Leo XIII: “Taxing the Rich Does Not Help the Poor”

Pope-Leo-XIII-1870

In Quod Apostolici Muneris (1878), Pope Leo XIII deplores those who “under the motley and all but barbarous terms and titles of Socialists, Communists, and Nihilists, are spread abroad throughout the world,” striving in alliance for “the purpose long resolved upon, of uprooting the foundations of civil society at large.”  It may sound odd to our ears, that socialists, whose prescriptions for society are many and comprehensive, should be united with nihilists, who by definition believe in nothing.  But Pope Leo, beginning as always from a rich view of human nature grounded in reason and elevated by relevation, sees the alliance we miss—and by implication he includes as well the fellow traveler, secular liberalism, friendlier to the free market but ultimately also an enemy to man.

How so?  In this essay I will focus on two of the evils Leo discusses in his letter.  The first is the denial of the body; the second, the severance of human law from divine law, effacing in citizens the sense of moral obligation.  We obey such human laws because it is to our advantage, narrowly and materially conceived, to do so, not because it is right and just.

Human beings do not have bodies, as a plumber has a wrench or a doctor has a probe.  Nor are they bodies, simply, reducible to their constituent parts; even a dog is more than the sum of his parts.  Human beings are embodied rational souls, and everything they touch they mark with the fire of their spirit, the gift of God.  That is the ground of their right to property.  But they are not solitary atoms either, rebounding against one another in a chaotic war of all against all.  For the human soul is made for love, and can only attain its end by communion with other souls.  Therefore, long before we meet the State, we find human beings fashioning not artificial but real bodies in turn: families and clans and villages.

It is absolutely crucial to understand this.  Catholic Social Teaching affirms the reality of the bodies that human beings form; they are not notional, but real and living, and they imply real rights and duties among the members, who are themselves not mere parts, but whole persons.  The touchstone is the Church herself, wherein God has “established different grades of orders with diversity of functions, so that all should not be apostles, all not doctors, all not prophets.”  The State, “like the Church, should form one body comprising many members, some excelling others in rank and importance, but all alike necessary to one another and solicitous for the common welfare.”

We learn this solicitude not from the State, however, but within the fostering home of the Church and the family, to which the Pope returns again and again.  The family circle, he says, is “the starting-point of every city and every state,” resting upon “the indissoluble union of husband and wife.”  Leo makes the connections we miss, because we have lost his strong sense of human bodily realities.  All living bodies require order; that is the basis of Saint Paul’s warning to the Corinthians.  Not all can be teachers or prophets or priests.  The hand cannot see, the eye cannot grasp.  But the enemies of these bodies cry up an equality which is wholly abstract—mathematical, even mechanical.  Says the Pope, they “contend that all men are by nature equal, and hence they contend that neither honor nor respect is owed to public authority, nor any obedience to the laws, saving perhaps to those which have been sanctioned according to their good pleasure.”

Absurd?  Doesn’t our Declaration of Independence declare that all men are created equal?  The crucial word, though, is “created.”  The equality—even in the mind of the deist Jefferson—is an endowment by God.  Leo explains what it really means: “From the Gospel records, equality among men consists in this, that one and all, possessing the same nature, are called to the sublime dignity of being sons of God; and, moreover, that one and the same end being set before all, each and every one has to be judged according to the same laws.”  We are equal in our nature and, what is to say the same thing in another way, in the goal toward which we naturally tend.

But when people no longer recognize that end, and the genuine equality that subsists among them, they substitute for it an artificial equality in goods, violating the rights, Pope Leo says, of private property, claiming “that all may with impunity seize upon the possessions and usurp the rights of the wealthy.”  In other words, they seek equality where it is not to be had, and destroy the inequality—we may say, diversity—which God has ordained: “More wisely and profitably the Church recognizes the existence of inequality among men, who are by nature unlike in mental endowment and strength of body, and even in amount of fortune.”  Therefore she enjoins that “the right of property and of its disposal, derived from nature, should in the case of every individual remain intact and inviolate.”

