Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D



Catholic Social Teaching


 




Catholic social teaching is less "political" in the sense of being related to a particular political system or party, and more a matter of asserting certain basic principles. These principles are:


1. Human life has an inherent dignity but humanity has fallen

Every single human being, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, or ethnicity, was made in the image of God (our likeness to God, though, has been marred through original sin, and we regain our likeness to Him through Baptism). Because of our being made in the image of God, each human life has an inherent dignity, and it has this dignity from the moment of conception. Abortion, then, has been taught against by the Church since the beginning, as attested to by the Didache, the first "catechism" of the Church which dates to A.D. 96 and reads, "you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten." Abortion includes contraceptive procedures which disallow a fertilized ovum from implanting, and also in vitro fertilization procedures which involve fertilizing numerous ova and allowing some to die or be frozen.

By the same token, euthanasia and suicide are grave evils. It is licit to withdraw extraordinary means to keep a sick person alive (e.g., artifical respiration), and, per the principle of double effect, it is licit to administer painkillers to alleviate suffering even if they might shorten the patient's life as long as death is not intended, but no one should ever be deprived of ordinary care, such as food and water (medical nutrition, hydration, and ordinary means of alleviating suffering).

Because of the inherent dignity of human life, it is licit to use self-defense as necessary to protect it against those who would murder, and the State may implement the death penalty in order to protect against those who'd harm the innocent. The 5th Commandment, which is typically read as "thou shalt not kill" means, in fact, that "thou shalt not unjustly take innocent life," or "thou shalt not murder." Defending innocent life by taking the life of one who murders is not "murder"; it's defense.

Because of original sin, humanity is prone to concupiscence and evil. Because of this proneness to concupiscence and evil, utopia is not an option, and systems of political thought which propose such (e.g., socialism, communism, the idea that the market solves all problems, etc.) are wrong and not to be followed.



2. The family is the core unit of society

The family, which consists of a man married to a woman, and any children they may have, is the core unit of society. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the family this way:


According to the Christian conception, the family, rather than the individual, is the social unit and the basis of civil society. To say that the family is the social unit is not to imply that it is the end to which the individual is a means; for the welfare of the individual is the end both of the family and of the State, as well as of every other social organization. The meaning is that the State is formally concerned with the family as such, and not merely with the individual. This distinction is of great practical importance; for where the State ignores or neglects the family, keeping in view only the welfare of the individual, the result is a strong tendency towards the disintegration of the former. The family is the basis of civil society, inasmuch as the greater majority of persons ought to spend practically all their lives in its circle, either as subjects or as heads. Only in the family can the individual be properly reared, educated, and given that formation of character which will make him a good man and a good citizen.

The family begins in marriage, which, in the Church, is a sacrament. Marriage can only take place between a biological man and a biological woman. A true and actual marriage is an indissoluble union which must be "open to life" -- that is, artificial contraception cannot licitly be used.

A wife is subject to her husband and should love him, respect him, and obey him in all sensible, lawful things; a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, nourishing and cherishing her as he would himself, and being willing to sacrifice his life for her
(Ephesians 5). From Pope Pius XI's Casti Connubii:

26. Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that "order of love," as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: "Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church."

27. This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.

28. Again, this subjection of wife to husband in its degree and manner may vary according to the different conditions of persons, place and time. In fact, if the husband neglect his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in directing the family. But the structure of the family and its fundamental law, established and confirmed by God, must always and everywhere be maintained intact .

Read Pope Pius XI's Casti Connubii on marriage.




3. The State is a natural society

Hierarchy is natural. From Pope Leo's Rerum Novarum:

There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such unequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity for business and the playing of many parts; and each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition.

