Boehner’s Critics Misrepresent Catholic Social Teaching


Earlier this month, over 80 Catholic scholars — mostly professors — sent an open letter to Rep. John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, on the occasion of his presenting the commencement address at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. They accused him of being out of line with the teaching of the Catholic Church on social justice, especially concerning the needs of the poor. They suggested that in light of the teaching of the Magisterium — the pope and the bishops in union with him, who are the authoritative teachers for the Church — he is a theological dissenter. Some in the media were quick to draw a parallel with President Obama’s controversial appearance at Notre Dame’s 2009 commencement: It was supposedly another case of a Catholic university inviting a speaker who is at odds with the Church’s teachings.

The gist of the signers’ claim is that Boehner is against the poor. There is no question that the Church has always had a special love for the poor, although the signers seem not to realize that that includes the spiritually impoverished as well as the economic. Their concern is strictly with government programs directed to their economic and physical well-being. They criticize the proposed 2012 House budget proposal for substantially cutting Food Stamps and Medicaid, “effectively ending” Medicare, and carving out new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. The proposal was largely the work of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. The signers could probably also have called him a dissenter, since he too is a Catholic. What they have done is to confuse a basic point about Catholic social teaching: They have convoluted the teaching that must be upheld with how it must be done. Catholic social teaching stresses a “preferential option for the poor,” but addressing the problems of poverty involves a heavy dose of prudential judgment. The social encyclicals make clear that the Church offers no political or economic program, that within Catholic orthodoxy many different approaches may be undertaken to achieve the principles and moral teachings that are set out. What the letter signers have done — in good para-magisterial fashion — is to absolutize programmatic approaches and try to treat them as moral imperatives.

There is absolutely no evidence that Boehner, Ryan, or for that matter any of the House Republicans who voted for the budget proposal — it was supported by no Democrats — are against the poor. There is even less justification for the inclusion in the letter of the usual accusation of the statist left that those seeking to cut federal social welfare spending are “cruel.” For people so devoted to lecturing others on how they supposedly violate Catholic teaching, this hardly seems to conform to the highest Christian law: charity. It also hardly helps promote the civil discussion necessary to work out sensible solutions to complex public policy problems. That, it seems to me, is a prerequisite to building the broader civilization of love that Blessed Pope John Paul II called for.

If the signers are so sure that the poor will be hurt by budget cuts, perhaps they should look back on history. As I discuss in my forthcoming book, The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic, when the Great Society Congress enacted Medicaid it assumed — without much research — that the poor were deprived of access to health care. But there is no evidence that Medicaid improved the poor’s access to health care over the charitable care that already existed. There is also no solid evidence that Medicare has improved the mortality of the elderly. The budget proposal, by the way, does not end financial support for the health care of the elderly, but substitutes a voucher program. The greater danger to the elderly and infirm that the signers take no heed of is the pressure that almost certainly will develop for the rationing of care if changes are not made. Actually, Great Society programs in general have not had a good track record in improving the lot of the poor.

What Boehner, Ryan and company are trying to do is address a deficit problem that almost certainly will undermine such entitlements in the not-too-long-run if not addressed. It likely will also damage the entire economy, whose worst victims will be the very poor that the signers are concerned about. To ignore out-of- control federal spending now is both unreasonable and irresponsible. This is hardly demanded by Catholic social teaching. It is also not fair for the signers to imply that the proposed tax cuts are intended to line the pockets of the wealthy. Their purpose, like the Kennedy-LBJ and Reagan tax cuts, is to stimulate investment and thereby expand the economy.

The irony of the signers’ calling Boehner to account for passing an “anti-life” budget and ignoring subsidiarity can hardly be missed when some of them are strong supporters of pro-abortion politicians and dissenters on abortion and contraception, and seek a continued expansion of federal power. One sees nothing in their letter indicating an awareness of the problems of bureaucracy and the welfare state mentioned in Centesimus Annus, or of the consistent Catholic stress on intermediary, non-governmental “civil society” groups as a way to address social needs.

There is a big difference in Catholic colleges and universities having proponents of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and same-sex “marriage” — which involve exception-less moral teachings — as commencement speakers (like Obama), and those (like Boehner) who seek to achieve the economic justice sought by Catholic social teaching by a means other than that approved by the Great Society or the statist left.


Stephen M. Krason


Stephen M. Krason's "Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic" column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He is the author, most recently, of The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and editor of three volumes: Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013) and The Crisis of Religious Liberty (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); and most recently, Challenging the Secular Culture: A Call to Christians (Franciscan University Press). His latest book is Catholicism and American Political Ideologies (Hamilton Books). He is also the author of a new novel, American Cincinnatus.

