How to Recover the Catholic Vote

One of the reasons that same-sex marriage laws have proliferated so quickly is that their proponents are concentrated geographically in the nation’s power centers: New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Geography can be determinative in politics. Faithful Catholics are numerous, but we’re too spread out. This has weakened our position both as a voting bloc and a lobbying force, and contributed to the perception that our days in the public square are numbered.

Once, there was a “Catholic vote.” In cities like New York, Baltimore, and Boston, Catholic voters raised local politicians to power. Mayors and governors sought the approbation of their bishops, who in turn exercised significant influence over their flocks. As hard as it is to believe now, an American president once feared the ability of a Michigan priest with a radio microphone to put an early end to his New Deal.

Those days are gone—long gone. Dispersed, assimilated, and for the most part un-catechized, American Catholics now vote in ways that can’t be predicted by their religious affiliation. Catholics have supported the winner of the popular vote in every presidential election since 1972. Including Barack Obama. Twice.

So, there is no Catholic vote. Not anymore. Catholics have become an indistinct force in American politics at the very moment of the Church’s greatest vulnerability. In part this is the result of real changes in the larger culture. But it’s also true that Catholics—not just those who identify as such in phone surveys—haven’t been vigilant about preserving a consistent political identity. Most of the prominent “Catholic” politicians in the United States support abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Often, those holding views consistent with Church teachings on abortion and marriage have been mocked and demonized.

Have we been good about publicly rising to their defense? Not really.

Catholics who are serious about policy need to get smart and get tough about politics—and we need to do it fast. There is no reason to believe that the remaining years of the Obama presidency will be any easier on us than those just gone by which, let’s face it, have been a disaster. If we don’t develop a serious and sustainable political strategy soon, the battle will be over and we will have lost.

Who knows? It may already be over. We may already have lost. But there may still be time for a last stand.

As I see it, there are two ways to revive American Catholic political power: (1) re-catechize those Catholics who have migrated away from the faith with an emphasis on fidelity to the Magisterium, or (2) get faithful Catholics to migrate and, by so doing, magnify the effect of their votes. The former has been tried for the last 40 years without success; the latter may not be as crazy as it sounds.

There are 75 million Catholics in the United States, almost 25 percent of the population. Even if only half of us are committed to the Magisterium, that’s more than enough to have a big effect on the political direction of the nation. The problem is that all politics is local and our voting power is watered down by the distance between us. Libertarians have the Free State Project, which aims to get 20,000 people with an interest in limited government to move to New Hampshire for the express purpose of creating a constituency with some sway in that state’s legislature. Catholics could try something similar by selecting a state, a county, a congressional district, or even a diocese, and mounting a campaign to get politically engaged Catholics to relocate. If enough do, substantive and faithful Catholic leaders could be elected to public office in that locale, establishing a strong voting bloc and, with any luck, inspiring imitators.

Politics is about supply and demand—if demand exists for leaders with Catholic views on abortion, marriage, and the plight of the poor, then the supply will follow. But winning at politics is about math—a few hundred voters here and there can make a tremendous difference. That’s why so much thought and effort is put into congressional redistricting. A Catholic equivalent of the Free State Project would be a positive step toward establishing a solid base of Catholic political power in the United States. It would be the first thing in a long time that didn’t feel like defeat. And it wouldn’t take much: there are a lot more Catholics in the United States than there are libertarians.

Ensuring our survival in the public square will require brave and faithful Catholics to step up, sally forth, and get their hands dirty doing politics. Politics leads to power, and power is what it will take to beat back these unprecedented intrusions on our basic rights and constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms.

This is not a job for the bishops. This is a job for Catholics who are interested not just in fighting the battle, but in winning it.

The bishops have valiantly protested the Obama administration’s attacks on our religious freedom, but, sadly, it has not been enough. Their attempts have sought merely to restore an already vanished status quo. The seriousness of the challenge required a more vigorous and wide ranging response. It’s unclear why the bishops have been so reluctant to meet steel with steel.

Whatever explains the bishops’ motivations, Obama has no incentive to parley with them. Despite the warnings of the bishops, despite the direct assault on conscience rights, despite the abrogation of religious liberty—despite all of this—51 percent of so-called Catholics voted to return him to office in 2012. There is no Catholic vote.

Merely rolling back the HHS mandate will not be enough to protect American Catholics from the next attack on religious liberty when it comes. We need a proactive legislative agenda around the issues that matter to us—respect for life, marriage, and the plight of the poor—and politicians that can steward such an agenda. We need to build a base of power rooted in a specific place, because that’s how the American system works. We need to be bold and decisive. And we need to find the courage to stand up for politicians who take the risk of defending life and traditional marriage. Some nominal Catholics will probably leave the fold because of this, but we’re talking about politics here, not crochet.

There is blood in the water. The sharks are circling. If we want there to be a Catholic vote once again, we have to do more than just pray.

Matthew Hennessey


Matthew Hennessey is a writer from New Canaan, CT, and a graduate of Hunter College and Fordham University. You can follow him on Twitter @matthennessey.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Since we are planning to move to Virginia, I say we make it the “Catholic” state. There are many home-schooling, non-contracepting, large families moving into the State already because of its reputation for orthodoxy among the laity and clergy.

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  • FrankW

    Perhaps the first thing that needs to be done is to distinguish the “Catholic Vote” between those who attend weekly Mass, and those who do not. It starts there. If a Catholic does not attend weekly Mass, he or she is not going to hear about bishop’s opposition to the HHS mandate, or opposition to other legislation that is diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching.

    For far too many decades, we have had too many priests and bishops unwilling to publicly defend Church teachings on moral issues, especially those related to contraception and abortion. I have seen that start to change, and have thankfully attended parishes where the pastors have been more willing to do so in recent years. However, this should be expected of all our clergy.

    In addition, part of what it means to be Catholic is to live out our faith in our daily lives, which includes how we vote. Our priests should not be afraid to preach from the pulpit that being a Catholic in good standing with the Church requires that we do vote for politicians who support legislation which is diametrically opposed to Church teaching. Our bishops need to back up their parish priests when these priests do speak out about this.

    • CharlesOConnell

      The proportion of Catholics who disbelieve in The Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, about 70%, mysteriously shadows the proportion of those who practice artificial contraception. Heterodoxy follows heteropraxis. Yet even “conservative” Bishops have been little help in instructing the faithful. ‘ “Ego te absolvo.” The Catholic Route to Birth Control’ | “Tacit Consent. Why the Church was unable to stop the spread of contraception in the catholic Veneto (North- East Italy) during the first half of the twentieth century”, Gianpiero Dalla-Zuanna – Dept. of Statistics, University of Padua: ABSTRACT PAPER

    • Gerard_Altermatt

      Unfortunately, the vast majority of Catholics who attend weekly Mass may hear something about the bishops’ opposition to the HHS mandate and a lot of nonsense about religious liberty, but very few of them will hear a defense of the truths that are at the heart of the HHS mandate opposition. In fact, some of them attending Massrd said by a number of archbishops may hear that these truths really aren’t at issue, it’s religious freedom that is the ultimate end. When have you heard a homily on the evils of contraception?

  • Marie Dean

    Some of us have been warning Catholics about this since the late 70s, when it was clear, and definetly by the late 90s that the Democratic Party would and did put abortion in the party platform. If Catholics had abandon the party of death then, things would be very different. Sadly, more Catholics voted out of sentimentality rather than moral issues.

    The kulturkampf is complete and we shall have to live in a certain holiness to defend ourselves. Again, Americans have been naive about the Marxism in Chicago and then Washington. Cassandras are rarely heeded.

  • Alecto

    There are many sympathetic evangelical voters on crucial social issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, parental authority, prayer, education, etc…. However, they disagree with Catholics regarding “plight of the poor” policies which come off as demagogic. Catholics have done themselves no favors by supporting big government policies strongly associated with the Democrat political party. In fact, if anything they have managed to damage their once sterling reputation among Americans for charitable endeavor. I’m not sure anything but time and an about face will heal that rift. Without political allies, Catholics will be wandering indefinitely in the desert.

    Catholic bishops have diminished their standing in the community. They are perceived as corrupt, insensitive to the sufferings of Americans, opposed to many of the virtues and values that made this country good and prosperous. Expending precious resources lobbying for universal healthcare and open borders has done more damage than they can comprehend. Where Americans were once indifferent to the Church or even favorable, they are increasingly hostile. The best thing for bishops to do is be silent. Americans are deeply outraged at them and that simmering pot will eventually boil over. Catholics, many of whom are struggling to put food on the table, pay mortgages, and find work have been displaced by the very policies for which bishops advocate. Moreover, these forays into doubtful political campaigns gain the Church nothing and are distracted and dangerous. Cardinal Dolan speaking at political conventions diminishes the moral authority of the Church. Bishops should never get involved in prudential matters on which people can and do disagree. For, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 7:28.

    • musicacre

      Ditto for Canada. Identical shift in responsibility seems to be universal. Leaving things up to the irrelevant National conferences not only takes the blame away from the Bishops for their actions or non–actions, but neuters them.

    • Micha_Elyi

      Cardinal Dolan speaking at political conventions diminishes the moral authority of the Church.

      I disagree. Cardinal Dolan speaking at political conventions without saying anything diminishes the moral authority of the Church.

      After a certain political party’s conventioneers voted all mention of God out of their already morally despicable platform, their party-archs belatedly discovered that they needed Cardinal Dolan’s appearance on their stage in a big, big way. Cardinal Dolan, in my opinion, threw away a major opportunity for a teachable moment.

  • windjammer

    For the most part the Bishops have been the problem and not the solution for the last 45 years. They act and talk like politicians and managers in a good old boys club rather than shepherds and teachers of Truth. They seem to go along to get along. As a group they have surrendered their power to the USCCB which has absolutely NO standing, power or authority within the Church. Cardinal Dolan and his “Dolanism” has been an unmitigated disaster as a leader and defender of truth. Going gets tough and he folds. What is needed is a lot more of the Cardinal Raymond Burke types. Humble, Holy, Truth Centered MEN with Spines of Steel and the moral courage to match. In other words we need masculine men wearing britches and suspenders rather than “granny pants”. Without fearless and faithful leadership from local Bishops (just doing their job as ordained to do) we are whistling in the wind. Leading from behind is an oxymoron. It never has nor ever will work.
    In the meantime we need to concentrate on changing ourselves individually as our first priority. It is a choice that we can make and have complete control over. The Church, sacraments and tools have been their for 2000 years. Use them.

    • notwringingmyhands

      Windjammer, I posted my response before I saw yours. You are so right in your assessment. I am proud to be on the same magazine page as you.

    • Gerard_Altermatt

      Not only changing ourselves but also those within our sphere of influence. The bishops are not. We just need to bide our time and wait for the passing of these bishops who were formed in that unfortunate phenomenon called the “Spirit of Vatican II”; In the meantime pray for their souls and that good men will replace them.

      • standtall909

        I agree with you completely, but how much time do we have left to “bide”? That to me is the 64 “trillion” dollar question.

        • Gerard_Altermatt

          I guess that is up to our Lord.

  • Steve Mains

    Interesting proposal to encourage people to move in order to win the vote in key districts. Another, better, place to start would be for the Bishops to stop supporting the Democrat Party. The canard has always been that the Bishops support the “social justice” portions of the platform while condemning the abortion plank. What they have gotten for their support is abortion, HHS abortion mandate, gay “marriage,” anti-family welfare programs and a general lack of personal responsibility. If the Bishops woke up and saw the path they have led us on was wrong, we wouldn’t need to uproot people to win the vote in a few districts; we’d have the votes to win in practically all of them. Sadly, Church leaders, like Bishop Chaput, still cling to their belief that taxpayer-paid health care is the answer (if they’d just get rid of that pesky abortion mandate) and continue to support, explicitly or implicitly, policies inconsistent with the Catholic Church.

    • Gerard_Altermatt

      Well said.

  • CharlesOConnell

    Yes indeed, the Catholic vote was once a respected, nay, a feared political
    force in this country. Though given ethnic cover, it was the subject of the
    1956 novel The Last Hurrah by Edwin O’Connor, with a John Ford directed film of
    1958 of the same name, starring Spencer Tracey.

    But we could count on the American Hierarchy to begin the slide, starting with
    Chicago’s Albert Cardinal Meyer, well before their betrayal of the Holy Father
    in 1968.

    In 1963, the non-Catholic governor of Illinois, Otto Kerner, appointed a non-Christian
    millionaire, auto-parts industrialist and art connoisseur Arnold Maremont, to
    chair the Illinois Public Aid Commission, successor to an Emergency Relief
    Commission created in the Depression.–contraceptives.html

    Maremont was adamant that contraceptives be provided at State expense,
    explicitly targeted at African-Americans, first in the Chicago area, with plans
    to go statewide later. In this he was resolutely opposed by Catholic
    lawmakers—a majority of whom were Democrats—who passed legislation in the
    Springfield statehouse outlawing the plan.

    But defeat was suddenly snatched from the jaws of victory (to mix up a
    metaphor) when, after a confidential meeting in the back of a proverbial, black
    limousine between a high official of the Archdiocese of Chicago and a
    population-control official, the Church inexplicably okayed Maremont’s plan.

    Confused Catholic lawmakers went along with this stark reversal of the
    continuous course of Church teaching since the beginning. Today, two
    generations after the detritus of the sexual revolution has settled down, the
    proportion of European-American children born to single mothers stands at about
    40%, the same as the rate of non-marital births during the 1960s to
    African-Americans. Thus we see that, in the treatment of our society’s less
    privileged members, “what goes around comes around”.

    We might expect that members of ecclesial communities who have departed from
    the Catholic fold would fall for this, especially after the confusion sewn by
    the 1930 Anglican Lambeth Conference permitting contraception within marriage.