The State, then, arises from nature, and while the Church exists for the salvation of souls, the State exists for the temporal happiness of man. The Catholic Encyclopedia continues from above:

Secondly, the natural object pursued by man in his ultimate social activity is perfect temporal happiness, the satisfaction, to wit, of his natural faculties to the full power of their development within his capacity, on his way, of course, to eternal felicity beyond earth. Man's happiness cannot be handed over to him, or thrust upon him by another here on earth; for his nature supposes that his possession of it, and so too in large measure his achievement of it, shall be by the exercise of his native faculties. Hence, civil society is destined by the natural law to give him his opportunity, i.e. to give it to all who share its citizenship. This shows the proximate natural purpose of the State to be: first, to establish and preserve social order, a condition, namely, wherein every man, as far as may be, is secured in the possession and free exercise of all his rights, natural and legal, and is held up to the fulfilment of his duties as far as they bear upon the common weal; secondly, to put within reasonable reach of all citizens a fair allowance of the means of temporal happiness.

Civil authority should be treated as a service, and those subject to that authority should be enlivened by a similar spirit of service to the common Good, a service manifest in citizens by their voting, paying taxes, defending their country when necessary, praying for those in authority, and practicing charity toward the poor, widowed, and orphaned.

The State can't disallow a citizen leaving it; citizens have a right to migrate. As to entering a different State, the catechism says, my emphasis:

2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) includes this in its entry on "Migration":

The legal control of migration began when it ceased to be collective and began to be individual. Laws have been passed preventing people from leaving their native land, and also, by the country of destination, forbidding or regulating entrance thereto. Extensive regulation has been found necessary applying to transportation companies and their agents, the means of transportation, treatment en route and at terminal points. The justification of public interference is to be found in the right of a nation to control the variations of its own population. The highest necessity is that arising from war: on this ground nations almost universally regulate very closely the movements of population, forbidding emigration, that they may not lose their soldiers, and guarding immigration as a military precaution. Restrictive measures are also justified on grounds of health and morals, and on the general ground that a national family has a right to say who shall join it...

...The attitude of the United States at the present time (1910) towards foreign immigration is one of caution. Actual and projected legislation aims, not at exclusion, but at selection. It is recognized that the assimilative power, even of America, has its limits. Legislation must, by the application of rational principles, eliminate those incapable of assimilation to the general culture of the country. Great care is, of course, necessary in determining and applying these principles of selection: an educational test, for instance, while it would exclude much ignorance, would also exclude much honesty, frugality, industry, and solid worth. It is probable that a more vigorous system of inspection of immigrants at ports of entry will be put in force, while a stricter control will be exercised over the steamship companies. At the same time, the co-operation of foreign governments is needed, if the exclusive measures designed for the protection of the United States against undesirable immigration are to be made thoroughly effective.

See also St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica on the matter of immigration wherein he describes three types of foreigners who come to one's land: 1) those who are just traveling through one's land, 2) those who live in one's land but aren't citizens, and 3) those wish to become citizens. Those who wish to become citizens need to wait three generations because, Thomas says, "if foreigners were allowed to meddle with the affairs of a nation as soon as they settled down in its midst, many dangers might occur, since the foreigners not yet having the common good firmly at heart might attempt something hurtful to the people."

He also speaks of those who should never be allowed to become citizens at all: "Hence it was that the Law prescribed in respect of certain nations that had close relations with the Jews (viz., the Egyptians among whom they were born and educated, and the Idumeans, the children of Esau, Jacob's brother), that they should be admitted to the fellowship of the people after the third generation; whereas others (with whom their relations had been hostile, such as the Ammonites and Moabites) were never to be admitted to citizenship; while the Amalekites, who were yet more hostile to them, and had no fellowship of kindred with them, were to be held as foes in perpetuity: for it is written (Exodus 17:16): "The war of the Lord shall be against Amalec from generation to generation."



4. Subsidiarity

Nothing should be done by a larger, more complex organization that can be done as well by a smaller, simpler organization. Thus, if a family can handle a problem, then the family should. If the family can't, then the extended family should. If the extended family can't, then neighborhood should. If the neighborhood can't, then the town should. If the town can't, then the county should. If the county can't, then the state should. If the state can't, then the federal government should. And so on. The larger, more complex entities should leave the smaller alone to their own self-governance as much as is prudent.

