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George Weigel on Papal Teaching

Recently George Weigel penned an interesting and instructive column on the limits of papal teaching authority, “What Popes Can and Can’t Do.”

Weigel is addressing the silly statements made by many in the media, including some Catholics, that Pope Francis is about to change “Catholic teaching on the morality of homosexual acts, or on the effects of divorce and remarriage on one’s communion with the Church” or on the ordination of women.  Weigel rightly says that such an expectation “is a delusion.”  He notes that,

popes are not like presidents or state governors, and doctrine is not like public policy…[and] a change of papal “administration” does not—indeed cannot—mean a change of Catholic “views.”  Doctrine, as the Church understands it, is not a matter of anyone’s “views,” but of settled understandings of the truth of things.

All this should constitute a salutary reminder to Catholics that the Church’s teaching is not up for grabs by each generation or in each new pontificate or even by each new council.  Indeed, I have stressed this important truth myself more than once.

So is this all for the good, then, and we can go on from here?  Except that there is one little problem about which Weigel fails to inform us. This problem is that he himself has been in the thick of previous attempts to do just what he now is denouncing.  For he, along with other politically conservative Catholics, such as Michael Novak and Fr. Robert Sirico, were leaders in attempting to persuade people that one part of Catholic doctrine, namely Catholic social teaching, was precisely a matter of “public policy,” and that John Paul II’s “administration” had indeed ushered in a “change of Catholic ‘views.'”

In 1992 the very same George Weigel edited a book, A New Worldly Order, published by the think tank that employs him, the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. This volume is a compilation of articles on the then-recently-issued social encyclical, Centesimus Annus, and even includes, for the convenience of the reader, an edited version of Centesimus in which some of its anti-capitalist and anti-free market passages are appropriately omitted or toned down.

How did Weigel treat Centesimus? What did he say about it?  In his Prologue to the volume he wrote:  “Centesimus Annus thus marks a decisive break with the curious materialism that has characterized aspects of modern Catholic social teaching since Leo XIII” (p. 14).  And on the next page Weigel referred to the encyclical as a “new departure in Catholic social thought.”  No “settled understandings of the truth of things” here.

Weigel’s ideological allies who wrote for this volume said similar things.  Michael Novak, for example:

The encyclical Centesimus Annus does what many of us had long hoped some church authority would do: it captures the spirit and essence of the American experiment in political economy…Thus Pope John Paul II has brought economic liberty…into Catholic social teaching…(p. 139)

And Fr. Robert Sirico,

Centesimus Annus represents the beginnings of a shift away from the static zero-sum economic world view that led the Church to be suspicious of capitalism and to argue for wealth redistribution as the only moral response to poverty…(p. 156)

How is this?  How can Weigel, Novak and Sirico approach Centesimus in this way and talk about a “decisive break,” a “new departure,” or “the beginnings of a shift”?  Does Catholic social doctrine become “public policy” when a pope appears to say something pleasing to defenders of American capitalism?  But 1991 was a long time ago, and maybe Weigel has seen the error of his ways.

But no, I’ afraid not.  At a conference in Rome celebrating the 15th anniversary of Centesimus Weigel still claimed that “John Paul’s social doctrine took the Catholic Church into new territory,” and five years later in a piece for First Things for the encyclical’s 20th anniversary in 2011 he wrote that “John Paul also taught the Church new ways of thinking about the poor and about economic justice.”

For someone as adroit as George Weigel it’s easy to find a way out of this difficulty.  Now Weigel has discovered a new take on Catholic social teaching.  No longer do we have detailed and explicit teaching, a rejection of “third ways” or a turn to markets.  No, social doctrine is now reduced to only vague goals.  “Catholic social doctrine,” he tells us in his recent article,

has long taught…that the least of the Lord’s brethren have a moral claim on our solidarity and our charity; the social doctrine leaves open to debate the specific, practical means by which people of good will, and governments, exercise…that solidarity and charity.

The Church’s social doctrine is now to be represented by Weigel and his allies as just a set of goals, and we’re all free to propose our own ideas about how to achieve those goals.  Help the poor!  Exercise solidarity and charity!  Be nice!  What a clever way to neutralize the hard-hitting specifics of Pope Francis’s teaching.

Weigel knows well that most of his readers are not going to actually look at the documents that constitute Catholic social teaching.  While they might read on a blog that Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium, “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market,” they are not likely to read Pius XI, who said, “Just as the unity of human society cannot be built upon ‘class’ conflict, so the proper ordering of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition,” and “This has been abundantly proved by the consequences that have followed from the free rein given to these dangerous individualistic ideas” (Quadragesimo Anno, #88).

Nor is George Weigel concerned that his readers might come across Pius XII’s September 1954 address in which he said, “The demands of competition, which is a normal consequence of human liberty and ingenuity, cannot be the final norm for economics,” or even of the passages in John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus, “that the market [must] be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied” (#35), or that “there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces” (#42), or that “The Western countries…run the risk of seeing [the collapse of Communism] as a one-sided victory of their own economic system, and thereby failing to make necessary corrections in that system” (#56).  No, Weigel can take advantage of the immense ignorance on the part of most Catholics as to what the popes have actually said about the social order, and presume that the majority of them will never bother to look at the documents themselves.

Weigel’s claim that “the social doctrine leaves open to debate the specific, practical means by which people…and governments [should] exercise…that solidarity and charity” is of course partly true.  The popes have never offered a detailed model of the social order applicable to all times and places.  But when Pope Francis condemns, as he did recently in Evangelii Gaudium, “trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world” or “ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation” he is repeating a doctrine taught explicitly by his predecessors, and sometimes in much harsher terms.

One would have to look far and wide in today’s ecclesiastical landscape to find language as biting as that with which Pius XI described successful capitalists—they are “often…those who fight most relentlessly, who pay least heed to the dictates of conscience,” (Quadragesimo Anno #107).  While there can be room for debate about the specifics of the approach to be taken to promote economic justice, certain approaches are simply ruled out by that “settled understandings of the truth of things” enunciated by Pope Francis and his predecessors.  The free market cannot be the foundation for economic policy: The notion that market forces, except in rare instances of “market failure,” will automatically work for the common good is simply inadmissible for a Catholic who cares to think with the Church.  The condemnation of free-market economics is part of the “settled understandings of the truth of things” that Weigel claims he supports.

Meanwhile, he cannot have it both ways.  He cannot call our attention to the fact that “popes are not like presidents or state governors, and doctrine is not like public policy,” and then depend upon his readers’ ignorance of papal documents to treat social doctrine in exactly that way.  Under John Paul II politically conservative Catholics liked to trumpet Centesimus—or at least selected passages from it—as a turning point in Catholic social thought.  After ten years of Benedict and Francis they are taking refuge in the notion that Catholic social teaching sets forth mere goals and pretty much leaves it up to us to implement them.

No one acquainted with the actual papal texts could think that.  Whether Weigel is himself acquainted with these texts or not, I do not know, but they stand and will stand as exactly those “settled understandings of the truth of things” that constitute and will always constitute a part of the genuine teachings of Christ’s one Church.


Readers are invited to discuss essays in argumentative and fraternal charity, and are asked to help build up the community of thought and pursuit of truth that Ethika Politika strives to accomplish, which includes correction when necessary. The editors reserve the right to remove comments that do not meet these criteria and/or do not pertain to the subject of the essay.

  • Thaddeus J. Kozinski

    Right on!

  • pa

    Astutely said.

