Catholic Social Teaching, Private Property, and the Redistribution of Wealth

As an American, it is difficult at times to think beyond the right/left dichotomy that permeates our economic and political landscape. This often makes it difficult for Catholics on either side of the aisle to understand what the Church teaches about the ownership and use of property. As we should always strive to be Catholics first and Americans second, my hope with this article is to concisely share with you what the Church teaches concerning private property, the common good, and the role of government. I hope to dispel any notion of the Church being capitalist or socialist, as She cuts through and transcends both of these ideologies.

To begin with, the Church recognizes the right to private property. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says, “Private property…constitutes one of the conditions for civil liberty” and “…is an essential element of an authentically social and democratic economic policy…” (Paragraph 176). Further, Pope Leo XIII states, “Private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners” (Paragraph 46). The defense of private property is one of the reasons that the Church condemns communism (Paragraphs 111-118). Further, the right to private ownership is a natural right given to us by God, not one merely granted by the state (Paragraph 45).

However, while private property is indeed a natural right, it flows from what the Church calls “the universal destination of goods.” The Catechism says, “The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race” (Paragraph 2402). Likewise, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council stated, “God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples” (Paragraph 69). Read More


Why Young People Should Embrace the Whole Life Movement

At first glance, the term “whole life” can conjure up numerous different feelings, depending on the context. There are those that believe it’s just another euphemism for the right-wing anti-abortion mob; there are those that see it as another movement in the Christian community that won’t actually take us anywhere. I believe it to be the opposite; yes, it is a largely Christian-based movement, but in the right context, the whole life movement has an extremely effective message that can be preached to people in all walks of life—not just the devout Christian ones.

To be honest, I have never liked the term “pro-life.” To me, nearly everyone is inherently pro-life in some sense—no sound individual consciously wishes for the destruction or oppression of any person or group. But far too many of those who identify as “pro-life” are simply pro-birth. Being pro-life must mean something more that. If one is truly pro-life, then they are concerned not only with the beginning of a life, but with all aspects of it, including its quality. This is the message of the whole life movement: that all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, or any other demographic traits, have an inherent dignity that should be upheld by all people.

The whole life movement covers a variety of bases when it comes to modern issues. It teaches that feminism is a good thing and that yes, we should protect the environment for future generations. It offers alternatives to abortion, improvements in the adoption system and access to prenatal care, rather than simply relying on laws that would restrict the procedure and criminalize women who feel they have no choice but to seek an abortion. I completely agree with this approach. I think the whole life perspective is extremely effective because it presents what has traditionally been seen as a conservative issue in a progressive way; it also includes some traditionally progressive issues in a way that should appeal to conservatives. It proves that there are achievable solutions to even the most controversial of topics. This is an effective and virtuous way to cater to both sides of the country, and to the world. As our country is continually divided by the two parties, it is important to be able to focus on a shared goal, and that is the common good for all living creatures.

As a young, Catholic, feminist, liberal woman, I have a lot to stand for. The pro-life and pro-choice movements simply do not fit my ideals—they turn large-scale moral debates into black and white issues with simple answers to complex questions. Identifying as whole life, however, signifies openness and willingness for change. It also presents an opportunity for Christians to abandon traditional ideas that are long out of date and become aware of important modern-day causes, such as the empowerment of women and girls. These issues should not be the subject of controversy, but a point of agreement that is based on the recognition that something must be done. Someone must advocate for those without a voice, whether that be the poor, the young, the outcasts, the trees, the animals, or the unborn. Through my exploration of this topic, I have come to believe that a whole life perspective is the way I wish to approach today’s challenging issues, and I hope that many others are ready for this fresh mindset.

Jillian Veader is currently a student, writer, and musician at the Academy at Penguin Hall.


Three Reasons Why You Should Care About Local Politics

Since day one, Donald Trump’s presidency has been a nonstop attack on social justice.

