeste Angelus says:

    Dare I say that even some traditionalists fall in the same pitfall as the progressives with their advocacy of “distributism” – which can only be considered an ahistorical and erroneous economic theory.

    I’m in total agreement with Tom Woods that a Catholic can be an Austro-libertarian in good standing with the Church. One is not bound to accept that government policies help the poor as an article of faith, for that would make the Church look ridiculous, and flies in the face of clear-cut evidence which shows the opposite.

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