"Subsidiarity points toward limited government. Though an important form of social organization, government is only one of a number of communities and should not therefore displace or absorb the responsibilities properly assumed by individuals, families, churches, clubs, businesses, and other forms of non-state association. Subsidiarity thus tells us we should not automatically look to government when a community experiences problems." -- page 105
I suspect there are millions of us out here. I am talking about upstanding, hard-working, God-fearing Catholics who know in their gut that our nation has been headed in exactly the wrong direction for the past several decades. Furthermore, we are very distressed when we observe significant numbers of clergy and religious, including many in positions of higher authority, advocating for economic policies we deem to be destructive while supporting candidates that appear to dismiss many of our church's most basic teachings. We are Tea Party Catholics and we often struggle to articulate why we feel the way we do and what changes we believe need to be made. Samuel Gregg is an Australian writer who shares many of our concerns. He has written a marvelous new book called "Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, A Free Economy, and Human Flourishing". This is a book that speaks to us! Here at last is the information conservative Catholics need to refute the tired old arguments that Catholic progressives have been making since the 1960's. I found Mr. Gregg's arguments to be consistent, coherent and deeply-steeped in Catholic tradition. Clearly, Catholic teaching has an awful lot to offer in this ongoing debate. There is abundant food for thought in this volume.
As you might expect Samuel Gregg has precious little use for the "liberation theology" that was embraced by the progressive wing of the Catholic Church back in the 1960's. "Liberation theology" is a radical movement that believes the Church should act to bring about social change. Although Gregg believes that many who embrace this philosophy are extremely well-intentioned he finds a number of critical flaws in this approach. Throughout the pages of "Tea Party Catholic" Gregg does a workmanlike job of refuting the major tenets of this philosophy in a very convincing way. History has shown that this is a philosophy closely associated with socialism and in the long run can be very destructive to the human spirit. Furthermore, Gregg insists that such utopian thinking not only denies the reality of human sinfulness but also suffocates human freedom in the name of justice. It would be nearly two decades before conservative Catholic thinkers finally began to the tenets of "liberation theology". We learn that the conservative American theologian Michael Novak staunchly defended American capitalism in his landmark 1982 book "The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism". This book caused quite a stir back in the day and was roundly criticized by New Deal Catholics, progressive religious orders and even the United States Conference of Bishops. Over the years Novak and others would write several more books on this subject. Gregg draws from these works as well as the writings of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Thomas Aquinas to help substantiate his points.
What I found most exciting about "Tea Party Catholic" was Gregg's vigorous defense of capitalism, free markets and property rights. It all makes perfect sense to me. Gregg makes it crystal clear that a society cannot expect to enjoy religious liberty if it does not at the same time embrace economic liberty. The author discusses at considerable length the very Catholic idea of "human flourishing" whereby the end is the excellence that every person is capable of realizing through the reasonable use of their freedom. The many facets of "human flourishing" include life and health, friendship, traditional marriage (open to children), knowledge, integrity, beauty, work, religion and the exercise of "creative reason". It is this line of thinking that encourages each and every one of us to engage in works of charity. This means lifting people out of poverty—not just material poverty, but moral and spiritual poverty as well. Meanwhile, Samuel Gregg also offers some thoughtful insights on the very divisive immigration issues that are now confronting our nation.
I firmly believe that "Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, A Free Economy, and Human Flourishing" should be read by all Catholics regardless of their political leanings. For those of the liberal persuasion it will help you to understand precisely where Tea Party Catholics are coming from. Meanwhile, for those of us who embrace more conservative values reading "Tea Party Catholic" will arm us with the critical information we need to intelligently argue for our beliefs. Another government program is usually not the answer. Samuel Gregg makes his case brilliantly in this meticulously researched and extremely well-written book. Very highly recommended!
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more