  • JD

    It seems Mr. Storck has some kind of personal vendetta against Mr. Weigel. I could have appreciated your insight, if not for the thinly veiled insults against Weigel (and his readers). Not very becoming of a disciple of Christ.

    I find it interesting that Mr. Storck is more disturbed at the thought of all these supposed dumb Catholics reading Weigel and voting Republican than he is by 40 years of Catholics thinking Kennedy a saint and voting for the party that advocates killing babies.

    P.S. This entire article is nothing but a strawman argument. After insinuating that Weigel is in favor of unbridled, laissez-faire capitalism you end your article by admitting that he’s right: “the social doctrine leaves open to debate the specific, practical means by which people…and governments [should] exercise…that solidarity and charity.” I’ll await your article detailing all the nice papal quotes explicitly condemning socialism….

    • Michael Depietro

      This whole thing is really tedious. It should be obvious that some kinds of papal teachings involve principles ( the prohibition on abortion for example is based on an absolute principle that one can directly not kill an innocent human being.) The principle involved in Catholic Social teaching is that one should be concerned about the poor and work to better their lot. The problem with most Catholic liberals and a lot of what is said in Evangelii Gaudium is that the specific policies suggested would harm the poor. One wonders why Mr. Stork so hates the poor that he cares nothing for whether a given policy will harm or hurt them. Much of what Evangelli Gaudium says about whether or not poverty has been worsening or improving is false. Specifically for example economic growth is clearly the central factor in eliminating poverty. This is not based on some trickle down theory but in data from the World Bank, which it appears most Catholic liberals are unaware of. In fact the worse thing that could possibly happen to the poor would be that social justice as conceived of by the Catholic left actually be implemented for details see as well as

  • Thomas Storck


    What evidence do you have that “Mr. Storck is more disturbed at the thought of all these supposed dumb Catholics reading Weigel and voting Republican than he is by 40 years of Catholics thinking Kennedy a saint and voting for the party that advocates killing babies”?

    Must it be one or the other? Isn’t it possible for someone to accept all the teachings of the Church? Moreover, it is not the case that I end the article by admitting that Weigel is correct. As to your last point, you may consult my article, “A Distributist Looks at Capitalism and Socialism,”

  • Kirk Kramer

    Thank you, Mr Storck, for defending Catholic social teaching against the New Church of the Right. In age when conservatism trumps Catholicism for a lot of nominally Catholic writers, it is a consolation to find a thinker whose first loyalty is to the Church.

  • Kirk Kramer

    All orthodox Catholics rightly condemn the theological modernism condemned by St Pius X. Orthodox Catholics are equally bound to condemn the variant of modernism condemned by Pius XI in his first encyclical (see below). God bless Mr Storck for opposing cafeteria Catholicism.

    “Many believe in or claim that they believe in and hold fast to Catholic doctrine on such questions as social authority, the right of owning private property, on the relations between capital and labor, on the rights of the laboring man, on the relations between Church and State, religion and country, on the relations between the different social classes, on international relations, on the rights of the Holy See and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff and the Episcopate, on the social rights of Jesus Christ, Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord not only of individuals but of nations. In spite of these protestations, they speak, write, and, what is more, act as if it were not necessary any longer to follow, or that they did not remain still in full force, the teachings and solemn pronouncements which may be found in so many documents of the Holy See, and particularly in those written by Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV.

    “There is a species of moral, legal, and social modernism which We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism.”

  • fredx2

    I think you have it exactly wrong. Weigel did not try to have his cake and eat it too. The things you quote are areas where there really is room for disagreement on specific policies to help the poor. I think you are being quite unfair in that regard.

    There is no blanket condemnation of “free market economics” in any of the Papal writings. There IS a condemnation of “unbridled” free markets and “absolute” capitalism.. The Papal documents really seem to object to “capitalism without regulation” –

    Certainly capitalism in the Western states IS highly regulated.I think the proper interpretation is that we should be making a full court press to make the benefits of our economy available to all.

  • Thomas Storck

    People here are assuming as true what they need to prove. That is, they are asserting that papal social teaching merely sets forth vague goals and pretty much leaves it up to us to figure out how to attain those goals. But they have offered no proof for this assertion.
    But in any event, what they are saying is not true. The popes have made it clear that market forces cannot be the fundamental guiding principle of an economy. Readers might want to look at this article, Moreover, for years Weigel asserted that John Paul II in Centesimus had embraced a basically market approach to social teaching, and that this was now the official teaching of the Church, something which, as he now implicitly acknowledges, would be to treat Catholic doctrine as something like public policy, changeable on the part of each new pope. Now that Benedict and Francis have made it impossible to pretend that John Paul II changed social teaching, Weigel wants to reduce that teaching to a set of vague goals.

    • Nick_from_Detroit

      Where is your proof, Mr. Storck?
      Show me where the Church has ever taught that the State should have the power to redistribute wealth? Or, when She ever taught that it was the State’s responsibility to take care of the poor?
      I believe Christ gave that responsibility to the Church which He founded almost 2,000 years ago. Those of us who call ourselves “Christian” are supposed to take care of the poor. Not the State. And, the Church says that the family has the first “responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor.” (See CCC, para. 2208). Society is the last resort to help the poor, and only in a subsidiary way.
      National governments intrude on what is rightly the duty of the Church when they spend taxpayer’s money on poverty programs. The civil authority has the “grave duty” to “protect and foster” marriage and the family (CCC, para. 2210). The poor need to hear the Good News of Christ Jesus more than they need material goods. You aren’t going to get that from a government program, are you? “The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods.” – CCC, Para. 1942.

      “For the poor will never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land.” – Deut. 15:11
      “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me [Christ].” – John 12:8
      God Bless!

      • Thomas Storck

        It’s interesting how the focus of some of these remarks has changed from the subject of this article, George Weigel’s inconsistency and his attempt to rebrand what Catholic social teaching is, to various related questions, such as those of Nick above. However, in answer to his demand for proof that it is “the State’s responsibility to take care of the poor”, perhaps, Nick, you’ll be persuaded by the following from Pius XI’s Casti Connubii

        “120. If, however, for this purpose, private resources do not suffice, it is the duty of the public authority to supply for the insufficient forces of individual effort, particularly in a matter which is of such importance to the common weal, touching as it does the maintenance of the family and married people. If families, particularly those in which there are many children, have not suitable dwellings; if the husband cannot find employment and means of livelihood; if the necessities of life cannot be purchased except at exorbitant prices; if even the mother of the family to the great harm of the home, is compelled to go forth and seek a living by her own labor; if she, too, in the ordinary or even extraordinary labors of childbirth, is deprived of proper food, medicine, and the assistance of a skilled physician, it is patent to all to what an extent married people may lose heart, and how home life and the observance of God’s commands are rendered difficult for them; indeed it is obvious how great a peril can arise to the public security and to the welfare and very life of civil society itself when such men are reduced to that condition of desperation that, having nothing which they fear to lose, they are emboldened to hope for chance advantage from the upheaval of the state and of established order.”

        • Nick_from_Detroit

          Mr. Storck,
          I was merely replying to your comment, in this comment thread. Is that frowned upon, here?
          Also, I admitted that the Church teaches that society has a responsibility to help the poor, as a last resort and in a subsidiary way. That means at the local level. Your own quotation begins with “[i]f […] private resources do not suffice […]”.
          My inquiry was sincere. I haven’t read all of these papal documents. I haven’t even made it through all of Rerum novarum yet!

