I’m not buyin’ Ryan

Which socialist thinker said this?

“Man should not consider his material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.”


“Whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor.”


“It is the hungry man’s bread that you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.”

One could take this in a number of directions. Some of my readers, for instance, have informed me that since homosexuality is “contrary to natural law” the state should have the power to punish homosex. One is tempted to ask them if they think the state should likewise have the power to punish the unnatural hoarding of wealth that is withheld from succoring the poor.

But I won’t go there since I don’t want illiterates (who already somehow divine from my writings that I approve of homosex on the basis of a single post, despite years of extremely clear words to the contrary) to now assume I am a communist. Instead, I simply want to direct your attention to Daniel Nichols, who points out passages from Sts. Thomas and Ambrose as he looks at Paul Ryan’s sudden and preposterous claim that his love affair with the thought of Ayn Rand is an “urban legend”. Riiiiight:

I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.”


Ayn Rand, more than anybody else, did a fantastic job explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism, and that, to me, is what matters most.”


The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

I’m quite happy to welcome any move to reject Rand and follow St. Thomas. But by “welcome” I mean, “Trust, but verify”. When a former embezzler walks into Church and immediately sets out to convince everybody to put him in charge of the finances, common sense suggests a prudent evaluation of his claims to be a Reformed Character. And when Ryan starts his proclamation of fealty to the thought of St. Thomas with a good solid lie that it is a baseless “urban legend” that Rand has been a huge influence on him, he does not inspire confidence that what he is saying about anything else is going to be honest either. This is, after all, a man who was, just this past October, addressing the Heritage Foundation using the Manichaean jargon of Rand to divide the human race into “Makers” and “Takers”. Reader Dan C (a doctor, not an out of work Occupy protester with a degree in puppetry) summarizes my own caution about Ryan’s sudden invocation of St. Thomas and his ridiculous pretense that Rand was never an influence:

[H]e used the vocabulary paradigm of Ayn Rand in his address to the Heritage Foundation in October in which he identified the world as divided into the “Makers vs. the Takers” and he insisted he was going to protect the Makers (John Galt-style men) against the Takers, which I guess is me and my family. As a “Taker” in his construct, he is a threat to me and my family. Takers, in this construct, is everyone south of the creative productivity of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. As such, not being a John Galt, I am declared his enemy and he is out to wage war on me and my family.

Perhaps he changed or maybe this was just an Academy-Award performance at Georgetown. Why should I believe him now after he issued a call to class war on me and my family in October?

In your commentary about some “lie,” I ask you, is the urban myth comment he made a “lie”? Why is he hiding the past association and clear intellectual influence (Maker vs. Taker) and enthusiastic admiration (as a speaker at an Ayn Rand conference)?

I need more than one new speech to trust the man who declared class war on me.

I am similarly dubious. When I hear Ryan a) ceasing to pretend that he was never an acolyte of Rand and b) doing more than paying lip service to Thomas and citing more than the word “subsidiarity” to give his rhetoric a veneer of Catholic respectability, I will take his Sister Souljah Moment with regard to Rand seriously. Till then, I’m not buyin’ Ryan. He seems to me to be a particularly odious epigone of the Randian Class Warrior against the weak, dressing his class warfare with a few rags from Catholic social teaching to make it look nice. When the Randian jargon goes and is replaced with actual Catholic social teaching beyond the bare repetition of the sacred word “subsidiarity” (interpreted to mean “individualism and hostility to the state”) I’ll start to trust that he is serious.

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  • Anthony

    Ryan is a politician which means it’s impossible to know what his true convictions are or whether he even has any.

    However I would like to point out that Ayn Rand did have -some- good points to say, although other writers have said it all clearer and more eloquently.

  • Sean O

    Ayn Rand did not have good points. This nonsense is repeated endlessly by so many, people like you, Fr Sirico, Rep Paul Ryan and countless radical market ideologues. The philosophy of Ayn Rand stands diametrically opposed to Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Her philosophy is death; it is anti-Christ, anti-Gospel. She despises the poor and the less fortunate calling them moochers and parasites. She advises to live only for oneself, make yourself your own god in an orgy of arrogance and greed bowing to no one but Mammon.

