Posts tagged with: catholic social teaching

Anthony Esolen, in an on-going series in Crisis Magazine, ponders Catholic Social Teaching, as presented by Pope Leo XIII. Esolen says that Pope Leo’s rich view of humanity arms us today in not only promoting the free market, but in combating the meager thoughts proposed by socialism and liberalism.

How does Leo XIII do this? By truly understanding the human person.

Human beings are embodied rational souls, and everything they touch they mark with the fire of their spirit, the gift of God.  That is the ground of their right to property.  But they are not solitary atoms either, rebounding against one another in a chaotic war of all against all.  For the human soul is made for love, and can only attain its end by communion with other souls.  Therefore, long before we meet the State, we find human beings fashioning not artificial but real bodies in turn: families and clans and villages. It is absolutely crucial to understand this.

Catholic Social Teaching affirms the reality of the bodies that human beings form; they are not notional, but real and living, and they imply real rights and duties among the members, who are themselves not mere parts, but whole persons.  [emphasis original]


Blog author: jballor
Friday, December 7, 2012

Patrick Brennan graciously noted my engagement with his piece on subsidiarity, charitably calling it “substantive.” He takes issue, however, with my pace Brennan.” He rightly responds that “the very point of the book to which my chapter is a contribution is a ‘comparative’ perspective on subsidiarity.” He continues, “My assigned task in writing the chapter was to tell the what subsidiarity means in Catholic social doctrine, period.”

To clarify, it seems to me that Brennan is quite ably articulating and explicating a particularly vigorous and metaphysically robust version of subsidiarity often associated with Catholic social teaching, and particularly the neo-Thomist revival of the previous two centuries. My quibble, and I’m not sure if it amounts to much more than that, is with the idea that this is identical to “what subsidiarity means in Catholic social doctrine, period.”

In the papers linked in the previous post I do make more specific claims with respect to subsidiarity in “other” traditions, particularly the Reformed. But given the shared medieval (and even to a great extent the early modern) background and the diversity there, I do wonder whether that more robust, ontologically-freighted version of subsidiarity is the only version at play in the specifically Roman Catholic tradition, either before or after 1891.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Earlier this week we noted that Patrick Brennan posted a paper, “Subsidiarity in the Tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine,” which unpacks some of the recent background and implications for the use of the principle in Catholic social thought. As Brennan observes, “Although present in germ from the first Christian century, Catholic social thought began to emerge as a unified body of doctrine in the nineteenth century….” Brennan goes on to highlight the particularly Thomistic roots of the doctrine of subsidiarity, “a new idea creatively culled from the depths of the Catholic philosophical and theological tradition that had roots in Greek philosophical speculation.”

While recognizing the innovativeness of Taparelli’s thought and the genius of 19th and 20th century revivals of neo-Thomism, it is also worth noting the basic “catholicity,” or universality, of a doctrine like subsidiarity within the broader Christian tradition. If Christian social thought has been around since the first century, then so have its constitutive elements, in more or less developed form. And pace Brennan, it is not clear to me that there is one univocal version of subsidiarity, at least as it arises out of the early modern period.

With this in mind, I have just posted two papers that explore the early modern backgrounds of subsidiarity and related concepts like natural law which focus particularly on the provenance of these ideas in the Reformed tradition.

Patrick McKinley Brennan, a professor at Villanova University School of Law, has a new paper that considers the place subsidiarity in the tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine:

Subsidiarity is often described as a norm calling for the devolution of power or for performing social functions at the lowest possible level. In Catholic social doctrine, it is neither. Subsidiarity is the fixed and immovable ontological principle according to which the common good is to be achieved through a plurality of social forms. Subsidiarity is derivative of social justice, a recognition that societies other than the state constitute unities of order, possessing genuine authority, which which are to be respected and, when necessary, aided. Subsidiarity is not a policy preference for checking power with power. This chapter traces the emergence of the principle of subsidiarity to the neo-Scholastic revival that contributed to the Church’s defense against the French Revolution’s onslaught aimed at eliminating societies other than the state. The concept of subsidiarity has implications for the present, changing socio-political landscape in the United States as the Church faces a state that is poised to compel the Church to violate the moral law.

