"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paul Ryan’s Catholic Financial Principles

I am no economist and I have little patience with politics, but I do understand that my Catholic faith is opposed to both socialism and unrestrained capitalism. It is opposed to both because it is in favor of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. These principles are easily understood as the proper need for community and government being balanced by being “in favor of the little guy and the homegrown solution”. The Catholic faith is therefore in favor of community, but sees community as founded on personal freedom and personal responsibility. Therefore we distrust both big government and big business.
Catholic social teaching is a largely undiscovered treasure. It provides a sensible way of balance in fiercely partisan politics. A Catholic politician should work according to the principles of this social teaching. To do so is not to bring religion into politics, but to allow his beliefs to influence his decisions. We would expect this to be the case for any politician–that his personal ideals and beliefs should positively motivate his political decisions. In a speech at Georgetown, Ryan has said,
“The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it,” Ryan said. “What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding of the problems of the day.”
This article explains how Paul Ryan’s economic plans echo the Catholic principle of subsidiarity. What interests me most is why the principle of subsidiarity is a Catholic principle. It is Catholic because it is an outgrowth of the Catholic understanding of individual responsibility and freedom. These personal, social and political principles: (freedom and responsibility) are a direct outgrowth of Catholic theology and anthropology. We believe that each human person is created in God’s image and are therefore created with free will. They have power to act. They are able not only to make choices, but to follow through and take action. This personal freedom is one of humanity’s greatest potentialities and strengths. Linked with personal freedom is personal responsibility. If I would have freedom I must exercise that freedom responsibly. I must be aware of the consequences of my decisions and actions. I must weight up the possible rewards and punishments that flow naturally from the exercise of my free will. I must weigh up how my decisions and actions influence other people and society in general.
The principle of freedom and responsibility are woven into the fabric of what it means to be human. Read more.
More on the Ryan pick from Creative Minority Report. Deacon Kandra has a round up on Ryan’s Catholicism here. Deacon Fournier was at the Ryan launch in Virginia and reports here. Kathryn Lopez has an excellent article with good links to Ryan’s background and his work on the budget and how that relates to his Catholic calling. Gohere.


Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan

Here is Ayn Rand on individual rights and on limited government.
The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.
Here is Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum - this comes after his recognition that property is owned by the individual for the sake of the family.
The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth. In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them. But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop… The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home.
Ayn Rand on the morality of capitalism
The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve “the common good.” It is true that capitalism does—if that catch-phrase has any meaning—but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.
Ayn Rand on the immorality of collectivism or statism
Collectivism holds that the individual has no rights, that his life and work belong to the group . . . and that the group may sacrifice him at its own whim to its own interests. The only way to implement a doctrine of that kind is by means of brute force—and statism has always been the political corollary of collectivism.
Now read excerpts from Rerum Novarum
4. To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community.
5. It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages in remunerative labor, the impelling reason and motive of his work is to obtain property, and thereafter to hold it as his very own… Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life. 6. What is of far greater moment, however, is the fact that the remedy they propose is manifestly against justice. For, every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own
8. The fact that God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race can in no way be a bar to the owning of private property. For God has granted the earth to mankind in general, not in the sense that all without distinction can deal with it as they like, but rather that no part of it was assigned to any one in particular, and that the limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by man’s own industry, and by the laws of individual races. Moreover, the earth, even though apportioned among private owners, ceases not thereby to minister to the needs of all, inasmuch as there is not one who does not sustain life from what the land produces.
Here again, we have further proof that private ownership is in accordance with the law of nature.
The truths Paul Ryan found attractive in Ayn Rand were already part of Catholic social teaching, and I’m sure Paul Ryan realizes this by now. If he doesn’t–somebody ought to tell him that he’d do better plumbing the depths of Catholic social teaching than re-reading Atlas Shrugged. But he seems to be a smart guy. I think he’s solved the problem. Thus in a speech at Georgetown he has said,
The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it. What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to the problems of the day.
The problem with Ayn Rand is the problem with every ideologue, heretic and godless thinker: they come up with a few good ideas that the Catholic Church had to start with and mix it up with a bunch of poisonous things that seem like good ideas. Then the Catholic truth attracts people (as truth always does) and they swallow the rest of the poison with it. Paul Ryan may have been attracted to the economic and political ideas of Ayn Rand when he was a student. There’s every evidence that he’s rejected the atheism, pro abortionism and anti-religious individualism. He is, after all, a practicing Catholic who has a good pro-life voting record, and he speaks well of the need to pursue the ‘common good’ as well as ensuring the proper rights of individuals.
Last month Ryan clarified–saying about Rand:
“I reject her philosophy. … It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.” He said, “I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them. … They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman. … If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. … Don’t give me Ayn Rand.””

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