The Catholic Thing
Tea Party Catholics Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Tea Party members have been taking a beating in the public square the last few months. They suffered a black eye for supporting the government shut down in early October, which took the spotlight off the disastrous Rube Goldberg roll out of Obamacare.

Closing the Federal government was not only a bad tactic, it also gave the radical left – particularly the talking heads on MSNBC – another opportunity to denounce Tea Partiers as illiterate slobs and racists who hate the poor and the downtrodden.

Smearing Tea Party folks is misguided. I have been a guest speaker at several of their New York chapters and have found them to be mostly hardworking, well educated, middle-class citizens.

On Long Island, where I live, a vast majority of Tea Party members are Catholic and Jewish taxpayers who are tired of paying the highest combined federal, state, and local taxes in the nation, and who resent the expanded reach of the government Leviathan.

I have found, however, that they often go off half-cocked and in different directions because they do not have a consistent public philosophy that serves as the foundation of their civic activism.

To help fill this void, there’s Samuel Gregg’s new book Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing.

Mr. Gregg, Director of Research at the Acton Institute, is a remarkable young man, Born in Australia, he earned a MA in political philosophy at the University of Melbourne and a Ph.D. from Oxford University in moral philosophy. At Oxford, he studied under the renowned natural law expert, John Finnis.

Since 2000, his literary output has been remarkable. He has produced eight books, numerous monographs and co-edited three volumes. His articles have appeared in a score of periodicals including Foreign Affairs, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, and the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy.

Earlier this year I read Gregg’s fine work Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future. In that book he describes how America, particularly since the Great Recession of 2008, has been abandoning its “commitment to economic liberty, rule of law, limited government, and personal responsibility,” and has been drifting towards “soft despotism” that undermines our cultural foundations and imposes a European-like nanny state.

Gregg, an heir to the Michael Novak school of democratic capitalism, believes that Catholic economic and social thought has made an important contribution to “the shaping and uplifting of American life and culture.” He further argues that the Church’s “robust commitment to religious liberty. . .is quite applicable to the development of a morally ‘thick’ case for free economy and limiting the government’s economic role.”

Tea Party Catholic spells out the Catholic vision for personal and economic liberty and how “prudential application of the principles of Catholic social teaching can help alleviate the needs of the materially least among us” and help people flourish in society.

The author writes of his hero, Charles Carroll, the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence. Well-educated in Catholic philosophy and the classics by the Jesuits in their College at St. Omar in Flanders and the College Louis-le-Grand in Paris, Carroll understood that the American Credo was rooted in the tradition of the natural law and the common good.

         Samuel Gregg

A student of thinkers such as Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, and Montesquieu, Carroll included in the Maryland Constitution (which he drafted) three branches of government – executive, legislative, and judicial – “forever separate and distinct from each other.” The 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention adopted Carroll’s mixed government approach. We also owe the creation of the U.S. Senate and presidential selection by the Electoral College to Charles Carroll’s influence.

Carroll, Gregg points out, was also a hard-working entrepreneur who not only built up his family’s fortune, but became a noted philanthropist, He was an example of how one could succeed in a system that appreciates and promotes “freedom and the habits and institutions of economic liberty.”

To restore the economic liberty that existed in the early years of the Republic, Gregg provides some of the philosophical fodder Tea Party folks need, In readable prose, he defines the concepts of subsidiarity and the common good. And he explains how they apply to public policy issues and relate to freedom, limited government, and a free economy.

Gregg stresses that economic liberty and religious liberty are “in many respects indivisible.” This was evident when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services empowered by Obamacare – the largest economic intervention by the Federal government in America’s history – instructed the Church in January 2011 that it must supply coverage for medical services and products it considered intrinsically evil:  “The inevitable diminution of economic freedom associated with the move, was now undermining the Church’s liberty to live in accordance with some of its core moral teachings . . . .Just as freedom in one sphere redounded to the well being of another, so too did an attack on one diminish the other.”

Tea Party Catholic also explains that the sine qua non for the successful integration “between the social and economic dimensions of free societies” is the recognition of the human person’s inherent dignity, To reject the truth that man is created in the image and likeness of God “permits the rights to economic liberty, private property, and free association to be diminished in the interests of promoting grand economic plans presided over by governments that pretend to possess a capacity for knowledge that God along possesses.”

Catholics who wish to contribute to the Tea Party’s call for rebirth of liberty should consult Samuel Gregg’s book as a reliable and enlightening road map.

