Give Them That Old Time Religion: Socialism


“In recent years the range of such intervention has vastly expanded, to the point of creating a new type of state, the so-called ‘Welfare State.’ This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands by remedying forms of poverty and deprivation unworthy of the human person. However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoke very harsh criticisms of the Welfare State, dubbed the ‘Social Assistance State.’ Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good. “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending, In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them who act as neighbors to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need.”

Saint John Paul II, Centissimus Annus





Timothy Cardinal Dolan wrote a mainstream defense of the free market which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on May 22.  Go here to read it.  His word set off some “Catholic theologians” who believe that the current Pope will allow the Church to go full frontal socialist.  Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report gives us the details:

A number of theologians took aim at Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s defense of free markets and his warning about the dangers of collectivism’s inherent violation of human rights.

Cdl. Dolan wrote, “the answer to problems with the free market is not to reject economic liberty in favor of government control. The church has consistently rejected coercive systems of socialism and collectivism, because they violate inherent human rights to economic freedom and private property. When properly regulated, a free market can certainly foster greater productivity and prosperity.”

Charles J. Reid, Jr., Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas responded in the Huffington Post that Cardinal Timothy Dolan “misunderstands Church teaching on both economics and the role of the state.”

Reid labeled the free market a “sociopathic economy” and said that only “a reinvigorated state would bring to bear in the regulation of the marketplace a set of humane values” and “rebalance the marketplace so as to fairly serve the interests not of capital alone, but of all employees and all interested human beings. “

Joseph A. McCartin, director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University reportedly criticized Cdl. Dolan, saying “It is a shame that the Cardinal seems more interested in making Pope Francis’ statements seem less threatening to free-market-celebrating Americans than he is in applying the Pope’s critique to the American scene as it really exists.”

In the same piece in the National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Drew Christiansen S.J., professor of ethics and global human development at Georgetown University, also had some pointed remarks aimed at Cdl. Dolan. “Cardinal Dolan misses what Pope Francis sees so clearly,” he reportedly said. “The growth of inequality everywhere including the U.S. is a result of American-style capitalism and the financialization of the economy.”

He added pointedly that he believed, “too many well-to-do Catholics prefer getting their economic ethics from the Acton Institute rather than the Vatican.”

John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, reportedly said Dolan’s arguments “provide moral cover to free-market fundamentalists and anti-government zealots who preach a gospel of radical individualism that Catholic teaching rejects. Furthermore, he said “the cardinal veers close to echoing GOP talking points.”

Professor Mark Allman, chair of Religious & Theological Studies Department at Merrimack College, reportedly said Dolan’s piece “reflects a heavily individualistic understanding of morality.” He bemoaned that “there’s no mention of the need for structural change.”

And you wonder why so many kids come out of Catholic colleges as progressives.

For many on the Catholic left their Catholicism is the thinnest of wrappers over their leftism.  Their attempt to impose socialism is many things, but it is not Catholicism.


More to explorer


  1. Reid’s distinct idea is to double the minimum wage and promote the sort of trade unionism which has made General Motors what it is today.
    Christiansen fancies that ‘no holes barred American Capitalism’ nearly took down the world economy. But the most salient problems concerned the decay of underwriting standards at mortgage lenders (promoted by regulators and by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), the hypertrophy of the secondary mortgage market and the escalating market share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (who benefit from a regulatory matrix they influence through contacts in Congress and in the Democratic Party generally), the merger of deposits-and-loans banking with the capital markets (a phenomenon common in Europe, most notably in Germany’s ‘social-market economy’), thin capital cushions at American banks and securities firms (again, Europe’s were worse), and the failure of the regulatory apparatus to keep pace with technics of finance (notably with regard to the advent of credit-default swaps).
    The firms responsible were, again, deeply implicated in the political favor bank (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac), part and parcel of our most intensely regulated economic sector (American International Group), highly responsive to the social goals of Democratic administrations (Countrywide, Washington Mutual, Freddie Mac), or persuaded the government would rescue them (Lehman Brothers).
    Among perpetrator enterprises, the best examples of no-holes-barred American capitalism would be Wachovia, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns. All four are in very regulated sub-sectors. Standard procedures and extant institutions were adequate to finesse the problems which Wachovia (and Washington Mutual) posed and some minimal brokering was sufficient in the case of Bear, Stearns. Much of the trouble with processing a bankruptcy of Citigroup was that it was not an example of ‘American capitalism’ but a global firm with interests in the United States; two-thirds of its deposits were domiciled abroad.

