Quotes Suitable for Framing: Pope Leo XIII

Tuesday, June 27, AD 2017


18. In like manner, the other pains and hardships of life will have no end or cessation on earth; for the consequences of sin are bitter and hard to bear, and they must accompany man so long as life lasts. To suffer and to endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity; let them strive as they may, no strength and no artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it. If any there are who pretend differently – who hold out to a hard-pressed people the boon of freedom from pain and trouble, an undisturbed repose, and constant enjoyment – they delude the people and impose upon them, and their lying promises will only one day bring forth evils worse than the present. Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere, as We have said, for the solace to its troubles.

Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum

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3 Responses to Quotes Suitable for Framing: Pope Leo XIII

Quotes Suitable For Framing: Pope Leo XIII

Thursday, October 30, AD 2014

Rerum Novarum


Those who rule the commonwealths should avail themselves of the laws and institutions of the country; masters and wealthy owners must be mindful of their duty; the working class, whose interests are at stake, should make every lawful and proper effort; and since religion alone, as We said at the beginning, can avail to destroy the evil at its root, all men should rest persuaded that main thing needful is to re-establish Christian morals, apart from which all the plans and devices of the wisest will prove of little avail.

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum-Paragraph 62





The problem with papal encyclicals when they delve into economic and political issues is that they tend to be long and fairly complex. They are also bound by the historical events surrounding them at the time when they are promulgated. People with axes to grind will usually pick and choose rather than reading the entire encyclical in its historical context.


Rerum Novarum was written in 1891 at a time of huge worker unrest and when both anarchism and communism were beginning to take root. The living conditions of workers were often appalling. Pope Leo, while making a full throated defense of property, also wanted to indicate sympathy for the workers and their often legitimate complaints.


In regard to paragraph 36 of Rerum Novarum Pope Leo in his final sentence indicates a concern that the State not take more action than is necessary to remedy an evil: “The limits must be determined by the nature of the occasion which calls for the law’s interference – the principle being that the law must not undertake more, nor proceed further, than is required for the remedy of the evil or the removal of the mischief.”

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6 Responses to Quotes Suitable For Framing: Pope Leo XIII

  • “Those who rule the commonwealths should avail themselves of the laws and institutions of the country;”
    Politicians must avail themselves of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the law of the land.

  • Let us not forget Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of socialism in Quod Apostoloci Muneris:

  • “the rights of workers to form unions was often denied”

    In England, they were prosecuted as conspiracies in restraint of trade. In Scotland, however, this was held not to be a point of dittay, although a charge of “Conspiring to raise wages, or to concuss workmen, or to effect any similar object by violent and forcible means, or by criminal threats” was held relevent to infer the pains of law. [In Scots, “to concuss” = to coerce – ” Where there has been such a degree of force used to concuss a person to grant a deed…”]

    During the Revolution, the Le Chapelier Law (Law of 14 June 1791) provided, “It is contrary to the principles of liberty and the Constitution for citizens with the same professions, arts, or trades to deliberate or make agreements among themselves designed to set prices for their industry or their labour. .”
    Had it been seen as a way of protecting the rich against the poor, or the propertied against the property-less, it would have met with strenuous opposition by one of the Assembly’s defenders of the poor. But the law was passed without opposition because it seemed evidence to the entire National Assembly that the reconstitution of corporations in any form was a fundamental threat to the nation and its free constitution. The law made it clear that no intermediary body could stand between the individual – now armed with his natural rights – and the nation – now the guarantor of those rights.”

  • Such brilliant, fecund and saint Pope, why are you not yet sanctified by the Church, while Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI are?

    Let’s pray for that.

  • Great point Pedro Erik!

  • I feel the same way Pedro and Anzlyne. I have a news clipping here from 1994 with an interview of now Cardinal Burke on the “plight” of the nations dairy famers. He has a lot of Pope Leo in him. He was a champion of family farmers in our Diocese of Lacrosse. Somehow what he preached did not in the least seem to be liberal but a true friend and a true understanding of what Leo XIII was getting at.

7 Responses to Libertarianism & CST: The Debate Continues

  • My response:
    Sanchez says I’ve done nothing to alter his original opinion of my views:
    “everything that coheres with the libertarian worldview is in; everything which opposes it is out.”
    Let me explain why it looks that way. As I have already mentioned, and as has been mentioned by other Catholic libertarians and even pro-market conservatives, there are two kinds of statements about economics; “normative” or moral statements, and descriptive or technical statements. In my reading of the Papal encyclicals, there is very little, if anything at all, in the way of normative or moral statements that I would toss out. This is because the vast majority of such statements are clearly oriented towards the ultimate ends of economic activity, which is the common good. No disagreement from me on that!
    What I consider “out” are statements of a descriptive or predictive or theoretical nature that are either dubious or simply false. And there are plenty of those.
    “As a matter of interpretive principles, I reject Hargrave’s narrow textualist approach which would create a tensions in the encyclical’s text and also put Leo XIII’s instruction out of continuity with post-Leonine developments of Catholic social teaching (CST). Hargrave, oddly, seems to forget that Rerum Novarum launched, not capped, the Church’s modern social magisterium.”
    I don’t believe my reading of RN creates tensions in the text itself. Here Sanchez and I have what I consider to be mostly a semantic dispute that I’m not even going to address in detail here. But I do believe there are tensions between RN and later developments in CST. So what?
    The whole reason we have these debates is to overcome the incessant moralism and dogmatism that the self-appointed defenders of CST often engage in. I am not arguing that all Catholics must be libertarians, but I am arguing that the goals of justice and general prosperity are best served by a market economy. In the minds of more than a few Catholics, this argument itself is heretical. In Leo XIII we have a pope who articulated and defended the first and most basic pillar of a free market economy – the individual, natural and inviolable right to the fruits of one’s labor as their property. In further discussing the relation between the individual man and the state, Leo XIII defends the idea that it is man who precedes the state (a reversal of the old Aristotelian idea), that his rights exist before the state exists, and it is the state that exists to serve man and protect his rights. He rejects the notion that the state has a duty to confiscate the surplus wealth of individuals and redistribute it to the poor (except in cases of extreme need). If all of this causes “tension”, well, one can read it all out of the encyclical, deny that it is there, magically “contextualize” it out of existence – or one can accept that there are tensions, and that this is ok. Who said there had to be 100% consistency on these points? We’re not talking about the Immaculate Conception here.
    I could also go off on a long tangent about a whole host of other “tensions” in the pre and post Vatican II Magisteriums that are a heck of a lot more disturbing than this one, but Sanchez is quite familiar with those already.

    Sanchez says I and others blatantly mischaracterize his views about what CST calls for. Well, I never intended to mischaracterize. His views weren’t exactly clear to me, and in some cases I was simply speaking in general terms about what people on his side of the spectrum tend to believe. I have a feeling that if we got down to details, we would probably end up agreeing on a number of issues. If he rejects mass egalitarian projects like Obamacare, onerous taxes on the wealthy, a Leviathan administrative state, etc. then I don’t see that we have many practical disagreements. The key issue for the libertarian is the use of force. As a minarchist I’m not a “pure” libertarian anarchist, but I do reject confiscatory taxation as a violation of the right to private property. I reject the idea that an entity with an absolute monopoly of violence is required to “intervene” in the economy – let alone to ensure that “labor” is somehow exalted over “capital.” Of course I am interested to see how that might be done without “heavy handed, often costly regulatory measures.” Impress me!
    “I would ask Hargrave, in charity as a fellow Catholic, to drop libertarianism’s Manichaean outlook which would have all the world divided into “freedom lovers” and “statists.””
    I haven’t called anyone a statist, not here, in my previous reply, or in my Crisis piece. If I did in a comment box somewhere, I apologize.

  • That picture of Leo XIII is vaguely campy. Why are you using it?

  • There are many reasons why the state may interfere with free markets, other than redistribution of wealth.

    Protectionism, whether in the form of tariffs or subsidies is often proposed on strategic grounds, to ensure security of supply in the event of conflict. For more than a century, French governments protected their iron and steel industries, subsidized agriculture for this reason. They built a vast rail network, 30,000 km of it, with branch lines serving every hamlet. Most of these could never operate at a profit; they were intended for the rapid mobilisation of reserves and it was as much part of the national defences as the frontier fortresses.

    It was Liberals and Radical Republicans, one recalls, who treated universal suffrage and universal conscription as two sides of the same coin and saw in the levée en masse the supreme expression of the republic, one and indivisible

    Adam Smith, one recalls, defended the Navigation Acts, requiring British goods to be exported in British ships on precisely these grounds: they created, in effect, a naval reserve and a ready supply of fleet auxiliaries.

    An Arch-Conservative like Bismark, ran Prussia like an armed camp; every male citizen was a soldier, actual or potential, industry was increasingly integrated into the system of national defence and the distinction between the armed forces and the “Home Front” was blurred.

    One recalls Rousseau, “Each man alienates, I admit, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods and liberty as it is important for the community to control; but it must also be granted that the Sovereign [the People] is sole judge of what is important.”

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  • So far all wealth transfer has done is export abortion, contraception and sterilization to men and women around the world, particularly in developing countries that don’t want it. In fact, the recipients of charity must agree to sterilize, Norplant or vasectomies in order to receive food, medicine, water and mosquito nets. It disgusts me. I refuse to support government mandated wealth redistribution until the evils of abortion and contraception are abolished. Let the poor receive hard goods (such as bags of rice) through reputable suppliers only, and not the U.N. and its population councils as it is presently done. I demand that Pope Francis account for where charitable donations go, and give us a sound reason why Catholics should support wealth redistribution in the face of this great evil.

  • This is most certainly an oversimplified assertion, but libertarianism, as it is generally espoused today, is compatible neither with Catholicism nor, for that matter, with the American ethos. Liberty and order, which may superficially appear to be incompatible, must be pursued simultaneously, as neither has unqualified primacy of place in the creation and maintenance of the good society.

    Catholicism and the American ethos define order in a quite different manner, but both acknowledge that order, pursued in a predetermined, consistent and principled manner, is necessary to true liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One of the primary challenges for American Catholics is to resolve the tension between the Catholic view of order and the American view of order.

  • ” . . . but libertarianism, as it is generally espoused today, is compatible neither with Catholicism nor for that matter, with the American ethos.”
    Correct. Libertarianism, as it is generally espoused today, is a corruption fomented by major party hacks and other fascists of varying hue. Libertarianism, as I knew it 30 years ago before it became a threat to the Standing Order, was so compatible with the American ethos that we had trouble even finding contrast to give it substance and definition. It was compatible with Catholicism like nitrogen is compatible with breathing. As it is generally espoused today it is not Libertarianism. To believe that it is, is to swallow the Kool-Aid and join the lockstep ranks of statist lemmings.
    The corruption that Libertarianism has suffered is the same corruption that has pervaded all of American society. All of society and everything relevant to it – in short, pretty much everything – is now seen through the lens of collective politics and government. In this way, the Progressive Fascists have already won the day. This warped, Godless perspective cannot but paint its diametric opposite in anything but the ugliest of shades. The better part, then, it to shatter the lens of corruption and look straight on.
    Once the corrupting interference is excised, Libertarianism is viewed from a human perspective which is the only accurate view: Morals and ethics ought to be taught by parents to their children, informed and reinforced by their chosen houses of worship without question of correctness, even in dissimilarity, among the citizens. Responsibilities ought to be solely the realm of the individual, forged by the necessity of either working in profitable mutual effort or failing. Rights ought to be propagated primarily through their mutual defense even (or especially) in disagreement in order to preserve the integrity of community and nation (“I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Try that on ANY campus of “higher learning” today.) Shortcoming in any of these three areas represents a failure, and it is incumbent upon friend and neighbor to offer fellowship, loving chastisement and opportunity for mutual benefit in its cure. These are the cornerstones of Libertarianism.
    Government ought to be the warehouse in which violence in the name of order is bound, and loosed only in circumstances that render no other solution, and solely for the enforcement of contract or punishment of aggressive criminality. All other activity ought to be the domain of the individual citizen; a vigorous Catholic Church would be sine qua non for a prosperous, charitable and orderly community.
    The Austrian School, and not the Keynesian, is the Libertarian economic model. How this can be called incompatible with Catholicism can only be an act of lack of information. Economics, like Salvation, is the action of individuals and cannot be successfully collectivized. The end result is multitudes in landscape, but a forest is only as healthy as its trees.
    So, whatever is called Libertarianism today, it is not. Libertinism, perhaps, but that would die a quick and painful death in a truly Libertarian society; or Anarchy, maybe, but that’s a simple absence of something, and natural abhorrence to vacuum would rapidly address such inequity, and not for the better. Libertarianism is only as visible as it is nowadays because the epicenter of political thought has moved so far from what it used to be. Libertarians’ most object wish is to be unrecognizable from the mainstream in thought and action. The difference between us and other political stripes is that once upon a time, we were.
    So, apologies for the rant. I’m simply tired of seeing the incorrect application of that term. Winessing the success of the Fascists in its obfuscation, to the point that good Catholic folks can’t recognize the system that would best provide for our optimal social condition, is tremendously frustrating and so I had to vent. I appreciate your kindness and time.

Touching Up The Ol’ Hermeneutic: A Reply To Gabriel Sanchez

Tuesday, May 6, AD 2014

Gabriel Sanchez, a Catholic author I know and respect, has written a critique of my – as he calls it – selective “hermeneutic” of libertarian Catholicism at Ethika Politica. Specifically he is critiquing my critique of Mark Shea’s indictment of libertarianism as heresy at Crisis magazine. It seems he at least agrees with my point that libertarianism is not heresy, but that may be where the agreement ends There are some broad points of his critique I want to address.

First there is Sanchez’s claim that my argument regarding the limits Leo places on the state with respect to taxation and charity is “strange.” The part of paragraph 22 that Sanchez says I “overlook” is irrelevant; in context, it is clear that Leo does not believe that the state has a duty to expropriate and confiscate wealth in the name of charity. I could have quoted more of that paragraph to support my point, such as “[n]o one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, “for no one ought to live other than becomingly.”” After this, the part I did quote:

“But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. “Of that which remaineth, give alms.”(14) It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity – a duty not enforced by human law.”

Maybe we live in two different semantic universes, but in mine, when someone says “no one is commanded”, “not of justice”, “not enforced by human law”, the meaning is clear: the state has no obligation to confiscate the private property of citizens and distribute it to whomever it deems worthy. Whether to give and how much to give is a matter for each individual to decide. I suppose it is arguable that the state could do these things with the consent of the people, but it is not required to do so and the libertarian argument against them would remain quite valid.

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21 Responses to Touching Up The Ol’ Hermeneutic: A Reply To Gabriel Sanchez

  • Sanchez must be an pinhead from academia. Thanks, Mr. McClarey for standing your ground. Your argument seems to be reason and logic based. The pinhead seems to be living on an alternate universe.

  • Thank you Ray, but this is Bonchamps’ post.

  • Debating or arguing Mark Shea is less productive than soaking one’s head in a can of paint.

  • I apologize. For some reason I thought Bonchamps was a nom de plume for you. Sorry.

  • I have read both articles and I must say it is one of the most polite exchanges I have read on the topic. After reading the comments between Mr Sanchez and others on the original article I am led to conclude that perhaps you and the original author are closer in agreement on the nature of state involvement then the normal confrontation between libertarians and there opponents in the Catholic world.

    “Libertarianism “exists” whenever people conduct their affairs freely without the intervention of busy-bodies, social engineers and moralists who have armed agents at their disposal to impose their will.”

    I would be curious as to how you would define a moralist.

  • “I have read both articles and I must say it is one of the most polite exchanges I have read on the topic.”
    After hundreds of nasty exchanges on this topic, I’m glad I’m evolving a bit. I agree, though, it’s usually brutal.
    As for moralists, I mean people who think that their moral positions override evidence, reason, logic, etc. When someone says “we must do x, regardless of the consequences”, for instance. Consequences matter. I wouldn’t argue that they’re always the most important thing, but even when they aren’t, they can’t be treated as if they don’t exist. A lot of proposals for intervention into the economy begin with a moral idea, and they overlook the hidden costs and consequences. And to me, that itself is a moral failing, it is a reckless disregard for how one’s ideas and actions affect other people.

  • St. Gregory the Great has a fair amount to say on the topic of those who give alms from what they have seized from others. Check Book 3 of Pastoral Rule, aka in your Old English literature class as the Book of Pastoral Care.

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  • Bonchamps

    I should appreciate your take on Pope Pius XI’s observations in Casti Connubii. Please excuse the rather lengthy citation:
    “120. If, however, for this purpose, private resources do not suffice, it is the duty of the public authority to supply for the insufficient forces of individual effort, particularly in a matter which is of such importance to the common weal, touching as it does the maintenance of the family and married people. If families, particularly those in which there are many children, have not suitable dwellings; if the husband cannot find employment and means of livelihood; if the necessities of life cannot be purchased except at exorbitant prices; if even the mother of the family to the great harm of the home, is compelled to go forth and seek a living by her own labour; if she, too, in the ordinary or even extraordinary labours of childbirth, is deprived of proper food, medicine, and the assistance of a skilled physician, it is patent to all to what an extent married people may lose heart, and how home life and the observance of God’s commands are rendered difficult for them; indeed it is obvious how great a peril can arise to the public security and to the welfare and very life of civil society itself when such men are reduced to that condition of desperation that, having nothing which they fear to lose, they are emboldened to hope for chance advantage from the upheaval of the state and of established order.
    121. Wherefore, those who have the care of the State and of the public good cannot neglect the needs of married people and their families, without bringing great harm upon the State and on the common welfare. Hence, in making the laws and in disposing of public funds they must do their utmost to relieve the needs of the poor, considering such a task as one of the most important of their administrative duties.”
    Surely, “the public security” and the protection of “established order” is one of the primary obligations of the state, on any view of it?