  • Mike Walsh, MM

    Obama is contributing to the looming unfunded entitlement apocalypse. Speaking of social-justice issues, the exploitation of future generations by the present one is a matter scrupulously ignored by many (including no doubt many of those ‘Catholic’ scholars) precisely because the beneficiaries of this injustice have no interest in challenging it. It has nothing to do with taking care of the poor, and everything to do with taking care of themselves, their ideological allies and the politicians that have been empowered to engineer this crime. One day the price will be paid. The Democrats are experienced at persuading the country to re-classify what had been a class of humans. I’m sure they will eventually attempt to solve the problem of unfunded entitlements by re-classifying other humans in order to euthanize them. And ‘Catholic’ scholars like these will no doubt be willing to aid them.

  • Confederate Papist

    Catholic Social Justice has been hijacked by the hippies and dissenters. There is no where in the CCC that says a government has to provide for the poor. If the Fed government let us keep more of our own money, more would go to Catholic services…

  • Thomas J. Trotter 3rd

    The whole purpose of the left wing socialistic endeavor
    is to keep the poor where they are. They have successfully created a whole class of people that not only
    believe they are entitled, but demand that they be taken care of. Bernie Madoff is in prison for what the Federal Govt. is doing with Social Security, and these so called
    Catholic Colleges are doing exactly what you say they are.
    They are twisting and picking from Caritas in Veritate to
    suit their own progrssive, modernistic secular agenda.
    Just what St. Pius X warned in Pascendi: Domenici Gregis.


    It is apparent that the academics who attacked Speaker Boehner are functionaires for the democrat party; these are people who think that abortion and a cut in entitlement funding are morally equivalent. It is sad to see how degenerate the American academic class has become since it prostituted itself to the democrat party and the corrupt culture of the new American state. atque veritas vincet et ecclesia est in perpetua; duces Americae sunt servi diaboli et in inferno habitabunt. magistri qui docent doctrinam falsam debent ignare et anathema sint.

  • I recently saw four books at that address the issues presented in this article. The first is called The Presidency of Sarah Palin, and it looks at what Rep. John Boehner Paul Ryan, and the effects of their far right wing agenda are likely to be.

    The other three appear to be interpretations of the Gospels, My Travels With Father Curtis And Brother Salvador, looks like it is an interpretation of the Gospel of St. Mark. Letters From Wolfgang Quella In The Village Of Antioch seems to be an interpretation of St. Luke, and Memoirs From The Journal Of Will Kommen seems to be St. Matthew.

    I note that they are all from the same author, a Molly Maguire McGill. They all point to the same failures of conservative economic policy. They also all point to the fact that church teaching states, section 2069 of the Catechism,

    “The Decalogue forms a coherent whole. Each “word” refers to each of the others and to all of them; they reciprocally condition one another. The two tablets shed light on one another; they form an organic unity. To transgress one commandment is to infringe all the others.”

    As all of Catholic Social teaching comes from the Ten Words, it is clear that to violate any one of the teachings is to violate the whole. Cutting the budget without first making sure the poor will have an alternative is very much to violate Torah, The Ten Commandments.

    I notice that Stephen M. Krason is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies at Franciscan University of Steubenville. I took a New Testament class at that university and had a debate with a professor their about the meaning of the word justice as translated from the Hebrew.

    Now, Hebrew has three completely different words for Justice. Tzaddic, which means justice and charity, Shefeth, which means justice, lip as in a human lip, or a staff as in for sheep. It also means a judicial precedent that is deemed to have come from Mt. Horeb. The third word is Iashar, which means healthy and is the opposite of Rah, which means rotten.

    After finishing the course, I realized that I was interpreting Tzaddic, and he, the PHD was translating Shefeth. I can understand my not knowing the difference, although I used the term, Tzaddic, many times in our discussions, but I must ask, why the PHD, who taught the class did not understand we were translating two different words. It says something about the far right wing nature of that university

  • Francis Wippel

    Boehner is a theological dissenter? Where were all these professors when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House? I guess I must have missed their letter to Pelosi protesting her pro-abortion, pro-contraception agenda.

    If these professors were truly concerned with a Catholic Speaker of the House passing legislation consistent with Catholic Theology, they would have spoken out against Pelosi with similar vigor. Their willingness to expose themselves as inconsistent in their moral outrage is surprising considering the positions they hold.

  • Carl

    Don’t you all get it? Liberals believe in the lesser of two evils is morally superior.

    The argument goes that conservatives only want to help the unborn but then ignore and starve the living [poor]; liberals want to help the already born exclusively through government socialism, then argue that this socialism will be the vehicle that establishes abortion as legal, save, and rare. Liberals are have convinced themselves that they are morally superior with this methodology.

  • Thomas J. Trotter 3rd

    Very good points Francis. Better yet , where were they when the pro choice Obama gets invited to Notre Dame for
    an honoray doctorate and Caroline Kennedy an outspoken
    pro choice and pro gay marriage proponent gets invited to
    Dominican Univ. in Northern Calif to head a lecture leadership series? This is called cafeteria Catholicism and it is espoused by people in higher education and elsewhere who use biblical teachings and their interpretation of Catholic social teaching to protest living within our financial means and budget cuts in order to protect their salaries and standard of living. Socialism has
    been tried throughout history in many differant ways and it has never been successful. Socialism is not justice.

