The Dream of a Catholic Center Party

Do you feel a twinge of despair at what is happening in the American political stadium?

Are there any Catholic voters daunted at the prospect of having to choose between two narcissist egomaniacs come November, to say nothing of the bizarre characters parading about in the Republican primary?

Are you irked by the relentless, dumbed-down dualism of Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative, bi-partisan politics? Are you tired of the exaggerations, the insinuations, the false claims, the ready embrace of untruth?

Can it be that all Catholics are either ardently Republican or Democrat, given that the fact both parties are thoroughly suffused with and perverted by lobbies, plutocracy, litigiousness, exorbitant privileges (including insider-trading for Congress), and insultingly thoughtless rhetoric? Trial lawyers, media interests, unions, and the over-sexed seem to dominate the one, while corporate executives, financiers, war hawks, and anti-intellectuals apparently lead the other.

Come election time, when the executive branch is up for grabs, the parties escalate their quarrels about how best to arrange taxes, security, abortion, welfare, equality, freedom, war, and the like. Extremist rhetoric seems the preferred mode of communication, even though both parties agree to a depressingly similar fiscal irresponsibility, foreign policy without justice, and endless amounts of self-adulation. The one routinely confuses patriotism for jingoism, the other liberty for license. It’s like watching a march of the seven deadly sins.

By now, let’s assume that Manichean party devotees have stopped reading in offended, self- righteous disgust.

For those of us left over, let’s take a break and indulge in a moment of escapism. Imagine what it would be like to have an alternative to the left-right mania, for example, a Catholic Center Party.

Imagine a political party meant to represent and advance the civil interests of the great, growing, diverse Catholic community in the USA, which is found in every state and bridges all the supposed divisions of race, ethnicity, age, sex/gender, and class. This party would openly and constantly embrace the dignity of every human life from conception till natural death. It would acknowledge the sovereignty of God over the world he created and has given to us as a gift, one that we must cherish, maintain, and protect.

Based on this a priori assumption, the party platform could include the following positions on the key issues of common concern, arranged here in alphabetical order:

Abortion: Drastically reduce the killing of innocent human lives in vitro from the current one million or more per year (regardless of which party is in power).

Death Penalty: Put a stop to it, not only for moral consistency, but also because of irreversible errors and ridiculous legal costs. Furthermore, the USA can afford to leave the unpleasant company of Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Russia, and China on this issue.

Economy: Let human freedom work in the market place, but let the governing powers intervene to guard against wanton abuse.

Education: Make sure parents have the first responsibility for their children’s education. Let the family be prior to the state in all considerations, within the rule of law.

Environment: We must care for creation as the good stewards we are expected to be. Pope Benedict XVI has made this point repeatedly: nature is not just there for economic exploitation.

Government: On the local, state, and federal level, subsidiarity and solidarity should be the first consideration. Let the constitutionalism that has served us so well for over two centuries continue to guide us.

Health Care: Look around the world for the best examples in terms of per capita cost and performance and make a sincere effort to emulate them. Establish it with a thorough reform of tort law, which will cut insurance and other costs significantly.

Marriage: Strengthen the root institution of human life in manifold ways. As said above, the family is prior to the state! Make, therefore, legal divorce longer, tougher, and less frivolous than it currently is.

Religion: Make sure that the separation of church and state means that the state keeps its hands off the church.

Taxation: Let it be clear, simple, and uncorrupted by legions of lawyers. Let rates be graduated and proportional, so that those with more than $100 million pay a higher percentage than the median earner.

Warfare: Pursue only demonstrably just wars. Prefer defense over offensive adventures. Scale back runaway military spending. Let patriotism take other forms than throwing money at the Pentagon and the defense companies.

Welfare: Be generous but firm. Distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor. Those who cannot take care of themselves should accept their status as wards of the state, residing where state agencies say and performing the jobs assigned to them. No benefits should go to those engaged in crime and those who fail routine drug testing. Take special care of children and mothers left in the lurch.

Now it is time to wake up.

It may be pleasant to imagine a USA with a Catholic Center party, but it’s a pipe dream. Virtually the only thing the two domineering parties agree upon is that there shall be no third alternative. The whole system, from the districts to the White House, is based on a bi-partisan assumption. One might venture to argue that we do not have a real democratic republic in the USA any more, but rather a bi-partisan oligarchy. Either way, we Americans, obsessed with sports of all varieties, do not really mind political playoff and championship games. We thrive on the exhilaration of us vs. them. May the best (i.e. most popular) team win, this time around. We probably enjoy the suspense, excitement, and hullabaloo more than we ought.

We also need to be realistic in another way. A multiplicity of parties is no guarantee of clean, orderly, civil politics. A Catholic Center Party might be an interesting idea, but it would not amount to more than just another political association that concerns itself with money and the power of office, both with a strong downward pull.

So what then must we do? There is no harm in resigning ourselves to choosing the lesser among two or more evils. Because human beings matter more than money, maybe for many the vote will be given according to the candidate’s stance on life. We can only hope that person will do something to make a difference.

The state cannot save you or me or anyone else. It was never meant to. There is only one true savior. Christ clearly distinguished his kingdom from that of the world, his reign from Caesar’s, religion from politics, something the local and imperial government establishment in his day could not tolerate. So they tried to get rid of him, but they failed, ultimately, like so many brutal regimes ever since. No matter how we vote come November, we can always pray for his mercy.

Forgive us, O Lord, for we know not what we do.

Brennan Pursell


Dr. Brennan Pursell is Professor of History at DeSales University and the author of The Spanish Match (Sophia Institute Press, 2011), History in His Hands: A Christian Narrative of Western Civilization (Crossroad Publishing, 2011), Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland (Circle Press, 2008), and The Winter King (Ashgate, 2003).

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    How about we just follow the Constitution?

    As for taxes, how about a consumption tax…the more you earn, the more you’ll spend and the more taxes you’ll pay.  We can then almost get rid of the IRS and the industry spawned by the income tax.

    • Nationalbest

      Ron Paul for President in 2012.