The poor, then, are out of luck?  Not so.  We must clear from our minds the weeds of wrong thinking.  We must cease conceiving of “the rich” and “the poor” as abstractions, or as nameless masses, or as parts of a national machine.  A society can only be a society of persons, with the rights and duties that flow from their God-given nature as persons meant to be bound in love.  The Church, says Leo, is a loving mother—he is not using a metaphor here—and addresses in her motherly care both those who are rich and those who are poor.

She holds that the poor “represent the person of Christ Himself,” and so she “brings them aid to the utmost of her power, takes thought to have erected in every land in their behoof homes and refuges where they can be received, nurtured, and tended.”  He is describing here the care of persons, not numbers; a care that can only be given in love, and that binds in a relationship of loyalty and gratitude both him who gives and him who receives.  But love is also our duty, so the Church “lays the rich under strict command to give of their superfluity to the poor, impressing them with fear of the divine judgment which will exact the penalty of eternal punishment unless they succor the wants of the needy.”

May that be done by confiscatory taxes?  Not even by modest taxes.  The obligation is personal.  I am not saying, nor is Leo saying, that taxes may never be levied for the alleviation of need.  But such taxation is neither necessary nor sufficient.  And here we touch upon the great error of the modern state, which Leo sees quite clearly.  It is that “governments have been organized without God and the order established by Him being taken at all into account,” something even the pagans never did.  The Church has been forced to withdraw from “the scheme of studies at universities, colleges, and high schools, as well as from all the practical working of public life.”  That severs our public life from the life to come, and removes at a stroke the profound and personal obligations, God-given along with our rights, which the rich and poor owe to one another.  A Scrooge can thus say that he “gives” to the poor because he is taxed to support poorhouses and orphanages; and our modern statists can say that because they tax others to support a wholly dysfunctional way of life, they therefore have given to the poor.

We are forbidden to steal, says Leo.  We are forbidden even to covet.  Why is that?  Why does the commandment reach down into the depths of the heart?  A cog in a machine cannot covet.  If an atom in the great impersonal materialist modern state covets, what harm, so long as the state can make him keep his hands to himself?  But here we see the strange harmony between one form of worldly covetousness and another – the form that sees the amassing of private fortune as the summum bonum, and the form that believes in a mechanical and mathematical redistribution, without regard to the human person.  Catholic Social Teaching sees both materialisms as evil from the root.

When God rained manna upon the Israelites in the desert, they were forbidden to hoard it up; they were forbidden to treat it as quantity, rather than as a gift, from a personal God to persons made in His image.  When they tried to do so anyway, the manna rotted and stank.  It is high time we ceased thinking of masses and quantity, and remembered duty and love.  That should strike all of us, rich and poor alike, with trembling.

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. He is a senior editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine. His most recent books are The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press, 2010) and, most recently, Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). Professor Esolen has also translated Dante.

  • Carl

    Thank you Professor Esolen

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  • publiusnj

    In 2009, people with more than $200,000 in Adjustable Gross Income
    represented 2.7976% of filers; they reported 33.4412% of taxable income ($1.625
    T of $4.861 T reported) but paid 50.1508% of total income tax paid ($433.48 B of
    $865.949 B paid). By subtraction, the remaining 97.2% of filers received 66.55%
    of income an d paid 49.85% of total income tax paid.

    Looked at “bottoms up,” people with less than $100,000 in AGI represented
    7/8 (87.58%) of total returns; they reported 44.36% of total income but paid
    only 25.33% of total income tax paid. By subtraction, the remaining 1/8
    (12.42%), received 55.64% of income but paid 74.67% of total income tax
    paid.

    The swing group between “the 7/8ths” and “the 1/40th” is the 9.62% of
    people reporting AGI of $100,000 to $199,999; they reported 26.873% of total
    taxable income and paid 24.51% of total income tax paid.

    • J G

      And the poor paid no income tax, but rather got earned income tax credit.