Decentralization makes for more effective, more responsive, more humane, and less wasteful governance of a natural institution. Pope John Paul II wrote of this in Centesimus Annus, 1991:

Another task of the State is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the State but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society. The State could not directly ensure the right to work for all its citizens unless it controlled every aspect of economic life and restricted the free initiative of individuals. This does not mean, however, that the State has no competence in this domain, as was claimed by those who argued against any rules in the economic sphere. Rather, the State has a duty to sustain business activities by creating conditions which will ensure job opportunities, by stimulating those activities where they are lacking or by supporting them in moments of crisis.

The State has the further right to intervene when particular monopolies create delays or obstacles to development. In addition to the tasks of harmonizing and guiding development, in exceptional circumstances the State can also exercise a substitute function, when social sectors or business systems are too weak or are just getting under way, and are not equal to the task at hand. Such supplementary interventions, which are justified by urgent reasons touching the common good, must be as brief as possible, so as to avoid removing permanently from society and business systems the functions which are properly theirs, and so as to avoid enlarging excessively the sphere of State intervention to the detriment of both economic and civil freedom.

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 provoked 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 ways of 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 and who act as neighbours 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.

The principle of subsidiarity is an ancient one, encapsulated first in the Book of Genesis, with the story of the Tower of Babel, when the people tried to reach to Heaven by their own power. It shows the folly of the incessant attempts at great consolidations of power:

Genesis 11:1-9

And the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech. And when they removed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Sennaar, and dwelt in it. And each one said to his neighbour: Come, let us make brick, and bake them with fire. And they had brick instead of stones, and slime instead of mortar. And they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven: and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands.

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of Adam were building. And He said: Behold, it is one people, and all have one tongue: and they have begun to do this, neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them in deed. Come ye, therefore, let Us go down, and there confound their tongue, that they may not understand one another's speech.

And so the Lord scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city. And therefore the name thereof was called Babel, because there the language of the whole earth was confounded: and from thence the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all countries.






5. Economics

God gave the earth to all men, but men, as individuals, have the right to own property, goods, and the means of productions, whether acquired through work, by gift, or through inheritance. Pope Leo XII's Quadragesimo Anno:

The natural right itself both of owning goods privately and of passing them on by inheritance ought always to remain intact and inviolate, since this indeed is a right that the State cannot take away: "For man is older than the State," and also "domestic living together is prior both in thought and in fact to uniting into a polity." Wherefore the wise Pontiff declared that it is grossly unjust for a State to exhaust private wealth through the weight of imposts and taxes. "For since the right of possessing goods privately has been conferred not by man's law, but by nature, public authority cannot abolish it, but can only control its exercise and bring it into conformity with the common weal."

The State has the duty to enforce the respect due to others as owners of goods through laws against theft and other forms of unjust taking.

The economy exists to serve man, not the other way around, and its purpose isn't simply to increase wealth, but to serve the entire man. The materialist idea that if a political action causes certain numbers (for ex., the Gross Domestic Product, a business's profits, tax revenue, etc.) to go up, then it is automatically good is not a Catholic idea. As Patrick Buchanan put it,

An economy is not a country. A nation’s economic system should reinforce the bonds of national unity, but the nation is of a higher order than any imaginary construct of an economist. A nation is organic, alive, it has a beating heart. The people of a nation are a moral community who must share values higher than economic interest, or their nation will not endure. As scholar Christian Kopff asks, “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his country?”...

...Neither the national economy nor the free market is an end in itself. They are means to an end. A national economy is not some wild roaring river that must be allowed to find any course it will, to be admired for its raw power and beauty. It is to be tamed for the benefit of the nation.


The same holds true for the market. While an unfettered free market is the most efficient mechanism to distribute the goods of a nation, there are higher values than efficiency. To worship the market is a form of idolatry no less than worshipping the state. The market should be made to work for man, not the other way around.

Catechism 2425: "The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with 'communism' or 'socialism.' She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of 'capitalism,' individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor."

Pope Pius XI's Divini Redemptoris makes more clear the Church's stance against Communism:

It is a system full of errors and sophisms. It is in opposition both to reason and to Divine Revelation. It subverts the social order, because it means the destruction of its foundations; because it ignores the true origin and purpose of the State; because it denies the rights, dignity and liberty of human personality...

