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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Catholic Economics = Distributism

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The social teaching of the Catholic Church opposes Libertarian economics (i.e. "Capitalism"). To understand this, one must read the social encyclicals of the popes in the context of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I will provide links to below. Sadly today, Catholics are horribly uneducated about the teachings of the Church on the issue of economics. The overwhelming vast majority of Catholics in the Western world have sadly subscribed to Socialism, the idea that an all-powerful state should administer all (or most) goods and services, for the sake of the "common good." This popular attitude demonstrates not only a pitiful understanding of economics but also a heretical understanding of Catholic teaching. Sadly, I'm afraid a number of the clergy have subscribed to this as well. On the flip side there are those Catholics who rightly reject the socialist ideas of Catholic Modernists. However, in their righteous anger toward the Left, they swing so far to the Right that they abandon authentic Church teaching in the process. This is the move toward Libertarian Capitalism, otherwise known as laissez-faire economics. Ironically, a number of high-profile Catholics, as well as some conservative-leaning Catholic organizations, have endorsed this heretical notion in the same way Left-leaning Catholics have endorsed socialism. The teaching of the Church is plain and clear. There is simply no way whatsoever that one can read the social encyclicals of the Church and come up with a Libertarian Capitalist view of economics. It's just not possible! It's about as preposterous as coming up with a Liberal Socialist view. It really is time Catholics start taking ownership of our Church's own social teaching on economics, and let me say this, economics is just morality by another name. It is morality in the market place. Both the Socialist and Capitalist understanding of economics demonstrate a deficient moral code, and a fundamental failure to understand the teaching of the Church on this matter.

Below is a casual video interview with Christopher A. Ferrara, a devout Catholic, prolific author, journalist, Pro-Life activist, attorney at law and Chief Council of the American Catholic Lawyers Association. He gives a brief synopsis of the Catholic teaching on Distributism, along with a scorching criticism of Libertarian heresy. Below will follow a series of links designed to educate my readers on the social teachings of the Church...

Order Christopher A. Ferrara's book "The Church and the Libertarian."

Catholic Social Teaching
* Blue font indicates direct teaching on Catholic economics (i.e. Distributism)...

Boniface VIII
Unam Sanctam
Quum inter nonnullos
Eugene IV
Sicut Dudum
Nicholas V
Romanus Pontifex
Paul III
Sublimus Dei
Clement XIV
Decet Quam Maxime
Pius VII
Diu Satis
Quo Graiora
Traditi Humilitati

Gregory XVI

Cum Primum • Mirari Vos • Commissum Divinitus • In Supremo Apostolatus

Blessed Pius IX

Praedecessores Nostros • Nostis et Nobiscum • Apostolicae Nostrae Caritatis • Nullis Certe Verbis • Quanto Conficiamur Moerore • Quanta Cura • Incredibili • Maximae Quidem Respicientes • Etsi Multa • Quod Nunquam • Graves Ac Diuturnae

Blessed Leo XIII

Inscrutabili Dei Consilio • Quod Apostolici Muneris • Licet Multa • Diuturnum • Cum Multa • Humanum Genus • Nobilissima Gallorum Gens • Spectata Fides • Immortale Dei• Quod Multum • In Plurimis • Libertas • Saepe Nos • Quam Aerumnosa • Sapientiae Christianae • Dall’Alto dell’Apostolico Seggio • Catholicae Ecclesiae • Rerum Novarum• Au Milieu des Sollicitudes • Custodi di Quella Fede • Inimica Vis • Longinqua • Permoti Nos • Affari Vos • Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae • Graves de Communi Re

Pope St. Pius X

Il Fermo Proposito • Vehementer Nos • Gravissimo Officii Munere • Une Fois Encore Iamdudum • Singulari Quadam

Benedict XV

Paterno Iam Diu • Annus Iam Plenus

Pius XI

Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio • Iniquis Affictisque • Divini Illius Magistri • Rappresentanti In Terra • Casti Connubii • Quadragesimo Anno • Nova Impendet • Non Abbiamo Bisogno• Acerba Animi • Dilectissima Nobis • Vigilanti Cura • Mit Brennender Sorge • Divini Redemptoris • Nos Es Muy Conocida

Pius XII

Summi Pontificatus • Quemadmodum • Humani Generis • Ad Sinarum Gentem • Datis Nuperrime • Le Pèlerinage de Lourdes • Miranda Prorus • Ad Apostolorum Principis •Exsul Familia • On Rural Life

Blessed John XXIII

Mater et Magistra • Pacem in Terris

Paul VI

Mense Maio • Christi Matri • Populorum Progressio • Humanae Vitae • Octagesima Adveniens

John Paul II

Laborem Exercens • Solicitudo Rei Socialis • Centesimus Annus • Veritatis Splendor •Evangelium Vitae

Benedict XVI

Deus Caritas Est • Caritas in Veritate


Catawissa Gazetteer said...

