As a recovering libertarian, I have been doing my best to learn about the implications of Catholic teaching about the State. There are plenty of libertarians and socialists on the internet who twist themselves into rhetorical knots trying to justify their prior political views in light of Church teaching. It seems, though, that if one makes the Church’s social teaching the center of one’s political views, one can’t honestly be a libertarian or socialist. This seems to be the case because the Church has denounced liberalism (of which libertarianism is one extreme view), socialism, communism, capitalism, etc. on various margins. The final line of defense against what seems to be an authentically Catholic view of the state is that the Church hasn’t spoken infallibly on the role of the state, so one is permitted to believe a whole range of views about the state’s role.
How are we to interpret the teaching of the Church on the state? What about the definition of modernism and Americanism as heresies? Do Rerum Novarum and the other encyclicals and other teaching by the popes amount to Magisterial infallible teaching? It seems unlikely that in the future Pope Trotsky or Pope Rothbard will define the state’s role to be unlimited or zero.
I’m only interested in replies to my questions, not apologetics for socialism or libertarianism. Thanks!