Congressman Ryan on Being Guided by Catholic Social Teaching

In yesterday’s National Catholic Register Congressman Paul Ryan, a Catholic, takes up the topic of how Catholic Social teaching can guide our discussion on public policy. Since we have recently discussed this very topic here in the Blog I’d like to present some excerpts of the Congressman’s reflections and add a few of my own. As is often the case, the original comments by Mr Ryan are in bold, italic black text. My comments are in red plain text. The full article can be read here: Applying Our Enduring Truths To Our Defining Challenge

The Catholic Church offers a rich overview of its thought, summarized in the Compendium of Social Doctrine, to guide Catholics in bringing truth to society’s problems. In his introduction, Cardinal Renato Martino, then president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, wrote, “This area belongs in a particular way” to those lay faithful who are active “in the social sector.”

Here is an essential point. It is the special role of the laity to apply these social principles and teachings in the temporal order. We have had many discussions here on this blog of how the renewal of the temporal order is the special arena of the lay faithful. And while Catholic laity may sometimes disagree at the policy level how exactly to best apply these principles, it is their special role to apply them.

Principles as such, will usually present general norms, which then require specific application. Clergy will do well to encourage the lay faithful to take an active interest in the temporal order, especially, as the Congressman notes, those who have special expertise or roles in the social sector.

Clergy too, having once annunicated principles, do well to entrust the lay faithful with their rightful task and seek counsel with them as to various ways the principles can be applied. Clergy will also do well, it seems to me, to avoid excessively critiquing the details, but rather, to allow the lay faithful to interact with each other as to the details of how best to implement Catholic social principles.

Surely this will involve the lay faithful actively engaging the legislative and political sector, as well as the business and other private sectors. At times the process will be conflictual, and involve compromise, and gradual movement toward goals. But here again, after principles are annunicaited, the clergy ought to allow the laity their rightful role in influencing the temporal order and actively engaging it.

…. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, I am tasked with applying these enduring principles to the urgent social problems of our time: an economy that is not providing enough opportunities for our citizens, a safety net that is failing our most vulnerable populations, and a crushing burden of debt that is threatening our children and grandchildren with a diminished future.

There is no doubt, and it would seem that all agree that we are in a significant fiscal crisis that requires creative and bold solutions.

These problems are related: The debt is weighing on job creation today, closing off the most promising avenues for the poor to rise….We cannot continue to ignore this problem. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has rightly termed this attitude “living in untruth … at the expense of future generations.

Yes, here too is a principle that must be considered. It is critical in analyzing the problem that, although we want and need to care for the poor among us today with the social safety net, we cannot ignore future generations either, and fail to realize that we owe them substantial consideration. As is frequently declared by those in the environmental movement, justice cannot only regard the living today, it must also act with concern for those who will live tomorrow.

In approaching this problem as a lay Catholic in public life, I have found it useful to apply the twin principles of solidarity (recognition of the common ties that unite all human beings in equal dignity) and subsidiarity (respect for the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groups such as families, businesses, schools, local communities and state governments).

This is exactly what I was saying in the post last week. Namely that subsidiarity and solidarity are twin principles, not opposed ones. Both are need to support and and complete the other.

It is not as though Republicans and Conservatives can only follow Subsidiarity and Democrats and Liberals follow Solidarity. The principles are both rich enough to include wide application and they are surely not polar opposites.

Both should richly guide public policy, along with other principles that flow from them and support them as well, such as the universal destination of goods and the right to private property, commutative justice and distributive justice, and so forth.

When applied in equal measure, these principles complete and balance each other. But when one is applied exclusively, the result can be harmful….We need a better approach to restore the balance, and the House-passed budget offers one by reintroducing subsidiarity, which the Holy Father has called “the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state.” Our budget…us[es] a federal subsidium to empower state and local governments, communities and individuals — those closest to the problems of society….When solidarity and subsidiarity are in balance, civil society is revitalized, not displaced. We rightly pride ourselves on looking out for one another — and government has an important role to play in that. But relying on distant government bureaucracies to lead this effort just hasn’t worked.

And while there are other Catholics who may disagree with Mr. Ryan and what exact level of government, private, federal and local balance is required, it is nevertheless good to have Catholic principles as an essential part of the discussion.

Catholic laity who agree or disagree with Congressmen Ryan’s application are free to engage him in the public and legislative debate.

Again may I say, as for we who are clergy, I think we owe it to the laity to allow them to work in the temporal order and to use their skills to apply these principles without a lot of interference and amateur commentary from us.

There is enough diversity among the Catholic laity, it seems to me, that the discussion can be both vigorous and complete without lots of pulpit commentary on the specifics. Finding the balance that the Congressman speaks of is both critical and always on-going. Course corrections are needed at every stage of our history to avoid losing that balance.

But pray God that Catholic principles, which are both solid and balanced will continue to influence and guide the discussion. I am happy in this case to see Mr. Ryan specifically and clearly pointing to these principles as an essential guide and a kind of schema for the discussion.

In the discussion that I hope you will participate in, I am going to try and follow my advice and stay back from the details allow you, most of whom are laity, to engage the issue that is rightfully yours. I will limit myself to addressing only comments that are directly addressed to me.

97 Replies to “Congressman Ryan on Being Guided by Catholic Social Teaching”

  1. Before we even get to the issues of solidarity and subsidiarity, before we talk about social justice, there is the issue of the truth, namely, the truth of how much money we have.

    Is it honest or morally just, socially or otherwise, to spend money that you do not have? to spend money that does not even exist? to simply create “money” by magical fiat in order to spend it?

    Rather than consider this question in the governmental arena, let’s consider it in the context of a diocese or the USCCB. For example, let’s take a given diocese in, say California or Iowa (or perhaps the USCCB Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace) have a budget of $10 million to spend on the poor, etc. Sadly, spending only $10 million leaves a lot of needy people still needing more.

    So why should that diocese or USCCB department spend $20 million or $100 million instead?? Would that not be more just and fair? Doesn’t morality demand it? As such, it is no answer to say that the diocese or USCCB department can spend only $10 million because they only have $10 million in the bank to spend. They should simply borrow it. Or print it. After all, the extra spending is needed to meet the basic needs of people and protect their lives and dignity.

    Or this an absurd argument? And would it be grossly dishonest for them to spend money that they do not have? Would it be wrong to borrow this money and create debt, despite the great need, thereby essentially spending not their own money, but taking money from their successors who will have to pay the debt back?

    1. Usury is a sin for a reason. The fruits of that tree are going to be painful for almost everyone.

    2. Governments, or at least most governments, do not have the problem of limited finance. There is no actual limit to how much money they can spend. Diocese, families, and businesses are of course constrained by the limitations of finance, but the federal government is not one of those entities. Whenever the government spends money it prints money. It only seeks the financing AFTER they have created the money. The only real reason that government bonds (debt) are even necessary are so that the Federal Reserve can maintain the federal funds rate. Therefore, the government CHOOSES to issue debt, its certainly not forced to.

      Fiscal conservatives often cite the federal debt as a drag on job creation, but I’ve yet to hear a coherent reason as to why this is the case. Every time I spend a dollar it becomes someone else’s income, and every time the federal government spends a dollar it becomes someone else’s income. Given as I explained earlier, that the Federal government has no practical limitation as to how much money it can spend. There is absolutely no reason why the government cannot prevent persistently long and harmful periods of unemployment by simply spending its way out of the problem.

      The irrelevant myth that the government must have a balanced budget in order for economies to thrive is one of the biggest reasons for periodic severe downturns in economic life.

      MS Economics

      1. Because each new dollar printed into existance must compete for a limited supply of goods. That is why your standard of living is so much less than that of your parents. In 1957 one income could support a wife and put 4 kids through college. Now it takes two incomes to support a family in a similar middle class lifestyle, and part of college will be supported by debt.

        Why do you think that a mid range house cost 10,000 dollars in 1957 while the same house costs 80,000 now? Why do cars cost now, what houses used to. It is because your dollar no longer buys as much as it used to (barring stuff from China whose Yaun peg to the dollar allows it to keep its exports cheap).

        This inflation (which is not captured by the CPI) is equally shared, while the dollars printed are given to political favorites first. Thus folks with good lobbyists get the benefit of money printing, while the inflation is distributed equally. Inflation is the ultimate regressive tax, and hurts the poor far more than it does the wealthy or the well connected.

        1. Shari,

          Newsflash, Inflation has always been around and will always be around. It’s not as if the government invented inflation. So long as businesses have the freedom to set prices (as I hope they always do) then prices will invariably go up and down. A certain degree of inflation is an Excellent thing for an economy and is proved by all economic data and history. It is certainly better than deflation, which has left many nations including this one bereft for decades of stagnating growth.

          Besides, you are arguing not that government actions make certain good more expensive (which could be a valid point) but that government spending is manipulating the VALUE of money. Which is simply rewording what Milton Friedman said when called inflation “always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”. But if inflation is only a monetary phenomenon caused by the “printing of money” then this should as you say make prices go up, but it should also make incomes go up as well. If incomes rise currently with prices then there is no actual shock to aggregate demand. Since last I checked, my paychecks were still denominated in “worthless” US currency.

          1. Mitchell,
            I am not sure we have the same definition of inflatioin. I understand inflation to be increasing the the supply of money in the economic system by borrowing or printing it. One of the effects of inflating the amount of money in the system is rising prices. I agree that there is a healthy form of price fluctuations based on supply and demand but rising prices in themselves are not an indication that the system is functioning as it ought to. Please correct me if I am wrong. Lastly, if you have not found a coherent argument against spending your way out of debt (which is a gamble), perhaps you have not searched hard enough. I’m not being snide by saying that you might look at the history of what happens to macro or micro economic systems when you manipulate the currency.

          2. You don’t have a definition of inflation at all. Inflation is defined by all economists as the persistent growth in price level over time. Many economists, though fewer these days, argue for the Quantity Theory of Money, and that is what you are mistakenly identifying inflation with. Inflation is the RESULT of movements in the money supply according to QT. Your argument holds that changes in inflation are the result of when the money supply grows faster than real output. Or in other words %change in inflation=%change in money supply- %change in Real Output.

            But the kicker that the monetarists got wrong and any non-economist with common sense can identify with is that money velocity is not constant. Because the Quantity Theory equation I cited above is derived from another equation of which no economist disputes, MV=PQ. Where M is money supply, V is the velocity of money, P is the price level, Q is real output. Its another way of saying Demand equals supply.