  • After reading the comments between Mr Sanchez and others on the original article I am led to conclude that perhaps you and the original author are closer in agreement on the nature of state involvement then the normal confrontation between libertarians and there opponents in the Catholic world.

    When you say, “original author” you mean Mark Shea? That’s… interesting since one his new tags for articles is:

    “Libertarianism is a Heresy for People with No Children”

    Given that and some other posts, it doesn’t seem that Shea has an issue with the role of government as a principle, but just that the people he wants are not in charge.

  • “Libertarianism is a Heresy for People with No Children”

    I am no Libertarain but I think those with no children actually want bigger government:


  • Social Justice is giving to the needy what they need to sustain life, not to fulfill their desires. (the needy ought to desire from another only what he truly needs to sustain life or the description “needy” would be a fraud.).
    The economy must be based on the virtue of charity. (giving a child a pound of candy is NOT charity. I know. I’ve done it. The child survived after a couple of days.) You give me a dress I need, (not want) and I give you the means to replace the dress for another. This is an exercise of the virtue of charity. It is also the exercise of freedom in free will and consent, absolutely necessary to contract.
    For the government to strongarm its citizens to fulfill some form of giving it has devised is tyranny and extortion and plain taking without compensation; unconstitutional, according to the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment.
    For the government to despise our freedom and present itself as the “just compensation” called for in the Fifth Amendment is ludicrous if it weren’t so monstrous.

  • MPS,

    The specific list of problems Pius XI lists can be addressed by free markets. Competition is what lowers the costs of everyday goods and services that people need. Meanwhile rent and price controls have the effect of causing shortages, disincentivizing investments and improvements, and causing unemployment. I would argue that “the poor” as he conceives them and “the poor” as they exist in the America of 2014 are also two very different groups. Poverty is relative, and in America it is temporary. And that’s part of the problem with Papal economics; it assumes that there is a fixed group of people who are in poverty. That might have been true 100 years ago, and it may still be true today in some countries, but it isn’t true in the US or in any other place where the balance between markets and interventionism tilts towards markets. On the other hand massive interventions have the effect of actually creating a permanently poor class of people, the closest to which we have in the US are the urban blacks who have been the recipients of the most “aid.”

  • @Nate Winchester

    No I meant the article written by Mr Gabriel Sanchez when I said original article. I did not read the article by Mark Shea.

  • Bonchamps

    No doubt, in the long run, free markets do raise living standards. However, a generation after the repeal of the Corn Laws,Disraeli famously twitted the Liberals of the Manchester School with proclaiming peace and plenty amid a starving people and a world in arms.

    In the meantime, Pius XI’s concern about public order can be genuine enough. We have only to recall the June Days of 1848, following the closure of the National Workshops. Then, the Liberals secured a victory over the Radical Republicans, but at the cost of 1,500 dead in the streets of Paris and thousands of summary executions of prisoners. The Assembly, one recalls, welcomed the surrender of the last barricade with cries of “Long Live the Republic!” What they got, inevitably, was Napoleon III.

  • @Noah M

    Ah I gotcha. When you have several layers of replies and back and forths like this, things can get confusing.

  • There can be no free market as long as the government monopolizes the money supply

    Well, someone has drunk the Austro-Kool-Aid.

  • You left off the coordinating clause Art.

    But then I’ve been known to tipple with the Austrians myself.

  • Art Deco

    Monetary theory is a closed book to me, but I once encountered it in a practical form.
    I had to draw the indictment of some men who had robbed a branch of the Clydesdale Bank and part of their haul consisted of the bank’s own banknotes. What was the value of those notes?

    On their face, they are a promise by the bank to pay the bearer on demand £x. To any other holder, they are worth £x, but what are those held by the bank worth to the bank? The bank cannot owe money to itself. My researches showed that in their balance sheet “Notes in the Banking dept” appear as a deduction from “Notes in circulation” (a liability) Stocks of unissued notes are shown at cost (the printer’s charges) under “Consumables” (an asset)

    Having asked a number of colleagues, as puzzled as myself, I resorted to “x pieces or thereby of printed paper, bearing to be banknotes of the said bank and having a face value of £y or thereby, the value of the said pieces of paper being otherwise to the prosecutor unknown, the property or in the lawful possession of the said bank.”

    Does anyone have any better idea?

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Cardinal Gibbons and the Knights of Labor

Monday, September 3, AD 2012



This Labor Day I recall an episode in both the history of labor in the United States and in the history of the Catholic Church in America.  The last half of the nineteenth century was a time of labor strife, as businesses grew larger, the fruit of the ongoing Industrial Revolution, and workers fought for improvement of working conditions that by any standard were frequently abysmal.  Prior to the Civil War apologists for slavery often argued that the average slave in the South was better fed, better housed and better clothed than the average industrial worker in the North.  This of course overlooked the entire question of liberty, but there were enough terrible examples of wretched working conditions in the North to give the argument facile support.

Unions sprang up to represent workers.  One of the largest in its day was the Knights of Labor founded in 1868.  Successful in several large strikes, by 1886 the membership totaled 700,000, perhaps a majority of whom were Catholic.  In 1886 the Archbishop of Quebec condemned the Knights in Canada based upon the secrecy that attended the meetings of the organization and forbade Catholics to join it.

The American hierarchy voted 10 to 2 against condemning the Knights.  Archbishop James Gibbons was going to Rome in 1887 to receive his red hat as Pope Leo XIII had made him a Cardinal.  While there he took the opportunity to submit a lengthy letter in support of the Knights.  Although the letter bears the name of Gibbons, it was probably written by his friend Bishop John Ireland of Saint Paul, who had long been active in support of the rights of workers.  The letter did the trick and the Vatican announced that the Knights were not to be condemned.  The arguments made in the letter had an impact on Pope Leo XIII and helped lay the groundwork for his historic encyclical  Rerum Novarum (1891) in which he defended the rights of workers to organize to seek better working conditions.  Ironically the subject matter of the letter, the Knights of Labor, was in decline, too many of its strikes having involved violence which the leadership of the Knights condemned, but which tarnished the Knights in the eyes of the public.  The Knights would cease to operate as a labor union in 1900, newer unions taking the place of this pioneering organization.

The letter of Cardinal Gibbons stressed that Catholic workers in America who belonged to labor organizations were not hostile to the Church as often occurred in Europe where Unions were organized by Leftist and Anarchist groups.  In America most Americans supported the workers in their struggle to improve their lot, with both major political parties vying to pass legislation aiding workers.  In short, the letter explained American labor and political conditions to the Vatican and how these differed substantially from those existing in Europe.  The letter and the decision of the Vatican were good examples of effective communication between American ecclesiastics and Rome.  Here is the text of the letter:

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12 Responses to Cardinal Gibbons and the Knights of Labor

  • History lessons such as these illustrate how Catholic Social Teaching by the Bishop of Rome and European bishops needed to be interpreted for and by US pastors. Same went for “separation of Church-State,” democracy, conscience freedom and such. Ironically, they are all back on the front burner with the new atheism and hostility to Natural Law

  • By one of those ironies of history, in the mid-19th century, one finds deeply conservative Monarchist bishops and clergy in France supporting workers’ rights, inspired by their inveterate hatred of the French Revolution and all its works, including, of course, the Allarde Decree of 17 March 1791 and the Le Chapelier Law of 14 June 1791.

    It was not until the law of 25 May 1864, under Napoléon III that workers regained the right to associate and to strike.

    Père Henri-Dominique Lacordaire OP, who restored the Dominican order in France in 1850 and who was the most celebrated preacher of his day was an early champion of the rights of labour. An admirer of Lord Shaftsbury’s Factories Acts in the UK, he famously remarked, “Between the weak and the strong, between the rich and the poor, between the master and the servant, it is freedom which oppresses and the law which sets free.”

  • Donald,

    Thanks for posting this article and letter. The late 19th Century (bleeding into the early 20th Century) was one of the most outstanding times in human history for technological growth, and the improvement of the lives of all people. But, it was not without some pain, especially felt among the workers who became little more than “wage slaves”.

    Ultimately, work places were made safe and salaries rose. While there certainly was violence and blood, what is amazing is that the antagonism, and anarchy, that marked European labor movements did not take hold as deeply nor as long here in the US. This was due (IMHO) to the influence and true interest of Catholic Church leadership here, as compared to the European model.

  • JP 11 championed the sacred dignity of the worker, who made labour sacred, and thus stole the Commie thunder. Leo X111 started with the FACTORY OWNER etc and asked for trickle down as it were, whereas JP11 reversed that and showed where the HUMAN’s SACRED VALUE entered in. That kind of moral evolution is crucial and is the kind of revolution that the late Cdl MARTINI called for in updating the Church being 200 years out of date. Clericalism, bishops addressed and some/many living as lords and Kings with almost untrammeled power. Clericalism needs to be stripped so Servant Leaders take over after 2i00 years as JESUS demanded

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  • Rerum Novarum is actually quite positive about Trade Unions, and was influenced by the ideas of Henry, Cardinal Manning (Archbishop of Westminster) whose intervention in the London dock strike of 1889 made him a hero in the eyes of working men. Unions were given full legal recognition in the 1870s, and Margaret Thatcher actually removed some of the rights which had been granted by her Conservative predecessor Benjamin Disraeli over a century before.

    The anarcho-syndicalism prevalent on the Continent was indeed largely absent in Britain and America. This is due less to the influence of the Church than to a tradition of effective representative government which militated against revolution.

  • John, Cardinal Gibbons considered his victory re: the Knights of Labor to be greatly helped by Manning. Gibbons wrote to him: “I cannot sufficiently express to you how much I have felt strengthened in my position by being able to refer in the document to your utterances on the claims of the working man to our sympathy and support.” Gibbons in later years recalled with amusement a cartoon which had Manning on one side of Pope Leo, and Gibbons on the other, with Pope Leo exclaiming that he must watch himself between two such foxes!

  • John,

    Thanks very much for the information. This is one of the reasons I love TAC so much; unlike many other blogs, the correspondents here (excepting myself) have so much knowledge that the comboxes are actually a great continuation of the excellent posts.

  • John Nolan

    Anarcho-syndicalism, in the tradition of Sorel and Proudhon, has deep roots in the Latin distrust of government, as such. Its main appeal was always in Italy, Spain and France south of the Loire, places in which the political class is held in deep and, often, well-merited contempt.

    In Britain, trade unionism and the Labour party had strong roots in the Nonconformist tradition, especially Methodism in England & Wales and the Covenanter legacy in Scotland.

  • Cardinal Manning was a very great man, but his indignation at wrongdoing sometimes betrayed him into remarks more acerbic than was becoming in a clergyman, as when he said of Lord Palmerston (the Prime Minister) that his character was below his talents.

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16 Responses to The Conquest of Poverty

  • The late great Henry Hazlitt. Now that’s a name that rarely is mentioned and when he is, his works never disappoint.

  • Obama, bless his heart, doesn’t foster equal opportunity, he forces equal outcomes. That has failed adding to poverty.

  • “The key idea here, though, is that charitable giving is not a duty of justice or a duty enforced by human law. The state has no obligation to confiscate and redistribute wealth in order to “help the poor” (assuming that this is what the aim really is).

    Nor do Catholics have an obligation to advocate for policies that would do as much, let alone castigate and anathematize other Catholics who object to the prudence and morality of such policies.”

    ‘Tolerance’ is a two way street and, when in balance, allows the higher virtue of charity to flourish.

    .”(13) But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. “Of that which remaineth, give alms.”(14) It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity – a duty not enforced by human law. – Rerum Novarum, 22

    “This not only appears to go against what the most radical anti-Ryanites insist upon, but it really describes the way most of us already think and live anyway.”

    Charity has been a traditional function of both religious and civic groups traditionally, fostering unity and civility.

    Very few of the agitated middle-class leftists, Democrats, liberals, et. al. are living in rags because they have given the majority of their wealth to “the poor.” Something tells me that Chris Matthews, E.J. Dionne, and others on that side of the political divide are enjoying all of the perks and pleasures that an upper-middle class American lifestyle makes possible.”

    – not fostering unity and civility either.

  • You don’t conquer poverty by giving man his clothing, food, and shelter. You defeat poverty by teaching (fix failed public education) him the skills to earn them; and by removing the obstacles (class hate, demagoguery, green boondoggles, enviro-nazi hindrances to low cost energy, costly regulations, high taxes, etc.) to economic development and job growth.

    Conquer poverty
    Vote Romney/Ryan

  • Populorum Progressio is part of Catholic Social teaching, too.

    “Now if the earth truly was created to provide man with the necessities of life and the tools for his own progress, it follows that every man has the right to glean what he needs from the earth. The recent Council reiterated this truth: “God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should flow fairly to all.” (20)

    All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle. They should in no way hinder it; in fact, they should actively facilitate its implementation. Redirecting these rights back to their original purpose must be regarded as an important and urgent social duty.”

    Paul VI also cites St Ambrose “”You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.”

    St Gregory, too, says, “”When we give the poor what is necessary to them, we are not so much bestowing on them what is our property as rendering to them what is their own; and it may be said to be an act of justice rather than a work of mercy.”

    On the balance between the rôle of the state and private initiative, Paul VI teaches, “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.”

  • Created goods do indeed flow fairly to all when markets are free. Glad we agree on that one.

    But I really have to disagree with the good saints, whose statements are not authoritative, on the question of property ownership. Rerum Novarum, which is authoritative, establishes the natural, individual right to acquire private property through one’s labor – and makes a pretty clear distinction between what is one’s own, and what one must give to others. You can dance around it all you like, but it will still be there when you are done. Theologians and saints can craft lofty phrases, but popes are in the business of governing.

    As for the last statement, it is simply a fact that planned economies don’t work. These comments were made in the 60s, when planned economies still seemed viable, when the Soviet experiment was still in full swing and social democracy was established in Europe. Subsequent events have demonstrated that “the public authorities” are absolutely incompetent when it comes to economic planning.

    Since it cannot be the Church’s intention to harm the common good by prescribing disastrous economic policies, I think we can safely ignore this prescription.

  • Rerum Novarum does, indeed, establish the right to private property; Populorum Progressio says that “All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle. ”

    There is no contradiction here, simply a development of doctrine.

  • There is a contradiction between respecting private property rights and calling for a planned economy. In an economy in which private property rights are respected, private property owners make economic decisions, not government agencies.

  • “private property owners make economic decisions, not government agencies.”

    Of course, but within the constraints established by public policy; that is why Populorum Progressio insists that public authorities 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. ”

    Again, there is no conflict here.

  • The Popes’ assumed that man would be virtuous.

    It is not so.

    Socialists, progressives, liberals, democrats don’t care about the poor. If they did they wouldn’t have spent 80 years pushing the same old failed garbage. They care about political power.

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  • My son has autism spectrum disorder. He can speak, and he can work, but his condition requires a job coach to help him stay on task and moderate his behavior, which unaided will become self-injurious.

    Is he the “extreme need exception”? How will this be temporary? What WILL be temporary will be my life and my ability to provide for him financially and protect him from financial or personal abuse. He does not have the social capability to protect himself.

    One does not have to be a “socialist” to understand that a just society protects those that are weakest and cannot fend for themselves. I don’t expect my son’s “exception” to assume the “rule,” but it is a vast oversimplification of life that “extreme need is a temporary and relative phenomenon.

    Don’t get me wrong, America has gone too far on the path of socialism. But it is vastly unrealistic to assume that a safety net can be temporary, or that enough money can be produced by private charity or local governments, in all cases where basic human compassion (forget Christian morality, which presumably the author believes in) would require more.

  • Michael,

    I was obviously talking about the absence of a permanently impoverished caste in modern industrial societies. People with illnesses are a different story.

    I don’t think it is unrealistic at all to expect private charity, personal income, family support, and local community to help people with extreme needs. This is how the human race survived for thousands of years. The existence of the nation-state doesn’t automatically entitle you to everything that a nation-state can theoretically provide – especially when its fiscal disorders are so severe that it can barely afford to deliver what it has already promised.

  • Conquer poverty.

    Vote Romney/Ryan.

Blood Boil Story of the Day

Wednesday, March 7, AD 2012

In like manner, the other pains and hardships of life will have no end or cessation on earth; for the consequences of sin are bitter and hard to bear, and they must accompany man so long as life lasts. To suffer and to endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity; let them strive as they may, no strength and no artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it. If any there are who pretend differently – who hold out to a hard-pressed people the boon of freedom from pain and trouble, an undisturbed repose, and constant enjoyment – they delude the people and impose upon them, and their lying promises will only one day bring forth evils worse than the present. Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere, as We have said, for the solace to its troubles.

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum

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32 Responses to Blood Boil Story of the Day

  • … or blood pressure spike of the day.
    Well, it’s the bills and there’s only little over half, so yeah.
    Two things:The ethicks of me and how dismal the information age is in government databases.

  • This is the conequence of the liberal mindset.

  • Arrggh! Consequence – can’t spell this morning!

  • This should not surprise anyone.

  • It certainly would not have surprised Pope Leo XIII Mike or one of his contemporaries:

    “In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.””

  • Maybe that attitude explains why we have the “Hate and Chains” regime running the country into the mud.

  • 1. It is a very odd contingency for which the eligibility standards did not take account. I am not sure why that would make your blood boil.

    2. Conjoined to that, you have a women who has been granted a lump sum which could generate for her north of $20,000 in interest and dividends per annum after taxes have been paid but who is under the impression she has no income. I can see chuckling and shaking my head over that, not getting angry.