  • Brian

    I’m afraid that many people accuse the Church of favoring the rich and powerful throughout history, turning the poor into cogs in a czarist machine, and prohibiting the poor from even thinking about rising above poverty. Where can people find evidence–hard evidence–to the contrary? Furthermore, what about corporate lobbyists who lobby in favor of their own interests? What about people who get richer and richer while others stagnate or get poorer? What about rich liberals who do give their own money to humanitarian causes? What about honest efforts to actually lift up the poor instead of keeping them in poverty?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

      People who accuse the Catholic Church of doing that don’t know much about history. If in fact our society were steeped in the teachings of the Gospel, we would shun — we would fear with a mortal fear — the materialisms I have mentioned. You ask for hard evidence. Everywhere the Church has gone, she has built hospitals, schools, orphanages, poor houses, and so forth; please keep in mind that avarice and pride and envy are the rule in human affairs, so that the Church will always have a great deal to fight against. People accuse the Church of all kinds of things, usually contradictory. Half the time she’s accused of being pacifist; half the time of being belligerent; half the time she’s accused of hating the body; the other half the time she’s accused of being carnal. The critics are often the very same people, forgetting their accusations from one day to the next ….

      • Brian

        What about chattel slavery? That’s another thing that many accuse the Church of building wherever she has gone.

        • Ford Oxaal

          We can enumerate the woes of mankind ad nauseum. But let’s cut to the quick. The real issue facing all of us is death, and real slavery — the slavery to sin. The Church is about overcoming sin and becoming free of the slavery of sin forever — and bringing others to that place. Anything less is a Faustian bargain.

          • Alecto

            Here, here! Amen to that.

        • Richard M

          It’s one thing to sit around and take potshots at the institutional Church (or anyone for that matter) but another to produce hard evidence to back them up. You have implied that there are many people who accuse the Church of building chattel slavery across the world. Please produce reliable, objective evidence to substantiate this claim. First, define who these “many” are. Second, define who exactly the chattel slaves are. Finally, please demonstrate objectively how exactly the Church (as opposed to anyone else) has “built” them across the world so that we can verify it. If you are unwilling or unable to do these things, then please withdraw your claim.

          • Brian

            I’m not the one accusing the Church. I simply wish to point out that well-meaning critics of the Church have claimed that she has promoted enslaving native Americans and Africans or keeping slavery in place. If you run searches you can find some articles trying to back up their claims.

            • RJ Marcantonio, PhD

              I see. You are not the one accusing the Church but you are the one posting the claim on this board. I have no idea who is well-meaning and who isn’t. It is hardly well-meaning to calumniate the entire institutional Church with nebulous statements that in the light of reality boil down to “You know, someone somewhere has accused the Church of doing something wrong and I’m sure that evidence can be found for it somewhere.”

              • Brian

                I do not mean to calumniate the Church. I simply wish to point out the very serious accusations. The reason why I have tried to be the messenger is that I see serious roadblocks to the Church’s witness, such as a complicated and troubled history. If you want one concrete example, you can look at “The final abolition of slavery in Christian lands” on the website religioustolerance.org, which claims that several popes oppose abolition. There may be more to the story, but the point that I trust that I proved the example you requested and that I am trying to find the truth behind the talking points.

                • BigTomEsq

                  One layer of analysis that I think one must consider is the economic system in which slavery exists. If we are conceive of our labor market as a sell and purchase of labor, then we still have some form of slavery. That is, of course, if we partially define slavery as the buy and sell of human efforts. I think it was somewhat hypocritical of the industrialized north in the United States to condemn the immorality of the southern feudal system of slavery for a similar reason. If a child is born to an insular community without access to travel or other economic opportunities, then how realistic would have been for that child to escape long hours in dangerous industrial conditions for little pay? One of the obvious objections is that the buy and sell of human efforts in a modern market economy at least gives the individual the choice as to whether or not they want to sell their labor. Compulsory slavery on the other hand does not. To that, I say fair point. That said, slavery has not always meant the same thing. Moreover, I do not think that personal autonomy guarantees a more affluent or just economic system. Leo Tolstoy conceived of a Christian anarchist community where everyone would be completely “free.” In doing so, he not only guaranteed everyone equality but also guaranteed that everyone would equally destitute.

