The Church and the Market and the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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    Dear Tom, I am reading The Church and the Market and it has made me get out my catechism, particularly after the Foreign Aid chapter, and do some serious contemplating. One of my problems with the catechism is that is recognizes both public and private property, which I’m not sure can co-exist. I was kind of encouraged by the wording in the tax evasion section 2436 “It is unjust not to pay the social security [italics] ‘contributions’ required by legitimate authority.” My thought is that capitalism enables greater productivity by the wage earner so to enable him to take care of the helpless. Moreover, the state becomes illegitimate when, by taking the remuneration for work from society, it creates less for the helpless. As we produce more, our obligation to the helpless and capital investment increases, morally; however, the state, by expropriating, is making us produce less–because it pays people not to produce and takes away from capital investment–thereby reducing the excess and future excesses provided by the market that must morally be distributed to the helpless so that they do not perish or suffer and to capital investment so as to be able to care for the helpless in the future. I believe this to be a natural law–in that one must do his part in providing for the helpless but not beyond his will to function. I equate this with taking care of one’s parents and children; and, perhaps, extended family and friends. Now, often, one has to turn his parents over to the state when they are no longer productive because one cannot accommodate their needs because he is supporting a decrease in producer goods and an increase in state apparatus instead. The state in turn rations out to the helpless that which is leftover from its expropriations and that which decreases with the continued and growing operation of the state. Any other thoughts or references to my thoughts and concerns would be appreciated. Thank you for your work. Sincerely, Tricia


    Hi Patricia,

    I know your post was directed to Professor Woods, but since this is on the General Discussion board, I thought I’d throw in my two cents. While I’m from the Orthodox tradition, I am a relatively new convert, so I know what it’s like to go through the process of being received into a new tradition. Especially in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, it’s a big decision – a major commitment in many ways, as you well know.

    While Dr. Woods can answer your important question much more thoroughly than I can, I would encourage you to keep praying about your decision to join the Catholic Church and think about why you believe this is where God is calling you. Every tradition has its shortcomings, but I think the most important thing to keep in mind is your spiritual life. The Church is ultimately a spiritual hospital and if you believe that the Catholic Church is indeed the ancient and Apostolic Church of the scriptures founded at Pentecost, helping you to be more like Christ each day, then by all means don’t miss out on where the Spirit of the Lord is leading you. As important as economics and politics can be, our spiritual life is even more important. I suppose what I’m saying all comes down to deciding what is best for you spiritually – try not to worry so much about the political and economic stuff for now.

    Believe me, there are some issues I have with the current state of the Orthodox Church, but being received into the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church has been an incredible and generous blessing from the Lord. I’ll be praying for you – best regards as you make this decision.


    Dear Travis, Thank you for your post. Actually, I was brought up Catholic but I always looked at mass as a spiritual nourishment and it had more significance to me it would seem than other family members–I didn’t and don’t think of my involvement with the Church as a political position. I guess I never paid much attention to the political nuance or the leadership in the Church for that matter as I developed my devotion to the faith. Even when I went to see the Pope in the early nineties (I think I was just asked if I wanted to go–of which, I’m pretty sure I was just like, “sure, why not”). Anyway, I didn’t have a relationship with the papacy like it appeared the thousands around me did; but I did appreciate that there were more people than I realized of whom faith mattered. Now that I am more aware of things political, and as I have graduated my original spiritual obligation of practicing a religion to contemplating the life of Jesus Christ, I am prepared to discuss any misguidance I perceive. That is not to say that I haven’t accepted the governance of the Church; I think I just view it as a structure that keeps me challenged and honest rather than some infallible entity–not to say that entity doesn’t fall into God’s plan. It’s so easy to dismiss the world around me when my relationship with God has always been so much more personal; but, over the past few years I have found that the bible and faith are so relevant to the paradigms in which we find ourselves in this world. So far, I have no problem with the Roman Catholicism being the “one apostolic Church” but that is not to say that I dismiss other communities of faith or find mine infallible. Thank you for your prayers, I am happy for you for your blessing and pray for you in regards to your spiritual life as well as your health and safety while fulfilling your life in this world. Sincerely, Tricia


    I don’t know if this will help or not, but here’s an article of mine that may be relevant:


    Anything on how the church can support both public and private property? Does the church advocate stealing from private property owners to make public property? Or has property been claimed by the public before private entities? If, so how is that property maintained but by taking from private owners? Does the church think it needs to reconcile this contradiction? In other words, how does public property exist without theft and if theft is morally wrong, then how can public property be accepted? Does the church believe that public property is financed by voluntary contributions and is only justified by voluntary contributions? What do you think about this?

    Still, a nagging concern about private property for me (that is not solved with the concept of public property) is that one cannot truly own himself, himself being private property, if he does not have exclusive land rights, because he takes up space and must reside on land. Is this a paradox of scarcity to which the world outside of heaven limits us? Anything on this?

    Another question I have regarding the article you referred to me is about the need to work less for an item over a time frame of 1900-1999 is, do the distributionists take credit for that? We give credit to the market even while it happened during a time of government expansion. I thought that real wages stopped increasing in the early seventies, if that is so, how do we have greater use of our labor in 1999? My guess is that this point in the article is only taking bread into account because the production of bread was less hampered by government even during a time of government expansion and inflation. Perhaps the article should show that a priori suggests that our units of labor should be able to buy even more bread if not for the expansion of government and inflation.

    Lastly, and thank you for your precious time, is I have interpreted the distributionists’ theory that wealth is both finite and infinite–a contradiction that must be addressed. It is finite and must be distributed to raise the condition of the poorest but infinite because it calls for a sustainable standard of living to which is better than previously obtained even with greater population and uncontrollable events such as natural disasters. Unless, of course, it is their objective to control the population?–and the natural world? It is a free market belief, in my understanding, that wealth is only finite in so far as it can be oppressed by force; conversely, it is infinite in so far as freedom from force (distributionists policies and such) is enjoyed.

    Thank you,

    Patricia Colling

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