The Modern State Causes the Problems it Pretends to Fix

Pope Leo XIII affirms that a well governed State will promote the material and moral prosperity of its citizens, will honor private property and free association, and will protect the poor from abuse or depredation by the rich.

How to do these things?  Leo lays down four principles.

The first is what I’ll call the Principle of Moral Health.  “A State,” he says, “chiefly prospers and thrives through moral rule, well-regulated family life [family life directed from within by the moral law], respect for religion and justice, the moderation and equal allocation of public taxes, the progress of the arts and of trade, [and] the abundant yield of the land.”  The emphasis is on direction from the objective moral law, and on a combination of self-restraint and industriousness.

Catholic Social Thought pt 9This self-restraint, when practiced by the State, suggests a second principle, what I’ll call the Law of Sufficient Generality.  A well governed State will assist the poor primarily by establishing an environment wherein people of common decency and assiduousness can raise healthy children to become good citizens in their turn: “The more that is done for the benefit of the working classes by the general laws of the country, the less need will there be to seek for special means to relieve them.”

That leads to the third, what I’ll call the Principle of the Home.  It’s often called Subsidiarity.  We must never confuse a true beneficence, which honors the prime society of the family, with the false beneficence that barters goods in exchange for the family’s soul: “The State must not absorb the individual or the family; both should be allowed free and untrammeled action so far as is consistent with the common good and the interests of others.”  The same holds true of free associations.  The State must “not thrust itself into their peculiar concerns and their organization.”  There are practical reasons for this restraint.  It is absurd to suppose, for example, that a flock of bureaucrats two thousand miles away, or nine judges from Harvard, should have anything to say about the Order of the Moose in Anytown, when the members of that Order best know their needs and the needs of their community, and how to address them according to their neighbors’ sense of the common good.

But the more fundamental basis for the Principle of the Home is not utilitarian, but human: “To enter into a [free association] is the natural right of man; and the State is bound to protect natural rights, not to destroy them; and if it forbid its citizens to form associations, it contradicts the very principle of its own existence.”

Suppose—I’m dreaming wildly—that an arm of the government were to dictate to the Kiwanis Club that it must admit women as members.  There are plenty of free associations for men and women both; The Salvation Army, Alcoholics Anonymous, Common Cause, and so forth.  What’s at issue is not whether there may be associations of that kind, but whether there may not be associations of the other kind.  Pope Leo would find it appalling that any State should forbid men from coming together for the common good, or dictate the terms of their union.  We can say the same thing about the Boy Scouts.  Should the government compel the Scouts to organize themselves as the archons on the bench determine?  Should we live in tyranny?  Should we deny the fundamental right of free association?

I dwell upon the Principle of the Home because it helps to clarify the wisdom of the first two principles, and to show how they all work together.  Laws cannot, alone, make people good.  They do have an instructive value; they restrain vicious actions, and may, much less reliably, foster virtuous actions.  But the moral law requires a human face.  It’s in our human associations, and not by our subatomic status as citizens of a sprawling State, that we learn virtue.  The State can address a few specific troubles, with middling effectiveness, and at great strain—disaster relief, for instance.  Beyond that the State must not try to go, because the State should not usurp the roles of the family, the fraternity, and the town, even if the State could assume those roles effectively—which it cannot do: its arrogant attempts have wrought more harm than a hundred hurricanes ever could.  The State’s role is to observe the moral law, to promote by general laws the conditions wherein people of ordinary virtue and industry can thrive, providing assistance “in extreme cases,” and to restrain its ambitions, honoring the independence and the interdependence of human beings in families, parishes, churches, guilds, fraternities, sororities, and other unions created for mutual help and the common good.

All this implies the fourth principle, what I’ll call the Principle of the Human Person.  Man, made free, in the image of God, must not be subordinated to abstractions.  We accept no fatalisms.  We will not subsume human commerce under a law, whether Marxist or Benthamite, socialist or capitalistic, which “determines” what is good and bad.  We obey God, not man.

It is not right for the strong man to squeeze concessions from his weaker brother.  Mutual consent is insufficient.  A desperate man may accept ten dollars a day to go down a coal mine, but he has no moral right to do so, nor does the owner of the mine have a moral right to suggest it.  A desperate woman may offer her body for money, but she has no moral right to do so, nor does the bawd on the corner have the right to be her broker.  We must remember what people are, what (and Who) they are for.