              • Brian

                Furthermore, when I say, “well-meaning critics,” I mean people who sincerely, but perhaps wrongly, say that the Church is inherently tyrannical. For the record, I do not believe that the Church is inherently tyrannical. I do believe that the Church can bring the Gospel of Life, but again I have yet to be totally convinced by unqualified, rock-solid proof. I did not mean to derail this topic. I meant only to simply ask difficult questions. I have tried before. I am trying to do so less and less as I do not want to look like a troll. I have a difficult history of trying to find Jesus Christ through the Church. I hope you understand.

                • Ford Oxaal

                  You must search where the thing you are looking for can be found. If you pray the Rosary properly, as a meditative prayer, taking time away from the world, for the grace of conversion, you will find it. Down here on Earth, we all sin, we all betray, (and therefore, we must forgive each other) but not in heaven.

                • RJ Marcantonio, PhD

                  Brian, it sounds to me like you really don’t know what you’re looking for. You want to be totally convinced of what – that the Church can bring the Gospel of Life? I’ve got news for you – it does. I suggest that you contemplate the Gospels and St. Paul, if nothing else, to see that 1) Christ is Head of the Church; 2) the Church is indefectible; and 3) She is made up of saints and sinners. I don’t know what else you could possibly expect or hope for. I agree that there has been enough derailment here. I mean you no ill will, I just want you to get yourself as well-educated in history and doctrine as possible.

        • J G

          False, in fact the Church largely eliminated slavery. In the US the abolitionists were Christian. The new form of slavery is excessive debt and free goodies. It makes docile slaves who will do as they are told by the nanny state.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

          Brian, I can’t be responsible for every ignorant lie that people tell about the Church. In fact, I can’t keep up with them. Pope Leo himself says, quite accurately, that it was Christianity that finally removed the greatest reproach of the pagan world, slavery. Look — slavery has existed in every culture the world over, but only ONE Lord has said, “He who wishes to be greatest among you must be the servant of all the rest.” If you are expecting that the early Christians should have wiped out all servitude, presto, like that, you’re expecting the impossible and the inhumane. Recall — there was no welfare state then, and a man with nothing but his body had to sell his service just to live. Even the tenant farmers during the feudal era were not chattel slaves. You have to learn more history. A lot of these things are MPE’s: Maximum Possible Errors, like saying that Pope Pius XII was “Hitler’s Pope” (he was the one man in Europe who opposed Hitler most vigorously and for the longest time), or like saying that “religion causes wars”, when almost all wars the world has ever known have had nothing at all to do with religion …

    • Ford Oxaal

      Here is an “honest effort” to help the poor — Supplemental Security Income, S.S.I.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/kristof-profiting-from-a-childs-illiteracy.html

      The “do gooder” instinct often goes awry: you are trying to make a left turn across two lanes of traffic. A “do gooder” is leaving space for you to make your turn, and is madly waving you through. You take the bait, make the turn, and *wam*, you get broadsided by an oncoming dump truck in the far lane. We all have the instinct to do good, but the devil is in the details. Central government is too unwieldy to stop the negative side effects of its enormous cash hose. Money is a very dangerous substance. Most people do not handle it well. That is why lottery winners often end up right back where they started.

    • publiusnj

      About the only czar the Catholic Church ever could be said in any way to have supported was the “False Dmitry,” so the “czarist machine” charge is absurd. And Leo XIII was hardly a pope who prohibited the poor from rising above poverty. As to the other questions posed: they are contradictory and seemingly pointless.