          Now, I believe context is important. Since the encyclical from which you quoted was published in 1930, in the midst of a worldwide depression, and after the collapse of the Weimar Republic in Germany, it makes sense that Pope Pius would emphasize that poor families (especially with many children) should have basic necessities provided to them. Is this the condition that exists in the U.S., which Mr. Weigel has written about for the past several decades? Those families were starving. Today, we pay for Obama-phones.

          Did you notice para. 122?

          “We are sorry to note that not infrequently nowadays it happens that through a certain inversion of the true order of things, ready and bountiful assistance is provided for the unmarried mother and her illegitimate offspring (who, of course must be helped in order to avoid a greater evil) which is denied to legitimate mothers or given sparingly or almost grudgingly.”

          How about para. 123?

          “But not only in regard to temporal goods, Venerable Brethren, is it the concern of the public authority to make proper provision for matrimony and the family, but also in other things which concern the good of souls. just laws must be made for the protection of chastity, for reciprocal conjugal aid, and for similar purposes, and these must be faithfully enforced, because, as history testifies, the prosperity of the State and the temporal happiness of its citizens cannot remain safe and sound where the foundation on which they are established, which is the moral order, is weakened and where the very fountainhead from which the State draws its life, namely, wedlock and the family, is obstructed by the vices of its citizens.”

          When those who promote “social justice” and the social welfare state, above all else, start to promote these teachings as well, I might start to take them more seriously, okay?
          God Bless!

          p.s. Do you have any other examples? Or just the one?

          • Thomas Storck

            Nick, you demanded, “Show me where the Church has ever taught that the State should have the power to redistribute wealth? Or, when She ever taught that it was the State’s responsibility to take care of the poor?”
            I did show you. Exactly how many texts do you want in order to be convinced?

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            Mr. Storck,
            You must not have read my first reply very carefully.
            Right after I asked for your proof, I conceded that the Church does allow for society, as the last resort, to help the poor. I also provided several quotations from Sacred Scripture and the CCC.
            You, on the other hand, provided one paragraph from the end of an encyclical on marriage, didn’t provide the historical context (the Great Depression), and your “proof” never claimed that it’s the State’s responsibility to care for the poor.
            In fact, it began by stating quite clearly that it is only if “private resources do not suffice” that the “public authority” (i.e., the local government) may help. Plus, the paragraph ends with the reason that “civil society” has an interest in so doing: To stop riots and revolutions, like those that had occurred across Europe for the past decade.

            So, I would argue that you did not show me, Mr. Storck. To answer your question on how many texts I want?
            Umm…more than one.
            If it’s such a clear teaching of the Catholic Church, this shouldn’t be too much of a burden, correct?
            God Bless!

            p.s. You didn’t address my objections, either.

          • Patrick D. Hamilton

            You changed your language though sir. First you asked Mr. Stork to show where the Church has argued that the ‘State’ has a responsibility to help the poor, and you then shifted to admit that ‘society’ has a responsibility. I would presume that you either think the State of Society are the same thing then? If you do not think they are the same, then you have shifted the goal posts.

            Also he did show you. Context (both hisotrical and literary) is very important, but the principle that there are instances where a governmental actor can intereven in private life exists. You cannot argue that Mr. Stork did not show you when he did. Just because we have conditions on when such actions are appropriate does not mean that we lack an approval of such actions at all. It is also worth answering that the principles regarding that the poor should have all basic necessities can just as easily be found in the Corporal Works of Mercy as in any social encyclical. The reaosn Mr. Stork asked ‘How many texts do you want?’ is because the example given is one of many, in continuity with previous popes. If you need to find more, I’d reccomend and check their online library. They have many (if not all) the encyclicals.

            You have also shifted the goal posts again, as while you rightly point out that the approval of government action would first reside at the ‘local level’, your initial statement did not ask for such a discintion. Besides, your city government is just as much a governmental actor as the federal (if in kind if not in degree).

            Your response seems more like another dodge than some sort of refutation.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            Mr. Hamilton,
            I most certainly did not change my language or move the goal posts. I used very precise language. You are misrepresenting what I wrote, right off the bat.
            I did not ask Mr. Storck “to show where the Church has argued that the ‘State’ has a responsibility to help the poor,” I asked when the Church “ever taught that it was the State’s responsibility to take care of the poor?” As in the first or primary responsibility is the State’s, which I would sum-up is the view of the liberal/progressive left, today.

            This is not the view of the Catholic Church, according to what I read in the CCC. The primary responsibility for the care of the poor is the Church, through the family. Did you not read para. 2208? Here it is, in its entirety:
            2208 The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.'[Jas 1:27.]” (Emphasis mine.)

            As I told Mr. Storck, my inquiries are sincere. I am more than willing to read any papal document, in context, that teaches that the State should provide for what has historically been the purview of the Church and family, e.g., help the poor, widows, orphans; provide medical care; education, etc. And, if my understanding is incomplete on this subject, I will most certainly conform my conscience accordingly. As I have with many Church teachings.

            But, so far, my research in this area has found much lacking in the argument that the Catholic Church’s teaching on “social justice” somehow excuses support for the “Welfare State,” as is made clear from the CCC, para. 1883 and Bl. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Anno (1991), No. 48 § 4:

            “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.[Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno, I : loc. cit., 184-186]” (Emphasis in the original.)

            Maybe you could just show me where Christ, or the Apostles, ever told the disciples to petition/demand Herod, or Caesar, to give more money to the poor?
            God Bless!

          • Patrick D. Hamilton

            First this:
            ‘Show me where the Church has ever taught that the State should have the power to redistribute wealth? Or, when She ever taught that it was the State’s responsibility to take care of the poor?”

            And then this:
            ‘Also, I admitted that the Church teaches that society has a responsibility to help the poor, as a last resort and in a subsidiary way.’

            Right there, you shifted from ‘State’ to ‘Society’ so please explain how this is not a laguage shift, or moving the goal posts? The ‘State’ and ‘Society’ are two different things, as a State is usually a combination of governmental actors, non-governmental actors (think business or corporations that can influence policy of governmental actors) and those elites within a given nation who can influence opinion (and thus policy). Society would usually be defined as including the State, but also other actors not directly involved in the maintenance of the State, but who are ruled by the State. These can infulence the state, though not to the same degree and kind as those actually within the State itself.

            To simplify; the State governs, society is what is governed.

            Argued or taught is not a great difference, as often to teach one must argue a point. What we are doing right now is a learning exercise. Let me be clear that while I am disagreeing in your analysis of Mr. Stork, I do not think it to be disengenious, which is why I mentioned as a source for more documents on this matter.

            Again I refer to my previous post were I mentioned that subsidiarity does not negate use of governmental actors, which you also admitted. Degree and Kind of actor is vitally important, but it does not change the essance of the claim that such actors CAN take certain actions which help the poor, including the power to tax, and thus ‘redistribute’ the wealth, if thats the phrase we’re going to use. The phrase in and of itself is probably not even accurate anyways.