Natural justice trumps consent:

Let it be taken for granted that workman and employer should, as a rule, make free agreements, and in particular should agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that remuneration ought to be sufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage earner.

That just wage implies an intricate set of human interchanges.  The worker and the employer must treat one another fairly; if the employer does not bow in homage to the labor market, the employee does not do as little as he can to preserve his job.  The employer must find worthwhile and feasible work for the workman to do—for he too must stay in business.  The employee must use those wages wisely.  They are meant for him in his capacity as a social being: for the family he is supporting or will someday support.  “If he be a sensible man,” says the Pope, he will not find it hard “to study economy; and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a small income.  Nature and reason alike would urge him to do this.”

Leo’s ideal is not State control, with individuals as wardens, but a society built up of societies; a culture truly social, based on human friendships and family ties and alliances.  “The law,” he says, “should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the humbler class to become owners.”  Again, we must resist the tendency to abstraction.  It will not do for the State to seize all property and parcel it out again according to some mathematical formula.  The virtue of ownership is akin to the virtue of the family, of the self-governing town, of the free association.  It arouses a love the State cannot command: “Men always work harder and more readily when they work on what belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields, in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat but an abundance of good things for themselves and for those that are dear to them.”

We Americans allow trade unions.  We protect workers from various forms of abuse.  Those battles were fought and won long before I was born.  What we’ve done lately, though, in the so-called “social” issues, is to violate every single tenet of Catholic Social Teaching as proclaimed by Pope Leo XIII.

Leo could not have foreseen that “the State” would become interest in its own right, a new aristocracy, but utterly detached from locale and tradition and unknown to their subjects.  The true State thrives by moral rule.  But “the State,” the cancerous Metastate, thrives by immorality.  It helps to cause the chaos it then pretends to ameliorate.  Strong and self-reliant families hurt the Metastate, so the Metastate rewards profligacy and licentiousness, and promotes the easy severance of father from children.  The Metastate knows that if people but make an earnest attempt to govern themselves by the Ten Commandments and the Gospel, they will be free and prosperous, and the Metastate will shrivel.  Perish the thought.

Father-headed families?  Free associations?  I credit the Metastate with knowing its enemies.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • hombre111

    We Americans allow trade unions? Since Reagan, we have driven them into the ground. And as a result, our wages have stagnated or gone down.

    • Theorist

      It’s not just lack of trade unions (real wages supposedly went up in gilded age according to the gov.) but also, inflation and spending and currency manipulation which totally drives wages down.

      For instance, the prices of healthcare, universities, and energy has gone up faster than inflation. The purchasing power of the currency, measured in gold, has declined by 70% since the 1970s (an outcome that surprisingly but not totally, reversed itself in the clinton years) and the military (although not as expensive as it used to be) is as a whole, the most astronomically costly item. Also real wages as hourly earnings has been increasing from 2000-2009, but the net outcome, due to inflation, has been negative.

      • Katy

        You made a good point about currency manipulation and its effect on the economy.

        “Give me the right to issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who governs the country.” Meyer Amschal Rothschild, International banker

        “Most Americans have no real understanding of the operation of the international money lenders. The accounts of the Federal Reserve system have never been audited. It operates outside the control of Congress and manipulates the credit of the United States.” – Barry Goldwater, R-AZ

        “The financial system has been turned over to the Federal Reserve Board.
        That board administers a finance system by authority of a purely profiteering
        group. That system is private, conducted for the sole purpose of obtaining
        the greatest possible profits from the use of other people’s money.

        This (Federal Reserve) Act establishes the most gigantic trust on earth. When the president signs this bill, the invisible government by the monetary power will be legalized. The people may not know it immediately but the day of reckoning is only a few years removed, the worst legislative crime of the ages perpetrated by this banking bill.” – Charles A. Lindbergh, R-MN

        • musicacre

          Qaddafi was just turning Africa back to the gold standard, when he was discredited, and the rest is history. Their country had no debt with banks; they dared to defy the big money system and paid the price, ultimately by being demonized….and destroyed.

          • Katy

            Apparently he wanted greater independence for Libya and to help Africa. I just read that Libya wanted to break away from US dollars in the oil trade and be to paid in gold instead. Big bankers would not like this because other countries would want to follow suit.