    But in acquiescing to the spirit of the age—an evil spirit, as Pope Paul VI
    warned—officials of the Archdiocese of Chicago shirked their duty and paved the
    way for the organized and coordinated dissent on the part of 600 Catholic
    “Theologians”—many of whom weren’t theologians at all —against Humanae
    Vitae, the Church’s 1968, authentic reiteration of its ancient, ordinary
    magisterial teaching on the inviolability of the transmission of human life in
    the marital embrace. The Chicago Archdiocese’s arrogant cowardice would bear
    bitter fruit a decade later, in the Roe and Doe decisions which have cost the
    lives of more than 50 million American children.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    The disturbing thing is that for the Orthodox Catholic, the Republicans do not offer a clear moral choice over the Democrats. One too many times voting for Republicans on pro-life issues only to have them attack those for whom capitalism doesn’t work instead of actually concentrating on protecting human life from conception until natural death, one too many insults from Cafeteria Catholics in the Democratic party, has left me very cynical about Catholic ideals in American partisan politics.

    Want to restore the Catholic vote, give us a Catholic party.

    • Scott

      Exactly, TheodoreSeeber. There is no Catholic party and hence it is meaningless to speak of a Catholic vote. Rush Limbaugh (for whom I have zero respect, but who was right on this one) recently claimed that the Republican elites are embarrassed by the religious fundamentalists in their party. They need them as “useful idiots” and to provide a voting bloc, but they don’t respect their views or have any plans to incorporate them into policy.

    • Steve Mains

      One party promotes abortion and GLBT “rights” in its platform, the other explicitly does not. Seems like a clear choice.

      I agree that the Republican elites have not done all they could to criminalize abortion, but that is something we could fix if we weren’t diluting our vote by supporting those who oppose our beliefs.

      • Watosh

        Yes the “other” explicitly does not support abortion and GLBT “rights” except a few very rich Republican donors in NYS pressured a Catholic member of the NYS legislature to cast the deciding vote for legalizing homosexual marriage in NYS. A lot of pressure exerted by corporate TV to promote acceptance of homosexuality changed the publics awareness on this issue. Guess who controls corporate TV? The Log Cabin group of homosexual Republicans is very influential in the Republican party behind the façade erected by the Republicans of standing for morality. The Supreme Court has consistently had a majority of the appointees to the Supreme court since Roe v. Wade, which was decided by a court composed of a majority of Republican appointees. The Republicans are controlled by the megacorporations and the very rich, whose purpose is to keep themselves in control. The economic policies of the Republican Party are not guided by Catholic teaching, but rather by social economic Darwinism and represent extreme economic liberal formulations. The Republicans have been so far much more inclined to engage in empire machinations that have caused the deaths of many innocents, though Obama and the Democrats are now following the same path, a reflection of the increasing influence and takeover of the big political campaign donors. The Republicans represent a clear choice for those who are easily conned, those that have a simplistic understanding of events.

        • pmains

          Social Darwinism was a phrase coined by Herbert Spencer to describe the idea that healthy societies would prosper and unhealthy societies would decline. So, a society that promotes greed would decline, and one that promoted charity would prosper.

          Since that time, liberal intellectuals have purposefully twisted the meaning of his words so as to suggest that he believe human beings should not care for one another. It’s a useful and effective strawman, but it’s still a strawman.

          It’s like “trickle-down” economics. You will search far and wide for a conservative or libertarian thinker who believes that redistributing wealth upwards makes society richer, but it provides the necessary dichotomy. Most socialist and progressive intellectuals actually believe that distributing wealth downwards will make society more prosperous (despite abundant evidence to the contrary). So, when they debate, they assume their opponents think in similarly unsophisticated terms and imagine a worldview that is a photo-negative of their own.

          • Watosh

            You might want to read Christopher Ferrara
            s book, The Church and the Libertarian. But on second thought maybe you wouldn’t want to read this book, as it is thought provoking.

            • pmains

              For what it’s worth, partisan libertarianism (for lack of a better term) has its flaws. Alecto’s post below about libertarianism and gay marriage points to a big one.

              But I find that most criticisms of libertarianism are actually torching of the author’s favorite straw man. The common formulation usually goes: “I would be a libertarian, but …”
              “I believe in charity.”
              “I don’t believe corporations should poison our rivers.”
              “We shouldn’t allow people to do whatever they want! What about murder?”

              And so on. None of these criticisms has anything to do with libertarianism, but their real goal seems to be boosting the self-esteem of the authors. So, mission accomplished. If Ferrara’s book rises above that sort of sophistry, I will be very surprised.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                My main complaint about libertarianism is it was designed by atheists for atheists.

                • pmains

                  See? That’s exactly the sort of nonsense about libertarianism that I usually encounter. If you want me to take you seriously, make serious arguments. You wouldn’t reject the polio vaccine or the law of gravity if they were discovered by atheists. Why are you so angry about the laws of economics?

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    Actually, I would.

                    I’m angry about atheists claiming that we shouldn’t help people just because their economic theory says that people are nothing more than human resources.

                    On EITHER side of the spectrum. The Austrians and the Socialists are equally evil.

                    • pmains

                      Libertarians don’t believe that we shouldn’t help people. Take Ayn Rand, who was an atheist. If you clear away the philosophical fog and contrarianism, what you’ll find is that she was fighting what psychologists call co-dependency. That is, we need to serve others in order to be complete and happy individuals, but we cannot do so while sacrificing our sense of self. The line there is hazy, but let me give you an example.

                      Mother Theresa did not do what she did in order to please other people. She served the poor because she believed that it was the right thing to do. If she allowed others to dictate what she should do with her life instead of doing what she knew to be right, she would never have started her ministry.

                      Someone who has an under-developed sense of self cannot do what she did. They go along with the crowd, whether it’s right or wrong. This is why, if you’re ever attacked (God forbid), psychologists tell us that you should be specific in our cries for help. “Hey, you, in the blue shirt! I need help!” not just “help! help!” When people think of themselves as individuals, they are able to think morally. When they think of themselves as part of a group, their sense of morality is diminished.

                      Yes, yes, I know this creates a big paradox (or, in more theological terms, mystery or antinomy) because we are simultaneously called to lay down our lives. That is the highest form of love — sacrifice of self. But, as Ayn Rand the atheist pointed out, we cannot say “I love you,” unless we can first say, “I.”

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      What you are missing is that there can also be an overdeveloped sense of self- one which basically says, I will not help anybody else because nobody else is human.

                      And in fact, the second is far more common than the first.

                    • pmains

                      If that were true, then Rand would not inspire the rage that she does. Most people are happy to listen to Jesus and accept that we should love our brothers and sisters. Maybe we don’t always do it, but everyone loves a philanthropist in modern America.

                      Actually standing up to society, though? Being able to say, “this is wrong, and I’m not going to condone or enable your sinful behavior”? That takes courage.

            • Micha_Elyi

              Insults don’t persuade your betters, Watosh.

        • Alecto

          “…a few very rich Republican donors.”

          Every one of them were Jewish hedge fund managers who live in CT, not NYS:

          1. Paul Singer
          2. Daniel Loeb
          3. Cliff Asness

          They most certainly are not Republicans, no matter how much money they donate, they are all Libertarians. I ask then, where the heck are the “rich Catholic donors?” Seems to me this entire fiasco could have been managed with a few discreetly placed phone calls to the right people on Wall Street. But I guess Dolan was too busy jetting off to yet another conference. Maybe they should have hired me to manage that situation? LOL. I would have gone Jack Russell on them.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            A good Catholic can never be rich.

            • Alecto

              No poor Catholic can be good.

            • Micha_Elyi

              So you deny Jesus when He said, “With God all things are possible”?

              • TheodoreSeeber

                The key phrase in there is “With God” not “With Money”

      • TheodoreSeeber

        One party promotes the mortal sin of greed in it’s platform, the other explicitly does not. Seems like a clear choice, but it isn’t because when you switch them around, One party promotes abortion and GLBT “rights” in its platform, the other explicitly does not.

        Either way, you’re opposing the Catholic Church. Which encyclicals do you want to ignore, seems to be the only choice. Do you ignore Evangelium Vitae? Or Caritas in Veritate?

        Why can’t we have a politician that supports *ALL* the Church teaching?

        • thebigdog

          Sacrificing good on the altar of “perfection” is the folly of the self-righteous.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And voting for the lesser evil- is still directly voting for evil.

            • Alecto

              So now it comes out, Republicans are evil?

              • TheodoreSeeber

                Everybody is evil. Everybody is a sinner.

                • Alecto

                  Every individual is a sinner. If we’re talking about evil, that’s the Democrats. Pure, unadulterated evil.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    There is no such thing as a good human being. We shouldn’t be putting our trust in governments at all.

                    • Alecto

                      Agreed, we all sin, but we all can repent and be absolved of our sins.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      And thus the question becomes, how do we encourage repentance, and discourage sin?

                      I would put forth that rewarding selfishness doesn’t work for this.

                    • Alecto

                      I’m trying to reach the crux here. Do you equate the accumulation of material goods with selfishness?

                • thebigdog

                  “Everybody is evil. Everybody is a sinner.”

                  So then, even if your Catholic 3rd Party pipe dream became a reality, it would also soon become corrupt because of fallen human nature (see Notre Dame and Georgetown)

                  … so why are you wasting everyone’s time with your simple minded fantasy world?

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    Or for that matter, Newt Gingrich. Doesn’t stop me from trying for the ideal, because I’d much rather follow Popes than Atheists.

                    • thebigdog

                      Newt Gingrich converted to Catholicism over two years ago… what are you talking about?

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      With his wife who committed adultery with him before they were married.

                      His third wife.

                      Even the best of us are corrupt- all the more reason to design a moral and economic system that if followed, prevents corruption.

                    • thebigdog

                      So after learning that you are publicly bearing false witness against a fellow Catholic, instead of apologizing, you choose rather to double down and publicly post his old sins?

                      You aren’t just self-righteous, you are mentally ill and giving sincere Christians a bad name.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      We’ve known I’m mentally ill for 10 years. Asperger’s Syndrome, remember?

                      Transparency is good for the soul.

                    • thebigdog

                      So trying (and failing) to make a moral equivalence argument between Republicans and Democrats is consistent with mental illness… good to know.

                      You claim to value the words of the Popes — perhaps it would be efficacious for you read Pope JPII and Pope Benedict’s opinions of what they called “the dictatorship of moral relativism”

                      Your trying to equate Republicans and Democrats is exactly that.

                      Oh, and rather than reply immediately, maybe you should step back, take a moment and actually consider what other people are trying to say.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      How did I fail to make a moral equivalence between one party that ignores church teaching and another party that ignores church teaching? Or are you claiming that the Republican platform is 100% within all Church teaching?

                      They both fail to live up to Church teaching, is all I was saying in the first place.

            • Gerard_Altermatt

              If you feel that way, than it least don’t vote. The point of the article is that most “Catholics” are voting for the greater evil.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                I’m saying I need a third party.

                • Alecto

                  Start one.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    Been trying- that’s why I vote Constitution.

                    • thebigdog

                      Thought you said you wanted a Catholic Party. Are you under the delusion that the Constitution was written by Catholics?

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      No, but at least the Constitution Party is willing to nominate faithful, pro-life Catholics, and puts the rights from the Declaration of Independence into their proper order by Catholic teaching- LIFE, then liberty and the pursuit of happiness subservient to life.

                    • thebigdog

                      As per the National Catholic Register, there are 3 Catholic Senators and 26 Catholic members of the House of Reps who all have a 100% pro-life rating… and they are all Republicans.

                      0 Democrats and 0 Constitution Party members.

                      You may now return to lying to yourself.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      100% pro-birth rating maybe. 100% pro-life would include things like *supporting WIC* and being *against pre-emptive invasions*.

                    • Alecto

                      Charles Carroll was the only Catholic signor of the Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776, Catholics weren’t allowed to hold public office or vote by England. Maryland was predominantly Catholic at the time of the Revolutionary War, and founded in 1634 specifically for Catholics. Thomas Fitzsimmons and Daniel Carroll both signed the Constitution.

                    • thebigdog

                      Yes, and one of the brothers of John Carroll was such a good friend of George Washington that he was close to converting to Catholicism toward the end of his life.

            • thebigdog

              It’s sad when simple minded people ignore reality and instead promote bumper sticker schlock, isn’t it Professor Asperger?

              • TheodoreSeeber

                I’d say neurotypicals are more complex minded- but yes, they ignore reality.

        • pmains

          The GOP no more endorses greed than the Democratic Party does. The Democrats have been very successful selling themselves as “compassionate,” though, and many Catholics are now confused. They think that the redistribution of wealth is not only moral but a moral necessity.

          Wrong. Being a communist carries the automatic penalty of ex-communication (see the Pope’s 1949 decree on communism) for the simple reason that it rejects the concept of private property and, by extension, the 7th commandment. If you want to advocate for socialism or “social democracy,” you have the same issue.

          Now, there was a time when government taxes were on a moral basis, but we’re used to government being able to demand arbitrary sums with no moral basis. Very few people have the breadth or depth of knowledge to even begin to think about putting government back on a moral basis. So, our society will continue to decline as we fail to remember that the basics of morality really can be applied to government.

          But, back to your greed comment, criticizing the GOP for being “greedy” almost always pushes us into the wrong direction. It pushes us further into historical illiteracy and moral idiocy. The greediest people in our society are the Democrats who want to siphon money from the working class into the coffers of labor unions, Solyndras and their banking cronies. They are greedy rather than simply ambitious because they wish to take by force that which does not belong to them.