  • When I confront my children with their bad behavior and they tell me, “But the other kids do it…” I spank them once for doing what they know to be wrong, once for their sick excuse, and a third time for respecting me so little as to come up with that excuse.

    What I hear over and over again in these posts is, “But the liberals do it.” I am not talking to the liberals right now, I am talking to those who leave these posts. We are supposed to be Catholic Christians. There is nothing, absolutely nothing the liberals can do that justifies your bad behavior.

    Our social teaching that we have an obligation to defend the poor and the republican budget is an attack against the poor.

    The Catholic Church has 226 Catholic Colleges and Universities with 70,000 students. There are also 26 Catholic Law schools. The lesser of two evils is not an excuse. Where are those 70,000 students who graduate every 4 years? We should have more than enough to replace one president, and 546 members of the House and Senate. I do not see one.

    That is because we have writers and teachers like Stephen M. Krason who engage in Cafeteria Christianity. It does not matter what the person picks in the Cafeteria, whether it is the liberal or the conservative agenda. it is still Cafeteria Christianity.

    Again, section 2069 of the Catechism,

    “The Decalogue forms a coherent whole. Each “word” refers to each of the others and to all of them; they reciprocally condition one another. The two tablets shed light on one another; they form an organic unity. To transgress one commandment is to infringe all the others.”

    Psalm 72, which begins “To Solomon,” and ends “The Psalms of David are finished,” are clearly David’s words about leadership to his son, Solomon. That Psalm makes clear that a concern for the poor is the major part of the role of a secular leader. Psalm 82 is God’s address to the leadership at the time of that writing. They also make clear that if the leaders to not defend the rights of the poor, socialism, God, the socialist, will come down and get even.

    Matthew 25:31-Matthew 26:1 is the address to the nations. As nations, we are obliged to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, and visit those who are in prison. He then says, “As you do to the least of these my brothers, (as a nation) you do it to me. Matthew 26:1 is the start of the Passion. As we do to the least of our brothers, in the slums, in Appalachia, and elsewhere, we participate in the Passion.

    In our liturgy we recite the Magnificat, those of us who do our liturgy of the hours. In that Magnificat we brag about how God will return and put the proud, the richest 20% who control 85% of all wealth in this nation, the richest 20% of the population who bring home half of the income, and the richest 5% who bring home 20% of all income in their place.

    In our liturgy we also say, “Christ has died; Christ has risen; and Christ will come again. When he does, which side do we want to be on.

  • Another quote comes from section 2425 of our New Catechism, “The Church…refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.”Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

  • Thomas J. Trotter 3rd OblSBCam

    Charles you can pontificate and quote theological assumptions and preach till the end of the world whenever
    that will be. It dosent change reality. It is what it is. There was a time when ideological politcal games could be played to prove who is providing the biggest free lunch.
    A basic course in economics 101 might serve you better.
    Then you might be able to understand THERE IS NO MORE
    MONEY. We are talking here about Icelandic type international bailout, national bankruptcy. Good Catholics
    and Christians and Jews and I am sure there are many
    that post here, do what we can to help the less fortunate
    the homeless, the hungry, the poor and believe it or not
    it works better that way for the help is direct. Pax.

  • Cord Hamrick

    Reply to Charles Gill, part 1:

    You seem to be operating from three assumptions (all of which I take to be faulty):

    1. That Socialism equals justice for the poor and generosity towards the poor (and thus that when the Bible commands either justice or generosity for the poor, it is commanding Socialism);

    2. That the duties towards the poor of a modern state with no associated “established” church today are necessarily the same as the duties of a divinely-founded theocracy; and,

    3. That what the Catechism calls “capitalism” (with negative connotations) is the same thing for which all the proponents of capitalism, or of the free market, are arguing.

    Regarding Assumption 1: Socialism, inasmuch as it tends over the long term to…
    (a.) destroy economies,
    (b.) divide the rich from the poor in a relationship of animosity,
    (c.) create a sense of aggrieved entitlement in the lower class,
    (d.) make the lower class dependent on handouts, buy votes for the politicians that support it,
    (e.) incentivize cronyism in the creation of the bureaucracies which distribute entitlements and partiality in the actual distribution,
    (f.) destroy the culture of private almsgiving,
    (g.) create a sense of resentment and NIMBYism among the high-income-earners whose productivity is forcibly plundered for redistribution, and
    (h.) promote through excessive centralization of power the political rise of wicked men to leadership positions,
    …cannot be equated with either the term “justice for the poor” or the term “generosity towards the poor.”