George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
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Comments (17)Add Comment
written by Timothy Padgett, November 27, 2013
I've been a life time catholic and a political conservative but I'm becoming increasingly concerned about a Pope who has to have so many statements misunderstood. perhaps he should do a better job of explaining things the first time. I'm also very concerned that he see's the world through the eyes of a less informed person who really doesn't understand how much economical conservatism has contributed to helping the poor.

I believe he thinks that socialism is the only acceptable means to help the poor; trumping capitalistic means. I don't know of any socialistic government that has done then make a worse situation even worse for the poor. It shows a total lack of understanding as to how much has been done to help the poor through the government and individuals.

The USA government contributes over $1.1 Trn. dollars a year to help the poor, not counting the $100 of millions done personally.

Just how much should others help that would satisfy the Pope? And by the way, isn't he way outside his comfort zone??
written by Manfred, November 27, 2013
When one is weak, all one can do is write/read another book.
Let's lay out the present circumstance. A Tea Party Catholic could never vote for the Democratic Party. That leaves the Republican Party, the leaders of which despise the Tea Party. Of course, there is Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz who are Young Turks in the Party coming to power, but there is no effective leadership at this point. The next question is money. The Republican establishment had no problem raising a $billion for Romney. The enemies of Catholicism, such as Soros, Mike Bloomberg, Bill and Melinda Gates and the Republican establishment(!) are BILLIONAIRES. Our Church is so effeminate it won't even risk excommunicating any of its own members for fear of economic and political reprisals.
I don't need a book to show me this bleak picture. Why are gun and ammunition sales soaring nationwide? People are terrified for their very lives! This is not a scholars' game. The oppressor is at the door. The Church has come to terms with divorce, contraception, heterodoxy, heresy and now sodomite "marriage" over the last fifty years. It is the story of the frog in the gradually boiling water.
written by St. Pius X, November 27, 2013
You guys will only seem more foolish and pathetic, the more you try to dialogue with baby murdering leftists. You keep suggesting we're naive haters and that you'll bring so many into the fold with your "ecumenism", as the Church continues to die in secularist/atheist/neo-pagan countries.
Young folk think you're stupid and pathetic when you can't even be proud of your superior tradition and instead use all your time grovelling to the people who spend every waking hour trying to destroy the One True Church!

Why don't you guys see if you can get in touch with Satan, start a dialogue with him!

But seriously, I bet this is the orthodoxes' fault--if only they weren't committed to Latin Mass and the traditions of the Church, then guitar Mass and ugly altars would convince the leftists to stop murdering babies and make them all good Christians!!
written by St. Pius X, November 27, 2013

Give it a rest. Whatever Jose babbles next, Catholicism has nothing to do with "social justice"/class warfare.

We don't need to live out your fantasies here in America again--we know exactly how hellish countries are where everyone is poor.

The poor are every bit as capable of evil and are no less detrimental to society than rich folk. We have a human problem, not a rich person problem.
written by Ted Seeber, November 27, 2013
What bad timing! The very theory of this book and this article seem refuted by Evangelii Gaudium, The Gospel of Joy.

I've always found it interesting that the Occupy Movement on the left, and the Tea Party on the right, never noticed that they were one and the same. The elite centralists successfully played divide-and-conquer on this one, with promoting fears of "the war on women" on the left, and fears of "big government" on the right, they successfully destroyed both movements, both of which originally opposed the financial sector coup over our government and our economy.
written by Jack,CT, November 27, 2013
We risk the "Impression" of seemingly
Ungrateful on the Eve of a Holiday and
I feel funny "Talking Politics" as we
all have a "Sincere belief System".

I will simply say People lie
Ted Cruz are poor examples of
"Caring Christians" and he does
seem to be a "Calculated junior
senator" and very unlikable
at that!
The "Attacks" on people like John
Mccain need to end as it makes
these people who were in pampers
as he was being tortured and refusing
to leave his men! How fast we forget he
was almost President and would have
done at least as good as the current

If "Extremists" want to alienate
"Moderates" it only has the single
outcome of stealing votes from
Us "Traditional Republicans" in
the Presidential Elections.

I may agree with all of the
"Policy but we NEEED not splinter
into 2 or 3 partys it does us no good-

written by Jack,CT, November 27, 2013
You could not have said it better!
May you and all have a bkessed and
meaningful holiday!
written by PeteBrown, November 27, 2013
Interesting book. I haven't read it but at the outset I have to tell you I'm skeptical of what appears to be its central premise. First in terms of "economic liberty" the founding generation is hardly an ideal to which we should strive. For one thing, most of the founders were not free traders. Hamilton was a big supporter of tariffs and other devices both to raise government revenue and subsidize domestic producers. And federal excise taxes on specific items like whiskey were much larger than today and also constituted an implicit subsidy on more favored products that were untaxed. And let us never forget that around 30-40% of the US GDP was dependent on slave labor or the slave economy in one form or another. Recent scholarship has come out which really uncovers the degree to which the Northern economy was indirectly dependent on slavery as well.