            I think you also misunderstand Mr. Stork and myself. We are NOT arguing for the so called ‘Welfare State’ as it currently exists, particularly at the Federal level of government within the U.S. I’d reccomend visiting to read more of Mr. Stork’s articles and others to understand what the position is that he actually holds. To save time however, the argument being made is that smaller markets = smaller regulation = local level government. When you have larger corporations, you sadly ‘need’ larger government, with both growing to depend upon the other to survive so they an act like parasites on Society unimpeded.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            Mr. Hamilton,
            You are now picking at nits, I’m afraid.
            I used “State” to begin with because those were my questions to Mr. Storck, in my own words (“State” meaning a national government, as opposed to the U.S. system of local, state, federal). Then, after consulting the CCC, I used “society” because that was the language that it used to indicate that government had a role to play in helping the poor. It was a small roll, only after the family and private organizations had reached their limits, and should start at the local level, as is made plain by the use of “subsidiary.”
            Yes, “society” would include both the local diocese, along with other religious groups, and the government. I was only anticipating a possible objection from Mr. Storck, based on what I knew the CCC taught, somewhere, about subsidiarity.
            If you would read my initial reply in its entirety, instead of missing the forest through the trees, I made myself clearer when I singled out the “national government” (thinking of our own constitutional republic) as intruding on what is rightly the role of the Church, at the local level.
            Bureaucrats in D.C. are the least qualified to know the needs of the poor in Allen Park, Michigan. Which is why money that could have helped the poor gets wasted on Obama-phones, and only makes phone companies richer. It’s called crony-capitalism.

            The principle of subsidiarity states that problems should be handled at the lowest level possible, if it is competent to do so. It is also a long held teaching of the Church. Starting with the building blocks of society, the family, then the larger community (town/city, including the Diocese), then the larger political group (province or State), and as the last resort, the national government.
            In the U.S., this even included defense. Local militias were supposed to be the first line of defense against invasion. The federal government was responsible for national defense, i.e., the Army, Navy, & coastal defense.

            To sum up, my point was that, as far as I know, the Church has never taught that the “State” has the primary responsibility to care for the poor. The Church reserves that right to Herself, through the family and local groups. This is the inverse of what the left believes. They want taxes, at the national level, to pay for programs for the poor. With no mention of the Gospel, either. (Paying taxes is not equivalent to redistribution of wealth, by the way. Giving taxpayer money to “the poor” is. There are legitimate uses for taxes.)
            I am still waiting for some more examples that prove that my understanding of Catholic social justice is flawed in some way. Mr. Storck seems to have given up. Or, maybe he is still searching?
            I appreciate your link to CatholicCulture. The Vatican site & EWTN, also, have many papal documents. As previously stated, I haven’t read most of them. So, if this is such a clear teaching of the Church, it should be easy to provide a few more citations, no?
            God Bless!

        • Howard

          “Show me where the Church has ever taught that the State should have the power to redistribute wealth?”

          “But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny. And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this? They say to him: Caesar’s. Then he saith to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.”

          That pretty clearly establishes the right of the State to tax. Maybe you think the State is entitled to collect taxes, but not to use them for anything? Anything they spend the taxes on is a “redistribution of wealth”

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            If your reply was direct at me, I never claimed that governments don’t have the right to tax.
            Spending taxpayer money is not, in and of itself, redistribution of wealth. Giving taxpayer money to “the poor” is.
            There are legitimate uses of taxpayer money.
            God Bless!

          • Howard

            So, which are you asserting? That money is not wealth, or that wealth changing hands is not wealth redistributed?

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            I’m not arguing semantics, Howard. The phrase redistribution of wealth means, to most people, taxing the rich to pay for the poor.

          • Howard

            I know what you’re doing, Nick (Old Nick?). I’m not in the slightest impressed with your argument.

            True or false: the Church has praised Christian monarchs when they aided the poor? (The answer is “true”.) But what was the source of their wealth? (Taxes — even if it was a tax in service rather than in gold.)

            So you think Jesus was saying it is fine for the State to tax the poor, but not to help them? Yet even Caesar did that — sometimes. This not always took the form of cash, of course; it frequently took the form of water supplies and sewers, though all too often arenas and hippodromes. Somehow I’d be surprised if it mattered to you if the taxes were used to improve the physical environment of poor neighborhoods, though; people who argue as you do are usually interested in laying up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            We should be able to discuss this without you calling me Satan, don’t you think?
            Just show me where Christ, or any of the Apostles, commanded the disciples to petition Herod or Caesar to spend more money on the poor? Just one example, okay? (Hint: You won’t find one!)

            When those who lean left try to bring their politics into the Gospel of Christ and His teachings, as handed down by His Church, they have already lost.
            God Bless!

          • Howard

            As for those legitimate purposes of taxation you admit to — where did He *mention* those — let alone command them? Somehow the Evangelists failed to record the Sermon on the Defense Budget. When you use one standard for the spending you want, and another for the spending you don’t want, you have already lost.

            By the way, to call me someone who leans to the left is at least as wrong as calling you Satan. (On the Internet, no one knows whether we are dogs!) **BUT** I take offense at invoking the Catholic Church in a failed attempt to bolster the worship of money.

            The Church teaches that the proper role of government is the temporal good of the people. I am really not able to respect someone who believes that this means jails and ICBMs (of dubious morality at best) but no aid to the poor. There are any number of practical reasons for limiting the capability of the State to fully take on that problem — the most important of which being that it is too stupid and corrupt so that any attempt to make it strong enough to actually solve the problem of poverty would make the State a monster. That, however, is not what you said; you want a blanket moral condemnation based on what you perceive as an argument from silence, because you discount anything that does not include the phrase “redistribution of wealth”. Again, the practical reason for not relying on the State as the chief, to say nothing of sole, means of addressing poverty is by no means unique. I don’t want the State powerful enough to deport every illegal alien, because a State that powerful will be comparable to Stalin’s USSR. Likewise, I *do* want the state to promote virtue, because virtue is a temporal good (which most people forget, because it is not money), but the State cannot have the principle role in promoting virtue.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            I never mentioned the Defense budget. Nor, did I state that you lean left. I wrote “those that lean left.” I did not imply that you were one of them. And I don’t worship money, either. (The Church has always taught that nations have a right to defend themselves, though.)

            I don’t think we are that far apart, really. (Did you notice that I left my “up” arrow in place, on your other comment, through this whole fracas?)
            The Catholic Church simply does not teach the “nanny-state” form of government. Which is preached and lobbied for by the left in this country.
            I’m still waiting to be shown where I’m going wrong?
            God Bless!

          • Howard

            Well, if your ideas of “legitimate use of taxpayer money” aren’t jails and tanks but certainly are not social programs, it’s hard to say what you could be thinking. The National Endowment for the Arts? NASA? The National Park System? I’m guessing you’re doubtful of the legitimacy of all those, though, even though you probably secretly love NASA. (You are, I assume, male!) You presumably approve of the Coast Guard in a drug interdiction role, since “nations have a right to defend themselves”, but it’s not clear that you approve of their role in search-and-rescue. Has the Church ever taught that governments have the right to spend taxpayer money looking for sailors lost at sea? Can you find it in an encyclical, or addressed in an ecumenical council? Let me know if you do.

            The Catholic Church does not teach the form of government, full stop. The Catholic Church *does* teach that a system that seeks to annihilate private property (the way Communism does) is wrong. The Church also teaches that “the right of private property may never be exercised to the detriment of the common good,” and “Private property, in fact, regardless of the concrete forms of the regulations and juridical norms relative to it, is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means.” The Church does not teach that we should have an American-style system or a British-style system; the Church does not
            (as far as I know) say anything about the voting age or whether judges should be elected or appointed.