    It does not seem to occur to Christiansen that there might be systemic dysfunctions which limit the capacity of the regulatory state to contain disasters.
    The rest of them just appear to be tossing about verbiage.

  2. Art Deco: “The rest of them just appear to be tossing about verbiage”.
    Absolutely anyone can call themselves a ‘Catholic theologian’ these
    days. Our bishops have abdicated any sort of oversight, and the mandatum
    required by Canon Law is routinely ignored. The old practice of issuing an
    imprimatur and a nihil obstat has been largely abandoned, even
    in the instance of theology textbooks, which Canon Law still demands.
    The Church our so-called ‘theologians’ are supposed to serve has no part in the
    credentialing industry. Rather, it is the gatekeepers of the graduate programs
    at our increasingly un-Catholic universities, the tenure committees at the
    same, and the publishers and editors of theology texts and journals. Those
    are now the people who determine who is a “Catholic theologian”. (Note that
    none of those people need necessarily be Catholic themselves). Bishops are
    not part of the equation.
    Ask yourself this– could I find a “Catholic theologian” who could argue for
    the virtues of abortion, “gay marriage”, pedophilia, eugenics, communism,
    indifferentism, or modernism? Yes, of course! It’s child’s play to find someone
    calling themselves a “Catholic theologian” who will deny the very divinity of
    Christ. Theology used to be called the “Queen of Sciences”, but these days
    she’s just a laughingstock.

  3. Art,

    Regarding FNMA/FHLMC political graft:

    9/18/2008: GWBush signed the housing and Fannie Mae bailout bill, after the Senate passed it with 72 votes. An underreported story is that Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow a vote on Republican Jim DeMint’s amendment to bar political donations and lobbying by FNM and FRE.

    1980-2007 FNM cash recipients (partial list):
    Brookings institute = $3,906,000
    ACORN = $797,000
    Rainbow Coalition = $660,000
    Center for Policy Alternatives = $635,000
    Congressional Black Caucus = $608,000
    Congressional Hispanic Caucus = $28,000
    Barrack Obama – $104,000

    Jesse Jackson’s Citizenship Education Fund, an offshoot of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, has received more than $500,000 from Fannie and Freddie since 1996. A decade ago Mr. Jackson accused Fannie and Freddie of discriminatory lending practices. Those charges of racism went away once the graft money started flowing. Groups on the left complain about “corporate welfare” all the time, but curiously nary a one has opposed the Fannie and Freddie bailout — which amounts to one of the biggest corporate welfare gifts in U.S. history.

    Fannie gave $10,000 to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, $10,000 to third-ranking House Democrat Rahm Emanuel, $5,000 to Barney Frank, $10,000 to Republican House whip Roy Blunt, $8,500 to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and $7,500 to Minority Leader John Boehner and . . . you get the picture.

    A year (2007) before the crisis, Freddie Mac’s foundation handed out $25 million to political groups, think tanks and other Beltway outfits, more than any other foundation in the country, according to the Washington Business Journal. Guess which foundation ranked number two? Fannie Mae gave out $21 million.

    Pacem, Art, “systemic dysfunctions which limit the capacity of the regulatory state to contain disasters.” Said “system dysfunction” is endemic to the administrative economy (not a free market) which exponentially magnified the disaster, if it were not the casue of the disater.

    Bankers, lobbyists and politicians blew up the economy. Then, they bailed out each other. Then, they created even more laws/policies/regulations impeding economic growth and further misallocating capital. The Fed, FDIC, FHA, FHLMC, FNMA, HMDA, HUD, SEC, UST, et al created “administrative” (e.g., housing, but also equities, bonds) markets with prices affected by government policies, not free market forces. Then, the lying rats blamed the “market.”

  4. Clintion,

    I aplogize in advance.

    My definition of theology: Making up stuff about God. Philosophy is making up stuff about stuff.

    I’ll stop now.

  5. The contradiction at the heart of liberalism (including classical liberalism) lies in its simultaneous assertion of popular sovereignty and universal human rights.

    Rousseau saw this very well. “Each man alienates, I admit, by the social compact, only such part of his powers, goods and liberty as it is important for the community to control; but it must also be granted that the Sovereign [the People] is sole judge of what is important,” for “ if the individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical.”