          As far as the GOP advocates free market capitalism, which by definition includes basic respect for the rights and dignity of others, they are not advocating greed. On the other hand, to the extent that they use their authority to enrich defense contractors, their own banking cronies, etc. they are advocating greed.

          • Scott

            Pmains, there is a world of difference between embracing communism and embracing the very Catholic teachings on social justice, which do indeed urge us to provide preferential options, as a society, for the poor. In his homily today, the Holy Father said, ““God asks each one of us: Where is the blood of your brother that cries out to me? Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility. The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference … In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.” Democratic socialism is a very far cry from communism.

            • pmains

              Nope. Read any book on Socialism. Socialism rejects private property as traditionally understood. It embraces the “labor theory of value,” which leads to the theory that workers are being exploited by the owners of capital. As such, it justifies stealing from “capitalists” (owners of productive capital) and giving the the stolen money to the workers. Communism also endorses the labor theory of value, but says all goods should be socialized rather than merely capital goods.

              Social Democracy is just a watered down version of this. Somehow it’s unfair that some people have more than others. We forget why, but we’ll steal from the rich and give to the poor anyway. It grew out of socialism, of course, but it’s lacks any sort of intellectual basis beyond the progressive/positivist impulse toward, “bold, persistent experimentation.” That sort of nonsense should have gone onto the ash heap of history a century ago.

              As far as people not caring about each other and living in soap bubbles … well, that’s an interesting image, I guess. I has nothing whatsoever to do with the argument about capitalism versus socialism, though.

              “Capitalism” is simply an affirmation of traditional justice as endorsed by scripture. Now, if we want to go from justice to charity, great. Let’s do that. But we can’t get rid of the 7th commandment in the process. If we do, we will not have any justice left to complete. The solution, as much as there is a solution, is to be more charitable.

              Futhermore, to address your point on globalization, globalization has lifted millions out of poverty. Compare Chile to its neighbors Brazil and Argentina. Chile wanted a just society. The affirmed private property rights and opened their markets to the world. Now they’re a middle class society. People have been lifted out of poverty. Brazil and Argentina had “good intentions,” and they followed the Social Democracy path. Well, now they have runaway inflation, social turmoil, the Argentinean government cracking down on the free press, etc. Tell me, which is more compassionate? Allowing people to suffer while you follow failed Social Democratic policies, or embracing a globalist, capitalist vision that will lessen poverty and increase the ability of citizens to be more charitable to their brothers and sisters?

              • Gerard_Altermatt

                “‘Capitalism’ is simply an affirmation of traditional justice as endorsed by scripture.”

                That’s beyond exaggeration. Most of the popes from Leo XIII on have admonished unbridled capitalism nearly as much as socialism. But don’t take my word for it–read their encyclicals.

                • Steve Mains

                  I don’t know of any Capitalist who believes in “unbridled capitalism” but I hear that charge whenever capitalism is discussed by those who oppose it. It’s actually just a canard used to cloud, instead of illuminate, the issue. There is no doubt that the encyclicals support capitalism above socialism, and that every thinking person understands that capitalism cannot devolve to anarchy.

                  Give us some names of the unbridled capitalists so we can discuss this with examples, rather than in the abstract.

                  • Gerard_Altermatt

                    Examples? Every capitalist that does not give the working man a just wage (which is every one of them that exploits third world labor). Every capitalist that sees labor as a commodity instead of human beings. Every capitalist that believes there is nothing wrong with making millions of dollars more than is needed to support a family and not using that excess of money for the public good. Every capitalist that believes there is nothing wrong with the separation of capital and labor or that there is nothing wrong with fewer and fewer people owning more and more property (As Chesterton said, “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”). In short, every capitalist who divorces economics from morality. Too abstract? Try Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for starters.

                    • Steve Mains

                      An obviously impassioned opinion, and for that I commend you, but founded on sand. Chesterton was wrong when he said that because he did not take human ingenuity and the tendency of any organization to become inefficient as it grows into account. Look at the history of any industry where a company becomes dominant. Take IBM in the 50’s and 60’s. They were upended by a couple guys in their garage who became the dominant players. But by Chestertonian logic, they should not have existed or they should have driven IBM out of business. Neither is the case.

                      As for your specific examples: What about the millions that Limbaugh gives to and raises for charity each year. I’m not a defender of anything he says or does, but I do give him credit when it is due. Hannity, I just have no data either way

                      I agree that capitalism cannot be divorced from morality, but socialism is by definition divorced from reality, as per the encyclicals.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      My opinion is founded on the encyclicals on social justice, so I guess they are founded on sand as well. If Chesterton and I are wrong, so was Leo XIII who said that private ownership should be distributed as much as possible. This is in direct opposition to what Limbaugh preaches, regardless of what he does with the top 5% of his profits. How do you reconcile that?

                      Your example of IBM and their very VERY few competitors is an argument for the wisdom of Chestoerton’s comment.

                    • Steve Mains

                      I agree that private ownership should be plentiful, and that’s what capitalism does. In any industry you can name, companies grow, become flabby and fail to innovate, providing opportunities for smaller, more nimble competitors. The history of capitalism is not, as Chesterton said, that it drives towards few (or one) owners. Capitalism provides the freedom to innovate and exploit opportunities. That sounds very Limbaugh-esque.

                      There are many competitors to IBM in the marketplace. They were dominant once, but innovation and complacence took its toll. Surprisingly, few of those competitors are from socialist countries; well, not so surprising to capitalists.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      There is a difference between private ownership being plentiful and private owners being plentiful. If you’re honest, you have to admit that our capitalist system does not trend towards more private owners. Look what our capitalistic system has done to family farms. I agree with your statement that capitalism provides the freedom to exploit opportunities; but in practice it also exploits other people through unregulated competition and a drive for unlimited profit. When a person acquires more capital and property than he needs to support a family, it often means another person or family suffers, and not necessarily because they lacked innovation. I come from a rural background and know many an old rancher and farmer that lost his property–not because he didn’t have a work ethic or innovation, but he couldn’t compete with a corporate farms and ranches. This doesn’t just apply to agriculture. What has Walmart done for the many small business owners–and all because they are more efficient at exploiting slave wage-earners overseas. For all the criticism the medieval man takes, maybe he had something right in the guild system.

                    • Steve Mains

                      I appreciate this is dear to your heart because of your rural background but life is about change. If we can produce more food with fewer farmers, we should do that and free the labor to produce other things. My family came from farmers as well. As mechanization improved and became affordable, one relative bought the surrounding farms and farmed a large tract, that previously took 4 families plus his own, virtually by himself. Those families went to other jobs where their skills could be more efficiently used.

                      Part of the issue is the misconception that there is such a thing as unlimited profit. When profit rises, the incentive for others to enter that market increases, limiting that profit. I would also submit that with increased profit there comes increased inefficiency — managers get lazy since they don’t have to watch the pennies; worker inefficiencies are less important because they are covered by the cash coming in. That’s where the opportunities are for smaller, more nimble people. Look at the number of businesses selling through eBay and Amazon who could never be stomped out by Wal-Mart because their margins are just too low. We’re seeing a changing landscape, but not a decrease in opportunity. We just have to adapt, as my farmer ancestors did. The pie is growing.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      It’s not about producing more food with fewer farmers, it’s about producing the same amount of food (but of a lower quality) with fewer farmers. It also has little to do with mechanization and less labor to accomplish the same work. The number of farms and ranches has drastically fallen in the last two or three decades, which has nothing to do with technology. It is because of large agribusinesses that can produce, ship and sell things cheaper and even absorb losses if they need to until the small farmer goes belly up and loses his farm to a corporation. At the same time they influence government regulation to make it even harder for the small farms and ranches. In short they reduce competition–the very thing that the capitalist “ideal” supposedly cherishes.

                      You say the times are changing, that people need to adapt, that they need to use their skills elsewhere. That is just a nice way of saying that fewer and fewer workers should be owners–the separation of capital and labor. This is exactly what the popes preached against. And this is exactly why I ask how you can reconcile practical capitalism with Church teachings. I’m not asking how YOU reconcile your OWN personal life. I’m sure you a good and faithful person and do your best to follow church teaching. But your complete confidence in an economic system that produces the very situation that the Church admonishes is what needs reconciling.

                      Perhaps I should frame the argument in another way: Leo XIII wrote in Rerum Novarum, “The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.”. I have two questions related to this: 1) do you agree with the Leo XIII and 2) do you honestly believe the capitalistic system we have in practice enables this or does it make it less possible?

                    • Steve Mains

                      Your suppositions on the farms and small businesses don’t seem to fit the facts. Farm output in the US increased 170% between 1948 and 2009 according to the USDA, so it is about increased food production with fewer farmers; farmers who could put their talents to use elsewhere. The number of businesses in the US has increased steadily, growing 20% between 1988 and 2007, with 90% of those small businesses (<20 employees); a number that is remarkably stable (per stats published by the SBA).

                      Where is this consolidation of ownership? Certainly small farms were consolidated into large, but overall small businesses are being established and growing. In other words: there are more owners now than 25 years ago. You put words into my mouth that adaptation means submission, but I said and meant the opposite. And the facts prove my case.

                      Could we be more friendly towards businesses to lower the barriers to entry? Sure. We have the 4th highest corporate tax rate in the world and the 35th highest personal tax rate (at which most small businesses are taxed). If those were lower, it would be easier to become a business owner. But cutting tax rates is called greedy, don't you know?

                      Not only do I agree with Pope Leo XIII, I can show that, in the US, we are living what he said we should by increasing ownership across the board — I just wish we did it even more and stopped appealing to emotional arguments that stand in the way in order to gain political advantage.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      “Farm output in the US increased 170% between 1948 and 2009 according to the USDA, so it is about increased food production with fewer farmers”. This may be true but a more important stat would be production per unit of land. A lot has changed since 1948 with technology (especially crop engineering) that is available to both the small farmer and corporate farms. While corporate farms can certainly produce higher yields of certain crops (and hence, cheaper and driving the market down–which is how they eliminate the small farmer) it is debatable whether the overall production per unit is higher

                      Regardless, the purpose of our life is not to produce food more efficiently, but to get to heaven. It is no coincidence that the demise of our agrarian society has coincided with our moral decline:

                      “Not only do I agree with Pope Leo XIII, I can show that, in the US, we are living what he said we should by increasing ownership across the board” The U.S. came into existence after capitalism came into existence, so even if there was improvement in ownership, the percentage of owners could still be way out of whack. Find me a statistic that shows that in any modern capitalistic society, there is a higher percentage of families that are supported by businesses they own than there was prior to the advent of capitalism (which is largely a phenomena related to the Protestant Reformation) and you’ll make a believer out of me. Heck find me the same statistics for the U.S. for the difference in time periods between Leo XIII and the present.

                    • Steve Mains

                      It took a while, but we have finally reached the place that is frustratingly familiar to me when discussing economics and morality with a distributist. Doesn’t matter how the assertions a distributist makes fail to hold water, there is a certainty of the position in the face of all facts to the contrary that blames all society’s ills on “the system.”

                      The articles you cite are long on opinion but free of evidence. Show me how small farms are more productive than large. I’m ready to believe, but the article left the details out and relied on bland assertions. Show me the golden age of morality that we have fallen from (citing specifics) and relate that trajectory to the loss of the family farm, rather than posit a correlation and provide an evidence free link. Show me the the evidence linking poverty with ennoblement.

                      Distributists are great at identifying symptoms but fail to even try to grasp the problem. The issue is not in our economic system, it is within ourselves. The answer is not to keep people impoverished on subsistence farms or in hovels with furniture they had to make themselves, but to teach the values of how wealth is created and what money is really for.

                      I’m not convinced that life was better or more moral before the reformation (again, please provide the evidence) but I do believe that the growth of two parents working outside the home has had a deleterious effect on the family and led to many of our current problems (and unlike the correlation with loss of the family farm, I can actually show causality linking the two). That isn’t a result of capitalism, that’s a result of the choices made by individual families. None of the families I know who insisted that both parents had to work were more than marginally better off financially as a result. They could have allowed one parent stay home and nurture the children, but they chose to do otherwise. It wasn’t an economic decision brought on by evil capitalists. Not really.

                      But Distributists have to have someone to blame. It has to be “the system.” So they have devised a pseudo-economics that, in its best form mirrors capitalism and in its worst, socialism. To distinguish itself from capitalism it insists that there exists unbridled capitalism, which is a strawman. To keep itself from being socialist, it posits that no one should be allowed earn more than they need, without defining that entity who would decide how much is too much.

                      The intellectual vacuousness wrapped in arrogant condescension towards anyone who would disagree with a Distributist is phenomenal. The lack of evidence provided to support an opinion other than, well, Chesterton said it, is disappointing.

                      Go ahead and believe what you like in the face of documented facts. But just ponder that we don’t make people holy by making them poor, we make them holy by teaching them to be holy and convincing them that it is worth the effort. That is a far better task than trying to convince them that they should give up the basics of electricity, heat and indoor plumbing when what they need can be won while retaining all those gifts from God.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      Yes, we have reached that frustratingly familiar point when the distributist meets up with the capitalist, who, though professing to be thoroughly Catholic has never bothered to read the encyclicals dealing with Catholic social teaching upon which distributism is based. Or, if he has accidently been exposed to portions of them, he (as one poster here) dismisses all of it as having been written by dead popes a century ago (a rather interesting reply from a professed Catholic). Rather than learn something about distributism, they prefer the easy road of beating the hell out of a straw man, usually by making ignorant comparisons with socialists statists, Amish or feudal serfs. You apparent understanding of distributism or even the basic social teachings of the Church is more than I can deal with in this reply, but I will answer a few points.

                      1) Has it occurred to you that many of the assertions from capitalists, when honestly examined, also do not hold water? Self-examination is a hard thing but it is always good to challenge your way of thinking, especially when it is not very congruent with the teaching of the Church.

