Catholic economic and social doctrine is not libertarian

Rorate Caeli has an excellent post up today – “Truth be told: The Traditional Catholic position on the economy is not Libertarian”.

“Very few indeed have been making the case, a case that is true, that the positions stated by Pope Francis on economic and social matters are much closer to the Traditional Catholic position on the economy and the State than not. Indeed, it can be said unhesitatingly that this is one area in which the Pope will find mostly allies in Traditional Catholics. They know by heart, also as victims of injustice (including within the Church), that the doctrine of the Church regarding individual persons, society and economic relations, and individuals faced with government, is one which privileges ‘justice’ as its foundational aspect.”

4 thoughts on “Catholic economic and social doctrine is not libertarian

  1. Quite so. In the past few months, my continuing exploration of Catholic Social Doctrine, and my inescapable awareness of the doings and sayings of Pope Francis, have made the latter’s commitment and exposition of the former almost enough to win me over to him. ;) Seriously, when people freak out about his views as “socialist”, or “anti-capitalist”, they not only betray an ignorance of the Church’s utter revulsion for socialism and Her benign tolerance of capitalism, but also distract from the fundamental issues that make this papacy disconcerting.


  2. And even if Catholic social doctrine was more compatible with libertarianism, being unpaid shills/cannon fodder for the corrosive agenda of America’s corporate culture is utterly insane for believing Catholics.

    If you think the Chamber of Commerce is on your side these days, think again, and read about their ferocious opposition to the failed Arizona and Kansas religious freedom laws. It isn’t your grandfather’s Chamber.


  3. While I hold no brief for libertarianism, and have routinely criticized it, I also suggest that there has been a trend in papal pronouncements from Populorum Progressio through Solicitudo Rei Socialis into the current “redistribution” comment that sits ill at ease with Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and Pius XI’s encyclical. Included in such pronouncements have been doubtable claims of historical datum, such as JPII’s claim that “the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, who get even poorer”, (which is not a claim of doctrine at all, and is both theoretically falsifiable, and – if one does the research – turns out to be probably not valid as a general description of the changes in global wealth at the time), as well as comments for avenues of correctives that are AT BEST only possible approaches rather than necessary obligatory requirements on men of good will, which take on a particular and possibly ill-judged dispositions of tension between the good of (some of) the poor today and the good of many more tomorrow (just for example).

    By far the most concerning facet of these more recent pronouncements is a lack of explicit regard for subsidiarity as a correlative foundational principle of human welfare, along with solidarity – which Leo and Pius did not neglect. It’s not that we ought to shove solidarity under the rug, but that the two S principles are needed alongside each other, and one without the other seems always to lead to disorders and disaster. So teaching one and being silent about the other is at the least dangerous, while (given that the patrimony of the Church includes both so resoundingly) a constant refrain of one without the other must be considered intentional and thus very concerning.

    Rorate Caeli does a better job of some others in identifying a balance, especially by bringing in Leo’s own words, but it too pulls in some strange emphases. For example, why in the world would a traditional Catholic publication express a reference to justice in scare quotes?

    ‘is one which privileges “justice” as its foundational aspect.’

    Probably a root problem is that the Catholic documents of the last 50 years have been remarkably shy of identifying exactly what the term ‘social’ adds to the expression ‘social justice’ that is both real and is different from simply “justice” when dealing with more than just a few people. The current pope, one wonders, may think that strict social justice in the ideal would be achieved only when strict equality of goods are shared between all men, but this sense of ‘social justice’ cannot be found in Rerum Novarum at all, and it cannot readily be made compatible with the prior 1000 years of teaching.


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