            The monetarists ASSUME that V is constant. If V is constant V doesn’t matter and can be dropped from the equation to make superstitious theories of price level. Anyone with knowledge of seasonal shopping habits, or the spending habits of consumers during recessions and expansions knows that Velocity fluctuates rapidly.

            The monetarists probably chose to make this assumption because measuring velocity is an impossibility. Afterall, how could you measure every cash, credit card contract in the economy. So rather than admit that modeling inflation and GDP is really hard/impossible, they settle for bad models because they love mathematical elegance over theoretical integrity.

            So that is the short lesson of why the quantity theory of money is not synonymous with inflation.

      2. With all due respect, it is reasoning such as this, by people who should know better, which is responsible for much of the crises we find ourselves in as a nation today.

        Economics doesn’t (or shouldn’t) abolish common sense.

        1. And I presume you know better. Would you trust a priest with catechesis who never went to seminary? I’m willing to listen to a good argument, I just haven’t heard a better one yet.

          Challenge me, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about these things.

          1. Since you presume to know better, and since there is so great a need, is it not immoral to spend as “little” as government does (over $3.6 trillion for the federal government this year alone, of which about $1.3 trillion is deficit spending) and do not charity and justice demand that we spend ten times what we are spending now??

            Just imagine how much good we could do if, instead of spending $3.6 trillion, we spend $36 trillion or $100 trillion. Why, we could eliminate all poverty and suffering if only we were willing to spend that much each year! After all, governments do not have the problem of limited finance. There is no actual limit to how much money they can spend. So, it is all free money. The Federal government has no practical limitation as to how much money it can spend. There is absolutely no reason why the government cannot prevent persistently long and harmful periods of unemployment and poverty and homelessness and all kinds of human suffering by simply spending its way out of the problem.

            So, why not spend $500 trillion per year? And while we are at it, why not increase the minimum wage to $500 per hour? Just think, everyone could be a millionaire! Surely, only someone who is cold-hearted and greedy would not want to do these things.

          2. This is the logic used during our own Revolution (Remember “not worth a Continental”) after the French Revolution, during the Weimar republic, in Argentina, and more recently in Zimbabwe. Which is why the Zimbabwe dollar has so many zeros, why bread costs a million Zim. dollars, and why toilet paper is worth more than are zim greenbacks. Zimbabweans reverted to bartering goods, and now mostly use our US dollars instead.

            During the transition the poor starved. Millions of children have permanent brain damage from kwashiokor and marismus cause by the failed politics of “experts” who knew better. Hyperinflation is the MOST regressive tax there is.

          3. In every case you cited, you cite governments with limited power and suspect ability to levy and collect taxes.

            If a government has no ability to tax, why would currency be worth anything? The whole reason I use a specific kind of currency called the US dollar is because the government demands that I pay taxes to them in that currency. If the government did not have a way to levy or enforce taxes why would I use a dollar rather than a continental, a chicken or any other form of exchange. The unpleasant fact of the matter is if the government can not tax us in US dollars, there is no reason for us to use US dollars in any form of exchange. A stable government with a robust ability to collect taxes is the surest way to avoid hyperinflation.

            An excellent historical example highlights the differences between the Union and the confederacy during the Civil War. During the Civil War, The Union and Confederacy both do not have central banks, both have similar cultures and histories, both are fighting under the inflationary pressures of war-time domestic production. The North had a high rate of inflation almost a hundred percent, the South had inflation rates nearly a thousand or more percent. The reason is because the North had an income tax during the war, and the South refused to levy a tax, which predictably made there currency as useful as a piece of paper. State currencies were released to compete, but these had little effect either because the states also did not collect taxes.

          4. As is the case in all rules of thumb, a limiting principle exists.

            In the case of deficit spending, the government should prudently cut back its deficit spending as the nation nears full employment. If all resources are fully employed inflation will invariably tick up, perhaps even to dangerous levels. But this is not a valid concern when you have a nation with more than 8% of its workforce willing to work but can’t (by the definition of the unemployment rate).

          5. You ignored the question.

            Why not spend $100 trillion per year and simply be done once and for all with poverty and unemployment and suffering??

            Serious question — What would happen if we were to spend $100 trillion per year while taking in only $2 trillion in revenues?

            What? Would? Happen?

          6. This is a test. I have sent 3 posts regarding hyperinflation and all disappeared without even the “awaiting moderation” comment. I am looking to see if either I or the websites I listed are being blocked.

          7. interesting. I do not appear to be blocked from this website. Thus it may be that the website I listed was blocked.

            In my post, I pointed out that the purchasing power of the US dollar has dropped by 96% since the creation of the Federal Reserve. We already have high inflation. We are being misled by biased government statistics. It will take only a trigger or two to have hyperinflation.

            I also pointed out that the Federal reserve is “federal” only in name, and is a private organization, run by some of the wealthiest individuals in the world, who were given permission in 1913 to create money from thin air, and to have the US taxpayer promise to pay it back, while collecting 6% interest on the transaction. I asked Mitchell to explain why it was necessary for the Federal Reserve to be a private bank, instead of a national bank, and why it could be permitted to refuse the release of information regarding its doings under the freedom of information act. (The Federal Reserve refuses to release information as to its members because, again, it is a PRIVATE institution.

            Since the websites are apparently blocked the information can be googled using the following key words:

            One website which will explain the manipulation of the information can be accessed below. The pdf is rather lengthy but I recommend the Executive summary as a useful and brief.

            Shadowstats Hyperinflation 2012

            Another regarding the federal reserve can be googled at
            Eleven reasons why.the Federal Reserve is bad

          8. I did answer your question, I explained the limiting principle. The government CAN print 100 trillion dollars if it so wished. There is no rule saying that it can not.

            The problem is that would be incredibly stupid for two reasons.
            1.) This would violate the limiting principle. Spending 100 trillion dollars on goods in the economy would not create employment, because all people would believe they would no longer need employment. It would inevitably lead to ruin.

            2.) By doing something so clearly brazen as printing that much money, that creates behavorial biases in the economic agents which throw away all standard rules of thumb for economics, and would lead to inflation. But not because of some silly quantity theory of money, but because expectations for economic behavior and profit would be radically changed. The government and civil order would also be severely destabilized by such an action.

            Both of these points are the exact same points I made earlier. They operate under the limiting principle.

            The government has the power and the obligation to create an environment of full employment. We spent our way out of the Great Depression through World War II. And we can spend our way out of the Great Recession hopefully without World War III. We had higher debt levels per GDP after WWII and we payed for that “burdening of our posterity” with manufacturing jobs for the next 30 years and an economic holiday which made us the superpower of the world.

          9. OK, so first you say there are no limits, then you say there are limits.

            So, what we are talking about then is just exactly where is the limit — how much deficit spending is too much? At what point does it become destructive. Thank you for conceding that point.

            It was just a couple of years ago that $200-300 billion in deficit spending was risking catastrophe. And yet, now, we have been running deficits five times that and the response is “ho hum, no big deal.”

            The fact is that we have zoomed past responsible limits long ago. And your continued irresponsible and blithe calls for even more spending only leads us over the cliff.

          10. It’s not a number. Deficit spending is good up until the point we have reached full employment. Which in some cases might mean operating a surplus or balanced budget, but for MOST cases this means deficit spending until our people are employed. The government’s fiscal power can CREATE aggregate demand.

      3. I’m sorry if my first repy to Mitchell seemed curt and simply critical. I will try to point out now rather that such thinking is likely to bring us to a crisis similar to what is happening in Greece. Who buys the federal government’s debt? When that debt is downgraded, the people/nations who are our creditors will receive pennies on the dollar for loans they gave expecting a just return (or at least, an agreed upon return, whether you happen to subjectively think it is “just” or not). Is it just to give them less than you or they bargained for? Is it just for the government to print more money thereby making the money I have in my pocket worth less than it was before they printed more? Now I will have to spend more to provide for the same needs for my family than I would have otherwise had to spend, but there is no guarantee that my wages or salary will be higher. Or, if I’m self-employed, there is no guarantee that my customers will buy more from me to make up for the decrease in my purchasing power. I think the economic theory that you are espousing has been proved to be a failure in the real world.

        1. Greece’s case is not similar to the United States. Greece is a member state of the European Union. By joining this union Greece traded economic autonomy for economic clout. EU member nations must finance its debts because it has no ability to print money. Budget problems in Greece are not dissimilar to budget problems in California. Those are two cases where the institutional structure make it impossible to create money. They must go FIND money. The federal government thankfully is not limited by this needless impediment.

      4. The coherent reason to limit debt is so that the federal government and, in turn, the various state governments–and families–live within their means. In this way, it does not carry on the debt and accompanying interest payments to the next generation. To live within your means is certainly biblical, reasonable and responsible, and the right thing to do.

      5. This is a very interesting perspective. If an economy were in isolation from all other economies then printing money might solve all the world problems but recent history seems to make this a fantasy story even given your MS. It hasn’t worked for Argentina. I didn’t work in any of latin america during the periods of hyperinflation that plagued that region. As soon as monetary policy is expansionary inflation kicks in. We can just zeros onto everyone’s bank account balance and then prices will adjust and restore equilibrium. The US is fortunate that we have the Chinese who are willing to buy our bonds so their folks keep working. Of course governments can even do harm by forcing a balanced budget look at the drive to return to the gold standard after WWI that drove the worl dinto the Great Depression. Where did that MS come form? Did they talk about inflation?

        1. The US is fortunate that we have the Chinese who are willing to buy our bonds so their folks keep working.

          Actually, we have the Chinese who are willing to buy SOME of our bonds. Most of the bonds that are issued cannot be sold — not enough investors want them, so the Fed buys them, that is, the government buys the debt from itself. (which pushes up inflation)

          Nevertheless, even if the principal can simply be refinanced over and over and over, ad infinitum, the required interest payments go up and up and up, which means taxes must be higher than they otherwise might — tax money that is ultimately taken from the poor and middle class and given to the investor class, i.e. the wealthy.

          Eventually, the interest payments and the entire dishonest pyramid scheme aspect to this scam crashes the entire structure.

    3. There are two senses in which we (as individuals) might be said to owe something. We owe workers their pay according to the Law of Justice, and we owe alms to the poor according to the Law of Charity. Both are binding, but the former has precedence.