            You ask where you were wrong? When you formulated the question as an argument from silence, you were wrong.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            I was not making an argument from silence. My questions were sincere. If Mr. Stork could have managed more than one obscure paragraph from a 70-year-old papal encyclical on marriage, I would have studied them carefully.
            And, upon studying the quotation that he did provide, it did not prove his point, anyway. So, I’m still waiting.
            God Bless!

          • Howard

            Ah, OK. Usually in these kinds of comments, such a question comes with an implied conclusion.

            If that’s not what you were doing, though, I would suggest that you are asking for more direction from the Church than the Church provides. I doubt any Pope or Council has formally taught that the State can spend taxpayer money on fire departments or search-and-rescue, or that the State can provide shelter for the homeless during severe cold or for those flooded by Hurricane Katrina — but neither does the Church teach against such spending. The emphasis is very strongly on the personal responsibility of those with wealth, and there is no hint that simply paying taxes absolves anyone of his responsibilities to the poor, but neither is there any hint that the State should simply ignore the temporal good of the public because some political or economic theory is treated as some kind of idol.

            I have a big, thick book called THE FRAMEWORK OF A CHRISTIAN STATE by E. Cahill, S.J. that you might find as interesting as I do. I’ve scarcely scratched the surface of it myself — I have no idea when I will have time to read it — but what I’ve seen seems very reasonable and balanced, and I mean that in the good way, not the namby-pamby way. My edition is published by Roman Catholic Books, and it’s imprimatur is from 1932.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            “I doubt any Pope or Council has formally taught that the State can spend taxpayer money on fire departments or search-and-rescue, or that the State can provide shelter for the homeless during severe cold or for those flooded by Hurricane Katrina — but neither does the Church teach against such spending.”

            And now we have come full circle.
            You must then disagree with Mr. Storck’s criticism of Mr. Weigel, as I do, correct, Howard? The Church leaves it the various nation-states to figure out the technicalities, within the bounds of God’s justice and natural law.
            Since the U.S. Constitution was formed by mostly practicing Christians, was based on the natural law, and set-up a system of limited powers, based on subsidiarity; Catholics are free to object to wasting taxpayer dollars on destructive poverty programs, such as those pushed by liberals/democrats. Without being told that we are not obeying the Church’s teaching on social justice, or, that we are somehow “cafeteria” Catholics. Which is absurd.

            Thanks for the reading suggestion. Unfortunately, I have about 3 dozen other titles sitting around waiting for me to dust off and finally start reading! I’ve made a note of it, though, and hopefully I will get to it someday.
            God Bless!

          • Howard

            Yes and no. I’m not much impressed with the idea that the US was “founded by Christians” — I’d be more inclined to say “founded by heretics”. Practically every nation-state in Europe took its form under Christianity; the pre-Christian tribes were rarely so well organized as to be called nation-states. More, they usually formed while still in communion with Rome. Needless to say, that has not spared them a great deal of foolishness and suffering. The US seems to be about the first country of European origin to be founded with NO explicit reference to God. I don’t expect us to do better in a time of crisis than our cousins.

            Also, it’s a pretty remarkable idea that as long as no Catholic Magisterium exists condemning a practice, it must be a good practice.

            But I can agree with opposition to making the government, and especially the national government, more powerful on the grounds that this will harm everyone, the poor included. Unfortunately, too much of what I hear reminds me of the story in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV: “Once upon a time there was a peasant woman and a very wicked woman she was. And she died and did not leave a single good deed behind. The devils caught her and plunged her into the lake of fire. So her guardian angel stood and wondered what good deed of hers he could remember to tell to God; ‘She once pulled up an onion in her garden,’ said he, ‘and gave it to a beggar woman.’ And God answered: ‘You take that onion then, hold it out to her in the lake, and let her take hold and be pulled out. And if you can pull her out of the lake, let her come to Paradise, but if the onion breaks, then the woman must stay where she is.’ The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her. ‘Come,’ said he, ‘catch hold and I’ll pull you out.’ he began cautiously pulling her out. He had just pulled her right out, when the other sinners in the lake, seeing how she was being drawn out, began catching hold of her so as to be pulled out with her. But she was a very wicked woman and she began kicking them. ‘I’m to be pulled out, not you. It’s my onion, not yours.’ As soon as she said that, the onion broke. And the woman fell into the lake and she is burning there to this day. So the angel wept and went away.”

            It is fine to object to programs because they won’t help the poor and will further corrupt government; it’s another thing to object, “It’s my onion, not yours.”

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            “I’m not much impressed with the idea that the US was ‘founded by Christians’ — I’d be more inclined to say ‘founded by heretics’.”
            Umm, last time I checked, the Church said that mainline Protestant denominations were Christian, Howard. You don’t think that George Washington and John Adams were Christian?

            “Also, it’s a pretty remarkable idea that as long as no Catholic Magisterium exists condemning a practice, it must be a good practice.”
            I never asserted this. Besides, the Church leaves many things open to debate, despite the gnashing of teeth constantly heard from the left. And how societies govern themselves is given quite some latitude by the Catholic Church. From monarchy to democracy.
            Christ, and His Church, isn’t really interested what state of life you find yourself in. Slave or free, man or woman, Jew or Greek, salvation depends only on faith and obedience to Christ.
            But, this doesn’t mean that we should throw away the freedom we enjoy, which is a gift from God to begin with. We should all be praying not to lose any more freedom, not voting to have it taken away.

            “It is fine to object to programs because they won’t help the poor and will further corrupt government; it’s another thing to object, ‘It’s my onion, not yours.'”

            This is an excellent point. I would be on the side of the former, of course.
            Your Brother in Christ,

          • Howard

            Only a Christian (in some sense of the word) can be a heretic. (Some have thought of Muslims as heretics, which is understandable since they are so closely related to Christianity, but I don’t think that fits.)

            As for your second paragraph, sure. but you started out asking if the Church had ever explicitly and dogmatically said that the State could collect taxes to feed the poor, as though the absence of a specific OK meant more in this case than the absence of an approval for spending taxes to fight fires or build roads or any of the other things that you take for granted. Now you’re switching to say that the absence of Church condemnation actually commends your favored policy. Of course freedom is a good thing, and famine, plague, and war are bad things. Striking the right balance will always be tricky, and it will always tend to fail in one direction or another. In fact, I sometimes think human history can be seen as a proof by exhaustion that human beings cannot govern themselves. One way or the other, I’m absolutely confident that this is too hard a problem to be reduced to a bumper sticker slogan or fully explained in a 30-second ad.

            It’s harder to give away onions than it seems. Like the woman in the story, we usually try to hold on to what we have supposedly given away. We may give a gift, but then we wonder, “is this person really enjoying MY gift?” And of course, too often we are thinking about the good deed we are doing instead of the person for whom we should be doing the deed. I’m speaking from personal experience; I tend to hold on to my onions much too tightly.

          • Christopher

            You don’t know exactly WHERE your opponents lean, politically, culturally, or whatever. You’re making assumptions at worst and bare surmises at best. These are not helpful.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            I made no assumption, Christopher.
            Please, read my reply to Howard.

        • It is not wise to take Casti Connubii (120) in isolation. That section is the backstop to a number of prior plans elaborated in 117-119 of the same document. The socialist loves 120. The Catholic should be mindful of all of them and the order that they are given in. Plan D should be the the last resort after real effort is undertaken to implement the Pope’s plan A, B, and C and they are all insufficient. In the world today, we have inordinately and improperly leaned on plan D, government support, out of all proportion to the other plans, first of which is to have a non-distorted economy where the vast majority simply work in the private sector for a living that is sufficient for their ordinary economic needs.