    She praised the ability of Walter Hickman to have no regard for others. Others people did not matter or exist for Hickman. He takes and does whatever he wants. For Ayn Rand he was a “superman”. He came to her notice during a trial of the century in the 1920s. He was a sociopath “famous” for kidnapping, killing and dismembering a young schoolgirl. He taunted her family and the police leave ring parts of her body scattered when he went to collect the ransom. THIS is the END of her pernicious, black, evil philosophy. Whittaker Chambers a writer for the National Review in the 1950’s summed up the message to the vast bulk of the people, “To the gas chambers go.”

    There is no but, no she was flawed but, but she was anti-communist. Hitler was anti-communist too, but we don’t go seeking bits of wisdom from him. Odious people and philosophies have NOTHING to offer people who would claim to be Catholic, Christian or just humane.

    • MClark

      Ayn Rand did believe in an objective reality. In Atlas Shrugged, some young relativist is arguing with the metallurgy baron saying something like “Its all relative, we construct our reality.” and the metallurgist responds “Go pour some steel.” This sentiment I will agree with.

      The rest of your sentiment, about Rand being fundamentally anti-Christian, I also agree with.

      • Dan C

        As a Catholic, I believe in transcendent reality. Central to that reality is that the hungry, and the prisoner, and the naked are Jesus Himself. This is a transcendent reality understood since at least the writing of the Gospels.

  • Cinlef

    Central to Ayn Rand’s philosophy the belief that caritas (if it exists) is inherently immoral….you literally cannot get more anti-Christian than that.

    • ivan_the_mad

      Indeed. Whittaker Chambers wrote in a review of the book that the “strenuously sterile world of Atlas Shrugged is scarcely a place for children”.


      Speaking to the book itself, I am in agreement with William F. Buckley, Jr., that “I had to flog myself to read it”.

  • Franciscan


    I agree that Ryan’s philosophical background is problematic and should give a Catholic reason for concern. I also agree that it appears Ryan is not being forthcoming about that background. However, have you looked at his actual budgetary proposals to see if Rand’s philosophy is evidenced in ways that would be unacceptable for a Catholic?

    That kind of information would be very helpful. I’d be very interested to see it. Are you aware of any smoking gun? What in the actual budgetary proposals themselves is immoral from a Catholic perspective? From what I have read at least (which is certainly not exhaustive), there’s no evidence of that.

    I have no interest in becoming a follower of Paul Ryan (or Ayn Rand). But I also know there are few actual choices when it comes to which budgetary proposals will ever see the light of day, let alone pass. As you’ve pointed out in other contexts, one does not always have the luxury of relying solely on the ritually pure.

    • ds

      This article from the Register gives some background and has a Q&A with the Bishop who came out against the Ryan budget; you may find it helpful.


      • As I have said elsewhere, the debate about theses issues the USCCB criticizes is less about Catholic Social Doctrine and more about political theory, viz., the structure and responsibilities of each level of governance in the US. After rereading the Bishop’s critique, I’m also thinking that the USCCB may not understand the language of “cut” with respect to budgetary items n DC. “Cut” generally refers to a reduction of the expected rate of growth. Unless I’m mistaken, which I don’t think I am on this point, the entitlements cuts are of this typical sort. This being the case, regardless of the more fundamental debate about the nature of the American state, the USCCB seems to be overreacting. It is a long jump from slowing the rate of growth of entitlements and morally unacceptable governance.

        • Sorry for the typos.

          • Franciscan

            Brother Gabriel,

            I had much the same reaction that you had. I thought the questions the NCRegister posed to the bishop were spot-on. They exposed the real genesis of his objections. It still all basically comes down to a prudential matter and bishops have no particular charism or expertise in the area of economic theory.

            It seems to me that many in the Catholic Church hitched a bit too closely to the Democrat party going back to when it was the party of immigrants (largely Catholic). It seems to me that the government has largely usurped the role of the Church in regard to charity and has perverted true charity in the process. It’s unfortunate.

        • Dan C

          “Cut” in this budget preserves the military and tax cuts for the wealthy. I think the budget is clearly understood.

          Government as run by conservatives for 30 years had no particularly affinity for charity. Poverty has existed and the government hasn’t usurped anything that the Church was doing. Rest assured, a world in which Rep. Ryan gets air time to present his views, warped and dangerous that they are, is not one eager to embrace Christian charity as described by any of the three quotes beginning this post.

          The illogic and inconsistency of conservative talking points is tremendous. At various time points in the past year, one hears that half of America doesn’t pay income taxes. Now we hear that these same taxes suck the oxygen out of the Christian ability to help the poor. But not for half the US!

