Is Libertarianism Compatible with Catholic Teaching?


#1

I follow Catholicism first and foremost. If the Church and God asked me to turn away from any political affiliation and follow Him alone, even to the cross, I would do it. However, such a thing has not happened, and owing to the fact that our church's highest body in the US, the USCCB, is rather involved in certain political matters, I think it only pertinent that I am also. As a citizen of a largely secularized world, I see it as my responsibility to form an intellectually based, well-informed opinion about government, after all, as someone said, "Everyone deserves their own government," no matter how horrendous it may be. To this end, I follow the political philosophy of libertarianism.

Libertarianism, very fundamentally, teaches that the sole role of the government in lawmaking is to ensure that the actions of one group or individual do not infringe upon the actions of another group or individual. In the United States, we have a Declaration of Independence which is generally a very libertarian document, especially here:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Constitution, over the course of the last two centuries, has moved closer and closer to this goal through the Bill of Rights and most of the other amendments. Of course, today in the United States we do not have a libertarian government. We have a heavily centralized federal government which has swelled and left no room for the Constitution, in its eyes a worthless rag to be used only to pass laws that benefit the current Congress. Both Republicans and Democrats have generally been equally responsible for these attacks on their foundations.
**
However, I am not here primarily to discuss the merits of libertarian philosophy, but rather to discuss how libertarianism fits with the framework of Catholicism. ** In modern Catholic parlance, it seems to be a given that any devout Catholic should support such ideas as government assistance of the poor, via healthcare and welfare, and government intervention in moral affairs such as marriage and sexuality.

(Note: My personal philosophy is that abortion and contraception do not fit with libertarianism because they are acts of murder, and thus a clear violation of someone else's right to life.)

Yet, I find myself questioning such apparently commonplace beliefs among faithful Catholics such as the idea that gay marriage should be illegal. Why? Gay marriage, like the millions, if not billions of sins committed daily around the world are not the fault of Catholics but rather the failed morals of other human beings. Thus, we can, in good conscience, ignore such marriages as long as they do not invade the space of our church.

In any case, before I descend into a long winded reflection, here is a short list of my beliefs as a libertarian that may be of interest to the readers:
Gay "marriage" may be legal
Forced charity like welfare and Social Security should be illegal
Divorce should be legal
Sodomy and other sinful sex acts like masturbation should be legal (as long as they do not violate another human's freedom)
Pornography should be legal and unrestricted under the law
Blasphemous movies, comedy shows, and statements about the Church and Christianity should be legal and protected by the government
Abortion and contraception should be ILLEGAL because they constitute murder

Thus the questions arise: Do these beliefs make me (or anyone who follows them) a bad Catholic? Does a convert have to abandon them in order to become a true disciple of the Christ? More nebulously, can anyone truly follow a political philosophy and still strive to be a man of God?

In general, I would like to hear fellow Catholics (and others) weigh in on whether such a philosophy is compatible with church teaching and life.


#2

[quote="PrincepsAuguste, post:1, topic:278759"]
I follow Catholicism first and foremost. If the Church and God asked me to turn away from any political affiliation and follow Him alone, even to the cross, I would do it.

[/quote]

Good. :thumbsup:

Libertarianism, very fundamentally, teaches that the sole role of the government in lawmaking is to ensure that the actions of one group or individual do not infringe upon the actions of another group or individual.

Libertarianism can have a wide range of meaning, so it's not easy to give the green or red light in a 'blanket statement' fashion. There are legitimate forms a Catholic can embrace and illegitimate forms.

The government's "sole role" in Catholic teaching (and natural law) is to promote the common good. A view that states the "sole role" of the State is to promote individual happiness, let's say in the form of letting everyone do as they please as long as they don't hurt another, is contrary to Christianity and natural law. Here is why that second view is wrong.

To say an individual can do literally whatever they want is to effectively say there is no such thing as sin, since all forms of "expression" are legitimate in the eyes of the State. Not only that, this mentality does not lead to anything that is conducive to building up society, but rather an every man for himself attitude, culminating with the stronger (i.e. more rich) ending up dominating the poor.

A famous criticism from the Catholic side is that a preeminent Libertarian thinker (Rothbard) stated that since all actions are free and voluntary, that a parent has no legal duty to feed their child nor even keep them full term (since the baby is "invading" the space of the mother).

*However, I am not here primarily to discuss the merits of libertarian philosophy, but rather to discuss how libertarianism fits with the framework of Catholicism. * In modern Catholic parlance, it seems to be a given that any devout Catholic should support such ideas as government assistance of the poor, via healthcare and welfare, and government intervention in moral affairs such as marriage and sexuality.