To hear the American Bishops over the last couple weeks one would have to come to the conclusion that socialism, not distributism, is the foundation that Catholic economic teaching rests on.

Maybe it's just because distributism and redistribution sound so similar when you say them. Perhaps it's all an innocent mistake.

The Catholic Knight said...

I wish it were an innocent mistake. Perhaps to the common Catholic layman it is. I suppose it might be possible to excuse some uneducated priests as well, but the bishops however, that's a different story.

While it is true the pope has stated that affordable healthcare is a fundamental human right (a position that flies in the face of Libertarianism and Neoconservativism), it is also true that he never advocated a big-government solution to the problem. The problem with the U.S. Catholic bishops is the same problem found in the mainstream media and Democratic politicians. I'm afraid they're "stuck on stupid" to quote a popular bumper sticker. It's the classical trap that comes from ignoring the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the teaching of Subsidiarity.

Subsidiarity plainly states that it is immoral for communities of the higher order to perform the functions that communities of the lower orders are capable of performing themselves. Superficially, this applies to governments, and thus decimates the Socialist argument. On a deeper level however, this principles also applies to the private sector. When communities (such as corporations for example) violate Subsidiarity by crushing small business and eradicating the local economy, they are engaging in something immoral and unnatural to a truly free market.

The U.S. Catholic bishops are without excuse on this issue. It is their job to know the Catechism, and the social encyclicals of the Church, transmitting them to the faithful in an accurate and concise way. Not only have many U.S. Catholic bishops failed to do this, but they demonstrate their own ignorance by advocating Socialist solutions to America's problems. I'm afraid there is nothing "innocent" about it -- sadly.

As for the term Distributism, yes it is often confused with "Redistributism" which is another code word for Socialism. That problem however is just a matter of public education. If you really don't like the word, you could go with "Microcapitalism" which sort of captures the essence of Distributism.

Carl said...

Libertarianism, really? While the marxist/socialist state is taking over the world, infecting every institution, including the church, this guy is having a tantrum about Walmart? Just keep ginning up those mobs against Big Business, and send them running straight into the arms of Big Mama State, and let me know how that works out for you. Oh, wait, you won't be able to, cause Big Mama State, she not so fond of the Catholic Church. It has not been libertarians who have eviscerated our society, our culture, its the socialists and their long march through the institutions. They are perfectly happy with Distributism, as long as they get to control everything. And what happens to those who don't want to work or own their own business? Am I still forced to put food on their tables, roof over their heads? I am not speaking of Christian charity, here, btw

Anonymous said...

Fellow TCK Readers,

this link
clearly demonstrates that Subsidiarity/Distributism is certainly not the pernitious form of capitalism that we have today (a far cry from genuine notions of free enterprise) nor is it 'Socialism Lite'.

Read Laborim Exercens!!!!!!!!!!! it is the most profound thing I have ever read on what i term the 'theology of Work'.

I believe that perhaps those who SHOULD know better within local church hierarchy make many assumptions (that distributism and socialism are one and the same) so feel no need to champion the former. I fear that they are also interpreting the relevant encyclicals/catecetical entries as socialism simply because this is the only alternative option presented. Even in the Catholic university setting, nobody comes close to touching on Subsidiarity (except students like me who find every opportunity to do so in presentations and essays). I've read the manifesto; Distributism is NOT marxist socialism, trust me.

Oh, by the by, we have Raymond de Suza in Aus at present (though we've nabbed him as an aus citizen anyway). he gives a very accurate potted chain of events that lead to a civilization's demise, and good folk, we're there!! Defenders, re-mobilize to live and share the faith!! Heed the call of amazing Catholic lay evangelists as he and Tim Staples... Believe you me, these presentations have packed, and continue to do so, - a church and hall that holds 1,000 has 'em spilling out into the streets!! These folk are of all ages, many young, who are on fire!! also, young priests my age or younger are far more faithfilled and have far more awe for God than their boomer colleagues; I note the difference in campus chaplains at uni; the young priest is amazing, quiet, measured, faith filled, taking every opportunity to spread the faith and draw folk to Christ. He promotes feasts such as 'our lady of the angels' (yesterday) and his dedication to the Divine Mercy is inspirational.