          Let’s face it…just admit that you want the elderly in America as dependent and poor once again. That the heal care provided for them isn’t really their just due and should be taken away. That the poor do not need health care and should not get it. That lame child beggars would be good for us to see once more.

          In the Ryan proposal, these are the necessary sacrifices according to some folks in order that some may have prosperity.

          • Franciscan

            Non-sequitur: A conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.

          • Franciscan

            I have to agree about conservatives, though. They’re pretty much all the same — heartless and stingy. (Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?) The only reason they oppose higher taxes and more government programs is because of complete selfishness. Would that they were more like liberals in their generosity.


            (It has been said that a liberal is someone who is generous with other people’s money. While there are no doubt many exceptions, it seems that there’s more than a bit of truth in that sentiment.)

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              I hear ya, Franciscan. I’m a nicer guy than people who kill puppies with kittens.

              Did you have a point?

              • Franciscan

                I recognize you from my college days, Hezekiah. You’re the guy who always jumped in to start bar fights over a comment made to someone else. Gosh, it’s hard, but I’m going to have to resist accepting that tempting invitation. 😉

            • Dan C

              Go for it: what gets cut? Say who gets less. Ryan said “not the military.” He wants to cut medical assistance which primarily cares for children and pregnant women who are poor. He wants this nearly eliminated, with some fantastcal plans that faith-based donations would replace this. (and explain how this isn’t a death paanel on a large scale)

              He wants Social Security cut. Let’s then admit that independent elderly are to be a thing of the past. Medicare-cut.

              Also, understand that the health care you receive in its quality is largely dependent on Medicare and secondarily by medical assistance. Undermine this and much disappears in quality and quantity.

              What goes?

              My answer: cut the military dramatically. Raise taxes. Tax corporations.

              • Franciscan

                I’d like to see our overseas military presence/commitments significantly lessened. Seems a bit reminiscent of the Roman Empire. Too far flung, too expensive.

                But I think you were already answered more than sufficiently below by a couple of commenters, so I won’t reinvent the wheel.




                (more below)

                • Franciscan

                  (continuing from above)

                  That said, at least the military is and always has been one of the most fundamental roles of government: provide for the common defense. Conversely, the idea of the state creating all of these (well-intended) programs and funding them under force of law is not. You could gut the entire defense budget and still be left in a financial mess because of entitlements. The whole thing is a mess. Of course, there’s a special irony in the fact that the liberal penchant for abortion has played a large role in dooming the very entitlement system they want. You need a lot more young folks than older folks for that pyramid scheme to work.

                  And, while Ryan’s Republican budget proposals no doubt are wanting, at least he put one forth. Where is the Democrat budget for us to examine? They haven’t brought one for three years now. It’s not too hard to figure out why.


                  Better to leave responsibility at the lower levels to the greatest degree possible where more face to face interaction occurs between donor and recipient. Where more actual good, more eternal good, is done.

  • Frank Sales

    Rand’s morality is anathema to Catholic social teaching but government redistribution of wealth carries its own moral dangers.

    On a side note, if I save one year’s income (bury it in the ground) as a rainy day/emergency fund, am I committing a sin? I’m asking honestly, not to prove some point.

  • Chris

    “Atlas Shrugged” as a Christmas present…what a paradox!

    • Dan C

      I thought it fabulously ironic.

      • ds

        I heard he once gave a girlfriend “He’s Just Not That Into You” for Valentines Day.

  • MikeTheGeek

    “Man should not consider his material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need,”
    is not quite the same as
    “The government should not consider a man’s material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to sieze them without hesitation and distribute to others whom the government decides to be worthy.”

  • Dan C

    Ryan is clever and a propagandist wrote his essay. He used a quote from Dorothy Day as a core support for his budget. Somewhere, a propagandist is reading Dorothy Day and sending out memos for her inclusion among conservative thought, for she shows up on Acton websites, Anchoress posts, and Crisis magazine articles and their’s is clear attempt at her co-option.

    About the use of the Dorothy Day propaganda by conservatives: Good luck. This budget, preserving the military budget down to the dime and cutting social services would be hardly supported by Dorothy Day. Ms. Day is not someone easily co-opted.

