The Patheos Party

Pope of Politics

      [13] And one of the multitude said to him: Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me. [14] But he said to him: Man, who hath appointed me judge, or divider, over you?

Luke 12: 13-14


I long have thought that it as much a mistake to make one’s religion one’s politics as it is to make one’s politics one’s religion.  Religion and politics often deal with different spheres of human activity and the tactics that work in one frequently do not work in the other.  For example, compromise in matters of religious principle is completely unacceptable to most believers, while compromise is ever bread and meat in politics.  My Catholicism informs my politics but does not provide me a political platform, something that Catholicism is simply not meant to do.  Traditionally the Church has left almost all political issues up to the wisdom of lay Catholics, being content to enunciate very broad principles to guide human societies.

Some people differ and think that it would be great if this nation had a Catholic political party.  I think such a development would be an unmitigated disaster for both the Church and America.  Father Longenecker at his Patheos blog has described what a Truly Catholic Political party would stand for. Here are his comments and my fisk:

The TCP would be pro life and pro family. Economic, educational and social policies would be formulated to support children and the traditional family because that is the best environment in which children can flourish. The TCP would always be in favor of small government, local solutions and small property holders.

Virtually every political movement in this country has claimed that what they are proposing will benefit kids and families.  Hope springs eternal, but I don’t see how one could be simultaneously in favor of educational and social policies to support children and the traditional family and yet also support small government, let alone local solutions and small property holders, whoever they are.  Government is a blunt interest and it is rarely wielded with rapier precision, especially when a laundry list of contradictory policies are embraced as highest priorities.

The TCP would support the poor and the workers against big business, big banks and big government, but the TCP would also support the small business owner and entrepreneur from the tyranny of big unions.

I am certainly no fan of big anything, including, increasingly, Big Religion, but I wonder why the poor and “workers”, I personally know very few adults who do not work, need special protection against Big Businesses.  Big Unions certainly are not on my “heart” list, but they rarely are a factor with most small businesses, and entrepreneurs usually are smart enough to start new enterprises in “right to work” states.

The TCP would support a living wage rather than a minimum wage. Banks and credit card companies would be limited in the amount they can loan to families. For low earners the living wage would be subsidized by a heavier tax on those in very high income brackets.

Leaving aside the definition of  a living wage, who would pay it?  Assuming that government is going to coerce businesses to pay it, how does that accord with this party being in favor of small government?  As for limiting the amount that families can borrow, why?  I do quite a bit of bankruptcy, and it is only a small minority of American families that can’t handle the debts they incur through borrowing.  Shouldn’t we let them decide such questions for themselves?

Ah, the living wage would be subsidized by soak the rich taxes, a funding technique that has never worked in the long and lamentable chronicle of human folly.  The rich tend to be clever, or rather can hire very clever people, and they will find a way to get around such taxes, as the Kennedys, for example, did, leaving aside the negative impact on economic growth of such taxes.

“Married couples would receive more tax deductions. Abortion would be outlawed.”

Abortion would be outlawed.  How?  This party would divide the abortion foes between the Catholic party and the Republican party, leaving the pro-abort Democrat party to new levels of power against a now divided opposition.  I doubt that the Democrats with their new found power would be any more in favor of enhanced tax exemptions for married couples than they are now.

The TCP would support subsidies for large families and a wage for mothers who stay at home to raise children. This would be paid for by a “population tax” on manufacturers of contraceptive products.

I confess this proposal did bring a smile to my face, at least from the proposed funding source.  However, subsidies for large families never have worked and paying people to raise their own kids, what welfare started as, is completely wrongheaded.

The TCP would support universal, locally funded government health care just as it would support local school districts, local town councils and local governments providing essential services. Health care would be funded from local taxation which provides a local health insurance program–getting rid of the corruption of big insurance in league with big hospitals and health care monopolies.

No doubt local health care would work about as well as most local schools.  Leaving aside the fact that a local tax in most sections of the country simply could not generate sufficient revenue for universal health care, we would have the additional problem of how health care paid for from thousands of local systems would interact with each other, especially since local health care would doubtless have widely varying rules and regulations.  The paper work increase from this idea would be a bureaucrat’s dream come true and a doctor’s nightmare.