                      2) The crux of my argument is not that family farms are more productive. Jesus did not say “blessed are the productive, for they shall inherite the Kingdom of Earth”. The purpose of everything we do is ordered to one end–eternal happiness with God. There are real spiritual and temporal advantages when a man labors on something that belongs to him. If you would read the encyclicals you would know this. If we are just concerned about production, let’s put 10-yr olds back to work in factories for 12 hrs a day.

                      3) I do not blame “the system” for all of society’s ills. I blame our fallen nature. But nor do I exempt economics from the moral law as many capitalists do. “the system” is merely a manifestation of our fallen nature in the economic realm. Why should we not want to change it?

                      4) I do not maintain that there was ever a “golden age of morality” since the Fall. However, I shouldn’t have to point out to you the moral decline in the last few centuries with a precipitous fall in the last 50 years. If you can’t acknowledge that, than we have no common ground for an argument. There would have been no need to have even written the article we are commenting on even 50 yrs ago. As for showing you evidence linking poverty with enoblement, I’ll refer you to a certain teacher from Galilee.

                      5) “The answer is not to keep people impoverished on subsistence farms or in hovels with furniture they had to make themselves, but to teach the values of how wealth is created and what money is really for.” That’s a very revealing statement. Distributism was in part a response to impoverished conditions of the worker BECAUSE he didn’t own what he was working on. And I am writing this post on a table I built with my own hands and really don’t feel like I’m impoverished because of it–quite the opposite. Please tell me–what is money really for?

                      6) I grant you that both parent working out of the home is not a direct result of capitalism–it is one of the ills of socialism. However, most capitalists readily embrace it, and it illuminates one of the similarities between capitalism and socialism: a misunderstanding of what man is.

                      7) “The intellectual vacuousness wrapped in arrogant condescension towards anyone who would disagree with a Distributist is phenomenal.” He without sin, cast the first stone.

                      8) “The lack of evidence provided to support an opinion other than, well, Chesterton said it, is disappointing.” Chesterton was only echoing what Leo XIII said. Leo was only observing the evidence of a system pre-existing capitalis that, while not perfect, bore better fruits than capitalism.

                      9) “That is a far better task than trying to convince them that they should give up the basics of electricity, heat and indoor plumbing when what they need can be won while retaining all those gifts from God.” If you think this is what distributism is, you should be embarrassed. If you know this is not what distributism is, you should be more embarrassed.

                    • Steve Mains

                      Ahhh, now come the ad hominem attacks. I guess that’s the easy way out, and a usual refuge of Distributists, including those who write at the Chesterton Society.

                      Easier than providing any evidence that what I have said is out of line with Church teachings and the writings of Leo XIII.

                      Easier than supporting or modifying your own examples when contrary evidence is provided. I personally would find it hard to provide an example then not be ready to defend it, but that’s me.

                      Easier than explaining how something like national electrification would develop without either big government or big business employing thousands of “wage slaves” or, if they did, who and by what mechanism would ensure that they hired “just enough” but not too many.

                      Easier than explaining how we can support “wage slavery” for a few required to develop electrical, water and gas grids for the betterment of the many while decrying the wage slavery for those who have had to leave their family farms (many of whom would be the same people).

                      Easier than thinking it through before declaring Jesus’ poverty to be ennobling when He was poor because he was noble (Holy, really), not the other way around.

                      Easier than showing any evidence that man was more moral centuries ago instead of taking it as a certainty because it fits your narrative.

                      But, go ahead, take the easy way out. I, sadly, haven’t learned anything from this exchange because you don’t support your assertions even to the point of running away from them when challenged. But I’m open to someone, anyone, explaining to me how Distributism would really work as long as they start from the reality of where we are and where we have been.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      I’m not sure you understand what “ad hominem” means, but I’m pretty sure you followed that statement with an ad hominem attack on distributists. I’m always puzzled by the animosity shown by some capitalist Catholics towards a system that expressly tries its best to pattern economics after the gospel and the teachings of the Church. Is it a guilty conscience?

                      Since you are open to someone explaining distributism, I’ll be happy to address your indictments one by one (though somehow I don’t think you are as open as you like to believe). I’ll take each of your “Easier than…” statements in order (as this post is already going to be long, I will not expound on them unless requested):

                      1) To be honest you’ve not said a lot about capitalism that contradicts Church teaching–capitalist Catholics never like to talk about those aspects of Capitalism that the Church denounces, much less defend them. But since you seem to be defending capitalism as we know it and is practiced in this country, unless you indicate otherwise (such as admitting that CEOs should not pay themselves immoral salaries), I have to assume you defend capitalism as an economic system. I am merely trying to challenge that system using Church teachings. I can give you excerpts from the social teaching encyclicals that denounce a host of commonly held tenets of capitalism if that is what you want

                      If there is one thing that you have said that seems to contradict Church teaching, it is your remark concerning the demise of small farms. Your complacency with the fact that there are far fewer owners of land (something that was front and center in Rerum Novarum) and suggestion that displaced farmers could “put their talents to use elsewhere” seems to contradict what the Vicars of Christ have taught about widspread ownership and the purpose of labor (that it should not be considered solely for its economic purpose). I can expound on this if you would like, and give you quotations.

                      2) I honestly don’t know where I’ve ran away from my assertions when challenged, so you’ll have to point that out to me. If I have not given supporting evidence, it was for the sake of space, so show me where I am deficient and I will remedy it. I’m also unaware of the contrary evidence you’ve given. You gave me a few statistics that were not particularly convincing, especially since your comparisons in time are capitalism v. capitalism. For instance it makes little difference in this argument if there was a 20% increase in the number of small businesses in the last few decades (of course we don’t even know if these businesses actually support families or how much is due to mere population increase). As an analogy, if an economic system resulted in 90% unemployment, would a 20% improvement be reason to celebrate the success of that system or would you still realize it was broken?

                      3) The distributist would admit nothing wrong with government taking under its charge a nation-wide project that is ordered to the common good–such as electrification. However that task should always be given to the most local government possible. There is nothing inherently wrong with businesses being large when they need to be. What is wrong is the extremity of the separation between the capital and labor within that business. There are examples of successful large businesses that are owned by the laborers. I can provide these to you if you are interested.

                      4) I’ll have to admit I completely missed the “wage slavery” point–you’ll have to be a little more clear. If you are implying that large projects for the common good are not profitable for private industry, that is one of the reasons for the existence of government and why you pay taxes.

                      5) I wasn’t referring to Jesus’s own poverty I was referring to his teachings on the spiritual disadvantage of seeking material wealth, which is found throughout the gospels as well as the rest of the NT. I’ll provide chapter and verse if you desire.

                      6) Individually man was no more or less moral centuries ago than today. The difference is that since the Reformation and especially the Enlightenment, we, as a society, justify our sinful actions. We still sin, but don’t call it sin. We call the disordered ordered, the unnatural natural, and even the unholy holy. Can you point to a particular sin that had become institutionalized in society to the point of being condoned or even promoted by the state prior to the Reformation? I can list at least a half dozen that have now. I’ll name them if you like.

                      If you could take a complete reprobate from the the height of Christendom and bring him into modern times, he would probably not be shocked at individual immorality, but would undoubtedly be floored by the societal embrace of that behavior. He would probably be most floored by the substitution of man as the ultimate and absolute authority. Let’s remember the point of this article. Do you honestly think Obama would have been elected by Catholics in the 13th century? I don’t know what kind of evidence you need. It’s like the child asking for evidence that the sky is blue.

                    • Steve Mains

                      Let me take the wage slavery point first as that’s the weakest tenet of distributism. Large projects for the public good sound very noble, but how do they really work? Let’s take electrification. Who runs the plants that build the cable and electrical switching equipment? Who decides how large the companies can be? How is that enforced? Who works in those factories and who strings the cables across the nation? Can we justify the workers working for someone else — a capitalist or the government — in those situations when we say that each should be working for himself? I guess it’s OK that they slave away next to the smelter since it’s for the common good.

                      If we take distributism to its logical (and stated) conclusion where each person works for himself and lives from his own production, then we agree to live in the dark ages. No hospitals (can’t build them, remember, because that would require laborers working for a contracting company), can’t wire them for power; don’t even think about trying to develop new vaccines because they require the same facilities and advanced equipment built in the same manner.

                      What we need is a more honest view of capitalism. And that brings us back to the point of the article. How do we reclaim the Catholic vote? We quit demonizing the economic system that has brought the most people out of poverty as something evil. All that does is provide cover for those who would cling to socialism and justify their votes for the party of death because they mistakenly believe that there is more social justice in socialism. Capitalism is supported by Church teachings as much as abortion is prohibited. There really is not a debate on that. If you disagree, show me where that is wrong; with evidence.

                      Capitalism can be described like democracy — the worst economic system except for the others. I submit, however, that the perceived failures are failures of ourselves, not the system.

                      As far as your pining for the height of Christendom, once again I’ll ask when that was. Set a date and provide evidence that people were more moral then. Look at the depravity in the Church which spawned the Reformation. Age of Enlightenment? That was the unjust society that drove the Founding Fathers to form their own country. 13th Century? You mean with the sack of Constantinople, 100 years of fighting between France and England and continuous conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor? Were the people then more moral than we? Show me.

                      I agree that I don’t like the depravity I see today, but again it is supported by the party of death — complete license, no limits on any personal or professional conduct, unless its a 42 oz soft drink, then its bad, but gay marriage, abortion, unlimited support by the government which destroys initiative and the family, that’s all OK. If only we weren’t demonizing the side that stands for personal responsibility when that is part and parcel of social justice as the words are defined, not as they’ve come to be used by many in the Church as justification for socialism.

                      Show me the parts of capitalism that the Church denounces then show me the Capitalists who support them. Before you say, again, unbridled capitalism, show me anyone who supports that.

                      Don’t like the numbers I have presented that the current system is not destroying small businesses, then show me yours. Tell me what the numbers should be.

                      Show me why the small farm is more noble than my small business. Why should the government be putting policies in place to support family farms at the expense of others? We should prevent placing any barriers on business starts regardless of what they produce. By the laws of economics the labor and capital will flow to what is most needed; that’s where we need the people to work. Raising the farm over city family businesses is nothing but government meddling based on false memories of lost bliss — in 1900, according the the US census, there were as many hired farm hands as there were family farmers. Guess the system wasn’t as friendly to spreading ownership as some think.

                      Would Obama been elected in the 13th Century? Bread and circuses. Of course he would have been.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      You’ve posed many questions, so this post will be necessarily long if I am to avoid the accusation of dodging the issues. I will attempt to answer point by point:

                      1) Your point about wage slavery is really not a about wage slavery at all. It seems to be more about whether a man works for himself or someone else. A man can work for someone else and not be a wage slave. The wage slavery issue is concerned with the amount a man is paid for his labor. Frankly, if that is the weakest tenet of distributism, your argument is in trouble. Regardless, all the questions you pose in this question, while not concerned with wage slavery, are irrelevant when you consider my next point.

                      2) The conclusion that each person works for himself and lives from his own production is neither logical or stated. Neither Catholic social doctrine or distributism has ever suggested this. There will always be a necessity for laborers to work for something they don’t own. What they have advocated is that this should be minimized to the extent possible, that productive property be distributed as much as possible-, and that laborers be payed enough to support their families while putting away enough money to someday become owners if they desire.

                      3) Can hospitals be built without large companies formed and operated on capitalistic principles? The magnificent cathedrals built during that period of history for which you seem to have such much disdain were built by tradesmen and laborers who would be much more familiar with the principles of distributism than capitalism. Hospitals today could easily be built by an economy formed around the principles of distributism. Wiring for power can be accomplished by a group of electricians who are owners of the company as well–meaning they would have more incentive to do a better job. These electricians could be part of an electricians guild that would guard against unskilled workers and shoddy work. In short, the hospitals would not only be built, but they would be built better.

                      4) Yes, let’s return to the point of the article–how to regain the Catholic vote. We do it by getting rid of cafeteria Catholicism. But this applies both to those on the left and the right. Those on the left are justifiably criticized for rejecting Church teachings on sexuality. But what of those on the right that reject the Church teachings on economic issues? Are they not cafeteria Catholics as well? And do “Catholic” politicians (i.e. Paul “Rand” Ryan) not also turn away potential Catholic votes because they do not uphold Catholic social teachings? We’ve got to get over defending everything about capitalism because of the fear that socialism is the only other alternative (that’s what enabled the Nazi party to come to power in Germany).

                      5) “Capitalism is supported by Church teachings as much as abortion is prohibited. There really is not a debate on that.” Apparently, nobody got that message to the Vicars of Christ. John Paul II: “Catholic social doctrine is not a surrogate for capitalism. In fact, although decisively condemning “socialism,” the church, since Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, has always distanced itself from capitalistic ideology, holding it responsible for grave social injustices.”

                      6) “I submit, however, that the perceived failures are failures of ourselves, not the system.” First, are they perceived failures or just failures? Second, of course they are failures of ourselves. But economic systems are social systems; hence they come about because of human will. Capitalism, as much as almost all but the most honest capitalists would like to believe, is not a natural system, like physics. The moral goodness or badness of an economic system is a function of the moral goodness or badness of the humans that perpetuate it. The system can fail because humans can fail.

                      7) Regarding the morality of humans today vs. humans of yesteryear, I believe I’ve already addressed that, but I’ll repeat it. It’s not so much that sin has changed any, but the acceptance of sin as a society. I think if you would not have dodged the question I posed to you regarding that, you’d have your answer. However, if you want a date, yes, I’ll suggest the 13th century (btw, neither the sack of Constantinople or the Hundred Years War occurred in that century–they fall into the era of the advent of capitalism). Was it without it’s faults? Of course not. But western civilization was united under the faith, and because of it, there were not the political, social and religious problems that we now have. Yes, the Holy Roman Emperors and the popes disagreed, but that is actually in favor of my argument. The Emperor disagreed with the Pope because the Pope MATTERED! There is no such thing today because a) there are no holy emperors (the last “holy” emperor, Blessed Charles of Austria, was exiled because he actually took seriously the popes’ social doctrine) and b) the unholy “emperors” we have today completely ignore the Pope.

