Skip to comments.The Church and the End of the Welfare State
Posted on 07/25/2012 8:12:31 AM PDT by marshmallow
Throughout the post-Vatican II years, the U.S. bishops conference has typically defended the welfare state and not infrequently urged its expansion. Everyone familiar with the situation knows that this has had far more to do with the political predilections of certain conference staff members than with the settled judgment of the American episcopateor with a careful application of the principles of Catholic social doctrine. But things are changing.
A new generation of bishops is not quite as sure as its predecessors that social justice always equals government program. The rise of aggressive secularism within both state and federal social welfare agencies has also been a sobering experience, as bishops across the country have found that the Churchs success in foster care or work with sex-trafficked women doesnt count in the eyes of government bureaucrats determined to impose the LGBT and abortion-on-demand agendas with the funding tools at their disposal.
Catholic default positions in favor of shoring up, even expanding, the post-World War II American social welfare state must also be re-examined because of certain undeniable realities. Catholic social doctrine is a tradition of moral realism: it takes facts seriously. And the increasing burden of the evidence is that the social welfare state as we have known it is dyingand in fact deserves to die.
It is dying, in both Europe and the United States, because it is unaffordable. Shaky economic models and a demographic winter throughout the western world have combined to drive the social welfare state as we have known it into a fiscal wall (or over a fiscal cliff; choose your image). As my colleague Yuval Levin has put it, neither Europe nor the United States can rationally or responsibly go where the long-term trends suggest were heading: to debts that utterly overwhelm [our] productive capacities, governments that.....
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Without reading between the lines I’m pretty sure my 1937 Sunday Missal rails against the New Deal with its frequent calls for true “Catholic Action” in the end pages. They seemed to know then that an expansionist state was bad for the church and the faithful.
As usual, Weigel makes great sense.
Unfortunately the Catholic community "took advantage" of government dollars and paid a price. They had to adhere to secular government regulations. Illinois Catholic Charities would still be in the adoption business if the church would have looked to the Lord for their provision.
Jesus charged us to love and serve one another. Jesus did not tell us to love and serve the government. He did not ask us to vote in a government that will take away our neighbor’s money at the point of a gun.
The Good Samaritan gave what he could of his time, talent, and treasure out of free will. That is love, that is compassion.
Government is not, has never been, and never will be compassionate.
Read the comments at the site.
On one of them is a petition for the “virtue of working for social justice”
I crossed out “social justice” and penciled in “liberty”.
If the Catholic church was teaching that during the New Deal, it wasn't learned by Catholic voters, they were part of Roosevelt's, and then the Democrats, New Deal interest groups.
"The New Deal Coalition was the alignment of interest groups and voting blocs that supported the New Deal and voted for Democratic presidential candidates from 1932 until the late 1960s. It made the Democratic Party the majority party during that period, losing only to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956."
Three of the three times that the democrats have won the Protestant vote were during that New Deal range, but that was narrow support for FDR in 1932 and 1936, then they saw the light again and voted against FDR in 1940 and 1944 and in every other presidential election except for 1964.
My pastor told us, "Christians will be held responsibile for the downfall of America." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Preach it Brother! I try that lin eof reasoning with every so-called Christian leftist I run across. I say so-called because many of these folks have put the idol of government before God.
Before the Social Security Act of 1935, many US counties hosted “poor farms”, that were in effect, farms for the poor, based on their labor, growing some crops and engaging in animal husbandry to reduce their costs. It was expected that those able to work would work.
However, as government entities, they were prone to corruption and abuse, often mistreating their charges.
Yet with this as an “honest model”, the Catholic church, perhaps in cooperation with other faiths, could offer a “religious poor farm” that could offer a host of services based in faith, not bureaucratic expediency.
Here are some possibilities:
1) (Assuming the oppressive USDA has been told to “back off” of its overregulation and controls over private farms), such a farm could grow crops not for sustenance, but for profit, growing high value crops that could be sold or traded for their food. This would mean a better diet as well as needs like electricity, running water and sewage, new clothing and amenities.
2) The offering of a “nursing home and hospice of faith”, neither oriented to “expedient euthanasia” nor “unnatural technological extension of life”, instead offering caring medicine, pain relief, and natural death.