          Instead we have a world where capital and those who provide it are derided and discouraged and insufficient capitalists are formed, with insufficient workplaces built as a result. The glut in labor coming from that distortion crashes wage rates which are then artificially propped up in a way that encourages unemployment.

          Fortunately, I see the distorters seem to be hitting their end game and if we are proactive, we may be able to take advantage of the coming moment of clarity to put into greater effect, the Pope’s plan A instead of relying so much on his plan D.

          • Thomas Storck

            If you look at all the comments here in context, I think you’ll realize that by quoting CC 120 I was offering an example to prove that the Church has no objection in principle to the state aiding the poor by means of tax revenues. Whether and how this should be done, what alternatives there might be, etc. – this was not the point of this exchange.

          • The problem is that for virtually the whole of the 20th century, the accurate Church teaching regarding when and how to turn to the state in matters of economics has been distorted by omitting context to develop a welfare state far beyond where we should properly go. In other words, you’re using similar tactics to a notorious group of liars and other people of bad faith who have demonstrated that bad faith over the course of decades.

            This says nothing necessarily about you, of course. You could be falling into this line of discourse completely innocently. The attractiveness of the line is a major part of its enduring appeal, after all. In the face of such a long record of bad faith that went into creating the 20th century socialist ratchet, you end up with frustrated people denying the government any role in the economy because the damage of government over involvement is seen as greater than any under involvement would be.

            Nobody has yet found a reliable way to politically undo the socialist ratchet. Figure that problem out and about 90% (to my observation) of the people who deny the government the right to intervene at all will moderate because letting the government in no longer would seem like another step on the road to serfdom.

          • Thomas Storck

            If you have any objection to something you think I advocate, you might have the courtesy to cite what I’ve written and state what Church teachings you imagine it’s contrary to. That could be the beginning of a constructive conversation.

          • I don’t think you’re being contrary to Church teaching. I think you’re being careless of the probably consequences of your position. The 20th century is filled with example after example of honest Catholics granting an inch on government participation and socialists turning that into miles and miles of government intervention far beyond the sort of last resort appeal that the popes (and it’s not just CC 120 and not just Pius XI) are talking about.

            After a hundred years of the Church playing Charlie Brown to a socialist Lucy, isn’t it time we just stop kicking the football?

          • Thomas Storck

            You seem to be assuming that the neoliberal or even libertarian approach is the correct one. I don’t agree.
            Moreover, Catholics should advocate for Catholic principles on economic questions, as on everything else, without fear of what others might do or try to do. One can’t defeat error with error – one can’t defeat the errors of socialists by advocating the errors of capitalists.

          • I think that the neoliberal and even libertarian one can be an acceptable option within the fairly wide latitude of political experiments the Church has said are acceptable. There are others which I politically disagree with but accept as within that broad latitude.

            But just as Catholic libertarians need to be careful in differentiating themselves from atheist objectivists, Catholics who are of a persuasion that is more comfortable with a strong state role have an obligation to separate themselves from the socialist ratchet crowd. The Popes have generally drawn towards a middle ground and that includes the present one. Pope Francis has condemned the welfare state ‘just write a check’ mentality along with the assumption that the invisible hand of the market will take care of everything. He endorses a personal involvement with the poor, something that I agree with.

      • Christopher

        The poor DO need to hear the good news more than they need material goods, but to merely preach to them or to pray for them when they are starving and ill and naked and homeless and ignorant is not sufficient. Just because there is a hierarchy in goods doesn’t mean that one good always takes precedent over the other. If a man is starving right in front of me, it’s a failure to give him prayer when I have the power to give him bread. I should give him both, and not substitute one for the other. See St. Thomas on this point.

        “The virtue of subsidiarity goes beyond material goods.” Yes! But going beyond material goods doesn’t mean, actually, that you leave them behind. Just as contemplation goes beyond material things, beyond signs and images, but doesn’t turn the contemplative into an angel. Faith goes beyond reason but doesn’t do away with the necessity of being rational.

        When do we come to “the last resort”? If you’re going to say that’s the line when “society” (which, if the family is the fundamental building block of it, is not an entirely different thing from the family, as an organism is not an entirely different thing than its cells) steps in to take care of the poor, you have to delineate what it is–otherwise it will constantly recede. What is this line, definitively? When do we cross it? You owe it to yourself to answer this question clearly.

        “National governments intrude on what is rightly the duty of the Church when they spend taxpayer’s money on poverty programs.” You make it sound as if the Church has or desires a monopoly on helping the poor. Casual acquaintance (outside of the Catechism, which is among the most casual acquaintances one can have with Church teaching, and is only as authoritative as the documents it cites) with the Church’s teachings on Church-state relations and on the duties of the state qua state would be enough to disabuse one of this notion.

        • Nick_from_Detroit

          You, like Mr. Storck, didn’t read my reply very carefully, I’m afraid.
          Where did I even come close to implying that it was “sufficient” to ONLY pray for the poor “when they are starving[, etc., etc.]”? You are inferring this. Based on some bias, it seems. So, your instruction to refer to the Angelic Doctor “on this point” is not needed.

          “‘The virtue of subsidiarity goes beyond material goods.'”

          That is not the quotation from the CCC that I provided. It was about the “virtue of [SOLIDARITY]” between all men, including rich and poor. I encourage you to read the whole section.

          Finally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) contains the Deposit of Faith (i.e., Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition), as much as it can be compiled in one volume. It is part of the Church’s Magisterium (official Teaching Authority of Church).
          Those who dismiss it are not serious disciples of Christ.
          God Bless!

          • Christopher

            In other words, your response is a bevy of dodges and accusations (that I’m biased and blinded by that bias, that I am not “a true disciple of Christ) without a single salient or apropos reply to any of my comments or questions or challenges, especially when the “last resort” comes into play. Answer that question.

            My comment about the Catechism was not a disparagement or a “dismissal” of it, but an attempt to put it in its proper place. Those who simply cite the Catechism usually do so because they feel it is somehow the last authority or the most excellent one. Being able to cite the Catechism does not evince a familiarity with either Sacred Scripture or Tradition, especially when it’s treated as a sort of Cliff’s Notes for the Faith. It is authoritative because of the documents it cites (Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition as expressed in conciliar documents and in the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church)–in other words, my “dismissal” of it was framed in similar terms to your aggrandizement of it. What I was suggesting (albeit obliquely, perhaps this caused your confusion about how I regard the Catechism) was that you ought to immerse yourself in the sources upon which the Catechism draws, and which in large part invest it with whatever authority it has. The Catechism cannot be (nor does it purport to be) a sort of last word, because it is merely supposed to be a summary and shorthand or what the Church teaches–unfortunately this means it sometimes oversimplifies issues. It’s not a new definitive statement of faith, morals, or teaching, either, for the reasons both you and I outlined. Go deeper, my friend–that’s what I’m saying.

            I was also pointing out that your criticism was off base, and addressing a position which wasn’t put forward. This is humorously coincidental because that’s exactly what you accuse me of doing.

            If you care to respond, leave all moral accusation out of it. That’s beneath you.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            No need to continue with the acrimony. If you’ll remember, it was you that began by erecting a straw man, which you then expended many words tearing down. You also do not seem to know how to use quotation marks correctly. I used the words “serious disciples of Christ,” not “true.” You infer meanings that I did not write, and then insert them in false quotations. Which is a sign of bias.
            This also applies to what you wrote about the CCC, initially. I was not confused, I read what you actually wrote. It is not my fault that you did not express your views more accurately and comprehensively. And, then, you concoct more straw men, assuming that I do not read the footnotes provided on every page of the CCC. I assure you, I have done so many times.
            Perhaps you could explain to me how I am misreading the CCC passages that I cited in defense of my claims?

