Rerum Novarum

Private Charity Versus Government Welfare

Less than three years has passed since the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's third encyclical, Charity in Truth. As some readers may remember, the encyclical caused quite a stir both in secular and religious circles -- as have many of the past papal encyclicals dealing with economic questions, going back to Pope Leo XIII's groundbreaking [...]

The Church and the Unions

Judging by the impassioned commentary from some Catholic quarters during recent confrontations between unionized public-sector workers and state governments, you'd think we were back in 1919, with the Church defending the rights of wage slaves laboring in sweat shops under draconian working conditions. That would hardly seem to be the circumstances of, say, unionized American [...]

How Catholics Commit Political Suicide

Anti-Catholicism has always been a problem in America, although today it is nothing like what existed in an earlier era. Catholics are part of the nation's economic, political, and cultural establishment, no longer the lesser citizens of a society that was generically Protestant and fairly proud of that fact. But every so often, events conspire [...]

Toward a More Just Economy

I can only do justice to John Mueller's magnum opus Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element (and it is "magnum," with 470 dense pages and copious footnotes) by comparing it to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Ludwig von Mises' Human Action, and the wrongheaded but immensely influential General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by [...]

How John Locke Influenced Catholic Social Teaching

It isn't often that John Locke is mentioned in discussions of Catholic social teaching, unless it is to set him up as an example of all that the Church supposedly rejects. After all, Locke is considered one of the founders of a liberal and individualist political tradition that was rejected by the papacy in the [...]

Jesus Loves You; Caesar and Mammon, Not So Much

Here are some recent scenes from American Christianity waiting on the rich and powerful in the hope of catching some table scraps. You got your Christian representatives of the Thing that Used to Be Liberalism in bed with millionaires bent on "tailoring the message" to the needs of pro-abortion zealots: Correcting his initial comments denying [...]

The Church, Yesterday and Today

In the 1970s, I inhabited a world where the Second Vatican Council was seen as an unmitigated disaster. Nuns stopped wearing their old habits -- or simply left their convents altogether. Priests left their ministry. There was trite music at Mass, and Benediction seemed to have been abolished. Doctrine wasn't taught anymore, and catechesis for [...]

Can the Theological Virtues Eat the Natural Ones?

Like many tradition-loving Catholics, I feel terrible for Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos -- now the second-most hated cardinal in the Church, after Bernard Cardinal Law. As John Allen observed, Cardinal Castrillón once "was widely considered a serious contender to become the first Latin American pope." Today, he "has achieved global infamy in light of a [...]

Green Asceticism

From the earliest days of religious communities, monks and nuns have practiced sustainable living. Environmental awareness is nothing new among religious, since many congregations ran farms, raised chickens, tended kitchen gardens, and carefully stored winter supplies of potatoes, apples, squash, and the like. Moreover, religious are known to use their resources wisely and modestly, all [...]

Practical Distributism: Looking at the Community Reinvestment Act

Those of us who have argued for alternatives to individualistic capitalism and the bureaucratic welfare state are often told that we are good at pointing out problems but come up short on solutions -- it's a charge distributists hear often. Nevertheless, Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, Caritas in Veritate,challenges us to overcome the "market-plus-State" model, [...]

Liberality vs. ‘Reality’

This virtue business is a puzzler. If picking up the tab for a raging alcoholic, or keeping one's gambling-addict grandma in bingo cards, doesn't add up to Liberality, what does? Isn't the New Testament full of admonitions like "Give till it hurts," and "It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?"   It's [...]

A New Conservatism

The prospects for conservatism as a political force in the United States are arguably grim. The GOP's electoral prospects may be on the verge of drying up due to demographic shifts, particularly the growth of the Hispanic vote -- the kind of shifts that, in the past, have driven major political parties into extinction. There [...]

The Minimum Wage and Catholic Social Teaching

When the Democratic Party gained control of Congress three years ago, as part of its "100 Hour" plan it quickly introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour. The partisan debate was predictable: Democratic advocates of the raise cited concern for poor and working families, and Republican [...]

Capitalist? Socialist? Distributist.

Small is beautiful. Or, the bigger the business, the bigger the bailout. Congress has promised over $1 trillion from our hands to "rescue" gargantuan businesses. When corporations demand the largest free ride in our history, it's time to rethink economies of scale. Socialism is a silly solution -- there, everything becomes one gargantuan business. We [...]

The Fall of the Wall

I must admit right up front that I am anything but an economist. My fiscal sensibility was formed by the heritage of seven generations of Pennsylvania Mennonite farmers. We live within our means. We don't buy what we can't pay for. We don't have debt and we don't gamble with our money -- either in [...]

Real Social Justice

"No human law," writes the great Pope Leo XIII, can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage, ordained by God's authority from the beginning. Increase and multiply. Hence we have the family; the society of a man's house -- a society limited [...]

The Case for the Workers’ Cooperative

Catholic social teaching has consistently held as its core principle that economic activity is to be subordinated to the common good, which the Catechism defines as "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily." Debate over precisely how the [...]

Economics As Science: A Catholic Defense of the Free Market

Put forth a robust defense of the free market as the most morally and materially satisfying economic system and you invite all manner of invective and accusation. What are you, some kind of dissenter? Not so fast. Although the documents of modern Catholic social teaching normally begin with Rerum Novarum (1891), students should instead start [...]

The Media and Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Growth’

Two years ago, the mainstream media gathered in a special conclave in Rome to discuss the disastrous election to the papacy of Ratzinger the Enforcer, God's Rottweiler, the hardliner, inflexible, rigid, etc., blah blah. Some of us suggested to our television screens that the talking heads might want to wait more than a few seconds [...]

Under the Ban: Modernism, Then and Now

On July 3, 1907, in a decree bearing the lachrymose Latin title Lamentabili, the Vatican's Holy Office, predecessor of today's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, condemned 65 propositions that it had found contrary to Catholic orthodoxy. Pope Pius X followed up two months later, on September 8, with an encyclical named Pascendi Dominici [...]