    Instead, “justice for the poor” is best understood as non-partiality in matters such as the criminal justice system: It should be possible for a poor man to get a “fair shake” as easily as a rich man. This can be done far more easily in a government where Equal Protection Under Law is the focus. It is harder to accomplish when the government is distracted by the quixotic goal of Equality Of Outcome (e.g., Socialism).

    Meanwhile, “generosity towards the poor” is the term for almsgiving; that is, gifts which go beyond the requirements of mere justice. We are called to it because we are called not merely to be impartial towards our needy neighbors (which is a matter of mere justice) but to love them. But this means that almsgiving — love — is by definition voluntary and personal.


  • Cord Hamrick

    Reply to Charles Gill, part 2:


    Forcible redistribution of wealth, then, is not almsgiving. It is very nearly the opposite: Those whose wealth is taken wish they could reduce the amount and typically take advantage of all legal avenues by which they might do so. They don’t know the persons whom their wealth is taken to benefit and often resent them. They suspect much of that wealth stays in the hands of the redistributors, anyway. But they see their fellow-men voting for more bread and circuses and know who will be paying, and resent their fellow men because of it. And all the other evil dynamics I listed above in items (a.) through (h.) come into play. Other than institutional atheism and institutional racism, it is hard to think of anything more pernicious for human society.

    Contrast that nastiness with the benefits of a culture of private almsgiving. The person who gives voluntarily increases charity in himself through habit. He gives on a personal level, often within his community; to him the recipient is not faceless. By doing this he treats the needy man as his brother, not his adversary. The needy know they are receiving from someone’s voluntary gift; this causes them to feel grateful rather than entitled. They remember it later in life when they are in a position to give, and thus they pass on the gift; the generosity is “paid forward.” A sense of community is amplified. Much private almsgiving comes through the Church: When people receive assistance from government they look to government as the central object in their lives but when it comes from the Church, the importance of God and morality and love in society is magnified.

    So the culture of private almsgiving is a sign of a healthy society. But this culture is almost entirely dead in the social welfare states of Europe. In the United States, where the welfare state made advances but did not entirely conquer nations as it did in Europe, the culture of private giving is injured but remains alive. This is why in Europe the average man has never, in his life, given more than 1% of his pre-tax income to church and charity; whereas in the United States, those who are proponents of the welfare state (left-progressives) typically give 3-4%, and those who oppose the welfare state (conservatives and right-leaning libertarians) typically given 6-7%.

    In a healthy society, 10%+ would be the norm. But the welfare state tends not to add to private giving; it tends to displace it. As economists say, “Bad money chases out good”; in this case, the forcibly extracted government largesse chases out the freely-given alms from the “marketplace” of charitable giving. The lot of the poor is not thereby improved — far from it! — but society is made sick by the side-effects of bad medicine.


  • Cord Hamrick

    Reply to Charles Gill, part 3:

    Regarding Assumption 2: Assistance to the poor is, I take, a vital role for the Church in society. But she is less able to do this when her faithful have less to give as tithes and offerings. Many of the faithful take their tithes and offerings, not from their pre-tax income, but from their after-tax income. This means that as taxes increase, giving to the Church decreases; as giving decreases, the Church is less able to assist the poor.

    The Welfare State, then, does not merely destroy the culture of private almsgiving. It also shoulders the Church away from one of the roles in society that allows the Church to be seen as important in society. The secularization of Western societies and the privatization (and increasing public irrelevance) of religion is a predictable outcome.

    Now in the Old Testament era, under Mosaic leadership or in the time of the Judges or under the Davidic kings, the government was the “church,” which in turn was “the people” (meaning the assembly of the tribes). One did not have a sense, then, that what the government did, the Church did not do; quite the contrary. When a divinely-selected and -annointed king gives to the poor, God is giving to the poor.

    It is plain that when a modern secular state gives handouts to someone, he does not think, “This is the gift of God! Oh, how glad I am that the Church is central in our society! Truly, the churchgoers must have God in their hearts, that they are so generous!”

    So we see that an ancient, divinely-instituted theocracy, and a modern secular state without any established Church, really are two entirely different things! The former must be the chief source of alms, or else God Himself is the stingy one. But the latter should operate a police force and a justice system, “promoting” voluntary alms but not forcibly transferring wealth. But the Church should be the source of aid to which the poor habitually turn, and her faithful should be famous in society as those whose generosity to the poor is the glue holding society together.


  • Cord Hamrick

    Reply to Charles Gill, part 4:

    Regarding Assumption 3: Most proponents of “capitalism” or “free market economics” feel very unfairly accused when phrases from the Catechism or the social encyclicals are cited against “capitalism” and “free market economics,” because in every case the thing opposed by the Church is not quite the same thing as the thing being supported by the economists.

    A simple way to understand it is by using the term “unbridled free market capitalism” every time the Catechism uses the terms “free market” or “capitalism” negatively. This helps, but it is misleading because it suggests that “unbridled free market capitalism” is capitalism taken to its extreme; that “bridling” means that we get less free market capitalism. This is false: The horse or ox which is bridled or yoked does more work than the one meandering about on the plains. But it does it within guidelines.