            Finally, so that I don’t repeat myself, you should read my replies to Mr. Hamilton, below, to answer the rest of your objections. I believe that I covered them well enough.
            I don’t wish to be combative with you, Christopher. We should be able to discuss this in a reasonable manner.
            God Bless!

          • Christopher

            “Continue”? What acrimony? Where was it in any of my posts? I took offense to your dodge-cum-accusations, and said so. If my offense at your unjust accusations is somehow offensive to you, you need to stop being so sensitive.
            The whole “straw man” part was a clarification, and not an accusation, coupled with a suggestion to read what St. Thomas as to say about the hierarchy of the works of mercy. Maybe, if you think others can be unclear, you ought to consider that you yourself can be unclear, as well. In fact, you are. Unless you want to attribute to all those here who question/dispute with you some willful ignorance born of a sort of persecuting malice directed at you–well, then, maybe you should consider the possibility that you yourself were not so clear in putting forth your own arguments. If you want to learn and engage, this is necessary. If you want to, in the words of St. Anselm, “contend for empty victory,” you don’t need to do so.
            Okay. So you said, “serious” as opposed to “true”–how does that change the fact that it was an unfair questioning of my commitment to Christ? This was not an “abuse” of quotation marks so much as a slip up, one for which, if it offended you, I apologized. I’d be waiting for your apology about saying/implying I am not a serious disciple of the Lord–if that didn’t mean I’d have to subject myself to this inanity further. It puzzles me that you accuse me of acrimony and bias and such and yet turn a blind eye to your own insulting characterizations of me, then paint yourself in righteousness. You can keep saying “God bless!” as you end your posts, but so far it rings hollowly, like a formality.
            I expressed my views about the Catechism both accurately and succinctly. You read into it a dismissal and derision that was not present, and if you assert one was present, the burden of proof rests on you. Furthermore, I said nothing about “footnotes.” Footnotes are not sources; neither are citations. They may point to the sources but they are not the sources. I encouraged you to go to the sources. I’m saying: Go outside the Catechism! I’m not saying throw it away as garbage, I’m saying let it lead you to deeper streams. The very fact that you interpreted my saying, “Go to the sources!” as “Go to the footnotes!” (and then act as if this was some sort of intellectual or moral assault, as opposed to a helpful suggestion) is indicative that you really, really do need to get outside the Catechism and go deeper.
            Look, you can consider this a “win” if you value such things, but until you’re actually ready to be civil yourself, address the objections and questions I raise, and stop characterizing your opponents as both intellectually and morally beneath you, I will spare myself the further exposure to you. Especially as it seems I won’t get an answer to my question, but only more name-calling and derision put forward as detachment and rationality.

          • Nick_from_Detroit

            I’m sorry that my responses have upset you so. This was not my intent, I promise.
            My only interest is to share, and defend, the teachings of the Catholic Church. I try to do it with charity. Sometimes, my pride gets in the way. I apologize for that, also. I truly do not wish to fight with a fellow brother in Christ.
            I agree with everything that the Church teaches, even though I don’t know everything the Church teaches. So, if I’m shown Church documents that She teaches that the national government is the primary organization responsible for taking care of the poor, I will study them closely.
            Again, if you read my replies to Mr. Hamilton you will find my explanation of what the Church teaches about subsidiarity and why the government is the last resort, not the first. Also, I never called you any names. Please, show me were I did this?
            And, when I stated that I read the footnotes, this meant that when a passage of the CCC is quoting Sacred Scripture, the early Church Fathers, or some Church document, I try, if possible, to look up the citation and read it. In order to better understand what the CCC is saying. Since, it is part of the Church’s Magisterium.
            I have studied what the CCC teaches about social justice and how to treat the poor. I have looked some of the footnotes to the applicable paragraphs. I do not see in them the secular nanny-state that liberal/democrats in this county preach. Sorry.
            The main point of the questions I asked Mr. Storck was that his assertion that those of us who agree with Mr. Weigel will not read the papal documents was wrong. I will. All he had to do was show me where. He gave up, rather quickly, I’m afraid.

            If I can clarify anything else, please let me know.
            Your Brother in Christ,

  • Bill

    Everyone changes their opinions on certain topics at some point. Weigel’s no different and neither is the author of this article. So why nit-pick Weigel? How will that look when you come to the Judgement? Better to tend to the log in one’s own eye and let God take care of the others.

    • Thomas Storck

      George Weigel is a high-profile Catholic. He has been associated with a certain view of Catholic social teaching which I think clearly contradicts the actual papal documents. Here he enunciates a position on papal authority which while true, is contrary to what he himself has been saying for years. Why is it wrong to point this out? Is it not acceptable to point out the dissent or heresy of numerous liberal Catholics? If so, why not of conservative Catholics who equally deviate from orthodoxy?

      • Robert

        Simply put, it’s not your job to point this out publicly, Thomas. You come across as someone who’s grinding an axe against Weigel. Ask your Confessor if your public humiliation and attack article against Weigel is in line with Biblical and Catechetical teachings.

        There are enough vicious seculars attacking the Church from without (the United Nations being one such perp); we need to be supporting and encouraging each other, instead of joining the uncharitable rhetoric.

        • MitchellJ

          So no one can critique other Catholics because non-Catholics pick on us enough? Hogwash… In fact if some Catholics are misrepresenting (whether intentionally or not) the Church’s teaching they are doing far greater harm to the Church than any secular group could.

          • Frank

            MitchellJ: According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, disagreements should be discussed directly between the involved parties IN PRIVATE, not in a public sarcasm fest. Public viciousness by Catholics brings shame on all of the members of the Catholic Faith. The Church teaches us that we’re not to be like the seculars and use their methods. I encourage you to check your CCC.

          • Harry

            Frank is right. This article violates the Church’s teaching on detraction and other matters of speech. Look at your CCC.

        • Ita Scripta Est

          Weigel calling Pope Benedict’s Encyclical a “duck-billed platypus” is something that should have never been published.

          God bless Thomas Storck.

  • rodlarocque1931

    I don’t think a pure market economy denies the exerise of charity, infact it may even encourage it. However the issue between traditional Catholics and liberals in the political sphere is how on much we can delegate to government, if any, and how much can we trust them to be good stewards on behalf of those that contribute.
    It seems clear from history that government can’t be trusted and if the private sector can secure the social safetynet, which the church did for centuries, then it should be left out of government control.
    Liberal Catholicism is simply a tool of the evil one to remove grace from the act of charity.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Very good closing line. That is exactly true.

      Thank you.

    • Ita Scripta Est

      Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.


    Like many Catholic ‘Neo-conservatives” Mr Weigel is enjoying a lucrative and successful career which appears to influence his viewpoint on a variety of social, economic and military issues. The fact that he is employed as “special adviser’ on Vatican affairs for the national NBC network sort of says it all.

    • Phil Steinacker

      So, then, by the “substance” inherent to your ad hominum remarks we may conclude you have nothing of substance to offer regarding Mr. Weigel.

      Thank you very much.