            • musicacre

              I just saw a video on it that completely changed my perspective on Libya. I think the truth is coming out; it makes you realized the current money system is a big straitjacket. You’re OK as long as you don’t want to take it off.

          • Ford Oxaal

            An interesting take. Gold undercuts the worldwide fiat currency regime.

      • hombre111

        Good points. Also, this. Thanks to labor unions, wages went up as productivity went up, and blue collar workers became part of the middle class.I am an old man. I can remember when a single wage earner owned his own home, could buy a new car once in a while, take a vacation once in a while, save to send his kids to college, and save money for retirement. But then things changed with Reagan and the gradual destruction of the unions. Productivity still went up, but the money went to the managing class and its minions. As for wages and inflation? In my brothers trade (finish carpenter) people are making what they made in 1980, about fourteen dollars an hour. The same. This is the way I see it: As wages went flat, two wage earners were needed, so the wives went to work. But then even that was not enough to keep up a middle class lifestyle described above. There were no savings, but older and older vehicles and few vacations. Credit cards got maxed. And then mortgages were used to pay for expenses. Now we have this huge gap between the haves and the have nots. What amazes me is that the many have nots who maybe read Crisis support the system that has left them further and further behind.

        • Ford Oxaal

          America opened its borders to cheap, slave-like labor, both by letting in illegal workers, and by sending manufacturing overseas. That was tantamount to suicide. The people running the show thought they could fix the whole world, let the “little people” wallow walrus-like in a materialistic, throw away nirvana, and get rich as Croesus in the process. Sometimes I think the Republic ended with the Kennedy assassination.

          • musicacre

            I just read that Kennedy had not only made a speech a few days before his assassination about deploring dangerous secret societies, but also that he wanted to inspect Israel’s nuclear facility. Look on you tube.

        • Katy

          Public sector unions are not in the same boat as the trade unions. They drive up taxes to fund unionized public services and then they protect their narrow interests. Government service monopolies constantly demonize privatization alternatives –policies not in union interests. Just one example is when teachers’ unions oppose vouchers for schools.

          • hombre111

            I think you make some good points, but I am completely in favor of public unions because otherwise they are just pawns. People need to stand together wherever they are. My sisters are both teachers, but I am not sure what they think about vouchers. But I do know they have been getting the dirty end of the stick recently. For instance, the state cut their wages by four thousand dollars. Both teach 30+ kids. Their aids have been removed unless the school can find volunteers.
            Unless you have taught in a classroom you have no idea of the difficulties. For instance, I was running a summer camp and had about seventy kids and a great time. Then the first identifiable adhd kid showed up. That little bitty kid was more trouble then the rest of the seventy kids put together. My sister routinely have 2-3 adhd kids in their classrooms, plus the two or three dedicated trouble makes who don’t want to learn. And so, my sisters spend half the time trying to deal with these kids so they can teach the other kids. In order to get the administration to do something, they have to document every little thing. And then there are the kids who should have been held back but weren’t because the parents wouldn’t have it. They also drag the class down.
            I just talked to one teacher about vouchers. She taught in parrochial schools and said that her school routinely found ways to get rid of the non high achievers. A voucher won’t do much good if your kid is not a star. As for charter schools, they often do the same. What that means is that the public schools could get stuck with all the kids on the bottom of the barrel.

            • musicacre

              My sister has survived teaching at a private, Catholic school in Canada, and gets a much smaller wage, and has several hundred students. (since she teaches a specialty.) Vouchers are a win-win situation, it makes the parents sit up and consciously make choices. Their apathy in some cases is why Johnny isn’t trying too hard.

            • Katy

              I have relatives that are teachers so I know what you are saying about cutbacks of different kinds. One relative in her late 20s teaches biology at an inner-city high school and seems to know how to handle the students. She says that the administration at her school steps in when she needs help because they know if she asks that she has a real troublemaker on her hands. I think that parent motivation and availability are big factors in a student’s behavior in school and there is only so much that a teacher can do.

              Anthony Esolen writes: “The true State thrives by moral rule. But “the
              State,” the cancerous Metastate, thrives by immorality. It helps to cause
              the chaos it then pretends to ameliorate. *Strong and self-reliant families hurt the Metastate,* (emphasis mine) so the Metastate rewards profligacy and licentiousness, and promotes the easy severance of father from children.”