      • Martial_Artist

        I wholeheartedly concur.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      The Constitution is basically an atheistic document, opposed to Catholicism.  Especially in the current interpretation where Congress has the right to force Catholics to betray their consciences in the public sphere, and the First Amendment is reduced to only in private away from public sight (on more than just religion- Congress just passed a law making most of Washington DC off limits to protests).

      A Catholic cannot follow the Kingship of Jesus Christ and still be a Constitutionalist.

      • Cord_Hamrick

        The current “interpretation” of the Constitution is like an interpretation of the Bible in which “the disciple Jesus loved” is anachronistically interpreted to mean that Jesus and John were gay lovers.

        If someone “interprets” the Bible that way, does that make the Bible anti-Catholic?

        You are simply incorrect about the U.S. Constitution. But you’re not wrong about the interpretation that Obama and Sibelius have instituted. Even deists like Jefferson, let alone Madison and Washington, are rolling in their grave.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          The current “interpretation” of the Constitution is like an interpretation of the Bible in which “the disciple Jesus loved” is anachronistically interpreted to mean that Jesus and John were gay lovers.”

          Absolutely correct.

          If someone “interprets” the Bible that way, does that make the Bible anti-Catholic?”

          Yes it does.  Catholicism is scripture AND tradition, not scripture without tradition.  The fundamentalists and their Bible is heavily anti-Catholic.

          You are simply incorrect about the U.S. Constitution. But you’re not wrong about the interpretation that Obama and Sibelius have instituted. Even deists like Jefferson, let alone Madison and Washington, are rolling in their grave.”

          Article I Section 10 is anti-Catholic, for it does not allow for subsidiarity.  Article I Section 8 outright makes economic subsidiarity illegal.  Article VI prevents the states from charging the federal government property taxes on land it owns within the state, preventing us from having local government properly funded.  The list goes on and on- but the worst part is that the Constitution denies the Kingship of Jesus Christ and the rightful ordination of the Church as the ruler of the world.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    In any mature democracy, there will, inevitably, be two political parties (or coalitions of parties), the friends of corruption and the sowers of sedition: those who hope to profit from existing abuses and those who hope to profit from the disaffection that abuses naturally excites

    • Cord_Hamrick

      Michael, you wrote: “In any mature democracy, there will, inevitably, be…the friends of corruption and the sowers of sedition….”

      Pardon me, but…so?

      That is like saying, in any painting by a fallible painter, there will be mistakes where the color was lighter than it ought to have been, and other mistakes where the color was darker than it ought to have been.

      It is true, so far as it goes; but it is a singularly useless observation.

      Although you didn’t put it in quotation marks, I suspect it is a quote from one of those dull persons who likes to promote himself by saying things which sound smart, but which aren’t actually useful or helpful. Rousseau, I would guess? …whoops, no, after a search I see it was Lord Macaulay. That’s a shame; I’d have hoped for better from an Englishman, something worthy of the tradition of Magna Carta. But perhaps he was just making an offhand and imprecise observation, and not even trying to offer useful advice?

      It doesn’t take much effort to make an observation that is more accurate, although not much more useful:

      “In any democracy in a fallen world, there will be men. Some will be corrupt, and know it; some will be corrupt and hide the fact from themselves; some will be corrupt and trying to reform; some will be not corrupted yet; and a very few will be, for all practical purposes, not corruptible. There will likewise be those who want to overthrow the status quo because they have no power in it and want power; those who want to overthrow the status quo because they think wrongly that they can replace it with a superior alternative; and those who want to overthrow the status quo because they think correctly that they can replace it with a superior alternative. You will find all of these kinds of folks in both parties (though the concentrations will of course vary according to which party is in power) and you will rarely have sufficient information to be sure into which category(ies) a particular candidate falls…yet still you must choose, as best you can.”

      As you see: More accurate, though it sacrifices brevity for accuracy. And perhaps it is a bit more useful than the Macaulay quote, since it spurs a man to be on the lookout for certain common character flaws in politicians, while admonishing the voter that he has to make his mind up eventually, and he’ll probably have to rely on a certain degree of guesswork in doing so. All useful advice.

  • Met

    Solidarity sounds great, but in government it is often impossible when 1/2 of the country has beliefs that are radically opposed to the other 1/2.  The only way I can be a consensus builder with a group who has deeply held, radically opposing views will be to compromise my beliefs.  This country was not founded on compromise.  Our elected representatives make our voices heard in government.  If more people agree with me in the end my beliefs should win the out.

    “Look around the world for the best examples” of health care.  History shows that more times than not we have had the best examples right here.  We have had our greatest successes when we have led, not followed.

    • Tout

      Not this healthcare. It can not be accepted by anyone who knows God’s law. 

    • Nationalbest

      I recommend that you watch a video on You Tube called, “Overview of America”. This video shows what America was supposed to be, and how it has been moved from its original intent. We must change this, and it will take work from all of us to do so.


    • TheodoreSeeber

      Solidarity is worthless without subsidiarity, and subsidiarity is illegal in the United States under Article I Sections 8 & 10 of the US Constitution.

    • Martial_Artist

      Ah, yes. At long last someone sees the light. Democracy ultimately becomes the tyrrany of the majority. The question then becomes, how long the democractic republic under discussion here will survive as a relatively free nation. I confess, I, at 66 years of age, think it shall not be long, although it may last somewhat longer than do I.

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

  • Dave

    Sounds like Ron Paul, for the most part.

  • poetcomic1

       Sober, sensible solutions.  Unfortunately the world is on fire.

    • Mark

      College professors are have been tuning Neros fiddle for a long time now.

  • Chris C.

    A very compelling idea which I have been giving some thought to myself.  The time has come to begin first, praying for guidance; then taking some concrete steps in the direction of forming such a movment.  It’s about time that faithful Catholics, and other believers, can advance their ideas in the politcal environment, without having to fit them into worldviews of either dominant political party. I am not sure however why the platform would not call for legal protection for the unborn, rather than just a goal of drastic reductions in the number of abortions. I can think of no better way to reduce abortion dramatically than to protect the rights of the unborn in law.  

