Catholic Social Thought

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 [...]

Perpetuating Ineffective Anti-Poverty Programs

The Obama presidency has been distinguished for unprecedented levels of federal social welfare spending. In his second term, President Obama is pursuing new and expanded federal anti-poverty initiatives. There has been a sharp increase in the food-stamp and Children’s Health Insurance programs. Obama has proposed more federal funding for Head Start and pre-school education generally, [...]

The Latest Debate Over Catholic Social Thought

Pope Francis' statements about economics (and related questions, such as environmentalism and "fracking") have caused much consternation among conservative Catholics in the United States. The Holy Father's comments on the "greed" of capitalism and his seeming belief that capitalism causes income inequality rather than providing explosive growth and increased prosperity historically seem without nuance at [...]

What is the Church’s Political Role?

For more than 1500 years the Church was a major influence on Western politics. That is how it should be. Ultimate standards matter, and if the Church doesn’t explain what they are and how to apply them someone else will. It’s not an improvement when her authority gives way to that of journalists, advertisers, TV [...]

Does the Church Favor Capitalism and Democracy?

Although the recent book by Fr. Maciej Zieba is titled Papal Economics: The Catholic Church on Democratic Capitalism, from Rerum Novarum to Caritas in Veritate, it is really not so much about papal economics as it is about papal political philosophy. Further, it is not about the Catholic Church’s teaching on democratic capitalism broadly speaking [...]

The Death of Our Family Wage Culture

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that last year, only one-fifth of married couple homes were supported solely by the employment of the husband. The wife was the only employed member of the household in 7.8 percent of married-couple homes (with 6.2 percent supported by other employment combinations, and 18.5 percent having no employed members). [...]

A “Better Life Index” that Ignores What Makes for a Better Life

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization made up mostly of industrialized countries “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” It emphasizes its commitment to a market economy, democratic rule, economic growth, and environmental well-being. In 2011, it launched its “Better [...]

What is Distributism? A Controversial Alternative to Socialism and Plutocracy

Distributism is the name given to a socio-economic and political creed originally associated with G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. Chesterton bowed to Belloc’s preeminence as a disseminator of the ideas of distributism, declaring Belloc the master in relation to whom he was merely a disciple. “You were the founder and father of this mission,”Chesterton [...]

Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind

 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24). This Gospel passage provides us with proper framework to evaluate Christopher Dawson’s controversial essay, “Catholicism and the Bourgeois [...]

Kasper versus Kasper

Book-tours can be risky affairs. There’s always the chance you’ll say something during your tenth radio interview of the day which you retrospectively wish you’d phrased differently. Then there’s the possibility you’ll play up to a live audience and make some truly imprudent comments. In a few short May days in New York, Cardinal Walter [...]

Mark Shea’s Economic Inquisition

The topic of income inequality is popular not only among secular progressives but politically minded Catholics as well. If income inequality is a problem—and even libertarians would agree that it can be, depending on how the inequality comes about—the proposed solution is often for the government to “do something” about it, usually through confiscatory taxation [...]

Do Republicans Deserve Catholic Support?

I can recall a time when I disliked being referred to as “a Republican.” Although I have consistently voted Republican throughout my adult life, I preferred to stress to friends and relatives that I was a Catholic and a philosopher, but that I had no special loyalty to any political party. Evidently this attitude is [...]

Must Catholics Favor Socialized Medicine?

Among the many debates triggered throughout America by Obamacare, one concerns whether access to healthcare may be described as a “right.” Assuming such a right exists, a related issue is what this means for public policy. For Catholics, the answer to the first question seems clear. In a 2012 message to a conference for healthcare [...]

Subsidiarity Calls Us to Live Like Catholics

Subsidiarity is integral to a social doctrine based on natural law rather than technology. That ought to be a feature rather than a bug, but in today’s world it means no one can make sense of it or apply it coherently. The principle tells us that lower level associations such as families and local communities [...]

When Policy Choices Become Moral Mandates

Two recent newspaper articles—one in the Catholic and the other in the secular press—illustrate the need to be skeptical about claims that particular public policy approaches are morally necessary. Both discussed recent federal legislative efforts: one to raise the minimum wage, the other to cut food stamp benefits (the legislation that ultimately passed did so [...]

Rediscovering Heinrich Pesch and Solidarism

The passing of the eminent American Catholic economist, Dr. Rupert J. Ederer, at the age of ninety on Thanksgiving Day 2013 calls attention to the great, but equally unsung, economic thinker and system that he devoted most of his career to furthering: Heinrich Pesch, S.J. and solidarism. Pesch, who died in 1926, was thought to [...]

Subsidiarity: Why is It Praised More than It is Practiced?

Subsidiarity is a basic principle of Catholic social teaching. Like other such principles, it is praised more than practiced, because it is at cross purposes with the outlook that now governs our public life. It springs from concern for man in all his dimensions. Each of us participates in the human nature that is common [...]

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