    What guidelines? Well, the ones always advocated by every proponent of free market capitalism, which happen also to be the ones advocated by the Church:

    (i.) Rule of Law, with Equal Protection Under Law for all;
    (ii.) Property Rights sufficient to encourage the purchase of land, of savings, of investment, and of entrepreneurial activity, through alleviation of the fear that any effort in these areas will be fruitless because the fruits of one’s labor would be stolen by criminals or by government;
    (iii.) A stable currency so that savings are not debased;
    (iv.) A Moral and Religious Population, whose consumer decisions are guided by the Moral Law; and,
    (v.) A culture of private almsgiving.

    These are the “bridle” which makes the horse take direction; they are the yoke which allow the ox to work productively. They are the minimum required prerequisite conditions for free market capitalism to work. The Church calls the absence of these things “unbridled” capitalism; but the proponent of capitalism calls the absence of these things an absence of capitalism. When you point at the type of economic system which comes about without these things, and call it “capitalism,” the proponents of free market economics look at it and say, “Well, that’s never what I meant by the term; it lacks the prerequisites.”

  • Adam Smith, the founder of Capitalism, wrote in 1776, in England, for the other guys, the British. He wrote describing a world that no longer exists, the pre- industrial world. Karl Marx, writing for the Socialists wrote Das Kapital with publication dates from 1867—1894. That is the world of the early industrial revolution. That world no longer exists.

    What we should have is an economic system that addresses the Preamble to the US Constitution. That is one that, forms a more perfect Union, establishes Justice, insures domestic Tranquility, provides for the common defense, promotes the general Welfare, and secures the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

    Article I Section 8 of the Constitution states, “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.”

    The republicans are now in charge of that chamber. Their bill dramatically cuts education, as does the bills in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Nevada, and I hear Florida. All run by republicans.

    The republicans are forcing legislation through the courts that will end up in the supreme Court. There, the Supreme Court can be counted upon to vote along party lines to end all required insurance. That includes Federal Insurance Compensation Act Insurance. That includes Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    That means that under Stephen M. Krason’s republican Social Justice, any children my wife I might have will not have access to public education. That means no blessings of liberty to my posterity. I will have no access to retirement. Neither will I have access to health insurance, now, or in my old age.

    It means my employer will be able to opt out of unemployment insurance and workman’s compensation. That means under Stephen M. Krason’s republican Social Justice I will be forced to take whatever job I can get under whatever working conditions I can get, or live on the street.

    It means that if I get maimed on the job, I can look forward to living on the street. I we can look forward to this until the day we die. Living under these conditions where life is short and brutish, as Thomas Hobbes said, any children we might have would not be able to support us in our old age.

    Because we see this Stephen M. Krason’s republican Social Justice being forced upon us, it is inevitable, sooner or later, the wife and I have decided not to have children. We would not wish Stephen M. Krason’s republican Social Justice on our worst enemy. We would most certainly not wish it upon our children.

  • John2

    “… the wife and I have decided not to have children. We would not wish Stephen M. Krason’s republican Social Justice on our worst enemy. We would most certainly not wish it upon our children.”

    This is a disproportionate response to the phantoms in your head. Repeat after me: “My fervent hope that leftism is true is no reason to avoid having children.”

    I don’t think you will profit from more detailed discussion until you get that idea into your head. But when you do, you can read Cord Hamrick’s first point, which is quite good. Now don’t read it until you can honestly say, “I am overreacting. It is OK if I read a good idea and end up changing my mind. After all, I came here hoping to learn something.”

    So I hope you will withdraw the threat to your future children. And I hope you and the wife have as many as you want.

  • Regrettably, there is no over reaction. I suppose John 2, would have told the Jews in ’32 Germany the same thing. In either case, I remember Walter Mondale debating Ronald Reagan in ’84. In that debate he argued that if Reagan won and got his way, which happened, we would be talking about the end of Social Security. Reagan, and the conservatives laughed him off. Mondale turned out to be right.

    Therefore, regrettably no phantoms. Regrettably my response is very proportionate and based upon 30 years of prior experience.

    “… the wife and I have decided not to have children. We would not wish Stephen M. Krason’s republican Social Justice on our worst enemy. We would most certainly not wish it upon our children.”

    I have a Kindle Book at, The Presidency of Sarah Palin,

    It discusses what is likely to happen if the conservatives get their way.

    I also have My Travels With Father Curtis And Brother Salvador, Letters From Wolfgang Quella In The Village Of Antioch, and Memoirs From The Journal Of Will Kommen. These are interpretations of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, using the Pen Name of Molly Maguire McGill.

    I think the readers here should read them. They may walk away with an understanding of the Gospels.

