Dissent From Catholic Social Teaching: A Study In Irony - Inside The Vatican

In your experience, are Catholics aware of Catholic Social Teaching? If they know of it, why would they not agree with it?


You’re probably not getting responses because this article is too dense to accommodate modern-day, fast-scrolling attention spans and lacks the mean-spirited click-bait “appeal” of Lifesite. :slight_smile: I love it, though.

Most Catholics I know are aware of Catholic Social Teaching and either A) take it seriously and follow it or B) manage to wave it away in order to self-justify a competing political identity, as your article details about William Buckley.

Until recently, the term social justice was a normal part of a Catholic’s vocabulary. Angry conservative pundits have since stigmatized it and turned it into a mocking, derisive term for others who feel passionate about the welfare of others. (In violation of its policy against name-calling, for example, you’ll see CAF smeared with references to so-called SJWs). I love how your article traces this phenomenon to Bill Buckley although, to be fair, Buckley could argue with more intelligence and intellectual honesty than most of today’s like-minded pundits.

At any rate, I love the conclusion:

So what’s the problem? I personally suspect it’s related to the Americanist heresy with which the brilliant Pope Leo XIII took issue late in the 19th century. It involves a lingering pretension that vibrant young America often knows better than backward old Rome even about matters of faith and morals; and it dies hard!

It can be really hard to combine a lot of our red-blooded Yankee values with our ancient Church. And therein lies the tension.


It’s just not a very good blog, or article, whatever it is. It makes too many assumptions and there is a pretty obvious bias from the author. I could say that the author is being misleading in order to further her political agenda. But that’s only a possibility and I won’t assume that it’s true.

I don’t see a problem with catholics rejecting “social justice” teachings. Many US Catholics, and non-Catholics, don’t agree with some of the ways in which the federal and states governments have carried out their own social programs. But that doesn’t mean US Catholics are against the Church’s teachings.


Good article.

In my experience, most Catholics are not aware of Catholic Social Teaching. Most have never heard of Rerum Novarum, Mater et Magistra, Pacem in terris, Centesimus annus or the other great magisterial teachings on the social obligations of Catholics.

Unfortunately, I’ve also experienced some Catholics who treat the Church’s Social Teaching as a sort of ‘2nd Class Magisterium’ where they dismiss the teachings as optional or not as important as other doctrines or dogmas or truths of the Church.

I wish the bishops would make it a priority to promote the social teaching of the Church… would be a great way for the Church to earn back the credibility lost over the past decades due to the sexual abuse of children scandal.


The bishops do promote social teaching… CAF is full of posts from conservatives who criticize the bishops for just that.


I agree that some Bishops do and the USCCB does to a certain degree. It does not seem to me that the Bishops have been successful in driving a priority around the Church’s social teaching to the parish priest.

I read it, and maybe I missed something, but what exactly or how exactly did conservatives oppose social teaching, according to the author?


Social justice is a term that has been hijacked by secularists from the Catholic idea to promote ideas which are apparently similar but actually not. This can be seen by the promotion of abortion as a social justice issue.

The way most “social justice” programs in the US are set up, they do not provide a leg up, they provide a minimal subsistence which will be removed too soon from those moving up.

How does this work? The clearest example is Medicaid before the ACA: you could get it if your income was below a certain level. If you got a dollar-an-hour raise, you could be off the program; however, you would need to pay a lot more than $40/week for health insurance, because most jobs at that low level would not come with insurance. This, the raise would cause a decrease in disposable income.

To me, social justice warriors are those who … 1) care more about the cause and being right than they do the people whom the cause is purported to help, or 2) those who act like they care about a cause who turn out to be potential beneficiaries, or 3) those who are totally off-base about what social justice is, such as those who think abortion advocacy is some sort of social justice position.

Not everyone who advocates a true form of social justice is a SJW.


Social teaching is a subset of the much larger Gospel message which itself has been, IMO, woefully understressed in recent decades. Social Justice has become almost pre-eminent in certain Catholic circles. This has certainly not gone unnoticed. One could say that the social justice Gospel has become the new Americanist heresy - even, dare says one cleric, an idol.


Do you mean works of charity like running a food bank, as opposed to making sure a working person receives a living wage, a just wage, making him able to feed, clothe, shelter his family without depending on handouts?

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I agree. Just enough to keep them on the edge of despair. Cheap labor is a valuable asset that many would like to retain.


With respect to the bolded, we’re going to disagree on what that is. I don’t mind disagreement on these subjective matters, so long as it’s thoughtful and charitable.

But the term “social justice warrior” is mean-spirited and sarcastic; I’ve never once heard it used as a sincere compliment to anybody’s actual bravery in fighting (i.e. being a warrior). for a cause - certainly not on CAF. Terms like “liberal” or “progressive” will suffice in its place.