      The situation is more complicated when it comes to the government. For one thing, how much money we’ll have in the future really does depend on the decisions we make today. An austerity program can damage the economy and end up putting a nation in worse financial shape than it was before. Whether that applies in this or any other given situation, I lack the expertise to say.

      The second consideration is that assistance to the poor helps keep society stable. It is often remarked that pure Communism does not really work, and that even the Soviet Union had to make some allowances for private property and market forces; it is less often noticed that pure Capitalism does not work, either. At certain points in our history, the US could easily have become either Communist or National Socialist, and if there had been no concessions to unions and to the needy, we would have.

  2. OK, back to social justice and “helping” the needy.

    Who has the moral obligation to help the needy and what is the moral obligation in how to provide that help? Is the obligation a personal one, does a given individual have an obligation to help himself out of his own pocket, or can he “help” simply by taking someone else’s money and giving that to the poor? Do we do social justice if a majority of people vote, not to give more ourselves, but to take money from othes? Is that what social justice is — voting to take other people’s money?

    And what best consitutes “helping” those in need? Just giving them financial or material assistance? Just providing a hand-out with nothing expected in return? Or is expecting that they provide some service in return (let’s call it a “job”) also a way of helping the needy? Is it social justice to put your money into business instead (which then hires employees), or is it social justice to spend money on consumer goods (from businesses that use that money to hire employees), or how about just buying stock or putting the money in the bank (where others can borrow the money to create businesses that hire employees)?

    Or do we achieve our personal duty to do social justice by shoving the obligation onto government? After all, government is bigger and has more resources, so it can do more than any individual or private organization can do. So isn’t it best to simply give money to the government and call it a day with respect to doing good works?

    Let’s go back to those dioceses in California or Iowa. Would they not be doing more for the needy if they were to simply close up Catholic Charities there and pay large sums of money in taxes to the government? After all, isn’t the government the best entity to provide assistance? Close the Catholic schools too and the hospitals, and let the government, with all of its wonderful expertise, do a bigger and better job.

    Or, again, perhaps I am getting a bit absurd here? Maybe Catholic dioceses and parishes and charitable organizations provide a valuable service all by themselves without paying lots of money in taxes to the government? And if they provide a valuable service to the needy, perhaps other private enterprises likewise do a good job helping those in need of assistance? Maybe, instead of taking taxes from some employer, taking money that otherwise might go to hire an employee, and giving a welfare check to someone, it is best to let the employer keep the money and give that someone a job?

    Perhaps, instead of chasing down the priest or the Levite who walked by and taking their money, and instead of demanding that Pilate do something, meanwhile telling Matthew to stay at his station because the best good he can do is to continue collecting taxes, instead of this, perhaps the right thing to do is for us Samaritans to help the injured guy in the ditch ourselves? Perhaps instead of taking from others and calling that social justice, we make a gift of self? (Caritas in Veritate 34)

    1. Bender,
      Charity and Justice are not in opposition–they are both necessary. Personally offering help to others is a Gospel requirement surely, but the Tradition of the Church has expanded it’s understanding of this to include working for systemic change in building the Kingdom. Governments have a legitimate role to play in fostering Justice in the world since they can effect institutional change. It doesn’t come down to a choice between working to solve problems ourselves or “dumping” it on the government–Charity and Justice work together.

      1. Thanks for presenting the false dilemma, Daniel. Moreover, nothing in what I said suggests that charity and justice are in opposition. What I did say is that it is false to promote the idea that government is always the answer to obtaining justice or charity (actually, government cares very little about authentic charity, i.e. caritas (which is voluntary by nature), and is all about involuntary coercion), and that government acts against both charity and justice when it spends money that we do not have and does not even exist.

        That said, there is a whole wide range of possible actions that the government might take that is consistent with the promotion of social justice — the Church does not teach that one size fits all and does not mandate one particular political-economic ideology — and included within this range of appropriate government actions to help those in need is NOT taking money from employers and NOT imposing regulations that impede business and hiring of people and, instead, getting out of the way to allow the freedom of individuals and the freedom of associations of individuals, including various insttitutions, including the Church, to provide such assistance as a matter of caritas in veritate, charity in truth, i.e. love in truth.

        And love, to be truly love, must be freely and voluntarily engaged in, it must be a matter of “gift,” as said in Caritas in Veritate.

        Exactly because it is so powerful so as to be able to effect institutional change, it must be limited and restrained, not expanded. The government that acts in any manner that it pleases, and takes whatever it wants, in order to meet a need because is the same government that displaces and usurps the Church in providing adoptions and in educating children and in providing healthcare to those in need.

        The government that is given power to meet a need because it is able to effect institutional change is also the same government that tells the Church it must provide contraceptives to its employees who “need” them. Is that kind of institutional change that government can effect what is desirable, Leviathan government barging in and shoving everyone else out of the arena, and forcing them to act against their freedoms, including the Church?

        The point is that nowhere in the Gospels will you find Jesus going over to Pilate demanding that the Roman government provide more jobs and bread and medical care, nowhere did He say that it was morally unjust for Pilate to not take more in taxes.

        At no time did He say to Matthew, “Matt, stay where you are, you are doing God’s work collecting taxes from people.” Rather, He said to the tax collector, “follow me.”

        The obligation of social doctrine is at root a vocation, an obligation of the individual person to love others in truth as Jesus has loved us, and not a vocation of the individual to demand that Caesar do all of these things.

  3. Bender,

    Love your post it is not absurd
    Democrats in the US make a huge mistake when they assume their policies are socailly just and support solidarity.. In the US tax codes and laws have become a burden to the people and have destroyed subsidiarity and are destroying solidarity. We have become a nation of pretentious people who think they are God and can solve all problems. They then go about other peoples business destroying the very things they claim to be helping.

  4. I just read this quote from National Review Online by Paul Ryan:

    “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

    Not to detract from your main points, but bringing Aquinas into the public square, now that’s amazing! Additionally, anyone who brings forth the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity wins my immediate attention. But name dropping cannot be enough — We Catholics (yes, we laity) must be engaged in understanding these principles.

    And finally, enough about Ayn Rand! Now, that’s a political philosophy that could use Catholic Social Teaching. Lord, have mercy.

    Monsignor, could you please consider explaining the difference between distributism and Catholic Social Teaching? I’m confused by these two terms that appear to apply the same concepts. Apparently, the distributism stems from Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, and the sort; claiming to be an economic or business philosophy rooted in Catholic Social Teaching. There are some online resources at The Distributist Review (

    1. I would love it if we’d had enough of Ayn Rand, but she is the true inspiration of the libertarians and the TEA Party. And by his own admission, Ryan gives his staff Atlas Shrugged to read, and not, say, parts of Aquinas’s Summa. If he rejects her, why does he make his staff read her? Because it’s such a good novel? (Ha!) Note, also, that he merely rejects her epistemology (such as it is).

      He’s using Catholic social teaching as a cover for a radical individualist market theory. The Bishops were right to remind him that the justice of any policy must be judged by its effects on the poor and the vulnerable– the poor and vulnerable among us NOW, not the poor and vulnerable of the future. Even if his policies would reduce poverty and improve the lot of the poor over the long term, that does not justify harming the poor and the vulnerable. In other words, his policies are insufficiently rooted in the value of solidarity.

  5. I’ve not studied, but have read parts of the compendium of social doctrine in the last several years, but when it comes to taking care of the poor, exactly which poor are we talking about?

    Having traveled in Central America a lot, I came to realize that there are very few truly poor in America. The homeless come to mind, but are you really poor if you’re overweight from watching cable TV too much?

    There sure is a plethora of spiritually poor pulling up in church parking lots. I’m worried about that.

  6. At one level, Congressman Ryan has contributed to a necessary conversation about the role of faith in the public sphere. It is important to note in this conversation though, that the US Bishops have made it clear that Mr. Ryan’s proposal falls short of the moral criteria required by Catholic Social Teaching–that his attempt to incorporate principles of CST are incomplete and unbalanced. As you note, these matters will ultimately be worked out by the laity, but Mr. Ryan has made it clear that he interprets these principles differently than the Bishops, not just in the minutia but in the big picture. The Bishops here seem to be doing a good job of keeping balance by making sure that ALL of the principles stay in the conversation. Let the debate continue…

    1. Well, one bishop (Bishop Blaire) made this “falls short” comment, not “the US Bishops.” … Unless another statement has been made in the past few days and I am unaware of it.

    2. Likewise, I have read a good deal on Catholic Social Teaching. Please give us specific references in the CST and Magisterial documents for your assertions that (a) Mr. Ryan’s proposal falls short of the moral criteria required by CST, (b) his attempt to incorporate principles of CST are incomplete and “unbalanced” and (c) Mr. Ryan interprets the principles of CST differently than the Bishops.

      As a Catholic layman who tries to apply these principles every day in the public square, I personally find Mr. Ryan’s analysis quite complete and balanced.

      Let the debate continue…

      1. Mr. Ryan sets up “big government” as a cause of poverty and injustice, and finds a solution in de-regulating and trusting more in the free economy and private charity to care for the poor. He’s certainly not wrong to see the flaws in how the government operates, but the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater. Government has a role in bringing about justice and has since the Jewish Law mandated that the orphan, widow and immigrant deserved special attention (eg “gleaning” laws). Governments can assure that economies serve the needs of human beings. Pope Benedict summarized the Tradition and emphasized some of these themes in Caritas in Veritate:
        Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty (21).
        Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution(36).
        The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require, particularly today, that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner (32).
        The social doctrine of the Church has unceasingly highlighted the importance of distributive justice and social justice for the market economy, not only because it belongs within a broader social and political context, but also because of the wider network of relations within which it operates. In fact, if the market is governed solely by the principle of the equivalence in value of exchanged goods, it cannot produce the social cohesion that it requires in order to function well (35).
        As Rep. Ryan has pointed out, Church teaching can be interpreted in various ways.

        1. Thank you, Daniel, for your thoughtful response. I have just one comment.

          You stated, “Mr. Ryan sets up “big government” as a cause of poverty and injustice, and finds a solution in de-regulating and trusting more in the free economy and private charity to care for the poor. He’s certainly not wrong to see the flaws in how the government operates, but the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater.”