See to it, Venerable Brethren, that the Faithful do not allow themselves to be deceived! Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever. Those who permit themselves to be deceived into lending their aid towards the triumph of Communism in their own country, will be the first to fall victims of their error.  2

Work is the means to provide for family and the community, and whenever possible, given the profitability of a business, employers must pay their workers a living wage. Workers can organize to protect their interests and, when unavoidable, strike without violence as long as their goals are concordant with the common Good.

Usury is a form of unjust taking and is against Church teaching.1 From Pope Benedict XIV's Vix Pervenit:

The nature of the sin called usury has its proper place and origin in a loan contract. This financial contract between consenting parties demands, by its very nature, that one return to another only as much as he has received. The sin rests on the fact that sometimes the creditor desires more than he has given. Therefore he contends some gain is owed him beyond that which he loaned, but any gain which exceeds the amount he gave is illicit and usurious.

One cannot condone the sin of usury by arguing that the gain is not great or excessive, but rather moderate or small; neither can it be condoned by arguing that the borrower is rich; nor even by arguing that the money borrowed is not left idle, but is spent usefully, either to increase one's fortune, to purchase new estates, or to engage in business transactions. The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is given and returned; once the equality has been established, whoever demands more than that violates the terms of the loan. Therefore if one receives interest, he must make restitution according to the commutative bond of justice; its function in human contracts is to assure equality for each one. This law is to be observed in a holy manner. If not observed exactly, reparation must be made.

Investing in a venture and receiving dividends from profits is an entirely different matter as the lender assumes the same risk the business venturer does. Usurers, though, produce no value, assume no risk, and demand not just the money lent, but more than what was lent. Compound interest only exacerbates the usurer's sin.

See:


6. Church and State

The Church has man's eternal happiness as its goal; the State is focused on man's temporal happiness. They are two different spheres, one the City of God, the other the City of Man. But it's from the Church that man derives the definition and meaning of the True, Good, and the Beautiful, and laws that don't have the True, Good, and Beautiful, properly understood, at their center lead to injustice.

Jesus Christ is King of all creatures. From Pope Pius XI's Quas Primas:

If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ... 

When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony...

If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be a stable peace and tranquillity, for there will be no longer any cause of discontent. Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man. Peace and harmony, too, will result; for with the spread and the universal extent of the kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of the link that binds them together, and thus many conflicts will be either prevented entirely or at least their bitterness will be diminished.


Civil authority should be obeyed, but not when what it demands is immoral, or contrary to the Gospel or to man's fundamental rights. Armed resistance can only be undertaken when 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.

See Pope Pius XI's Quas Primas on the Kingship of Christ.




7. War

Sometimes war is necessary, as St. Augustine, in his "City of God," makes clear, "They who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill.'"

In order for a war to be just, it must meet the following conditions:
  • It must be instituted by properly instituted authority which represents the common Good.

  • It must be defensive and have a good and just purpose, not mere self-gain. The aggression being defended against must be lasting, grave, and certain, and all other means of ending that aggression have been ineffective or impractical

  • It must be winnable

  • When fighting against aggression, greater evils than those being defended against must not be brought about

  • Peace must be its ultimate goal



8. Solidarity, race, racism, ethnicity, etc.

All human beings are made in the image of God and are due charity and respect for their humanity. All who are properly baptized are one in the Church, are true brothers and sisters in Christ. Their being one in the Church on a supernatural level does not necessarily mean they should be one on a natural level, in terms of nations. The diversity of peoples and nations is a good to be protected. From Pope Pius XII's Summi Pontificatus:

38 A marvelous vision, which makes us see the human race in the unity of one common origin in God "one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in us all" (Ephesians iv. 6); in the unity of nature which in every man is equally composed of material body and spiritual, immortal soul; in the unity of the immediate end and mission in the world; in the unity of dwelling place, the earth, of whose resources all men can by natural right avail themselves, to sustain and develop life; in the unity of the supernatural end, God Himself, to Whom all should tend; in the unity of means to secure that end.