Aus readers, go to if you're in the Sydney area for more information. He's speaking in sydney tonight (Wednesday 3 Aug).



The Catholic Knight said...

Carl, the thing we need to understand is that Libertarian Capitalism and Marxist Socialism are two sides to the same coin. Under Marxist Socialism, all productive property is concentrated into the hands of the state which is controlled by a handful of government bureaucrats. Under Libertarian Capitalism, most (or sometimes all) productive property is concentrated into the hands of monopolies which again are controlled by a handful of corporate bureaucrats. In the end, the monopolies start working together with the state to create an oligarchy wherein almost everything productive is controlled by just a handful of men. While everyone else, the common masses, are forced to either work for the bureaucracies, or else become their wards through unemployment and welfare.

The problem here is that one side of the coin drives people to the other. It's sort of a knee-jerk reaction on a sociological level. Libertarian Capitalism causes people to resent the super rich NOT SO MUCH because of the concentration of wealth, but because of the concentration of productive property, which makes it near impossible for the common man to successfully fend for himself using his own means. Instead he must work for another. When those Capitalists mistreat their labor, and sooner or later they always do, then these poor suckers run into the arms of big government Marxist Socialism, as you rightly point out. The worse the abuse, the faster they run. It's a trap you see, because the solution to the problem was never really explored. The ignorant masses just turned their lives over from a set of giant corporate monopolies, to the mother of all monopolies, which is the government. In the end however, Socialists need Capitalists to be successful, for the only thing strong enough to drive people into the arms of the socialist nanny-state is the continuous abuse of monopolistic capitalism. After all is said and done, Socialism could not exist without Capitalism. For we have approximately 1,500 years of a Dristributist free market that serves as an example for why people won't turn to Socialist ideas when they have widespread easy access to productive property.

Anonymous said...

Catholic author Edmond Morris wrote an excellent biography of President Theodore Roosevelt called "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt."

The book showed that Teddy was the biggest supporter of distributism in American history. He believed in real free markets unfettered by government bureaucracy or by huge monopolies.

He was known as the trust buster who finally enforced the Sherman anti-trust laws against abusive conglomerates that enslaved their employees while colluding to fix prices higher artificially.

The Catholic Knight said...

I always liked Teddy Roosevelt. He was a militant anti-Socialist espousing "rugged individualism" but then balanced that with strict enforcement of America's anti-trust laws crushing private monopolies. The only problem with Teddy's policies is they didn't go far enough. He was definitely on the right track though.

MarylandBill said...

Interesting article. I think a regulated free market solution could be a good approach to establishing a just economy for most items. I do think there are a few essentials though, like health care where it gets tough.

I will say right up front, I don't know what the solution is. I do however think that the current system of insurance and fee for service is very broken and the plan the government is instituting is not any better (and might well be worse in the ways it limits human freedom).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an excellent post. I have said these things for years but very few understand or want to listen, including Catholics. The traditional Catholics I know are all very right-wing. They think that the poor and unemployed in America are "lazy." The fact is, many who want to work cannot work because there are so few jobs. The situation is dreadful especially for many recent college graduates who don't know the "right people," moreover many of these students are crippled with debt, with no job in sight that would enable them to begin to pay off their debt, as well as for those over 50.

I have tried to broach this topic with devout Catholic acquaintances, who are either employed or affluent and retired, and they have zero empathy for this situation. How they can reconcile their arrogance with Catholic teachings vexes me greatly.

I write this as someone who is an employed white-collar professional and taxpayer. Unemployment does not effect me directly any more than it does the wealthy Catholic acquantainces I write about, who are indifferent to it, but I think about others in that situation all the time.

Recently I commisioned an expensive craft item over the internet from a woman in the U.S. I sent her a large deposit for the item several months ago. She has dragged on getting it completed, because of moving cross-country, starting a new job, etc. She wrote me recently and told me she could not finish the item because the craftwoman finishing it for her she owes $300. Turns out my vendor, who is now unemployed, spent the deposit I gave her on bills. I was not happy about the situation but I believed her story, and I sent her the $300 balance, in effect paying nearly twice for the item.


Matariel said...

I'm glad you included the papal encyclicals which condemn separation of Church and state. The final political goal of Catholics in a non-Catholic nation must be the Catholicization and evangelization of that nation, until finally, one day, when that nation is ready it can enter into a concordat with the Church recognizing the one true Faith and thus fulfilling (as Pope Leo XIII states) its moral obligation to recognize the one true Catholic religion and foster it.