On the convenient, self-serving evasion of Catholic Social Teaching

On the convenient, self-serving evasion of Catholic Social Teaching August 15, 2011

Required reading for today, from The Distributist Review: Three Strategies for Evasion, Thomas Storck.

It (conveniently!) confirms many of my own intuitions about “dissent-talk” in Catholic circles.


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  • I couldn’t get the link to work. But I’d like to say again, Catholic social teaching applies to the
    Catholic state, not to the secular state. To strengthen the secular state in any way is to uncrown Christ the King and to fatten the wolves that are eating our children. Vatican II finally caved in, turned our backs to the English martyrs, but that will be fixed, as God wills.

    • Chris C.

      It does seem to me that a strict adherence to Catholic social teaching presupposes a Catholic state or at the very least a nation and people which largely adhere to the Catholic Faith. I don’t know why anyone would want to apply social teaching apart from the rest of the Catholic faith. In an age in which Christ and His Church are ignored, hated and villified, why would we think that somehow we can isolate one aspect of our Faith and assume it would be used for the glory of Christ? If all we accomplish is the empowerment of the secular state how have we served Our Lord?

      • brian martin

        So let me see if I understand…. One must be Catholic to see the benefit of care for your neighbor, about economic justice? Or are you saying it is meaningless for the church, and especially the Pope to attempt to be a moral voice…a “Shepherd” so to speak, to not only the faithful…but to the whole world?

    • Ryan Klassen

      Sounds like a fourth strategy for evading Catholic social teaching: only binding on Catholics in Catholic states. Which would be where exactly?

  • Anne

    These are principles of social justice, catholic with a small c as well as a big one. They apply everywhere.

  • Chris C.

    Catholic social teachings don’t exist in a vacuum nor are they to be applied or understoond apart from the Faith as a whole. Read Quas Primas which established the Kingship of Christ as a Dogma of the Faith. It pertains to matters social, political, and moral. Without Christ as King our efforts are in vain. Principles of social justice do apply everywhere only because the rule of Christ extends everywhere. Christ is Lord and King of all including in the rule of the governements of the earth, which sin against God by not affirming His rightful rule. Christ is to be preached and brought to our world whole and entire not sliced up into pieces. One does not get to apply the social teaching of the Church apart from the rest of revelation. Not according to Pius 11th or any of the other Pontiffs who have written on the social doctrine of the faith.

    • brian martin

      Again, the idea that social teachings are not applicable outside of the Faith as a whole is to suggest that the Church and the Pope cannot be voices of moral reason to a secular society. However, the Church recognizes that there exist outside of the Catholic Church and outside of the extended Christian family…good people. Catholic Social teaching is one part of the whole magnificent banquet….but we cannot force people to partake of the whole, and to suggest there is no benefit to people sampling portions of that banquest is to deny the Holy Spirit it’s ability to work. For some people, their first contact with the Church may well be through some Catholic living the social teachings, caring for the poor and the sick…and the people see another side to the Church aside from the public scandals.

  • Aside from Anne, it appears that these people not only failed to read the article you recommended; they are also clueless about Catholic social teaching. Catholic social teaching is addressed to all people of good will because it is, as the Compendium says so well, “knowledge enlightened by faith. . . . It explains to all people the truth that it affirms and the duties that it demands; it can be accepted and shared by all” (#76). Not, however, by those who put their partisan and class interests ahead of truth itself, as the “Evasion” article illustrates very clearly.

    • Chris C.

      Ron assumes much. Perhaps he has a problem with His Holiness Pope Pius 11th, who authored both the great social encyclical Quadragesimo Anno and who proclaimed the feast of Christ The King for the Universal Church in the document Quas Primas. One is not to be separated from with the other. We do not isolate the Social Doctrine of the Church from the whole of Catholic teaching. His Holiness recognized that the salvation of souls is paramount and that our social doctrine must keep this in mind to be of service to Christ and the world. As a committed and by God’s grace faithful Catholic I endeavor to keep this in mind.

  • I would think that a an irreducible minimum of catholic social teaching is that we do not do harm the poor.

    To take for example the “Austrian School” denounced in the linked article (though it would apply to many others as well.) Though the propomants of that school do not put it in the church’s language, they seem to be saying that the other secular theories they are criticizing are “a preferential option to rape the poor” and they can be quite passionate about defending their position because they reject the idea of raping the poor.

    Many others, have similar theories about their favorite school of economics probably for the same reason..

    Aren’t we, in proclaiming a school of prudential judgment to be in violation of the the Church’s social teaching, saying that the right opinions of prudential judgement issues is more important than whether we are helping (or at least not harming) the poor?

    Are we not saying that it is mortal sin to not do something with knowledge and consent that we belive hurts the poor?

    I have read though the
    COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH and some of the original documents. It seems to me that there are few schools of economic thought that would not be improved by applying it’s principles and a total atrocity if they are rejected it is hard to see that it rejects any theory per se. Saying that it mandates ones favorite theory is to say something that is well beyond the doctrine

    It would seem to me that while the doctrine call for one to actively support what they believe is correct they should do so with charity and without throwing around accusations of dissent and heresy for a disagreement of on economic theories that will most likely b e passe in a hundred years.

  • ctd

    I have given this a day’s thought and keep coming back to thinking that the article from Distributist review does not confirm what Sam wrote in his earlier post. Am I alone in that?

    • ctd,

      You’re not alone at all. I agree with you. The DR piece only confirms the spirit of my earlier post (although my position there is so obvious, it hardly needs literal confirmation in the literal sense).

      The DR article shows the dissent of the so-called conservatives who claim to value orthodoxy and cast the so-called liberals as dissenters. In that respect, it touches on the motivating situation I wanted to comment on. My article simply makes that clear in the usage of the term ‘dissent’ and the dialectic of modern day politics.

      But you’re right: the two pieces do not fit literally together, they are in many ways doing different things.



  • It’s impossible not to harm the poor without Christ. Justice is not possible in the secular state. It is based, first of all, upon an injustice, the denial of worship to the Creator. There are economic principles stemming from recognition of God–there is denial of self, for one thing, isn’t there, to offer gain to another rather than to oneself, what would be required for economic justice? Isn’t Christ the single example of real charity? Who else, you tell me. Is it possible to fight profound corruption without the sacraments, without confession? Tell me where it is being done.

    Besides that, only the Catholic state offers the right recipe for a healthy economy: a mentality to conceive rather than contracept; religious orders to fund the services that ought not to be profitable; religious life for those who wish not to marry and undergo the profound career of marriage; complete defense of private property; denial of class struggle and continual warfare; local, local, local, never too big to fail; more expensive and so what? There are ways out of our overconsumption, but not in secularism.

    All of those issues are before our secular congress today and all of them are unsolvable under our present system. Obama keeps saying, Come together, compromise, but never particulars because there aren’t any. There is simply no health care plan we can afford based on health care being profitable, and there is no government plan we can trust to a government based only on democracy, not on unmutable [and irrational, in human terms ] loyalty to life.

    Do you think it is a way of evading the strictures of social justice to say we need a Catholic state? No!–the converse, to keep insisting that secularism can work when not a single secular nation can be found that has not consumed its poor and thrown their bones to the dogs, and I include our own because I see what has happened to wages in the last forty years, is today’s way to evade the strictures of social justice. If we want justice, we ought to bite the bullet and go for something that works instead of something that lulls our dull consciences and allows us to keep on sliding.

  • Brian Martin

    I suppose in theory a Catholic state would be ideal…however, historically…hasn’t that been tried. I don’t believe i can find a period in history when the church was directly involved in government that corruption was not also present. At no point did Christ try to start an earthly government…