The Vatican and the Economy

NPR called today to solicit a 500-word commentary from me on the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s document on the economy, released today. They expect it to run tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I offer you this article on a related Vatican document; the arguments I would make in each case are very similar.

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  • Anonymous

    Shame on you Dr. Woods. You are a smart man, so I think you are dissembling here. People are treating you like you are some sort of Bishop, going to you for your thoughts on the Church’s teaching. I feel compelled to speak out, and speak out strongly. I think you are doing a disservice to the Church, and you need to be called on it.

    This document you are commenting on is from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. As you know full well, this office can issue its interpretations and thoughts until the cows come home, and NONE OF IT is binding on our conscience as Catholics. They do not issue encyclicals, none of them are Pope. All you had to do to address the concerns of your readership is simply point out the history of Justice and Peace issuing left leaning economic suggestions, and also point out that this sort of stuff does not touch on the Church’s teaching authority or indefectability. Catholics are free to accept or reject documents out of the P.C.J.P.. You know this is true. You say none of it here.

    Instead, you give us this: “In the meantime, I offer you this article on a related Vatican document; the arguments I would make in each case are very similar.”

    Here you link to an article that you wrote where you engage in borderline dissent by denying the Vicar of Christ his legitimate teaching authority. The article refers to a Papal Encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” with which you disagree strongly. You call this Papal Encyclical in this post “another Vatican document…” equating this ENCYCLICAL with a simple publication by the PCJP. I say again; you are smart. You didn’t do this by accident. You will have to forgive me, but I tire of your constant crying that your critics are being uncharitable. It is self-evident what you are doing here.

    You reacted to this encyclical with both hubris and pride. It is self-evident that in this post you equate a Papal Encyclical with (yet another) very liberal publication out of the PCJP. In doing so you mislead your readers, and I think you are doing it intentionally. That issue aside, you do libertarian ideas a disservice by taking this public action.

    For instance, you could have said “I do not disagree with a single moral concern animating the publication of Caritas in Veritiate, but there is room for legitimate disagreement among Catholics about how best to address the real concerns addressed by the Holy Father in the encyclical.” You could have said that a return to the gold standard would be more effective than a global financial institution to oversee the financial system. You could have pointed out that a global financial watchdog would be just as susceptible to serving rich and corporate interests over the worker as the Fed has been. In doing so, you could have done a service, raising arguments in a thoughtful and non-scandalous manner.

    Yet, you instead choose to attack the Holy Father. And it isn’t the first time. You have written attacks upon John Paul II, telling those of us who admire him that we are caught up in a “cult of personality.” Yes, this heroic Pope who faced down Communism, gave us The Theology of the Body, and a host of other blessings is not worthy of respect given him. You also vehemently attack the Second Vatican Council itself. I cannot begin to understand where you are coming from. But a Catholic authority that people would turn to for advice on how to react to Vatican statements? A sort of pseudo-Bishop for libertarian Catholics?  Invitations to represent yourself as a Catholic intellectual on NPR?

    I am scandalized. And I think rightly so.

  • Patrick Hatten

    I do not even know where to begin. As Catholics, we know that this document holds no real authority; however, to non-Catholics (and I would wager to say, most Catholics) this is the Vatican coming out in defense of one world government and international fiat banking. How is this not contrary to centuries of Catholic social teaching on subsidiarity? Any Catholic who defends free markets is now more vulnerable to attacks from others on economics because of this ignorant (yes, I said it; be scandalized) document. Also, NPR approached Dr. Woods, not the other way around. He is a Catholic scholar who has written multiple books on the faith, economics, and history, as well as made a fascinating series on EWTN that defended the faith against modernist attacks. 

    If you ever read Dr. Woods’ book “The Church and the Market”, you would realize that he has already addressed your claims regarding papal encyclicals. The Pope, no matter how loved and respected, cannot overturn the law of gravity. While economics is a social science, it still has Natural laws governing it. I believe that Dr. Woods already brought up the point (in the linked article above) that, no matter what you desire for the economy to do, price controls create shortages. This is but one law of economics and the Holy Father cannot change the Natural Law.

    Nothing in Dr. Woods’ post attacked the Holy Father. Even when he disagrees with past pontiffs on economical issues, Dr. Woods is very charitable from what I’ve read. Pope John Paul II, while he did do much good, was not infallible as a man. He did quite a few things during his pontificat that were questionable (the Assisi meeting in the ’80s being one of them). You need to step back and breathe. Dr. Woods did nothing wrong in this situation. You are the one trying to scandalize his readers over your own past grudges.    

  • anotherrandomCatholic

    I have been Catholic my whole life.  I went to Catholic school as a child.  Both sides of my family have been Catholic as far back as I can find.

