What is a “Tea Party Catholic”? | CWR Staff | Catholic World Report
Samuel Gregg discusses Catholic social doctrine and what it has to do with economics, limited government, and religious freedom.
Dr. Samuel Gregg is director of research at the Acton Institute. He has an MA in political philosophy from the University of Melbourne, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in moral philosophy and political economy from the University of Oxford, where he worked under the supervision of Professor John Finnis. A leading commentator on political economy, natural law theory, and Catholicism, some of his books include Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future (2013), The Modern Papacy (2009), and The Commercial Society (2006). He recently spoke with Catholic World Report about his newest book, Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing (Crossroad, 2013).
CWR: Why the use of the term “Tea Party Catholic”? Isn’t the Tea Party mostly made up of angry white voters who hate government and don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes?
Gregg: Actually Tea Party Catholic has very little to say about today’s Tea Party movement—many members of which, by the way, are socially conservative Christians, including many Catholics, worried about America’s present direction. Instead, Tea Party Catholic seeks to underscore that it’s entirely possible to be a faithful Catholic and a supporter of the project in constitutionally ordered liberty that we associate with events like the Boston Tea Party and the American Founding. That Founding involved, as we know, rather strong commitments to limited government, economic freedom, and religious liberty: commitments that some think are under serious strain today.
Now this is obviously controversial. Many Catholic Americans, for example, still believe that the “two Johns”—Blessed John Rawls and Saint John Maynard Keynes!—have said everything that ever needed to be said about justice and the economy respectively. But many of the ideas outlined in Tea Party Catholic will irritate those Catholics inclined to shout “Americanism!” whenever a Catholic says that the American experiment, while not perfect, is in fact something that Catholics should promote and celebrate.
In short, to be a “Tea Party Catholic” means that you reject the path of Rawlisan-Keynesian-New-Dealism, especially regarding its expansionist view of government. But it also indicates that you’re unwilling to live Amish-like in a Catholic ghetto. Instead you believe (1) there are many things about the American Founding to be celebrated by Catholics, but also that (2) Catholicism can help shape that experiment in the direction of truth, virtue, and what I (and others) call human flourishing. I would never claim that Tea Party Catholic articulates the only possible Catholic stance on such matters. But I do suggest it’s a legitimate position for a Catholic to hold.
Lastly, much of Tea Party Catholic draws upon the thought of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Not only was Carroll one of the best educated of the Founders, but he was an immensely successful businessman, a clear economic thinker, a legislator, and a strong supporter of George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Carroll was always a faithful Catholic and worked to ensure that the Republic embraced a robust conception of religious liberty. Carroll also understood and articulated the moral and economic case for economic freedom and limited government. As what I call the very first “Tea Party Catholic,” readers will soon see the influence of Carroll’s life and thought upon my book’s content.
CWR: How have the bishops in America generally changed their approach to economic issues over the past 20 years?Continue reading on the CWR site.