              Living in Massachusetts I have seen where public employee unions have helped to breed chaos and believe that they should be very limited. These unions are an impediment to a healthy two-party system in MA. They have been in the heart of MA public life since 1973, as a powerful
              monopoly. Ninety percent of all MA public employees are unionized, including the entire executive branch, schools, and courts. The mandatory union fees help to fund candidates, steadily Progressive/Democratic, who strongly back their special interests, enact laws that differentially benefit unions and thwart attempts to keep union power in check. Of the 20 political action committees that gave the most to candidates for state and county offices in Massachusetts when I checked 10 years ago, 16 were unions or other labor organizations (Eric Kriss in CommonWealth). There isn’t an organized counterweight to keep them in check. The AFLO-CIO (iron workers, teachers and truck drivers), and SEIC along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the National Organization for Women were aggressive in promoting same-sex marriage in MA. Do a search for the UAW, AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME, and same-sex marriage and you will see that they are top supporters of this immorality in many states today.

          • Adam Baum

            Even FDR saw public sector unionism as a bad idea.

          • Blaffles Blaffles

            Government service monopolies only demonize privatization alternatives for the taxpayers. They are happy to privatize any profits out of the government service sector that may exist and deliver the profits to their cronies. I went to a state university in the 70’s and worked at the college bookstore and various retail food service outlets. These opportunities for university profits have now all been franchised out to private companies, who are taking profits from the captive audience and unskilled student labor. Most of the administration functions (payroll, payment processing, information technologies, etc.) are outsourced to private companies, who are making a profit and delivering a service to the Universities that could easily be fulfilled by student labor. Don’t even get me started on the textbook scam that has been going on since at least the 70’s!

            It is in their interest to hire a private company to do their job for less but the price of their services to the taxpayer is never reduced.

        • Theorist

          It’s all about money. For instance, if money can be willed into existence by a fractional-reserve central bank, then the people who receive it as loans first (generally corporations -the more state connected the better) get the full purchasing power of that money. But as the second, third, fourth-comers have access to it, they are getting proportionately less purchasing power to the extent that the previous getters have spent it on a finite pie of goods. This even undermines minimum wages since the wages being paid out are paid out only nominally while the real value of these wages are assiduously eroded.

          • hombre111

            Good insights. I wish it was a better world.

            • Hombre: My friend Allan Carlson of the World Congress of Families makes the point that the early New Deal work progams (the WPA is the big one) were maternalistic — they followed the common sense of what was called “maternalism,” namely, the promotion of the good of married women with children. The idea was that married women with children needed, above all, that their husbands should have work sufficiently remunerated so as to support them. We could add here the CCC, which trained young unmarried men, for the most part, and gave them jobs that would lead to better jobs, when they would have families. Mr. Carlson wonders what would happen if half of the money now given to the poverty-constituency (unwed mothers, and their managers) were directed, over time, to such programs as would put young married men to work — he is thinking especially of men who work with their hands and their back. It would be an example of a government program meant to make more government programs obsolete. But the Left hasn’t given a damn about these people, because it is sold body and soul to feminism; and the Right is too scared to take on the feminists, and won’t revisit the old American wisdom on protecting and fostering American industries.

              • hombre111

                You make some exellent point and I am flattered that you took time to answer. I am a lot older than you and so I also remember some past history. When I was starting college with the Jesuits, somebody wrote the book “Hungry in America” and for the first time, Americans realized there was starvation inside our borders. There was a rush to find solutions, and this led to the establishment of welfare. At this point, there was the usual great divide. Mushy hearted as usual, Democrats wanted to help families and provide job training for the members of the selected population, which was mostly black. The Repubs agreed to helping families only if the man was absent from the house. And they refused to allow job training.
                Josef Fichter, a famous sociologist and my prof, said this: Black men will leave their families so that their wives and children can be fed. It will be the end of the black family and the end of black society. At that time, the number of black single women with children was only slightly higher than the number of white single women. Fichter was a prophet.
                What frosts me now is that the Republicans get to blame the Democrats for the mess they created. But you have to be as old as me, and you have to have had the privilege to study under a great man, if you want to know what happened.