          Personally, I don’t interpret Mr. Ryan’s comments as stating that big government is a cause of poverty and injustice. He seems to suggest that centralized government has not been particularly effective in ameliorating the problems and may have exacerbated the problem of “distributive justice” by handing over the bill for current social programs to future generations. Subsidiary organizations like families, neighbors, churches. local and state governments may more effectively deal with poverty and social/distributive justice not only because these subsidiaries are closer to to the victims of poverty and injustice but also because these organizations must achieve noble goals through a balanced budget.

          1. Local and state governments may more effectively deal with…justice–indeed. But the transition from the current system to accomodate that theory will involve cutting benefits to people who are actually in need, and giving economic benefit to those who already have much, in the hope that it will trickle down. When economic theories become detached from peoples lives we putting a theory before the human beings involved. If the goal were in fact to more effectively help the poor at the local level why are there no concurrent movements to begin such local processes so that in the transition the poor do not fall even further before the local community comes to the rescue? If there are such movements being put forth seriously by those who are proposing this budget, I have not heard about them. Subsidiarity is one part of a much larger idea of justice, and must always be in service to the dignity of human beings in their actual situation, not in a theoretical scenario.

          2. Implicit in justice is truth. You cannot have justice without truth.

            And it is totally false and contrary to truth to say that there have been any “cuts” proposed. In fact, Ryan (whose plan I do NOT support) proposes increasing spending.

            And it is also totally false and contrary to truth to say that anyone is proposing “giving economic benefit” to those who already have much. Government not taking does not constitute giving.

            So, if we are going to discuss these things, let’s just stick to the truth and not engage in such distortions.

  7. I am thinking of all the Catholic politicians and lay people I have met since I joined the church in 2009. There is a giant discrepancy to what they believe, vote for, promote and what the church teaches. We cannot believe some things and not others. People most active in my church are either vehemently pro-abortion or do not care about the issue at least outwardly.

  8. Give a man a fish, or teach him how to fish? Ryan’s budget favors the latter: social justice that is farsighted and sustainable.

    1. The government must ensure there are ponds to fish in!

      If there is not enough employment out there to be had, then it won’t matter if the man knows how to fish or not.

      1. There is plenty of employment to be had. However government regulation and taxation prevents such employment.

        For example, the government has essentially given a monopoly to universities to “credential” white collar workers. Thus, anybody who wishes to hire a bank teller or office receptionist is no longer able to simply set the person a typing test, or to try her out for a few weeks and fire at will. That might lead to discrimination. So employers are required to set out job descriptions, and minimal requirements. A high school diploma no longer ensures literacy, and fully half of recent college graduates are unemployed so employers require a college diploma. This keeps the coffers of the universities (heavy Democratic donors) full, and they in turn provide taxes. Would be workers have to pay a tax in both time and money to colleges for the priviledge of being certified “literate.”

        It would be quite easy to set up a different system. Instead of a college degree, clarify the skills needed “English Literature, College Algebra, American Government, whatever” and have folks sit a proctored, finger printed exam. If you have the skills you get a high school, or college or (hey first two years of medical school credit).

        If folks need help studying English Literature, there is no shortage of unemployed English Literature degree holders. The cheapest universities cost 20,000 a year for four years while paying their professors about 2000 a course. Most professors work for about 20,000/year and moonlight. Me, I provide all neurology instruction for both 3rd and 4th year medical students and I don’t get paid at all. I and the other clinical folks in my neck of the woods are volunteers. We enjoy teaching. The students however are paying 40,000/year, mostly to comply with federal regulations.

        However you could get a group of 10 people together in your home, and hire a pHD history/math geek and pay him 50,000 (5,000 apiece) to tutor you and your cohorts for the exam. You would get a better education and you would get the skills you need. And look. You just created one 50,000 dollar job for every 10 students while SAVING money.

        There is no reason why the last two years of medical school couldn’t be done as an apprenticeship. That is how it WAS done before the US government banned apprenticeships after the Flexner report came out. The government profitted in taxes, the people got certified care but AT A PRICE. The price was that doctors instead of coming into practice after a 7 year apprenticeship with no debt, now graduate 200,000 to 500,000 in debt. That debt needs to be paid back by billing patients. So while the rich got improved care, the poor in rural areas who couldn’t afford to pay doctors the money necessary to pay back the debt get worse care.

        Why is it necessary to license everybody? Hair cutters and Pet groomers are licensed, and I see NO reason for it. Maybe it is necessary to license doctors, lawyers and pilots, but surely a written and practical test (as was good enough for Abraham Lincoln) and a few years practice should suffice.

        Why should people who receive charity have the right to sue? Let the government pass a regulation saying that anybody who provides a minimum of 15% of free care has governmental immunity. THE POLITICIANS have governmental immunity. How is it that they can mandate that anybody who shows up in an ER, regardless of whether or not they are ill, can pay, or are simply looking for narcotics or a reason to get disability can sue for unlimited damages?

        I guarantee that if the government did that, they wouldn’t need to pay for medicaid. There would be enough doctors coming back into practice that this could be done by charity. THAT IS HOW IT WAS DONE BEFORE. Doctors did it free before. It was only once the government got involved, that all of a sudden litigaton and regulation incresaed, and prices sky rocketed.

        1. If you wish to argue that government involvement can be a bad thing. I don’t see how I can disagree. But if you want to argue that market naturalism creates the most efficient results, I would sincerely disagree.

          Statesmanship and good governing involve a careful consideration of both scenarios. The world is not nearly as easy as you are making it seem.

    2. Jesus just gave them fish.

      As I have written elsewhere, you cannot harm the poor who are with us today in order to help the poor of the future. By all means, be farsighted and sustainable. Just don’t get there in the backs of the poor.

      1. First, Jesus did not take a loan in the name of Jeruselem’s children in order to buy the fish. He provided this Himself. There is nothing “Christ-like” about “helping the poor” on the backs of others. If we wish to “help the poor” it should come from our present income, not borrowed either from outsiders who hold our Treasuries, or from our children who inherit our debt. Their own poor will, we are told “always be with [them.]” They will have their own poor to worry about.

        Second, most of America’s poor who are not homeless or in jail would be considered upper middle class in much of the world. Yet the Treasury bonds we generate to pay for these “our poor” are held by both the governments and private citizens of numerous countries and peoples around the world who are far poorer than our poor. By printing money to pay them off, we are robbing the truly poor and their governments, so as to live better ourselves, and worst still to “feel good about ourselves.” .

        China, whose citizens have NO social security, no childen (thanks to their one child policy) and the lives of whose rural people would make that of our own poor look magnificent beyond belief, “invests” in our Treasuries with the expectation that the money will one day be used to pay for their own needs. However we debase our coinage every year. When China needs the money (and this will happen soon) we will find an excuse to default or will hyperinflate it into worthlessness. Then China’s poor, who don’t have shoes and live on one meal a day, will starve because our “poor” who have color TV sets and drive cars wanted to live better, and we were both too stingy to give up our own money/goods to help them and too cowardly to say “No. We can’t afford that.”

        Nobody is stopping you from engaging in charity. By all means the Bishops should emphasize tithing, and I would welcome the Bishops spending more of the monies obtained on the poor, and less on their incredibly obese bureacracy. In addition, nobody is stopping anyone from giving above their tithe. Many of us do.

        But borrowing money from Chinese peasants and telling them that our kids will pay for it is not charity. There is nothing Christ like about it. It is hypocricy, cowardice and evil.

        1. The Chinese do that for there own self interest. It is a way of artificially devaluing there currency in order to compete in Global markets. A Chinese conspiracy to somehow possess the US has nothing to do with it.

          1. I never said that there was a Chinese conspiracy. The Chinese artificially linked their currency to ours to try to “grow” their way to prosperity via undercutting our industry. Their “economists” appear to have been as insightful as those who call themselves economists here, insofar as they thought that by buying our bonds they would end up doubly wealthy.

            Unfortunately they did not count on the US never paying them back (and we wont, because we can’t) at least not in non-devalued currency.

            Thus, Chinese inflation is now entering critical (because to keep up with our money printing they have to print too, while we can no longer buy their stuff at any price because we are out of cash.

            The bottom line is that the most marginalized people in the world (which includes NOBODY in the US) will starve because of our economic choices made in the name of “compassion.”

            I still don’t understant how it is that you have a masters in economics. Did they never discuss Argentina? Or The Weimar Republic? Or the Assignats of the French Revolution? Did you have ANY instruction on the mechanisms of hyperinflation?

          2. Bonds don’t work like you are saying they do. It’s not like the US is going to wake up one morning with a 3.2 trillion dollar bill, and run out on our tab faster than a high schooler at a Denny’s.

            Bonds are denominated over all different sorts of maturities. Some of those bonds are maturing now and others will mature later. The Chinese will get paid for their investment just as little Timmy’s college fund will be paid for too. Part of calculating Yield to Maturities in bond pricing is calculating expected inflation rates over the life of the maturity. YTM’s are the lowest they have been in 30 years! So it’s not like most investors (including foreign ones) are legitimately concerned with the specter of hyperinflation in America, or even modest inflation over the next 30 years. Barring some idiotic move by our politicians to CHOOSE default, we will not be put in a position where we cant pay out debtors.

            Of course I have heard all about hyperinflation in these countries. And I have been bombarded ad nauseum with the ghost of Christmas futures prediction that the boogeyman hyperinflation is just around the corner. But the entire argument is premised around one terrible assumption. And when the premises are false the conclusions must be false. Even Adam Smith supports my view in the wealth of nations, Friedman only wants to you to know about part of the book.

            I have demonstrated that I am entirely familiar with your view, even defending it myself for a time. You express shock by MY ignorance of the issues. And yet, you forward propositions you don’t fully understand with evangelical zeal probably because politicians like Paul Ryan have found the winning formula for being elected. Tell the public you will limit government, cut taxes, yawn, rinse, and repeat.

          3. Please see my post regarding the drop in the purchasing power of the US dollar by 96% since the creaton of the Federal Reserve.

            And please explain to me why we need a central bank that is composed of PRIVATE individuals who are paid 6% for creating money out of thin air, instead of a national bank whose doings can be accessed under the Freedom of INformation act.

          4. The Chinese will be paid for their investment in devalued dollars. Unfortunately for them, these devalued dollars will not buy the same number of goods (including grain) that they had prevously counted on, when they loaned us the money.

