Catholic Social Thought

Poverty Is Not What You Think It Is

Poverty fell off a cliff after the Second World War. It fell like a stone, including for American blacks. The economy was booming and everyone benefited. The poverty rate dropped from 35 percent in 1950 to less than 20 percent when President Lyndon Johnson, nonetheless, announced his War on Poverty. By the time the War [...]

Right to Work as a Religious Liberty Concern

With a new Republican governor and a legislature with a strong Republican majority, Missourians saw some changes this year coming out of their state capital. One of the quickest and most striking turnarounds had to do with right-to-work legislation. This had been a top priority for Show-Me Republicans for years, fought ardently by labor unions [...]

What Catholic Social Thought Teaches About Conservatism

The popular view—encouraged at every turn by left-leaning analysts and commentators—is that the conservative view on economics is essentially laissez-faire and that conservatives want to eliminate government social welfare programs, even if the needy have to suffer. As a result, some Catholics say that conservatism is at odds with the Church on this. Is this [...]

Paul VI and the Unexpected Lessons of Populorum Progressio

March 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s social encyclical Populorum Progressio. Even today, this document is regularly referenced by some Catholics, particularly Latin Americans, because of its focus upon global poverty. Others, however, view the encyclical as a highly time-bound text and reflective of many now-discredited economic ideas which proliferated in the late-1960s. [...]

Manzoni’s The Betrothed and Pope Francis’ Economics

The parsing of literature to support any given political, economic and social agenda is not an uncommon practice, but one that, nevertheless, must be done with great care. Viewing high culture through a reductive critical and ideological prism often risks diminishing the contribution literature makes to culture by viewing the entirety of an artist’s work [...]

A Catholic Critique of Corporate America

In the recent presidential campaign we observed the strongly critical reaction of business and economic commentators, surely representing the views of many corporate leaders, to President-elect Donald Trump’s tough talk on trade and especially his zeroing in on China. In the last couple of years, we have witnessed the willingness of many big companies to [...]

The Catholic Answer to the Abuse of Power

The accumulation and exercise of power is on the rise in public life. The secular culture is obsessed with power, especially the universities and those institutions most directly influenced by them, including the media, even local government, and, sadly, service-oriented non-profit organizations. Corporations are also exercising power in new and frightening ways. Power is the [...]

Applying Catholic Social Teaching is the Duty of Laymen

In baseball, there are “unwritten rules.” They cover things like how you react after hitting a home run, what you do after your star player is hit by a pitch, and whether you can bunt in the late innings of a no-hitter. As the name suggests, these “rules” are vaguely defined; fans will debate what [...]

The True and False Meaning of “Social Justice”

American universities used to be a place where difficult ideas were encountered and built in biases challenged. The universities, an inspiration from the Catholic Church, were the home of diverse ideas that were meant to inspire wisdom in students in addition to the learning of practical skills that would help build the economic strength that [...]

Free Trade and Catholic Social Teaching

It is shaping up that one of the major issues this election year is going to be free trade and the international trade deals that the U.S. has negotiated over the past quarter-century. The major agreements that come to mind, which have generated so much controversy, are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and [...]

A Revolutionary Pope for Revolutionary Times

Eighty-one year old men are not the first people who come to mind when we hear the word “revolutionary.” But 125 years ago, one such man—Vincenzo Pecci, better known to history as Pope Leo XIII—did something radical. By issuing the first modern social encyclical, Rerum Novarum, he ushered in a new era for Catholicism’s relationship [...]

The New Literalism and Fundamentalism

Catholics—even more so liberal Catholics—are usually quick to criticize anyone who seems to interpret Scripture too literally. Indeed, liberal Catholics often don’t even want to view a lot of it as historical. Liberal Catholics and leftists generally are also ready to rebuke people who adhere to aspects of traditional Christian morality, especially sexual matters, as [...]

What “Social Justice” Really Means

For much of my academic life, I considered the terms, “values,” “rights,” and “social justice,” to have equivocal meanings. When these terms were used without clarification, they disrupted any fair social order. Each of the phrases had two or more meanings that usually meant the direct opposite of each other. Conversations and legislation in which [...]

Will the Poor Really Always Be With Us?

“Those who want to eradicate poverty make the Son of God a liar. They are mistaken and lying.”  ∼ Robert Cardinal Sarah “The economic problem … has been solved already: we know how to provide enough and do not require any hostile, inhuman, aggressive technologies to do so. There is no economic problem and, in a [...]

The Tragedy of Laudato Si’

The case of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si’ can be seen as tragic. This is not because it is the terrible document that some say it is; it is because so much of it is so good, and because it had the potential to be a truly great encyclical. Like a tragic hero, who [...]

Economic Manicheanism at the Vatican

Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi are two well-known vaticanisti, as journalists covering the Vatican are called here in Rome. They are “Vatican Insiders,” meaning they are experienced in cultivating anonymous sources (sometimes about the voting of an ongoing papal conclave, a practice expressly forbidden by Church law), leaking damaging stories, and other nefarious activities that [...]

What the Tory Victory Means for UK Catholics

The British people have spoken, and their voice has confounded all expectations. Almost immediately after the polls closed in the General Election at 10pm on Thursday night, a nationwide exit poll indicated that the Conservative party, led by David Cameron, the prime minister since 2010, was going to win far more seats than predicted. What [...]

Do Welfare Restrictions Violate Human Dignity?

Do state restrictions on how public welfare recipients can spend benefits offend the dignity of the poor? Kansas recently enacted a law banning the use of welfare benefits to buy alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco products, lottery tickets, concert tickets, professional or collegiate sporting event tickets or tickets for other entertainment events intended for the general public [...]

A Seamless Garment That Fits

It has been the taunt of those advocating the moral legitimacy and legalization of abortion since the modern pro-life movement began: “You're not pro-life; you're just against abortion. You couldn't care less about the lives of mothers or children after the nine months of pregnancy are over.” The accusation as made is truly false. In [...]

Collaboration with Secularists Undermines Catholic Social Goals

To all appearances, everyday life is becoming ever more at odds with the Catholic vision of what it should be. It’s becoming less like life as traditionally conceived, a network of relationships, loyalties, and purposes, many of which are natural or transcendent and therefore enduring. Instead, it’s becoming more like eBay, Facebook, a government office, [...]

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 [...]

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