    As Theodore Roosevelt put it in 1910, “Every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.” Unlike Rousseau, Roosevelt did not enter into the all-important question of who decides.

  6. “The contradiction at the heart of liberalism (including classical liberalism) lies in its simultaneous assertion of popular sovereignty and universal human rights.”

    MPS, that’s just a tension, not a contradiction. The tension is reduced by adherence to limited government. Only people temped by majoritarian tyranny see a contradiction. And yes, near the end of his otherwise fine career Teddy Roosevelt was tempted by such.

  7. The Treasury department was in the summer of 2008 approached by an outside expert with a plan to re-capitalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through a debt-for-equity swap. They rejected it in favor of financing the deficits of the firms for years on end. Not to keep flogging this, but large slices of the public do not realize that bank holding companies have paid back over 95% of the money they were loaned through the Capital Purchase Program and paid dividends on the preferred stock in the interim. The losses to the Treasury were on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the auto industry components, and AIG; less than a 10th of those losses are attributable to AIG (the only money pit that was not a Democratic Party client).

  8. I don’t buy into the Clinton campaign’s dictum: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Cardinal Dolan may get the economy nearer right, but he wanders away on other issues. Those other Catholic thinkers listed here are misfiring probably at least partly because they (and we) have been misled by bishops and priests as to justice.

  9. I commented on this subject ages ago lol. There are two traditions within Catholic Social Teaching. Both condemn Marxism and statism. Both take Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII as foundational. However one emphasizes the need for the society ( I don’t want to localize this to the State) to intervene to assist ” the poor”,etc and build on this principle. this tradition received new life with Paul VI’s Populorum Progression ( Progress of People) and even by, a surprise for conservatives, Pope Benedict VI’s Caritas in Veritatis Those in this tradition question, sometimes vehemently, such phenomenon as ” lasses-faire capitalism”

    The other tradition however, focuses on Leo XIII’s pointed call for respect for private property, emphasize Pius XI’s principle of subsidiarity found in Quadragessimo Anno (On the Fortieth Year of Rerum Novarum), and St John Paul’s Centissimus Annus (on the One Hundreth Year of Rerum Novarum) which recognizes the dignity of the person, his/her freedom etc the dangers of over control etc. of economic forces-with the understanding that each person and the whole culture work in economic issues recognizing, dignity of persons, the common good, solidarity etc. in short there is no economy tha t does not serve people and does not work within moral principles based on human ecology/ natural law

    I see the two traditions merging in the future, however it will take some time. Both bear the truths of Catholicism, emphasizing certain for the time being, different elements.

  10. TomD said: “The tension is reduced by adherence to limited government. Only people temped by majoritarian tyranny see a contradiction. And yes, near the end of his otherwise fine career Teddy Roosevelt was tempted by such.”

    Mr. TomD,

    Here, here!

  11. Botolph

    Mgr Ronald Knox argued that “traditional Christianity is a balance of doctrines, and not merely of doctrines but of emphases. You must not exaggerate in either direction, or the balance is disturbed.”

    He offers some examples (less controversial, perhaps than Catholic Social Teaching, but illustrating your thesis), “An excellent thing to abandon yourself, without reserve, into God’s hands; … but, teach on principle that it is an infidelity to wonder whether you are saved or lost, and you have overweighted your whole devotional structure… Conversely, it is a holy thing to trust in the redeeming merits of Christ. But, put it about that such confidence is the indispensable sign of being in God’s favour, that, unless and until he is experimentally aware of it, a man is lost, and the balance has been disturbed at the opposite end;”

  12. In sum, the economy is too important to be left to the experts.

    Economics is politics: Economic arguments are used as often justification for whatever politicians want.

    The economists/experts did not foresee the financial crisis and have changed anything. The latest financial crisis tells us that we cannot leave the general welfare to central bank heads, economists and assorted ‘technocrats.’

    “Socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of Opinion — how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history.” – John Maynard Keynes
    “. . . an obsolete textbook which I know not only to be scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world . . .” – John Maynard Keynes on Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital”
    “I can be influenced by what seems to me to be justice and good sense; but the class war will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie.” – John Maynard Keynes

  13. You first problem was reading ANYTHING posted at the National Catholic Reporter. It is a rag that neither represents good Catholicism or good journalism. It is unworthy of lining the bottom of bird cages.
    The priests who work there should better spend their time hearing confessions and yeah that’s about it…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: