Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg has been busy on the interview circuit over the past few days as news organizations look for intelligent analysis of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation that that was released last week. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal called upon Gregg to provide his thoughts on the economic content in the exhortation on Opinion Journal Live; we’ve embedded the video below.
On Wednesday, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, Acton’s President and co-founder, offered his initial comments on “Evangelii Gaudium,” the Apostolic Exhortation released on November 26 by Pope Francis. This morning, Rev. Sirico spent some time extending his thoughts during the course of a couple of radio interviews.
In his first interview of the day, Rev. Sirico appeared on The Chris Salcedo Show on The Blaze Radio Network:
Later on, Rev. Sirico joined host Larry Kudlow on 77 WABC in New York City for a nearly 40 minute discussion of the document, which is well worth your time to listen to in full:
If you had asked me as a young Baptist boy to explain the difference between Protestants and Catholics, I would have said that Catholics were the Christians who “have to do what the Pope tells them to do.” Now I’m an old Baptist and realize how naive I was. (I’m more likely to agree with the Pope on social doctrine than do many American Catholics I know.)
I’m still unclear, though, on where Catholics draw the line of demarcation between complete freedom of conscience and deference to magisterial authority. After all, if a Catholic can support abortion and still receive communion, what is off-limits?
One area that I had assumed was clearly in the optional category was papal social teaching. But several years ago, M.J. Andrew made a persuasive argument that the social encyclical Caritas in Veritate was binding on all Catholics:
George J Marlin, Catholic author and editor, recently reviewed Samuel Gregg’s latest book, Tea Party Catholic at The Catholic Thing. He begins by saying that he knows many members of the Tea Party who are religious, but “because they do not have a consistent public philosophy that serves as the foundation of their civic activism,” they tend to “go off half-cocked and in different directions.” However, he is confident that Tea Party Catholic will “help fill this void:”
Gregg, an heir to the Michael Novak school of democratic capitalism, believes that Catholic economic and social thought has made an important contribution to “the shaping and uplifting of American life and culture.” He further argues that the Church’s “robust commitment to religious liberty. . .is quite applicable to the development of a morally ‘thick’ case for free economy and limiting the government’s economic role.”
Tea Party Catholic spells out the Catholic vision for personal and economic liberty and how “prudential application of the principles of Catholic social teaching can help alleviate the needs of the materially least among us” and help people flourish in society. (more…)
Even though the author of this essay in Catholic World Report is careful to make distinctions, this would seem to be the choice: Thomas Aquinas or Ron Paul. It is, in fact, how the indispensable Real Clear Religion website framed the debate this morning.
To compare a religion with an intellectual and moral tradition that goes back thousands of years with a quasi-political movement that is more known for what it is against than what is for is worse than comparing apples and oranges. Yet the Catholic view of the world does seem to be in tension with one that values freedom most of all and pleads agnostic on other important issues. Brian Jones focuses on three areas of disagreement: 1) the necessity of government, 2) law as moral pedagogy and 3) the proper order of politics.
Having studied both economics and political philosophy as well as worked in the field of Catholic social teaching for the Holy See, I’m more than a bit interested in the matter. I readily admit to having libertarian instincts and preferences in economics, while also believing in the primacy of the political in a social order that has a supernatural end. Jones puts it well when he writes, “In Catholicism, there is always the realization that in order for politics to be itself, and accomplish what it is meant to in accord with man’s nature as a social and political animal, it must point to that which is ultimately not political.”
So does that make me suspect on Catholic AND libertarian grounds? Or can I coherently believe in free markets and the truth about God and man as taught by the Church? Catholic teaching thankfully does not require its adherents to share the same opinions on prudential matters. I know this may seem like a cop-out to the more strictly (harshly?) principled, but it also happens to better reflect the realities of the messy world we live in. Or am I alone in this view?
Kathryn Jean Lopez, at National Review Online, has interviewed Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, on his newest book, Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Human Flourishing, a Free Economy and Human Flourishing. To begin, Lopez asks Gregg about the title of the book.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Tell us about the title of the book. Does the Tea Party have anything to do with the Catholic Church?
SAMUEL GREGG: Tea Party Catholic itself has very little to say about the contemporary tea-party movement. But for those Americans who haven’t imbibed Progressivist ideology and who don’t think that the real America began when Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, the expression “tea party” is an especially evocative phrase. It immediately conjures up in people’s minds the American Revolution, the American Founding, and the American experiment in ordered liberty.
Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, continues to promote his latest book, Tea Party Catholic, via radio interviews across the nation. This morning, he made an appearance on San Antonio’s KTSA radio, speaking with host Jack Riccardi about the Catholic (and broader Christian) case for limited government, a free economy, and a system of ordered liberty. You can hear the exchange via the audio player below.
In Tea Party Catholic, Samuel Gregg draws upon Catholic teaching, natural law theory, and the thought of the only Catholic Signer of America's Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton—the first “Tea Party Catholic”—to develop a Catholic case for the values and institutions associated with the free economy, limited government, and America's experiment in ordered liberty. Beginning with the nature of freedom and human flourishing, Gregg underscores the moral and economic benefits of business and markets as well as the welfare state's problems. Gregg then addresses several related issues that divide Catholics in America. These include the demands of social justice, the role of unions, immigration, poverty, and the relationship between secularism and big government.