                      8) The depravity you see today is supported by LIBERALISM. It only differs in degree whether it stems from an extreme liberalism (the progressive democrats) or moderate liberalism (“conservative” republicans).

                      9) Showing the parts of sapitalism that the Church denounces is easy; showing the capitalists that support them is a little harder. Why? Because a) the Church’s teachings regarding these parts are clear, but b) the defense of capitalism, especially by Catholic capitalists, is not. Capitalism is a chameleon. The definition of capitalism varies greatly from person to person and even from the same person with different audiences. When challenged by Catholic social teachings, the capitalist apologist paints a picture of an idealistic system that bears very little resemblance to capitalism as practiced.

                      John Paul II stated it well: “If by capitalism is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a business economy, market economy, or simply free economy. But if by capitalism is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.”

                      Is there such a thing as unbridled capitalism? Some of the popes have used that very term to describe systems that have existed or are existing now. The capitalist may give himself an out by saying (technically, without equivocation) that a completely laissez faire capitalism does not exist. But to the extent that that capitalism “is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework…”, it is, to that extent, unbridled.

                      So rather than having a pointless argument without defining terms, perhaps you should explain to me what you believe capitalism to be. Perhaps you are really a distributist and don’t know it:)

                      Without your definition of capitalism, I cannot tell you if the Church rejects it. For instance, do you accept or reject the following generally acknowledged principles of capitalism which most capitalists would argue are morally acceptable or at least morally indifferent:

                      a) The enormous fortunes of individuals

                      b) A skewed distribution of productive property or means of production resulting in fewer owners and more laborers

                      c) Wages that are fixed by free consent

                      d) Absolute private property rights

                      e) Interest on unproductive loans

                      f) Excluding laborers from a share in profits

                      g) Free competition and markets as the primary controlling principle in economic affairs.

                      h) Profits as a measure of success for a business

                      i) The “survival of the fittests” through free competition

                      j) There is no imparitive to foster small farms and businesses (production should be the bottom line)

                      k) An economy that is dominated and managed by only a few persons

                      l) profit as teh key motive for economic progress

                      m) Markets that operate independently from considerations of the common good.

                      n) Democratic capitalism cannot in principle be a Christian system

                      As for the small farm being more noble than your small business–I think you’ve missed the point.

                      Obama would not have been elected in the 13th century–he would have been excommunicated.

                    • Steve Mains

                      Again, I think you have avoided the points I made by misreading my historical examples (google “Constantinople 1204” and the Treaty of Paris in 1259 which ended 100 years of fighting, both within the 13th Century), by engaging in wishful thinking (modern hospitals could be built by a medieval guild (OK, so why aren’t they, anywhere), ignoring the tenets of distributism (“earn a living without having to rely on the use of the property of others to do so,” that eliminates anyone working in a factory) and misrepresenting the tenets of capitalism (excluding laborers from a share of the profits — except salaries come before profits in any business).

                      You also dismiss arguments without providing your own input — “as for small farm…I think you’ve missed the point” but you don’t say why. I don’t hear any distributist (including you) supporting my business. All I hear is pining for a different age.

                      A good dictionary will provide an explanation of an ad hominem attack so you’ll know that it is not one when I say that this is a very typical kind of exchange with distributists. I have honestly tried to understand what the attraction is, but it seems more emotional than intellectual; founded on a need for a “better system” instead of personal responsibility.

                      Well, maybe someone will explain distributism logically someday.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      What points have I avoided? I think I’ve been very careful to address all of your points. Were they addressed to you satisfaction? Probably not. But then if Christ himself were to come down and explain the social teachings to you, I wonder if it would be to your satisfaction.

                      Whether we are talking about the siege of Constantinople in 1204 or the far more horrific sack of that city in 1453, it is just as moot a distinction as whether we are talking about the Plantagenet/Capetian conflict or the much larger Hundred Years War. The point is, man will always engage in war (its part of the effects of original sin), but the nature of conflicts have changed. All the European conflict casualties of the 12th century probably do not equal one single WWI battle, where capitalist countries sent men onto the battlefield with about the same regard for human worth as they sent men to factories. But then you’ve already admitted you lost this part of argument when you couldn’t answer my question–which I now ask for the 3rd time in case you’ve forgotten: How many inherent evils can you name that had become institutionalized in society to the point of being condoned or even promoted by the state prior to the Reformation? I’ll bet I can come up with six modern ones for every one of yours.

                      Once again, I will address all of your points. Of course medieval guilds could not build modern hospitals, but modern guilds could. Why aren’t they? Because capitalism effectively ended guilds, mainly by introducing a new system of thinking that separated morality and economy. They can and should be restored. Your dismissal of guilds is just one more way that you diverge from Catholic Social Teaching. Part of it, I think, is your honest misunderstanding of what guilds are and why the Church has advocated them. I suggest you start here:

                      Distributism does not now and never has had as a tenet that everyone has to earn a living solely from their own property. I’ve told you this before, but you apparently refuse to believe. So, I challenge you to show me where this has been stated by any distributist.

                      I have also not misrepresented the tenets of capitalism. Capitalism, as practiced, does not share the profits with laborers. If it did, laborers would earn more when profits rose, and earn less if profits fell. In Capitalism, wages are based on contract. If you want to think that profits are “shared”, they are only shared according to power and not justice. How else can you explain the CEO of Walmart paying himself $25 million, while employees do not earn enough to support a family (and this is not an anomaly).

                      The reason I say that you missed the point about small farms vs. your small business is that their is no “versus”. Distributism stands up for the small businessman regardless of the occupation. When did I say I didn’t support your business? You are building up straw men faster than I can keep track of them! There is no pining for another age, rather there is pining for certain social order and moral standards that existed in another age. There is nothing wrong with that.

                      Merriam Webster’s definitions for ad hominum” 1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect 2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made. For instance, if someone asserted that a distributist’s arguments are ad hominum simply because that is the usual refuge of a distributist, that would itself be ad hominum. Completely hypothetic example, of course.

                      Unfortunately, you have avoided most of my points, particularly the most important one. I asked you to define what you believe capitalism to be by affirming or denying a list of tenets that I gave. Until you can do that, there is no point in continuing this discussion.

                      Perhaps this is all in vain anyway, since if the arguments of Chesteron, Belloc, and all the popes from Leo XIII to Francis (you know, all those morons that were more emotional than intellectual and advocated personal irresponsibility) are not logical to you, I certainly don’t think I will do any better. Of course the problem could not be with you.

                      Or you could save us both a lot of time and just be honest and admit that you don’t agree with Catholic social teachings as expressed by the Magisterium,

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      Sorry to belabor this, but who do you reconcile your capitalistic ideology with those encyclicals on social justice?

                    • Steve Mains

                      I reconcile it the same way that the Church does. I help my fellow man. I give to charities of my time and treasure. I ensure that the working conditions of my employees are clean and safe. I deal fairly with my employees on matters of compensation. I aggressively go after new business to grow mine, but I have never acted unethically to win that business. In short, I am just like the capitalists that I deal with every day. I’ve never met an “unbridled capitalist” who believes that there should be no regulation of the marketplace any more than I’ve ever met an unbridled motorist who thinks there should be no traffic laws. Met a few crooks, but I chose not to do business with them. I think I am living by all the encyclicals.

                      The only thing I fear is the people who use social justice as a stalking horse for socialism. They could easily tax my little business out of existence, then where would my people go? Oh yes, the government will take care of them.

                    • Alecto

                      You presume to know what exists in the hearts and minds of every capitalist? You know what the public good is or a fair wage? You won’t ever get any agreement about a fair wage, which is why you continue to use it as a hammer. But, a fair wage is a squishy concept because it is dependent on time, skill level and geographical location. Those evil capitalists you decry have lifted a billion, yes, that is a BILLION people out of poverty in the Third World through trade and opportunity. They have created jobs, good jobs and facilitated freedom for so many people they deserve respect for that. The Catholic Church should focus on building opportunity, building trade with other countries, and self-sufficiency through self-employment: the most empowering economic phenomenon in the world.

                      I can tell you a fair market wage is far more important that a so-called fair wage, because it can be objectively determined: it’s the intersection between supply and demand at a given price on a graph. To that point, why are Catholic bishops then advocating importation of 50 million more people to the U.S. who are driving down those “just” wages? Why are Catholics advocating confiscatory tax policies which have the effect of driving people out of small business, out of their homes, out of their savings and making them dependent on corrupt government? Sounds like the same bunch of control freaks from high school, thank God I had a self-employed father. They never ran a business in their lives, never risked a dollar of their hard-earned savings, but want to lecture everybody else about abstractions like “justice” or “fairness”. As if they’d even recognize it!

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      I don’t claim to know the hearts and minds of every capitalist. My criticism is of the system, not of individuals–that is, unless those individuals (such as Rush Limbaugh) advocate ideologies that are in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Church. Non of you can still give me a quote from any of those encyclicals that support the the financial system of capitalism that we have in practice today in this country (notice I said in practice, not what exists in your mind). Do I know what a fair wage is? No. But I’m pretty sure when I buy a ridiculously cheap piece of furniture at Walmart, some poor sucker somewhere (and mostly likely not in this country) is not getting a fair wage. In fact they are being kept in poverty so that a large coorporation can make a huge profit. You know this is true. Your fair-market wage, distinct from a fair wage, is exactly what enables this injustice, and it is condemned by the Church. Tell a child of a factory worker in a third world country that can’t put enough food on the table that “justice” is an abstraction. Read Rerum Novarum!

                    • Alecto

                      People possess tremendous power over their own lives, yet fail to exercise it. You have a choice to shop at Walmart or not. You do not have the authority to deny others the choice to shop at Walmart, or decide for others what a fair wage is or what is “just” (a subjective concept). If that person chooses to work at the factory, it is because he earns more relative to other choices before him. I like Rush Limbaugh, and I find him entertaining. That doesn’t mean I base my personal economic decisions on his advocacy any more than I base them on what a dead pope wrote a century ago.

                      The Catholic Church you depict is despotic, immoral and would enslave everyone by compelling its vision of life on Earth. I don’t believe in that Church. I believe in one that acknowledges my free will. If the Church is nothing more than a substitute for the State, people are right to leave it for something that offers eternal justice, not its vision of temporal justice.

                    • Gerard_Altermatt

                      Alecto, I’m happy that you’ve found a Church where the ultimate authority, whose will must be acknowledged by that Church, can be readily observed in the nearest mirror. I hope it serves you well. As for me, I’ll continue to try to base my moral decisions, economic or otherwise, on the writings of popes, alive or dead; and at my judgment, I shall throw myself at the feet of my Lord and trust that he will show me mercy for listening to the those whom he gave the keys to the kingdom. I hope we shall meet merrily in heaven.

                  • Gerard_Altermatt

                    I may have missed something, so please quote the part of any of these encyclicals that support the financial system that practically exists today in this country that we call capitalism (and by that I don’t mean support certain facets of this system, such as private ownership). The problem with economic thought today is the false choice between either socialism or capitalism, as if nothing else existed–even though something else did exist until the demise of Christendom.

                    • Alecto

                      Actually, the system we have currently is Statism, not capitalism, which I categorically reject on the basis the word was invented by Karl Marx. The United States when founded had a free enterprise system, under which the individual’s efforts produced economic results. Statism is an unholy alliance between centralized government and large corporate interests which squeeze out small business, penalize individual effort, squash creativity and innovation. That is not free enterprise, ask any small business person!

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                Social Democracy seems to be approved by Populorum Progressio – “33. Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development. We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for “directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating” the work of individuals and intermediary organizations.

                It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity. But they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organizations are involved in this work. In this way they will avoid total collectivization and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.”

                It also teaches ““If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation. Vatican II affirms this emphatically…”

                • pmains

                  Several things.

                  What is a “public authority”? I would submit that a just authority is not whoever has been most successful in cowing his neighbors into submission. I would not want Fidel Castro — or for that matter, Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama — laying “down the desired goals,” etc. for society. Nor would such planning advance the common good or “progress.”

                  Is the assumption here that capitalism only involves individual initiative? I hear this a lot, and frequently from the same people who decry corporations. Corporations are bodies of people with mutual rights and obligations, much like any just society. For this reason, the private and public spheres (and, hence, public and private authorities) over time have been blurrier than we think of them today. Frederic William Maitland discusses this interplay in “Township and Borrough,” albeit in the context of feudal and quasi-feudal English society.

                  Finally, the reference to landed estates gives the game away. A key assumption of socialist theory is that free markets lead to centralized accumulation of capital, much in the way that ownership of land was centralized under feudal systems. It seemed reasonable enough in the era of trusts that the “large capitalists” would rise up, seize power and never be displaced. A century on, that idea is laughable, but that’s why socialists called it capitalism, whereas early opponents of socialism merely called it “commerce”. So, if you start out with the incorrect assumption that free markets lead to the “capitalism” of socialist imagination, then, sure, that would be a dangerous thing. Even Barry Goldwater, a libertarian and conservative icon, warned about the, “concentrations of power, private or public” in his 1964 GOP nomination acceptance speech.

                  But feudalism was largely based on force and violence — not “free interplay” of market actors. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that the results were different than a market system which is based on mutual respect and the rule of law.