His anti-immigration actions have been widely denounced by bishops, his proposed healthcare plan, meant to replace the ACA, would leave tens of millions of people without medical coverage, and his recent budget proposal aims to cut programs that feed and shelter our nation and the world’s poorest people.

For Catholics—especially millennials—now is not the time to retreat from modern society (as supporters of the proposed Benedict Option have suggested). In fact, if we’re to take Christ’s call to care for the least of these seriously, then we have an obligation to get involved and promote social justice in the political realm.

But that doesn’t mean we have to go straight to Washington. In fact, young Catholics looking to make an honest difference should focus less on Congressional races in distant districts, and more on local and state politics. Here’s why:

Local Politics Has A Direct Impact

So much of what directly impacts our daily lives happens at the state level and below. For example, city councils and county commissions are often responsible for handling grocery taxes, community grants, economic development, and (in some areas) wage rates. District attorneys, county sheriffs, and local judges are directly responsible for criminal justice in their communities. And school boards make decisions that have immediate consequences for students. Read More


How Single Catholics Can Approach Meeting People

The inherent subjectivity of love means that no philosophy or style can be a one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone. So as one seeks romantic love, spirituality demands attentiveness to the emotions. Awareness of one’s emotions can help attune the heart and soul to more deeply understand the will of God. As one navigates the treacherous waters of single life, how can a spiritually grounded approach help steer the ship?

First and foremost, pursue the spiritual discipline of detachment. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius describes this sense of balance or indifference as “making use of those things that help to bring us closer to God and leaving aside those things that don’t.” If you find yourself frustrated at not finding a significant other, confront it with earnest spiritual authenticity. Acknowledge the emotions of that apparent hurdle. Identify what God is revealing to you about yourself by those emotions and move forward.

If the frustrations are causing fixation and obsession, remember old Uncle Screwtape and turn instead to the good that God is working in your life and move forward with it. We must cast aside narrow-sightedness and look more broadly for God’s endless grace.

As a junior in college, I connected with a friend and quickly grew very close to her. We traded wordy emails and shared lengthy video-chats while I studied abroad, and when I returned to the States, we hit it off in person. But as fast as it sparked, it flamed out even more quickly. And in experiencing my range of sadness, disappointment, anger, and confusion, I didn’t make space for myself to legitimately process and accept the outcome, or for my friend to be able to move on. It wasn’t until six months later, when I finally let go of her and of our romantic relationship, that I realized the affections of another dear friend who had helped me through it and opened my heart anew and more widely to her. Six and a half years later, we are married and just welcomed our first daughter. If I hadn’t been able to let go of that star-crossed relationship, I might have remained blind to the potential love awaiting in another dear friend.

Detachment necessitates humility, fosters patience, and facilitates joy. Read More


Families as Schools of Solidarity

My wife and I were blessed to be able to attend the World Meeting of Families conference back in 2015. The wonderful Professor Helen Alvaré gave one of the keynote talks during that week that stuck with me.

Professor Alvaré was talking about how the love we give and receive within the family grows and overflows into the wider world. Specifically, she spoke on how a parent’s unconditional love for their child “organically and divinely” grows into the unconditional love of strangers. She said:

“Eventually, if you have asked God day in and day out to work His will with you, you begin to see every child as if they could be your child…You won’t be able to look at the homeless, the sick, the depressed, the fatherless, without remembering how they are someone’s child or sibling or mother and then converting that co-suffering, maternal and paternal selves into action.”

In other words, the virtue of solidarity is fostered within the family. By loving my own family and suffering with them I can learn to love and truly recognize the suffering of strangers. This comment resonated with me at the time and still resonates with me now.

Just a few weeks before this conference started, there was a picture of a little boy that was circulating online. The boy was three years old in this picture, just a little older than my eldest son, Simon. In the picture he was lying down with his knees tucked under him, his arms off to his sides, and his head full of light brown hair turned sideways. It looked just like Simon when he slept.