    • John2

      Dear Charles, Thank you for:

      “I have a Kindle Book at, The Presidency of Sarah Palin,…It discusses what is likely to happen if the conservatives get their way.
      I also have My Travels With Father Curtis And Brother Salvador, Letters From Wolfgang Quella In The Village Of Antioch, and Memoirs From The Journal Of Will Kommen. These are interpretations of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, using the Pen Name of Molly Maguire McGill“

      Charles, do you know what you are reading? These are Kindle novels written by a person who cannot use her (his?) own name. They purport to interpret the Gospels; that does not mean they accomplish this laudable end. The anonymous novelist gives us characters named “Will Kommen” (welcome in German), “Charles Liston’ (Sonny Liston, heavyweight champion of the early ‘60s, lost the title to Cassius Clay), and so forth and so on.

      These novels do not supply solid data for making useful conclusions about real life. They offer no basis whatsoever for your planned reaction to the posited future. No basis whatsoever.

      I am worried about you. Beyond our little argument in a combox, your method of disputation causes me great concern.

      Best to you and yours (I hope you let God decide how many of yours there will be).

  • Thomas J. Trotter 3rd OblSBCam

    Sadly Charles I believe you are in a political bind. It must
    be very frustrating for you not to be able to vote. Being a
    Secular Franciscan and reading your posts, I take it you
    are Catholic in which case you CAN NOT vote for a pro choice candidate. I know of very,very few Democratic pro
    life anti abortion candidates and unfortunately when you
    find one they wind up voting for funding of programs that
    do abortions. Another area you must consider is as you
    mentioned above, the Supreme Court which by voting for
    a liberal would be the same as, based on your premise
    of predicting the future which I thought only God could do,
    would be the same as passing up the opportunity of
    stacking the Supreme Court with Conservatives and the
    possibility of overturning Roe Vs. Wade unless of course,
    you are a cafeteria Catholic which so many people are
    today, you can pick and choose which Catholic teachings
    you would like to obey. There are in my State for instance,
    no Democrates who are pro life.There are many, many Republican pro life politicians. It`s your conscious and your vote,however without judging I humbly submit it is
    antithetical to profess obedience and vote pro choice.
    Pax to your heart.

  • Anybody who thinks Boehner is “against the poor” hasn’t read his life story. He grew up as one of 12 kids in a 2 bedroom/1 bath house. All but two of his siblings still live in a radius of a few miles from one another: two are unemployed and most work blue collar jobs. Dude worked his way through Catholic college for 7 years and was first in his family to get a college degree. He started a job at the ground level and worked his way up to be president of the company before he ran for Congress.

  • Francis Wippel

    Been away from this for a couple of days. While I don’t have the time to respond in length to the degree Cord Hamrick has done, I’ll do my best in a few paragraphs.

    This isn’t about whether or not “liberals do it too”. It has nothing to do with liberals or conservatives. It has to do with professors who claim they are upset by Boehner’s lack of adherence to Catholic Moral Principles. These are the same intellectuals who remained silent while Nancy Pelosi held that post and supported legislation which stands in direct contradiction to those same Catholic Moral Principles these professors supposedly hold dear. That is an inconsistency that demands an explanation, and without one, this group of professors has no credibility, and its letter should be discarded without further consideration. This inconsistency leads me to believe that this open letter was motivated by political beliefs rather than a desired adherence to Catholic Moral Principles.

    As for the claim of the GOP budget is an attack on the poor, we could have very long discussion about the role of the Church versus the role of the State in the ‘defense of the poor’. It is very short-sighted and inaccurate to assume that the only entity capable of meeting the needs of the poor is our government, and that continued massive deficit spending is the answer to poverty.

    One thing our over-reaching government is in dire need of is for churches to step forward and start filling the roles that they once filled before our government started trying to be all things to all people. The principle of subsidiarity comes into play here, or it should. I sometimes wonder if certain clergy are content to sit back and publish their opinions on pending legislation rather than attempting to address the needs of the poor in their own localities.

    As others have stated here, our nation doesn’t have any more money. The federal government is beyond broke, and currently borrows (or prints) more than 40% of everything it spends. Americans of all political stripes have grown tired of the knee-jerk reaction to spending cuts as being an attack on the poor. For anyone to suggest that supporting spending cuts amounts to a sin is, with all due respect, not a credible charge. Furthermore, Americans are the most generous charitable givers on earth; this is true in part because we have been the most prosperous nation on earth.

    It takes a prosperous nation to meet the needs of its less fortunate citizens, and you can’t get to prosperity with a worthless currency. If our nation can’t resolve its excessive spending problems, the value of our currency will continue to decline, which will only lead to more poverty. Unfortunately, there are too many people in positions of power who either don’t understand this, or simply choose to ignore it.

    As Catholics we have a duty to assist those less fortunate than us. However, if we end up poor ourselves (due to a worthless currency) our ability to offer financial assistance to others will be gone.

  • Cord Hamrick

    As has already been observed, the nation is broke.