    • Tout

      I, a Catholic, want to protect children in the mother’s womb. I pray once a week (good weather) at Mary-statue downtown, and hang sign “Whether glad,sad or wary, pause a while, say a Hail Mary”. 4 different pedestrians came, prayed, left. One was a girl (age 19 ?)knelt on the ground, prayed, left. Started yearly May procession, Mary crowning. Every church should have a cross or Mary statue outside. Pray there at least once a year, better, once a month. Always receive H.Communion on tongue, not in hand ! You can not preach, then Evangelize thru public action. Bring the people to God. God knows you !

      • Chris C.

        Good for you!

  • Rod Murphy

    I don’t like some of the planks. It’s an academic’s dream with little likelihood of ever happening

  • Nantes84

    Narcissist Egomaniacs?  Manichean?  Over-sexed?  Whereas Mr. Pursell has many good ideas he is rather guilty of the extremist rhetoric about which he is complaining.  Many contributors of articles in this magazine have succumbed to the temptation to use over arching adjectives and gross generalities.  Maybe it gets people to read their articles.  People need to be more careful about accusing others of being “bizarre.”  It may come back to reflect on them.

  • John McNeill

    Unfortunately, the Christian Democrats (basically a Catholic center party) rebuilt Europe after the war with much the same ideas but it quickly devolved into the current mess they have now. 

  • Ron

    Governor Buddy Roemer has been very vocal on the fact that money is the root of all evil, especially in the political spectrum.  He is a candidate for president and is vying for the nomination of a new 3rd party.  Buddy has been excluded from republican debates because of his strong stand against bundling and super pacs.  The candidates that rely on these are beholden to those that fund these super pacs and as a “conservative” I too am disgusted with the fact that you can buy a nomination.  Take a look at Buddy’s web site and see what you think.  He is not Catholic but he is a Christian and would like to take the big money out of politics.  In fact, he will only accept $100 max in contributions whether personal or a pac.

    • Nationalbest

      I read Roemer’s website and liked what I saw, but few people know him, so name recognition will be a problem. That is where Dr. Ron Paul has the advantage. People do know his name. I don’t care if the Candidate is Catholic or Christian, just as long as they believe that abortion needs to be stopped, and other tenants of our Faith that we share.

      • Rduncan81

        I think more would like him if exposed to him.  They have been able to keep Buddy off the debates because of his strong belief in getting the big money out of politics.  Money, not ideas or what your beliefs are, is what determines if you are a candidate worthy of competing.  All parties that are part of the political system make money off the status quo and anyone that upsets that is relegated to ridicule and pushed down.

  • Tout

    Our strength lies in the Christian-Judeo fields. If we reject God, God may reject America. If we love God, God will help America.

  • PA Joe

    These positions are way too broad to mean anything at all.

  • Cord_Hamrick

    You’re right to warn us away from the pipe dream of a party which fulfills all our desires. That doesn’t happen in a fallen world.

    But, I wonder: Are you aware that the “center” party you’re describing is not what you’d get by finding the middle-point between Republicans and Democrats? That mid-point would be far to the left of what you describe.

    What you describe is, if anything, much closer to being the mid-point between Republicans and Libertarians; did you notice that?

    But let’s get away from finding arbitrary center-lines between fallen major parties populated by fallen people in a world so fallen that even the two in competition defines a center of gravity that’s far away from where we need to be.

    Instead, start from first principles:

    Use Natural Law to determine what is right and wrong, with Revelation serving as a reference-point for error-correcting your conclusions.

    In particular, use Natural Law to determine by right reason when it is and isn’t morally permissible, under God’s Moral Law, to exercise force against other human beings. When we have determined in which cases force is morally authorized, we will have learned the outermost scope of the just authority of government to use force.

    For government is our proxy, exercising force on behalf of We The People when we delegate our just authority to do so to our proxy. But we cannot delegate authority we don’t have…and we may not even choose to delegate all the authority that we could delegate. Therefore the authority we have is the theoretical outermost possible limit of the just authority of government, and the actual authority of government will usually be less than that.

    Say, for example, that Tom, Dick, and Harry live close by one another, and Tom notices that Harry’s struggling financially. So he gives Harry some money to help out, but Harry’s still struggling. Tom goes to Dick and says, “Hey, can you help Harry out like I did?” but Dick replies, “I wish I could, but I have twin daughters who’re just about to leave for college and the tuition’s huge, and I’m already behind on my retirement savings, and I always try to give a full tithe at church, and by the time I add all that up, I really haven’t a dime to spare.”

    So Tom pulls out a gun and says, “No, Dick; in my judgment Harry needs the money more than your retirement, or your daughters, or your church, so pay up.”

    Did Tom just use force within, or outside, of the just limits on the use of force under God’s Moral Law?

    I think it was outside. I think it was an unjust, immoral use of force.

    Would it have been any better had Tom hired few mercenaries to point guns at Dick, instead of doing it for himself?

    Of course not. An immoral act doesn’t become moral merely because you delegate it to a hireling.

    Would it, then, have been any better if Harry had participated directly instead of unknowingly? If Tom and Harry had gone in together, pooling their resources to hire a team of mercenaries to plunder Dick on Harry’s behalf? Is that any better?

    Well, no. That just involves one more person’s complicity in an unjust use of force, and because it’s a person with a direct vested interest, it makes the whole situation more corruptive: A nascent protection racket.

    So tell me…how does it suddenly become morally licit to do this kind of thing, if we decide to use the word “government” to describe the team of mercenaries?

    It doesn’t.

    The whole Welfare State is an immoral use of force. The government obtains its just authority by delegation from the people — see the 10th Amendment — and it cannot possibly have any just authority that they do not. If God’s Moral Law prohibits Tom and Harry from redistributing Dick’s wealth, it likewise prohibits larger-scale redistribution schemes.

    To argue that the government somehow has just authority to enact Welfare State style redistribution schemes is to argue either that (a.) government’s source of authority is not from the people; or, (b.) that Tom does have just authority under God’s Moral Law to rob Dick, just so long as he isn’t planning to keep the money for himself. (He is only planning to distribute it as he sees fit, to those whom he deems worthy, while keeping a small portion for his own administrative costs, don’t you know.)

