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By Ben Peterson, Public Discourse, Feb. 3, 2020
Ben Peterson is a doctoral student in the Texas A&M Department of Political Science.
Catholic social teaching can serve as an important source of wisdom about how to order personal action and social policy toward the ultimate ends of human life. Still, invoking this tradition does not obviate the need for detailed and mundane policy debate.
Like many others, I applaud Senator Marco Rubio’s invocation of the modern tradition of Catholic social teaching (CST) in articulating his vision of “common good capitalism” at Public Discourse. The papal encyclicals on social matters and the Compendium of the Church’s Social Doctrine (2005), which outline Catholic teaching on the economy, the family, politics, and related matters, merit attention from thinkers and leaders working to craft a vision and course for just public policy. There, readers will find helpful concepts unique to the tradition, such as “subsidiarity” and “solidarity,” as well as thorough treatment of such terms as “human rights” and “social justice.” CST gives these staples of contemporary political discourse substantive content and form.
Yet there can be significant disagreement about applying CST principles in a particular situation. At Law and Liberty, for example, James Rogers raises a noteworthy objection to Rubio’s application of the tradition to a critique of “financialization.” Rogers writes that the “notion that ‘financialization’ represents intrinsic social waste,” common among postliberal thinkers, is “fundamentally shortsighted, and misguided,” failing to take account of finance’s role in promoting investment and the potentially harmful effects of excessive regulation. ….