Moreover why do we hear the constant refrain that we are somehow regressing where economic liberty is concerned? Never in human history have companies and investors been freer to invest capital all over the world. And the same is true for businesses--despite barriers never has it been easier for firms and their workers to earn money from sources all over the world.

Moreover in most ways the US is far less regulated than 40 years ago. Remember up till the 1970's the government told firms how much to charge for phone calls, airline tickets, insurance, shipping goods, interest rates for banks and so on. All this has been swept away! Yes there are more environmental and health and safety regulations but these are regulations directed at business externalities and are thus a different class of interventions entirely.

Tax rates are still very low by post WWII standards, especially on invested capital and estates.

So in all, I tend to agree with the commenter above. Right now the conversation is changing. No longer is the debate between Marxism and Capitalism. Capitalism has won the argument. Now the debate is how to deal with the undesirable second order effects of capitalism. In the US this means the stagnating and even declining standard of living and life prospects for people who have below average or even average skills. This is the real appeal of the tea party for people. It is not libertarian ideals but a realization for many of them that life in the US used to be better for people like them!

This book sounds like it would have been more appropriate in other words, in 1979, than today, when there are wholly new challenges.
written by Chris in Maryland, November 27, 2013
The remarks seem largely disconnected with the essay.


Happy Thanksgiving!
written by Walter, November 27, 2013
Manfred, Maybe priests should replace cinctures with holsters and six-shooters under their chasubles.
written by Thomas J. Hennigan, November 27, 2013
I don't know what is the basis for Timothy Padget's claim that Pope Francis is promoting socialism or is a socialist. I read an interview with him when he was Archbisop of Buenos Aires in which the lambastes now decesased Hugo Chavez and his Socialism of the XXI century and clearly states that such socialism only increases the number of poor. He is perfectly in line with Catholic Social Teaching. The inteview was done by a lef wing Mexican journalist and was never aired because the journalist was so totally opposed to what he said. Laater on, when he had been made Pope, someone saw it in the archives of the TV channel and published it.
written by Jack,CT, November 27, 2013

And also to you!
written by Ernest Miller, November 27, 2013
@Pete Brown

If 30 to 40% of the US economy was dependent on slave labor, what did the other 60% do? Slave labor might be responsible for planting and harvesting, but it was the conversion of cotton, for example, to fabrics that had commercial value.

And, further if slave labor accounted for 30 to 40% of US GDP, then how could Lincoln and the north, in general, have possibly destroyed that much value and still succeed.

Other analysts put the value of slave value at 2-2.5% and hence it prove out historically that at the end of the war the economy never missed a beat.
written by Matthew, November 27, 2013
Manfred is correct. I just read the USCCB's "Bishops Issue ‘Special Message’ on HHS Mandate at Conclusion of General Assembly".

In summary the bishops have informed us that the Church supports Obamacare forcing a Catholic businessman to pay for contraceptives and abortions for his/her employees. It supports a Catholic family having to pay double or more on their healthcare premiums to support the same. It supports the Death Panels that have been setup under Soro's euthanasia advocates as long as there is universal healthcare. Yet the same USCCB cannot tolerate the same law applied to "them" i.e their ministries.
The bishops want us to fight and fund "their" battle but will jettison the Catholic laymen to Obamacare as the Republicans did the Tea Party members after the election.

written by Rick, November 28, 2013
I believe the tea party has been subverted. The group does not have the spirit it once had. I had hopes for them since our own bishops have abandoned us. The tea party was like a "light in the darkness." But oh how dark it is now.
The failure of the tea party to hold the line on spending, emigration, and a host of other issues indicates like a litmus test that this group has been overtaken by the establishment republicans or worse.
written by Mack Hall, November 28, 2013
Catholic, yes; Tea Party Catholic, no. Catholic.
written by Ben in Maine, December 02, 2013
Let's stop with this hyphenated nonsense. Faithful Catholics are neither "liberal" nor "conservative."

Being Pro-Life is a full-spectrum issue that must permeate every action we perform. Opposing abortion does not solely qualify you as being pro-life, though I would state that abortion is the flagship issue of the pro-life movement. You can't be a Catholic if you support abortion, and you can't be Catholic if you believe in destroying God's Creation (which, VERY directly, threatens HUMAN life within and outside of the womb).

It's so depressing that helping the poor is called "socialism." The Cold War is long over and the rhetoric long since static.

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