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  • seminarian

    Dr. Esolen,
    Thank you once again for another fine article. I have found myself at various times in my study making reference to you work. I would like to offer the value of living in solidarity with the poor. Although we may have the means I would suggest that it behooves all of us, and most particularly priests and religious, to live simply, if not frugally. To do otherwise to makes oneself inapproachable to the poor and given our basic human nature, to cast ourselves into the inevitable pit of entitlement. I have seen in my religious community, a large American monastery, and amongst diocesan priests and bishops. As we embark on the New Evangelization, perhaps it might be wise to recalculate how we live and what witness we actually give. Dorothy Day wrote something to the effect that at one time people were scandalized that Christ was poor, now they are scandalized by the Church and its comfortable, if not at times opulent, lifestyle.

    In Christ

  • Mark

    When 5 million people commit the sin of greed they should be publicly exposed and derided — however, when 50 million people commit the sin of envy, they are applauded.

    Interesting

    • Brian

      Are you saying that asking tough questions about corporations and billionaires who grow richer while other people grow poorer automatically registers as the sin of envy?

      • J G

        Does taxing the rich help the poor? What are the motives? We just had an election that appealed to the base motive of envy. Someone else being wealthy does not mean that they made me less wealthy.

        • Ford Oxaal

          Yes, and in fact, it means they gave the possibility of making you more wealthy. Money comes from invention and discovery. It is created by productiveness. When there are more avenues for production, there are more opportunities for wealth. It is/was the genius of our system.

      • Mark

        No, here is what I am saying: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the
        wooden beam in your own eye?”

        Oh, and if you divide total federal and state spending by the number of households with incomes below the poverty line, the average spending per household in poverty was $61,194 in 2011 — so miserly!

      • DontMakeMeComeDownThere

        He’s probably saying that the language of envy, which is standard on the left (“They aren’t paying their fair share!” – with “fair” always undefined) is ultimately destructive. A sin is a sin, and you won’t get good from it.

  • Brian

    Is the quote in the title of this article actually a quote? I can’t find it anywhere in Leo’s writings, and it seems to go against most twentieth-century papal teaching.

    • Brian

      To be clear: I think the quote in the title, not the entire article, goes against most twentieth-century papal teaching. Catholic Social Teaching does seem to treat proportional taxation as a legitimate part of the state’s activity, and partly for the purpose of helping the poor.

      • Ford Oxaal

        Throwing money at poor people does not help them. It makes the person throwing the money feel good. There have been wonderfully helpful programs for the poor, but they don’t scale to the national level. That is why the national government should not write checks to individuals, but find ways to finance what works at the local level. The problem is that oftentimes the financing itself can drain the charitableness that is driving the real good. Next thing you know, the helpers are building themselves a nice “center”.

  • Brian

    Again, I did not mean to derail the topic. I am indeed a Catholic who hopes to see people come to Jesus Christ. I have been asking difficult questions while coming across more and more question-marks. I wish to affirm that critics of the Church are not malicious, demonic liars trying to justify casual copulation. They are well-intentioned human beings who do try to secure peace and dignity. I have tried to point that out in such posts. In this case, I have tried to point out that liberals raise serious issues of the growing gap between the rich and the poor and that some do try to help the poor instead of just relying on the “nanny state.” I also tried to point out the existence of serious accusations of the Church’s preference for wealth and power, which surely can’t be easily dismissed (at least not responsibly).

    I will bow out of this thread. I hope that the rest of Advent goes well for me. I really do.

    • publiusnj

      Brian writes:

      ” I wish to affirm that critics of the Church are not malicious, demonic liars trying to justify casual copulation. They are well-intentioned human beings who do try to secure peace and dignity. I have tried to point that out in such posts. ”

      And what is the basis for this total absolution of the Church’s critics? I guess Joe Stalin, Margaret Sanger and Henry VIII (to mention one of History’s most notorious casual copulators, serial wife killers and haters of the Catholic Church) were just misunderstood gentle souls? While it is true that some critics may be well-intentioned, I see enough evidence of demonic hatred of the Church that I just can’t buy a total general absolution.

    • Alecto

      I hope Advent goes well for you too, Brian.