              • Blaffles Blaffles

                By delivering the funds directly to the young mother, and increasing her funds if she is single (if a father is named, he is expected to contribute and will be tracked down and hunted and his wages garnished reducing mom’s “income”) the incentive is to hide the father’s identity and hide any evidence of shared domicile in order to increase household income. After hiding for some time, no wonder a man gets tired and stops showing up at his “home” and takes up residence elsewhere. The now truly single mother needs to go to work to collect her “check” and put her child in day-care (state subsidized, of course). Hiring the father for a work program would be so much more straightforward and honest from the get go.

        • Patrick Button

          Hombre: I am assuming that you are referring to right to work legislation. as the vehicle by which unions have been weakened. RTW isn’t perfect, but it seems to me entirely in keeping with Catholic Social Teaching to allow workers to choose whether or not to join a union, especially when most unions heavily support pro-choice politicians, and even directly support abortion. For example, the UAW is officially in favor of requiring the insuring of contraception and abortion. In Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII says,

          “Many of
          these societies are in the hands of secret leaders, and are managed on
          principles ill – according with Christianity and the public well-being; and
          that they do their utmost to get within their grasp the whole field of
          labor, and force working men either to join them or to starve. Under these
          circumstances Christian working men must do one of two things: either join
          associations in which their religion will be exposed to peril, or form
          associations among themselves and unite their forces so as to shake off
          courageously the yoke of so unrighteous and intolerable an oppression.”

          Just something to think about. God bless.

    • Adam Baum

      Leave it to our resident fool to make an inane and indefensible claim. Unionism has been on the decline since the 1950’s. Reagan wasn’t even in politics then.

      I realize you are a hack, and facts will not intrude on your Marxism but for others:

      You see, unionism peaked in the late 1950’s. Did you really think that unbounded demands, disruption and violence wouldn’t eventually drive businesses out of existence, encourage off-shoring or provide opportunities for non-union competitors?

      • hombre111

        As soon as they broke the unions via right to work in my state, wages went down and benefits disappeared. We now fester in the bottom of the fifty states, trading places once in a while with that real palace of progress, Mississippi.

        • Adam Baum

          It’s too bad you have no real experience with employment, if you actually were forced to develop a skill, please an employer, instead of merely being a suckling on Mother Church, and being an unproductive annoyance to your Bishop, you might realize how many people laugh at your antiquated view of the labor market.

          Unions are dying because they have inevitably destroyed the industries where they were the strongest (textiles, steel and automobiles). In doing so, they have been shown to be unable to keep the the guarantee of (lifelong) employment security that were their principle value to members. Who in their right mind says I want a “union” job to be rewarded not
          based on my efforts, but those of the least productive in my craft.

          They are coercive and violent, usually corrupt and do things that would be criminal if not done under the union label.

          Today, with mobile and educated workforces, easily measurable skill sets,electronic job boards and careers that develop by working through different jobs at different employers, a union membership is merely a cage that keeps a person in the same craft, the same employer, stagnating. Ask a man who thought he had a career as a railroad boilermaker when shiny new diesels began to displace the steam locomotives that ruled the rails for 125 years how valuable that situation is to an employer.

          Of course I don’t suffer from any expectation that reality will intrude on your narcosis. You’ll be attempting to expiate your sins on judgment day with tales your socialist orthodoxy.

          • hombre111

            The two most recent popes have talked about the importance of labor unions. Socialists that they are. So, if labor unions played no vital role, why is their demise accompanied by: a) wage stagnation since 1980, even though productivity continute to clime. b) the phenomenon of .01% of the American population owning most of its wealth, moving us away from democracy toward an oligarchy and maybe toward a new feudalism.

          • I’m no fan of modern unions, but I think I would much prefer the company of that hombre111 fellow to that of the angry Adam Baum. People who disagree with you on prudential matters are not evil heretics.

  • poetcomic1

    The 1964 Civil Rights Act and open housing laws destroyed and ‘ethnically cleansed’ vast white working class neighborhoods in the Northern cities, particularly impacting ethnic Catholics (Italians, Irish, Polish, Germans). ‘Free Association’ has been a dead letter in this country ever since.

  • Facile1

    Anthony Esolen writes, “Leo’s ideal is not State control, with individuals as wardens, but a society built up of societies; a culture truly social, based on human friendships and family ties and alliances.”

    If this is indeed the ideal of Pope Leo XIII, then I disagree.