Except this little boy wasn’t sleeping in this picture, he was lying on a Mediterranean beach after drowning in the Aegean Sea. His name was Aylan Kurdi, and his family were refugees fleeing Syria.

I remember staring at this picture when it came across my newsfeed and it totally captivated me. This little boy reminded me so much of Simon. I realized at that moment that this little boy, Aylan, was loved by somebody as much as I love my own son. Aylan smiled and laughed and cried and played like my own son. Aylan drowned in the Aegean Sea along with his brother and mother because his dad wasn’t able to hold onto them. I just sat in front of my computer and cried.

We’re supposed to see Christ in others, because all of us bear the image of God. We are especially supposed to see Christ in the poor and the hungry and the homeless and the refugee because He said, “Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me.” But the best I can muster up when I see someone suffering is pity, not the love and respect due to our Lord. Yet God is so wise. He knows that it’s hard for us to see His image in the stranger, so He gave us our families to be training grounds for unconditional love. He lets us first see every child as if they could be our child so that we may eventually learn to love the outcast like we love our own children. He gave us our family as the school of solidarity.

As a Christian, I must resist looking at the poor, the homeless, and the refugee as “people,” as an abstract group or “issue.” I must see every human person for the unique and valuable individual that he or she is. I must see the poor as I would see my own family. I must love the homeless as I would my own family. I must treat the refugee as if they were my own family.

As Professor Alvaré put it, “We start with family and end with strangers…whose only link is our common humanity.”

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and parish director of religious education. A version of this post first appeared at his blog, The Porch. You can reach him at fahey.paul@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook.


Leading Democrats Clash Over Creating an Abortion Litmus Test

For a brief, fleeting moment, the Democrats looked as if they were about to do something very, very smart.

Tom Perez, Democratic Party Chairman, along with Bernie Sanders, endorsed Heath Mello, a pro-life Democrat, for mayor of Omaha.

Sanders, despite having one of the most consistently pro-choice records of anyone in Congress, defended this move, saying, “The truth is that in some conservative states there will be candidates that are popular candidates who may not agree with me on every issue. I understand it. That’s what politics is about.”

And he’s right. The Democrats are currently at their weakest point since the 1920s. The Republican Party dominates every level of government across the country, and until we open the big tent and allow room for more ideological diversity, things aren’t going to change. That’s why this endorsement was such a big deal. It seemed like the party was finally starting to come around.

And then Perez buckled.

Under pressure from big money pro-choice special interests like NARAL, Perez went above and beyond to reassert his absolute allegiance to abortion by drawing a line in the sand and demanding ideological purity from any Democrat who hopes to make it to office.

Perez stated that he “fundamentally disagree[s] with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health,” and—after Mello himself released a meager statement saying he’d never restrict a woman’s access to abortion—said he was happy that Mello was now more in line with the Party’s position and that “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.”

For pro-life Democrats like myself, this wasn’t just disappointing—it was infuriating. We simply cannot afford to define ourselves based on a singular issue, especially one as divisive and alienating as abortion. As stated above, the Republicans have the majority at every level, and they are actively attempting to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance, roll back any progress we’ve made on combating climate change, cut benefits for the poor, and demolish public education.

Yet, in the face of all this, Perez made it abundantly clear that under his leadership, all of these issues, and more, will come second to abortion. “Sorry, middle and lower class Americans. We could have stopped the Republicans from taking your healthcare, but we decided to implement an abortion litmus test instead.”

What’s even more frustrating is our inability to move past this binary of for/against. In doing so, we completely ignore any middle ground where we can actually work together—and there’s a lot of it. For example, you’d be hard pressed to find someone on either side of the debate that wants to see an increase in the abortion rate. So rather than shutting people out, Perez could be inviting pro-life advocates to the table for a discussion on how we can collectively reduce abortions, as well as reduce economic and social stressors that drive women to abort their children in the first place. But he chose to do the opposite. This is the hill he wants the Democrats to die on, and if things don’t change, he just might get his wish.