    3. Conjoined to that, you have someone who fancies that her elevated and freely assumed housing and transportation expenses justify drawing on federal grocery subsidies. A mixture of dismay and amusement at that, I can feel. The thing is, obtuse and self-centered people are everywhere, and the damage they do (see the divorce courts) usually exceeds the $600 or $1,200 this woman was unjustly awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • “It is a very odd contingency for which the eligibility standards did not take account. I am not sure why that would make your blood boil”.

    Ha! You have got to be kidding Art! I see this type of gaming of the system all the time in my practice. This is merely an egregious example of something that occurs constantly in our society.

    “I can see chuckling and shaking my head over that, not getting angry.”

    You miss the point entirely Art. Her entitlement mentality is the problem not her ignorance (and I have little doubt that ignorance was not what caused her to continue taking food stamps after winning a million bucks). Ignorance can usually be corrected, while the idea that someone has a right to be supported by others is perhaps incurable after enough able-bodied people in a society believe it.

  • Donald, you’ve hit the nail on the head. What I immediately thought of was the fact that this obviously able bodied person (judging by the fact that she is able to go to the grocery store on her own and carry her own groceries in and out of the house) had no job and had been living on the government’s tab for who knows how long. Now that she has money laying around and some financial freedom to pay off any debts she might have, she didn’t go looking for a job or get a new wardrobe to help herself get a job when the money runs out.

    She seems to have no skills in this regard and that is one of the major problems of the welfare system. No job training, no cutoffs, no demands on the individual to help themselves while the government helps them get through a rough patch in their lives. It’s easy to get into the mindset that I can’t do this by myself when the government continually tells you can’t.

  • Ha! You have got to be kidding Art! I see this type of gaming of the system all the time in my practice. This is merely an egregious example of something that occurs constantly in our society.

    You represent trustafarians applying for food stamps?

  • I sue people who owe debts, represent people who owe debts and have always had a criminal defense practice. I would see more of it if I didn’t refer out my worker’s compensation cases to other attorneys. The number of people skimming from Uncle Sucker, and his state equivalents, is hard to exaggerate.

  • This is just one person…it’s human nature to take advantage of any system.
    The issue is, can we prevent most of it or even more important, do we stop essential programs for the people who really need and deserve them because people take advantage?
    As Catholics, it should be in our nature to help people, to donate, to support those that require it. Instead of focusing in on one bonehead woman, let’s work TOGETHER with government to make the systems more effective and efficient.

    I have a wonderful uncle who worked for 35 years and then was laid off middle of last year. He tried to find a job in his field of work, could not. He tried to find any job that could cover the bills, he could not. If not for unemployment during that 6 month period, he could have lost his house. Instead, he is still in his house and now has a job that he can work for the next 5 years with dignity.
    Programs are designed to help those who deserve and need them. They are flawed because we as humans are flawed, but instead of putting out negative because of this young woman, let’s figure a way to put out postive while still aiding those who require our assistance, love and prayers.

  • “They are flawed because we as humans are flawed, but instead of putting out negative because of this young woman, let’s figure a way to put out postive while still aiding those who require our assistance, love and prayers.”

    Indeed, and a swift kick in the hind end to those who are simply milking the system, something which is sometimes of assistance for those who wish to go through life as everybody else’s guest. I do not blame them conpletely of course, because the modern welfare state teachs people to be moochers, to game the system and to embrace petty larcency from the State as a way of life.

    Oh well, these things tend to be self-correcting, although not in a pleasant manner:

    “And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return! “

  • Anecdotal:

    A long-time friend is retired from a NY PD (decent pension) and is collecting early Social Security. His wife has a full-time job with excellent benefits. He held a job but was laid off. Now, he receives a third (unemployment) government check. He says he is, “Unemployed and Overjoyed!”

    This week he is going to SS and get another $1,000 a month disability until he hits full SS age. “I got my rights!” Seriously . . .

    The execrable, vile Repugs won’t force the evil rich pay their “fair share” in taxes and want to starve the unemployed after 29 months!

  • Another unemployed and overjoyed: Wife of a Partner in a Wall Street Law Firm. I advised her not to wear her minks to the unemployment office.

    Cardinal Dolan refuses to pay for my condoms!

  • A long-time friend is retired from a NY PD (decent pension) and is collecting early Social Security.

    Are you sure you have not confounded disability benefits from his employer with disability benefits from the Social Security Administration? Disability benefits derived from employment as a police officer have been notorious for decades (tho’, if I understand correctly, they are less egregious than used to be the case). Social Security Disability is a program difficult to administer consistently as it requires discretionary decisions by hearing examiners, but the program has a considerable buy-in requirement and recipients are generally on it for a limited term of years before returning to the work force or reaching the age where they are eligible for old age and retirement benefits. I believe there are severe and perhaps absolute earned income limits if one is drawing benefits, but we can check. The disability beneficiary I know best retired at 59 (due to the effects of lupus) after nearly forty years of continuous employment.

  • AD: 100% sure. One may collect reduced-benefit SS at 62, depending, and there is the earned income reduction. Given the same “expiration date” assumption the present value of the reduced payments at 62 is not materially less than at 67 years.

    My man had 25 years and retired straight on longevity. In fact, he busted a bone on the job and was on full pay for years while he worked off the books, cash. When they retire they get one month paid terminal leave for each ten years service.

    You and i have too much time on our hands.

  • If he is collecting the old age and retirement benefits payable at age 62, I do not believe he is eligible for Social Security Disability, and he cannot be eligible for unemployement compensation unless he was let go from an on-the-books job and met a number of subsidiary requirements. Again, if he is at full salary due to an on-the-job injury, that would be derived from the union contract, not the Social Security law.

  • AD: May pal is on a PD pension.

    He is on SS.

    And, being that he was laid off from a full time on the books job: he is collecting unemployment benefits.

    He said he was going to apply for SS disbaility. I agree he probably won’t get it.

    I like his style and he is a friend.

    You and I have way too much time on our hands.

  • 1. His pension is deferred compensation. Public sector pensions in New York are fully funded as a rule, so retirees like your bud are generally not on a dole. As he is a municipal employee and a veteran of the police department, it is quite conceivable his pension is not fully funded. The thing is, total compensation for public sector employees is inflated by the deference New York politicians grant to public sector unions. That is not precisely ‘mooching’, more like ‘rent seeking’.

    2. You are right. It appears that you can draw disability benefits between the ages of 62 and the full retirement age (currently 66 and change). However, if he has not been for some years a working cop and was recently employed in some other occupation without injury, he categorically fails to qualify if his wages exceeded $1,000 a month. Tell him to break his leg again.

    3. Noodling around the New York State Department of Labor’s site, I see you are correct about that too. It is very explicit that unemployment compensation is intended only for those who are work-ready. That your friend may be, but such a contention would be rather in contrast to those he is making to the Social Security Administration in order to qualify for disability benefits.

    4. Drawing unemployment compensation is not in all cases ‘mooching’ either. You paid the taxes which support the benefits over the course of your work life. It is an income transfer program rather than an insurance or pension program, but if you draw benefits for no more than four months in a 15 year period, you might still be paying in more than you received.

  • We gotta get a life, AD!

  • According to the reporter (at the very end of the segment), it was completely legal for the person to continue to collect the food stamps. Assuming this is true, how is she ‘gaming the system’? Do we say that those who inherit millions from their parents and pay only 15% on investment gains and dividends are ‘gaming the system.’ Of course not, we say that they are simply paying as little as they are legally required to. This lottery winner paid her taxes during the year (certainly more in taxes than she ever will recieve in benefits) on what she won. In the year she won, she paid, say, $200,000 in taxes. $200,000 less $2,400 in benefits equals net tax of $197,600. She did everything she was legally entitled to do to reduce her taxes just like everyone else. When Bush sent out those $300 or $600 checks a few years back, did you return yours and say, “No, I cant take this?”

  • “This lottery winner paid her taxes during the year (certainly more in taxes than she ever will recieve in benefits) on what she won.”

    She had no choice since lottery winners have no option on that score, the taxes being taken out before they get a check for the remainder.

    “According to the reporter (at the very end of the segment), it was completely legal for the person to continue to collect the food stamps.”

    I doubt if the reporter was correct, since the Michigan food stamp program has an asset limit:
    “Asset Limit
    Effective October 1, 2011 there is an asset limit for FAP groups. Certain assets such as checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposits are considered when determining eligibility for FAP.”


    “Do we say that those who inherit millions from their parents and pay only 15% on investment gains and dividends are ‘gaming the system.’ ”

    No, we call it the government not double taxing income that their parents already paid tax on. That does not even rise to red herring status in attempting to justify the bald faced theft of this welfare cheat.

    If you truly cannot see what is wrong about someone with several hundred thousand dollars getting food stamps, I feel sorry for you.

  • For such as the hapless who aren’t lottery winners, even if only lottery customers, who are recipients of state and federal benefits, why aren’t the budget mavens coordinating fed and state benefits to each social security number including the IRS EIC credits. Department cooperation via ss# input could help deficit spending and waste.

  • Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t the welfare system recoup its outlays from lottery winners?

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  • “She seems to have no skills in this regard and that is one of the major problems of the welfare system. No job training, no cutoffs, no demands on the individual to help themselves while the government helps them get through a rough patch in their lives.”

    The Clinton-era welfare reforms place a 5-year lifetime limit on what used to be called Aid to Families with Dependent Children and is now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). However, there are various ways to stop the 5-year “clock” and extend benefits longer, such as by being enrolled in postsecondary education or job training programs. Other benefits such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly known as “food stamps”) have no time limit as far as I know.

  • “She had no choice since lottery winners have no option on that score, the taxes being taken out before they get a check for the remainder.”

    Oh but she did have a choice. Had she gone to slick CPA firm in Any-Mid-Size-Town USA they would have been glad to set her up with a few trusts, or a horse farm, or any or the type of tax shelter or scheme (from relatively benign to downright fraudulent) to reduce her windfall. What the government took out as withholding could have come right back to her with the filing of her tax return.

    “I doubt if the reporter was correct, since the Michigan food stamp program has an asset limit:”

    That of course, would change my argument/opinion completely.

    “No, we call it the government not double taxing income that their parents already paid tax on.”

    If I had been referring to the Estate Tax, yes. Income tax is a different story. Example, I inherit $1 million. I invest the $1 million and earn dividends/capital gains of $60,000. My parents never paid tax on the $60,000 (yeah, I know, the corporation already paid its tax on the dividends I received…).

    Your blood boils when an inner city black woman who probably has no father, no sense of family, no proper upbringing regarding work/education/etc, no self-worth, and no clue on how to succeed financially (other than to buy lottery tickets!!), continues to recieve her $2,400 of reverse taxes after the big win. My blood boils when I read articles like this:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — About 12,000 tax cheats have come clean under a program that offered reduced penalties and no jail time to people who voluntarily disclosed assets they were hiding overseas, the Internal Revenue Service announced Thursday.

    Those people have so far paid $500 million in back taxes and interest. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said he expects the cases to yield substantially more money from penalties that have yet to be paid.

    The voluntary disclosure program, which ran from February to last week, is part of a larger effort by the IRS to crack down on tax dodgers who hide assets in overseas accounts. The agency stepped up its efforts in 2009, when Swiss banking giant UBS AG agreed to pay a $780 million fine and turn over details on thousands of accounts suspected of holding undeclared assets from American customers.

    Since then, the IRS has opened new enforcement offices overseas, beefed up staffing and expanded cooperation with foreign governments. A similar disclosure program in 2009 has so far netted $2.2 billion in back taxes, penalties and fines, from people with accounts in 140 countries, Shulman said.

    I guess my point is that this welfare queen is really just a petty theif. Really, $2,400? Even with the number of tax returns understating tax by $20,000 or $200,000 or more based on grey areas in the law, black areas that the CPAs call grey areas, and outright fraud?

  • Obama needs more of my children’s and grandchildren’s money!

    He just spent $10,000,000 to develop a $50 light bulb. The evil rich ain’t payin’ their fair share!

    The income tax is un-American and un-Christian. They had to subvert, er, amend the Constitution to impose it. Since 1913, the government owns you.

    Commie assassins like Bernardine Dorhn have more rights than alleged tax evaders. Under the Internal Revenue Code and tax crime practice you have no rights, e.g., the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

    The IRS makes the Spanish Inquisition look like a bunch of cub scouts.

  • “Oh but she did have a choice. Had she gone to slick CPA firm in Any-Mid-Size-Town USA they would have been glad to set her up with a few trusts, or a horse farm, or any or the type of tax shelter or scheme (from relatively benign to downright fraudulent) to reduce her windfall.”

    Yep, if you lose a lot of money in foolish business ventures you can save something on tax. Likewise if you set up a charitable trust where you have no access to the money for personal use, you can save on taxes. I doubt if either option would have been enticing to the welfare cheat million dollar lottery winner.

    “Your blood boils when an inner city black woman ”

    What a truly despicable attempt to bring race into the discusion, especially since the welfare cheat in question is white. No, my ire is directed at those, regardless of race, who pilfer public funds for private gain. As to the tax system, that monument to political chicanery piled upon byzantine complexity, I am in favor of root and branch reform, although that was not the subject of this post, although I have touched upon it in previous posts.

  • Oh but she did have a choice. Had she gone to slick CPA firm in Any-Mid-Size-Town USA they would have been glad to set her up with a few trusts, or a horse farm, or any or the type of tax shelter or scheme (from relatively benign to downright fraudulent) to reduce her windfall. What the government took out as withholding could have come right back to her with the filing of her tax return.

    I will leave it to Mr. Petrik to educate us all, but if I am not mistaken discoverable personal income in this country amounts to about $10 tn. About 25% of that is placed outside the boundaries of the tax base by a mass of deductions, exemptions, and credits. This woman was not antecedently engaged in investment or business, so I would tend to suspect her opportunities between the lottery award and the present day (a few months in time) were pretty minimal as to reducing the tax man’s share of her winnings.

    Let us posit for a moment she actually received $720,000. If she put 60% in equities and 40% in bonds, she might get $24,000 in nominal interest and dividends per year ‘ere income taxes. However, if you conceived of her income as a compound of real interest, real capital gains, and dividends, her imputed investment income might be something more along the lines of $14,000. Eligibility standards for certain means-tested programs (Medicaid, food stamps, and housing subsidies) are a multiple (1x to 1.75x) of the poverty line. The poverty line for a single individual is currently about $11,000. Depending on how you define her investment income, she might just qualify for some of these programs.

  • Had she gone to slick CPA firm

    I can think of adjectives for the accountants with whom I have crossed paths. ‘Slick’ would never be one.

Public Employee Unions Explained

Friday, March 11, AD 2011


Now, there is a good deal of evidence in favor of the opinion that 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. No one who does not wish to expose man’s chief good to extreme risk will for a moment hesitate to say that the second alternative should by all means be adopted.

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum




Klavan on the Culture, you are correct!  Public employee unions, by funding Democrats and providing election workers, effectively were able largely to write their own compensation packages, taxpayer be hanged.  It was a decades long merry party at the expense of the public, and many states are on the verge of bankruptcy as a result.  The battle over public employee unions is just the opening round in a huge political fight across the nation as the states, which are unable to simply print money as the federal government does, desperately grapple with looming fiscal insolvency.  Change is coming as change often does:  brought about by onrushing reality.

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8 Responses to Public Employee Unions Explained

  • Spot on! Collective bargaining is not a right. If it actually was, why is it the case that every person in this country is not obligated to be a member of a union in order have the “right” to collectively bargain? It is all about Democratic power and money but not about rights.

  • This is a really good one too. It’s by the Heritage organization and a little shorter than the other 2.

  • Public employees are like mothers in many ways…no one appreciates what they do until they aren’t there doing it. When schools deteriorate, good students no longer study to become teachers, long lines persist at government facilities due to worker shortage, children who are abused do not get the services they need, individuals with physical, emotional and/or mental challenges are left untreated…maybe some of you will begin to realize that many government workers are providing valuable service to a variety of vulnerable populations. And none of them are getting rich.

  • “Public employees are like mothers in many ways…no one appreciates what they do until they aren’t there doing it.”

    Considering the absenteeism rampant among public employees as opposed to people in the private sector a lot of them on any given day aren’t doing what they are paid to be doing in any case.

    “When schools deteriorate”

    We are spending more on public education today, adjusted for inflation, than we have ever spent, and the results are pathetic. That helps explain the rise in the homeschooling movement.

    “good students no longer study to become teachers”

    Education majors usually come from the bottom 25% academically of their colleges and universities.

    “long lines persist at government facilities due to worker shortage”

    We have that now and we have more people working for the government now than at any time since World War II.

    “children who are abused do not get the services they need”

    That is the case now, judging from the treatment that kids receive from the government in cases where I am appointed Guardian ad Litem for them by courts.

    “individuals with physical, emotional and/or mental challenges are left untreated”

    Once again, that is the case now. Scandals involving abuse of mentally handicapped individuals in government care are routine, often involving physical and sexual abuse by public employees.

    “maybe some of you will begin to realize that many government workers are providing valuable service to a variety of vulnerable populations.”

    Nah, I think it more likely that more people will awaken to the fact that governmental institutions created to help people have become giant cash cows that provide often rotten treatment to the people they are ostensibly meant to aid.

    “And none of them are getting rich.”

    Almost all of them are doing far better than they would if they had to hustle for a job in the private sector.

  • “We have more people working for the government now than at any time since World War II.”

    That depends on what level of government you are talking about. Federal employment has grown quite a bit, but not necessarily state and local employment. You need only look at all the vacant office space in downtown Springfield next time you’re here to see evidence of that. Many agencies of the State of Illinois have shrunk drastically in the last 10-15 years or so. The agency I work for once employed 25 people; it’s down to 14 today and with two people near retirement will probably be down to 12 shortly. Many state parks and historic sites like Lincoln’s New Salem that once employed numerous full time and seasonal workers are running almost entirely on unpaid volunteer help today — and their physical condition, sadly, shows that.

