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Top Cardinal Says Catholicism and Libertarian Economics Aren’t Compatible

In my Father’s house are many mansions… In my Father’s house are many blocks of rent controlled, section 8 housing…

John 14:2 New Social Justice Version(N.S.J.V)

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Each one must give as is decided by fiat, under compulsion if necessary, for God loves the State to redistribute wealth and call it giving.

2 Corinthians 9:7 N.S.J.V.

Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, a high level Cardinal, a contender for the Papacy during the last conclave, and advisor to Pope Francis, gave the keynote address at a conference titled “Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism“. His introduction was given by Richard Trumka. Yes, that Richard Trumka. He made the case that free market economics are anathema to Catholic doctrine. That the entrepreneurial individualism espoused by Libertarians stands in opposition to the teachings of Christ. To be Catholic is to be close to the poor, a quality Libertarians lack. Not surprising since the free market reduces the number of poor in its sphere of influence. To be poor in and of itself is good, if only to avoid the temptations of greed. To simply feed and clothe the poor is God’s work. To provide an opportunity to rise out of poverty is of the Devil. Cardinal Rodríguez put it more bluntly, “We are no longer to trust the blind forces and the invisible hand of the market. This economy kills.”

Cardinal Rodríguez is currently the arch bishop of the city of his birth and capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. He is also the Vatican’s representative to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He has made a name for himself urging first world nations to increase financial aid to third world ones. Undoubtedly he is never short on concerns, as Honduras is one of the poorest nations in Latin America. Incidentally, it is also number one in the world for per capita homicide. A depressing daily reality for a nation that is in possession of substantial agricultural and mineral resources, a considerable textile industry, and what should be an ideal tourism locale. Instead of thriving with these assets and being a small nation, it has a continuous unemployment rate in excess of 25 percent. Half of it’s electricity production is state run. Its elections consist of five registered political parties. The National Party, the Liberal Party, the Social Democrats, the Social Christians, and the Democratic Unification party. Yeah…

It is becoming clear why the Church, according to Cardinal Rodríguez, would take issue with Libertarianism and free market economics. Their presence makes for a scarcity of poverty, and apparently poverty is good for, ahem, business. Undoubtedly men of the cloth such as Rodríguez do legitimately care for the poor. Regardless of one’s opinions of the Church or religious institutions in general, the amount of resolve it takes to commit to everything a life of priesthood entails is undeniable. What is baffling is the rhetoric aimed at the economic structure that has lifted so many out of squalor and that advanced medicine from no sanitation to keyhole surgery and gene therapy. Most notably, the system that sends charity and aid at incomparable levels to every corner of the world when disaster strikes. A sizable portion of which comes in the form of tithes and donations to the Catholic Church and is used to feed, clothe, house, and educate the world’s desperately poor in nations like Angola, Kenya, and Honduras.

It wasn’t that long ago that Pope Francis himself made waves discussing his concerns with “unfettered capitalism”, waves that grew bigger when they drew the attention of Rush Limbaugh. He made the point that “unfettered capitalism” doesn’t exist anywhere in entire world and that the phrase was code for the United States. One might wonder why the left has taken such a shine to the Catholic Church as of late. Presented for the reader’s consideration, exhibit A.

The core of Cardinal Rodríguez’s disagreement with Libertarian economics boil down to idolatry. The risk of self worship, commonly associated with the philosophy of Ayn Rand, or idolizing the free market. AKA, good old fashioned greed. Fair enough. But the bedfellows made in attacking the free market can be considered equally guilty of idolatry. Idolatry of the State. The wealthy nations did not take from the impoverished ones. The reason there is money at all to give is their economic policies. To be able to identify greed. Congratulations, you are a servant of God. To make greed and Libertarianism synonymous. Congratulations, you are a Marxist and a poor student of human history.

Humanity has always been rife with greed. The free market is the relative newcomer to the scene. Arguably the hardest pill to swallow is that it is the system that mitigates the disastrous effects of greed on others more effectively than any other system ever tried. Should this incarnation of the Church succeed in helping to neutralize individualism and entrepreneurship, may God be with them in their efforts to assist the newly abundant and uniform destitute.

About John Sutton

Married father of three. 5 C's. Particularly concerned with matters pertaining to the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 10th Amendments.

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