  • Greg

    A key element of the social doctrine of the Church is the application of the unchanging truths of revelation to the particular needs and circumstances of the times. When Republicans were cut-throat promoters of the advantages of the aristocracy, the Church was Democrat. Now that the Democrats are cut-throat promoters of cutting foetus’ throats, the Church is becoming Republican. The two maxims “Look before you leap” and “He who hesitates is lost” both have tremendous value, but their appropriate promotion varies with circumstance. People should always be encouraged to exercise courage tempered by prudence. When the house is burning down around you or you’ve been chased to a cliff, you do better to trust yourself to Providence than to examine what alternatives may exist, what their relative strengths, how they might be applied, what would be involved in the application of each, etc. On the other hand, when considering an investment opportunity or a major life decision, you do better to exercise due diligence. This is how it is with the social doctrine of the Church: not that the revelation is up fro grabs, but how meaningfully to apply it in context.

    Further, those whose perspective engenders distaste for the doctrine do a great service, by pursuing questions which help refine our understanding. Constraints are to be understood liberally, that is, as imposing no greater constraint than need be understood by the teaching, and the understanding of this limit is refined by those who would prefer it minimised. Thus were all the heresies, and none were heretics save those who rejected the minimal constraint. We recall, for instance, “There is no salvation outside the Church.” I find nuance in the social doctrine which leaves plenty of room for exhortation and progressive sanctification (call to conversion) and social development, including in the role of the state, without denouncing as heretical all those of divergent economic perspective. I notice this appreciation of nuance in George Weigel. It is not obvious to me in this article by Thomas Storck.

    God bless you,

  • The_Monk

    Social justice must be the heartbeat of each Catholic. And each Catholic must have formed his conscience in accordance with the truth of the Church, which is the truth of the Gospel. Our Lord’s parables did not condemn the merchant or the servant as such. Instead He gave us the picture of how we should interact with one another. Christian social justice will never be the friend of the state, nor will it be the friend of any hard-hearted materialist. Because the opposite of capitalism is not socialism – they are opposite sides of the same coin, which is materialism. The opposite of capitalism is the same as the opposite of socialism which is Christianity. And Christianity is eternalism….

  • Thomas J. Ryan

    Francis is playing right in to the hands of Weigel & Co. damning his predecessors with faint praise and writing ambivalent documents that cite no sources prior to 1960.

    Earlier popes explained Catholic Social teaching in a way that forced the reader to accept it or reject it. It’s clear that Weigel & Co. reject the earlier teaching but are they clear as to where they stand on Francis’? We know they’d like to interpret it.

    Catholic Social teaching was also clearly explained by another Ratzinger, Fr. Georg Ratzinger the grand uncle of Benedict XVI. After skimming a few of his hastily translated books, it clear why “conservatives” & “liberals” have kept him buried.

  • Bob

    Nick from Detroit, many good points! This is the absolutely worst moment to turn responsibility for the poor over to the state. Does Thomas Storck understand that what this administration is actually doing in real time with real people and hopes to do in the future?

    • Nick_from_Detroit

      Thank you, Bob. I appreciate it, very much.
      God Bless!

  • Michael Blissenbach

    Excellent article! Keep up the great work, Mr. Storck!

  • Howard

    Of course, there was also the whole issue of the war in Iraq.

    I have to admit, though, that similar accusations have sometimes been leveled against me because I do not think “abolishing” the death penalty is a good idea. I maintain that a careful reading of what Popes have actually said, particularly in the context of Tradition, is that they want few if any actual executions, and I insist that it is right for the state to formally pronounce that some crimes are worthy of death, not just in some abstract principle but in concrete, specific cases. I maintain that these are not really in conflict, since what the Popes are (or mean to be) advocating is mercy, not mere raw justice. Not everyone agrees with that, though, so I have likewise been accused of selective orthodoxy.

  • Michael

    Mr. Storck is quite correct. Pope Francis has explicitly condemned the free market system and has stated those who consider market solutions to be preferable to state intervention ‘need to be freed from those unworthy chains’, etc. Mr. Storck is also completely correct that this anti-market bias is representative of Catholic Social Teaching to a very great extent. But so what? The real question is, in the context of the global economy of the twenty-first century, is this anti-market bias correct or even reasonable? I wonder what Catholics are supposed to do with this–quit their jobs in banking and manufacturing and grow turnips? Sorry, Pope Francis, no sale.

  • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

    By the number of comments on this article, and taking a quick read of some of them, It seems to me that we are missing totally the point here. Some comments and replies remind me of a discussions that ended with someone saying “your problem is that you call ‘fascism’ anything that isn’t your marxism notion”, and the other replying “yes, but you call ‘tiranny’ anything that isn’t your free-trade notion”. When we adopt any of these sides, we tend to defend uncritically some mistaken positions (e.g., FTA’s, PA’s and IBT’s as if they were free-trade instruments, when they are not; or Common Core as if it were an instrument to widespread education, when it is not).
    If someone has read Mr. Storck’s work, we could find that he is not defending statism by calling anything else fascism, and he is not defending libertarianism by calling anything else tiranny. He’s proposing a principle of association that allows a lot of intermediate structures that could moderate both individual interests on trade and government protection; this is not new, it’s almost on every encyclical since Rerum Novarum (for example, RN #36, QA #83, MM #85, …). That could be wrong, but it has the virtue of calling our attention to some things where we’re not defending Catholic Social Thought, at all, but some individual or .
    I propose the next: tonight, we pray, everyone at each one’s shelter, and after we have prayed, we take any social encyclical (the one we like the most if you want, and it must be a Vatican edition, not the appendix of any book), and read it carefully (it must not take us more than an hour or two). Finally, we ask the Lord “what have I done?”, after all, we should defend the Church on our knees.

  • Matt

    This is probably the most confused article I have read on economics from a Catholic perspective.

    At no point did the author refute anything Weigel, Sirco, or Novak had written. Rather he simply attempted to plant the seed of suspicion on their take of Catholic Social Teaching by quoting passages of previous popes (that anyone who reads those authors on this stuff wouldn’t disagree with) and then uses Pope Francis in a dreamed up “gotcha” moment. This article seemed to be simply a rhetorical slap in Weigel’s face more than anything on account that he thinks that Pope Francis agrees with him and not Weigel.

    Any student of Catholic Social Teaching would recognize that it’s not that simple to put Francis in a box for one’s own ends. The author did just that. How do I know? Because of the not so subtle lack of engagement with the main arguments proposed by Weigel, Sirico and Novak which by the way are grounded in JPII’s encyclical.

    Therefore, the article amounted to nothing other than, “Pope Francis agrees with me and not you people, ha!”… without of course addressing the fullness of what JPII said about free markets in that encyclical (that would have destroyed the argument of this this article) and addressing the fact that Weigel’s position doesn’t at all conflict with Pope Francis and the previous Popes.

    So just as the author claims that the book that Weigel edited omitted or toned down things out of Centesimus Annus, the author himself does the same thing with respect to the strong affirmation of the JPII magisterium on how beneficial the free market is to economic justice for all.

    Alas, I wish Catholics would understand that the Church condemns both pure socialism and pure capitalism. Why is it that you only see authors condemning the latter but not the former? Which is the greater danger to civil society today?

  • As Weigel knows, in 1870 the Vatican declared the Pope to be infallible on matters of faith. This took place soon after the Vatican lost the previously vast Papal States to the new nation of Italy. What I’d like to know is, if Italy agreed to return the Papal States to the Vatican, does Weigel think the Pope should relinquish his claim of infallibility?