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  • Mike

    Anthony Esolen, may I ask where — in which document — Pope Leo XIII claims that, “Taxing the rich does not help the poor”? I can find no reference to this quote. Leo XIII argued quite strongly against unrestricted capitalism, while also believing that communism is flawed. He speaks against “excessive taxation” in Rerum Novarum, but it would be extremely disingenuous to suggest that he is attacking taxation altogether. In fact, in Rerum Novarum he writes: “Now a State chiefly prospers and thrives through moral rule, well-regulated family life, respect for religion and justice, the moderation and fair imposing of public taxes, the progress of the arts and of trade, the abundant yield of the land-through everything, in fact, which makes the citizens better and happier. Hereby, then, it lies in the power of a ruler to benefit every class in the State, and amongst the rest to promote to the utmost the interests of the poor; and this in virtue of his office,” He is clearly saying that taxation need not be excessive, but it needs to be sufficient, along with other policies, to “promote to the utmost the interests of the poor.” Your article takes the sincerity and wisdom of Leo XIII’s teachings and misrepresents it entirely to conform to an extremely conservative talking point.

    • Ford Oxaal

      “moderation and fair imposing…” I would argue it is unfair and immoderate to allow people to vote money for themselves — that is what happens when you have feds handing out money to individuals as opposed to states. Further, I would argue it is ruinous to the dignity of Americans to throw cash at people. “In second grade you have dreams, in sixth grade you have a plan” — this is a quote from an article in the NYTimes I posted below regarding the hazards of the government cash hose.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

      Mike — I didn’t write the title; that’s the editors’ choice. I am getting round to Rerum Novarum, as I make my way through the encyclicals in chronological order, building up a view of the Pope’s whole thought. I am trying to make the point that Pope Leo always has persons in mind, their rights and the duties which are inseparable from their rights; and he never separates questions of money from questions of virtue and vice. The “interests” of the poor are interests of human beings — that needs always to be kept in mind. They are the interests of human beings whom vice destroys and virtue builds up. Please keep in mind that phrase: “well-regulated family life,” that is, a family life lived according to moral rules, moral direction. If something DESTROYS family life, then by definition it cannot really help human beings, whether they have a lot of money or don’t.

      • Mike

        Tony Esolen, the editor’s choice, in that case, is dishonest and misleading. Pope Leo XIII absolutely did NOT say that what the headline states that he said. This is a LIE. Nor did he ever suggest such a thing. He was in fact in favor of preferential options for the poor. It is disturbing that a supposedly Catholic magazine is misrepresenting both Catholic teaching and the direct views of a revered pope. I think you need to have a word with your editor!

  • Mike

    Let us assume — which I don’t for one moment believe — that Leo XIII did in fact claim that “taxing the rich does not help the poor”. Then we must take into account that Rerum Novarum was written in 1891 and without the benefit of more recent studies in economics that prove that statement to be false. One of the ueber-lies of the GOP has been that “tax cuts pay for themselves.” We saw this belief fail epically when George W. Bush cut taxes in 2001 and 2003, causing tax revenues to decline. In fact, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded that these very tax cuts accounted for half of the deficits during his tenure. I very much doubt, given the extreme discrepancies between the very rich and the very poor in the US at a time that tax rates are historically low, that Leo XIII would object to modest increases in taxation on the rich.

    • Alecto

      If you’re going to throw around absurd lies like “recent studies in economics that prove that statement to be false,” then please have the intellectual honesty to cite the studies. You clearly do not understand even basic macroeconomics or support constitutional government. Please do not insult those of us who do by equating opinions with fact.

      When this government is gobbling up twenty-five percent of the Gross Domestic Product, and borrowing 46 cents of every single dollar it spends, it’s not a lack of taxation, but overspending which constitutes the problem. That rate of spending is not sustainable for any length of time. If you cared at all about the poor you would understand how important it is not to destroy the economy.