    But we can eliminate (b.) because of its obvious moral wrongness.

    And we can eliminate (a.) because we know that the only existing government in the United States defines itself, by law, as being established by the people and receiving all its just authority from them. It’s in the Constitution, it’s in the Declaration, it’s all over the Federalist papers, it’s a core theme in the Gettysburg Address.

    Some might object that governments get their authority from God, but that objection misses the point entirely. Of course all authority in heaven and earth comes from God…but that doesn’t tell us what particular authority is currently held by a particular set of persons.

    For example, the authority to ordain bishops comes from God…but does that mean the President of the United States has authority to ordain bishops? No. Why not? Because that authority was never granted to him by a man who already had it. It takes bishops to make bishops: They have that authority from earlier bishops, and ultimately from God.

    So, if government has any authority at all, where did they get it? Answer: They get it from the consent of the governed, and “the governed” have it ultimately from God. God grants all men just authority to use force…but only within the constraints of the Moral Law, which means: Only to deter, halt, or punish wrongful assaults on the rights and dignity of persons. It is that authority to use force (we have no other) that we delegate to the government.

    So there is no way around it: The laws of the United States are correctly predicated on the notion that they derive authority from the people (who, ultimately, have it from God). And that just authority to use force does not include using it for forcible redistributive schemes, however well-intentioned.

    I point this out to clarify the fact that our “desired center” is not really mid-way between Democrats and Republicans. The latter exercise the forcible powers of government in an immoral way and claim to be philosophically opposed to doing so. The former exercise the forcible powers of government in an immoral way twice as much, and claim that doing so is moral. The Republicans sin and apologize and make excuses and never stop sinning; the Democrats sin and say that sin is righteousness.

    Of the two, the Republicans are therefore preferable: The Stupid Bumbling Venal Party. The Democrats are worse: The Unrepentantly Wicked Satanic Party. And give me Republican Catholic elected officials over Democratic Catholic elected officials, any day…but both are deeply flawed.

    That both are less than perfect is no surprise in a fallen world…but let’s not make the mistake of thinking that a compromise between the two, a center position, is superior to either one. It’d mainly wind up being slightly worse than Republicans, and slightly better than Democrats.

    If we’re to set course for a better party platform, we must use a compass based on the first principles of God’s Moral Law. And because government is that organization in society to which we uniquely grant authority to exercise force on our behalf, the most important part of God’s Moral Law we must study is the moral limitations on our own use of force.

    ‘Cause you can’t delegate authority you don’t have.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Governors are not the mere delegates of the governed, but are invested with divine authority.  As Pope Leo XIII says in Immortale Dei

      “It is not difficult to determine what would be the form and character of the State were it governed according to the principles of Christian philosophy. Man’s natural
      instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence, it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life-be it family, or civil-with his fellow men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied. But, as no society can hold together unless some one be over all, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good, every body politic must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its Author. Hence, it follows that all public power must proceed from God. For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the world. Everything, without exception, must be subject to Him, and must serve him, so that whosoever holds the right to govern holds it from one sole and single source, namely, God, the sovereign Ruler of all. “There is no power but from God.””

      And again,

      “In political affairs, and all matters civil, the laws aim at securing the common good, and are not framed according to the delusive caprices and opinions of the mass of
      the people, but by truth and by justice; the ruling powers are invested with a sacredness more than human, and are withheld from deviating from the path of
      duty, and from overstepping the bounds of rightful authority; and the obedience
      is not the servitude of man to man, but submission to the will of God, exercising His sovereignty through the medium of men.”

      • Cord_Hamrick

        Michael Paterson-Seymour:

        I get the impression you believe that the quotes you just offered contradict something I’ve said. But they don’t.

        In particular, I do NOT hold that government’s authority comes from men apart from God. That is heresy; all authority in heaven and earth comes from God, and the authority of government is one such.

        The only question — one which the quotes you offer does not in any way answer, let alone contradict my views — is how that authority is conveyed from God to a particular government, and what its limits are.

        I have spelled out fairly precisely how the government of the United States received just authority from God; namely, through delegation from the people. God gave just authority to use force (individually or cooperatively) to individuals for the purpose of defending the rights and dignity of persons from force and fraud. Because God intends persons to be in societies, one of the things He had in mind when giving us that authority was that we should organize that use of force into that form called Government. So: Government is God-ordained in its authority because it is using authority which (like all just authority) ultimately comes from God, and which God (having designed humans to be social creatures) ultimately intended to be used in the formation of some kind of collective force-wielding organization (i.e., a government).

        Moreover, the “consent of the governed” is important because it allows us to determine exactly which group of persons has been selected to wield the people’s governmental authority. Without the consent of the governed reflected through a clear procedure (such as voting), we would have no way to determine who, in particular, had been delegated God’s authority to use force. (Unless we just assume that anyone who happens to have a big enough army to take over our country thereby proves their divine right to rule…but a “might makes right” process for picking a government really doesn’t sound consistent with Catholic morality, does it?)

        In the past whoever won a battle and conquered a territory and eliminated all potential rivals so that he alone had an army big enough to effectively govern became the only plausible “candidate,” there being no others remaining. He then belatedly asked the local bishop to bless his rule and thereby offer a sort of belated legitimacy to his authority to govern, in the name of the Church. This the bishops — including popes — generally did, because they were mindful of the nature of man and his need for society and thus for government, and since the conqueror had typically eliminated all other prospects and was typically at least a marginal Catholic, the bishop would grant the conqueror this P.R. victory, because almost any government was better than none.

        But in that process while one can argue that the bishop confirmed the ruler in his authority, one can’t plausibly argue that the bishop prophetically selected him for the role. So far as I know, the last time a prophet of God was sent by God to select an utter nobody to rule prior to that nobody collecting an army and eliminating some or all potential competitors, and demonstrating his ability to control territory, was when Samuel visited a shepherd boy named David. It is not God’s normal way. And it certainly isn’t how the government of the United States has legitimacy!

