Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Ch. 7, II, 333:
If economic activity is to have a moral character, it must be directed to all men and to all peoples. Everyone has the right to participate in economic life and the duty to contribute, each according to his own capacity, to the progress of his own country and to that of the entire human family. If, to some degree, everyone is responsible for everyone else, then each person also has the duty to commit himself to the economic development of all. This is a duty in solidarity and in justice, but it is also the best way to bring economic progress to all of humanity. When practiced morally, economic activity is therefore service mutually rendered by the production of goods and services that are useful for the growth of each person, and it becomes an opportunity for every individual to embody solidarity and live the vocation of "communion with others for which God created him." The effort to create and carry out social and economic projects that are capable of encouraging a more equitable society and a more human world represents a difficult challenge, but also a stimulating duty for all who work in the economic sector and are involved with the economic sciences.
So when those Catholic academics wrote neo-con politician and playboy John Boehner a letter asking him to consider how unCatholic his economic policy positions were, and with the letter sent him a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, I decided to read the Compendium. I expected to be disappointed.
The language above is typical - vague. I suppose many a Catholic First Things reader can read the above and think that their neo-liberal economic positions are perfectly compatible with what we read above. I don't know how they can hold that complicity with actually existing capitalism can be seen in any way as friendly to that "solidarity" as expressed above, but I know American neo-con and libertarian Catholics do this very thing in a manner that is as natural to them as breathing, not that wraiths really need oxygen to survive but you get my drift.
On the other hand, when I read the above passage I am inclined to interpret it as a long-winded way of saying the old Marxist maxim: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. But I know as I write this that this is no different a maneuver than what the neo-con Catholic has done, an eisigetical hermeneutic and so forth. The problem, as I see it, is that passages such as the one above are not hermeneutically stable without specific instruction as to what each term means in concrete economic circumstances, and the Compendium is not quick to provide such concreteness, which is frustrating, as the whole point of a Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, I would think, would be to provide concrete teaching with regard to what the Church teaches to be binding parameters of behavior for Catholics in the sphere of human social relations.
Now, that said, in its 583 paragraphs there are perhaps several dozen instances of specificity and clarity where I believe the Compendium clearly condemns economic activities which are supported by neo-conservatives and some libertarians. I plan on writing an entire post about this later but I will briefly mention as a "for instance" that the Compendium goes into surprising specificity regarding biotechnologies that seems custom written to condemn Monsanto's use of intellectual property laws to coerce peoples into the use of its biotech crops. Given the amount of anti-Monsanto press in Europe I suppose it possible that those paragraphs were written with Monsanto in mind (a boy can hope anyway).
I think that the Compendium does provide enough clarity to assert that a Novak or a Woods position seems pretty damn untenable for a Catholic, but generally speaking anything from crunchy con (or moderate on fiscal issues Republican) leftwards until you get to completely controlled economies seems to be something which could coherently be said to be compatible with the Compendium. But all the while there is language which suggests that these issues are grave and that we have a high calling to subsidiarity and solidarity in the economic sphere. One would think that with such gravity and such a high calling at stake, more specificity would be provided, but oh well. My next post on this matter will deal with that wee bit of specificity the Compendium gives us to work with regarding human economies.