The TCP would encourage locally based self help programs for those on the margins of society. Every effort would be made to empower the powerless rather than building a dependency culture through endless handouts.

This would seem to be a role for private charity rather than the government.  It is not a good sign that the Church sponsored Campaign for Human Development never seems to miss an opportunity to jump into bed with Caesar, while supporting left wing groups that specialize in demanding ever more taxpayer largesse.

The TCP would support all that is local in its foreign policy and defense policy. National borders would be defended. Genuine immigrants would be welcomed and integrated into local communities. Foreign policy would support local governments and local solutions abroad while not interfering militarily.

There is very little that is local about either foreign or defense policy by definition.  The Church has not seemed very hot about borders lately and the policy of the Church regarding immigration, at least to Western countries, can be summed up in the phrase, “Y’all come.”  Foreign policy that is not backed up by military force is only of utility when dealing with nations that are basically friendly to us like Canada, and of absolutely no use elsewhere, as the Obama administration has amply demonstrated.  Weakness abroad is merely an invitation to aggression and very big wars in the future.

The TCP would support regulation of a free enterprise economy only to limit monopolies, administer common sense safety and environmental controls, encourage competition and support the small entrepreneur against the Goliaths of industry.

A classic example of the exceptions devouring the rule.

The TCP would use local and state taxation to provide free education and training so that all young people are ready and trained for the workplace without incurring vast debt.

Sayonara small government.  You suckers who paid your student loans can go pound sand.

In other words, the TCP would have a preferential option for the poor while also encouraging free enterprise. It would look after the vulnerable, sick, elderly, weak and marginalized while not enabling a dependency culture.

Yep, and FDR ran on a balance the budget platform in 1932.  Good intentions are no substitute for resolutely ignoring that the social teaching of the Church has largely been bastardized since Vatican II into screaming for Caesar to throw more money at every problem imaginable.  Attempts to find a third way politically by Catholics usually end up with a very long welfare state tail, wagging  a puny social conservative mutt.








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  1. The Patheticos Train once again steams into the Abyss of the Ridiculous!

    In practice, defining the term “living wage” perpetually begs one unanswerable question after another. But, but, a “living wage” isn’t a wage that one can live on? Okay, by this definition, a “living wage” for a single man is going to be a different wage than a wage for a man who has a family to support. And the “living wage” for a man supporting a large family is going to be different from that of a man supporting a small family and so on and so on. By this rubric, an employer would have to pay a wages based upon based upon a worker’s financial obligations as opposed to what is marketable and therefore, sustainable. No employer can stay in business being guided by such a standard. And thus, he would not be able to pay any wage, “living” or otherwise.

    One of things St. Pope John Paul II brilliantly harped on was that a person could never be used as an object. But yet, much of what has passed for Catholic “social justice” is based upon treating the poor as objects of the pity of the better off. Good intentions notwithstanding, it is still treating people as objects and not as persons. This is one thing the welfare state has exploited to a tragic end.

    A “truly” Catholic approach to politics and economics is to understand and instill the “truth” about these things. After all, Catholicism is about truth, right? This will do more serve all, especially the poor, than the fantasy-based socialism Fr. Longenecker is promoting, albeit unintentionally, under the guise of a “Truly Catholic Party”.

  2. Very good Donald. You are correct. The entire idea of a Catholic Political Party is unworkable. Politics is about providing security to the populace and making it possible for the populace to care for themselves. The problem is that they are never satisfied. The major weakness is that two classes of folks are advantaged in politics: the rich and the poor. Middle income people are left out in the cold. The rich buy favors from the politicians with money; the poor buy favor with votes. The rich end up paying less taxes than they should; the poor end up with more stuff than they need and are encouraged to stay poor under government care. The middle class end up paying most of the taxes and getting few benefits. If a new party is needed in this country it is a middle class party. This is the reality of our present situation. This is what Catholics need to understand. It is a matter of justice and to understand that charity is being used in an uncharitable way to keep folks under control and voting for the powers that be. Lot’s more could be said about this. Please take a whack at it if you will.