    I do think that some of the Lincoln sites would be better off being privatized in the long run (a la Colonial Williamsburg) and there is probably enough interest in Lincoln out there to get well-heeled donors interested in a foundation for that purpose. But the reason I suggest that is precisely because the ability of state government to handle these tasks is shrinking, not growing.

  • I would stand by my contention Elaine and I believe the numbers bear me out.


    My county is actually an interesting example of the process. Livingston County in Illlinois has had a remarkably static population for over a century. We had 40,000 people approximately during the Grant administration and we have that today. When my former partner was growing up in a town of 4,000 in the Sixties the town had one cop and two part timers. We now have seven cops and three part timers. The growth of government employment at all levels in this country has been explosive since the Sixties.

  • Well, actually if you look at the chart, federal employment went DOWN in the 1990s and even in 2010 hadn’t quite bounced back to the 1990 level. My guess is that a lot of that decrease had to do with cutbacks in the military following the first Gulf War and the various rounds of base closings prescribed by the Base Realignment And Closing (BRAC) commission.

    As for overall federal and state employment, law enforcement is obviously one of those sectors of public employment that HAS grown explosively as cities and suburbs expand, crime rates go up, and state and federal government provide additional funding for hiring cops. Public schools in fast-growing areas also have to hire more people. They also have to hire more aides and support staff in recent years for things like special education, as I’m sure you know. Since the overall population of the U.S. has increased by 60 million since 1990 it stands to reason that schools and law enforcement would have to grow with it.

    Also some states went through a prison-building spree in the 1980s and 90s and those prisons obviously have to be staffed. Even so, understaffing and working guards overtime to the point of exhaustion is a common problem at some institutions (just ask someone who works at Pontiac Correctional Center ).

  • “My guess is that a lot of that decrease had to do with cutbacks in the military following the first Gulf War and the various rounds of base closings prescribed by the Base Realignment And Closing (BRAC) commission.”

    You would be correct in that assumption Elaine. The military went through a substantial reduction in force following the end of the Cold War.

    “As for overall federal and state employment, law enforcement is obviously one of those sectors of public employment that HAS grown explosively as cities and suburbs expand, crime rates go up, and state and federal government provide additional funding for hiring cops.”

    Population expansion has little to do with it Elaine. What has a lot to do with it is the earmarking of funds as you point out, and also legislation criminalizing fairly trivial matters. After 28 years doing criminal defense work, I’d say much of it is for nought. Local governments tend to use traffic tickets as sources of revenue which involve a fair amount of court time; very low level drug arrests; orders of protection that turn non-physical boyfriend and girlfriend and husband and wife spats into criminal cases; etc. A good 80% of criminal cases today I would estimate have little to do with maintaining public order and a great deal to do with a mistaken belief that government can micro-manage society and cure all ills.

    “They also have to hire more aides and support staff in recent years for things like special education, as I’m sure you know.”

    In regard to increased aides and support staff at schools I view almost all of this as wasted expenditure in my opinion. Schools have gotten endlessly bureaucratic and this development has helped further degrade the performance of an already shaky public school system. The movement to homeschooling is a testament to failing public schools even as we pump ever more funds into these bottomless money pits.

    “Also some states went through a prison-building spree in the 1980s and 90s and those prisons obviously have to be staffed. Even so, understaffing and working guards overtime to the point of exhaustion is a common problem at some institutions (just ask someone who works at Pontiac Correctional Center ).”

    I have represented quite a few guards at both Pontiac and Dwight. The stories they tell me have given me very little faith in how DOC spends our taxpayer funds. Additionally our prisons have effectively become hostels for very low level criminals, not their original intent, rather than places where only the most serious felons are sent. The abolition of county farms where low level offenders decades ago were sent, and which usually ran at a profit to the county, has helped create this problem.

    Our society has operated under the twin illusions that government can truly transform society and cure almost all ills, and that we had limitless funds to support such government. Both these illusions are ending before our eyes.

7 Responses to Stealing From The Poor

  • Poverty comes in many forms. Some of us are in dire “poverty” yet are given even less by many who should know better, thus causing immense suffering.

    There is not sufficient reflection on this reality. As such, it is an occasion of grace for those afflicted………but a yolk upon those who chose to ignore how their actions, in word and deed, injure another, already almost unable to bear their cross.

    Nice post. Thanks.

  • Does the Church teach that you will be judged by your personal charitable/corporal works; that is what YOU DO with YOUR money and your time/talents?

  • Really good article.

  • “However, the investment of superfluous income in secureing favorable opportunities for employment […] is to be considered […] an act of real liberality, particularly appropriate to the needs of our time.”

    In other words, one way (though certainly not the only way) that rich people can help the poor is by starting up businesses that provide jobs for them! Score at least one for the economic conservatives 🙂

    “It will be necessary above all to abandon a mentality in which the poor – as individuals and as people – are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced.”

    Very true; however, that raises the question of whether the growth of high-tax nanny-state liberalism hasn’t done a lot to contribute to the perception of the poor as “irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced.”

  • Elaine, I agree about the rich starting up a business, but we have to admit that there are many other rich who start up business ventures with not a care for those being employed thereby. I am thinking, especially, of all the CEOs and vice presidents of corporations who think nothing of taking a 1Million or 3M salary, while at the same time causing the company to need to downsize to maximize profits. Truly, a real board of directors should say to such money-grubbing CEO wannabes: “You say that your requested 3M salary is the ‘going rate’ for truly qualified executives. We say that no executive who would ask for such a salary could possibly be morally qualified for the job. We’ll look elsewhere.”

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  • The mega corporations and the excessively compensated executives cannot exist without the incestuous relationship of Big Government and Big Business. Mutual funds are a trick to get people to fund corporations without having any voting rights. The wealth of all is controlled by a very few. This is a problem that must be dealt with or everyone will become a slave, begging the government/corporations for a handout and charity (caritas, love) is not something that corporations or governments can engage in.

    As for our excess wealth, this is a relative area for us to discern. What may constitute excessive wealth in sub-Saharan Africa is not the case in the USA. We have tax obligations that they do not, we have transportation costs that they do not, we have many costs that they do not have and what we have in excess has to be looked at from that perspective. Additionally, money is not wealth. Having a few dollars in money market, CD, etc. is not wealth, it is merely a temporary store of currency that is losing value faster than it can be earned or profited from. a 10,000 sq. ft. home with only two children, that could be excessive – but, a 10,000 sq.ft. home with a dozen children, maybe not.

    This article is excellent because it summarizes Church teaching and, at least to me, it seems to stress the necessity of a free market, restrained government, strong Church and men who desire to lead a life of virtue. Sadly, our culture of duo-opolies intentionally clouds our thinking about such matters. Big Government vs. Big Business, Democrats vs. Republicans, Capitalism vs. Socialism, Thesis vs. Antithesis – all are two paths to the same perdition. We need to break free of this dualistic thinking, making us think we have choices. There is really only one choice: God or man. Hard as it is sometimes, especially with vestiges of ideology trapping my thinking, your’s too I suspect, we need to be more Catholic – we are so far short of the mark following years and years of minimalism.

    It is time for Maximum Catholicity and this article appears to summarize exactly that sentiment. Thanks for the reminder. Can you do it again tomorrow? 🙂

0 Responses to Why Aren't There More Worker Co-Ops?

  • The principles of neoclassical economics are a flashpoint in some Catholic circles, where the mainstream economist is derided for his “science” and unwavering belief that economic phenomena are defined by something akin to scientific laws. But what are we to make of this:

    An increasing percentage of Mondragon employees, for example, do not have an ownership stake in the company, but work for it much as they would for an ordinary business. But while this may be a solution for a particular co-operative business, it is not really a solution for the co-operative business model so much as a gradual abandonment of it.

    The Catholic criticism of mainstream economics is fair enough — get the anthropology in the correct order before positing homo economicus, we’re told. I sympathize, but if there’s an incentive against expansion because of share dilution even at Mondragon, how do we square this apparent inevitability with the insistence that politcal economy and economic institutions are not deterministic?

    (This is a bit off topic and might make a good topic for a separate post.)

  • I don’t know that it’s necessarily that far off-topic. My issue with most discussions of economic “justice” is that they inevitably drift over toward equality of outcome at the expense of equality of opportunity. That is precisely the issue, it seems to me, with Mondragon and other worker co-ops.

    SOmeone has to set a relative value for the stuff being co-op’d. Whoever does that will be required to make value judgments as to the relative worth if various inputs to the system, and then to relate those values to outcomes. If we’re all OK with me being paid less than Blackadder because I only input potatoes while he inputs truffles (does anyone not-French really eat those things?), then we’re good. But when Blackadder becomes richer than me because his inputs are more valuable than mine, many Catholic sociologists will cry foul and seek to level the playing field. THAT’S when we get into trouble.

    Concentration of wealth, or resources, or whatever, into the hands of less than the entire society is inevitable, unless we desire to take everyone to the lowest comoon denominator. And remember: when everyone is at a subsistence level…the poor will STILL be with us, except that none of us will be able to afford largesse to aid them!

  • “If employers and employees find, for the reasons given above, that worker co-ops are less preferable than other forms in many circumstances, there is nothing wrong with that.”

    I really hope the assumption here isn’t that anyone ever said there WAS something wrong with it.

  • Deacon Chip,

    ” But when Blackadder becomes richer than me because his inputs are more valuable than mine, many Catholic sociologists will cry foul and seek to level the playing field. THAT’S when we get into trouble.”

    I agree. And Catholic social teaching is clear – men have a right to make a profit from their labor, to enrich themselves. They also have a MORAL obligation to use their wealth charitably (which is NOT the same as saying that the state should force them to; unfortunately we live in a world in which people can ONLY imagine obligations coming from the state, since they no longer believe in God).

    “Concentration of wealth, or resources, or whatever, into the hands of less than the entire society is inevitable, unless we desire to take everyone to the lowest comoon denominator.”

    I completely agree. But “less than the entire society” is very broad. It could mean almost everyone, or it could mean almost no one. What Catholic social teaching makes clear is this: in so far as POSSIBLE (the exact words of Pius XI and a paraphrase of JP II), we should look for ways to make more people full participants in the economic process – through degrees of ownership and control of the means of production.

    This doesn’t mean “do it, even if it will ruin the company or the economy.” It means, “examine each situation to discover how far this general principle can be applied, if it all.” And even BA is forced to admit that in some sectors of the economy it DOES work.

    In any case, we also have to remember that the aim of CST is to prevent or mitigate class warfare. The Church has always recognized a polarizing tendency in what we call “capitalism” and has suggested Distributism as ONE way of addressing it.

    The other ways – labor unions, and state assistance, have mutated into corrupt bureaucratic enterprises. In fact I would argue that it is because of a false hope that men in all classes put in these institutions that the real solution, Distributism, was never really tried on a mass scale.

    Now that the bankruptcy of organized labor and welfare-statism is evident, I believe the already empirically demonstrated upward trend in employee ownership (which I pointed out in this post:


    will continue. Though some people make a career out of denying it, the dog-eat-dog individualism of the unfettered market does not and will not serve as the foundation of a stable or a just or a moral society. We are social beings, we are meant to live, to work, and to worship as a community (without negating our individual dignity or rights, of course).

    As a final thought, even Ronald Reagan supported employee ownership.

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  • Though some people make a career out of denying it, the dog-eat-dog individualism of the unfettered market does not and will not serve as the foundation of a stable or a just or a moral society.,-Joe Hargrave

    Dogs don’t eat dogs – despite the claims of those who make a career asserting it. However the 20th century experience with unfettered collectivism demonstrates that socialists do eat other socialists.

    I am pleased to see Blackadder’s article explaining that worker co-ops are rare not because they are wilfully suppressed by Secret Masters of Political Economy (SMOPEs) but because they are naturally selected against by people’s own individual choices. I am amused by advocates of distributism who use mass-produced computers and a ubiquitous Internet to stump for distributism without regard to the fact that such tools subsist in an economy where large capital formations are commonplace. As Blackadder put it, “worker co-ops tend to be disproportionately concentrated in labor intensive, capital light industries.” These haven’t been the commanding heights of a Western economy since the Industrial Revolution, maybe not even since the days medieval Benedictine monks built water wheels, windmills, and forges adjacent to their monasteries.

  • Micha,

    The extent to which you go to misrepresent arguments is well known, and unworthy of a response. I’ll pray for you.

Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2

Wednesday, April 28, AD 2010


To follow up on my first installment of “Set Me Free (From Ideologies), I am going to draw again from the rich well of Pope Benedict’s powerful encyclical Caritas In Veritate.  In this case it would seem that in paragraph #25 the Pope is sounding kinda liberal if we would attempt to fit the views expressed into one or another of our American political ideologies.

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7 Responses to Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2

  • It seems a greater threat to social security are underfunded public pensions including Social Security itself which all seem at risk of collapsing. Perhaps someone can comment on this.

  • We’d all do well to remember that we’re Catholic first & American second. We’re in the mess we’re in because we’ve reversed the order for the last 50 yrs.

  • “The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum[60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.”

    For me the key phrase is NEW forms.

    I believe the old social welfare state is a failure.

    I believe the old union model is a corrupt failure.

    And I think John Paul II made this point pretty clearly in Centesimus Annus.

    The new forms are worker ownership, or possibly even community/worker ownership of businesses. Most of them are jointly owned by workers and investors.

    The way forward, I believe, is localism and distributism. And in some places it is taking place already with good material results – but it is being guided by secular liberals who have no use for the moral teachings of the Church, by radical campus intellectuals and hippies who believe in the materialist community but reject the spiritual community in favor of atheism or spiritual anarchy.

    It is simply an empirical fact that welfare-statism doesn’t bring an end to poverty. Instead it creates the conditions and the precedents for a secular bureaucracy to further meddle in Christian families, in the education of children, even growing food on one’s own property.

    The dichotomy in politics and morality is not individualism vs. collectivism. Or rather, that is A dichotomy but not the decisive one. It is materialism vs. spirituality. The materialist community has an idea of “justice” that is based on economics and cares nothing for the corruption and pollution of souls. The spiritual community sometimes neglects the details of the material – but with the guidance of the Papal encyclicals there is no excuse for that negligence.

    The vital question is whether or not we ought to accept a full implementation of “material” or economic justice, brought to us by secular liberal hedonists who let the soul rot, who poison it with filth and perversion, or,

    whether we ought to reject it and continue to show those who understand a spiritual reality, who believe in God and especially Christ, that they also have to focus their attention on the material community.

    I opt for the latter. I want nothing from the secular liberal hedonists, from the communist revolutionaries, from the sexual perverts who staff Western governments and the United Nations. They’ve rejected God and they’ll never accept him.

    It’s easier to get good Christians to see the areas they’ve been neglecting than it is to get materialists to see the truth and reality of God and all that follows from him.

    And if you think I’ve gone off topic, you’re wrong, because its secular, atheistic, materialists who manage and administer the welfare bureaucracies of the West, whether they call themselves Democrats, Socialists, or Christian Democrats, or Labour, or whatever.


  • to gb- what I would say is what my favorite professor once said- “the best gift we can give America is our Catholic faith”- I don’t see my citizenship in the U.S. to be a detriment to my faith- America is my homeland, and America needs Catholicism to fulfill her potential as a truly great and lasting nation. We have religious liberty here in our country- that’s all we need- that means the onus is literally “on us”- I have seen first-hand as a candidate that the Catholic community is for the most part so divided up and rendered passive in the political arena- when I see how effective the pro-Israel Jewish community has been in getting organized and mobilizing and lobbying all sectors of our American society in getting their vision and agenda into play- all of this with such a small percentage of the population! And Catholics act as if there is no unifying social doctrine, and fall headlong into the same ideological traps that catch everyone else- and it makes me sick.

    It doesn’t have to be this way- we are our own worst enemy I’m convinced of that- my primary targets are politically-active Catholics who publicly identify themselves as die-hard liberals or conservatives- these folks are the ones who do the most damage- they make it impossible for the whole body of believers to unite under the direction of the entire social doctrine- they want to make every Catholic a narrow liberal or conservative- a Kennedy or a Hannity- and that is something I disagree with vehemently. I will continue to post my complaints- soon I will detail my fallout experience from my participation in an elite Catholic Democrats listserve- that is quite a story to be told another day- I am bent on taking on all loud and proud liberal and conservative Catholic political animals- for I am convinced that the way forward is one that must release the hold that ideologies have over our collective Catholic and American heads.

  • Joe H.- as always so intense and direct in your views- I don’t find your passion for disconnecting from States and Government in the Church’s actual documents such as the above Encyclical. I do think that we should go in every good direction all at once- translation- create more fair trade producer-consumer networks- drawing upon the Catholic Relief Services model, and also the worker-owned business models, and such as you describe above. But I don’t think that abandoning the Government, Trade Unions, and Multinational Corporations to the current corrupt slate of big-wigs is the best solution. I really don’t think our system is rotten, I do think we have really rotten apples floating to the top- which is why I can’t relate to anyone who celebrates a Reagan or an Obama presidency.

    I do believe that Catholics have not yet begun to fight- from my own little campaign experience I saw how wide-open the door is for solid Catholic candidates if only the Catholic community was even a little bit organized to be of some service to her own. As it is we have two types of Catholic activists- the typical political liberal and the typical political conservative- they both seem to have one overriding passion- they hate like satan the Republican or Democratic party- and all that party stands for- pretty much across the board. This reality is something that is causing me to seriously consider dropping my formal affiliation as a Democrat to become an Indy with “Common Good” as my tag- there is just too much baggage associated with the two major parties- it is like a pavlov dog response for most political animals- Catholic or otherwise. What I know is that I am going to stay close to the Church’s actual teaching documents, and Hierarchical speeches/letters and commentary- I have found that the prudential judgments on socio-economic matters coming from the Catholic Hierarchy is truly awesome- it would figure that those who are charged with coming up with the principles that underpin the social doctrine would do well in helping to apply those principles to real life circumstances. I don’t think this is clericalism because I am open to other prudential points-of-view- I just don’t find many ideologically-transcendent points-of-view around town- so I’m sticking close to Mama Church- in my family when mama talks and gives counsel to the kids they better listen up because my wife and I are on the same page- I imagine that it works that way with Christ and His Church as well.

  • “I don’t think that abandoning the Government, Trade Unions, and Multinational Corporations to the current corrupt slate of big-wigs is the best solution”

    They aren’t ours to abandon. But they are ours to reject. We need to get our resources together, make our own proposals to banks and private investors, and build our own local economies. Some have tried, many have failed, few have succeeded – more will succeed if more people rally to the cause.

    Like you, I’m an independent. I don’t care about the Republicans. I don’t care about the Democrats. I’ll vote for the pro-life candidate. Otherwise change comes from us, not from Obama, not from a bureaucracy, not from a social worker.

    “I really don’t think our system is rotten”

    I suppose we’ll have to disagree on that.

Principle of Subsidiarity Violated by ObamaCare

Monday, March 22, AD 2010

Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made a determined effort for universal health coverage, without abortion, in the run-up to the vote on ObamaCare.  In the end, due to the abortion language in this bill, they condemned it in its entirety.

Now I believe that our bishops had the best intentions of wanting universal health coverage, but this violates the principle of subsidiarity.

The Principle of Subsidiarity is the handling of affairs by small-scale, bottommost, or minutest government.

In 1891 Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical, Rerum Novarum, which said that government should undertake only those initiatives which exceed the capacity of individuals or private groups acting independently. Functions of government, business, and other secular activities should be as local as possible. If a complex function is carried out at a local level just as effectively as on the national level, the local level should be the one to carry out the specified function.

Private insurance agencies cover over 84% of all Americans, with an overwhelming 93% saying they are satisfied with their coverage.

And those that are uninsured, can get readily available treatment for a serious illness.  Including illegal aliens.

So why the bishops haste and aggressive posturing in pushing for something everybody already has and are satisfied with?

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89 Responses to Principle of Subsidiarity Violated by ObamaCare

  • Tito,

    I think you’re absolutely right.

  • I have yet to find a bishop that can explain why they have been pushing for universal health coverage for these many years.

  • I really have to take issue with this. The FACT is that there are people who cannot afford adequate health care.

  • Private insurance agencies cover over 84% of all Americans

    I think the number is more like 68% (you’re forgetting the people covered under government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) In terms of funding it’s more like 50/50 government/nongovernment.

  • RR,

    There will always be people that cannot afford adequate health care.

    It also depends on what you mean by adequate.

    Pope Leo XIII states, “preferential option for the poor”, in Rerum Novarum, but doesn’t say “universal” option for the poor.

    Besides, the poor are covered under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act(EMTALA) and Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act(COBRA).

    The EMTALA states that It requires hospitals and ambulance services to provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. There are no reimbursement provisions. As a result of the act, patients needing emergency treatment can be discharged only under their own informed consent or when their condition requires transfer to a hospital better equipped to administer the treatment..

  • BA,

    It depends on what statistics you are looking at.

    The 93% I am quoting shows studies “that most Americans are overwhelmingly happy with their own health care”.

  • Neither did Pope Leo XIII say “preferential option for some of the poor.”

    The poor aren’t “covered.” They’re thrown deeper into poverty because of the hospital bills. That is acceptable to you?

    I was planning on writing about this very topic over the weekend. Hopefully, I can get to it tonight. Bottom line is I think you’re wrong and the bishops are right.

  • Why does a massive government takeover of health care have to be the only way to help the poor?

    There were other measures proposed that would have helped lower the cost of health care, which is abysmally high in the US – allowing people to buy insurance across state lines would have been a start.

    And, I have no problem if individual states want to go the Massachusetts way.

    But this federal monster could end up bankrupting dozens of states, causing the loss of millions of more jobs, and further crippling the country with massive debt. How does any of that help the poor? It hurts them.

  • “They’re thrown deeper into poverty because of the hospital bills. That is acceptable to you?”

    There’s no Catholic mandate to create a socialist utopia in which poverty becomes impossible. Sorry.

  • RR,

    Option does not mean absolutely necessary.

    You can’t change the meaning of the word option.

    I was quoting Pope Leo XIII.

    You are making stuff up, like many liberals do. So stop reading into Rerum Novarum what isn’t there, ie, forcing people to pay. This violates the Principle of Subsidiarity, not to mention you can’t force people against their will.

    Maybe you would learn this concept if you lived in the old Soviet Union.

    Over there you’ll learn really fast.

  • Absofreakinlutely right it violates the principle of subsidiarity. If only the USCCB would start talking about this aspect of the matter. But to expect them to do that is wishful thinking I know.

  • Long time reader, first time commenter.

    All EMTALA does is prevent emergency departments from refusing treatment to patients who cannot pay, and keeps EDs from transferring them to other institutions (AKA “dumping”)on the basis of their ability to pay. It does not preclude them from billing the patient for services rendered, which can be considerable. It also does not cover the cost of any prescriptions given as a result of the ED visit, nor does it have anything to do with maintenance care, which can help prevent the need for ED care in the first place.

    I’m not saying I am a proponent of the bill passed yeaterday, nor am I commenting on whether or not the bill passed violates subsidiarity. But EMTALA does not provide for anything more than immedate, acute care- it does not address most of the health care needs of people without insurance.

  • Because subsidiarity does not deny the need for solidarity nor that there are needs for structures to deal with needs which are not met at the local level, this is another poor argument by someone who does not understand subsidiarity. The fact that on the local level, the needs are not met, are not being met, and being left to as they are, people are dying, this demonstrates the need for action beyond the local level. And having an overarching structure also does not deny the local access: indeed, the bill is about _getting insurance_ and making sure insurance _doesn’t act like a ponzi scheme_. Oh well.

  • This post conveys a flawed understanding of subsidiarity. Worse, it violates the principle that all Catholic teaching, including social teaching, must be read as a whole. Subsidiarity does not exist without solidarity, preferential option for the poor, etc.

    Secondly, the post misrepresents the facts. Subsidiarity and solidarity obligate the higher level to step in when the lower order cannot provide. There is plenty of evidence that that situation exists. Also, there is, in some respects, more subsidiarity in the health care bill in that it provides more choices in payers than the present system. In some states, there is no competition in the insurance market and only large, dehumanizing insurers exists – which is itself contrary to the principle of subsidiarity.

  • For Catholic supporters of this bill, make your argument. I do not question your motives. But neither should those, such as myself, that hoped this bill would go down in flames have their motives questioned.

    I admire and adhere to (from the abstract plain of my disicpline, public affairs/political philosophy) the Catholic notion of subsidiarity. This bill is a violation, in my view, of both that of solidarity. I don’t particularly care to argue this point, but the Paul Ryan/Ross Douthat line of thinking is much better: private catastrophic insurance for young and old, some public subsidies but no government control, and finally a more controlled spending curve.

    Our entitlements are about to eat us alive (and yes that includes Wilsonian adventures). Our “culture wars” are about to get a lot worse (“why should I subsidize that sort of lifestyle”?)

    This bill deserved to fail. Now we live with consequences. I hope that its supporters in the Catholic blogosphere respond charitably, and keep their moral preening and motive questioning in check.

  • It’s disingenuous to claim that needs were not being met at the local level when options that might have addressed local problems were never given a chance.

    This was nothing but a power grab, plain and simple.

    The voters of Massachusetts were able to make the decision in their state – why weren’t voters in other states allowed the same opportunity? They’ll make their voices heard in the months to come, that’s to be sure, as this bill is nullified by state legislatures and voters, or possibly overturned by the courts.

  • Henry K & Charles,

    this is another poor argument by someone who does not understand subsidiarity.

    Can’t argue with my post so you attack the poster.

    Typical liberal strategies.

  • Tito, as others have pointed out, we aren’t making anything up. You are simply misunderstanding the principle of subsidiarity.

    jonathonjones, I would love to have seen what you call the “Paul Ryan/Ross Douthat line of thinking.” But some here are arguing that even that would violate subsidiarity. They mistakenly believe that any federal meddling is unCatholic.

  • Ever More Out-of-Balance

    The correct balance between subsidiarity and solidarity would, of course, fall somewhere in the middle between “every man for himself” and “universal nationally-regulated health insurance system.” And prudential concerns would indicate the need for incremental adjustments.

    But Democrats opted to start from scratch and envision a plan which would transform the existing system into their ideal vision. That was unattainable, so they instead moved as sharply in the direction of that centralized, uniform, and mandatory system as they could possibly go given the political climate.

    Thus we have moved from somewhere in the middle between the extremes, to a spot hugely in the direction of one extreme. It requires only a cursory examination to realize that we’ve both neglected prudence and moved farther away from the balance-point between subsidiarity and solidarity than we started out.

    That’s reason enough to pray for repeal.

    Upheaval In Pursuit Of The Anointed Vision

    But if Democrats, in typical progressive fashion, decided to throw caution to the winds and envision their ideal system, how I do wish they’d have envisioned something compatible with not only the narrow “social justice” concerns of the Church, but more broadly with reality in general as the Church, pillar and bulwark of truth, recognizes it.

    For just as she is not ignorant of science, and so does not ask for impossible physics and medicine merely because social justice champions are prone to wishful thinking; so too she is not ignorant of the frictions which make human social systems imperfect, and so she does not ask for impossible economics and bass-ackward systems of incentives when social justice champions put more stress on the noble motives of their “reforms” than the outcomes likely to occur.

    Thomas Sowell correctly dissects this progressive habit of mind in his classic The Vision Of The Annointed. The plans Obama and Company originally pursued showed all the usual hubris of this group; the plan enacted was less so only because it wasn’t all they originally wanted.

    If they couldn’t resist the unwise urge for grandiosity, why oh why couldn’t it have been something wisely designed around the correct priorities and the need for helpful, rather than perverse, incentives?

    The Right Kind of Incentives

    In envisioning a health care system, we should always have had in mind the system of incentives we wished to create.

    First and foremost, human dignity obligates us to incentivize whatever self-provision the bulk of responsible adults can manage: Thus the Medical Savings Account should be the chief electronic wallet from which health care is purchased. This also puts the major emphasis where subsidiarity suggests it should go, at the individual level.

    Second, we want to get the most out of the pricing system generated by the free market: Thus medical care should be purchased directly by the consumer, directly from the provider, without middlemen (governments, HMOs) serving as pre-paid arbitrageurs who both distort prices by preventing consumer decisions from being transmitted as price-signals.

    Third, we want to provide an escape valve for those who encounter surprise catastrophic health care costs for which it was impossible that they could adequately save, even over a lifetime. Thus catastrophic care insurance — not pre-pay, but “if it happens” insurance — should be a part of the plan. The threshold for “catastrophic,” however, should be sufficiently high as to disincentivize risk-taking lifestyles from promiscuous sex to drunk driving to chain-smoking to radical obesity: It is a feature, not a bug, when a health care system makes such behaviors progressively impoverishing.

    Fourth, we want the poor to have assistance in building up their Health Savings. Vouchers and government-matching inversely proportional to income should keep them saving into their accounts and thus building up a “rainy day” fund.

    Fifth, we want children to be assisted outright. Health care costs for children could be reimbursed by the government at very high percentage rates for very young children, gradually tapering down to 0% by the time the child turns eighteen. Here, incentives are a lesser matter because children are not responsible for paying their own way.

    Sixth, we want voluntary almsgiving at the individual, community, state, and national levels to be incentivized, not displaced (as is usually the case in welfare state systems). A system which reports health care needs similar to the “Modest Needs” website could serve this function.

    The Right Balance of Subsidiarity and Solidarity

    In addition to envisioning the right kinds of incentives, we should also have had a vision in mind for how a system which recognized the complimentary (not always competing) claims of subsidiarity and solidarity would look.

    It’s primary mode of provision would be based on private purchase; its secondary mode of provision would be based on voluntary charity; its tertiary mode of provision would be through government compulsion via taxation.

    Its primary decision-making and governance would be on the level of individuals as they made purchase choices in the health care market; secondary on the level of communities, tertiary on the level of states, and last of all on the federal level.

    Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

    That’s what we ought to have gone for, once we decided to do something grandiose.

    Instead, we have this dog’s breakfast — or will have, for as long as it takes to shove it back inside the dog, God willing.

  • RR,

    You’ve made no points yet you use Henry’s and Charle’s infantile attacks on me as a “reason”.

    Don’t be a slacker and do your own thinking for once instead of getting your marching orders from the Democratic Party.

  • R.C.,

    Well thought out points on balancing solidarity and subsidiarity.

    Sadly Henry K. and Charles weren’t arguing that, they were only mudslinging to smear me. Not debate the substance.

  • Can’t argue with my post so you attack the poster.

    You are the one who attacked the poster with the typical liberal comment. Because I pointed out the problem of your use of subsidiarity. In ecclesiology, it would mean the Pope shouldn’t be able do anything with any canon laws, if one followed your lead.

  • Now you’re offended for being a liberal?


  • Federal “meddling” may or may not violate subsidiarity – I won’t say that it does in every single case.

    But we also have a Constitution. Why don’t we just get rid of that, so that Obama can single-handedly legislate us into a utopia. And we can print another 50 trillion dollars without any economic consequences to pay for it. Or we can shift all of the burden onto the states, almost all of which are facing severe budget crises. Or we can beg the Chinese and Japanese to keep buying our securities. The US is the greatest debtor nation in the world, but hey, lets not let that stop us from establishing programs with a price tag only a little short of the entire GDP.

    Catholic social teaching isn’t magic, and the Papacy has never insisted on this Fantasia style of government, where the executive waves a magic wand and creates resources ex nihilo for unlimited consumption. To suggest that solidarity or subsidiarity are bankruptcy pacts, or that they allow any politician at any time to ride roughshod over the laws of a particular nation, is a falsification of Catholic social thought, as immoral as it is absurd.

  • I agree with Joe that there is a role for the Federal government, with respect to Restrained Radical, Henry K., and Charles, but like Mr. Hargrave says, not in every single case.

    Where is the line drawn?

  • I have always said, Tito, I am not a liberal. It is wrong to claim I am. It is also an ad homimen.

  • You still don’t know what an ad hominem is. It isn’t a synonym for insult. If Tito were to argue, “because (I think) you are a liberal, your argument is wrong”, THAT would be an ad hominem.

    Identifying an argument one doesn’t like with a label one doesn’t like isn’t the same as rejecting an argument simply because of a label attached to the person making it. I’ll let Tito decide which one of these he’s doing.

  • Henry K.,

    Must have escaped me when you said it in the past.

    I won’t do it again buddy.

    And I was being cute, not nasty.

    (Thanks Joe)

  • The voters of Massachusetts were able to make the decision in their state – why weren’t voters in other states allowed the same opportunity?

    They were. Nobody was stopping them. That’s why Massachusetts was able to do it. Without this federal bill, a handful of other states would’ve followed suit. But too many states would not have. The federal government had to step in.

    There seems to be a lot of confusion of the issues here. I agree with jonathan, Henry, Charles, and RC. We are all saying that the federal government CAN bypass the state and impose health care reform. Tito believes that violates subsidiarity.

  • RR,

    When you say bypass, are speaking in the context of a Catholic or as a U.S. citizen.

    As a Catholic the federal government can step in, if local governments and/or non-governmental organizations are unable to fill that gap.

    And only if it is done in solidarity (since that wasn’t my argument, but I’m throwing it in there to avoid getting this thread hijacked

    From the perspective of a U.S. citizen, I’m all for representative republic, but not at the expense of the minorities, ie, such as the minority party in congress, the GOP. But that’s for another thread, not this thread.

  • Joe

    I very much know what an ad homimen is. You are right, it is not to insult. But it is to use some aspect of the person making the message (claiming they are liberal) to dismiss their argument. He didn’t respond to the argument. He just said “liberals” as if that answered it all. Classical ad homimen. But you know, Joe, your response here is quite typical.

  • Henry,

    It wasn’t an ad hominem.

    Though it’s quite telling that you take it as such.

  • “But you know, Joe, your response here is quite typical.”

    By your standards, THAT’S an ad hominem. Run along now, you’ve failed to make any impression or change anyone’s mind for the 50th time here.

  • As a Scalian, I think the bill is unconstitutional, as is the federal partial birth abortion ban. But I’m neither a judge nor a Constitution worshiper so you won’t ever hear me arguing for or against a policy on constitutional grounds. I’m speaking as a Catholic.

    Most of us here seem to believe that the federal government could impose some form of universal health care without violating subsidiarity, even though we may disagree with this particular bill.

  • RR,

    We agree in theory.

    I think most, if not all of us here, agree with your statement.

    What’s a “Scalian”?

    As in Antonin Scalia and skepticism in the 6th Amendment?

    As for…

    But I’m neither a judge nor a Constitution worshiper so you won’t ever hear me arguing for or against a policy on constitutional grounds.

    We aren’t Ba’al worshipers if that is your point.

  • The Principle of Subsidiarity is the handling of affairs by small-scale, bottommost, or minutest government.

    You are free to think that “Obamacare” violates the principle of subsidiarity. That is a matter of debate. But this definition of subsidiarity is simply incorrect. Subsidiarity means the handling of affairs at the lowest appropriate level. Consider, for example, why putting “national defense” at the level of city government might be a problem. Something tells me that you would not be in favor of that. I point this out as someone who definitely agrees with the impulse to keep things as local as possible.

  • I used “Scalian” as an admittedly imprecise shorthand for a Meaning Originalist (as opposed to an Intent Originalist).

    I think there are too many Americans who think man should serve the Constitution, not the other way around.

  • Tito,

    “Universal” is not a synonym for “socialized” or “federally managed.” There is no contradiction between a goal of universal health coverage and a goal of subsidiarity.

    R.C.’s description is one approach to universal health care. It’s probably not the only one, but it does show that subsidiarity and solidarity work together to promote the common (which can be taken to mean “universal” among other things) good.

    I would only add that subsidiarity is not simply The Principle of Subsidiarity is the handling of affairs by small-scale, bottommost, or minutest government, as you put it. Subsidiarity is the ordering of appropriate functions to appropriate aspects of society. For example, some decisions appear to affect only an individual, but are best made by a family.

  • To clarify, the health care bill may indeed violate subsidiarity, but it does not do so simply because it seeks universal availability of health care. (I don’t know the details of the bill well enough to critique it on that basis; but most federal legislation seems to violate subsidiarity in at least minor ways.)

    Nor are the bishops hypocrites for seeking universal access to health care. That’s all.

  • Most of the time, I find that those who say that the principle of subsidiarity is not violated by the recent health care bill have simply defined the object as “universal health care.” Therefore, since no state can provide universal health care for the United States, or even for all the poor in the United States, subsidiarity is not violated by federal action.

    However, aside from my guess as to how the proponents of such a massive bill excuse its existence, there are the following points from Rerum to consider:

    “The limits must be determined by the nature of the occasion which calls for the law’s interference – the principle being that the law must not undertake more, nor proceed further, than is required for the remedy of the evil or the removal of the mischief.”

    This indicates that reform of the costliness plus programs to remedy the state of the poor who cannot otherwise afford it are to be desired here. The “Obamacare” bill then violates subsidiarity insofar as it goes beyond these measures. And indeed, though in a different context, we find in RN the statement, “But every precaution should be taken not to violate the rights of individuals and not to impose unreasonable regulations under pretense of public benefit.”

    But, then, I think it is also worthwhile to turn to Quadragesimo Anno, which states that although “[w]hen we speak of the reform of institutions, the State comes chiefly to mind,” still:

    “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.”

    Mutual health organizations, currently heavily regulated, could do such things, and indeed have been proposed. Under this legislation, they are absorbed. Moreover, “Thereby the State will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that belong to it alone because it alone can do them: directing, watching, urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands.” Necessity did not demand that the government replace the present system with something much different – it likely demanded reform of the present system and care of the most poor – which was clearly violated.

    Turning also to Mater et Magistra, we see that although “[t]he present advance in scientific knowledge and productive technology clearly puts it within the power of the public authority to a much greater degree than ever before to reduce imbalances which may exist between different branches of the economy,” still and yet, “it must never be exerted to the extent of depriving the individual citizen of his freedom of action. It must rather augment his freedom while effectively guaranteeing the protection of his essential personal rights. Among these is a man’s right and duty to be primarily responsible for his own upkeep and that of his family.”

    I do not think that “Obamacare” leaves the latter to the man. I think it, in fact, does far more than is necessary, and eradicates part of the primary responsibility of the man. Part of the problem of this is that “experience has shown that where personal initiative is lacking, political tyranny ensues and, in addition, economic stagnation in the production of a wide range of consumer goods and of services of the material and spiritual order—those, namely, which are in a great measure dependent upon the exercise and stimulus of individual creative talent.”

    And indeed, the importance and role of the state is reiterated as reinforcing groups and associations, not in replacing them: “As these mutual ties binding the men of our age one to the other grow and develop, governments will the more easily achieve a right order the more they succeed in striking a balance between the autonomous and active collaboration of individuals and groups, and the timely coordination and encouragement by the State of these private undertakings.”

    In many other places in Magister, the Pope discusses the dangers and the need of safeguards against the concentration of power in too few people. Those who see in Obamacare a great good for many people will also find support in that encyclical (as in others), but if they do not find a heavy warning and desire for temperance of state power (which does not exist in Obamacare), then they do not read carefully.

    Finally, turning to Centesimus Annus, we again find the same idea of subsidiarity as a limitation on state power:

    “The State must contribute to the achievement of these goals both directly and indirectly. Indirectly and according to the principle of subsidiarity, by creating favorable conditions for the free exercise of economic activity, which will lead to abundant opportunities for employment and sources of wealth. Directly and according to the principle of solidarity, by defending the weakest, by placing certain limits on the autonomy of the parties who determine working conditions, and by ensuring in every case the necessary minimum support for the unemployed worker.”

    The phrase “necessary minimum support for the unemployed worked” aligns very nicely with the idea of a minimum provision bill combined with a careful reform of existing institutions. It does not align with Obamacare.

    And again:

    “Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”

    And in fact, “One thinks of the condition of refugees, immigrants, the elderly, the sick, and all those in circumstances which call for assistance, such as drug abusers: all these people can be helped effectively only by those who offer them genuine fraternal support, in addition to the necessary care.”

    Obamacare may indeed appear to assist, or even actually assist, with some overarching goals of Catholic social justice. But it is well to remember that the Church is concerned not only with ends, but with means, and with motivations. Making common cause with those who would uphold this sort of legisation as supportable in a Catholic sense would be as dangerous as allying with those who would deny any state actor any role at all in regulation of health care.

  • Michael I,

    You’ve finally made a post around here that I don’t find objectionable in the slightest.

    If I had champagne on hand, I’d drink a toast.

  • 10th amendment period.

  • I think someone misunderstood me, if they interpreted my words to mean that I think this Federal bill, or even one which implemented my perfect plan purely through Federal authority, would be Constitutional.

    The Tenth Amendment clearly states the relevant principles:

    1. The Federal government has just authority only because it is a group of employees hired by (a.) the states, to exercise partially a specific subset of state authority (which the states only have because it was delegated to them by the people); and, (b.) the people, to exercise partially a specific subset of the just authority of individuals (which the people only have because it is delegated to them by God, or to say the same thing another way, because it is intrinsic to their God-given dignity as human beings);

    2. Any authority not delegated to the Federal government by its employers (the states and the people), it does not have;

    3. The Constitution is a sort of employment contract or job description for the Federal government, inasmuch as it is the sole vehicle for specifying the particular enumerated powers delegated to the Federal government by the states and/or the people.

    I’m more prone to verbosity than the Founding Fathers, so their text sums up the above quite succinctly: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

    Now as a matter of fact, the Federal government has no just authority to enact this health insurance bill. I can say this with utter confidence, because the relevant authority was never delegated to them. In fact, in many (perhaps most? I haven’t read enough of their constitutions to say) states, the relevant authority does not even reside in the states, from a textual standpoint. And there’s some question whether, as a matter of Natural Law, parts of the relevant authority resides in individuals at all.

    If individuals lack the relevant authority, they cannot delegate it to their employees, the states; even if they have the authority, they cannot be said to have delegated it unless they actually did so by mutual consent in their adopted constitutions; if the states and the people happen to have the relevant authority, they cannot be said to have delegated it to the federal government unless they actually did so by mutual consent in the Constitution adopted and ratified by the several states; and the relevant authority is, in absolute fact, not listed. It is not among the enumerated powers of the Federal government.

    And this all goes without saying for anyone who has studied the text and the opinions of the Founding Fathers about the meaning of what they wrote. Someone who argues that a national health insurance bill of this type, adopted through procedures of this type, fell within the intended authority granted to Congress by the Constitution as the framers intended, is utterly ignorant of the topic. It is a ridiculous anachronism easily refuted by all commentary on the Constitution, from the Federalist papers to the personal correspondence of the Founding Fathers. It is like saying that, when the Apostle John referred to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved” in his gospel, he intended to convey that he and Our Lord were gay lovers. It is jackassery of the first degree.


    The plain fact is that from the court-packing scheme of FDR onward, where the path of Supreme Court jurisprudence was, through outright extortion, ripped away from anything approaching respect for the text, our Constitutional jurisprudence is chock-full of first-degree jackassery.

    It is also plain fact that Congress doesn’t much give a frog’s fat fanny any more whether they have just authority under the Constitution or not to do, well, much of anything. Since the Senators became directly elected by the people, the state legislatures lost their voice in national governance and the states no longer have any obvious voice by which to prevent federal usurpation of their powers.

    And the people? They watch American Idol, or Jerry Springer, or whatever; it’s hard to keep up.

    So it is in the context of our execrable situation, which is unlikely to change soon, that I am willing to countenance Federal legislation which I hope will be helpful, even though I believe it utterly unconstitutional and would gladly see the constitutional (and subsidiarist) balance restored in the U.S. if it could be.

    I could stick to my principles and say nothing but “Hell, no” to any bill which I thought unconstitutional according to Framer’s Intent; and I would do just that were I in Congress. But as a voter, I know that this message, once uttered, is drowned almost instantaneously in the far louder debate about the merits of the bill, legality be damned.

    And so I wrote the post above, dealing with the lack of merit of the bill, and envisioning what would be the attributes of a truly meritorious bill, if one were ever to be introduced…and if it were wise to jump to a radically revamped system in one fell swoop, which it absolutely isn’t…and if the Federal government had just authority to enact it all by it’s lonesome, which I think it doesn’t and shouldn’t.

    I hope that clarifies my position.

  • To Michael Iafrate (and Joe Hargrave):

    You can count me in with Joe, Michael, about agreeing with what you said in defining subsidiarity. It was precisely correct: an apple of gold in a silver setting.

    So, champagne all around. (Since it’s not like we’re likely to have anything else to celebrate in the near future…!)

  • Bookmarking this page for Jonathan’s comment. It raises a question about when it’s acceptable to support an imperfect bill. Is overreach a nonnegotiable evil? What if ObamaCare also outlawed abortion (ignore the constitutionality for argument’s sake)?

  • R.C. nice post. All except the BUT.

    I posted, “10th amendment, period.”

    Compromise, despite how far we may have fallen is unacceptable.

    When you commit a venial sin do you have an excuse to commit a mortal sin, or an obligation to resist the downward pull and repent?

    If we are to truly live the Catholic faith, we are to be uncompromising. The 10th amendment is right and just and despite the fact that it has been trodden under foot, it it still law.

  • RC,

    It clarifies it, I suppose, but I don’t understand the point.

    We can say “hell no” — we can try and nullify this thing. Legal challenges are already being issued, invoking the interstate commerce clause.

    Here’s the issue for me, at least with regard to this discussion: the Constitution is the law of the land in the US. Now I happen to think that the Constitution, faithfully interpreted, is a subsidiarist document.

    But lets say this healthcare bill was truly subsidiarist – I don’t think it is but for the sake of argument. In that case I still don’t think we have any moral obligation to support it, as some left Catholics appear to be insisting.

    As I said before – fidelity to subsidiarity was never intended by the Papacy to be a bankruptcy pact. I am not going to argue that deficit spending is always and inherently immoral; but I do believe it can become so given the circumstances and the consequences.

    In these circumstances and with the likely economic consequences, not only do I think opposing this bill is NOT immoral or somehow out of step with Catholic teaching; I think promoting it with the full knowledge that it will cost nearly 1 trillion dollars that we don’t have, after Obama bailed out Wall Street, passed a stimulus bill that has failed to create jobs, and expanded the American empire – and with the knowledge that it will place a crushing financial burden on states that are teetering on the edge of fiscal meltdown – could very well be morally questionable.

    There is no mandate in CST to spend money you don’t have, whether you are an individual or a government. You can’t ram the concept of “solidarity” as an abstract ideal down the throat of a real society and body politic that can’t digest it.

    I do believe in solidarity. But I believe in real local solutions – distributism, worker and community ownership of businesses, common good banking, and other means of raising capital to fund the projects and programs that will embody our values as Christians and Catholics.

    This federal program is a nightmare. In my opinion, as a student of Catholic social teaching and the many Papal encyclicals on these questions, I say no Catholic is obliged to support it.

  • Deficit spending of money borrowed from one single entity that makes the money out of thin air at usurious rates is always and everywhere immoral, wrong, stupid and dangerous.

    I agree that no Catholic is obliged to support this debacle; however, we are obligated to oppose it. I am not condemning any one’s soul because some people are ignorant – ignorance may reduce murder to man slaughter, but an innocent is still dead and you did it – I know you didn’t mean to, but they are still dead and you are still guilty, only slightly less so.

  • As someone who has been to an emergency room with no health care (as a live-in volunteer for HIV+ homeless men with substance abuse addictions), I think I can speak from experience about whether this experience was ‘adequate’.

    I am still paying bills, still have poor credit, and am now a janitor working full time, but forced to live with my in-laws and forgo health care for my young son and wife.

    God will judge this nation, I promise you.

  • No doubt Nate, and I think He will find immense good as well as bad. Sounds like you are a bit sour about your present situation. The remedy is in your hands as it is with all able bodied people with no mental handicap. As the father of an autistic young man who will never have the opportunity to make his way in the world unaided, assistance his mother and I happily give him, I have limited patience for people who have sound minds and bodies and then gripe about lack of opportunity. Opportunities for honest employment and advancement are endless in this society for those willing to seize opportunities when they present themselves.

  • Nate,

    I’m not exactly driving around in a Cadillac myself.

    Like I said before: if we didn’t have trillion dollar banker bailouts, failed stimulus packages, and imperial wars, it would be different.

    In fact, I think it would be cheaper for the government to simply pay the tab of anyone with a treatable life-threatening illness than it would be for this monstrosity.

    There is no doubt that we live in a broken society worthy of judgment and possibly condemnation. The federal takeover of healthcare is not going to change that – that, I can promise you.

  • This is the boldest claim to this end on the conundrum with our Catholic principle of Subsidiarity and the USCCB supporting the bill save for the absence of the abortion language.

    If this bill had passed with the Stupak Language, it still would have done a lot of damage to the dignity and sanctity of life.

    People wrongly say that Rerum Novarum does not address Health Care, but it does!

    An excerpt-parenthesis are mine:

    “To cure this evil (of injustice), the Socialists, exciting the envy of the poor toward the rich, contend that it is necessary to do away with private possession of goods (my paycheck and yours) and in its place to make the goods of individuals (through redistribution of monies) common to all, and that the men who preside over a municipality or who direct the entire State should act as administrators of these goods. They hold that, by such a transfer of private goods from private individuals to the community, they can cure the present evil through dividing wealth and benefits equally among the citizens. But their program is so unsuited for terminating the conflict that it actually injures the workers themselves. Moreover, it is highly unjust, because it violates the rights of lawful owners, perverts the function of the State, and throws governments into utter confusion.”

  • RN doesn’t condemn taxation. Some people have to think through their condemnations more thoroughly.

  • As someone who has been to an emergency room with no health care (as a live-in volunteer for HIV+ homeless men with substance abuse addictions), I think I can speak from experience about whether this experience was ‘adequate’.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t such a person be eligible for Medicaid already?

  • RN absolutely DOES condemn what Leo called excessive taxation. Summarizing his list of the positive benefits of worker ownership of productive property, Leo concludes:

    “These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man’s means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair.”

    Now what constitutes “excessive” or “more than [what] is fair” might be open for debate, but Phillipus’ quote is not limited to taxation.

    It has to do with the FUNCTION of government as well.

    “it violates the rights of lawful owners, perverts the function of the State, and throws governments into utter confusion”

    Sounds like an accurate description of Obamacare to me.

  • Not entirely OT, from Chicago Breaking News:

    While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

    Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city’s premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan’s office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

    The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan’s tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley’s office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

    But of course, nothing like this could ever happen under the Obama healthcare plan. These liberal pols, who care so much about the poor, would never use their power and influence to jump ahead on government waiting lists for transplants or expensive treatment. Only heartless conservatives would do such things…

  • Well, I don’t condemn taxation; government has legitimate functions that must be funded. How the tax burden should be shared is mostly a question of prudence, though certainly it would be immoral to tax families at the expense of true necessities. I disagree with the proposition that CST somehow endorses low taxes and small government any more than it endorses high taxes and large government. I prefer the former for all manner of prudential reasons, including some grounded in my own life experiences; but many smart good Catholics prefer the latter. It is very difficult to secure confident truths about public policy options because it is so hard to sort out why people do what they do.

    The UCCB is wrong to weigh in in support of this health care bill because it is beyond its charism, which is to speak out against intrinsically immoral things, such as government funding of abortion. They would be wrong to oppose it as well.

    Reminds me of the time the managing partner of my law firm wrote an op-ed piece in favor of gay marriage. He is free to do this of course, but many of us took great umbrage at his being introduced as our managing partner. That office carries with it no special wisdom on the issue, and he should have been more careful to avoid any suggestion that he was speaking on behalf of our firm or that his opinion somehow carries greater weight because of the office we gave him.

  • Donna, isn’t that news report just filthy Chicago political corruption all over? News flash for everyone who doesn’t live in Illinois: this is exactly the political atmosphere in which Obama learned the trade of a politician. Chicago politics have been a sewer forever, as accurately portrayed in this clip from the Untouchables.

    Ness was brought in because Chicago law enforcement was just as corrupt as portrayed in the film.

  • Mike,

    I think the extent to which our Constitution does not conflict with CST is the extent to which we ought to follow it.

    I’m not bringing this up because I think you claimed it, but throwing it out there as relevant to the topic:

    I’ve never seen a Papal document insisting that Americans scrap their Constitution and replace it with the Compendium of the social teaching, or a European-style welfare state. In fact, JP II condemned welfare bureaucracies in Centesimus Annus.

    “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.” (48)

    I think this is precisely why so many people opposed Obamacare, and why Catholics are well within the boundaries of CST if they oppose it.