    Mr. Ryan has a serious policy/philosophical paper presented to Heritage Foundation. He has to defend it. Claims to refuge under the penumbra of Thomistic philosphical foundations are not going to erase that very serious presentation at Heritage. Thinkers and scholars who immediately genuflected when he said such show be a little more careful and studied. From First Things to the Mirror of Justice, people ran to the defense of Ryan as if prompted by the same internal memo, with the same talking points, none of whom really backed off that unthinking propaganda (which is unusual for such scholars). Mr. Ryan is an important thinker and should be considered for his works and thoughts. He has some points to answer.

    My suspicion is that Mr. Ryan was most honestly revelatory about his foundational philosophy when speaking to co-belligerents. (I am one facing his belligerence.) Let’s discuss his “Makers vs. Takers” talk. That is a philosophical discussions I would love to see defended in Catholic theosophy.

  • Mark S (not for Shea)

    “If you have two shirts, one belongs to you and one belongs to the man with no shirt.”

    It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

    Any Rand had all the morality and compassion of a wampa who just picked up the scent of tauntaun.

  • This is a test to see if patheos is letting me post here.

  • Mark, I believe that this one of your weak points. For you, some people seem to get thrown in the toxic pile, from which they never seem to exit. Out of the blue, we’ll see a post implying that we need to stay away from Robert Sungenis. Or it might be Glenn Beck. Or too many people follow Rush Limbaugh. Or Michael Voris is leading conservative Catholics to the Cafeteria. It’s not that I disagree with you about any of these people’s failings. It’s how you seem to treat these people. It’s as if you have a personal vendetta against them.

    For some reason, Andrew Sullivan has escaped being tossed into that toxic people pile. You’re willing to admit that he’s insane on pelvic issues and Sarah Palin, but he might actually have something cogent to say.

    If only I could enter into your mind, and viciously assassinate Paul Ryan with a sharp spoon, r*pe his dog and sire kittens. Or maybe I would wave my magic wand and transpose Paul Ryan with Andrew Sullivan.

    This ad hominem method of thought is toxic in itself. I’ve wanted to email the following link to you, but I feel certain that you’ll hit the delete button either literally or figuratively as soon as you encounter the name Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan appears to be in the toxic people pile.

    It seems to be a futile waste of time to dissect Paul Ryan’s mind in order to figure out how much Ayn Rand has infected his mind. Yes, I would agree that a person’s philosophy impacts a person’s acts and thinking, but this seems less important right now.

    The more important thing is whether what Paul Ryan said is true. It doesn’t matter whether Bozo the Clown said it. IS IT TRUE?

    Is it possible to blank out the name of Paul Ryan for a moment and read the following:

    Because I would rather discuss the merits of Paul Ryan’s input on CST and how the laity (including Catholic politicians) can engage in discussions with the US Bishops on the prudential application of Catholic teaching. At that point, who cares whether you’ve bought or sold Paul Ryan? The idea is far more profitable to discuss.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      I’d believe your last paragraph if you hadn’t written the first two.

      • You’re right. It really wasn’t necessary for me to include my pet peeves, and it detracted from the more important message. But we all depend on a little charity from readers that they’ll separate the bad from the good. Some more than others…

        • Sean O

          Ayn Rand personally and her philosophy are thoroughly odious. Paul Ryan claims that her philosophy is FOUNDATIONAL for him. She is the main reason he got into politics. Mr Ryan was her apostle and he let people know it. He was the one to say all this until now.

          Then he got heat from the bishops and others. Now he is suggesting that she is just someone he has read, no big deal for him. Thomas Aquinas is his real influence. This is clearly not true. He is lying here.

          The US budget is out of whack. It has been for decades. GW Bush pushed the problem into overdrive with 2 wars of choice and supporting or affirming a radical, uncheck Capitalism which ran the US & world economy off the rails.

          To begin to address the problem, Mr Ryan puts the burden of fixing this mess on the people least able to handle additional financial burden or stress. He keeps all the tax breaks for the very wealthiest Americans and makes no cuts or adjustments in the Colossal Defense Budget (larger that the rest of the worlds defense budgets combined). This is patently unfair and mean spirited.

          Welfare programs need reform in their reform in their structure and practices. They do not need a cut especially in this brutal economy. Mr Ryan is unconcerned with improving programs for the needy. They are already a small portion of the budget. He also fails to look at cleaning up Medicare & Social Security which are mostly middle class entitlements. These two massive programs need to be means tested and special deals to corporate giants in the insurance & pharmacological fields need to be radically cut out as well as much other waste & fraud. Ryan does not look here. For him the poor & needy, moochers, takers, parasites will bear the burden. Like Rand, Ryan essentially says eff them.