    In a deep recession, the government is unable to consistently through taxation extract more than about 15% of GDP as revenues, no matter the tax structure.

    In economic good times, the government is unable to consistently through taxation extract more than about 21% of GDP as revenues, no matter the tax structure.

    The cost of entitlements (particularly Social Security and Medicare), if they are not reduced, is likely to increase to about 30-35% of GDP over the next 25 years.

    Which means that even if, somehow, we could extract 21% of GDP into federal revenues, we would still be out of money. And we are not likely to be able to do that, because we are currently in a fairly bad recession, which looks to be “L-shaped” rather than “U-shaped” (that is, it goes down and doesn’t bounce back to former levels through a rapid-growth recovery but stays at low levels by modest or zero growth). This means, historically, that we’re not likely to be able to extract as much as 18% of GDP, no matter how we alter the tax code.

    Since no alteration of the tax code will cover the deficit caused by exploding entitlement spending, we have three options:

    1. Government Default And Economic Collapse. I assume we all want to avoid this, and the associated riots and lawlessness.

    2. Devalue The Currency Until We Can Numerically Meet Our Outstanding Obligations; i.e., “Print Money”: The government can always “print” (create through book entries) enough money to cover its obligations in a purely numerical sense. That is to say: If a person is owed $500 in Social Security this month, and we don’t have it, we can “print” it. But of course “printing” on the scale required to meet our entitlement obligations will so drastically increase the money supply that the value of each individual dollar may drop by half or more. Thus prices rise; you get “hyperinflation.”

    If this happens we will have met our obligations, as I keep saying, in a purely numerical way. We promised $500, we gave $500. But we will not have met our obligations in any meaningful way: The purpose of that $500 was to help the recipient avoid poverty in his old age, but now that a gallon of milk costs $10 and heating his house for the winter costs $10,000, that $500 simply doesn’t amount to much poverty-avoidance. We have paid out a number, but nothing like the required buying-power.

    3. We Reduce Entitlements: Social Security is not difficult to solve. Keep all current recipients on their current benefits. Those who are one year from retirement, increase it to two. Those who are two years away, increase it to four…and so on, until the retirement age for all those of a certain age and younger is seventy. From then on, seventy is “the new 55,” so-to-speak, except that even the number seventy gets adjusted so that it is proportional to life expectancy. That is: As life expectancies increase, so does the retirement age, which is set (and re-set annually) at something like 95% of mean life expectancy.


  • Cord Hamrick


    (This is, by the way, how the Social Security system originally was constructed: Retirement was set at an age to which most people were not expected to live anyway. That, and the large families which produced large numbers of next-generation workers paying into the system, was how the system previously was able to remain solvent. We can’t easily do anything about the falling birth-rates side of the problem, but the retirement age is easily adjustable.)

    Medicare, sadly, is a whole other ballgame. But there will need to be cuts in government outlays in that area, too, if the entitlement problem is to be solved.

    Summary: Anyway, that is the deal. No tax system devised in the last century of American life has been able to convert enough of GDP into revenue to cover the kinds of entitlement payments we’ll need to make.

    So increased taxes are not the answer. There simply aren’t enough potential tax dollars out there to cover the whole shortfall.

    That leaves us with either “printing money” or reducing benefits. Both options stink. But sometimes life stinks; we have to face the reality as best we can.

    Since our currency is already pretty badly devalued (I’m sure most folk have noticed the rising prices by now, so I feel no need to substantiate this part of my argument!) most of the solution will need to come through reduced benefits.

    Had the baby boomer generation parented four or more children per couple, we’d not be in nearly so bad a scrape.

    And were the baby boomers living only as long as their parents did, we’d not be in nearly so bad a scrape, either.

    Say…there’s a solution! Why not just kill all the baby boomers?

    I jest, of course.

    But it’s a more realistic solution than thinking we can increase taxes sufficiently to wrest 30%+ of GDP out of the economy, in a recession, when we’ve never been able to do so before, even back when the top marginal income tax rate was 70%.

    Boehner and Company, therefore, deserve at least this much credit: They are not proposing mathematically impossible fantasies in their (thus far, rather half-hearted) attempts to deal with the debt crisis. Their proposed solutions would actually help, and do not require that we put our trust in revenue magically created by good intentions.

    • James Kabala

      “This is, by the way, how the Social Security system originally was constructed: Retirement was set at an age to which most people were not expected to live anyway.”

      I agree with a lot of your post, but this is actually a common myth. Average life expectancies of the past were much lower in large part due to the much higher infant and child mortality rates. Once you made it to adulthood, you were not much worse off than a person of today. According to the date of the SSA itself, the average sixty-five year old man of 1940 had a life expectancy of 77.7. The sixty-five year old man of today has a life expectancy of 83.1 – a notable but not extraordinary increase.

      • James Kabala

        “data,” not “date.” Sorry.