    Language is a human invention. Therefore, all language-based associations ARE human inventions. The TRUTH is NOT.

    And TRUTH does NOT exist outside of GOD.

    There is NO such thing as a ‘common good’ or an ‘objective moral order’ OUTSIDE of God. Therefore, it cannot BE one’s responsibility (or a moral State’s) to maintain this fiction.

    In Matthew 19:16-17, a Rich Young Man asks Jesus, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

    Until EACH human being freely chooses the TRUTH (ie GOD) to invention (ie human); ‘natural laws’ (viz, ‘Moral Health’, ‘Sufficient Generality’, ‘Principle of the Home’, ‘Principle of the Human Person’) can mean NOTHING at all.

    A ‘moral State’ can exist only if ALL of its members live FAITH-filled lives. The likelihood of this ever coming to pass is in God’s hands. THEREFORE until then, the Roman Catholic Church should seek only to LIMIT the State’s exercise of its brute powers (ie, to kill, to imprison, and to tax); instead of making the intellectual arguments for the expansion of these powers in the name of ‘natural justice’.

    Only GOD’s justice exists and NO State (moral or not) can supply this.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Leo says in Immortale Dei: ” For, in things visible God has fashioned secondary causes, in which His divine action can in some wise be discerned, leading up to the end to which the course of the world is ever tending. In like manner, in civil society, God has always willed that there should be a ruling authority, and that they who are invested with it should reflect the divine power and providence in some measure over the human race. They, therefore, who rule should rule with even-handed justice, not as masters, but rather as fathers, for the rule of God over man is most just, and is tempered always with a father’s kindness. Government should, moreover, be administered for the well-being of the citizens, because they who govern others possess authority solely for the welfare of the State. Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all.”

      • Facile1

        Dear Mr. Paterson-Seymour,

        I’m NOT advocating anarchy or even civil disobedience.

        I’m advocating limits on State powers (ie, the power to mete out capital punishment, the power to imprison, and the power to tax.) The ‘limits’ such as those set by a Constitution and a Bill of Rights.

        And while I do not believe the Roman Catholic Church should return to the pre-Napoleonic days, when she crowned kings and emperors, the Roman Catholic Church should NOT lay the intellectual foundation that only serves to expand State powers.

        I believe when the Church exhorts the State to criminalize (and penalize) sin, the State only mistakes this as an open invitation to legalize (and desecrate) sacraments — as evidenced by the history of the past 2 millenniums and continues to this day.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          But constitutions and bills of rights are themselves enacted by the sovereign people. It is one thing to insist that governments (the appointees and agents of the people) should be strictly controlled by and accountable to the people. Liberty consists in the people living under laws of their own making and under magistrates of their own choosing.

          • Facile1

            Dear Mr. Paterson-Seymour,

            My point is simply this:

            The Roman Catholic Church should recognize the danger State power presents to its citizenry. NO GOOD can come from the State. As Jesus said to the Rich Young Man, only GOD is GOOD. Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church should justify only LIMITS to State power and not argue for its expansion.

            This is my last response. Thank you and good-bye.

          • Adam Baum

            “Liberty consists in the people living under laws of their own making and under magistrates of their own choosing.”

            If the people select a magistrate with despotic tendencies for whom the election is only a formality prior to the absolute seizure, maintenance and unimpeded exercise of power that becomes indurate or irreversible, that is not liberty.

            If the people make laws which are unwise, either because they are at odds with human nature, intrude on other laws that should have primacy or are unenforceable or fraught with unintended consequences, or privileges one group over another that is not liberty.

            What you have described in the above quoted phrase is not liberty, but majoritarian tyranny. Your “liberty” is a rather peculiar and constricted one, the right to live under rules and offices of whatever cabal that manages to cobble together a working majority or plurality.

            As for your quote from Romans; the key word is “legitimate”. When a government sends 55 million unborn to summary execution, manipulates citizens against each other, erects a vast and unaccountable bureaucracy that makes ever more numerous and onerous rules, (that it excludes itself from) and does so without the slightest concern for the burdens it is placing not only on the present generation, but future ones it has lost any claim on legitimacy.

            Too many Churchmen, and in the case of “nuns on the bus” Churchwomen have been little more than blind suitors to advocates for unrestrained state growth.