          “By their deeds you shall know them.” Ayn Rand would look at Paul Ryan with her dead eyes and cruel smile and know her prodigy.

        • ds

          Out of the blue, we’ll see a post implying that we need to stay away from Robert Sungenis.

          Why on earth would anyone not run like heck from Sungenis?

    • Mark Shea

      Er, forgive me but… what?

    • There are far more serious problems with the Public Discourse article than the name “Paul Ryan.”

      For starters, the first, italicized sentence seems intended to be a thesis statement, but it consists of two assertions unproven, even largely unaddressed, in the article.

      The “trip down memory lane” section functions as, I don’t know, some combination of special pleading and ad hominem — the bishops criticizing Ryan’s budget are wrong now because the bishops — sorry, the “Catholic leaders” who criticized welfare reform were wrong in 1995.

      The hagiographic take on Ryan’s Georgetown speech et seq. — whereby he “richly illustrated the role of the Catholic layman immersed in the ‘res socialis'” — is a bit rich, too, though perhaps understandable given the other recent examples of politicians explaining how their faith influences their policies.

      • This is the sort of discussion we should be having. Thanks, Tom. Your points are well taken.

        How about the substance of the Ryan proposal itself?

        Is it possible to reduce or eliminate social programs at the federal level and see it as a net positive for the poor? Should we roll back the welfare reform of the mid-nineties, or is that a bad idea as the authors assert?

        Is it necessary that the government implement CST? Could it be that the government is crowding out those social institutions which would be most effective in interfacing with poor and assisting the poor?

        • Sean O

          I’m sorry did I miss something? Have we run out of poor or needy or people in desperate straits? Damn the govt hogged all the needy and left no one for generous small government types to help.

          Why can such nonsense pass muster with so many conservative, “taxation is forced charity. Forced harity is not charity,” libertarian types? I guess because they want the world to reflect their worldview no matter what the facts.

          Note: you can do two things at once. You can try to reform/improve/incentivize govt welfare AND at the same time engage in religious, private or non-governmental charity. There are plenty of poor to go round for all the would be helpers or givers. Jesus was onto this which is why he said, “the poor you will always have with you.”. And the Randian Capitalism we have be practicing here for the last 30 years is hollowing out the middle class and pushing more people to the margin every year.

          I a word, let’s stop wording about govt welfare leaving no one to help. The needy are plentiful.

  • Mark Gordon

    Mark, this is a brilliant post. Thanks.

  • Peter Rother

    Not. The. Government. Not. The. Force. Of. A. Gun.

    • Sean O

      This. Is. Not. A. Real. Argument.

      Simplistic nonsense. Are you against all taxation or just that portion that may help the needy? Is govt assistance the one thing restraining your generosity to charities?

      • MikeTheGeek

        “…the portion that may help the needy…” Sorry. If you want to tell me that I have an obligation to assist the needy, then fine – you’ve told me the obvious. If you make the assumption that means I have to grovel to the coercive practices of a pack of oppressive government apparatchiks because they are God’s Anointed for establishing cradle to grave dependency in order to maintain their position, kindly don’t tell me that’s the Catholic Position.

        The Church in the USA complains that She is at risk from the overreaching tentacles of an authoritarian State. I can’t help but wonder if She would be facing that risk today had She not desided to conflate “Christian Charity” with “Government Programs” some decades ago. Quit usinf Jesus as an excuse for Statism.

  • Dan C

    “But there’s little doubt that large-scale federal assistance to low-income households with single parents and dependent children has contributed to the destruction.”

    This is a foundational statement continually asserted in varied forms. It is a corollary of “more welfare means more poor people.”

    I await proof on that.

    • Dan C

      This is from the Public Discourse article.

  • Dan C

    There are many things to talk about. First, it seems an arm of Catholicism wants to move the policy implications of CST toward a more complete embrace of laissez-faire economics. Let’s get it on. Michael Novak has been trying to reset that goalpost since “And Justice For All” was written by the USCCB in the mid 1980’s. I would be once again willing to engage in this discussion, but there is something necessary to begin this conversation.