Despite all of this, there are still some glimmers of hope. Sanders doesn’t seem to be backing down from the idea of working alongside pro-life Democrats. And Nancy Pelosi (known for her strong pro-choice credentials) seems to be in agreement. In a recent Meet the Press interview, Pelosi stated that “of course” you can be pro-life and Democrat, and what really unites the party is our dedication to helping working families. Both understand that purging pro-life Democrats from office means continued Republican rule and sacrificing economic justice in the process. We can only hope that the two of them will pass that message along to Perez and encourage him to build a more inclusive party.

In the meantime, I’ll be working to do the same with my state party, and I highly suggest pro-life Democrats and progressives do the same. Discouraging as all this may be, now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to fight.

Matthew Tyson is a Catholic writer and marketing strategist from Alabama. He is an advocate for pro-life ideology on the Left and a co-founder of The New Pro-Life Movement.


Stop the Excuses: Working for Social Justice is Not Optional for Catholics

The phrase “social justice” tends to trigger a wide range of responses depending on where one lands on the political spectrum. For some, it’s a pejorative. For others, a badge of honor. Either way, from a secular perspective, social justice is often viewed through the prism of partisan politics.

But for Catholics, it’s something much different. For us, social justice is a central component to our faith, a key part of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). If the mass is how we celebrate, enrich, and renew our commitment to Christ, then social justice is the manner in which we live and practice that commitment. As defined by the USCCB:

Catholic social teaching is based on and inseparable from our understanding of human life and human dignity. Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family. Every person, from the moment of conception to natural death, has inherent dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Human dignity comes from God, not from any human quality or accomplishment. Our commitment to the Catholic social mission must be rooted in and strengthened by our spiritual lives. In our relationship with God we experience the conversion of heart that is necessary to truly love one another as God has loved us.

What’s particularly important to note about the Catholic commitment to social justice is that, unlike its secular counterpart, it is consistent and enduring, not changing with the political seasons or latest political trends.

The rich theological tradition of Catholic Social Teaching is based on recognizing the inherent dignity of each human person through the unconditional love of God. Therefore, justice, in the eyes of the Church, is owed, not earned.

The worker is owed a living wage for his or her labor.

The unborn child is owed the right to life.

All persons, sick and healthy, are owed quality healthcare.

The earth is owed good stewardship.

The homeless are owed shelter.

The naked are owed clothing.

The hungry are owed food and drink.

Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest shortfalls in American society, even in many Christian circles. We have a bad habit of putting politics before Christ and allowing challenges—such as cost, labor, and time—to become excuses for inaction.

We operate under the impression that works of mercy and justice come strapped with contingencies, and only those we deem deserving—those who meet a particular set of standards—may receive them. But this is not the spirit of social justice or the gospel.

In fact, not only are humans inherently owed justice, but it’s our Christian duty to ensure that justice is properly distributed—especially to the poor and marginalized. This is not a suggestion. It’s a non-negotiable obligation, and the scripture makes it clear that we will be judged on how we treat the least of these.

That means that American Catholics must have a presence in social and political life. It means we are responsible for ensuring that the workers are paid justly, that unborn children are protected, that the earth is cared for, that the sick have quality medical care, that the homeless have homes, that the naked are clothed, and that the hungry are fed. We simply cannot shy away from civic involvement.

And to that point, we must remember that Catholic Social Teaching, with its commitment to social justice, is not a political ideology. It does not conform to any party platform, and so we cannot put our trust entirely in the Republicans or the Democrats. What we must do, instead, is look to the Church first, adjust our mindset to see social justice as the Church sees it, and then work together to find solutions that protect the dignity of all people.

Matthew Tyson is a Catholic writer and marketing strategist from Alabama. He is an advocate for pro-life ideology on the Left and a co-founder of The New Pro-Life Movement.