            Little Timmy’s college fund is also increasing in devalued dollars. This is one of the reasons that Timmy’s college fund, begun so proudly by his parents 18 years ago, which would have easily covered 4 years of college costs 18 years ago, now will cover less than one year of college tuition.

            This hidden inflation is also the reason why you did not answer my question as to whether or not you planned to pay for your children’s college educations.

            As to what “most investors” are concerned with, there are no places to park money currently. We live in a world of global central banks. Thus we have inflation in the US, but hyperinflation beginning in those countries (like China) who peg their currency to ours. There have been tens of thousands of riots in China in last year alone. This is because food is getting expensive. The same reason underlies the riots in Egypt.

            I anticipate civil war in China in 2 years time assuming they do not simply invade their neighbors (which is what desperate countries tend to do). When it occurs, this and the famine that will accompany it can be directly laid at the doors of economic “experts” who tell us that printing money does no harm.


  9. What I see is that the leaders of the Church prefer to use the power of Ceasar to force the laity to “engage in good works” than to either provide the service themselves (too expensive!) or to encourage a culture where charity and service is supported. This allows the Church to feel good about remaining in “solidarity” with the poor, but is counterproductive.

    Currently I volunteer in a free clinic 2-4 evenings/month. I enjoy it, it provides a useful service to needy folks, and I don’t have to worry because in this state, services given in free clinics do not need to be reported to anybody, nor can anyone force me to adopt a special computerized billing system, nor are there other regulations about what constitutes “adequate” record keeping or followup, and finally, the good Samaritan law shields me from being sued.

    Not so in private practice. If I were to see the same patients I see joyfully in the Free clinic in the Emergency room, I would still not get paid. However I would be forced to send them a bill to PROVE that I was not giving them a better “deal” than I give the government through Medicaid or Medicare (to fail to bill, and to fail to aggressively collect is considered “medicare fraud”). I would also be forced to have a computerized clinical record, to see them within 1 hour of their entering the ER if an emergency, to follow up within one month. I could be sued for failing to meet their expectations, regardless of whether I did anything wrong, and anybody can complain of me to the Board, and even if their complaints are dismissed, each complaint is entered into the database and needs to be documented and explained every time I apply for renewal of hospital privileges or for insurance or get a license in another state.

    When I was in private practice (in a CATHOLIC hospital), I was called up to provide telephone assistance at least 1/night, and had to go into the hospital in the middle of the night at least 3 nights a week, I spent every weekend in the hospital, usually seeing patients who would never pay me for an average of 6-20 hours/weekend, and I never got home before 9pm on weekdays. Approximately 30% of the patients whom I saw I lost money on, and since the CATHOLIC hospital used the physician offices as a way to offload elderly or disabled, nurses who were incompetant for hospital work but whom they did not wish to fire under ADA laws, so they simply had them draw a salary for sitting around in the doctors offices. Thus, my overhead was about 30% higher than it would have been in a secular practice. I was at one time, paying for 4 nurses supposedly answering phones for me, and all the charts they reviewed ended up with a message “patient wants a call back from the doctor” rather than anything that an answring machine couldn’t handle.This allowed

    Back then I was the only neurologist who saw children. This was essentially a ministry, since all children with chronic neurological illness (seizures, cerebral palsy etc) end up on Medicaid, which paid less than the costs of maintaining their medical records for the 7 years that the law says I must maintain them. However while I have not (yet) been sued, many of my collegues have and usually by poor people. After all, getting a lawyer is free on the contingency arangement, and after all poor people need money more than rich doctors. Certainly the only complaints that have ever been made about me have been made by the pediatric component of my practice by parents of patients (usually poor kids) who disagreed with diagnoses that interacted with the state disability system (mostly my refusal to dignify kids with behavioral problems ADD or some other bogus psych disorder).

    Now, I no longer see children and have left private practice. Any child (or adult) who requires neurological evaluation needs to drive 300 miles either north or south. Unless of course he/she does NOT have the “benefit” of Medicaid and Medicare, in which case he/she is most welcome to come to the Free clinic in town, where I will be glad to see them, and where the care I give them is no different from that I provided previously, but without the litigation, regulation and documentation and added costs.

    The hospitals (including CATHOLIC ones, with the encouragement of the bishops all of whom tend to rail against “rich doctors who desert the poor” resulted in LESS care being provided, rather than MORE care. What happened to me, has happened to numerous other specialists and pediatricians, which is why NO pediatric specialty care is now found in this area (which is the second largest city in my state). There is a now a 9 month waiting list to see folks in the ONLY city in my state where pediatric specialty care can be accessed. Last year a soccer goal post fell on a 9 year old kid and the child died on the helicopter flight out to where care could be accessed. Had that happened 10 years earlier, there would have been 7 neurosurgeons in the area who could have drained the subdural in time. The CATHOLIC hospitals, using the power of Caesar drove them all out of business. Now none of them see children, and after a few years of not seeing children you are no longer competant so they can’t see children.

    Whenever the subject comes up, the Bishops, however, invariably make a point of wagging their heads against “greedy” and “lazy” doctors who don’t want to work, and the saintly Catholic hospitals who struggle SO hard to provide care despite the best efforst of the said “greedy and lazy doctors.” Whenever politics come up, the bishops have, until recently, when their political darlings started to vote the wrong way on abortion, have been in favor of MORE laws coercing good works than the opposite.

    Part of the problem (as I see it) is that the Catholic church has been taken over by lawyers and politicians just as the government has. The bishops honestly believe that if you simply rail against “greedy” doctors, businessmen, farmers, oil companies, etc, and if you pass some fancy law FORCING said “greedy” and unscrupulous people to “Do what’s right” that somehow money will fall from the skies and everything will magically work out. I think that the first thing that the Church needs to do is to stop encouraging Caesar.

    1. Shari:

      “What I see is that the leaders of the Church prefer to use the power of Ceasar to force the laity to “engage in good works” than to either provide the service themselves (too expensive!) or to encourage a culture where charity and service is supported. This allows the Church to feel good about remaining in “solidarity” with the poor, but is counterproductive. ”

      Exactly!! I can’t remember the last time I heard a homily exalting the faithful to personally sacrifice for the poor, but I’ve heard many encouraging us to hound the government for more intervention.

      Thank you for your very comprehensive comment about working on the “front lines.”

    2. Thank you Shari.

      What is disturbing is that, even in the face of the contraceptive mandate and other actions where the government seeks to grossly violate the consciences and religious liberties of those in the Church — after all, Caesar will be Caesar — good people like Cardinal Dolan still seem to be looking for more and more ways for the Church to partner with that same government. How many times must one get burned before he stops putting his hand on the red hot stove?

      1. The government violated the consciences and religious liberties of physicians LONG BEFORE it tried to violate the consciences or religious liberties of those in the Church. The leaders of the Church knew and did nothing about it. Far from it, every diocese has a “red hat mass” which is essentially an opportunity for the bishops to suck up to Caeser. Catholic religious have taken pot shots at Catholic physicians for 40 years and have only just begun to be disciplined.

        When I was a resident 30 years ago, abortions were still done in the hospital. Ob-Gye residents who declined to assist were dropped from the program. A personally know a pediatric intern who was called to assist at an “abortion born live.” (Hospital rules require a pediatrician present whenever a child is born with a heart beat, regardless of whether the child is “DNR.” She tried to save the child, but was prevented by the (horrified Gyne attending. So she baptised the child who obviously died a few minutes later. There were no clergy present, despite the fact that there are clergy present in the ER or hospitals for other folks who die. They were too GREAT a coward to interfere. She was fired two weeks later. Word got around. She was blackballed at other programs. She mostly does adminstrative type work now.

        The Church has ONLY gotten involved now that Caesar has been coming after them also. They let nuns and other liberal Catholics do whatever they liked in the hospitals before. NOW all of a sudden there are investigations. What a “coincidence.” I have NO SYMPATHY for them.

        1. Actually I think it is called a “Red Mass” not a “Red Hat Mass.” However I maintain that its purpose, which is to curry favor with Caeser is the same.

    3. Shari, if I could perform one miracle today, it would be to have every bishop, and everyone in government, in any capacity, to read your comments today. That may not be the best miracle that could be performed today, but it would be a good miracle.

  10. Mr Ryan has said in the past how much he admires Ayn Rand, and how she is responsible for his decision to enter public life.
    I see he now finds it expedient to distance himself from her, and to take up the use of Catholic terminology to justify his draconian budget.
    Don’t be fooled; he is as sincere as Bush & Co were when they usurped Catholic terminology about “just war” to justify their aggression, or the neocons trying to fool us with talk about subsidiarity, before Benedict made it clear that market fundamentalism is incompatible with Catholic Social Teaching and they returned to a stance of open dissent..
    The proof is in the budget, which would reduce taxes for the wealthy while raising them for the poor, and which guts social programs while not touching our huge military expenditures.

    1. Daniel, I think your comment is nothing more than a regurgitation of popular “talking points.” I’m sure you know that the expenditures for our social programs far outweigh our expenditures for the military (and I’m NOT saying that we shouldn’t be looking at every bit of government spending when determining a budget).

      More importantly, you seem pretty confident in your personal assessment of Rep. Ryan. I have no idea how much he really admires Ayn Rand, but it is irrelevant to the conversation. He clearly values his Catholic faith and is bringing it into the political sphere. I’m sure he is not a perfect disciple, but who is? I know I’m not. I’m thankful to have someone validly referencing CST and not spouting off about how being an “ardent, practicing Catholic” allows a person to be virulently pro-abortion.

      1. He makes his staff read Atlas Shrugged. He appears to admire her very much. He’s using the concepts of subsidiarity and solidarity– concepts that are hardly unique to Catholic Social Teaching– as a cover.

        1. And you know this because…?

          Atlas Shrugged, despite being written by an ardent atheist/libertarian, still has points that are salient, that ring true. St. Augustine pointed out in his Confessions that one of the books that brought him (ultimately) to God was a text by Cicero (Hortensius) which was most certainly pagan, but also contained True ideas, ideas that brought him closer to God. Rep. Ryan’s path toward social service began with Atlas Shrugged, but his reading list also (obviously) contains several orthodox works as well.

          If St. Augustine’s journey toward Faith and God included non-Catholic, pagan works, than certainly it is not hard to believe that Rep. Ryan’s path could have begun with Atlas Shrugged. Augustine ostensibly rejected the world-view of pagan Cicero, but it still positively impacted him. Is it that hard to believe that Rep. Ryan could reject the world-view of Rand, and yet still find some grain of Truth in her works?