There is confusion here among many because they don't properly frame the issue. The State (government) has a duty to promote the common good, but this is not equivalent to becoming a "Nanny State" (Welfare State) where freebies are handed out. The Nanny State is founded on the principle that Heaven and God don't exist, and thus "Paradise" must be created in this life, but the 'all benevolent' State.

That said, any State set up has the duty (in promoting the common good) to ward off serious threats against the Family - NOT the individual - which is the basic building block of society.

(Note: My personal philosophy is that abortion and contraception do not fit with libertarianism because they are acts of murder, and thus a clear violation of someone else's right to life.)

This is true, but Secularism (in this case Libertarianism) does not see these as "sins". Libertarianism is built on the heresy that Church and State are totally separated, and thus the State does not derive laws from any higher authority, only the whims of whatever sounds good at that moment.

Yet, I find myself questioning such apparently commonplace beliefs among faithful Catholics such as the idea that gay marriage should be illegal. Why? Gay marriage, like the millions, if not billions of sins committed daily around the world are not the fault of Catholics but rather the failed morals of other human beings. Thus, we can, in good conscience, ignore such marriages as long as they do not invade the space of our church.

That's not true for a few reasons. First, marriage is a concrete building block of Society since the Family is the basic building block of Society. Thus, true marriage must be protected and divorce illegal. So called "gay marriage" is contrary to the whole purpose of the Society and State. It instills in society grave sin, which brings everything to ruin (e.g. families, morals, trust) in short time.

In any case, before I descend into a long winded reflection, here is a short list of my beliefs as a libertarian that may be of interest to the readers:
Gay "marriage" may be legal
Forced charity like welfare and Social Security should be illegal
Divorce should be legal
Sodomy and other sinful sex acts like masturbation should be legal (as long as they do not violate another human's freedom)
Pornography should be legal and unrestricted under the law
Blasphemous movies, comedy shows, and statements about the Church and Christianity should be legal and protected by the government
Abortion and contraception should be ILLEGAL because they constitute murder

This is very wrong and dangerous. Such a "free for all" enslaves a society in sin, teaches men that it's "ok" to do evil, and as noted above quickly brings a nation to ruin.

Do these beliefs make me a bad Catholic?

They make you an uninformed Catholic, but one willing to get answers, so not a "bad" one. A "bad" Catholic ignores official Church teaching, ignores natural law, and ignores reason itself.


#3

Libertarianism is becoming a whole political spectrum to itself. There are liberal libertarians, conservative libertarians, broad libertarians, and almost fascist libertarians (contradiction right there).

However, Catholics can be libertarians, as long as you do not go against your faith. As a Catholic you are most definitely and certainly bound to believe in Church teaching. It is the truth, and it is our duty to help spread the truth throughout the world to every believer and non-believer. Therefore, we must fight to retain proper morals in our world. So, it is our duty to protect the sanctity of marriage - which is a common and natural order, i.e. it is “in our bones” for Marriage to be between one man and one woman.

This being the case, as Catholics we must defend the natural order and make sure that same-sex “marriage” remain illegal, or pray to make it so.

But this is not what the thread is about, and i don’t want to derail it.

To answer your question in one word: yes. Libertarianism is compatible with Catholic teaching. Libertarianism (in substance) is just the belief that the government shouldn’t control our lives and should keep from our houses. Believing that so-called “same-sex marriage” should be illegal does not go against libertarianism.

There is a group on here actually, if you look for it, about Catholic libertarians!

I’m not a member, but go ahead and check it out.


#4

It always astonishes me that US Catholics think that secularism hurts them.

If the US government endorsed a particular sect of Christianity, it not be the RCC. Were it not for the separation of church and state, you guys would all be Protestants.

Catholics are a minority in the US. It is secularism that protects your right to be Catholic in a country that has long-standing prejudices against “Papists”.

On the issue of “Libertarianism”, the US version is a mystifying anachronism. What is called “Libertarianism” in the US would essentially open the country to control by private interests. This is because US “Libertarianism” focuses on thwarting the potential tyranny of states - a legitimate concern, to be sure - whilst ignoring the rise of transnational corporations as alternative concentrations of power; unaccountable power at that.

In order to ensure the liberty of the ordinary citizen - which should surely be the goal of any genuine Libertarian - either the government has to be genuinely responsive to the will of the people and large enough to curb the excesses of corporate greed through regulation, or corporations have to be open to democratic control by the general population.


#5

Christ gave a dignity to individuals that had never existed in the philosophies and religions of the world before.