    Why should I trust my antagonists and his co-belligerents? I want to start with this. Trust is a complex relational descriptor. It involves “relationship” and “give and take.” It is a dynamic that will require me to consider that the former belligerent has either something he wants from me and a common goal or that something even more substantial has occurred in the relational dynamic. In the case of Mr. Ryan, why should I trust him? 6 months ago, I was the epitome of the grand enemy of an Ayn Rand novel, an immoral creature, an inferior being in the life of her books. I am curious as to why now things have changed.

    This second question, core to the ability to even begin addressing the first question, is similar to all the varied “why can’t we get along” questions of recent months on conservative blogs. Why trust in an era of belligerence? To avoid the betrayal that occurs when one minute, in order to get some concession for tax cuts to the rich, “we need to talk,” and in the next instance, I’m a “Taker.”

    Trust is important preliminary to the debate. On a matter of this import, I need to consider that the other individual may have some goals greater than self-interest. Paul Ryan needs to demonstrate that and the “What? I’ve always been Thomistic. I’ve never dabbled in Ayn Randian magic” is more than a product of “Etch-a-Sketch” political maneuvering, aided and abetted by some conservative scholars on the web who should know better.

    Trust is going to require the chief belligerents of the culture wars, including some Cardinals and bishops, to retire their lances. The culture wars are very very hot, if not in the nation, among Catholic co-religionists. Paul Ryan and I may only have the same pope. I may actually have read Benedict’s encyclicals.

    • I don’t understand why you consider yourself a “taker”.

      My understanding that a “moocher” was a politician, and a “taker” was someone who benefits from the “the government’s taking from producers”. By this, I am talking about people who make it their career to be on the government dole…not the honest people who are trying hard to get ahead or find a job, etc., as I consider these folks “temporarily detained” producers.

      But maybe that’s me.

  • Dan C

    No…in the Makers vs. Takers view in Ayn Rand, those who live off the backs of the “greats” are Takers. The “greats” who are the Makers create the opportunity for those impertinent ants on the factory floor who demand high wages or benefits, who should be just thrilled that the Makers have created an opportunity to even earn a wage. The Makers are personified by the “John Galts” in her novel, great men who “create wealth” without whom the world will fall apart.

    Honest people who work are accorded no moral value in the world of Ayn Rand. In all fairness, most people who have needed welfare are actually all people who are honest workers. It is propaganda courtesy of The Great Communicator to think otherwise. Most people want to work who are on welfare. Very few, despite the image created by The Great Communicator, who receive welfare are detained from employment as you said.

    But in the world of Ayn Rand, from which this division of humanity is born, Makers are those from whom all wealth and blessings of society flow, and they are constantly “oppressed” by the demands of the Takers, those folks whose very livelihood depends on the Makers grand creative and productive endeavors.

    This was Paul Ryan philosophy in October 2011.

  • M. Forrest

    A related article, coming at this issue from a somewhat different angle:


    • Dan C

      Enamoured as conservatives are with Dorothy Day quotes, let me help you out with one:

      “We need to change the system. We need to overthrow, not the government, as the authorities are always accusing the Communists of conspiring to teach to do, but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering in the whited sepulcher of New York.”-Dorothy Day 

      • Dan C

        Let me help with another when discussing her opinion of the decline in vocations and attendance in the Church in 1971:

        “I think it’s a result of the corruption in the institutional church, through money and through their acceptance of this lousy, rotten system.” (the system would be the Church’s acceptance of capitalism and usury).

        • Dan C

          Conservatives should be loathe to quote Dorothy Day, especially in favor of a budget that preserves the military at the expense of social services. This she attacks specifically at many points over decades.

          Keep trying with rewriting Catholic social theory. Novak struggled with that in the 1980’s. As long as Robert George will argue for legal protection for traditional marriage with the philosophical basis that the law and governmental leadership has pedantic value, and that government is a “good” and instrument of the community, as Benedict has noted, the government will have social responsibilities. These foundational aspects are directly attacked by Day as an anarchist in many columns through the years.

          Conservative capitalists should find no succor in quotes of Dorothy Day.

      • M. Forrest

        I’m not sure why you’re so heavily focused on Dorothy Day. Your focus when reading the article to which I linked is unduly narrow. In the context of the article (in regard to the quote of Day), I took the point to be that one can come to such conclusions (about the state inhibiting freedom and personal responsibility) quite apart from being a disciple of Ayn Rand.