        So we see that democratic selection of representation is a good and Godly process, in accordance with right reason and Natural Law. It gives us an acceptable procedure to confer on particular persons the job roles of governance without requiring them to mount a violent threat to potential competitors. It is, in that way, far more Catholic and Christ-like in its approach to authority than “divine-right” kingship-by-conquest (or by descent from a conqueror) ever was.

        But all that is an aside. My main point was to demonstrate how all governmental authority comes from God, and that it is conferred on particular persons through the people does not change the fact that it comes from God. There is thus no conflict between this view and all that the Magisterium has taught about state authority through the ages.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      There’s a problem with your reasoning- and I think it’s in the assumption that a free market is always free, when in reality there is a natural tendency of wealth to produce tyranny.

      • Micha_Elyi

        What “natural tendency of wealth to produce tyranny” is there?  Just because he has piles of money, does the free market compel you to sin on Bill Gates’s command?  Warren Buffet’s?

        Nope, but in the slave market Obama expects to compel you to sin because he has political power no billionaire has.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          You must be in a very different socioeconomic class than I am- I have to take whatever job is offered to keep a roof over my head and my family eating.  If that means I have to work on a Sunday (a sin) then I must.  If that means I have to commit a murder, then I must.  There is plenty of compulsion in your so-called “free market”, and for a certain class of people, there is no choice whatsoever.

          Given what the Bankers did to Bush in September 2008, I’d have to say most wealth is far more powerful than any mere politician.  They held the economy of the world up for ransom- and the most powerful countries in the world just asked “How big of a bonus do you want for Christmas?”

      • Cord_Hamrick


        I think you’re both right and wrong, here.

        First, I said nothing in particular in my post favoring a free market, but you’re correct to deduce from my words that I favor one.

        However, I favor one because the alternative requires using force in immoral ways. Even if you don’t like the outcome of a free market (in a law-and-order society where the state prosecutes force, fraud, and contract violation, of course; I’m not advocating kleptocracies like modern Russia which are on occasion confused with “free” markets)…as I was saying, even if you don’t like the outcome of a free market, you must ask what alternatives you have. If your only alternatives are only achievable through immoral uses of force, then you’ll just have to put up with the free market, because “You may not do evil, that good come from it.”

        You also assert that free markets tend towards tyranny.  And I agree; they do…almost as much as unfree markets do.

        The difficulty is that, when imagining a choice between free and unfree markets,  everyone habitually imagines the unfree markets as being governed by unfallen angels making wise regulations and delegating their enforcement to saints.

        That, sadly, is not the world we live in. F.A.Hayek was right to observe that unfree markets require a concentration of power in the hands of regulators, and unfortunately those persons who are most likely to seek such positions are persons with a will to power, who are convinced of their own wisdom and moral rectitude, who can sleep perfectly well at night even after making decisions which will mar the livelihoods of millions, and who are personally insulated from experiencing any of the deleterious side-effects of their own regulations.

        In other words, an unfree market is not going to be regulated by a troika of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Louis, and St. Francis of Assisi (who wouldn’t take the job anyway). An unfree market is typically regulated by persons whose personal character ranges from that of Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi to that of Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong Il & Son, in proportion to exactly how unfree it is.

        So, yes, wealth produces tyranny, because it concentrates power. But concentrated power also produces tyranny…and wealth, for that matter. There are no greater wealth inequalities than those you find between the rulers and the ruled in a communist dictatorship!

        (Seeing that working and trading take up easily as much of our lives as
        sleeping, is there any power on earth more pervasive and intrusive than
        power over our work and trade? Concentrating power over that is perhaps even more dangerous than concentrating power over our sex lives, which while crucial to our being at least don’t occupy double-digits of hours per day.)

        So: One reason to prefer a free market is the fact that unfree markets can only be achieved through immoral means. Another reason is that unfree markets tend to empower immoral and unwise people.

        A final reason is this: Market transactions create wealth only in proportion to their free-ness. If Bob has a widget and Larry has a sprocket, and they mutually decide to trade Bob’s widget for Larry’s sprocket, then each is now wealthier. Bob now has something he thought more valuable than his widget; Larry now has something he thought more valuable than his sprocket. Each side’s “balance sheet” is better off. But had this been a compulsory transaction, and had it not been a transaction that each would have done anyway, then that could only be because force compelled each person into a trade that each side believed would worsen his situation.

        So you see that market transactions which are unfree, to the degree that they’re different from what would have happened between free men, either do not create wealth, or actually reduce it. The result can easily be seen by comparing North Korea with South Korea! Famine and destitution on the North, and the highest per-capita incidence of PhD’s in the world, on the South.

        So, yeah, when talent and luck and hard work combine to vastly enrich a man under the free market, he thereby accrues a degree of power and may be able to buy some Congresscritters. If lots of people do that, it’s a sort of tyranny of the wealthy.

        But if you grant petty regulators — and just exercising that kind of power in that kind of office will, over time, produce pettiness, never fear! — power over the market, you get rather more tyranny, and the regulators just make themselves wealthy.

        So in the end, the free market is the worst kind of economic system we can have…except for all the other ones.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Here’s my method of creating an unfree market without regulators and regulations:

          Grant every human being born within the country’s borders one acre to do whatever they want with.  Let them choose the terrain at age 18, that fits their sensibilities.  Require every governmental building to spend 50% of it’s landscaping budget planting vegetables and fruits that are native to the area, for free harvesting by anybody who wants or needs the food.

          THEN have a free market on top of that.  Since every single person now owns some form of productive wealth, you’ll have to compensate them enough for a living wage to get them to work, but a free market should do that anyway, right?

          • Cord_Hamrick

            Sorry, but that’s schoolboy thinking.

            You need to this before your mind: It’s a fallen
            . One of the moral responsibilities of being an adult is
            to not forget that it’s a fallen world, and the implications of that
            fact, such as:

            1. People (including you) fail;

            2. People (including you) self-destruct;

            3. People (including you) let you down;

            4. People (including you) make mistakes;

            5. All important decisions (excluding following Christ) involve judging
            between two or more imperfect alternatives, each being a mix of benefits
            and drawbacks;

            6. When making an important decision, you generally lack some of the
            critical information required for knowing ahead of time that you’re
            choosing correctly.