39. It is the same Apostle who portrays for us mankind in the unity of its relations with the Son of God, image of the invisible God, in Whom all things have been created: "In Him were all things created" (Colossians i. 16); in the unity of its ransom, effected for all by Christ, Who, through His Holy and most bitter passion, restored the original friendship with God which had been broken, making Himself the Mediator between God and men: "For there is one God, and one Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy ii. 5).

40. And to render such friendship between God and mankind more intimate, this same Divine and universal Mediator of salvation and of peace, in the sacred silence of the Supper Room, before He consummated the Supreme Sacrifice, let fall from His divine Lips the words which reverberate mightily down the centuries, inspiring heroic charity in a world devoidof love and torn by hate: "This is my commandment that you love one another, as I have loved you" (Saint John xv. 12).

41. These are supernatural truths which form a solid basis and the strongest possible bond of a union, that is reinforced by the love of God and of our Divine Redeemer, from Whom all receive salvation "for the edifying of the Body of Christ: until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians iv. 12, 13).

42. In the light of this unity of all mankind, which exists in law and in fact, individuals do not feel themselves isolated units, like grains of sand, but united by the very force of their nature and by their internal destiny, into an organic, harmonious mutual relationship which varies with the changing of times.

43. And the nations, despite a difference of development due to diverse conditions of life and of culture, are not destined to break the unity of the human race, but rather to enrich and embellish it by the sharing of their own peculiar gifts and by that reciprocal interchange of goods which can be possible and efficacious only when a mutual love and a lively sense of charity unite all the sons of the same Father and all those redeemed by the same Divine Blood.

44. The Church of Christ, the faithful depository of the teaching of Divine Wisdom, cannot and does not think of deprecating or disdaining the particular characteristics which each people, with jealous and intelligible pride, cherishes and retains as a precious heritage. Her aim is a supernatural union in all-embracing love, deeply felt and practiced, and not the unity which is exclusively external and superficial and by that very fact weak.

45. The Church hails with joy and follows with her maternal blessing every method of guidance and care which aims at a wise and orderly evolution of particular forces and tendencies having their origin in the individual character of each race, provided that they are not opposed to the duties incumbent on men from their unity of origin and common destiny.

Piety -- which includes the preferential love of one's family and nation -- is a virtue. It is natural and right to put concern for the people of one's own nation (those with whom you share language, cultural traditions, a system of law, history, etc.) above concern for those outside one's nation, just as it is natural and right to care more for one's own children than the children of strangers. Piety shouldn't be exaggerated and go to any ideas of supremacism, "state worship," or imperialism: just as it's natural and right for you to care for your children and people first, it's natural and right for others to care for their children and people first. Neither should piety exclude charity for all. Paragraph 49 from the encyclical above:

Nor is there any fear lest the consciousness of universal brotherhood aroused by the teaching of Christianity, and the spirit which it inspires, be in contrast with love of traditions or the glories of one's fatherland, or impede the progress of prosperity or legitimate interests. For that same Christianity teaches that in the exercise of charity we must follow a God-given order, yielding the place of honor in our affections and good works to those who are bound to us by special ties. Nay, the Divine Master Himself gave an example of this preference for His Own country and fatherland, as He wept over the coming destruction of the Holy City. But legitimate and well-ordered love of our native country should not make us close our eyes to the all-embracing nature of Christian Charity, which calls for consideration of others and of their interests in the pacifying light of love.

Whatever natural differences there may be between groups of men, and no matter how those differences might lead to disparate outcomes in various ways, no race or ethnic group is ontologically superior or inferior to another. No race is more or less beloved by God than another. No race is owed more or less charity than another. All are called to become children of God, and brothers and sisters in Christ, through Baptism. Living in accordance with this knowledge is the essence of solidarity, or "social charity."

