Tag Archives: Sola Scriptura

Paul A. Rahe calls the Catholic church to account on fiscal policy

Practicing Catholic Paul A. Rahe explains why he thinks that the Catholic Church made a mistake by supporting Obamacare.


In the 1930s, the majority of the  bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal. They gloried in the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Frances Perkins – a devout Anglo-Catholic laywoman who belonged to the Episcopalian Church but retreated on occasion to a Catholic convent – Secretary of Labor and the first member of her sex to be awarded a cabinet post. And they welcomed Social Security – which was her handiwork. They did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well-being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They did not stop to think.

In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.

At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlements state. At no point have its members evidenced any concern for sustaining limited government and protecting the rights of individuals. It did not cross the minds of these prelates that the liberty of conscience which they had grown to cherish is part of a larger package – that the paternalistic state, which recognizes no legitimate limits on its power and scope, that they had embraced would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate whom it chose to teach its doctrines and how, more generally, it would conduct its affairs.

I would submit that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.

Now, when I think of Catholics, I think of fiscal conservatives like Jay Richards, Robert Scirocco and Jennifer Roback Morse. There are Catholics who understand the relationship between fiscal policy and religious liberty. But many lay Catholics who listen to the bishops, nuns and priests don’t understand how fiscal policy relates to religious liberty. And I think that this is a good opportunity for lay Catholics to consider the fact that the church can sometimes be wrong – because they can be too liberal not because they are conservative! Imagine that. Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to just take the word of “experts” on some matters. It’s better to puzzle things out for ourselves by reading the Bible and studying things like economics, and then deciding how to reconcile the goals of the Bible with the way the world works. I think that it’s the case that we can help the poor by keeping government small, and by letting individuals and families have more freedom – not less.