            Humans are free willed individuals and while they are all equally loved by their Creator for their intrinsic dignity as creatures in His image, they neither have all the same capabilities, nor do they all make the same choices.

            As a result, if humans are not forcibly reduced to robotic drones, they will always make different choices than one another and produce different levels of economic output.

            In short: Start with those equal plots of land, and in twenty years some folks are dirt poor and some folks are producing abundance, not because the latter took advantage of the former, but because some folk didn’t try their best and others did, and because the best tries of some folk are better than the best tries of others.

            To deny this is to either to deny that it’s a fallen world, or to deny that God made us each unique and free willed, or all of the above.

            It’s as simple as that.

            So there’s no point confiscating everyone’s property (99% of it rightfully gained) and distributing it in equal parcels to try to make a perfect utopian society. Even if you weren’t committing an evil act by doing that (which you are), the result wouldn’t stay perfect long.

            In fact it wouldn’t be perfect to begin with. After all, equal property is only “perfection” for a really shallow specimen of atheist, who thinks life is all about how much property you have.

            It’s a very un-Catholic viewpoint. It’s the Marxists who think that way: That man lives by bread alone.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              Cord, the fallen world is not a reason to abandon Christ’s dream of the brotherhood of mankind, nor is it a reason to say “what is mine is mine and you can’t have any”.  Your argument is what caused communism to begin with.

              Different levels of economic output is fine, as long as *every human being is allowed to live*.  The Right to Life MUST come before the Right to Profit.

              If everybody has the right to Life, then it’s ok that some folks are dirt poor and that others are rich.  The only danger is that the rich take so much that the poor are not allowed the basic right to Life.
              The intent, unlike with the Marxists, is not to make everybody equal.  The intent is to grant everybody a basic right to food, clothing, shelter, and clean water.  Anything above that is luxury, and damaging to the dignity of the human being.And I would argue it’s not just Catholic- it’s Rerum Novarum, it’s Caritas in Veritate.

  • Nick Palmer

    The devil’s in the details, but I will neither nitpick Dr. Pursell’s thoughtful piece nor make a big deal of some hard trade-offs and interpretive challenges (e.g., in an industry either partially or wholly distorted by regulations and government meddling, what would “the best examples in terms of per capita cost and performance” actually mean.

    Rather, I’d like to focus on some thoughts from Pope Benedict XVI in the first installment of Jesus of Nazareth:
    (page 40) “…the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus’ Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century. For the fusion of faith and political power always comes at a price: faith becomes the servant of power and must bend to its criteria.”

    and later (page 41) “The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes.”

    We may just have to hang on, pray, and at voting time hold our noses and vote for the lesser evil.

  • Alecto

    What an unfortunate, offensive piece.  Why do such people believe that in the center lies reason or sanity?  I find the center contains the most muddled, indecisive people in politics.  They are people who are more likely than others to sacrifice their principles so as not to offend anyone. 

    I also disagree with his assumption that we want to live or should want to live in a country governed by Catholic sensibilities.  No, actually we don’t.  We want to live in a country where the marketplace of ideas is open and thriving.  That has never occured in any predominantly Catholic country.  The notion that 21st century American Catholic values ought to govern our country is frightening.  After all, the Catholic church did not support women’s suffrage in the 20th century!  I would no more trust the Catholic church to defend and protect my individual rights, than I would trust Hugo Chavez; another fine, upstanding Catholic dictator. 

    I realize this Pursell fellow is well-educated…as a historian, not an economist.  I would suggest he pick up a copy of Road to Serfdom, and take another stab at this.  

    • Mark

      “Why do such people believe that in the center lies reason or sanity?”

      Good point, let’s test this theory.  The extreme left is atheist and the extreme right would be “stuff the pope says” — therefore, the truth must be closer to what the Bahá’í Faith teaches.

      Hmmmm, I’m chasing a fallacy, but I really like how smart and evolved I feel.

      • Alecto

        The political center, not the religious center.  Apparently you are unfamiliar with liberal Catholics who are not at all atheists, but definitely live on the political left and  libertarians (whom many consider right-wing but who are for the most part atheists).  Until you come up with a better definition of extreme left and extreme right, there can be no debate because we are at cross purposes. 

        I reiterate, I do not want to live in a Catholic  country.  Most Americans, in fact, the vast majority of Catholics do NOT want to live in a theocracy.  One of the most annoying qualities of Catholic leadership is the refusal to understand that the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution are masterpieces of self-government.  The mission of the church is to make saints of us and the mission of government is to leave us alone so that we may become saints. 

        This insistence of clergy and well, forgive me, but the men who rule the Catholic church that somehow they would do a better job than the individual is grounds for one heck of a fight.   Give me liberty or give me death.  The Catholic clergy fear liberty and individual rights, but it should embrace both.  We see with the HHS mandate how important individual, constitutionally-guaranteed rights are.  You won’t read that from a Leftist.  

  • Federale

    Ah, the fallacy of moderation.  Just threading between two opposites does not make you correct. 

    Stealing more from the rich will neither able them to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven nor will it solve the problem of the poor.

    You claim to be supporting the Constitution, but our Founders never envisioned a Federal leviathan that could spend so much money and debase a currency so as to require an income tax.  Just because someone has more money than me does not give me a right to his money.

    Nor did you address the problem of the criminal underclass that practices widespread crime while living off the welfare benefits provided by those who work for a living.

    Very little of the Federal welfare bureaucracy provides benefits to those who are unable to provide for themselves.  Most of those on benefits are lazy and unwilling to work.  Millions of illegal aliens provide labor that the welfare class should.

    Even worse though is that you agree that one person has a right to the income of another.  That is not Christian charity, but robbery.  Still worse you are implying that before the welfare state America must have been immoral for not providing such largess.  However, private charity, Catholic and otherwise, provided for the truly needy.

    And just how will you execute the just war doctrine?  Before or after Iran uses nuclear weapons against Isreal?  Before or after they give a weapon to Al Queda?  What do we do about Chinese military expansion?  Allow it to progress? 

