Chartres 2006
Photo Story

Remnant Tours

Click Here to visit
THE REMNANT Scrapbook!


See Remnant


New Book Defends Catholic Social Teaching,

Sparks International Debate

Michael Matt Interviews Christopher Ferrara

Michael J. Matt & Christopher Ferrara POSTED: Monday, August 30, 2010
Editor, The Remnant  

MJM: There’s been a lot of buzz about your new book, The Church and the Libertarian, especially within libertarian and distributist circles.  But why would Joe the Catholic Plumber or Mary the Homeschool Mom be interested your book?

CAF: First, because there’s more to being a traditional Catholic than attending the Latin Mass on Sunday. This newspaper has rightly sounded the warning that traditionalists are deluded if they ignore the cultural question and allow their homes to be invaded by a degenerate popular culture created by men who hate everything the Church stands for.  By the same token, Catholics must address what the Popes call the “social question” in their encyclicals preaching against the errors of both economic and political liberalism. The very culture that threatens our Faith—steeped in contraception, pornography, and rampant consumerism—is a creature of the so-called “free” market operating in tandem with secular states that protect it from censorship and other forms of moral regulation called for by the Church’s teaching.  Even the new Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for the State to prohibit, confiscate and destroy “free” market pornography, for example, but now we have liberal Catholics, who call themselves “traditionalist libertarians” with a straight face, decrying such legal measures as “statism,” and daring to cite St. Thomas Aquinas in support of their nonsense.

This book explores the symbiotic relationship between economic and political liberalism, and thus Between Big Business and Big Government, concerning which the Popes have issued one prophetic warning after another in the encyclicals that comprise the great body of the Social Teaching.  This book is a manual, a compact defense, of the traditional Social Teaching of the Church, which God in His Providence provided so that future generations might find a way out of the darkness of mind and soul that is “the modern world.” It is an extended apologia for social, economic and political traditionalism, the abandonment of which will, sooner or later, leave us all Latin Mass-loving liberals, as susceptible to deception and error as every other citizen of the Godless modern world.

Second, because it presents and defends a vision of life that once prevailed throughout the Western world, still prevails in some places, and can still be recovered anew throughout the West: the Catholic vision of life enunciated in the Church’s social teaching.

Third, because it shows how this vision of life is being recovered and how we traditionalist Catholics can contribute to its recovery even within the existing sociopolitical framework of mass democracy, and with the cooperation of non-Catholics and even non-believers.

Fourth, because it exposes a Trojan Horse movement within the Church that is attempting to persuade Catholics that a combination of the errors of radical laissez faire capitalism and radical libertarianism—not the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church—is the answer to the crisis of the modern state system. 

The Church and the Libertarian

A Defense of Catholic Teaching on Man, Economy and State

A new book by Christopher A. Ferrara


Click HERE to See What the Critics are Saying

MJM: You’re pretty tough on the libertarians. But don’t you think that Ron Paul, who identifies with the libertarians, would be worlds better for our country than the insufferable President Obama?

CAF: I so stipulate at the beginning of the book.  But Ron Paul would still be the lesser of three evils—or two evils, if he managed to get the Republican Party nomination.

My book aims a bit higher than settling for Ron Paul, however. My aim is to defend a vision of politics and economic life—the Catholic vision—that is right in principle and not merely the best of a devil’s bargain.  Moreover, the principles I defend, which are the Church’s principles at the level of natural law, natural religion, and natural justice, apply to every nation, Catholic or not.  So this is not a debate over whether America should become a Catholic State the day after tomorrow, as the sophists would have us believe.

In many areas, Ron Paul’s principles are completely contrary not only to Catholic teaching but even the natural law, as are the principles of liberalism generally, as the Popes have not failed to remind us. Ron Paul belongs to that American strain of “conservatism” that, for example, has “no problem” with gay marriage so long as it is not called marriage, and which thinks the answer to the mass murder of unborn children is to “let the people decide” whether to kill them.

We need a way out of the deadly trap in which we find ourselves: the endless false alternative between liberal liberalism and conservative liberalism. My book points to the way out, the Church’s way, and does so with practical suggestions for how to reach the exit.