  3. When Spain was in the process of re-instituting parliamentary institutions, the Primate putatively had a sit down with starboard politicians and asked them to refrain from setting up a ‘Christian democratic’ party. Where a society is Catholic by default (as the United States was protestant by default 60 years ago), you do not need a Catholic party because all parties of consequence pay their respects to certain baselines. Where it is not, you run the danger of manufacturing an ‘official’ Catholic political economy and of allowing politicians to taint the Church. The long-term decay of Christian democracy in Europe (and its failure in Latin America) should be instructive to Fr. Longenecker. The colonization of the American Church by the social work industry (which manifests itself in the stream of inane position papers which arrive courtesy the U.S. Catholic Conference and umpteen diocesan chanceries), should also instruct him.

  4. I suspect most metropolitan regions would provide an adequate actuarial pool for a public health care plan (but that’s not my trade). The problem you get would concern it’s ambo of operation. Sophisticated medical services of the sort which are dispensed by university hospital complexes are commonly available in dense settlements of around 550,000 and above. Many states have no such settlements, so would have to resort to cumbersome interstate compacts for such an insurance program to provide general access within the ambo of the authorities enacting the program.

  5. Talk of setting up a Catholic party in the United States is equivalent to talk of restoring the Stuarts to the British throne: an exercise to be engaged in sometime after the third beer and in between discussions of the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl and what you’d do if you won the Powerball jackpot.

  6. [M]uch of what has passed for Catholic “social justice” is based upon treating the poor as objects of the pity of the better off. Good intentions notwithstanding, it is still treating people as objects and not as persons. This is one thing the welfare state has exploited to a tragic end.

    That’s because it’s more liberal/progressive than it is Catholic.

  7. Talk of setting up a Catholic party in the United States is equivalent to talk of restoring the Stuarts to the British throne: an exercise to be engaged in sometime after the third beer and in between discussions of the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl and what you’d do if you won the Powerball jackpot.

    Only to the extent that talking of setting up any alternative political in this country has that character. The ossification of party competition in this country is a wonder. The really peculiar discussions have the character string ‘Social Reign of Christ the King’ in them. (Thomas Droleskey, I’m looking at you).

  8. Clerics should stick to preaching the Gospel of conversion and repentence instead of pontificating on social justice and political programs. Otherwise, let them give up their Roman collar and become the dishonest politicians whom they deride.

  9. I’ve read Fr. Longenecker’s yarns and tongue-of-cheek tales for years. I always thought he was a gifted writer and enjoyed very much his blogs. I don’t visit his blog very much anymore. It is painful to read his writing since he went over to the Patheos side and assumed the servile task of cleaning up after Francis’ loose speech. Hope I am wrong, and that Fr. Longenecker is joyously singing the praises of Francis, but I feel Fr. Longenecker has allowed himself to be exploited, Patheos being the tyrant. Fr. Longenecker is a husband and father. I need not say more. By being exploited, if indeed he is, Fr. Longenecker would have been forced to begin to worship the Beast. The Catholic Party idea, or tongue-in-cheek yarn, evolve into pathos as it regards Fr. Longenecker. I personally think he is scads better than what his writings have reflected over the past several years.

    As far as the idea of the Catholic Party, insasmuch is it resembles Marxism, Benedict said that the root of the error of Marxism is Marx’s conception of human nature. “He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favorable economic environment.

    There is no perfect kingdom except God’s Kingdom.

  10. ..subsidized by a heavier tax on those in very high income brackets.
    –Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Hmm, I don’t want to endorse coveting my neighbor’s goods. That’s the principled reason I oppose soak-the-rich schemes, no matter to which good purpose the proponents claim they’ll put the money taken.

    Others have pointed out the practical reasons such a scheme will fail at its stated purpose but even if the scheme were to succeed, it still violates a Commandment of our God.

  11. There is an old political saying that provides considerable quidance in this matter ” It is better to have them inside the tent p—ing out than outside the tent p—ing in.” This would be more effective even today if our tepid ordinaries would speak up a little more forcefully on issues and tie them to the Catholic members who stray from the moral course.

  12. Right now both the inside and the outside of the tent are flooded by uric acid and its more solidified and odiferous companion. It is time to apply the sodium hypochlorite and burn away the excrement with a very caustic pH solution.

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