                  The more I look at that last paragraph, the more I notice weasel words. It’s not that they’re wrong. It’s that they’re empty. The “interests of the country?” So, the Poles of the solidarity movement should have fretted about the future of the Soviet Union, or is it possible that not every nation-state is worth having its interests looked after and so “country” is more a term of art than anything else? The “common good?” How would that be determined? I don’t think Bentham’s work on that turned out as he’d hoped. Nobody has a developed a system so far that hasn’t led to the tyranny. So, the paragraph collapses on itself. If you actually try to indulge in an “Animal Farm” type fantasy, you inevitably lose “human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.”

                  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                    Yes, corporations can be resolved into the individuals who compose them, hence the famous declaration of August 18, 1792: “A State that is truly free ought not to suffer within its bosom any corporation, not even such as, being dedicated to public instruction, have merited well of the country.”

                    The Le Chapelier Law of June 14 1791 had already made it clear that “The guild no longer exists in the state. There exist only the particular interests of each individual and the general interest. No one is permitted to encourage an intermediate interest that separates citizens from the common interest through a corporate spirit.” No intermediary body could stand between the individual – now armed with his natural rights – and the nation – now the guarantor of natural rights

                    • pmains

                      I hate to poison the well, but the French Revolutionaries — a profoundly atheistic and specifically anti-Catholic movement — should not be imputed that much moral authority.

                      Furthermore, a corporation cannot truly be resolved to its individuals. It involves mutual rights and responsibilities. As such, it has been necessary to treat corporations as unified entities for the purpose of assessing liability and so forth. This is not absolute, of course, and our common law system does allow us to “pierce the corporate veil” under certain circumstances.

                      This is why the Church created universities — dedicated to public instruction — as perhaps the first modern corporations or “personae fictae.” Labor unions would be another example of church-sanctioned corporations.

                      But if you want an all-powerful government, you need to make sure that those pesky citizens don’t organize alternative institutions to thwart your utopian plans, which is why the French Revolutionaries feared corporations. Of course, if you have an all-powerful government acting as the “guarantor of natural rights,” with no other institutions allowed to grow up and act as counterweights, you will have tyranny, which is what the French Revolution predictably spawned.

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                      Well, try Jefferson.

                      “This principle, that the earth belongs to the living and not to the dead, is of very extensive application and consequences in every country, and most especially in France. It enters into the resolution of the questions, whether the nation may change the descent of lands holden in tail; whether they may change the appropriation of lands given anciently to the church, to hospitals, colleges, orders of chivalry, and otherwise in perpetuity; whether they may abolish the charges and privileges attached on lands, including the whole catalogue, ecclesiastical and feudal; it goes to hereditary offices, authorities and jurisdictions, to hereditary orders, distinctions and appellations, to perpetual monopolies in commerce, the arts or sciences, with a long train of et ceteras; renders the question of reimbursement, a question of generosity and not of right. In all these cases, the legislature of the day could authorize such appropriations and establishments for their own time, but no longer; and the present holders, even where they or their ancestors have purchased, are in the case of bona fide purchasers of what the seller had no right to convey.”

                    • pmains

                      So, Jefferson believed that government granted (and seized) privileges and monopolies need not be respected in perpetuity. Fine. That’s what I’ve been advocating. I believe in free enterprise rather than a government-planned economy. So TJ and I are in agreement on that. Actually, Ayn Rand has an essay on the morality of Robin Hood that discusses this. So, we can go across the political spectrum — from the French Revolution syndicalists to Ayn Rand — and find broad agreement on this point.

                      What I don’t see is where he says that people shouldn’t be allowed to work together, form contracts and establish mutual rights and responsibilities without first having been ordered to do so by government. If I am to take your argument seriously, I would have to believe that the Catholic Church opposes subversive corporate bodies like the Knights of Columbus.

                      Furthermore, the Founding Fathers, when they resisted “taxation without representation,” they were fighting against specific violations of their colonial charters. The king had broken his contract with the colonists. These colonies were sort of like corporations and sort of like governments. In that sense, they were a very just system until King George (and Parliament) decided to unilaterally violate the terms of agreement. So, Jefferson would not (and did not) categorically say, “government is good and corporations are bad.”

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                      The defining characteristic of a corporation is perpetual succession; it can outlast those who now compose it. Jefferson, in the letter to Madison I quoted, rejects that notion. Earlier, he says, “no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation: they may manage it, then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters, too, of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please. But persons and property make the sum of the objects of government. The constitution and the laws of their predecessors are extinguished then, in their natural course, with those whose will gave them being… Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of thirty-four years.” That is why Jefferson introduced legislation in Virginia, forbidding entails; they turn the family into a quasi-corporation by limiting property to people in succession.

                      In this, he is echoing Abbé Sieyès, who insisted that the earth belongs to those who are on it, not under it and that the past may instruct and warn, but cannot guide or control.

                    • pmains

                      The defining characteristic of a corporation is that it is a body, a corpus. Specifically, it is a body of people. Whether or not a corporation outlasts its original creators depends on how and why it was created in the first place.

                      But, that’s semantics. Your issue is with the perpetual nature of some corporations. If you condemn all corporations that outlive their creators, then I guess we should shut down the Knights of Columbus, the Ivy League and the YMCA. Since Jesus ascended to Heaven, I suppose it’s time we shut down the Catholic Church, too, since perpetual succession is a violation of your personal ethics.

                      Jefferson raises an interesting point by suggesting that constitutions should be reformed every generation. On the other hand, there is something to be said for institutions that outlive their creators. The Catholic Church is one, but the Anglo-Saxon unwritten constitution that Jefferson admired is another. Institutions, customs, laws and so on grew over time. We don’t have to re-imagine the world from scratch each generation, and that’s a good thing. Many things that sound good in the abstract turn out not to be so.

                      Chesterton has an analogy about a gate. Only the person who knows why a gate is there has the right to tear it down. Well, most of us don’t know why many of the “gates” around us exist. How do you explain the electoral college, the jury system or many other features of our republic to foreigners? If you know the history of those institutions and their predecessors, though, you can often find very sound reasons that are not obvious to the majority of voters. If we go about knocking down strange gates, though, there is no telling what we might unleash. That’s another lesson we should have learned from the French revolution.

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                      A corporation may consist of only one person at a time, perhaps the oldest example is the parson of a parish (= personae ecclesiae); more generally, a corporation, unlike a partnership or a voluntary association, has an identity that is unaffected by changes in the individuals that compose it. That is why French law calls corporations a moral person. It can own property, sue and be sued in its own name &c. In a partnership, a retiring partner remains liable for the debts incurred when he was a partner and an incoming partner who replaces him is not. Not so a shareholder.

                • Alecto

                  My rights come directly from God to me, not through any pope, or from the Catholic Church or anyone else. They are a birthright and they cannot be diminished, alienated or amended by the authority of the Church.

                  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                    According to St Thomas,“Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural law dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one’s own: but because the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (57, 2,3). Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.” [ST IIa IIae Q66, II,obj 1]

                    Mirabeau, agreeing with St Thomas, says “Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they bring it into being; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens.”

                    • Alecto

                      Laws do not create property, it exists before the law exists, because rights = property. Law can only attempt to describe its responsibilities and characteristics or its limits. I refer you to the singular Richard Epstein.

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                      Possession is a physical fact, whereas ownership is a legal right, which cannot exist in the air, but only insofar as it is recognized and enforced. That is what St Thomas means by “human agreement which belongs to positive law.”

                    • Alecto

                      Possession of the intangible is not a physical fact.

            • Steve Mains

              I disagree with your pessimistic assessment of mankind, but certainly we can agree that taking care of our fellow man is our own responsibility; not one we can push off on the government. Besides the government being an inefficient provider of services, which wastes the treasure we are given by God to use for His glory, asking the government to do what we should on our own robs charity of its very essence. It is not charity if the money is extracted by force, as taxes are, no matter that 51% of our citizens voted for its use in that way.

              Globalization of indifference? Who? I am continually humbled and encouraged by the generosity of people I meet. The US gives far more in charitable donations to foreign recipients than several of the next most affluent countries give in foreign aid combined.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’m no communist- I’m a distributist. I support a UNIVERSAL right to private property, as outlined by Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum and endorsed by the last 9 Popes.

            Communism fails because it eliminates the right to private property. Capitalism fails because it uses the right to private property for those with capital to eliminate the right to private property for everybody else.

            Redistribution is necessary, and I’d point out the banking cronies were being supported by the Bush Administration in 2007 after the September coup, long before their puppet Obama was sworn in.

            • Alecto

              I’m curious how you can then advocate a 100% estate tax? That is incompatible with the notion of private property, one of the features of which is the ability to distribute upon death.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                “one of the features of which is the ability to distribute upon death.”

                How can a dead man distribute anything? He can direct in a will that it will be distributed, but there is no guarantee- the will may be contested, things get tied up in court, etc.

                Economics is for the living, not the dead. And it is very important to insure a *universal* right of private property, that is, that each and every person on the planet have enough private property to support themselves.

                Tying property up in dynastic and aristocratic families is actually against the idea of universal private property.

                • Alecto

                  You can see the fallacy in stating a universal “right” to other people’s property, can you not? That leads to anarchy, despotism and tyranny. It’s institutionalized theft resulting from envy.

                  Property is for the living to distribute in the way they see fit to their living heirs, many of the recipients are Catholic charities, needy individuals, educational, social and civic entities. Without a dissertation on the law of estates, a poorly drafted will often results in litigation, but suing doesn’t equate with recovery.

                  Please, I beg you, think about what you advocate. It’s a losing proposition my friend, which leads to civic unrest and violence, bloodshed and revolution. Do not go to that dark place.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    “That leads to anarchy, despotism and tyranny. ”

                    One of these things is not like the others. But here’s what I see it leading to: Every man able to feed his family, without the need for welfare.

                    An equal starting line does not guarantee equal outcomes, nor should it. But I’ve seen far too many family businesses ruined by laziness in the second or third generation to believe that birth is an adequate guarantee of effective stewardship.

                    • Alecto

                      Is it perfectly acceptable to insert yourself into those privately-held family businesses? Is it not their property, family, business to build or destroy as they see fit?

                      A religion that advocates that kind of usurpation of another’s rightful decisions advocates its own destruction. And, I tell you that is not, nor was it ever what Jesus Christ taught.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      “Is it perfectly acceptable to insert yourself into those privately-held family businesses? Is it not their property, family, business to build or destroy as they see fit?”

                      All of everything in the universe belongs ultimately to God, not to man.

                      “A religion that advocates that kind of usurpation of another’s rightful decisions advocates its own destruction. And, I tell you that is not, nor was it ever what Jesus Christ taught.”

                      Matthew 20, Matthew 25. Draw your own conclusions, but try to read the parables with more of an open mind, and less philosophy from atheists like Karl Marx and Ludwig Von Mises.

            • pmains

              I believe in a universal right to property as well. Everyone should be allowed to own property. So we’re in agreement.

              However, your critique of capitalism is indistinguishable from the socialists. They, too, believed in private property (albeit not private capital), but they engaged in the circular logic of assuming that capitalism is a system which centralizes capital in the hands of a greedy and powerful few. Socialism and distributism share this misconception. Free markets and commerce — which is what is almost always meant by advocates of “capitalism” — tend to have the opposite effect. Just look at how markets and commerce have lifted countless people out of poverty in India.

              What system did the Indians leave behind? The answer is in the spinning wheel on their flag. Mahatma Gandhi wanted Indians to spin their own cotton into cloth so that they would not be exploited by British manufacturers. When that predictably failed, they abandoned their distributist autarky for a more market-oriented economic system.

              Closer to home, the modern banking system is a great example of attempts to bridle capitalism and advance the common good. The boom and bust cycle, which left willing workers unfairly unemployed, was to be tamed. Expansionary monetary policy and education campaigns (the latter of which I support) were used to encourage the working class to keep their savings in banks and equities, thus joining in the prosperity of the country. Keynesian fiscal theories were similarly designed to “save capitalism from itself,” but placing “reasonable” limits on the market.

              Well, what happened? The Great Depression and our current Great Recession were both the products of expansionary monetary policy. Keynesianism is the cloak under which money is funneled to special interests. The Federal Reserve has driven expansion of the financial sector both in terms of power and their “slice of the pie.” So, those mean old libertarians were right after all. Attempts to make the market equitable actually made it less so.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                “they engaged in the circular logic of assuming that capitalism is a system which centralizes capital in the hands of a greedy and powerful few.”

                I came to this belief not by the teachings of Karl Marx, but by reading the business section of the daily paper over the last 40 years.

                There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the current depression was caused by the centralization of wealth.

                The only difference between a libertarian and a crony capitalist, is having enough money to buy a politician. A pox on both their houses.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “As far as the GOP advocates free market capitalism,”

            Since when? True free market capitalism would include the right of a city to say no to a foreign corporation moving in, like WalMart. True free market capitalism would let the government compete in producing low cost/low quality goods for the poor.

            • Alecto

              Government has no ability to compete, only to compel.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                Which is why I want to see welfare purely in the form of goods instead of money; subsidized and local production provides jobs while insuring price controls *only on government produced goods*. Want better quality? Buy private, for the higher price. Need to survive on minimum wages or below? Shop at the government food store.

                The same could be done with housing (on the Habitat for Humanity model) and clothing (Pendleton Woolen Mills?).

                • pmains

                  There isn’t a distinction between goods and money. Some goods work better as a medium of exchange, but gold, silver, sugar, tobacco, corn, etc. have all been used as money. POWs in WWII were denied currency, so cigarettes became their currency (and the basis for fascinating research about Gresham’s Law). So, welfare in the form of goods rather than money is illusory. Those goods will quickly be used as or converted to currency.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    Not if they are perishable such as food. Not if we keep the supply just high enough to lower the price, rather than eliminate the price.