      Fifty million Americans collect food stamps, and more than half of U.S. households collect some type of welfare. The U.S. government is attempting to increase those numbers by instilling dependency not only in the domestic populace, but also advertising programs in other countries! It’s the government which is sick, evil and immoral, not “very rich people”. Very poor people are clearly capable of their own immorality which often leads to their impecunious state. Poverty can be spiritual in nature, not simply an economic status. No economic condition, whether poverty or wealth confers any moral virtue to any individual nor does it subtract from one’s store of virtue. That is a function of individual character which is formed by one’s parents or role models. Sadly, many “poor” were taught from a very young age by poverty pimps like Barak Obama the community organizer that they were poor precisely because others were rich. If I’m not mistaken, a community organizer entails fomenting “revolution”, not engagement in some productive end which changes lives of individuals.

      The American people re-elected the most economically ignorant, dedicated ideologue to the office of president. Therefore, I conclude our society is filled with equally ignorant fools. Given a variety of factors, including our welcoming attitude towards people who neither understand or support self-government nor want to be self-reliant, or even part of the larger society, it was only a matter of time before the great experiment that was the Republic died of self-inflicted wounds. When I discovered that Cardinal Bernardin gave Barak Obama his first job as a community organizer, I realized that socialists infect the Catholic church as they infect society at large. They are a virus, a cancer on this society. They convinced once self-reliant, moral and decent people that they were owed something for which they weren’t willing to work and turned them into indolent and ignorant grasping greedsters all in the name of “serving the poor.” Obamaphone that!

      • Jeff

        Alecto, if you think this hate-filled piece of invective in any way reflects Catholic teachings on social justice or the writings of Pope Leo XIII, you must have been smoking something. You insult everyone to the left of Atilla the Hun without producing a shred of evidence to support your views. Perhaps you should really study Leo XIII. Read John Maynard Keynes, who wrote, “The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” You pour condescension and vitriol on those who collect food stamps and suggest they want something for nothing. Are you aware that there are Walmart employees that work full-time and still qualify for food stamps? How in heck are these people supposed to pay for health care on their own? I’m sure you consider yourself “prolife”, but if you don’t believe these people deserve health coverage, then you cannot call yourself prolife or truly Catholic, since you dissent so completely with the Church’s teachings.

        • Ford Oxaal

          Is “hate-filled” some kind of communist code word for “other than the statist medicine I am trying to foist off on the stupid masses”. As for Alecto’s rant, I used to collect food stamps, and I was not “offended” by his comments. Even though I have never had more Porterhouse Steak in my life than when I was on food stamps, I am glad to be off of them. And it is ridiculous that half the country is on them. But I don’t blame people who have more than me — I blame people who have less — less virtue. We live in a kleptocracy — when you run the kind of dollars through D.C. that we see, it has a corrosive effect on morals. We just got shaken down to the tune of $4Trillion — your big government/big corporate leviathan had a big hand in it, intentionally or not.

        • Alecto

          Jeff, what is “hate-filled”? The U.S. government is borrowing 46 cents of every dollar it spends. It is consuming 25% of the GDP. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the Congressional Budget Office, the OMB and any number of statisticians. Washington, D.C. is filled with Keynesian wannabes who aren’t even faithful to Keynes’ thinking. However, let’s address your points. You believe that Catholic Social Teaching (whatever that is) amounts to the coercion of people like me with 50%+ tax rates in federal, state and local payments to fund any number of programs to which the “poor” are entitled? If that is your belief, then I suggest you read Mr. Esolen’s other fine essay on the misinterpretation of Catholic Social Teaching.

          Are there 50 million Walmart employees collecting food stamps? By the way, nice try using the outlier; the exception in order to define the rule. It is the equivalent of justifying abortion on the basis of the rape and incest argument. In reality, those cases are outliers as well, but pro-abortionists argue it with success to justify 53 million dead babies.