Make sure you’re not eating anything you could choke on as you read this because I actually agree with you here. Social welfare programs won’t work if they’re half-baked.


I don’t know about mean-spirited and sarcastic, but I agree it is not a compliment (gasp! twice in one thread!) But I tried to clarify what exactly it means, which is also not complimentary. As I have seen it used, it is more than simply liberal, and may not always refer to progressives. I wouldn’t call all progressives SJWs.

Altho I also think people are not using it as much any more.

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:


The article says that Church social teaching (defense of the workers’ right to unionize, to a just wage, to reasonable hours of work, and to pensions in old age) is dismissed as an unworkable ideology in the free market economy, an economy that developed from a part slave-driven/part capitalist one to a full capitalistic plutocracy.

In contrast, JPII made it clear in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis(41) that the Church’s social doctrine “…belongs to the field, not of ideology, but of theology, and particularly of moral theology.”

Are conservatives or liberals any more likely than the other to advance social justice in any practical way, when those at the top of either group benefit equally from keeping the status quo? I have my doubts.

If Catholics can’t speak with one voice in support of numerous papal documents on social justice, why would politicians of any ideology bother with it? Some yes for their own beliefs.


??? The greatest charity on earth is the Gospel. All else must follow from that.

I wish there had been some links to follow in the essay.

“Free market” tends to be more about eeconomic style (ie issues about monopolies and how much government interference) than “workers rights” although there is overlap in the two discussions. It’s possible to achieve a compromise between both

Anyway I was very surprised to find that conservatives oppose pensions because that doesn’t sound like any republican and conservatives I know.

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I reject the notion that somehow American Catholics wholesale dissent from the church’s social teaching. That is simply not my experience, and I live in a very politically conservative place and attended a tradition-minded parish.

As Pope St. John Paul II said, there must be a balance between solidarity and subsidiarity. Many politically conservative people I know question the prudence of promoting increase Federal and State government involvement in social justice at the expense of local and parish level support of social justice initiatives. These folks give generously to local soup kitchens, local homeless shelters, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, etc. they support parish level outreach programs.

How many of you have Angel Trees in the narthex this time of year? How many collect food for the less fortunate at Thanksgiving and Christmas? How many support second collection for charitable purposes?

Even the death penalty debate is more nuanced than it first appears in the US. Many who still support the death penalty (I am not one of them, by the way) do so because they believe it is still necessary for the safety and security of the US. They were content with the language Pope St. John Paul II used, but question the basis upon which Pope Francis made opposition to the death penalty absolute.

As to the blogger’s rant about the free market, I’ll just point out that while the church is critical of the free market, it is also critical of socialism. There is merit to remaining skeptical about the call to socialize so many economic programs in the US. Our government was proven time and again that its efforts in that regard are often full of waste, fraud, and abuse. Still, many will support some limited government involvement so long as that involvement respects the principle of subsidiarity as much as it does solidarity.


Catholic Social Teaching is about objectives, and guidelines; it is not about specifying the means to achieve those ends. The disagreements with “SJWs” is over means, not ends, and the reason that phrase is used sarcastically is because of the common claim that opposing them is the same as opposing the church.

Regarding the particular article, this assertion I think typifies the attitude so many find offensive:

Ryan was largely responsible for making the living wage a current concept. That was the equivalent of the encyclical term, just wage, which appeared in Quadragesimo Anno in 1931.

This assertion is simply wrong. A just wage and a living wage are entirely different, and to reject the idea of a living wage is not at all to dissent from Catholic Social Teaching, regardless of who claims otherwise.

Disagreement over particular policies does not constitute dissent from church teaching since the church is silent on those choices. The same is true of this assertion:

The attempt to reinstate the free market philosophy in American economic life is therefore irreconcilable with the social teachings of the Catholic Church.

This is precisely the kind of claim that is rightly dismissed. The free market is really nothing more than allowing individuals to make economic choices for themselves, and is the engine of prosperity in the world. I’m pretty sure the church has no objections to lifting people out of poverty, even if that is not the intention behind individual transactions.

Disappointing. Not surprising, perhaps, but disappointing nonetheless.


One of the fundamental problems is that some issues are very black and white.

Abortion, for instance. If a person has or performs an abortion, it is a discrete event, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And a life has been destroyed. Not half destroyed or partially destroyed. Destroyed.

Issues of economic justice, however, often have more than one valid solution. Some are immediate, some are long term. And then there can be disagreement on how much “stuff” does anybody need, or is entitled to.

So, it’s very easy , when arguing about a nebulous concept, to slam people who don’t agree with you about solutions.

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