                    • pmains

                      Sell the food or use the non-perishable food as money. Problem solved.

                      You can keep trying to find clever solutions, but it’s ultimately a game that you can’t win.

                    • Alecto

                      “Sell the food or use the non-perishable food as money. Problem solved.”

                      Which is exactly what EBT recipients are doing with our largesse! Yet another reason to get government out of the charity industry!

                    • pmains

                      Bingo. Precisely the example I had in mind.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Why would anybody buy food at a higher price than they could pay at a government store?

                      I’m actually for local currencies BTW, they keep markets small and transactions friendly.

                    • pmains

                      Your response is a non-sequitur. You were talking about providing welfare in the form of food. I pointed out that a black market would quickly spring up. The subsidized food would be sold at a discount.

                      For a real world example, look at Egypt. They wanted to provide subsidized bread to everyone. Great. Except that much of the bread was then used as chicken feed. Now, every piece of bread fed to a chicken is a piece of bread not fed to a human being.

                      This problem reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons where they have a frog infestation. How do we get rid of the frogs? Release the snakes. How do we get rid of the snakes? Unleash the birds of prey. How do we get rid of the birds of prey? …

                      You are offering solutions in search of a problem. Don’t start the frog infestation in the first place and you won’t have to think of how get rid of your snakes.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      I am talking providing welfare in the form of *cheap* food, not a giveaway. Anybody would be able to shop at the government store for lower than the black market could provide the food for, thus the black market never appears, because the government is already running the black market.

                      And since the government isn’t allowed a monopoly, other manufacturers are still allowed to produce better bread at whatever price they wish to.

                      If the bread is fed to chickens, so what? Isn’t that still providing food for the people, eventually, as the chickens are eaten?

                    • pmains

                      Sure it feeds people, but not at the super low “fair” prices that they government is trying to provide and who’s to say that there will be enough bread left at the government store to feed all of the hungry people? You can’t guarantee that.

                      Another possibility is that the food is bought up and shipped overseas to people willing to pay the market prices. The shelves are barren and nobody has anything to eat.

                      Oh, I know. We can make sure the bread perishes so quickly that shipping is impossible. Unleash the snakes!

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Last year, the United States threw away enough food to feed 7.5 billion people.

                      As for making the bread perish quickly enough that shipping is impossible, that’s pretty darn easy. There is a reason there is already a bakery in every small town in America.

                    • pmains

                      You are beyond parody. You didn’t like my window smashing idea (it’s a reference to Frederic Bastiat, by the way), but you actually are contemplating the logistics of how to solve the bread-not-being-perishable-enough … problem.

                      The thing about the market is that it doesn’t care about your utopia. Just try to plan your small-market paradise. All you will do is create arbitrage opportunities, which will lead in turn to an endless cycle of frog, snake, bird of prey and gorilla infestation “solutions.”

                      Cuba is a great example of inefficiency. Everyone earns $20 per month. They are effectively cut off from foreign goods. They drive 60 year-old cars (if they can afford them). But at least everybody has a government provided job.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      I know Bastiat. But I don’t need any more atheists. What I need is for you to quote Popes, not Libertarian Economists.

                      I know the market doesn’t care about morality. All the more reason why the market needs to be abolished in favor of morality, why the market needs to become a slave to human beings instead of human beings being slaves to the market.

                    • pmains

                      Bastiat was a Catholic.

                      If you want a Pope who understands economics as well as an economist, good luck with that. Your silly fantasies about distributist economics are unworkable because they start with wishlists and end up with the frog-snake problem I mentioned earlier.

                      The market is us. If we care about morality, then the market cares about morality.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Most Popes in the last 125 years understand one thing about economics that none of your economists understand.

                      That the market should be made for man, not man made for the market.

                      Until we get that right, we don’t stand a chance.

                    • pmains

                      The market is us. We didn’t make it in the way we make roads or works of art. We can’t repeal the laws of economics just because we want to.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      The market is an artificial piece of technology. It can be manipulated just like any other technology or system.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      The market is a piece of technology, no different than the Internet. Changing the rules in technology is hard, but possible, we do it all the time.

                    • Alecto

                      You ignore the costs to others for providing the “subsidized” price. Government only has what it confiscates first from others.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Not necessarily. For instance, government can rent out money, and get a return on that investment. Government has many other ways of providing services such as protection and border control that can be run as a profitable business. Just because you only know one form of government, does not cover all forms of government.

                • Alecto

                  Subsidized by whom? From what? Price controls result always in market distortions between supply and demand, they cause scarcity, and government is the least efficient highest cost “producer” of everything it touches. Minimum wage is a price control which exacerbates unemployment.

                  Take two Bastiat, and call me in the morning.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    ” government is the least efficient highest cost “producer” of everything it touches”

                    Efficiency is the enemy of labor. Efficiency destroys jobs and creates unemployment. It is precisely *because* government is the least efficient, highest cost producer than I want them in the market place.

                    • pmains

                      This is just the Broken Window Fallacy. It’s been debunked countless times.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Then why has comparative advantage failed? Why are all the first world countries running at a massive trade deficit?

                      There are many points where Austrian Economics has failed.

                      Perhaps we need a little broken window fallacy to get back on our feet.

                    • pmains

                      Comparative advantage hasn’t failed. It’s usually misunderstood by and mischaracterized by distributists, but without comparative advantage, there would be no trade whatsoever. This is one of those things that all economists from far left to far right agree upon, and is why I would submit that distributism is not a real economic philosophy, but more of a grab bag of policy wishes.

                      What you’re trying to say is that America does not export as much as you would like. You think that means that comparative advantage has failed because, clearly, we don’t produce enough to pay for the goods and services we consume. You have the causality backwards, though.

                      We run a large “trade deficit” because we have the world’s reserve currency, which allows us to import far more than we produce. We get stuff and hand out IOUs. Britain was able to pull the same stunt under the Gold Exchange Standard. Furthermore, trade deficits can also be financed by investment. So, if foreigners feel that they trust the NYSE or the Chicago commodities market more than their home markets or simply have difficulty finding investment opportunities, they invest here. Third, we borrow like crazy. We’re able to do that because interest rates are held artificially low by our central bank.

                      If other countries didn’t want to lend to us, that would mean they believed lending us money was a bad investment. If they didn’t want to invest here, that would be a vote of no-confidence in the health of our economy. Neither has anything to do with comparative advantage working or not working.

                      Now, if we had a stable currency, we would, in the long term, encourage more savings and investment. This would encourage more manufacturing and other capital-intensive industries. Our service industry is out-stripping manufacturing because we have created perverse incentives that encourage consumption to the detriment of thrift. When our currency is more stable, America prospers. This can be shown empirically.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      “What you’re trying to say is that America does not export as much as you would like.”

                      No, what I am trying to say is America imports far more than I’d like- and shouldn’t be exporting at all. Our exports have caused agricultural markets all over the world to crash, causing major starvation.

                    • Alecto

                      Market efficiency allows capital and labor to be deployed elsewhere, and actually creates more opportunities. I believe you’re making a false assumption that there is a finite amount of industry, the zero sum society at work here. However, all of our economic history proves otherwise.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      “Market efficiency allows capital and labor to be deployed elsewhere”

                      Yeah, I’ve heard that excuse before. I’ve yet to see it.

                      “I believe you’re making a false assumption that there is a finite amount of industry”

                      Then why the worldwide labor surplus in the last 40 years?

                      “However, all of our economic history proves otherwise.”

                      Only if you limit your examination to the agricultural era, like Von Mises and Marx did.

                    • pmains

                      You have yet to see it? Take the ATM as an example. Do we have displaced bank tellers wandering the streets, still holding their pens with chains on the end? Or did they find something else to do? If so, they, by definition, found a more productive use of their labor since the value to society of them physically being at the bank had dropped below what it would cost to employ them.

                      This is so elementary that it borders on the tautological.

                      As far as there being a “labor surplus,” I would remind you again — a billion people lifted out of poverty. However you’re defining surplus, you need to adjust your definition to account for the fact that all of those people were previously even worse off. Now they enjoy higher wages, but the goal posts are moved to “well, but are they FAIR wages,” and, “why aren’t there even MORE jobs?”

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      “You have yet to see it? Take the ATM as an example. Do we have displaced bank tellers wandering the streets, still holding their pens with chains on the end?”

                      Not still holding their pens, but yes, competition for such entry level jobs into the banking industry is increasing, and many Recent College Graduates can’t find jobs at all.

                      ” Or did they find something else to do?”

                      Many never did. Which is why the labor utilization rate in the United States is now less than 50% and 1/6th of the people are on food stamps.

                      “As far as there being a “labor surplus,” I would remind you again — a billion people lifted out of poverty.”

                      While leaving 3 billion IN poverty….and in addition, not all are enjoying higher wages, some are enjoying lower:

                    • Alecto

                      I understand you now. You are glass empty full stop, I’m glass half full. On planet Teddy, if one hundred people found the opportunity of a lifetime doing work by which they were fulfilled, you would complain about the injustice if two others still searching. There is no hope in your world, which makes me wonder why the gravitation towards Catholicism which is essentially about hope, not in this life, but for the next? Do you search for hope or for a buttress against the hopelessness you preach?

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      I search for a way to create a world which is CATHOLIC- in the original meaning of the term. The Roman Catholic Church is the only hope- not atheists like Karl Marx and Ludwig Von Mises. Only the Roman Catholic Church insists on ONE morality, with dignity for all.

                      We haven’t achieved it yet. We may only be able to achieve it in the Church Triumphant. But for me, I’m following the Pope, not some atheist who thinks they can do math.

                    • Alecto

                      There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Yep. And atheists like Von Mises and Marx are the ones who refused to see.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      The last 40 years don’t fit your mathematical model.

            • pmains

              What? Are cities having their charters revoked as the National Guard moves in to forcibly establish Wal*Marts, which the peasantry is subsequently compelled to shop at? If so, we better do something about that.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                It’s usually the state that steps in, modifies the building codes, condemns property, to sell to the capitalists.

                But it is basically the same process.

                • pmains

                  Usually building codes are city codes. If by the state you mean the government … I guess so. But by what means would you like to see cities resist Wal*Mart outside of citizens exerting pressure on city governments via the electoral process?

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    One way I’d like to see is a per-mile volume based shipping tax, to insure as local of manufacture as possible.

                    • pmains

                      Oh, good. And how about we employ armies of window smashers to make sure there are plenty of good local jobs for glaziers?

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      I’m pretty sure that with the opportunities provided by smaller, less efficient markets, there will be plenty of opportunity just providing food, clothing, and shelter for everyone.

                    • pmains

                      This is why distributism is not really an economic philosophy. “Smaller, less efficient markets,” are called autarkies. Historically, they come to grief as quickly as socialist or communist economies. Free enterprise, on the other hand, has lifted — as Alecto has already pointed out — a billion people of out of poverty. Billion. If distributism aims to reverse that, then distributists have no claim to be compassionate toward the poor.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      The main reason they come to grief is by economic invasion from foreign people.

                      Japan maintained theirs for nearly 1000 years.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “The GOP no more endorses greed than the Democratic Party does.”

            True, both are controlled by economic atheists.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Communism isn’t about “redistribution of wealth”, communism is about “confiscation of wealth to be owned by the State”.

            • pmains

              No, this is factually incorrect. Communism, in the literal, etymological sense means communal ownership of property. Marx certainly believed in the redistribution of property, which is what his theory of the exploitation of labor is all about. He believed it was unfair that workers were alienated from the fruits of their labors by the undeserving capitalist class. Communists and socialists believe this redistribution of wealth will make the economy more efficient. Marx believed that this increased efficiency would lead to such abundance that we would ultimately reach a post-scarcity state, where the idea of government, private property, money, class and so on would all be moot.

              Now, it’s true that communist revolutions lead to dictatorships where the government de facto owns all property if not de jure. That’s because communal property doesn’t actually work. Communists try to abolish the market by fiat, but find that market forces are still at play, ruining their best laid plans.

        • Alecto

          The party of Greed? Ah, like lower taxes for all Americans, more opportunity, less regulation, or fiscal sanity? Those tired, shopworn cliches promulgated by the Party of Death don’t cut it any longer. People dislike Catholics because they are largely perceived as part of the Entitlement Class of “gimme what you got”. That is the deadly sin of envy. And there is a commandment against it: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Goods.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “Ah, like lower taxes for all Americans,”

            Not all Americans are rich enough to live off of investment alone without working. The only truly lower taxes went to capital gains.

            • Alecto

              Tell that to working Americans who received those lower rates and higher child credits. You’ll get no argument from me that the U.S. tax code is arcane, labyrinthine and reflects absurd social engineering. Its existence and the agency charged with its enforcement define corruption, and undermine the very notion of Equal Protection under the law.

              Abolish all business and capital gains taxes to encourage saving and investment; eliminate income tax as well, because its effect of any tax on income is to discourage work, which is a public good; repeal the 16th Amendment and go back to a state-based remuneration to the federal government based on population. Eliminate Social Security and Medicare availability for anyone above a certain income level, eliminate the Federal Reserve which has so diminished the value of money it is now a taxing authority, a hidden one, but certainly as damaging to the poor as rampant crime; gradually eliminate those programs in favor of state-managed ones. This comports with the Catholic idea of subsidiarity.

              Remember, a government that is big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                The lower rates were a mirage- they were quickly eaten up by inflation. Same with the child tax credits.

                If you’re going that far, let’s eliminate Article I Section 10 of the US Constitution while we’re at it; allow even counties and cities to enact what sales, transport, and tariffs are needed to protect local industry, encourage entrepreneurship, create local opportunity, create local currency, and of course pay the tribute to higher governments.