Christ treated all, old, young, male, female, slave or free, Jew or Greek equally.

The teachings of Christ, the birth death and resurrection of Christ and the Church of Christ are the origins of the freedoms we possess in western countries.


#6

Did you think this through before posting? It is precisely the increasingly radical fundamentalist secular government that is now heavily encroaching upon religious freedom. It is not the secular government that protects US citizens - it is the constitution. For this reason, the framers of that constitution made sure that no government-mandated religion (a la King George III) or prohibition of religion would be forced upon them.

Yet, who was it that quipped, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a faithful servant, and a fearful master”?


#7

I can actually understand that a person who believes the “soul” - whatever that is - enters the zygote at the moment of conception would logically believe abortion to be murder.

What is your reason for thinking that contraception is murder?


#8

[quote="po18guy, post:6, topic:278759"]
Did you think this through before posting? It is precisely the increasingly radical fundamentalist secular government that is now heavily encroaching upon religious freedom. It is not the secular government that protects US citizens - it is the constitution. For this reason, the framers of that constitution made sure that no government-mandated religion (a la King George III) or prohibition of religion would be forced upon them.

[/quote]

There is a name for this constitutional protection: secularism.

Yet, who was it that quipped, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a faithful servant, and a fearful master"?

The same guy who described the newly-independent US as a "nacent empire", wasn't it?


#9

[quote="PrincepsAuguste, post:1, topic:278759"]
In any case, before I descend into a long winded reflection, here is a short list of my beliefs as a libertarian that may be of interest to the readers:
Gay "marriage" may be legal
Forced charity like welfare and Social Security should be illegal
Divorce should be legal
Sodomy and other sinful sex acts like masturbation should be legal (as long as they do not violate another human's freedom)
Pornography should be legal and unrestricted under the law
Blasphemous movies, comedy shows, and statements about the Church and Christianity should be legal and protected by the government
Abortion and contraception should be ILLEGAL because they constitute murder

Thus the questions arise: Do these beliefs make me (or anyone who follows them) a bad Catholic? Does a convert have to abandon them in order to become a true disciple of the Christ? More nebulously, can anyone truly follow a political philosophy and still strive to be a man of God?.

[/quote]

If you want to BE HOLY and BE WITH GOD, and BE CATHOLIC, you will SUBMIT with docility to the teachings of the Catholic Church on all those matters above.

It is hard to tell what a "bad Catholic" is nowadays in the social sense. The general social context basically allows anyone to call themselves Catholic and live anyway they want and believe anything they want. In the last 40 years, as few as many 5 Catholics have been formally excommunicated.

I would say that there's no point in you trying to force beliefs on yourself. That's what apologists try to do to others, in my view, and it generally doesn't work.

Rather, what you should need is to experience a private "revelation" of the holiness, awesomeness, and pure absolute Goodness of the Holy One of Heaven. You need to FEEL God. You need to MEET God person-to-person in a spiritual sense. That will come from diligent study of the the Bible, other holy spiritual writings, and prayer, and above all through the fervent practice of "Love thy neighbor as thyself.

You point out that the USA was founded by libertarians. Most of the leading Founders were Freemasons first and Christians second or not at all. So, yes, if you want to adhere to the historical, original "American Way," then you really must settle for being a nominal Christian or Catholic only.

This answer probably has errors, and is in any case way to short. But I am certain the greatest pleasures and the greatest life comes from cleaving to the Creator. The world's way is a pack of lies.

Best wishes.


#10

[quote="Nicko, post:8, topic:278759"]
There is a name for this constitutional protection: secularism.

[/quote]

"Secular" simply means worldly, of the passing age, or "dated". The constitution is not secular, as it contains inspired and timeless truths about humanity. Totalitarian governments, such as we are beginning to experience, are worldly and dated.


#11

Secularism is the source of freedom of religion?

That's a completely new claim for me. Do you have any documents of the founding fathers that would support this claim?

Chuck

[quote="Nicko, post:4, topic:278759"]
It always astonishes me that US Catholics think that secularism hurts them.

If the US government endorsed a particular sect of Christianity, it not be the RCC. Were it not for the separation of church and state, you guys would all be Protestants.

Catholics are a minority in the US. It is secularism that protects your right to be Catholic in a country that has long-standing prejudices against "Papists".

On the issue of "Libertarianism", the US version is a mystifying anachronism. What is called "Libertarianism" in the US would essentially open the country to control by private interests. This is because US "Libertarianism" focuses on thwarting the potential tyranny of states - a legitimate concern, to be sure - whilst ignoring the rise of transnational corporations as alternative concentrations of power; unaccountable power at that.