  • Joe, I agree completely on all counts. Surprisingly (perhaps) I do not at all take issue with those Catholics who support ObamaCare (assuming the abortion issue has been satisfactorily addressed — its own issue of course). I give Catholics a wide berth. That said, I do believe it is arrogant for the bishops to weigh in (as bishops) on something they really don’t know any more than you, me or any other AC commentator.

  • Yeah, I agree Mike… its not “unCatholic” necessarily to support it, though I would remind everyone of those warnings about the welfare state from JP II.

    Unfortunately, a lot of the Catholics who DO support it are insisting that you’re basically an anti-Christ who hates poor people if you don’t support it.

    On a final note, I don’t mind the bishops “weighing in”, in theory: in practice, they only listen to left-leaning researchers. I never hear them talk about fiscal responsibility. Why is that out of the realm of moral teaching? Why is it OK to propose and enact grandiose schemes that could bankrupt a society?

    On a related note:

    People who think this is “consequentialism” are – to put it mildly – incredibly naive (or dishonestly abusing rhetoric, as some people who drop in here from time to time enjoy doing). It is perfectly legitimate and I would argue morally obligatory to consider the consequences of ANY action or policy.

    “Consequentialism” is only when one proposes doing evil to achieve a good end – not taking into account the great evils that could occur from the pursuit of good intentions.

  • Again, Joe, agreed. I pay no mind to those who claim that a Catholic must support ObamaCare for the simple reason that the assertion is stupid and I’m far too busy to deal with such nonsense. I also agree that it is possible for bishops to exercise a prudential opinion as bishops but only if the prudential component is not subject to reasonable debate (one can at least argue that the Iraq War satisfied this standard — though such an argument is not air tight). ObamaCare does not come close. Hence, my accusation of arrogance.

  • Joe:

    Well, of course I want the bill nullified, in the court system or by nearly any other means short of violence.

    You say you don’t understand the point of my second post. I think, from your reaction and “American Knight’s” reaction, that I used the wrong word when I said I would “countenance” a bill despite being opposed to it because it was unconstitutional. A better phrasing would have been to say that, while I would still vote against it and work for its defeat, I was willing to debate its merits, measured against the standards of Catholic teaching, apart from the question of constitutionality.

    Even though its unconstitutionality made me oppose it, I was willing to oppose it on other grounds also; namely, that it wasn’t a good fit with Catholic principles. (And, as I indicated, I fear the mere fact of something being unconstitutional often doesn’t prevent it being enacted these days.)

    With Obamacare, obviously the abortion thing made it not a good fit with Catholic principles. But I thought there were other things, as well, which made it not a good fit. It seemed to me that when a correct balance of subsidiarity and solidarity was taken into account, the result would be nothing like this bill.

    So I laid out what I thought were the relevant guidelines for a bill which would follow Catholic principles and showed how Obamacare didn’t fit. In the process of doing so, I gave a hypothetical example of an approach which would match Catholic principles far more closely.

    That was all in my first post.

    Sometime thereafter, RestrainedRadical came in and, referring to my hypothetical example, said that I thought federal programs like this were constitutional.

    Since that wasn’t what I meant at all, I wrote my second post to make it clear that I didn’t. The sole purpose of my hypothetical example was to show by comparison how much more Catholic (and generally wise) a bill could be, compared to the Obamacare bill. I would not want even my hypothetical example to be implemented by the kind of federal overreach used for the Obamacare bill.

    I hope that helps make sense of what I was saying.

    On another, but related, topic: Joe, can you help me out on something?

    In discussing the government-provided health insurance issue in another forum, I recently had occasion to quote St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3, the “if a man refuses to work, he ought not eat” bit.

    I took St. Paul to mean, reasonably enough I think, that Christians are under no moral obligation to subsidize a moocher who is entirely able to pay his own way but chooses to remain dependent on others despite having no disability or hardship to prevent him from gainful employment. I did not apply the verse to folk who’re in need through no fault of their own.

    The fellow replied that this was a “republican interpretation” of St. Paul, and one which he did not accept.

    I was flabbergasted by this. Are there really Catholics who believe that the Church teaches that one is obligated to give alms even when one knows one is not helping the needy, but only enabling a moocher? What could justify that? Is there some passage in an encyclical which can be construed that way?

    I don’t mean to talk behind the fellow’s back; and indeed if he sees this note and chooses to reply, that’s fine.

    But I thought that you, Joe, could perhaps give me insight into this point-of-view. To me it seemed pretty wacky but I’m trying not to dismiss the possibility that there’s some logic to it. Any ideas?

  • RC,

    “Even though its unconstitutionality made me oppose it, I was willing to oppose it on other grounds also; namely, that it wasn’t a good fit with Catholic principles.”

    Same here. I should have read your first post more carefully.

    Now, as for your questions:

    “Are there really Catholics who believe that the Church teaches that one is obligated to give alms even when one knows one is not helping the needy, but only enabling a moocher?”

    Unfortunately, yes.

    This passage is easy, however to misinterpret, if it is meant to apply to public policy. The CCC, 2427, states:

    “Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another.Hence work is a duty: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.”

    So there is your passage, right there in the Catechism. Work is a duty. However, I would add the following considerations:

    Jesus does say that we are to give freely to all who ask (Matthew 5:42). In my view, this means the following: if a person on the street asks for money, we don’t make a federal case out of it, we don’t attempt to do an impromptu background check and grill them with a bunch of questions, and we don’t assume that they’ll spend the money on booze or drugs if they say they’re using it for food or gas.

    I’ve parted with the money in my wallet with a suspicion that the money might not be used well, but without knowing for certain, I erred on the side of charity. I believe this is what we are called to do as Christians.

    However, if we are talking about a situation in which a known liar and moocher asks for money or something else, then I believe we are fully within our rights to deny them, or, if we can, place conditions on our assistance. We will help them, in other words, on the condition that they make a serious effort to improve their position, to the best of their ability.

    In none of these scenarios do we find prescription for public policy. The Gospels are very thin on political theory, probably for a good reason: virtue is only meaningful if it is the result of a free choice. Jesus says “render unto Caesar”, and Paul says to obey the lawful authorities. The Apostles say to obey them only insofar as they do not conflict with God’s laws.

    Of course, Caesar Obama is not authorized by the Constitution to force us to buy health insurance, or to plunder the treasury to finance universal health care, so in resisting Obamacare we aren’t violating any Christian teaching that I know of.

    “Is there some passage in an encyclical which can be construed that way?”

    Absolutely not. The encyclicals do not contradict the Catechism. When they speak of economic issues, the presuppose a desire to work for a living on the part of the poor, as well as various problems that prevent full employment.

    The Church teaches that societies are obligated to find ways to provide employment for all. But the obligation to actually do the work rests upon us as individuals.

    John Paul II condemned the “Social Assistance State”, which at its absolute worst subsidizes idleness and laziness. So I would say Catholics have no grounds for insisting that the state do any such thing.

  • Donald and Joe – I don’t have much of a position on this health care debate. In the face of reality, it all seems like smoke.

  • This so-called health care reform bill and the Bishop’s position on the bill praising the increase access for the poor has caused me to research the Church’s positon on Social Justice. I wasn’t aware what a leftest organization that the US Catholic Bishops are.

    Social Justice is in many ways is a less offensive word for Socialism / Marxism.

    Subsidiarity is lost in current Catholic teachings.

    It is not charity when one is forced by the threat of imprisonment to pay for anothers’s health care through taxes.

    I use to feel good about charity to the Church. I’m less inclined to support the Bishop’s from this point forward.

  • Dan,

    That makes two of us.

    I’m less inclined to support the bishops in anything they push in “our” name.

  • We are obligated to be obedient to our bishops – they are the successors of the Apostles. Of course, that obligation is limited to their authority as Apostles – primarily in matters of faith and morals.

    The Bishops financial charity is not an obligation. I strongly suggest that we do it; however, I have been struggling with this all through Lent. Not because of the bishop – I actually have an excellent, faithful son of the Church, pro-life, loving shepherd as my bishop. I assisted at a Mass he celebrated yesterday and had a chance to speak to his excellency during dinner after. He is a wonderful and loving man and a good bishop. He also told me his schedule is already booked for two years. It is not easy being a bishop, especially these days when administration and litigation takes up so much of his time.

    The Enemy is using our twisted culture to force our bishops to be so busy with ancillary things that they are fatigued when it comes to their apostolic mission. We must pray for them.

    The problem with the bishops’ financial charity is that it is administered by bureaucrats and they are overwhelmingly leftists and barely qualify as Catholic, if at all.

    I fear that my money ends up being used to support the enemies of the Church. I am strongly considering directing those funds to our seminary in the name of my pastor and my bishop, rather than to the diocese. This is a difficult choice. Prayer is helping, but I am such a sinner that I haven’t been inspired one way or the other yet. It is so much easier to make decisions as a secularist – they all lead to hell so it doesn’t really matter.

    I am also considering what to do about being a Knight of Columbus, since I just found out that Bart Stupak is too!

    Pray much my friends our government is quickly working to become the enemy of the Church. We must be prepared, like St. Thomas More, I am my country’s servant, but God’s first.

    Pray also for the poor Catholics who chose to seek (not achieve) good ends by the means of the enemy. Socialism, big government, collectivism are never compatible with our beliefs. We may have to live under tyranny, but we cannot cooperate with it. I know I will be chided for equating tyranny with this so-called health care reform bill – but the facts are the facts – this bill is merely one step toward total government (perhaps global) and marginalization of the Church and then out right persecution. It has happened before, it can happen again. Of course, Judgment could come any time before it happens too.

    Engage all the mental gymnastics you want – this law is not only illicit because it does not subordinate itself to the law of the land – the Constitution, but it also opposes our beliefs while couching itself in the tenets of our faith. The devil is smarter than we are. Don’t be fooled by him – we are children of God and heirs of His Kingdom.

  • Dan, then why don’t you take Glenn Beck’s advice and join another church since you’re obviously taking your cues from him?

    The fellow replied that this was a “republican interpretation” of St. Paul, and one which he did not accept.

    I was flabbergasted by this. Are there really Catholics who believe that the Church teaches that one is obligated to give alms even when one knows one is not helping the needy, but only enabling a moocher? What could justify that? Is there some passage in an encyclical which can be construed that way?

    R.C. – In our conversation I said nothing about having an obligation “to give alms even when one knows one is not helping the needy, but only enabling a moocher.” Those were not the terms of the discussion at all. In fact that way of framing it is so incredibly vague that it’s unhelpful. We were talking specifically about health care. When it comes to health care, the church insists that health care is a human right. Yes, “moochers,” even known “moochers,” deserve health care. Whether or not you should flip a quarter to a person you “know” to be a “moocher” is probably up for debate. Sorry, but health care is not. People that you, based on republican assumptions, deem to be the “undeserving poor” still possess basic human rights whether you like it or not.

  • Michael is correct – the right to life includes the right to adequate care of their health. This is true regardless of what human being we are talking about. Jesus demonstrated that when he healed the ear of the sinner who came to arrest him.

  • Don’t forget about the 10th commandment, Thou Shalt Not Steal.

    By taking money away from people against their will is not Catholic social teaching.

  • ‘But whom do I treat unjustly,’ you say, ‘by keeping what is my own?’ Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From what did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common — this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need.

  • Henry, individuals and households do manage to produce salable goods and services. We are not all just drawing from some endowment left to us.

  • Oh, and when you say you have a ‘need’, you have an implicit purpose in mind.

  • Tito, my friend,

    I believe “thou shalt not steal” is the 7th commandment… 8th if you read a heretic Bible 🙂

    Nate, my other friend,

    The right to health care does not = the right to federally subsidized health care. I agree that the government has a duty to take some action to make health care accessible – it could do so in any number of ways short of this monstrous and unconstitutional power grab.

    I maintain that Catholics are well within the bounds of Church teaching in rejecting Obamacare, and reitirate John Paul II’s and the Compendium’s condemnation of the expansion of bloated welfare bureaucracies, Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of excessive and unfair taxation, the principle of subsidiarity, AND the fact that CST does NOT require us to dismantle the rule of law in this country – which is the Constitution – in pursuit of utopian ideals we cannot afford.

  • Joe,

    You are correct.

    I had two commandments in mind, but only one came out.

    The 10th is Though Shalt Not Covet.

    Darn N.A.B. Bible. I need to stop reading USCCB propaganda.


  • Who are the greedy. Those who are not satisfied with what suffices for their own needs. Who are the robbers? Those who take for themselves what rightfully belong to everyone. And you, are you not greedy? Are you not a robber? The things you received in trust as stewardship, have you not appropriated them for yourself? IS not the person who strips another of clothing called a thief? And those who do not clothe the naked when they have the power to do so, should they not be called the same? The bread you are holding back is for the hungry, the clothes you keep put away are for the naked, the shoes that are rotting away with disuse are for those who have none, the silver you keep buried in the earth is for the needy. You are thus guilty of injustice toward man as you might have aided, and did not

  • The redistribution of wealth can never be condoned by breaking 1/5th of the Commandments.

  • Therefore let us use our goods sparingly, as belong to others, so that they may become our own. How shall we use them sparingly, as belonging to others? When we do not spend them beyond our needs, and do not spend them for our needs only, but give equal shares into the hands of the poor. If you are affluent, but spend more than you need, you will give an account of the funds which were entrusted to you.

  • Henry, get to the big “reveal” already.

  • Henry is quoting St. Basil the Great, a Doctor of the Church. I suppose he’s putting chunks up slowly hoping that someone will protest against something so that he can then pounce with an “Aha!”

  • John:

    Yeah, I knew he was quoting someone, and engaged in some kind of point-scoring exercise. I had just reached my “Monty Python chorus” moment: “GET ON WITH IT!”

  • Tito is right again.

    St. Basil is absolutely right to condemn selfish people as robbers and thieves. We should give freely and generously – freely being the operative word.

    What exactly does St. Basil have to say about the role of the state? Oh wait… nothing. At least that I know of. If he did say something, I would be interested in seeing it.

    In any case, we have the political philosophy of the Catholic Church to guide us. And what it says is clear.

  • Listen and groan, all of you who overlook your suffering brethren, or rather, Christ’s brethren, and do not give the poor a share of your abundant food, shelter, clothing and care as appropriate, nor offer your surplus to meet their need.

  • ::wonders if sanctimonious lecturing ever changed anyone’s mind on anything, ever::

  • I dunno, Joe. Maybe you could go post “Liber Gomorrhianus” by St. Peter Damien in its entirety in the gay marriage thread over at Vox Nova and see how long it stays.

  • Health care is certainly a right when the means to provide it are available to a degree – there are circumstances that render it untenable some are natural, we don’t know how to cure cancer, a cure for HIV-AIDS is also elusive. Others are our responsibility. Saddling physicians with so much regulation, litigation and insurance costs not to mention the ridiculous cost of their education is dwindling the numbers of physicians we have. Additionally you cannot secure a right for everyone by destroying the means and the capacity to provide that same to anyone.

    Does Jesus want us to take care of the sick? Of course, to the best of our capacity; however, His primary task is for us to pray for the health of their souls and not simply their bodies. The healing miracles Jesus performed where visible signs of his healing message – primarily healing our souls. Furthermore, most of the sick need comfort more than they need medical treatment. Some of us have chronic illnesses, it sucks, but that is just another cross to bear – frankly, I’d rather bear the cross of diabetes than vanity by seeking to be the one who forces others to ‘charitable’. Judas always comes to mind – he always championed the plight of the poor, while he was pilfering the purse.

    I won’t judge anyone’s interior intentions, not my place, but all y’all who are constantly whining about the poor are usually liars and self-seeking vain, prideful ones at that. Charity must be love, it cannot be force, government cannot love. Government does have a responsibility to ensure that the natural free market, the charitable intent of her citizens and the settlement of disputes are not hampered so as to provide access to medical care, when it is possible. Medical care, for acute physical ailments – not health care per se.

    Health care is broader than medical care it includes food, shelter, exercise, education, etc. government cannot provide that, the only ones that come close to even promising that are socialist at best and totalitarian ultimately. As Catholics, we cannot support that kind of a state.

    Furthermore, what kind of contortion do you have to do in order to categorize killing babies and elderly, giving sexual stimulants to perverts, sex changes to poor twisted souls, etc. as health care and then consider that a right according to CST? Y’all who propose and support this twisted logic should get on your knees and thank God for His Mercy and the Sacrament of Penance.

    Again, I will make the bold statement that Catholics not only cannot support this ‘law’, we must oppose it. It is anti-life, anti-Christian and anti-American. We are commanded to be pro-life, pro-Christ and patriotic.

  • In a free society many people do not understand the differnece between a human right a a human need.

    Health care and food are essential to life and are human needs. But needs do not give one a right to property of others. If I’m hungry I do not have the right to steal from you.

    Charity is when you freely give to someone in need. Non-voluntary redistribution of wealth is not charity, but theivery.

    I’ve encounter the moocher that Micheal talked about and have given him money for food. The moocher turned around and told me he was buying beer with the money I gave.

    I’ve not stopped giving to street people, but now walk the person to the nearest store and buy a sandwich. Sometimes the person looses interst and this weeds out people looking for beer.

    I’m afraid this health care reform bill with it’s affordablity credits will discourgage people from doing what they can do for themselves. With a big goverment program there is no opportunity to weed out the moochers and give to the people with true needs. Moochers will multiply without close managment of resources. If the resources are not mananged correctly there will not be enough for those with true needs. This health care bill will certainly provide more beer for the moochers.

    In a society that is not free, there are no human rights, and plenty of unmet human needs. If we continue down the road to socialism, our rights like freedom of speech and religion will be in jeopordy.

  • Dan,

    Freedom of religion will not be curtailed in the USA. All will be free to practice all manner of religion, well, except those pesky Catholics with all that doctrine and dogma – we can’t have that.