MJM: So it’s just a question of degree?  You go along with some libertarians some of the time?

CAF:  It’s not a question of going along with the libertarians some of the time, but rather of the libertarians going along with the Church some of the time. My concern is not libertarianism in the broad and benign sense of limited government consistent with the Catholic teaching on subsidiarity.  In that respect, the Catholic Church is the true libertarian movement, as I show in my book.  Libertarians should follow the Church, not the other way around.

My concern, rather, is with that strain of radical libertarianism that calls itself the “Austro-libertarian movement”—a combination of the “Austrian School” of so-called “economics” with a libertarian political theory that seeks to abolish the State entirely and replace it with an even more radically liberal form of social order—the “stateless society”—than the one that now afflicts us. This movement, which claims international ascendancy, is dedicated to the “legacy” of two liberal, agnostic Jewish thinkers: Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. Its central think tank is the Von Mises Institute, located in Auburn, AL. 

As I show in the book, this movement is casting more and more Catholics under its spell, thanks to the tireless efforts of its Catholic leaders, including Lew Rockwell, President and Founder of the Mises Institute, Tom Woods, Jeffrey Tucker, and their liberal Catholic allies such as Father Robert Sirico, whose Acton Institute—named after the anti-Romanist Liberal Catholic, Lord Acton—has sponsored Tom Woods’s widely criticized book attacking the Church’s Social Teaching, The Church and the Market.

Sirico, by the way, is the former “gay activist” and one-time head of Libertarians for Gay Rights, who “converted” to libertarianism after reading the works of Mises, Rothbard and other radical libertarians. Despite his long and very public “gay” history, including his “pioneering” of “gay marriage” ceremonies in San Francisco, Sirico somehow succeeded in being ordained as a priest in 1989 for the liberal Paulist order. A year later he founded the Acton Institute. In addition to promoting Woods’s work, the Acton Institute also employs Tucker, Vice President of the Mises Institute, as one of its faculty members.

The Mises Institute boasts on its website that (with the help of prominent Catholics like Rockwell, Woods and Tucker) it has become “the center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics… the world’s leading provider of educational materials, conferences, media, and literature in support of the tradition of thought represented by Ludwig von Mises and the school of thought he enlivened and carried forward… which has now blossomed into a massive international movement of students, professors, professionals, and people in all walks of life….” Speaking as the Institute’s Catholic head, Rockwell boasts that “Austro-libertarianism is the only truly international economic-political movement outside of Marxism.... This is a worldwide struggle, and now especially, we must work together, in the tradition of Mises and Rothbard, for the good of all.”

Part of the Institute’s “worldwide struggle… in the tradition of Mises and Rothbard” is to promote among Catholics Mises’s book Socialism, in which (as my book documents) this liberal agnostic blames Christ and the Catholic Church for socialism, declares that Christianity has become—get this—“a religion of hatred,” and demands that the Church reform herself by accepting economic and political liberalism.   The book explores the intrinsically anti-Catholic and Christophobic character of this movement, despite the vehement protestations of its Catholic members—reminiscent of the vehement protestations of the Modernists—that it is perfectly harmonious with the Faith. 

In short, this is not a movement Catholics can ignore. It is yet another of the Trojan Horses that have entered the City of God since the Council’s “opening to the world.”

MJM: Tom Woods has been quite critical of you in recent days.  Why so?

CAF: For the reasons I have already given. But, rather than answer serious objections to his position, Tom insists on dismissing me and a veritable battalion of other Catholic critics as envious, narrow-minded, or irrationally “obsessed” with him—a classic tactic of the Left, ironically enough.

Tom seems to think he is entitled to be one of the leaders of a movement against the Church’s Social Teaching, writing entire books against it, and then insulate himself from criticism by demonizing all his opponents. Those opponents, by the way, include Tom Fleming of Chronicles, who described Woods’s position rather drolly as “the Austrian heresy” years before I ever mentioned Woods by name in my own critique of the errors of Mises and Rothbard.  Those opponents also include the world-renowned Catholic economist Dr. Rupert Ederer, who (unlike Tom) actually has degrees in economics. Ederer described The Church and the Market as “pretentious and presumptuous… pomposity” in which “[a] host of some of the most impressive and saintly Popes in the long history of the Church are in effect presented as ‘dummies’… [and] out of their depth” and further accused him of  “a despicable display of hubris” and “objective dissent from moral teachings by the Catholic Church.” I see no sign that Dr. Ederer is envious of or obsessed with Tom—and what Dr. Ederer wrote is far stronger than anything I have written.