            As much as I applaud the (much to little, late and constrained) efforts against the HHS mandate, I would like to gather the Bishops in a room and ask them the following.

            Are you fools? Did you really think that you could play with state power like a child plays with matches and not expect a spark to come against your house? Even now, you’ll tolerate, even advocate, the existence of Obamacare because you are so economically illiterate that you think government is some sort of god that can provide for goods and services ex nihilo-so, assuming you get some judicial relief from the HHS mandate-you will do nothing else.

            Why do you simply refuse to acknowledge that that much concentrated power simply cannot be trusted to be wielded wisely or with restraint? You hear confessions and yet you seem to think that an election removes the effects of original sin. It is time you lay that you learn, (to quote the late, great James Buchanan) to view politics without romance and to learn from Acton that power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              As Maritain said, “we do not call upon the people to decide because we are aware of our ignorance of what is the good, but because we know this truth, and this good, that the people have a right to self-government.”

            • Blaffles Blaffles

              If only you would be able to gather the bishops and ask each one these questions exactly! And yes, they are scared fools, afraid to be called molesters, predators and child abusers. They have been effectively castrated and simultaneously disemboweled. They cannot see that the crisis should have made them stronger because they are not dead. I pray they awake from their zombie state, come out from the tomb and begin the new millenium with the example of Cardinal Jaime Sin and Radio Veritas.

        • Theorist

          I don’t think Aristotle was so lacking in nuance that he would be against limitations on state power -even the power to tax to some extent. That’s why he advocated sometimes disobeying a rule for the sake of equity and why he separated justice into natural justice (the province of bourgeois life) and legal justice (the province of relations between citizens). For just as there is no political rule between members of a family there is not one type of justice valid for all situations. That’s just what I think Aristotle was saying.

          • Facile1

            Dear Theorist,

            My point has little to do with Aristotle and more to do with the choice of words of the Roman Catholic Church (which is so opposed to Jesus’ own example with the Rich Young Man.)

            In Matthew 19:16-17, Jesus asked the Rich Young Man, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.”

            There is a subliminal message abroad in the world today that the wealthy can do ‘good’. Clearly, from Jesus’ own example, this is a patent lie.

            Jesus first answer to the Rich Man is surprising. “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” This is really not asking much of us in return for life everlasting. A closer inspection of the 10 commandments really boils down to “Love GOD and sit tight and do NOTHING.” To LOVE GOD is really the only requirement to enter the gates of heaven.

            Jesus’ second response to the insistent young man (which I left out of my first quote) also surprises. Since the subject of “perfection” has come up, I will quote it here. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Matthew 19: 21)

            This is NOT what the Roman Catholic Church in the spokeperson of Pope Leo XIII is teaching the rich and the powerful (if Mr. Esolen’s understanding is correct.)

            So, why should it surprise anyone that a “cancerous metastate” — and not “the State” as envisioned by Pope Leo XIII — is the reality we have today? Why should it surprise anyone that Bill Gates is investing $4 billion “to revolutionize contraception worldwide” and this with the blessing of a Catholic wife?

            The “perfection” Jesus speaks of is the state of perfection we enjoyed when we were FIRST conceived by GOD. We aren’t enjoined to improve on GOD’s creation (because we can’t.) But we can return to the original state we were in when GOD FIRST conceived of us and loved us first.

            Language is a human invention. The TRUTH is NOT.

            Humankind’s confusion with its own nature begins with the belief that we invented God and NOT merely a word for the TRUTH (ie GOD.)

            This arrogant secular belief in the power of man’s inventive mind forms the intellectual foundation of many mistaken government policies — policies that have the power in turn to enslave its citizenry.

            As a Catholic, I believe one can only know the TRUTH by knowing GOD. TRUTH does not exist outside of GOD. When one loves the TRUTH, one cannot (will not) escape GOD.

            Until EACH human being freely chooses the TRUTH (ie GOD) to invention (ie human); the human word ‘justice’ can mean “NOTHING at all.”

            So, I repeat. Unlike the State, the power of the Roman Catholic Church is drawn from the authority of Jesus. When the Roman Catholic Church argues FOR the expansion of State powers, she lends her God-given authority to poor use.

            By the way, this view is NOT original to me.