        I also thought the quotes from Robert Royal and Bishop Muench were interesting and enlightening. It seems to me that a good number of Catholic are under the unfortunate misimpression that the DNC’s economic policies and priorities are virtually synonymous with Catholic social teaching. People like Dr. Maguire spread that error.

        My reaction to the article is here: http://thepalmhq.blogspot.com/2012/05/cant-public-radio-find-any-catholics.html?showComment=1336569865031#c7471662347315740451

        So I won’t reproduce it further in this combox.

        • Bob LeBlanc wrote, “Could it be that the government is crowding out those social institutions which would be most effective in interfacing with poor and assisting the poor?”

          And Sean O followed up, “Note: you can do two things at once. You can try to reform/improve/incentivize govt welfare AND at the same time engage in religious, private or non-governmental charity.”

          I think these hit the nail on the head for me and highlight why I think the Dorothy Day citation opposing Social Security at its inception is perfectly ad rem in this discussion. The poor we will have always with us and we have a responsibility to help them. But too many Catholics have bought into the mindset that this help should come primarily from the federal government and that any suggestion otherwise is somehow contrary to Catholic social teaching. Yet it is a fact that these federal programs were strongly resisted by Catholic leaders when they were first proposed. They warned of negative consequences to the Church’s mission itself and their warnings have proved prescient.

          As the situation exists now, no serious proposal to balance the federal budget can avoid cutting social programs such as Social Security and Medicare. That’s just basic math. Even if you cut the defense budget to zero, you’re still not going to balance the federal budget:


          It’s cruel to create among the poor a dependency on federal programs that simply aren’t going to be there for them at their present levels. We’ve made promises we cannot keep. We cannot afford them. Period. Better to wean them off of those programs and help them find the needed assistance elsewhere. Better for them in the long run, too, since government programs in general and especially federal government programs have little to no redemptive value; they stand little chance of actually benefiting the poor in ways that matter most.

          But there is IMO a genuine weakness in the conservative political presentation. Conservative politicians too often do not acknowledge explicitly enough the real plight of the poor and then propose other solutions, whether that’s encouraging private organizations or government help at lower levels. It leaves them open to the criticism, leveled here and elsewhere, that they don’t really care about the poor at all. I would like to see Paul Ryan and other conservatives be far more explicit about what is to be done to help the poor, while they are at the same time talking about the needed cuts in federal programs.

  • I’m sorry to say that in so far as Paul Ryan is not Ron Paul, none of this post came as a shock.

  • Paying your taxes is grovelling to a pack of apparatchiks? I’ll ignore that you can’t act grovel to coercive practices.

    You know, it’s funny. You don’t talk like a Catholic. In fact, you sound just like every hardcore Objectivist i ever knew.

    Reckon why?

  • The Feds should just get out of the business of social services (and a whole lot more, IMO) and let that money go straight to the states and local jurisdictions where it will be better applied as they are more up to speed on the problems of their respective areas. Churches and other houses of worship should also be involved, as many of the are already. If the money goes to the fed first (as it already does), they will take their cut, apply it somewhere else (as usual) and there will be less of it for the local communities.
    States and counties, along with religious organisations, not the central goverment, should take care of their own.

    • [ The Feds should just get out of the business of social services (and a whole lot more, IMO) and let that money go straight to the states and local jurisdictions where it will be better applied as they are more up to speed on the problems of their respective areas. ]

      I agree. As I asked in my blog posting linked above challenging Dan Maguire, how has helping the poor become coextensive in so many Catholic minds with federal government programs, to that point that you’re accused of being less than Catholic if you hold that position that the federal government really doesn’t need to be in that business?

      Many Catholic leaders were opposed to these federal programs when they were being created, precisely because they saw that they would negatively impact the Church’s mission. And they manifestly have. Where are the Catholic leaders now who have the courage and vision to say to federal governments, as did Bishop Aloisius Muench in the face of the New Deal, you need to back off because “The poor belong to us. . . . We will not let them be taken away”?

      Well, they have been taken away and now we’re faced with this bizarre spectacle of Catholics touting federal government social programs as a core component of authentic Catholic social teaching.

      I find Ryan’s reliance on Randian philosophy to be problematic and his attempts to downplay that to be disingenuous. But let’s not go to the opposite extreme–as it would seem some have here–that a Catholic who thinks that federal government social programs are not the best way to help the poor is automatically under suspicion as a closet Objectivist.