Read:



9. Liberty and Tolerance

Modern man tends to think of political liberty as the ability to do anything one wants, any time one wants. But "true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, for this would simply end in turmoil and confusion, and bring on the overthrow of the State; but rather in this, that through the injunctions of the civil law all may more easily conform to the prescriptions of the eternal law" (Pope Leo XIII, Libertas, 1888). In other words, true freedom is being unencumbered such that you are able to do what you ought to do. When we are able to do what allows us to reach the end to which God calls us -- when we are able to do what we need to do to get to Heaven -- only then we are truly free. There is no freedom in libertinism and being enslaved by our addictions and to our passions.

Modern man also tends to think in terms of ideologies, with a few words sufficing to shape all political decisions. For ex., "liberty" is key to the libertarian, and the "non-aggression principle" is the sole solution to every political question, from legally defining marriage, to whether there should be police forces and armies. "Capitalism" is key to another political sort, and anything that maximizes profits is the thing that should be done or allowed, no matter the costs to the family or society. For a certain kind of Leftist, equity, and intolerance of anything that might cause hurt feelings among groups deemed to be "marginalized" seem to be the guiding principles.

Catholic thinking, on the other hand, sees Christ's Kingship as its first principle, and is shaped by the transcendentals -- the Good, True, and Beautiful. God -- the Essence and Source of the True, Good, and Beautiful -- made us (and all things) with an end, a purpose, in Mind. That purpose for which He made us isn't pleasure or earthly happiness, but union with Him, and a just social order honors this truth and the reality of human nature. In other words, it honors "the natural law," and it's natural law and not ideology on which a Catholic social order is based.

For ex., when considering whether certain drugs that are now illegal should be legal, rather than focusing solely on the the idea of the free market ("if there's a buyer, it should be able to be sold"), as a libertarian might, or on the sentiment that "no one can tell me what to do," as a leftist might, the Catholic looks to what is most likely to bring about the most Good. It may be that keeping those drugs illegal would bring about more evil than not -- that the fight against those drugs brings about more violence and evil than it prevents --  or it may be that keeping them illegal would bring about the most Good. Much is situational, and the virtue of prudence is called for in making these sorts of determinations. What may be politically prudent  for one group of people, might not be the best solution for a different group of people (which is one reason why the principle of subsidiarity is so important). What may be prudent and serve the common good at one time for one nation might not make sense at a different time in that same nation. Catholics can disagree as to the particulars of such things.

But underlying all this is one important idea: while error and sin have no positive rights, it is often so -- maybe even more often the case than not -- that tolerance of error and sin serves the greater Good. St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of this in his Summa, II-II-10-11, when writing about tolerating non-Christian rites:

Human government is derived from the Divine government, and should imitate it. Now although God is all-powerful and supremely good, nevertheless He allows certain evils to take place in the universe, which He might prevent, lest, without them, greater goods might be forfeited, or greater evils ensue. Accordingly in human government also, those who are in authority, rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred: thus Augustine says (De Ordine ii, 4): "If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust." Hence, though unbelievers sin in their rites, they may be tolerated, either on account of some good that ensues therefrom, or because of some evil avoided.

I feel the need to stress this point because, in my work, I've seen many new converts, especially younger ones, adopt a rather overly zealous, "gung-ho" attitude politically speaking. They come to learn that, for ex., X, Y, and Z are sins, so they want to bring the power of government down on them. But the weighing of the goods and evils that come from such actions is crucial, as are considering other, possibly more Good-producing actions (e.g., zoning or regulating instead of banning), and reckoning with things such as the human tendency to rebel and to see the forbidden as desirable, the tendency toward corruption and overreach on the part of those with governmental power (especially problematic in a secular democracy that doesn't recognize God, Truth, Goodness, or Beauty) -- i.e., the problem of giving corrupt functionaries an inch and their taking a mile, etc. As always, prudence -- the emperor of the virtues -- is key.

And with that, I leave you with two quotes about tolerance:

Archbishop Fulton Sheen: "Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons. We must be tolerant to persons because they are human; we must be intolerant about principles because they are divine."

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange: "It has been said: 'The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle, because they do not believe, and intolerant in practice, because they do not love.' On the one hand, theory is opposed to practice; on the other, it penetrates and arranges all things with firmness and gentleness."