    It is easy to pontificate using vague generalities, but you need to be a little more specific.  Were the Korea and Vietnam wars wrong?  Is general isolationism the new program?  What do we do with radical Islam?  Were the Crusades wrong?

    Once the State took over welfare, then it was inevitable that the Church would suffer at the State’s hand as is ongoing now with Obama. 

    What I think need to be done, rather than a religious based party, is for the Bishops to stand up against Catholic politicians that openly support abortion, birth control, and other immorality that it publically condemned just a few years ago.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Is it not robbery when the owner of the company lives in luxury while leaving his sweatshop employees not enough wages to live on?

      What ever happened to Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in your atheistic libertarian treatment of economics?
      St. Augustine of Hippo wrote our first Just War Doctrine.  It had 3 rules:1.  Fight only in self-defense against an invader.
      2.  Do not invade the invader’s country in revenge.
      3.  Show love for your enemy by using tactics that do as much damage to your own as they do to him.

      Guy Fawkes should be our guide!

      • Jude66

        Theodore, that is completely subjective. If the labour market is not providing the necesseties of life it is up to YOU and I to help those in need.

        Funny a socialist calling someone else “atheistic”. You are typical of those who want the state to perform “charity” while you do nothing.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Theodore, that is completely subjective. If the labour market is not providing the necesseties of life it is up to YOU and I to help those in need.”

          Or we need to make sure the labor market lives up to our ethics- and gives labor the share in OWNERSHIP that they deserve.

          Funny a socialist calling someone else “atheistic”. You are typical of those who want the state to perform “charity” while you do nothing.”

          No, I want distributism- the right of a working man to an equitable share of the profits of his labor.

          Charity should be for those who cannot work, not those who are working but oppressed.

          And it isn’t subjective- it is in fact, Caritas in Veritate.

      • Federale

        What do income tax rates have to do with atheism? Absolutely nothing. You need to check out the Commandments. Stealing to pay people not to work is not a Christian virtue. It is in fact communism.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I wasn’t talking about income taxes in specific, but rather the general philosophy of  libertarianism, which has it’s roots in the Austrian economists like Mises and Hayek, both of whom were hard atheists.

  • Rjujman

    Another dumb article by a “saint” who thinks he can transcend those petty political differences that bedevil the rest of us.  But you can’t.  Health care? Either you want to repeal Obamacare, or you don’t.  Religion?  Either DeSales University has to include birth control pills in its employee health plan, or it doesn’t.  Education?  Either you favor vouchers for private and parochial schools, or you don’t.  Taxation?  The rich already pay a “higher percentage” than the median, and you either want them to pay still more or you don’t.  War?  Either you think it’s just to launch a pre-emptive strike to take out Iran’s offensive nuclear capabilities, or you don’t.  And so on.  People tend to coalesce around their specific responses to these types of questions, even though both sides think they are being completely faithful to your general platitudes.  If you really want to enter the real world of politics, you’re  just going to have to get your hands dirty like everybody else.

  • maranathangel

    You didn’t mention proposed policies for:  legal/illegal immigration, transgenics, war powers of the President/Congress, GMO’s, the military itself, or national security…Otherwise, while I disagree with a few of them, I found your article to be interesting food for thought.

  • FOF

    “Abortion: drastically reduce…..”
    “Death Penalty: put an end to it…. ”  Seems like a priority problem, count me out.

    • Mark

      … and the award for discerning “christian” internet political-babble goes to FOF

  • jdh

    WARDS OF THE STATE? You clearly havn’t the vaguest concept of Catholic Social Teaching.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    America will not survive the next 4 years under the Democrats.  But I think it will not survive under the Republicans either.  Still, your picture is missing an arrow- the opposite of Catholicism is Atheism- in either it’s Communist or Libertarian guises.  For a Catholic Party to work, we must be monarchists, not Constitutionalists- under our Once and Future King, Jesus Christ- the emulation of whom should be the motivation of every plank in the party platform.

  • Francis Guidarelli

    We need a Catholic political party. We need a Catholic voice. We need to be prolife and probusiness.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      What about when a business like Planned Parenthood is anti-life?

      • Cord_Hamrick

        When a business does something that violates the right to life of an innocent human being, the persons directly involved ought to be prosecuted for murder.

        When other persons who are not directly involved knowingly help those who are directly involved, they should be prosecuted for felony criminal conspiracy. (At least I think that’s the right term.)

        When they’re all doing it for money, I suppose RICO statues should be involved as well.

        Any questions?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Just wanted to be clear that the right to life was more important than the right to profit.  Do you also extend that to denying the basic maslow rights to individuals?  Should a bank be prosecuted for foreclosing on the home of a homeless person that dies of exposure the next winter?  Or the company that dumps poison into the local water supply as a part of their manufacturing process?  How much of the free market are you willing to sacrifice to the right to life?

          • Cord_Hamrick


            I’m not sure you understand what a “free market” is. If one is disagreeing with a position, then ideally one ought to know it well enough to be able to explain it to the persons who hold it as well as (or better than) they can explain it to themselves, so that when you point out errors in it, they aren’t left with the notion that you’re arguing against something they don’t even hold.

            When two parties enter into a voluntary agreement to exchange the property of one for that of the other, they thereby instantly create wealth and transmit price signals.

            Government exists to organize and deploy force in order to execute, by proxy, the just authority of the people to forcibly defend innocent persons from forcible assaults against their inherent dignity and rights.

            If a particular business transaction involves one side doing something which violates the rights of the other (such as fraud) or of a third party (such as slavery), government justly can and almost always should use proportionate force to deter that transaction before it occurs, halt it while it is occurring, and/or punish the offender after it has occurred.

            A free market society in which these things are prosecuted is still very much a free market society. There is no definitional contradiction in a society having government that protects your right to life and one which protects your liberty in the area of labor and commerce any more than there is a contradiction between a government protecting your right to life and protecting your right to keep and bear arms.

            So of course a company that pollutes the water supply gets penalized for it.