One cannot expect to be taken seriously as an intellectual if he erupts in tantrums and hurls insults at his critics instead of seriously addressing their objections. Tom does not address those objections by haughtily declaring that we know nothing about “economics.”  What he calls “economics” is not the issue, as he knows quite well. Nor is he making a serious intellectual argument when he declares that he is a widely acclaimed and prestigious author, while his critics are nothing. Even a fellow libertarian who dared to criticize Woods’s views got the “you envy me, I am famous” treatment.  The object of this particular tantrum (a real dunce who holds a degree from Oxford) reported that Woods “sent a letter to my colleagues attempting to get me fired for criticizing an unsupported thesis in his last book,” and that Woods’s letter contained the following statement:

If I am writing bestselling books, lecturing all over the world, being greeted by thunderous standing ovations (I have the YouTubes to prove it), getting six-figure advances, and earning the respect of Bob Higgs, Bettina Greaves, Judge Napolitano, Ron Paul, Larry Reed, and the rest of the non-DC libertarian world, why should I pause for a moment over Tom [Palmer]?

Woods apparently has no idea of the amount of resentment he has engendered among Catholics with his high-handed attitude. He needs to recognize that he cannot dismiss his critics with ridicule, condescension, and blustering.

MJM: What of the objection that you should, in charity, have privately engaged in fraternal correction over such differences of opinion, rather than write a book about it?

CAF: First of all, my book is in large part a response to another book (Tom’s) attacking the Social Teaching.  Books answering books are what public discourse is all about.  Private fraternal correction is not the issue in the realm of publications. 

But long before The Church and the Market appeared in 2005, when Tom was publishing articles and delivering speeches along the same lines, I spent the better part of two years attempting private fraternal correction—beginning back in 2002, when Fleming first took Tom to task. You yourself tried the same approach and also got nowhere. So did several other Catholics. Tom rejected any serious private discussion or debate of his position, and refused to attend any face-to-face meeting with his own friends and colleagues, including a meeting you tried to arrange in New York. He also refused to meet in private with me and the publisher of The Latin Mass magazine, Howard Walsh, to discuss the issues man-to-man.

When The Church and the Market came out in 2005—the same book Dr. Ederer so strongly denounced as “objective dissent form moral teachings by the Catholic Church”—the time for private fraternal correction was long past. A public response was called for—not only by Fleming, Dr. Ederer, Thomas Storck, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski and a host of other Catholic critics, but by me personally because I have something of a personal stake in this controversy.

I co-authored a book with Tom, The Great Façade (2002), and in so doing tied my reputation to his in traditionalist circles—only to find within a few months of the book coming out that my co-author had become a public opponent of Catholic Social Teaching, imposed on Catholics as binding in conscience, and that he was being accused of “the Austrian heresy.” (Sad to say, because of the controversy my co-author has caused, The Great Façade had to be abandoned, though that book would surely have been in its fifth or sixth edition by now.)

Woods’s public position undermined the entire distinction The Great Façade was at pains to stress: the distinction between binding Catholic doctrine and recent pastoral and other non-doctrinal novelties, such as “ecumenism.” One of the many points The Great Façade made in this regard is that John Paul II himself conceded that the faithful have the right to criticize the ecumenical program, for example.

Not so with the doctrinal content of the Social Teaching. As Saint Pius X declared in Singulari Quadem: “Catholics have a sacred and inviolable duty, both in private and public life, to obey and firmly adhere to and fearlessly profess the principles of Christian truth… which Our Predecessor has most wisely laid down in the encyclical letter Rerum Novarum”—the very encyclical Woods declares “fraught with error” on such teachings as the just wage. As St. Pius X further insisted: “The social question and its associated controversies, such as the nature and duration of labor, the wages to be paid, and workingmen’s strikes, are not simply economic in character. Therefore they cannot be numbered among those which can be settled apart from ecclesiastical authority. The precise opposite is the truth. It is first of all moral and religious, and for that reason its solution is to be expected mainly from the moral law and the pronouncements of religion.”