3) A continual emphasis on faith and spirituality, family and friendship, respect and remembrance. That the elderly and invalid deserve respect and involvement in life.
4) Perhaps even a home for unwed and poor mothers and their children, along with an orphanage.
Setting up such places would address a host of social problems, it would raise the public profile of the Catholic and other churches considerably, significantly increase faithful membership (if not CINOs), and provide an alternative to atheistic, secularist, and the often anti-human government mechanisms that exist today.
Never saw in the New Testament any mention about the Welfare State Rome ran. If you were a Roman citizen and lived in Rome you were entitled to free bread and on top of that free admission to the Coliseum or the Circus Maximus.
For a time I was fortunate enough to live in Hillsdale, Michigan.
Perhaps the most famous native of Hillsdale was a 19th. Century poet named Will Carleton. Carleton is best known for his epic poem “Over The Hill to the Poor House”. At the time just about every community of any size had such a place.
I had heard my grandparents recite “Over The Hill to the Poor House” many times as a child. Apparently the Progressive Reformers in the early 1900’s started making children memorize it to prepare the way for the New Deal. Either accept more government intervention in your lives, or be consigned to Carleton’s grim Dickensian vision of an old age spent alone and toiling away in the poor house. And they were duly terrified. I think my grandparents would have voted for a top income tax bracket of 97% rather than to bring back the poor houses.
They did such a good job of drilling Carleton’s poem into kids that my grandmother could still recite it from memory as late as 1990. Will Carleton, perhaps unknowingly, single-handedly sealed the fate of the poor farm in America.
Good call on the Roman welfare state. It brought down the empire. And remember also that circus was often unfriendly to Christians.
It is dying, in both Europe and the United States, because it is unaffordable. Shaky economic models and a demographic winter throughout the western world have combined to drive the social welfare state as we have known it into a fiscal wall (or over a fiscal cliff; choose your image). As my colleague Yuval Levin has put it, neither Europe or the United States can rationally or responsibly go where the long-term trends suggest we’re heading: to debts that utterly overwhelm [our] productive capacities, governments that do almost nothing but support the elderly, and economies with no room for dynamism, for growth, or for youth.
The social welfare state is also dying because it is grossly inefficient. The Progressive movement’s claim that government agencies run by specialists highly-trained in the social sciences could be compassionate, responsive and efficient has been falsified by reality. Social welfare bureaucracies just don’t work that way. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good men and women doing noble work in government social welfare agencies; it means that the system itself is incapable of responding to the churnings of our times, the variety of human problems our culture creates, or the moral defects that underlie so many contemporary social pathologies.
And that, from a Catholic social doctrine point of view, is the key to understanding the demise of the post-World War II social welfare state: it’s eroded the moral culture that makes free and responsible citizenship in self-governing democracies possible. Yuval Levin again: The attempt to rescue the citizen from the burdens of responsibility has undermined the family, self-reliance and self-government–and it has done this, not from a lack of compassion or resources, but because the social welfare state by its nature creates dependencies that erode the virtues necessary for genuine human flourishing.
Rather than expending fruitless energies defending the social welfare state as we know it–in the first few months of 2012, the bishops’ conference (as represented by its domestic policy committee) issued letters urging renewed or expanded funding for some 20 federal social welfare programs–the Catholic Church in the United States should be at the forefront of exploring the path beyond the welfare state, stressing the moral and cultural dimensions of that necessary journey.
The Church has no special expertise in the technicalities of public policy; and in any event, the Church ought never have measured social justice by budget line-items. What the Church knows is the truth about the human person, and that truth includes the importance of responsibility, honesty, self-reliance and solidarity. Those just happen to be virtues essential to the free, dynamic and compassionate societies that moral reason and Catholic social doctrine call us to build in the post-welfare state future.
The attempt to rescue the citizen from the burdens of responsibility has undermined the family, self-reliance and self-governmentand it has done this, not from a lack of compassion or resources, but because the social welfare state by its nature creates dependencies that erode the virtues necessary for genuine human flourishing.
In other words:
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
Glad the new bishops are on board.