In order to ensure the liberty of the ordinary citizen - which should surely be the goal of any genuine Libertarian - either the government has to be genuinely responsive to the will of the people and large enough to curb the excesses of corporate greed through regulation, or corporations have to be open to democratic control by the general population.

[/quote]


#12

I just realised that British/Canadian libertarianism is different to American libertarianism.

My post was in regard to the British/Canadian flavour, not the American.


#13

I was wondering the same thing… :confused:


#14

[quote="Nicko, post:7, topic:278759"]
I can actually understand that a person who believes the "soul" - whatever that is - enters the zygote at the moment of conception would logically believe abortion to be murder.

What is your reason for thinking that contraception is murder?

[/quote]

If one were to lace a field with poisons, and then plant the seeds, is it killing the crops? I say yes. Anytime you eliminate the potential in an unnatural and subversive way, you are killing a child.


#15

Here’s my issue with Libertarianism and Masonic lodges

Both organizations have within them… principles which violate Catholic teaching and Christian principles.

My friend, a self professed Atheist with Agnostic leanings is Libertarian and he is very proud of the fact that most Libertarians are agnostics. He loves the fact that the Libertarian movement is all about freedom from any standards and that each individual makes their own determinations.

He’s been trying to get me to be Libertarian with him and recently gave me one of their magazines. - In it was a rant by Pen Gillete of the magic show “Penn and Teller” talking about how God is not real.

So you have to ask yourself…

Where is the line drawn between self-identifying yourself with a group whose majority views violate Christian doctrine and condoning those ideas?

How involved are you now and how involved later on will you get with this group that you claim to be part of? This effects how much you can argue that you agree with the concept of Libertarianism vs. their specific speaking points which conflict with Christianity (like Penn Gillete’s anti-Theistic rants)

At what point are you actually giving money and a voice to these dissenting viewpoints? And what control do you have over the money given to these groups to ensure it doesn’t go to speakers and causes that you don’t agree with?

To what degree is your involvement with such a group causing you to stumble your personal journey towards being closer with God? At what point do their other less compatible ideas begin to persuade you and make you think more subjectively about most things?

You COULD be a libertarian to a certain degree and still be Catholic - Maybe. But I would be concerned that their ideas may slowly lead you away from God, not towards him. Most of us have enough difficulty staying on the path with Christ and can find plenty of distractions leading us away from the truth. My concern would be that identifying myself with such a group and getting involved in their particular philosophies and world view may be a temptation and stumbling block.

INSTEAD… you COULD forget the labels and the party affiliation and simply be a Catholic who values freedom and minimal government interference and avoid being closely associated with any Political party.

That’s honestly what I would do.


#16

Libertarianism tends toward the licentious. Thus, it is incompatible, in most ways, with Catholicism.


#17

[quote="po18guy, post:16, topic:278759"]
Libertarianism tends toward the licentious. Thus, it is incompatible, in most ways, with Catholicism.

[/quote]

I'm not an expert on Libertarianism..but I agree with those who I have ran into and the Liberatarian magazine my friend gave me.

I flipped through it and the couple of articles I read went WAY too far with the liberalism.

They seem big on getting government out of regulating nearly everything. From healthcare, to regulations, to pornography during Saturday morning cartoons.

At the very least.. their ideas seem wildly naive that society will just magically self-regulate without standards or principles.

At least from what I've seen. Of course my well-meaning friend tries to down play this by saying "libertarians can't agree on just about anything"


#18

Regulated freedom is good - we live under it. Unrestricted freedom is chaos, an unstable and transitional form of government that usually results in tyranny.


#19

I used to be Libertarian. But as I understood more about Catholicism I realized they are incompatible.

I really don't think God wants us to politically support something that goes against His commandments like pornography, gay marriage, etc. I think we will be held accountable because God tells us to be not of this world. Libertarianism, like Marxism, is inspired by worldly philosophy. Jesus said hat His followers would be mocked and ridiculed. Libertarianism seems like a compromised position: I know an action is evil but I support giving rights to do it.


#20

The problem is that even Libertarianism is almost as big a tent as the Republican party that many Libertarians are semi-associated with; there are, for instance, people who simply favor laissez-faire economics, but are culturally quite conservative, who call themselves Libertarian. I've seen Hilaire Belloc called that, and he was a monarchist.

There are a few versions of Libertarianism that are eminently compatible with the Faith. They are, however, a decided, nigh-invisible minority. Most Libertarians may be summed up as "hippies, except cheap", and that's actually being pretty generous.


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