A Theology of Big Government?
Introducing Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the GOP convention yesterday, Speaker John Boehner said, “He’s a man who knows that the preferential option for the poor doesn’t translate into a preferential option for big government.” Well, not always.* For what’s it’s worth, Catholicism, the faith to which both Dolan and Boehner belong, does in fact have a practical theology of government, outlined in the encyclical Pacem in Terris, among other places. According to this authoritative document, “the whole reason for the existence of civil authorities is the realization of the common good.” It reads, in part:
In addition, heads of States must make a positive contribution to the creation of an overall climate in which the individual can both safeguard his own rights and fulfill his duties, and can do so readily. For if there is one thing we have learned in the school of experience, it is surely this: that, in the modern world especially, political, economic and cultural inequities among citizens become more and more widespread when public authorities fail to take appropriate action in these spheres. And the consequence is that human rights and duties are thus rendered totally ineffective.
The public administration must therefore give considerable care and thought to the question of social as well as economic progress, and to the development of essential services in keeping with the expansion of the productive system. Such services include road-building, transportation, communications, drinking-water, housing, medical care, ample facilities for the practice of religion, and aids to recreation. The government must also see to the provision of insurance facilities, to obviate any likelihood of a citizen’s being unable to maintain a decent standard of living in the event of some misfortune, or greatly in creased family responsibilities.
The government is also required to show no less energy and efficiency in the matter of providing opportunities for suitable employment, graded to the capacity of the workers. It must make sure that working men are paid a just and equitable wage, and are allowed a sense of responsibility in the industrial concerns for which they work. It must facilitate the formation of intermediate groups, so that the social life of the people may become more fruitful and less constrained. And finally, it must ensure that everyone has the means and opportunity of sharing as far as possible in cultural benefits.
Sounds like a theology of big government to me.
*An earlier version of this post was based somewhat on a report that Speaker Boehner had qualified his statement with the phrase “doesn’t always.”