    I refrain from giving money to beggars because I will not enable them in doing harm to themselves, but I will always buy them food and drink (not alcohol) or even a blanket or a jacket. I know they can turn around and sell it for drugs, but I can only exercise the prudence that is possible with the charity that is required.

    Social welfare programs invite a self-perpetuating bureaucracy and like any other system it needs clients. Helping poor people improve their situation will render them no longer poor and so you’ve lost a client. It is far better to waste wealth to increase the quantity of poor. Notice how many more poor people (if you can truly call the poor in America poor compared to the poor elsewhere) since the Great Society.

    Is it really justice to incentivize and perpetuate the less fortunate in a state of dependency while increasing the numbers of those who are dependent?

    I don’t think that is quite what Christ or Holy Mother Church means.

    I think He taught something about not giving a man a fish, but teaching him how to fish.

    Me thinks leftists of all stripes confuse true Charity (Love) with mere sentimentalism.

Subsidiarity at Work

Monday, September 7, AD 2009

dilbert subsidiarity

Everyone here at the American Catholic hoped that you all have had a happy Labor Day weekend.

The principle of Subsidiarity states that government should undertake only those initiatives which exceed the capacity of individuals or private groups acting independently.

Pope Leo XIII developed the principle in his AD 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum.  The principle was further developed by Pope Pius XI in his AD 1931 encyclial Quadragesimo Anno.


To learn more about Subsidiarity click here.

To read Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum click here.

To read Pope Pius XI‘s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno click here.

For more Dilbert funnies click here.

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6 Responses to Subsidiarity at Work

  • I think the author of the first link oversimplifies the application of the principle — which is prudential in the first place — and makes something appear to be “obvious”.

    I’m actually very skeptical of the whole project of the Acton institute.

    If someone were a Catholic and told me they were a committed “liberal feminist Democrat” — I would inquire about their definitions of “liberal” and “feminist” before proceeding to make a judgment. If they were using authentically Catholic definitions for these relative terms, I’d have nothing else to say.

    If someone were a Catholic and told me they were an ardent laissez-faire free market capitalist, I’d ask as well what do those terms imply because while the philosophy is not in and of itself evil and it is certainly far from perfect — I would be interested as to how the Catholic reconciled their faith entirely with a philosophy largely born of the Enlightenment if there is no difference between the Catholic free market capitalist and other free market capitalists — it’d seem the philosophy transformed the Catholic not the other way around.

    While I think the Acton Institute does make extraordinary points at times, I find other things quite dubious. This is one of those points.

    I will go further into it, if time permits it later.

  • Eric,

    Thank you for the input.

    I don’t know much about subsidiarity so these postings are part of my path towards a deeper understanding of the principle.

  • I hope to learn more as well and look forward to your next post, Eric.

    The Welfare State is not one I want to live in, but I also would not want to have been an African American in Alabama waiting for my local community to let me in the front of the city bus.

    My own experience has been mixed, where sometimes the fed. government has gotten in the way of people taking on the socially responsible and moral challenges of the day, but more often the fed. govt. has had to come in when local authorities and communities for that matter have failed. And it is every so often a wonderful thing to feel a national sense of community when the federal government does something that we as a people want it to do: preserve Gettysburg and Yellowstone, develop the Apollo Program, help hurricane victims and give veterans health care benefits that are not dependent upon just local resources because they didn’t fight for their town, they fought for their country.

    Fr. Bosnich’s article makes some good points, but it also makes some surprising overstatements in my opinion:

    “The Bishops have not learned the key lessons of the 1980s: the success of free market economics and the failure of collectivism. The top-down, centralized planning of the Soviet system could not succeed because it contradicted the subsidiarity principle.”

    Yes, the Soviet system did not succeed, it was dehumanizing and it was cruel, but not because it was “collective” it failed because it was authoritarian and draconian and oppressed freedom of speech, thought, travel and of course the democratizing influence of market forces and personal wealth creation. But it is hard to claim that things like national reforms of health care are equivalent to the Soviet Union.

    Fr. Bosnich also wrote, “Consolidation is the weapon of tyranny, but the friend of liberty is particularism.” True, but the consolidation of money into 5 big banks and the consolidation of information into 5 big media companies and the consolidation of health care into a couple of insurance companies for each state and the consolidation of … well you get it. These all breed economic tyranny and yet these are the direct result of the laissez faire economic policies that I assume he would encourage. This begins to smack of Ayn Rand’s objectivism in which helping others or voting to help others leads directly to living for others and this destroys society.

    In another paragraph Fr. Bosnich say “Baum defines subsidiarity as “de-centralization” and socialization as “centralization”. In other words, in this view, Catholicism teaches the principle of de-centralization and the principle of centralization simultaneously!” I haven’t read Baum or anyone else that he quotes, except for de Tocqueville, so I don’t know. But it also seems apparent to me that Catholicism does teach individualism and collectivism simultaneously. I don’t see that as bad, I see it as realistic, natural and moral. The monastic tradition is the very embodiment of wrapping the two together in the most purposeful way possible. The Catholic Church is a rather singular example of a centralized hierarchy and I have to say with some sadness that the federalist and staunchly individualist tendencies of the Founding Fathers came more from the ancient Saxon, Iroquois and Protestant tradition (and Deism) than from Catholic tradition.

    It was during the Progressive Era in American history that began the last resurgence of the type of voluntary associations that de Tocqueville and the author would have praised. The Progressive Era was a time of strengthening communities, hundreds of clubs and the strengthening of labor unions and women’s suffrage. These traditions, some might say collectivistic tendencies, formed a particularly strong sense of rights and responsibilities.

    I think Fr. Bosnich gets caught up in the idea of statism and ignores even bigger issues – the we do not live in the 19th century anymore; that globalization is redefining what “local” and “national” really mean; that kids growing up today are thinking of themselves not as Idahoans or Atlantans, but as Americans or even world citizens; that we are not merely economic beings who only need protection from government price controls for aspirin; that humans are also ecologically tied to every other life form on Earth and that this bond has a spiritual nature as well.

    The principle of subsidiarity has at its heart the age-old conflicts of the individual vs. the group and rights vs. responsibility. Each is a balancing act and societies (especially American society) tend to teeter toter between each extreme rather than stay long at an equilibrium. As someone who most closely admires Jefferson and being from a relatively rural state, I certainly believe in that self reliance is a virtue and the least government being the best government. However I also believe that globalization and urbanization (not liberalism) have overwhelmingly placed most people in a position of compromised dependency – lots of people in big cities working service jobs and changing homes several times in their lives. We can pretend that smaller, simpler organizations will be able to take care of most of our needs, and in someways the internet and new urbanism is trying to do just that, but when large corporations drive the economy and when environmental degradation starts to cross borders and affect oceans, not just nearby valleys, then it is necessary for larger levels of governments to take a more active role and sometimes that role will be morally necessary, in my opinion.

  • Oh I forgot to add to Fr. Bosnich’s view on the lesson of the 1980’s … Another lesson of the 1980’s is that top-down economics (trickle down, deregulated industries) also encourage unrestrained mergers, economic bubbles and the decoupling of Wall Street capital from Main street workers which lead to an economy that eventually collapsed in 2008. Maybe each local Elks Club in the country could have a bake sale and replace everyone’s 401k.

  • MacGregor,

    Have you received the email I sent you?

  • From your first post, you make some very good points, Macgregor, although I think you may be erring slightly in your 6th paragraph by conflating two separate issues in the Soviet Union, politics and economics.

    In no way do I disagree with your analysis of the draconian, authoritarian aspects of Soviet political rule, but that is not what Fr. Bosnich was referring to, if I’m reading him correctly, in describing purely the economic aspects of collectivism, i.e., the top-down government control of every aspect of the economy. In and of itself such a system can never work because it is the antithesis of subsidiarity and there is no way for the bureaucrats running central planning to respond quickly to changes in supply and demand at the local levels, so they end up simply imposing a “one size fits all” solution on a vast economy, leading to massive inefficiency, shortages, etc.

    It happens to be true that in many real-life governments the two systems often go hand in hand, political authoritarian regimes and collectivist, state-controlled economies (e.g., Cuba, Venezuela under Chavez, North Korea, etc.), but I think it’s important to be clear that collectivist economies, even in the absence of political authoritarianism, cannot function efficiently.

    Sorry for the minor quibble, but I think it’s (political vs. economic government control) a vital distinction to make in relation to the Catholic notion of subsidiarity, or at least my very limited understanding of the concept! 😉

Exclusive Sneak Peek of Caritas in Veritate

Wednesday, July 1, AD 2009

Caritas in Veritate

[Updates at the bottom of this posting.]

The much anticipated new encyclical that Pope Benedict XVI recently signed, his third, on June 29th titled Caritas in Veritate, or Charity in Truth, will be released soon by Ignatius Press (the English version) on July  6th or 7th of 2009 A.D.  In searching for information regarding this encyclical I found bits and pieces here and there but nothing exhaustive or concise that came close to satisfying my curiosity.  So I’ve gathered all of my information and have presented it the best way possible in this posting.  With tongue in cheek I labeled this preview of Caritas in Veritate as an ‘Exclusive Sneak Peek’*.

Caritas in Veritate will be a social encyclical examining some of the social changes that have occurred since Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, particularly globalization.  The encyclical will have Pope Benedict XVI articulating the need to bolster humanism that brings together the social and economic development of humans and to reduce the disproportionate gap between poor and rich.  One other major theme of this encyclical will be that of global justice.

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8 Responses to Exclusive Sneak Peek of Caritas in Veritate

Pope John Paul II Comments on Rerum Novarum

Monday, June 29, AD 2009

I am going to provide everyone with a nice blast from the past- everyone I know respects Pope John Paul II- most orthodox Catholics refer to him as John Paul the Great. So I think what he thought officially as Pope on the question of Capital/Labor/State as part of the tradition deriving from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum- is incredibly interesting and relevant. Here is Chapter One of Centesimus Annus with no personal commentary- let the “man” speak without any interference from me:

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7 Responses to Pope John Paul II Comments on Rerum Novarum

  • The very existence of Rerum Novarum puts to shame the thesis that industrial capitalism, all on its own, either did or would have addressed the problem of poverty.

    I have seen this argument, from Tom Woods Jr., Robert Novak, especially when they critique Distributism, that critiques of capitalism are entirely baseless. They take it as an unquestioned article of faith that any life under industrial capitalism is better than any life in a non industrial capitalist society, that prior to capitalism only one word could sum up the human condition: poverty, and perhaps another: oppression.

    In this particular case criticisms of modern conservatism as nothing but the guardian of Enlightenment liberalism ring true. To make this argument, one has to essentially say at the same time that Rerum Novarum was unnecessary, that workers movements in general were unnecessary. It is the same logic that the neo-Confederates make: slavery would have been abolished on its own, so there was no need for a civil war. Capitalism would have cleaned up its act, so there was no need for a labor movement, government intervention, or the moral condemnation of the excesses of the system by the Popes.

    The problem is that neither of these claims is substantiated by the historical record. They are made with a sort of “faith” in what could have been. Here and there you have a General Lee or a Teddy Roosevelt who argue against the worst aspects of the system, and this is dubiously stretched out as an argument that the system would have reformed itself without any outside interventions.

    Counter-factuals aside, the reality is that the Papacy believed that the problems of industrial capitalism were not “self corrective”, that the workers had every right to organize and make economic and political demands, and that the duties of businessmen were not just to meet the economic demands made by consumers but the moral demands made by society and those who worked for them. Time and time again the Popes implored Catholics and society at large to find ways to increase the share of ownership of the workers in businesses.

    So, we can all thank capitalism for technical progress. Even Marxists do that. But moral progress was the domain of thinkers and activists well outside the capitalist class, people who did not share its goals, and often opposed them in certain respects. It is easy to take for granted the rights of workers today but a read through of Rerum Novarum shows us that they were in some question 120 years ago. In many places, they are in question even today.

    In the 21st century I hope we can move beyond the words “capitalism” and “socialism”. They are outdated and useless. The kind of economy I want to see is one in which there are still markets, but in which wealth and decision making power are not excessively concentrated, which is unambiguously subordinated to a moral hierarchy of values oriented towards the common good, and generally accountable to the direct will of the people (the eventual pressure of market forces is not and never will be enough).

  • Does Modern Conservatism actually make all those arguments.

    I mean Does modern Conservatism and I am talking the mainstream actually want to abolish Unions? I mean they talk about the problems with Unions and their excesses and are against things like Card Check but I rarely here modern Conservatism wishing to abolish Unions.

    GOvernemnt Intervention? I don’t here modern Conservatism want to abolish in the Food and Drug administration and the testing of meat? Besides for some tweeking I don’t here many modern conservatives want to abolish all child labor laws. Most Conservatives think having common sense Govt regualtion is a good thing.

    I often think that Modern Conservatism or Movement Conservatism is being confused with some Libertarian economic viewpoint.

    It is true that the modern conservatives think Govt is better if its lesser but I would contend that those conservatives that want no Govt intervention is very very small

  • JH,

    The problem is that both sides are reactionary. Conservatives may be fine with some government intervention but set against liberals who want more, they end up sounding as if they want none.

    It is hard to avoid this. I can’t always avoid it myself on issues important to me. But we must always try.

  • Joe I think you have a point. I think the problem is the internet draws lets say the extremes. I am on several boards I meet people that call themselves Conservatives and ranting about how the GOP is not really conservative. Of course when you examine their post they are far beyond conservative and rant about getting the Govt out of public education and almost toeing the Club for Growth line

    They are are same folks that call McCain a “liberal”. Or as we saw incrdibily go on a huge campaign against Huckabee and call him a Christian Socialist. Yet despite the internet astroturfing, the massive emails sent to everyone it turns out the average GOP and conservative voter liked Huckabee and McCain despite the gnashing of teeth from groups that have their monetary self interest in organziations direct mail and caging companies

  • I read the excerpt from RN almost with dread; I feared perhaps I would be reading something which, startlingly, would shake my confidence in my conservative outlook on the role of government. Much to my surprise, that didn’t happen!

    I think you absolutely *destroyed* the straw man set up in the firat comment: those rascally Conservatives would have to Repudiate The Pope Himself in order to deny the obvious truths set forth in RN! And JPG only echoed and reinforced RN, spo there!

    The problem I see with that statement is this: there are few, if any, conservatives who advocate totally unregulated economic activity. You see…being *against* the federal government taking a controlling interest in GM, for example, does NOT equal being *in favor* of eliminating unions, child labor laws, and OSHA.

    There is a proper role of government (which, in my view, involves the use of force against malefactors inside and outside of the country, and facilitating commerce among its people, to include appropriate regulation of said commerce). The problem many conservatives have with Governmentalists (to coin a phrase) is that the Governmentalist looks to Government and the solution to ALL ills. And it just doesn’t work!

    JPG’s and Pius XI’s calls in their writings are for *appropriate* government intervention, in those areas suited to government intervention.this paragraph grabbed me in particular:

    “This should not however lead us to think that Pope Leo expected the State to solve every social problem. On the contrary, he frequently insists on necessary limits to the State’s intervention and on its instrumental character, inasmuch as the individual, the family and society are prior to the State, and inasmuch as the State exists in order to protect their rights and not stifle them.37”

    This is ther precise concern of the conservative: thatGovernment *never seems to know its legitimate limits*. Consequently, the potential *harm* from *too much* government intervention (all together now: “stimulus bill, GM takeover, Cap-and-Trade, Hah!). Government that *thinks* it knows better than the free market usually ends up trampling its people under the weight of bureaucratic poppycock.

    The government can lay the groundwork for a just functioning society; it cannot (and *should* not!) be in the business of trying to redistribute wealth! It will fail. Miserably! And all the while, we will create a set of conditions that stifle innovation (say, Soviet Union) and allow people to settle for far far less than that of which they would otherwise achieve for themselves and their companies.

  • Here’s the thing.

    I am not setting up strawmen. I understand full well that there ARE conservatives who DON’T oppose government regulations and interventions. You know how I know? I consider myself one. At the least I would call myself a social conservative.

    Pointing out that there ARE ALSO people who DO make these arguments, however, is not making a strawman. I am differentiating between different kinds of conservative. Tim and I and others have heard enough talk radio and engaged in enough discussions to know that there are plenty of conservatives and even Catholics out there who do hold extreme anti-government, anti-regulatory views.

    I cited Novak and Woods because they specifically seek to absolve early capitalism of practically any and all wrongdoing – not only that, they seek to give it the sole credit for whatever prosperity we enjoy today. You WOULD have to repudiate Rerum Novarum to hold onto THAT argument.

  • Right Joe- I base my own reaction to “liberals” and “conservatives” on the way the politicians/media figures/and some real average folks I know, and in fact ran into quite often when I ran for public office- they just don’t talk about issues like the popes- they don’t talk about common good, they talk about freedom from taxes (rarely pointing out that taxes are not all bad or even a good thing- the impression they give directly or indirectly is that tax = theft by government, or they talk about freedom to choose- choose what- well for liberals it’s ususally about abortion or gay marriage- not all but many-

    Again it isn’t everyone who claims the title liberal or conservative, but it seems that the politicians running for office and the media talking heads and the many very outspoken citizens at meetings- they are the ones who speak out very forcefully and polemically, and they don’t sound to me like the social doctrine and popes to my ear- I try to use the language of morality and balance- it’s hard- I’m not the Magisterium- but I definitely try to base my argumentation and beliefs on my studies of the official teachings and documents, along with my life experiences and intuitions- and I find it difficult to see how one would embrace any ideology too narrowly- be it liberal, conservative, whatever- I do believe it necessary to be part of a political party- but we should be very critical members of such, because no party really is based upon our Catholic social doctrine, and as such is clearly deficient- either in theory or practice. When asked if one is liberal or conservative, I think it is better just to say I’m Catholic- straight-up- that’s my goal anyway