          Health coverage is not health care. And a lie told often enough still doesn’t magically transform into the truth. This concept of “insurance” or “coverage” as “care” is a lie, one of the most repeated lies in circulation. If you truly wanted those Walmart workers to have great care, you would support free market reforms in healthcare; reforms which complied with our tradition of Rule of Law and faithful obedience to the Constitution and limited government. Reforms like Health Savings Accounts for every American. You would support reduced taxation so those people could become educated and advance their station in life, getting better jobs through increased economic activity and more opportunity. That is what I support. That is moral.

          Prior to Obamacare, the government controlled more than 50% of the healthcare in this country. I know that because I’ve worked in the industry, Jeff. That is why costs are skyrocketing. Government bureaucrats substitute their judgment for individuals’ decisions. With Obamacare, that thinking will control every decision concerning medical care. The federal government will control 100% of healthcare, and government interference in markets drives up the cost of everything. If you don’t believe that, Jeff, take a look at Medicare now. In addition, confiscatory taxes on medical devices, and myriad other items all under the guise of “helping the poor” is going to kill people – poor and needy people. But look whom I’m addressing: the man who won’t even accept that the War on Poverty has resulted in $15.9 trillion spent and not one percentage point of those in poverty has decreased. Of course you think money solves every problem: as long as it isn’t yours, correct? Face the facts, Jeff, it was never about the poor. It was always about the lust for power over people, and people like you are to blame. But people like you will assure yourselves of the “justice” of it all, while some nameless bureaucrat adds your name to the “do not treat further” stack of papers. Honestly, if I could simply find a way to keep uninformed people like you from voting, I would. You pose a threat to me, to my life and my property.

          Healthcare is not a right. Housing is not a right. Food is not a right. Charity is a moral obligation, a moral duty that is owed by the individual. Is Jesus going to judge me or you or anyone based on the amount of taxes we were forced to pay? Is it hateful to point out the logical consequences of bad policies and immoral and unconstitutional legislation?

          In the interest of Christian charity, I’m going to ignore the rest of your post as you clearly do not live in my town…Realville. You need to read Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. On second thought you’re already traveling it.

          • musicacre

            I’m very sorry for you that the United States has taken such a U-turn in being able to sustain itself; the rest of the world (inc us in Canada ) look on with horror and disbelief, at the untenable situation your country finds itself. Could it be, if Obama is still pushing hard down the road to bankruptcy that he is hoping for eventual martial law?

        • givelifeachance2

          John Maynard Keynes was a homosexual pseudo-economist whose words “in the long run, we’re all dead” had more meaning than most people think. He was expressing his complete lack of concern for posterity because he knew he himself wouldn’t begetting any.

          Don’t read Keynes, watch the video “Fear the Boom and Bust”, an expose of the manipulation Keynes and his managers perpetrate on the world.

        • DontMakeMeComeDownThere

          Keynes was nowhere near Catholic, and was more idealogue than economist. Only far Leftists invoke him as an authority on his own. Sure, WalMart employees may work full time and still qualify for food stamps, but they also have Ipads and decent cars. The entire calculus of poverty has changed and no one on the left can admit it. Many, not all, of the poor in this country have learned that they can spend recklessly and still get the essentials for free. That is an anthropological failure, and people need to stop pretending it is justified in Catholic Social Doctrine.

    • RJ Marcantonio, PhD

      Mike – What you say about the effect of the tax cuts on the deficit omits one important point: Our participation in the conflicts in the Middle East over that same decade were not part of the budget. The money to fund the “war” have been borrowed. That alone has had an enormous effect on the deficit, and will probably be most deeply felt by all of us when interest rates on the debt rise from their historic lows, as they inevitably will.

  • Mark

    “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the
    means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy
    in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much,
    and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made
    for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became
    poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for
    themselves, and became richer.” – Ben Franklin

    Liberals are in denial of fallen human nature.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CL5BCZLGVXQXWVXVWDXKLGR2SM Robert

    This does not seem relevant to today’s world of hyper consumerist capitalism and high technology. The socialism condemned by these popes was the socialism of long ago in the early industrial days and not the socialism of today’s world.

  • Pingback: Pope Francis should take a lesson from Pope Leo XIII “On Socialism” | Dr. Rich Swier

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