Footnotes:

1 Catholics need to get very clear about the evils of usury, the nature of banking and money systems, etc. We're living in a very dangerous time in which an entire generation has been turned into indentured servants through usurious student loans -- loans they're both unable to discharge and unable to pay because jobs have been outsourced and wages undermined through the importing of cheap labor. This severe injustice has left many of of our young very understandably angry, and clamoring for socialism and communism which would only exacerbate their suffering, something they don't realize because they've been miseducated. The solution is not collectivism -- but nor is it any form of capitalism which involves usury, fiat currencies, cronyism, ruthless "vulturism" that disregards human needs, etc. -- things which too many on the Right (and Left) tend to be ignorant or blasť about. Some on the Right also tend to see "the free market" as the sole solution to all problems -- no matter the needs of a given nation's individual economy (which might, for ex., benefit from tariffs or various protections in light of other nations' economies that might involve such things as veritable slave labor), and no matter the Good of a nation's families, which consist of human beings with spiritual and social needs in addition to financial ones. Like socialism and communism, this, too, is an un-Catholic view of things. Please see these pages:
In my opinion, we should alleviate interest due on student loans, and then get the government out of the student loan business altogether, get government functionaries out of collegiate life as much as possible, revamp the accreditation process, end race-based and other diversity-oriented quotas, outlaw usury, emphasize the trades, get government bureaucracy out of the way of small businesses, restore our manufacturing, punish outsourcing, stop importing cheap labor that undermines our workers, institute protective tariffs against slave labor economies like China and India, and stop shoving all of our young people toward universities -- reserving it for the naturally scholarly types.

While I'm dreaming, we then illegalize abortion, end no-fault divorce, stop expecting men to support children born outside of wedlock (sounds radical and "unfair," but it's right, and here's why), restore men's custody rights in cases of civil divorce, deal with obscenity the way we did before the sexual revolution, and start re-building Catholic communities so that women will be more willing to stay home and raise children -- something they're more likely to choose if they weren't alone, without adult company, all day, every day. We need to restore the extended family and high-trust, culturally homogeneous, parish-based communities that provided women with other women to be with, talk to, share work with, trust their children with, etc. These communities were purposefully destroyed; listen to E. Michael Jones: The Slaughter of Cities (mp3) and read his similarly titled book on the topic.

2 Communism and socialism simply do not work as economic systems. If you're (understandably) enraged about the housing situation, the fact that 1% owns 80% of the wealth, student loan debt, healthcare costs, etc., do not rush headfirst into pushing for a communist/socialist system as a solution: it will fail, as it has every time and in every place tried. You can point toward mixed systems that are Capitalist with socialized aspects (such as, for ex., socialized medicine) that might work in culturally homogeneous places (e.g., Scandinavian countries), but removing production, pricing, and wage setting from market forces is always bound to fail. If you're inclined toward socialist thinking, you need to study the matter, looking at what's happened to Venezuela as a typical example.

The solutions to the problems listed above include the eradication of usury, eliminating the Federal Reserve, allowing banks and corporations to fail instead of having government bail them out, breaking up monopolies, getting government out of the housing and student loan business, stopping the import of cheap labor and of those who receive more in services than they pay in taxes, clamping down hard on Medicare/Medicaid abuse, restoring our manufacturing base, stopping pushing kids into going to university, restoring homemaking as a "career" and thereby decreasing the size of the labor market (feminism was, in large part, a top-down push on the part of the powers that be to halve wages by doubling the workforce; doubling the number of people who could be taxed; and assuming control over family life and the education of children, taking that power away from mothers), etc.

If the concept of equity plays any role in your thinking, you need to re-evaluate. Equality of opportunity and before the law is one thing, a good thing, but expecting equality of outcome can only lead to injustice and the stifling of excellence. We are born at different times, in different places, into different families, with different talents and different challenges; some are more virtuous, some are less so. As a result, hierarchies happen, and they are natural. Disparate outcomes aren't at all necessarily indications of injustice, and in a Catholic world, charity serves those in need -- charity that is offered at a much more personal and humane level, per the principle of subsidiarity. The push for equity only results in misery. For a devastating short story on the matter, see Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" (pdf).



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