I could hardly go on saying nothing while other Catholics publicly opposed Tom for dissenting from Church teaching I accept unreservedly. Moreover, I had some responsibility for Tom’s notoriety as a traditionalist, given our co-authorship of The Great Façade and my own unstinting praise for him as part of the very future of the traditionalist movement. He never tires of accusing me of “envy,” yet before this controversy arose I wanted nothing more than to see Tom become a huge success, which could only benefit the whole traditionalist “movement.”

MJM:  You accuse the libertarians of defending Ebenezer Scrooge, price gouging, and even legalized abortion, “gay” marriage and “gay” adoption. But I know a number of libertarians who wouldn’t subscribe to those things.

CAF: So do I. But the book shows how the Austro-libertarian movement in particular does indeed defend all of these outrages by a consistent application of its own liberal principles—the principles expounded by the two liberal agnostics whose “legacy” it promotes.  These principles include the “absolute” right to private property, the non-existent “self-ownership” of one’s own body, the view that the “market process” is “inherently just” no matter what its outcome, and the view that the only thing the law should prohibit is the “physical invasion” of another’s person or property.  This is nothing more than warmed-over 19th century liberalism and rationalism, involving the classic false liberal disjunction between “public” morality, whose legal content must be minimal, and “private” morality, which can be quite Christian and even Catholic.  This is utter nonsense, and this nonsense lies at the root of our civilization’s impending demise.

Based on his own principles, as I show in the book, Rothbard defended the legal right of women to allow their unwanted children to starve to death, even if “private” morality might condemn such conduct as immoral.  On the same principles he also defended, of course, legalized direct abortion, as well as bribery, blackmail, prostitution, and sodomy—in fact, anything two “consenting adults” agree to, short of outright violence or theft, the two no-nos in what I call the Rothbardian Duologue.

Now, while some members of the Rothbardite cult that is the Austro-libertarian movement reject the outcome of Rothbard’s principles in certain cases, others do not and follow those principles all the way to the bitter end.   Yet they are all united on the basic principles of the movement.  Like all liberals, they are conveniently inconsistent in the application of their own false principles.

For example, Woods uncritically presents Rothbard’s book The Ethics of Liberty, wherein Rothbard advocates the legal right to starve unwanted children to death, as a work in which “Rothbard set out the philosophical implications of the idea of self-ownership.”  But he fails to tell his readers that those “implications” include the right to starve unwanted children. Apparently, he wants Catholics to read this book.

Tucker, to take another example, defends “gay marriage” and “gay adoption.”  And while Woods, so far as I know, has not taken those positions, he follows Rothbard’s principles in defending price gouging during emergencies, rejecting the Church’s teaching on the just wage, the moral primacy of labor over capital, the natural rights of the workingman, usury, and opposing anything else in papal teaching that conflicts with Austrian “economics”—which is not “economics” at all, but thinly disguised moral theology and political philosophy pretending to be a value-neutral science.

Further, as I show in the book, Woods has publicly recommended to his fellow Catholics Rothbard’s anarchist political theory and his view that the only thing the law should prohibit is the physical invasion of another’s person or property. Again, that some members of the movement do not go all the way down the line its own principles indicate is only typical of the inconsistency of liberals generally. And make no mistake about it: the Rothbardites are liberals, and the Catholics among them are trying to persuade their fellow Catholics that Rothbard’s view of Man, Economy and State can be harmonized with Catholic teaching.  My book exposes this monstrous lie for what it is.  


(ORDER you copy of The Church and the Libertarian)

In Part II, the author discusses some of the  errors of economic liberalism, and also why the “free” market is not really free, but rather is part of a worldwide liberal hegemon that denies true freedom to the sons of God

  HOME    |    PRINT SUBSCRIBE    |    E-EDITION    |    ADVERTISE    |    NEWS    |    ARTICLES   |    RESOURCES    |    ABOUT    |    CONTACT
Web Format and Content   ©  1996-2010 Remnant Press