Read more . . .

Ann Schneible, who interviewed Rev. Robert A. Sirico for Vatican Radio today (see PowerBlog post for audio) also published an interview with the Acton Institute president and co-founder on the Catholic news site, Zenit. Excerpt:

ZENIT: In response to those Christians and Catholics who are hesitant about buying into the idea of a free market economy, how can one demonstrate that there are elements to a free market – or Capitalist – economy which are compatible to Catholic social teaching?

Father Sirico: There are a number of elements that can make the connection. I keep going back to this anthropological question because that’s the beautiful way to do it. I think it was Chesterton who said that Catholicism is the religion of stuff, by which he was really addressing the Incarnational nature of the Church. We have incense, and bells, and candles, and vestments, and all these things. In other words – in a non-liturgical context – the material world is good. We see that in the book of genesis. And God places us in the material world and asks us to pursue sanctity there.

The moment he places us in the material world, he places us in the context of limitations and scarcity. This gives rise to economics – which means that we have to find a way that is in accord with our nature, that is ethical, that is appropriate, that is effective – to make use of nature for the glory of God. It is in the same way an architect who studies geometry uses that geometrical precision and technique to build the façade of a cathedral, and thereby rendering praise to God. So too in a different way, the entrepreneur, who discovers the use of something or the combination of other things and represents and organizes them and creates a network and a marketing campaign to build a business, that that architectural construct ends up sustaining many families who participate in that, and sustain many consumers in the sense that they buy a good or a service at a higher quality and for a lower price than they would have otherwise, thereby giving their family a little more money to use at their discretion; all of these things, too, can be considered rendering nature for the glory of God. And that’s enterprise; that’s business. I don’t like the word “capitalism” because I think it’s too narrow a word. I like “free economy,” or “free market.”

Read “A Moral Case for a Free Economy — Acton Institute’s Co-founder Explores Free Market Economy in New Book,” an interview by Ann Schneible on Zenit.

On Vatican Radio, Acton President and co-founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico discusses his new book Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for the Free Market Economy with reporter Ann Schneible.

According to Vatican Radio, the broadcasting station of the Holy See:

… Fr Sirico highlighted his objectives in writing this book. Defending the Free Market, he said, was written “with the intention of making accessible economic ideas that I thought were important in general terms; but, in particular, especially for religious people, to understand there is what we call a normative or moral dimension to economic activity.”

“It’s not just, live by the Ten Commandments and open a store,” Fr Sirico explained, but he wanted to demonstrate “that there’s something more internal to the whole dynamism of a market economy that makes sense both economically and morally.”

Click on the media player below to listen to Schneible’s full interview with Rev. Sirico:

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Anthony Esolen has written a rollicking piece in Crisis bemoaning the misrepresentation, misuse and mangling of Catholic Social Teaching. In a phrase, he’s sick of it.

I’m sick of hearing that Catholic teaching regarding sex and marriage is one thing, in that old-fashioned trinket box over there, while Catholic teaching regarding stewardship and our duties to the poor is another thing, on that marble pedestal over here.  I’m sick of hearing that Catholic teaching regarding the Church and her authority is one thing, the embarrassing Latinate red-edged tome tucked away in that closet, while Catholic teaching regarding the laity is another, and pass that bread this way!  No, it is all of a piece.  What the Church says about divorce is inextricable from what she says about the poor.  What she says about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is inextricable from what she says about the respects in which all men are created equal—and the many respects in which she insists upon a salutary inequality.  When we fail to see the integrity of the faith, not only do certain truths escape our notice; the rest, the truths we think we see, grow monstrous, like cancers, and work to destroy the flesh they once seemed to replace.

This is the first in a series of articles on Catholic Social Thought. Esolen addresses the issue of “imposing our morality” on our neighbors, what Pope Leo XIII really had in mind when discussing socialism, and why asking Michelangelo to promote porn isn’t a justifiable idea. If the rest of the series is anything like this article, it’ll be a real treat.