  • Tony Esolen

    I have right in front of me as I write this the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, the father of modern Catholic social teaching. From his letters it is abundantly clear that if you are talking about Catholic social teaching and you are NOT talking about marriage, the family, sexual virtue, the prime responsibility of parents to direct the education of their children, then you are NOT talking about Catholic social teaching.

    What I have against the Pelvic Left: they have rifled through the deepest fund of capital the poor and the working class have ever had. That capital is moral and metaphysical. Who has been hurt the worst by the sexual revolution? THose people whose prosperity has depended most closely upon stable marriages and hard work, often hard physical work. So — where are the Pelvic Leftists encouraging chastity and manliness?

    I have much to say — but my computer won’t let me type in this new Crisis format….

    Cord, you and I should correspond some more!

    • Cord Hamrick


      Actually I’ve been meaning to correspond with you; perhaps we can contact one another through the Crisis Magazine editors….

  • Father of Seven

    God bless Cord Hamrick. He, at least, knew where to begin with poor Mr. Gill. The bible makes clear that some people remain willfully blind to the truth. I say willfully, because the reality of the failure of the great society programs, in both moral and economic terms, is plain for all to see. Coupled with the fact we are broke and we have democrats demanding more of the same, it becomes clear that Mr. Gill’s blindness is willful. I will pray for him, as I pray for all who deny the truth.

  • carl

    Tony, “type in this new Crisis format….”

    Cut and paste from a word processor!

  • dan

    “The Welfare State, then, does not merely destroy the culture of private almsgiving. It also shoulders the Church away from one of the roles in society that allows the Church to be seen as important in society.”

    Our welfare state leaves a lot to be desired, with simple and appropriate levels of commonsense cast away. There is a politically motivated class that benefits from the rise in the welfare state and the increase dependency of others on it. One example is school breakfast and lunch programs. Yes, there are far too many children in our rich nation that depend on these, yet there are many you just use it—milking the system—as others are paying the bill. Volunteer at your local school to see what I mean…I would argue that 50% of the “free” lunch ends up in the trash. Hardly a case of poor starving students, but one of the system being abused. What kind of adults and neighbors will these children grow into if they deem so casually this form of welfare?

    “Anybody who thinks Boehner is “against the poor” hasn’t read his life story.”

    And, it is a case of bearing false witness.

  • Michael PS

    I am sure that, if the Church had the same land and revenues that she possessed in 1789, then she would be able to meet the needs of the poor without government assistance. But, bear in mind that, in France, for example, Church lands, those of the dioceses, parishes and the religious orders together, amounted to a little over a quarter of the country and the valued or commuted tithe on the rest, taken at one-fifth of the rents, amounted to about 8% of the value of the agricultural produce.

    In other words, in a predominantly agricultural country, the Church was receiving about 40% of the value of the produce (rent + tithe) of a quarter of the country and 8% of the other three-quarters, or 16% of the whole.

    That is the revenue legally demandable and takes no account of charitable giving.

  • Tony Esolen

    I’ve just written a couple of articles I hope will appear here later this summer. They are on what George Gilder has called “moral and metaphysical capital.”

    Nobody wants to talk about this, not even our bishops. I’ve just seen a recent article on ZENIT about the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, my man. The bishops of Australia issued a statement commemorating Rerum novarum, and in it, it is absolutely clear that they make exactly the same mistake that Pope Leo criticized in all of his encyclicals. That is, they are reductionists. They assume that you can talk about economics as if human beings were not free and moral actors, made in the image of God, to rejoice in what is good and holy. They do not mention the word “family” once in the whole piece, and they certainly do not mention the moral degradation that families have suffered.

    So I’ve been thinking: there are moral recessions and depressions, just as there are economic recessions and depressions. History is quite clear about this. Now we know who suffers worst in an economic downturn. It’s those who have little margin for comfort. We know who suffers when the harvests are bad. It’s those who never got to eat meat more than once or twice a month anyway. So, who suffers most in a moral depression? Who suffers most when the rich among us pollute the moral waters? Not the rich; look at the Kennedys. It’s the people who live across the street from me, none of whom are college graduates, and probably none of whom have an intact family. Who suffers most from the depreciation of manhood and chivalry occasioned by a rotten mass culture and feminism? The people who depend most upon some man’s strong shoulders and back.

    I’d like somebody to analyze how the bad ideas and bad morals peddled by the elites have just destroyed the lives of working class people and the poor. My grandparents were very poor. They were not squalid.

    • Michael PS

      It is a great pity that Leo XIII’s legacy should have been so overshadowed for conservative Catholics, particularly in Europe, by that one encyclical, “Inter innumeras sollicitudines.”

      For them, the pope “misled by his evil councillors” (they would never directly criticize a pope) had compromised with the Godless French Revolution and that blinded them to everything else he ever taught, especially on social questions.

      It has left a legacy of suspicion surrounding his name, even amongst those who know nothing of the original quarrel.

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