            The only tough one in your note is this: “Should a bank be prosecuted for foreclosing on the home of a homeless person that dies of exposure the next winter?” …but that one seems tough because it doesn’t make sense. There might be no prosecutable crime there, because the duty to house the homeless falls on all of us, but not on all of us equally. Family are first responsible for family; then, friends for friends; then, neighbors for neighbors; then, local churches; then, local civic organizations; then, local businesses (including presumably the bank); then, local government and non-local churches and organizations; then, state government and national churches and organizations; and lastly, the federal government, whose role should largely be to send matching funds to state and local governments that are particularly hard-hit by the problems they’re trying to solve.

            So why should the bank be prosecuted right off the bat? It certainly wasn’t first on the list of responsibility. Why was the person turned away first by family if they had any, then friends and neighbors, then local churches and local civic organizations? And if they aren’t guilty of this homeless person’s blood, why not? Was it because they didn’t know his need because he hid it out of pride, or did they turn him aside in an act of cruel negligence? If it’s the former, no crime was committed; if the latter, then I believe the term is something like “criminal negligence” or “depraved indifference.”

            The sole reason why the bank seems like it might have been higher on the list is because you set up the scenario in such a way that it seems like the bank took away the house. But the relationship of the bank to the person wasn’t about a house, but about a loan. The bank rents money for temporary use: That is the bank’s business.

            To see the situation more clearly, alter the scenario: Had the bank given the person a small business loan for office equipment, on which the guy couldn’t make the payments, resulting in the confiscation of the equipment, resulting in reduced efficiency of business, resulting in lost clients, resulting in reduced income, resulting in the inability to pay apartment rent, resulting in eviction, would you then prosecute the bank for not providing the person a place to stay, free of charge? No, you wouldn’t. Yet the bank’s role is exactly the same in both scenarios: They made a loan, the guy couldn’t make the payments; the loan was called in.

            By the way, in the reformulated scenario your inclination might be to say that the apartment owner should allow the guy to stay for free.  And he may: But if he does, he does so as an act of almsgiving, not a business transaction. Almsgiving is not prohibited by the free market; it’s encouraged. It is an exercise of free trade, if you will: An exchange of alms for benefit to one’s soul, which the wise investor values highly.

            For that matter, the owner of the bank (not “the bank,” mind you, but the human owner or owners of the bank) might allow the man who defaults on his mortgage to live free in the same or in another otherwise empty house the bank has access to. But, again, that’s not a business transaction. It’s almsgiving. And because it’s almsgiving, which is an exercise of charity, which is love for one’s fellow man, and since love is by its very nature always voluntary and free-willed, and since only human beings (and angels and God) have free will, “the bank” cannot give alms. It is the owners who are making that arrangement, personally.

            Anyway, your scenario boils down to this: There’s a homeless man, and it looks like nobody assaulted him or defrauded him to force him to become homeless, so there’s no crime to prosecute. Nevertheless the responsibility for helping him falls on family and friends and neighbors and churches and whatnot in roughly the order I gave before.

            That’s Subsidiarity in Action, and in a country where the federal government doesn’t usurp the role of family, friends, neighbors, and churches, all these lower-order voluntary associations remain robust and active. When the federal government usurps the role of all these subsidiary social groups, it causes them to wither from disuse. When an unpersonal force-wielding organization granting entitlements to a numbered nonperson in exchange for votes replaces the helping hands of friends and family who actually know the name and face of the person in need, government becomes the hub of society and friends and family and churches become social irrelevancies to be discarded. True (voluntary) Solidarity between persons gets replaced by false (forcible) “solidarity” producing class warfare, corruption, and perverse incentives.

            Better to build a civilization of love in which people cooperate instead of wielding force as a club against one another. For love is never forcible, and force is never love. The free market is just one of many ways that people cooperate. It is in fact a kind of love, since each voluntary trade produces mutual benefit and is voluntary. I suppose my customers would be uncomfortable if every time they did business with me, I returned them a kiss! But “have a nice day,” is not too much to say, for voluntarily helping me feed my family, even if they got something out of it, too.

  • Qoheleth

    Catholic center? Really? Most of the planks in the platform are liberal. Constitutionalism? Most of the planks in this silly little party are NOT Constitutional. CENTER is also known as ‘moderate’, which is what we’ve had for years and years. What we need is FAR RIGT- that is true, true, conservatism!

  • I would love to have a political party that is unabashedly guided by Catholic principles — and I don’t think it has to be a pipe dream, any more than the knowledge that “the poor will be with you always” means that we shouldn’t help the poor. Such a party, honoring the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, would begin by organizing at the local level and putting up candidates for city & county offices. After a few years, having gained public confidence, this party could begin to field candidates for state offices, and eventually for national ones. In the interim, it could advise its members on which non-party candidates seemed worthy of support. Even if we are stuck with a two-party system controlling Congress (of which fact I am not convinced), that doesn’t mean they must be the current lousy two parties in perpetuo — seems to me the Republican Party was once the new kid on the block.

    “Resigning ourselves to choosing the lesser of two evils” may be the only option at present, but it would be a sin against the virtues of Hope and Charity to insist that that is the best that we can ever expect (particularly considering just how evil the choices have become). Christians always have an obligation to work for the common good, and at this moment in history it might mean that we need to start a new political party that will work concertedly for the Good as understood by the Catholic faith, rather than for the politically expedient as judged by the ruling parties. If I had any experience in the public realm, I might try it myself, but as things are, I would just like to encourage anyone else who may have the requisite skills and experience. If anybody decides to start a Catholic party, let me know & sign me up.

  • Rachel

    Sounds like the arrogant, know-it-all, judgmentalism of a Progressive Catholic from a well-insulated Catholic institution of higher learning.  Why not be a faithful Catholic who follows Jesus and the inspired teaching of His Church?  There are some of us with advanced degrees who yet question the liberal elite who have a veneer of Catholicism to strut.  Perhaps we peasants will make it to Heaven despite our dumbness.  It must be difficult for you to take.

  • Theofile

    You’ve got my vote.  I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard palce.

  • S. R. Cundiff

    Amen!  We definitely need a Catholic Centrum Party, a party that also appeals to Evangelical Protestants and Orthodox Jews.  So … Let’s get started!!!