Catholic Social Teaching

Retreat and Engage: Towards a Conservatism for the Common Good

Christians are in uncharted political territory. Once a formidable force in our politics, the Religious Right is now effectively irrelevant, undermined as much by its own hypocrisy and short-sightedness as by growing secularism. Until recently, most conservative Christians have subscribed to a philosophy known as fusionism: a combination of free-market economics, social traditionalism, and foreign-policy [...]

Paid Family Leave: Catholic Principles, Bipartisan Concensus

In the midst of some of the most divided, rancorous politics America has ever seen, there is one area of intriguing bipartisan agreement: paid family leave. What in the past has been decried by the Right as socialism and by the Left as unnecessary has, in the past few years, become an unexpected rallying point [...]

Tucker Carlson’s Catholic Mind

Lest anyone think that American politics is in any danger of receding back to pre-2016 partisan boundaries, Tucker Carlson used his Fox News segment last week to go after hedge fund manager and GOP mega-donor Paul Singer… for his free-market economics. Catholics should be thrilled by this development. Carlson condemns what he calls “vulture capitalism,” [...]

Christ, the King of Advent

“Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” In the Church calendar, the days of holy feasts and solemnities go by with dizzying speed. And sometimes the chronology seems disordered. We might wonder, for example, why the Slaughter of the Innocents on December 28th comes before the Epiphany on January 6th. The short [...]

Acton Tends to Corrupt

Lord Acton’s dictum, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” has been getting a good airing in the media lately. “Donald Trump, Absolutely Corrupted” ran an October 11 Washington Post headline, but they’re not the only ones quoting Acton as a satisfactory explanation of the President of the United States’ disturbing tendency to run [...]

“Woke capitalism” is no substitute for Catholic social teaching

Financial analysts are swooning over the Corporate Roundtable’s new “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” signed by 181 CEOs, including those of Walmart, JP Morgan, and AT&T. These executives have pledged to “lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.” Ric Edelman, chairman and co-founder of Edelman Financial [...]

What “Deep Christian Convictions” of “Democratic Socialism”?

I do my best to avoid The New York Times. Truly, I try not to read it. Doing so invariably ruins my day and wastes my time. It not only frustrates me but pains me. On countless thousands of occasions I’ve found myself reading a Times piece that leaves me barking at the page about [...]

The Catholic Position on the Electoral College

Is there a Catholic position on the Electoral College? Is there a “Catholic algebra” or a “Catholic chemistry”? Of course, there is not a Catholic algebra or chemistry, but there ought to be Catholic circumstances in which those subjects are taught and learned. There is, then, a Catholic “sense and sensibility” about learning, including the [...]

What a Catholic Economy Looks Like

The adjective Catholic is rarely employed to describe the ideal economy we need. Many would see its use as mere window dressing to make the free market appear a bit more compassionate. Everyone knows that the business of creating wealth comes from industry and business. The accountant’s ledger is the only true measure of this [...]

The Spiritual Roots of Working Class Woes

Secular readers have seen J.D. Vance’s recent best-selling Hillbilly Elegy as the prophetic book of the political year, explaining if not predicting Trumpism, and even as the most clear-eyed, dismal report on the moral state of the new American millennium, zeroing in on our national “family and culture in crisis.” Vance’s personal memoir knows that deep [...]

Liberty and Authority: Toward a Catholic Conservatism

We’ve learned by now to apply a certain hermeneutic to the Holy Father’s proclamations, and that includes one given to a congress of Catholic lawmakers in Rome in late August: As long as the contribution of the Church to the great questions of society in our time can be put into discussion,” he said, “it [...]

A Role for Government that Nobody Thinks About

A few years ago, as Obamacare was being put in place, Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio suggested that the Christian obligation to assist the poor was a reason for expanding Medicaid in the state. Catholic social teaching does indeed make clear that the state has a role in assisting the needy, but only—in line [...]

How to Discourage Socialism Among the Young

When business is based on selfishness everybody is busy becoming more selfish.  ~ Peter Maurin You gotta’ love socialists. At least I do. I love their passionate idealism, their desire for economic parity, their disdain for rapacious laissez-faire capitalism—and their mod outfits. Thanks to Bernie Sanders and his quixotic campaign for the presidency, there’s plenty of [...]

Does Francis Really Have a Marxism Problem?

Last November Pope Francis issued his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium  (The Joy of the Gospel) and it immediately met resistance from some conservatives who charged Francis with Marxism. Francis denied the accusations, insisting there was nothing in the exhortation that contradicted the Church’s teaching on social doctrine. The attention brought to Marxism in the Catholic [...]

Pope Leo’s Ideal Was Not State Control

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 [...]

Leo’s Guilds a Far Cry from Today’s Unions

We have seen that Pope Leo XIII defends the right of a workingman to receive wages sufficient to support his family, in a becoming manner, if he but practices the virtues of diligence and frugality in an ordinary way.  We have also seen that the Pope defends the right of laborers to form free associations [...]

Leo XIII Knew Socialism Would Fail Because it was Evil

It is generally held that Catholic Social Teaching begins with Pope Leo XIII’s masterly encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891).  That, as I’ve tried to show, is a dreadful mistake.  Pope Leo considered it his duty to apply to current concerns the constant teaching of the Church and of the word of God.  Like Thomas Aquinas, the [...]

The State Exists to Serve, Not Usurp, the Family

We are approaching, in this series, Pope Leo XIII’s great encyclical Rerum Novarum, on the condition of the working classes.  I’ve been maintaining that it is impossible to discuss Catholic Social Teaching without specifying what Catholics understand as a society.  I’ve also insisted upon the wise dictum of Saint Thomas, that grace perfects nature, which [...]

Leo XIII: “Without Faith, Liberty Degenerates into License”

The good and wise Pope Leo XIII never condemned an error without commending a truth.  In this series on Catholic Social Teaching, then, I believe I should follow the Holy Father’s example.  It’s easy to inveigh against what Leo condemns; more rewarding, though, to reveal the beauty of what he commends.  In this essay, then, [...]

Healthy Societies Need Successful Marriages

The great error of most economic thinking these days is not that it is too keenly focused on the economy, but that it has all but forgotten it.  A good friend of mine, a wise theologian, has encouraged his students to distinguish between what Aristotle calls chrematistics, the craft of amassing wealth, which Aristotle viewed [...]

Leo XIII: “Taxing the Rich Does Not Help the Poor”

In Quod Apostolici Muneris (1878), Pope Leo XIII deplores those who “under the motley and all but barbarous terms and titles of Socialists, Communists, and Nihilists, are spread abroad throughout the world,” striving in alliance for “the purpose long resolved upon, of uprooting the foundations of civil society at large.”  It may sound odd to [...]

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