Catholiconomics 101

Distributist economics encourages small businesses and employee-owned businesses.

If your knowledge of Roman Catholicism comes from Monty Python, you might think they’re a prolife group that was started in the 1970s. In fact they’re a bit older than that, though like their nemeses the Freemasons probably not nearly as old or as unchanged as they claim. And in that time, particularly in the last 150-or-so years, they’ve come up with some rather compelling socioeconomic theories that (thank heaven) certainly give Karl Marx a run for his royalties.

Blogger’s rundown of human life on earth
IDENTITY is built upon
SOCIETY is built upon
ECONOMY is built upon
FOOD is built upon
LAND is the “real estate”
(Note: this applies to hunting-gathering as much as to farming.)


Most lifelong Catholics are at least nominally aware of the existence of such things as “common sense” or “Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum“, and yet in simply searching through quotes of note (a dangerous hobby I’m learning), I found myself utterly speechless by how unapologetically the views of the bastions of twentieth-century Catholic orthodoxy in the economic arena CONDEMN the at times tinnitus-inducing views of those men and women who are most likely to have on that very day lit a votive candle to venerate said bastions. Here’s a quick timeline for your notes, FREE OF CHARGE:

  • 1891 – POPE LEO XIII makes an inseparable link between capital and labor:

“Capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital”

Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891

  • 1907 – Pope Saint Pius X refers to the temple peddlers whom Jesus violently drove out of the temple as “Philistines” (Palestinians?).
  • 1928 – G.K. CHESTERTON stresses capitalism’s striking similarity to socialism in theory:

“There is less difference than many suppose between the ideal Socialist system, in which the big businesses are run by the State, and the present Capitalist system, in which the State is run by the big businesses.”

G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, 1928

  • 1951 FULTON SHEEN notes capitalism’s historical usefulness for inaugurating socialism:

“Those who think that capitalism and socialism are enemies should long ponder, how the capitalistic system of England (European Union) has without any revolution, become socialistic. Capitalism in the United States has ‘not yet’ become socialism, but the growing power of the State indicates that the transition is taking place slowly. It may be inquired when the transition of one to another takes place without revolution.”

Ven Abp Fulton Sheen, Toledo Blade, 1951

  • 1952 – FULTON SHEEN calls capitalism a sinful system:

“Both capitalism and socialism are opposite sins against property. Capitalism emphasizes private rights to property without any social responsibility to the common good; socialism emphasizes the social use of property, to the forgetfulness of personal rights. The true solution is one in which the rights to property are personal, but the responsibility is social. A man is free on the inside because he can call his soul his own; he is free on the outside because he can call his property his own.”

Ven Abp Fulton Sheen, Crisis in History, 1952

  • 1954 – DOROTHY DAY quotes L’Osservatore Romano denouncing capitalism being rotten to its very core, contrasted with communism:

“Capitalism seizes, confiscates, and dries up wealth, i.e. reduces the numbers of those who may enjoy riches, holds up distribution and defies Divine Providence who has given good things for the use of all men. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that man must not consider riches as his own property but as common good. This means that communism itself, as an economic system, apart from its philosophy – is not in contradiction with the nature of Christianity as is capitalism”. Furthermore, “Capitalism is intrinsically atheistic. Capitalism is godless, not by nature of a philosophy which it does not profess, but in practice (which is its only philosophy), by its insatiable greed and avarice, its mighty power, its dominion.”

Count de la Torre, L’Osservatore Romano, 1949 – Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, 1954

Now I personally would differ with de la Torre and Day in that Marx and Engels were professed materialists. This of course implies a denial of the spirit which more than covers the ultimate blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which Jesus calls the only unforgivable sin!

Friedrich Engels wrote in 1880 that:

“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange.”

Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, 1880

Subsidiarity is to governance what distributism is to economics.
Subsidiarity, within a hierarchical model, means resolving things at the lowest possible level.

With that having been said, the evils of capitalism (both inherent and manifest, upon which no one having read this can continue to credibly plead invincible ignorance) is a subject that American Catholics need to stop crossing the highway to avoid just because the capitalist system is helping them at the expense of the whole rest of the world. (Optional: HYPOCRITES!)

Restorative justice is the social habit for allowing for economic distributism and governmental subsidiarity, ultimately starving the forces of inequity and allowing for a fully grassroots and fractal paradigm.

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