            Pope Benedict XVI said as much when he last addressed Catholic Charities and said that they may have to “refuse funding and collaboration that directly or indirectly promote actions and projects that are in contrast to Christian anthropology.” (Catholic News Service, POPE-CHARITY Jan-22-2013 xxxi)

            Perhaps I did not make my point half so elegantly.

            BUT I agree with Pope Benedict XVI. The Roman Catholic Church must not lend her God-given authority to poor use even if it means refusing riches.

    • Facile1: Your insistence upon perfection is inconsistent with the realism (in all senses of that word) of Thomas Aquinas, who provides the basis for Leo’s analyses of law and socal relations. And of course nowhere do I say, or does Leo say, that any objective moral order exists outside of God. But that does not mean that we cannot speak about justice. Aristotle did, and quite wisely.

      • Facile1

        Dear Mr. Esolen,

        Much as I admire St. Thomas Aquinas, I find it unfortunate that he admired Aristotle.

        There is a place for the State. Jesus makes that clear.

        BUT, it is also painfully clear (or should be as evidenced by history), that the power of the State is drawn exclusively from its use of brute force.

        Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the power of the State is not founded on any “real” authority. A referendum by the people is “true” only in the given context of real time and real space in which the referendum took place. OUTSIDE of that context of real time and real space, whatever the results of the referendum may be become questionable.

        It is a conceit on the part of the State to believe ANY man-made law can be TRUE for all time. In view of the fact that the powers of the State (ie to kill, to imprison, and to tax) materially threaten the lives, the liberties, and the properties of persons who may have never taken part in a referendum on the law in question; is a dangerous disconnect.

        Unlike the State, the power of the Roman Catholic Church is drawn from the authority of Jesus. When the Roman Catholic Church argues FOR the expansion of State powers, she lends her God-given authority to poor use.

        I do not know what you mean by “the realism of St. Thomas Aquinas”. BUT it is Aristotle’s “insistence upon perfection”, NOT MINE, that is inconsistent with the historical evidence.

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  • Very well done article, however I have to disagree with the second to last conclusion. Pope Leo XIII famously and public had very violent/horrific visions of the twentieth century. One of these led him to write the pray of St. Michael the Archangel, and ordered its recitation after every low Mass. This leads me to believe his works were additional efforts to oppose the Metastate before its birth… very prophetic.

    • Katy

      Good point about the prayer. People may not know it is actually the *long* version of the St. Michael the Archangel prayer that Pope Leo XIII asked to be recited.

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  • KyriaGrace

    Where are the rest in this series on Catholic Social Though?

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  • Robert

    The modern state is bad in that it enforces radical liberalism as its reigning ideology. But it contains the vestiges of the old state which was controlled by Christian conservatives. If the state is completely destroyed by an anarchist mob which is what we are seeing today on the internet then this could lead to a form of anarchy on the order of the French revolution.

  • Lance

    The commandments of God, in their original form and intent, are NOT observed as thee law of the land in the secular “State” of America, nor any other nation on this earth for that matter. The constitution and the bill of rights were created by those who did not acknowledge Jesus as “The Christ”, the only Savior. They considered Jesus to be “just another man” worthy of leading a religious movement. Man’s versions of Christianity are basically the product of the Greek, and Roman empires, whose pagan practices, philosophies, and traditions were introduced long ago after the death of King Solomon. Christ argued against the practices of the religious and government leadership of the Jewish people, and the surrounding nations, especially the governing leadership of the Roman empire in his day. These people are still instrumental in the activities of the three branches of government in the US, and the world, today. The architecture of the houses of worship and the government buildings in Washington D.C., as well as other state capitals, inside and outside the US, are ample proof of the influence of these past empires. The liberal humanist tradition is another example of the influence of past empires. Conservative, Libertarian, Independent, and Democratic leadership all proclaim that the will of the people, NOT THE WILL OF GOD, is the highest authority. In fact, the definition of democracy, and those who practice it, emphasizes this distinctly human way of thinking. Only one Way to change this way of thinking, but the majority of humanity reject that Way, thus we see the results of allowing humans to govern themselves. All human empires rise to great power, only to collapse from within because of corruption. Nothings changed. Rampant corruption and moral decay are everywhere apparent in the USA today, and in much of the world, and in fact, it is a “way of life”. If you don’t see or hear the iniquity all around you, then you’re blind and deaf. Hmmm? Where have I read that before?