                It isn’t strong government I’m afraid of- it is geographically and population big government, where if you disagree with a leader, you can’t just walk through his security and punch his nose.

                • Alecto

                  The Constitution can only be amended through an Article V process, not eliminated. I advocate for Originalism. Strong government that doesn’t acknowledge or abide by any limits imposed by the Constitution, has no fear of you, and that is the danger as Obama daily demonstrates zero respect for the rights of others.

                  • TheodoreSeeber

                    The Constitution gives away far too much in federalism. I’m saying we’d be better off limiting *any* government to under 100,000 citizens.

                    • Alecto

                      The best government is that which governs least, and I believe in government of the self first. We must limit ourselves, our desires, our faults and weaknesses ourselves. And, we need God’s grace to accomplish that, not government’s.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      One great way to do that is to limit the effects of our desires, our faults, and our weaknesses to ourselves or at most a small circle of friends. Anonymity creates sin.

        • Gerard_Altermatt

          Not that I have any love for the Republican party, but which part of their platform comes anywhere close to the Dem’s direct support of intrinsic evils? Before you answer, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the term “prudential judgement”.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’m familiar with the term. I also reject it.

        • Steve Mains

          Please enlighten us as to where the GOP platform promotes greed. Working hard and doing well are what we are called to do. It is not greedy to try to earn a good living or to want to keep the government from taking an inordinate chunk. How else can we use those gifts to help others? It is not virtuous to give honestly earned money to the government to be squandered on programs that destroy the family and enrich the governing class.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “Please enlighten us as to where the GOP platform promotes greed. ”

            By reducing capital gains tax while increasing payroll tax, the GOP directly disincentives “Working hard” in favor of “investing well”. Investment is not labor, and is not the source of wealth.

            I’m all for bringing back the Philadelphia Nun’s Loophole (named after St. Katherine Drexel). To me, THAT is good investment, and well worth poorer individuals paying more tax dollars to support.

            • Steve Mains

              Sorry, but I don’t see where your example shows greed on the part of Republicans. First, to make anything you need both labor and capital. No good having people standing around because there is no machinery and vice versa. Production requires both labor and investment.

              Second, the payroll tax holiday prevented money from going into Social Security which will disproportionately hurt workers who cannot or do not save for their old age.

              The greedy one who can never do with less is the government — no matter whether a program works or fails, the answer is always more (of our) money. We could take by force all the earnings from all the richest 1% and we still would not close the budget deficit this year.

              I’m all for bringing back the Drexel Loophole (which wasn’t a loophole really, it was the tax code) AND for all individuals, rich and poor, paying less tax. That sentiment is a growing force in the GOP, but not, sadly,in any way, the Democrats. Tell me, then, who is promoting greed?

              • TheodoreSeeber

                I’ve yet to see any neoconservative or libertarian promote the idea that if you want to pay less in taxes, you should give away more.

                In some ways that loophole is still in effect- I’ve used it myself to help get to a refund several times in the last decade. It could be better though. I see no reason why *anybody* giving away more than 50% of their net income- natural born human or corporation- should be subject to taxes.

                But nor do I see why somebody cheating their customers and refusing the pay their labor a fair share, should be allowed to keep millions in profits. A balance is necessary. It is not YOUR name on the dollar bill- and taxes are rent paid on money owned by the government.

        • Micha_Elyi

          One party promotes the mortal sin of greed in it’s (sic) platform…

          Greed is the desire for the unearned. Therefore, the “other” party you speak of, Theodore Seeber, is the one wedded to coveting thy neighbor’s goods (raising taxes for no reason but to cut down the better off) and the proliferation of free-money giveaways that stunt souls (so-called welfare programs). That “other” party is also the Democrats.

          Own up, sir, and answer your own question: “which encyclicals do you want to ignore”?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “Greed is the desire for the unearned.”

            Yep. Like interest and dividends and the stock market.

            There are far more “free money” con schemes in our capitalist economy than just what the government promotes through corporate and individual welfare. The whole idea of investment beyond mere thrift to become an owner of your own job, is “desire for the unearned”.

            As for what encyclicals do I want to ignore? None. Especially not this list, which the libertarians love to claim is the Pope speaking about something other than faith and morals since of course we can harm anybody we like using economics, economics supposedly has nothing to do with faith and morals according to the Randroids:


    • Watosh

      Amen, amen, amen. As long as those two parties are the only choices offered to Catholics we will be divided and splintered. The devil is very clever.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        In any country there will be only two parties or coalitions of parties: the friends of corruption and the friends of sedition; those who hope to profit from existing abuses and those who hope to profit from the disaffection that abuses naturally excite.

        • Watosh

          Well if the party of corruption is in power then there may well be a reaction that the corrupt party would label sedition, that sort of follows by definition, doesn’t it? And when the sun comes up in the morning we get light, what else is new?

    • Micha_Elyi

      Oh, Theodore Seeber, your gripe seems to be the Republicans are both pro-life and against coveting thy neighbor’s goods.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        No, my gripe is that the Republicans are arguably NOT pro-life, and spent the majority of their legislation on schemes to covet their neighbor’s goods.

        I think a huge part of the problem is that I long ago noticed that Americans aren’t allowed to own money- we only rent it from Caesar. Therefore, reductions in taxes are coveting the goods of our neighbor.

  • Scott

    Let’s not underestimate faithful Catholics. They need to be true to their consciences first and the Magisterium second. To their credit, they usually are. Then we cannot pervert either conscience or Catholic teaching to support a particular party. The issues are too complex, too nuanced. It’s extraordinarily simplistic to suggest that a true Catholic vote = non-Democrat or that Catholic = Republican. There is no purely Catholic political party. There are two “big tent” parties, both of which incorporate policy that overlaps with areas of Catholic teaching and policy that contradicts it. Even if one is a single-issue abortion voter, it is overly simplistic to try to pretend that one party if for it, one against it. One has to look at the whole picture. Personally, I don’t believe the Republican elites have any intention of criminalizing abortion and that Democratic policies do more to reduce abortion rates than Republican policies. I also think Democratic focus on civil rights, including rights for GLBTs, will eventually lead to civil rights for the unborn. Catholic teachings on social justice are not something one can sweep under the bus either. They’re a significant part of Catholic teaching. None of us can expect to brainwash other Catholics into thinking as we do. By all means advocate for your point of view, but don’t denigrate Catholics who disagree. That’s so holier than thou (or “Catholicer than thou”).

    • Gerard_Altermatt

      “They need to be true to their consciences first and the Magisterium second.”

      In one sentence, you’ve summed up the very root of the problem with Democratic-voting Catholics. The Universal Magisterium of the Church is infallible–your conscience is not! If you want other Catholics to consider your opinion, don’t start with an heretical statement.

      • John200

        There is the problem of Catholics who do not know their own faith. We live with the embarrassment of millions poorly catechized or not catechized at all. Many of these unfortunates do not seem to know that they are missing some truth.

        We are ordered to follow a properly formed conscience, and to no other. That conscience cannot form itself. The rest is right there in the catechism. It is not hidden from us.

  • Patsy Koenig

    Try catechizing the bishops.

    • Decider2

      Try replacing them with some real leaders.

      • Alecto

        Try replacing them with some real Catholics.

    • standtall909

      LOL…….This is what REALLY needs to be done. I just listened to a Cardinal from Germany that said Vat ll needs to be CLARIFIED big time. He thinks Pope Francis needs to clarify several aspects of Vat ll that have caused major confusion among our Bishops. (ya think?) In short, he says that they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Vat ll never called for the changes that the Western Bishops in particular have put into play. Problem is…………..will they listen? I don’t have much faith in that.

  • Minnesota Mary

    windjammer nailed it.

  • John_O_Neill

    Firstly there is no such thing as the “Catholic” vote. The majority of people who call themselves Catholic but who continue to give rabid support to the big city democrat machines do not represent anything but the democrat party and its Biden-Kennedy-Pelosi belief in abortion and homosexual marriage. I have nothint in common with democrat catholics who saunter around in their notre dame sweatshirts etc; I think there is more Catholic culture in the deep South today.

  • notwringingmyhands

    I disagree with this author’s assertion that the bishops have been supportive of votes against people and policies that are anti-Christ. The one or two bishops that come to mind only do so because they are RARE in the USCCB. I wish Mr. Hennessey would write another post describing the activities of the alleged many bishops in America who have done more than wring their hands over the evil overtaking us.
    Further, let’s also see some godly testosterone from our American Church leadership in refusing the Eucharist (as canon law dictates) to politicians and others who flaunt their anti-Church positions on so many social issues.
    Only when the leaders LEAD will we have a change in how Catholics vote.

  • reliogion is evil

    let people do what they want homophobes

  • Christian Schmemann

    Democrats do not align with the Church on issues of sexuality and personal morality generally. Republicans do not align with the Church on economic and fiscal issues.

    Catholics like Cardinal Burke and George Weigel cannot explain to the satisfaction of the majority of American Catholics why abortion should not be considered a symptom of a libertarian sociopolitical system that actively seeks to keep millions of Americans locked in abject poverty. Most Catholics rejected the Republican Party because the GOP’s economic policies would lead to an increase in abortions, as they did with George W. Bush.

    This article also ignores the fact the Eastern Roman Empire and its successor Byzantine Empire (albeit we are discussing the Patriarchate of Constantinople) pursued policies that were not overly different from those of the Franklin D. Roosevelt. Simply put, many of the economic policies that the Republican Party pursues are simply repugnant and offensive to Catholic (and Greek/Arab Orthodox) social justice teaching.

  • tom

    You can’t have bishops fawning over a Mario Cuomo and then trying to split the difference with Son of Mario. Just as with Teddy, a bishop or cardinal(S) will preside over the Elder Cuomo’s funeral services, which should be processed at a local Planned Parenthood Center.

  • Greg Cook

    Let’s see a bishop call a “Catholic” politician (Pelosi, Biden, et al) out and demand s/he refrain from communion because of causing grave scandal, then I’ll start paying attention.

  • Dana McAuliffe

    Catholics should move to Texas where we have low taxes, great weather and leaders who are “bold and decisive. They (have) the courage to stand up and take the risk of defending life and traditional marriage” even in the face of organized opposition.

    These are pictures from the Texas Capitol where lawmakers just passed common sense abortion regulations. Planned Parenthood and pro-choice activists (wearing orange) showed up in force to protest the passage of HB2. Pro-Life people in Texas (wearing blue) also showed up to support our legislators. Even though it looked at first as though all of Texas was for abortion, pro-life people flooded the Capitol building and our leaders did not flinch.

    The Bishops should also publicly denounce so-called Catholic politicians who continue to call themselves faithful and practicing Catholics who also speak and vote for abortion and redefinition of marriage. I’m not talking about excommunication. But EVERY time one of these Catholic-in-name-only politicians speaks up or votes against life and traditional marriage they need to be called down BY NAME with the statement that this goes against Catholic teaching. The Bishop’s silence on these matters has caused many to go astray. It is a public scandal that these politicians can USE the name Catholic for electoral advantage and then step all over our beliefs.

  • Barry951

    The first point, to re-catechize the life-long Catholic population is first and foremost – that is a major purpose behind the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization, we must start any revolution such as this on our knees, and to do that, we must understand our faith.

    Secondly, we must recognize that the Catholic population has shifted significantly, this shift is just in the early stages. We are no longer an urban church population of 50 or 100 years ago, but rather the opposite. The strength of the Church today is in the conservative suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas. The reasons for this geographic shift are many, but include both political and economic forces. First and foremost, the cities are become inimical to faith, as well as inimical to families (particularly large Catholic families), the excuse being “sustainability” (environmental paganism is the new urban religion). Also, the fact that home prices in the more conservative areas have fallen by 25-75% since the start of the Great Recession, whereas urban prices are stable or increasing during this time. Therefore the fate of the Catholic population is largely aligned with that of the middle class in general, and both have taken major damage, politically and economically, during the last 5 years.

    Neither political party represents Conservative Catholics or Christians in general – we are ready for a new party. The GOP was born of the collapse of the Whig party at the eve of the Civil War (the latter wasn’t up to the seemingly radical politics of freeing the slaves and providing civil rights to all). We are ready for similar transformation to a Christian Conservative party which will put God’s agenda first and be willing to die for our cause, just as the early Republicans did in the 1860s. Meanwhile, the libertarian wing has really hurt the Tea Party and the conservative cause, it is time to jettison them and go our own way, carrying out God’s mission for the United States.

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  • Micha_Elyi

    The bishops have valiantly protested the Obama administration’s attacks
    on our religious freedom, but, sadly, it has not been enough.
    –Matthew Hennessey

    “Valiantly” does not mean what you seem to think it means.

    Sending the rare sharp, sternly worded letter is not enough to qualify as a valiant protest. And who among our over 400 U.S. bishops have done as much as that?

    A valiant effort would include some public reprimand of Catholic public figures that make public votes and public remarks clearly contrary to the Catholic faith – plus a demand that said Catholic public figures publicly recant their errors. And that’s just for starters. A valiant effort also includes getting out from behind their desks and leading public marches of faithful Catholics. And a valiant effort includes getting into cathedral and parish pulpits week after week to personally teach and preach about the current political season’s Christian non-negotiables* and why voting for politicians who support moral poison may well be a mortal sin. Finally, a valiant effort includes episcopal discipline against squishy and wishy-washy parish pastors and supposedly Catholic college presidents who dodge from following such a bishop’s lead – or worse, actively try to undermine the bishop’s efforts to teach the application of Christian faith and morals to the citizenship responsibilities of faithful Catholics living in the U.S.

    Nope, in my lifetime I ain’t seen one bishop who’s “valiantly protested” anything.

    *Coveting thy neighbor’s goods and spouse are also political non-negotiables. Sorry, you so-called Social Justice Catholics but that’s the truth.