        2. Chris,

          Fair enough. He notes that most of his staff never finish the book :). I can see where people would be concerned if Paul Ryan went around spouting Ayn Rand all day. But he doesn’t. He says he ultimately rejects her conclusions and then goes on to embrace CST.

    2. “Draconian” and “guts social programs”? Let’s take the latter–can you give us any numbers that compare the totality of spending (in a dollar amount) on what you call “social programs” at the beginning of the plan and at the end? As far as taxes, his plan allows people to pay according to the current law if they want, right?

    3. Actually I am not sure there are income tax increases for the poor, since most of the poor do not pay federal income tax, can you say what taxes on the poor will be raised? If you mean maintaining the Bush tax cuts, I would remind you that by changing the lowest tax bracket to 10% from 15% The Bush tax cuts lowered tax rates for the poor. Lowering tax rates on the wealthy is done to expand the economy. The idea behind lowering the taxes on the wealthy is that left to their own devices the wealthy will do productive things with their money that expand the economy ( so they buy things that other people build, eat in restaurants that other people work in, and invest in companies that grow and employ people and so forth. I know when my taxes are lower I am more likely to remodel the old bathroom and the plumber, the carpenter and the tile guy are happier than if I put it off and send a big check to the IRS this month. One can disagree with this approach but it becomes a technical question of the effect of lower marginal tax rates, not a moral one. At one marginal tax rate would you say the rich are paying enough? 20%? 30% 100% Do you have a specific rate in mind that is fair? I think you should say. I am not sure that slowing the rate of increase in programs to the poor can be characterized as “gutting” them. I have not been through each item in the budget, but can you site one that has been “gutted”. I would ask you in fairness to Mr. Ryan to define what precisely you mean by “gutting” (what cut from the previous years budget would constitute a “gut” 1%,5% 30%?) Can you site which programs has been gutted” and the criteria used to so characterize it?

      It is a trope to characterize Ryan et al as in dissent because as he points out both Popes Benedict and John Paul II have said and written things which lend support to his approach, that is not to say his approach is perfect, but he is not dissenting from the principals of Catholic social teaching. Dissent is disagreement with the principals, it is what a Catholic who defends abortion is doing, since abortion is unspeakable crime and murder, to defend it as a right is “dissent”. We are doing the whole debate a disservice if we so mischaracterize Congressman Ryans approach.

      Finally the war is not the issue, one can say it was politically unwise but to call it unjust is wrong. If it was truly unjust, than to fight it in was a mortal sin, killing someone in a manifestly unjust war is murder. Do you really wish to assert that all the soldiers who served in Iraq were fighting in an manifestly unjust war? I would certainly not assert this and I do not think the Bishops or Pope has asserted it. They rarely do as this would pose a grave burden of conscience on those in the military. I think historically the Catholic approach is to assume that Bush et al acted in good faith, they believed that Iraq posed a threat, It was ruled by a tyrant and peaceful means could not change the situation. Therefore the war was not definitely “unjust”. That is not to say They agreed the war was wise, I recognize they opposed it. I am not sure I would want to defend it as a policy decision, but it is important to not try and balance disagreement on issues of prudential judgement, with things that are issues of principal like abortion. I understand why you might do this, if you are a liberal it must cause you pain to know the party you are more inclined to support on prudential issues supports unlimited abortion on demand, that it supports “unspeakable” crime, and this makes it problematic for you to support them morally. Your instinct might be to try to balance this unpleasant fact with the idea that the Republicans are just as bad. Unfortunately this is not the case, there is a fundamental difference between the nature of the disagreements one might have regarding if the top marginal tax rate should be 28.5 % versus say 36% and whether children in the womb can be killed on an industrial scale. If tomorrow the parties were to switch places on nothing else besides the abortion issue I would feel morally obliged to disregard my economic policy preferences and stop the killing, I invite you to consider the same.

  11. I sometimes think that politicians may not give to charities in their personal lives, and therefore give the monies of the masses (taxes) to make up for it. Or perhaps they tax the citizens forcing them to give money they will distribute for the masses. Then it goes to Planned Parenthood and for “bail outs” and places we have no say in.

  12. Msgr Pope:
    I agree with every point you made! The only thing I would add is that as laity we should do well to take the advice given by the late Father Thomas Dubay in his book, “Faith and Certitude”, which is mostly about Religious Faith but along the way he makes the point that serious issues whether religious or not, require some effort and study to have an informed opinion. He makes the other point that errors have an element of moral disorder, often inadvertent, but nonetheless something we should try to avoid. Sometimes we overextend ourselves by forming opinions and asserting them based on inadequate evidence, often out of pride, laziness etc or some other flaw. (When accused of this I plead guilty, mea culpa) At the National Institutes of Health some of the labs have a sign which says “In God we trust, all others must show data” Good line to remember for science and works for public policy as well.
    Very good post.

  13. Congressman Ryan is a REAL leader. We need to follow his lead and help him achieve goodness which CST seeks.

  14. It’s been said that the problems after Vatican II were the results of misintrepretation of the documents that came out of this council, I guess we can make the same argument with the misintrepretation of the Catholic Social Doctrine by liberal Catholics, when will these people realize that their brand of socialism does not work! history has shown it has never worked…while capitalism is not perfect and this may be because of the fallable human element I do think that Capitalism couple with Solidarism may be the new paradigm of a future economics, but as per the quote below from Jesuit Fr. Pesch “The principle of moral organism” is a critical foundation, I think we can all agree that a lack of morals among government, wall street and main street is a big part of our social ills, one of the links below is about the lost taxes from abortions, people (liberals) do not realize that there are economic effects from abortions, its ironic that the Russian government is paying couples to have children, they finally realize the demographic nighmare that their abortion industry has caused them, China will realize the effects of their one child policy soon.
    The other link below is about povery in America, very interesting reading, I think poverty is a relative issue, especially between poverty in America and say some country in Africa, I think we can easily solve some of the issues in this country by revamping our education system, better yet allow vouchers so parents can send their kids to private schools, why obama did not allow this in Washington DC is beyound me…well I think I know why!
    Its a sad spectacle when liberal Catholics attack Rep. Ryan and misintrepret Catholic social teaching because the bottom line is its their policies that keep people from advancing up the social ladder and keeps them dependent on the government for their livelihood.

    Pope Leo XIII Rerum Novarum

    “to cure this evil, the Socialists, exciting the envy of the poor toward the rich, contend that it is necessary to do away with private possession of goods and in its place to make the goods of individuals common to all…it is highly unjust, because it violates the rights of lawful owners, perverts the functions of the state and throws governments into utter confusion.”

    Fr. Heinrich Pesch “Solidarist Economics” (abridged version)

    “In the abstract as well as in its concrete realization solidarism may take on various forms….what is essential to it, however is the concept of organic community; community and along with communal responsibility, the principle of moral organism.”

  15. My problem with Sen Ryan’s plan is who in their right mind thinks in 30yrs they’ll balance anything? The dollar will collapse very soon & these guys think 30yrs is ok? & they call Dr Paul ‘crazy’ & he wants to balance it within 4 yrs & cut $1,000,000,000,000 in year one? I know not trying to be political just bringing out questions.

    There’s almost no different in Mr Obama’s plan vs Mr Ryan’s plan as seen here both leads to destruction. Sen Ryan is a media darling though so you won’t hear of anyone else’s plan like Sen Rand Paul’s plan who has one & is actually meaningful as this link speaks of too

    It is not moral to put debt on future generations to make them slaves. We need to cut 99% of things. As Frederick Bastiat called this legal plunder; charity is not charity is stolen from one & given to another. We can be charitable people. As a great response to a liberal who says “well Jesus would want everyone to have healthcare (for instance)” “yes, He may would want that & help of hungry, etc too but not by the tip of the Roman spear”.

  16. “The government” is constructed in such a tangled web that any money that goes to it is diluted by inefficiencies and fraud. “The government” is incapable of charity. Administering programs is not charity. Charity is a human quality, performed by humans, not institutions or agencies of government. The government’s main purpose in the solidarity/subsidiarity synergy should be to create the environment wherein subsidiarity can happen.

  17. I know I asked a bunch of questions above, but ones I would like someone to answer are those I opened with —

    Is it honest or morally just, socially or otherwise, to spend money that you do not have? to spend money that does not even exist? to borrow money and oblige other people to pay it back? to simply create “money” by magical fiat in order to spend it?

    Is it honest or morally just or charitable for government to spend $1.3 TRILLION that it does not have?
    Conversely, is it dishonest or morally unjust or contrary to charity for that same government to spend only $900 Billion that it does not have? or spend only $400 Billion that it does not have?

    Is it honest or morally just or charitable for the poor and middle class to have to pay more in taxes than they otherwise might have had to in order to pay interest to the rich people who bought the bonds that government issued in order to borrow the money we do not have?

    These are not academic questions. Someone please explain how our current system of spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow — on all levels of government — is consistent with truth (justice) or consistent with love (caritas)?

    1. I took out a mortgage to buy my house (the value of which fluctuates–and to some extent is “made up” by society) because I didn’t have enough money. I don’t consider that immoral, because it serves a good purpose, I have every intention to pay it off (although it’ll take me 30 years) and I have an income which I reasonably expect to cover the cost. Spending money you don’t have is not inherently bad. Some people buy more house than they can reasonably afford, but that doesn’t make mortgages bad.

      1. Again, you have deflected and not answered any of the questions raised.

        Would it be just or charitable for you to buy the house without getting the money through a mortgage?
        Would it be just or charitable for you to require other people to pay off your mortgage?
        If the mortgage payments (principal plus interest) are so high that you cannot afford to feed or clothe your children, is that just or charitable?

        1. In Japan, people take out 100 year mortgages and expect their children and grandchildren to pay off their debts. In the US they take out 30 year mortgages, walk away from them, tell their governments to bail out the banks and stick the bill on their children and grandchildren.

          Is either approach just?

          It used to be banks would not give anybody more than a 7 year mortgage, and they were expected to put 50% down. Most folks rented until they could save up to buy a house, and took good care to live within their means. If folks couldn’t pay, the banks forclosed. If the banks made bad loans, they went out of business and all their administrators lost their jobs and never found another one in banking or finance. Now that we allow the government to bail out banks (at our childrens expense), it is no surprise that we have nothing down mortgages and 30 year loans..