    I have never been taught to look to the Church for subjects that are TOTALLY subject to scientific method:  math, chemistry, ECONOMICS.  I was never taught that the Church had authority over these issues.  Furthermore, I have never heard of a bishop or pope that had a second major in economics in seminary, though some probably do.  I feel that the Magisterium making comments with precise intentions and goals, like we have seen in this new document, is a step away from its expertise (faith and morals) into a realm in which they lack facts, deny scientific method (hypothesis: central banks and foreign aid work; result: they don’t), and put common Catholics in a position where they will be forced to face criticism relating to a subject that they themselves may not understand.

    Randomcatholic, you are correct in pointing out that it would be simple enough to point out that the document was not issued by the Pope and that acceptance of the statements is not compulsary for Catholics, but the Pope and the Magisterium know that is how the secular world and non-Catholics percieve such statements.

    Until someone in the heirarchy of the Church addresses the document and the controversial statements within it, Catholics such as myself will turn to a Catholic economist, such as Tom Woods, that we trust.  

  • Laura

    There has been a LOT OF ANGST all over the Internet over this broad statement put out by that department.  All I have been posting is that people refrain from casting their judgments UNTIL the entire document has been released.  Right now, journalists are copying & pasting similar “stories” of “takes” on the interpretation made by whoever read the document.  So, at the Daily Paul, Infowars, and the DrudgeReport~~all reports are going berserk with wild allegations of the Vatican & the Pope.  So, we need to comment & warn people from leaping to conclusions that may be false.

  • Tom Woods

    Funny that you are more scandalized by me than you are by this whole situation. I’m supposed to distinguish between the Pontifical Council and the Pope, you say. Fair enough. But did those people appoint themselves? Is Rome consistently surprised by how liberal its appointees turn out to be? Fewer and fewer people believe this anymore.

    The article you dislike was freely linked to even by the distributists who normally disagree with me.  Even they could see the Pope was giving scandal, and they understood, as you do not, that in grave situations the laity must speak out.

    You are speaking to someone who wrote a whole book in defense of the Pope’s liturgical thought. My writings were thoroughly vetted by EWTN before they gave me a TV series. So in addition to Catholic World Report, Crisis, and New Oxford Review — all of which have published very favorable commentaries on my work on economics and the Church — you’ll now have to condemn EWTN as well.  Have fun.

    I’ll tell you what should scandalize you: the repeated reference by Rome to the alleged need for global governance of one kind or another. This will alienate the entire slate of Protestants the Vatican is otherwise so concerned about courting. That is a scandal. These folks need to know that they do not have to hold opinions like this in order to be Catholic.

    Again, I ask you: who is appointing the prefects of the pontifical councils?

    Under what conditions does St. Thomas’ statement hold, in your opinion? Evidently never. Call me crazy, but I’m inclined to side with Aquinas over a “random Catholic,” who thinks the Pope’s teaching authority includes telling us whether central banking is desirable or at what level of government economic issues should be decided.  Are there ANY issues open to discussion, according to you?

  • Laura

    Here are some interesting thoughts from document really came from the bowels of the Vatican.  Unfortunately, we do have liberal “agendas” within the Catholic community.  This was a document that doesn’t really offer any solutions.  These” modernist liberal Catholics” are attempting to manipulate the masses.  The POPE did NOT say any of this.  I just wish he’d come out and make a statement regarding this ridiculous paper.  This is just one council out of many, hardly worth mentioning.  They used the word “Vatican” hoping people would think it meant “the POPE”.  It didn’t.  Jesuit priest Father Thomas Reese & others added so many outrageous comments regarding this document, including comments about the tea partiers & the Occupy WS crowd, suggesting the Pope was Democrat.  I really wish priests like Father Reese would just shut up.  It is unfortunate we have so many problems within the Catholic community.  It doesn’t help that we have so many Catholic liberals cow-towing to the Obama administration (which he has used to the utmost extent I might add).

  • Anonymous

    “The POPE did NOT say any of this.”

    That’s true of course, and rest assured that I sympathise with much of what you say.

    But is it really the whole or even most important point here? I’d like to repeat Tom Woods’ suggestion to ask yourself who appointed these progressivist Catholic think-tankers, before suggesting that the Holy Father has nothing to do with the documents they produce.

    Some room for cognitive dissonance here, I gather..

    Kind regs from Amsterdam,

  • Anonymous

    You wrote:

    “I am scandalized. And I think rightly so.”

    Yes, and?

    You also wrote to Tom Woods:

    “I cannot begin to understand where you are coming from.”

    Well, you can, actually. A good start would be to pick up – and read – Dr Woods’ book: “The Church and the Market” (2005, Lexington Books).