          Further, back in the days when folks REFUSED to spend that kind of money on a house (renting instead, or doubling up in apartments with other families) they spent a greater proportion of their income on their children. Most kids who went to college in the 60s and 70s did so with help from their parents and with minimal student loans. Their parents lived in tiny houses but they did value their children. Rather more than our generation appears to, and rather more than the bishops who wink at usury, while hyperventilating about other matters appear to.

          Are you planning to fund your children’s college/technical education? Or have you spent your assets on your house?

          Us, we don’t have any debt. Neither do our children who are forbidden to have credit cards, and who will graduate (God willing) debt free. We also don’t have a lot of things that other folks think are “necessary.” My ward clerk lives in a much nicer house than I do, and most of my patients drive much nicer cars than I have. We got our first TV set a few months ago, though I have not yet had the time to watch anything on it.

          I think that stewardship involves more than the obligatory 10% tithe of money and 10% tithe of time to the church and community. It also means leaving a better world to your children. A world saddled with the debt of their parents is not a better world.

      2. “I don’t consider that immoral, because it serves a good purpose, I have every intention to pay it off”

        I can see where this logic is going:

        “But Your Honor!! It’s not REALLY stealing because I needed the money and I intended to pay it back!”

  18. Congressman Ryan is considered a heroic voice in Congress merely for speaking sanely.

  19. Dear Bender – it is just to make a promise to fulfill a promise. It is also just to care and to share. Finally, is it just to distribute more Grace than I can actually create? Well, yes, if God’s treasury of Grace is infinite and if He has given that Grace to me to distribute. Everything we have is from God; God made our nation the most prosperous and powerful in the world. So, we need to ask Him if there’s more from where that came from and we need to pray for more help to do His Will on earth. God may not give us money, but He does give us Graced humanity and resources all of which are the firm foundation for financial health..

  20. A few thoughts:
    Consider the poor in some other countries. Mexico is close to us; Haiti is a bit farther away.
    By comparison, most of the USA poor, other than the homeless, w/b considered well off. Is it moral to lobby the government to give $$ to the poor in Haiti? Or should we as individuals support worthy programs when we can locate them?
    In Matthew’s Ch. 25, v.31-46, Jesus is not separating the goats on the basis that they did not support government programs, but that they did not minister (as individuals?) to the least of His brothers.
    Similarly, in Luke 16, in the story of the rich man and the beggar (Dives and Lazarus), the rich man merits punishment for ignoring (maybe even NOT SEEING) the beggar at his threshold; not for failing to advocate a government program to feed and clothe the poor.
    The larger an organization is, the more inefficient it will be at achieving most objectives on a small scale. The local St. Vincent de Paul group does a better job than a national group at adjusting to the local needs. The poor in Minnesota need different clothing than the poor in New Orleans. Local groups will generally make fewer errors than a national agency that way.

  21. It is immoral to cut services to the poor, while not touching our 900 military bases in 120 countries, our defense budget that is greater than the rest of the world combined, wars/bombing campaigns/active presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, and vast corporate subsidies to well connected corporations.

    Ron Paul is the only candidate who has proposed cutting huge amounts of money that would only harm the military industrial complex, lobbyists, and big corporations and banks.

    Somehow he is the one who is “nutty”. I strongly urge people to study his “Plan to Restore America”. He specifically safeguards Social Security and Medicare despite his philosophical opposition to them.

    The Ryan Plan takes 30 years to balance the budget. How can anyone take this seriously? Wake up!

    1. Max:
      Actually facts matter. Can you please specify what programs in Ryan’s budget are actually cut? I think to be precise in most cases what Ryan proposes is to reduce the rate of increased spending, at least for the most part. His medicaid proposal is somewhat complicated and it depends on how delivering block grants to the states works out. Otherwise I do not see a lot of cuts. In terms of defense I am not an expert in the defense budget, but it is not a simple as you would assume, in some cases the very presence of American military capability may be preventing armed conflict from breaking out, like for example along the Korean DMZ. To simply shoot from the hip and say we need to reduce defense spending and exit the world stage might end up with a lot of dead people from the ensuing chaos. That’s not to say there is not room for potential cuts in there but this is not a simple matter.

      Really It would pay for people to try and understand in terms of policy it is not a simple thing to simply oppose the military industrial complex. Is their a single foreign policy expert among any political party who is advocating a the dismantling of the military or isolationism along the lines suggested by Ron Paul? If so who are they? If they are few in number ( or entirely absent) it makes it more likely that Ron Paul is being unrealistic and potentially dangerous. Discussions regarding military issues are really matters of great gravity, with actual real lives at stake. I think to really have strong opinions on where American should or should not have a military presence, what weapons systems it should or should not have, is complicated and might even require careful study of the issues involved. I would hesitate to shoot from the hip about this. As a broad principle I think America is largely a force for global stability and would keep this in mind. Certainly when chaos breaks out somewhere like Somalia or the Balkans under President Clinton the world looks for US leadership to help.

      Finally I am not clear why its ok to hurt big corporations and banks,. Why are you so blase about this? Big corporations make crucially important things like computers, drugs, produce food, the parts for water purification systems, they build the homes we live in, and develop the technology to access the oil and fossil fuels needed for energy. They employ millions of people and in fact “hurting” them will reduce the value of the pensions and investments that people like teachers have in their 401 and 403 B retirement plans, not to mention the value of the college endowments of many universities and the private savings of any number of charities which own stocks. What exactly is your animus against these groups? And Banks! Why are Banks bad? where do you suggest people get mortgages and business loans or even checking accounts? Do you not know anyone who works in a bank? Why would one want to “hurt” them? To note that there are villains and instances of moral turpitude in the leaders of all these things is to only acknowledge original sin. I am not sure it makes sense to “hurt” the institutions involved.

      I think the point of the Ryan budget is that he is trying to not “hurt” anyone, but rather balance a number of difficult issues and reach a reasonable solution to a very difficult problem. Even if you do not agree with each of the items, and would spend a little more here or a little less there.. The point is that our politics should not be the shoot from the hip with no regard for anything resembling a fact. If we are serious about Catholicism and working to the common good via politics it requires that we make an effort to be factual and careful in our assessment of these things. Not everyone has the time or inclination for that kind of thing, and if one does not, its ok to realize that one simply is not informed enough to have a strong opinion.

      1. Yeah, I’d really hate to live in a world where corporations and businesses had to support themselves and not look to the government for assistance.

        I love how you defend our empire and suggest that if we pull anything back calamity will happen. Every empire has collapsed due to over extending itself. It seems as though you think this will never happen to America. How much sense does it make to borrow money from China so that we can bomb Pakistan and give billions in aid to its government? THAT is the best course of action? We have to go trillions into debt to support 900 military bases around the world because something “might” happen?

        Why is it moral to tell the American taxpayer that they must fund tens of thousands of troops in Germany to protect Europe from Russia, while Europe can cut back on its own defense and use the savings to take care of their people? Guns > hospitals?

        Ron Paul is not an isolationist. He is a non-interventionist. Paul wants to end our trade embargo with Cuba (which both Pope Benedict and JPII have said is immoral) and I’d venture that you support it. Who is the isolationist now? Our embargo on Iraq in the 1990s killed 500,000 children. 500,000! That is true isolationism. Paul simply says bring our military here at home, and only deploy when Congress declares war. Fight the war, win the war, and come home. You know, just like the Constitution says. How radical of him!

      2. “I myself have never been an isolationist. I favor the very opposite of isolation: diplomacy, free trade, and freedom of travel. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on countries and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seeking change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example. The real isolationists are those who isolate their country in the court of world opinion by pursuing needless belligerence and war that have nothing to do with legitimate national security concerns.” -Ron Paul

  22. This is the point I made in response to your blog last week. The constitutional guidelines of states rights and giving them individually the responsibilities and funds to handle subsidiary roles at the state and local levels. I don’t think we are on the same page.

  23. It is immoral to not put a number out there as to what level of spending on the poor is enough? If you are not an economist, financial specialist or executive, then please stick to your field and let the experts set the number. Saying “dignity” does not say when your greed for the poor will be satisfied. Put out a number. Put up or shut up.

    1. The number will need to be what will allow us to live within our means (without adding to the debt).

      That means taking 100% of tax revenues and dividing them into guns and butter:

      The amount spent on guns would involve the amount that permits our military to protect our borders, while moving from full support of our allies like Japan, europe etc to minimal support. (Our allies should pay for most/all of their own defense).

      What is left needs to be spent on interest on the national debt unless we choose to renege (and we may need to do so – I don’t know – see below under “Jubilee”) .

      What is left over is the amount available for services, including services to the poor.

      It will not be enough in our current format. Thus my proposals would be:

      1. Means test Social Security and Medicare. Poor blue collar workers should not support wealthy seniors. The program was not meant to support healthy seniors in golf communities, it was meant to be bridge for people who were unable to work at anything. It should be expected that people who can work at something will work, rather than expecting the young to support them in leisure.
      2. Welfare should involve not a check but a ticket for a job. That job might well involve agricultural labor in a different state. The Mexicans do it, we can too.
      3. Removal all taxes on any income below 30,000, and remove all regulations on most trades. Thus, if you wish to set up a lawn service, car repair, home cleaning, day care tutoring service, etc., you should be able to do so in your home and earn less than 30,000 without getting licensed regulated etc. BUYER BEWARE.
      Above 30,000, institute progressive income taxes, beginning at 2% for 30-40k, and increasing to 90% for incomes above 1 milion. There will need to be a significant sales tax to capture income that is not reported on items other than food and energy.
      4. JUBILEE for all debts after 7 years. (Note to banks. Don’t hand out credit to folks who can’t afford it).
      5. Most medications should be NONprescription. People should be allowed to precribe themselves BP medications without having to go through a physician, nurse or anybody else. Controlled substances should continue to be regulated and all prescriptions should be on a national data base so you cannot buy more than a months supply of anything in any state.
      6. Let those who feel they can provide medical care do so as LONG AS THEY DO NOT MISREPRESENT THEIR CREDENTIALS. Your Aunt Tillie used to work for an Internist and is really good about managing medications? She is willing to spend 3 hours organizing your medications, and eliminating counter productive or inappropriate ones? Cool. You can either just give her 40 bucks and sue if you don’t like what she does, or you can sign a contract with her where she does this for 20 bucks and you lose your ability to sue. Monica’s boyfriend knows how to put your dislocated shoulder back in place? Swell. He wants you to sign a contract saying you know that he isn’t trained, but he thinks he can do it and you promise not to sue. Fine, Your choice. BUYER BEWARE.
      7. Folks who work in hospitals with really sick patients will likely need more credentials. If you have the credentials, then in exchange for seeing the poor (certified by the government) for free you get government immunity. However not all people need a physician. Or even a nurse. Lots of smart people out there who could do at least part of my job.
      8. In terms of getting credentials, no more monopoly for the universities. Anything that just needs book learning should be studyable at home with a proctored, ID’d exam. Anything that needs practical training should be studyable in an apprenticeship with a hands on several day oral/practical exam. Work out the details of your apprenticeship, academic training with the folks that you hire to teach you.
      9. FINALLY, realize that everybody is going to die. We currently spend 50% of our health care dollar on the last 5 years of life. This is nonsustainable. People who are disabled and cannot work should receive support to allow them to live, and should receive emergency care. Their gallbladders, appendixes and broken hips should be fixed, however the purpose of the other specialty services should be to GET THEM BACK TO WORK. If they are never going to get back to work, they should not be receiving the pacemakers and kidney transplants that those who are working receive. Because we will all die one day, and frankly that is a good thing. We are Christians. We believe that life doesn’t end permanently in the ICU or the long term care home for ventilator dependent patients.

  24. We will never be able to entirely eliminate poverty. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. But we can eliminate abortion, regardless of whether we think it makes a society wealthier or poorer. Some social issues do trump others – they don’t bump them off the radar screen, they just take priority, and until we get our priorities straight, I don’t think we will ever work together for any social justice cause. And if the right to be born after being conceived doesn’t come under the heading of social justice, then the phrase ‘social justice’ is just a sham meant to bolster a narrowly constructed agenda. Not everyone born into poverty remains in poverty but even if they did, how many people entered the road to Sainthood by choosing poverty? If we eliminate poverty, shouldn’t we also eliminate all forms of suffering? And in doing so, aren’t we saying Jesus alone should be made to carry the Cross?

  25. “Again may I say, as for we who are clergy, I think we owe it to the laity to allow them to work in the temporal order and to use their skills to apply these principles without a lot of interference and amateur commentary from us.”

    Thank you Monsignor! The bishops need to teach the truth clearly. That is their office. The laity need to carry that truth into the world and live by it. The American bishops drive me crazy weighing in on each and every little movement of the government, passing judgment on what belongs to the laity to do. They should spend that time articulating as well as you have here on Catholic principles and let us apply them specifically.

  26. Shari:
    You make this statement :

    “If they are never going to get back to work, they should not be receiving the pacemakers and kidney transplants that those who are working receive.”
    This is both uninformed nonsense and cruel. Lets take the following clinical situation, Mrs Smith is a 75 year old otherwise healthy grandmother who is loved by her grandchildren and has sick sinus syndrome. She needs a pacer maker, periodically she gets syncopal faints and has fallen and broken her nose once. You seem to assert because she is not working she should be left intermittently to faint, fall and ultimately die because she can not get back to work. Lets take another case, Joe B is a mildly retarded 32 year old with Downs syndrome who is not employed but volunteers to sit with some elderly folks at a local nursing home, he gets a severe pneumonia and needs ventilator support to pull through, does he too need to be let die?

    It is true that in some cases advanced, invasive treatments to prolong life are excessively burdensome and disproportionate to the benefits, but to make a blanket statement like you are making is simply not consistent with Catholic moral theology and simply reduces people to having value based on how productive they are! This is not Christianity. As a critical care doctor who makes decisions about this kind of thing daily I am appalled at your attitude, I would seriously rethink it.

    One more less important thing.. you say “institute progressive income taxes, beginning at 2% for 30-40k, and increasing to 90% for incomes above 1 million” Do you not realize that the practical effect of this would be to make sure no one would do the progressive work that leads to very high salaries. Let us take a neurosurgeon. They are very well compensated, they do not make 1 million dollars a year, but lets call their average salary 600,000 a year, These are individuals it takes over a decade post college to train, they are highly skilled and every minute while at work they hold someones life, their ability to walk, to talk, to see, to speak etc in their hands. Very few people can do this. So do you not think that if you effectively reduce their compensation by taxing them to death you are likely to have fewer neurosurgeons? Is this a good thing? The same argument can be made about all kinds of very highly compensated individuals. They typically have very rare talents, and work very hard, the very high salaries are an incentive to develop talents that the vast majority of people do not have. In reality this amounts to envy. It is a sin we should avoid

  27. Everything requires choices.

    Right now we are choosing to let those poorer nations who buy our debt STARVE, while ensuring the poverty and ultimate penury of our descentdents in order to live high on the hog, and worst of all to pretend to ourselves that we are “kind, caring people.”

    The current US DEBT is $16.4 trillion of which $9.7 trillion is held by Americans (that would include most pension plans)

    We cannot possibly PAY this off at once because even if we all agreed to not eat for a year, our GNP is only about 15 trillion.

    We are currently ADDING to the DEBT at a tune of 1,300 + Billion a year.

    Thus we need to AT LEAST cut 1,300 Billion (That is 1.3 Trillion) from our spending, and preferably cut closer to 1.5 Trillion so as to at least get us on a gradual downward slope that will over the course of EIGHTY years (I’m not exactly paying it off quickly here) get the debt paid OFF.

    The largest programs responsible for discretionary spending are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which together accounted for 74 percent of mandatory spending in 2010 and are projected to account for 81 percent by 2021, under current law.

    Therefore these MUST be cut. Even if we had no military, and no publically funded roads, and all of our political leaders worked for free, it is not possible to balance the budget without cutting Medicare (the largest of the programs).

    My proposed budget distributes pain fairly evenly, and should (barely) get up to 1.5 Trillion in cuts.

    What is your proposed budget? Or shall we agree that it is okay to continue to swindle our children and poorer countries who hold our Treasuries so we can continue to live better than them until a civil war ensues (which is how countries who continue down this road usually end)?

    As D.A. Howard said (above) in his challenge that provoked my post “Put out a number. Put up or shut up.” Just remember, YOUR budget cuts need to add up to 1.5 Trillion too!

    It can be done. It would be painful. It would reduce us to about the standard of living and the life expectancy that we enjoyed in the 1960s. But you know something. Our standard of living in the 1960s wasn’t so bad. Life expectancy would drop to around 68-70. That would hurt. But to my mind it would hurt less than being part of the generation that screwed America for future generations just for our hedonistic pleasure.

    This is a great nation. We come from a long line of patriots who sacrificed to make America awesome. Lets not be the weak link who screws up America for future generations because we can’t control our appetites and we are a bunch of cowardly hypocrites who prefer to pretend to ourselves and everybody else. We are better than that. And our children deserve better than that.

    It can be done. Our forefathers did it after the Revolution. They did it again after the Civil war. We can do this also.

    1. In my parish, at mass, during the prayers of the people, we pray for an end to abortion, the death penalty and war. All three societal behaviors fail to respect that every human being is created in the Image of God, Imago Dei. Not just a fetus, but a murderer and an enemy combatant are images of the Triune God. To deny this fact simply renders Christ irrelevant, ineffective and insignificant!

      If we save all monies that we spend on Pro-Life campaigns, to end abortions, and use it to support both prenatal and postnatal medical care and nutritional guidance–prenatal and postnatal–for mother and child including a nutritionist to counsel, assist and monitor; then we solve the economic reasons for most abortions and feed the hungry and thirsty plus care for strangers in our midst.

      If we save all monies that states spend on court costs to stop a death penalty appeal, by simply sentencing the worst murderers to Life Without Parole, and use it to support rehabilitation including therapy for addictions and abuse plus literacy education and vocational training for all other inmates, who can likely now be released as taxpayers; then we save jail costs and set prisoners free.

      If we save all the monies that our country expends on military operations that do not meet authentically traditional “just war” requirements–rather than wise and prudent opinions of strategic military and diplomatic bureaucrats–that an apostolic and faithful church whose Head is The Prince of Peace surely must demand; then we save collateral damage costs and can still fund foreign aid!

      These three examples simply skim the surface of what is possible if we were truly to apply Catholic Social Teachings that would reduce government costs at local, state and federal levels. If we were to fulfill the Year of Jubilee as it’s proclaimed in Jesus’ sermon based on Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth, then we can affect public policy and help make “Thy will be done on earth.”

      With thanks to an online biblical commentary by our separated brethren, the Lutherans, I offer succinct analysis of the Lukan passage of Holy Scripture:

      “The biblical text cited in Luke 4:17-19 is not a single passage from Isaiah but a combination of Isaiah 61:1-2a and part of Isaiah 58:6. These two passages are probably combined here in Luke because in the Greek translation of the Old Testament the same word is found in both places. This word is aphesis, which appears when Jesus says he is ‘to proclaim release to the captives’ and also ‘to let the oppressed go free.’ Combining the two passages from Isaiah emphasizes this theme of ‘release’ that characterizes Jesus’ ministry. The same word appears elsewhere in Luke to describe people’s release (usually translated ‘forgiveness’) from sins. The word also appears frequently in Leviticus 25:8-55, which discusses the jubilee year, a ‘year of release’ meant to preserve justice in Israel through the fair and regular distribution of wealth and personal freedoms. Jesus’ sermon, therefore, implies that his ministry is one that liberates people from social and economic oppression, just as other pronouncements indicate that Jesus also frees people from sin’s oppression.” [see ]

      Social Security and Medicare need a simple change: (1) pay FICA and HI taxes on all earned income via payroll deductions or (Schedule SE) and/or
      (2) means test S.S. and Medicare benefits for the wealthy, who don’t need them to replace earnings–due to greater savings plus another investment (unavailable to most hourly employees), Health Savings Accounts (HSA).

  28. Shari, will you run for Congress – or better..President?? Please?

    This discussion has been fantastic. As always, many thanks to Monsignor for his excellent and thought-provoking posts. You are a gift to Christ’s Church.

  29. Does no one want to engage me about the savings for federal, state and local governments, which would be possible, if we were truly to exert our opposition to abortion, death penalty and war, as faithful Christians, in the public sphere?

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