The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

popes have an economic liberal bias

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/1/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 973 times Debate No: 30850
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
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pope quotes


property does not constitute for anyone an absolute or unconditioned
right. No one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does
not need, when others lack necessities"

You are not making a
gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him
what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you
have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to
the rich." (#23)

Now if the earth truly was created to provide man with the
necessities of life and the tools for his own progress, it follows that every man has the right to glean what he needs from the earth. The recent Council reiterated this truth. All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade,
are to be subordinated to this principle. They should in no way hinder
it; in fact, they should actively facilitate its implementation.
Redirecting these rights back to their original purpose must be regarded
as an important and urgent social duty.

Government officials, it is your concern to mobilize your peoples to form a more effective world solidarity, and above all to make them accept the necessary taxes on their luxuries and their wasteful expenditures, in order to bring about development and to save the peace

initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure
satisfactory development. We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and
power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add
to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for
"directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating" (35)
the work of individuals and intermediary organizations. It is for the public authorities
to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed,
and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task
to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity. "

has always understood this right within the broader context of the
right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation:the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.

the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in
particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there
underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than
any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner.
If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder
conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better,
he is made the victim of force and injustice.

What was true of the just wage for the individual is also true of international contracts: an economy of exchange can no longer be based solely on the law of free competition, a law which, in its turn, too often creates an economic dictatorship. Freedom of trade is fair only if it is subject to the demands of social justice.

labor is to exert oneself for the sake of procuring what is necessary
for the various purposes of life, and chief of all for self
preservation. Hence, a man's labor necessarily bears two notes or
characters. First, it is personal, inasmuch as the force which acts is
bound up with the personality and is the exclusive property of him who
acts, and, further, was given to him for his advantage. Secondly, man's
labor is necessary; for without the result of labor a man cannot live,
and self-preservation is a law of nature, which it is wrong to disobey.
Now, were we to consider labor merely in so far as it is personal,
doubtless it would be within the workman's right to accept any rate of
wages whatsoever; for in the same way as he is free to work or not, so
is he free to accept a small wage or even none at all. But our
conclusion must be very different if, together with the personal element
in a man's work, we consider the fact that work is also necessary for
him to live: these two aspects of his work are separable in thought, but
not in reality.

The preservation of life is the bounden duty of one and all, and to be wanting therein is a crime. It necessarily follows that each one has a natural right to procure what is required in order to live, and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work.

is acquired first of all through work in order that it may serve work.
This concerns in a special way ownership of the means of production.
Isolating these means as a separate property in order to set it up in
the form of "capital"in opposition to "labour"-and even to practise
exploitation of labour-is contrary to the very nature of these means and
their possession. They cannot be possessed against labour,they cannot
even be possessed for possession's sake, because the only legitimate
title to their possession- whether in the form of private ownerhip or in
the form of public or collective ownership-is that they should serve
labour,and thus, by serving labour,that they should make possible the
achievement of the first principle of this order,namely,the universal
destination of goods and the right to common use of them.

this point of view,therefore,in consideration of human labour and of
common access to the goods meant for man,one cannot exclude the
socialization,in suitable conditions,of certain means of production.

Legislation is necessary,
but it is not sufficient for setting up true relationships of justice
and equality...If, beyond legal rules, there is really no deeper feeling
of respect for and service to others, then even equality before the law
can serve as an alibi for flagrant discrimination, continued
exploitation and actual contempt. Without a renewed education in
solidarity, an over-emphasis on equality can give rise to an
individualism in which each one claims his own rights without wishing to
be answerable for the common good.

In other words, the rule of free trade, taken by itself, is no longer able to govern international relations.
Its advantages are certainly evident when the parties involved are not
affected by any excessive inequalities of economic power: it is an
incentive to progress and a reward for effort. That is why industrially
developed countries see in it a law of justice. But the situation is no
longer the same when economic conditions differ too widely from country
to country: prices which are " freely n set in the market can produce
unfair results.

Given these conditions, it is obvious
that individual countries cannot rightly seek their own interests and
develop themselves in isolation from the rest, for the prosperity and
development of one country follows partly in the train of the prosperity
and progress of all the rest and partly produces that prosperity and

Interdependence must be transformed into
solidarity, grounded on the principle that the goods of creation are
meant for all. Avoiding every type of imperialism, the stronger nations
must feel responsible for the other nations, based on the equality of
all peoples and with respect for the differences.


Before beginning, I must make a side-note. When talking about what popes teach we ought to clearly source our quotes. The context, type of intervention (audience, locution, apostolic letter, motu proprio, encyclical...) that we are referring to, as they have different relevance in defining pontifical teaching. I am not inclined to directly mention the particular quotes Pro brought up in the first round as it would likely take me more time than it is worth to find the original context and address it.

More to the point, however, is defining what it is to be liberal. In my own country, "liberal" is taken to mean anything from anarco-capitalism to more orthodox free-market conservatism passing through libertarian minarchism. We can be pretty sure this is not what Pro is referring to, as her profile states she is from the United States and there the word "liberal" is used as a synonym of "progressive" or "leftist", which in turn require definition, as no one seems to be able to quite put their finger on exactly what everyone means by them. To truly understand the term we needs must take a more historical approach to see where this political, intellectual and economic movement takes root.

Political liberalism is often considered to have begun in France during the Revolution, the response to the absolutism of the Ancien Regime. Their economics, however, were far from liberal by today's standards. Though not as doctrinally developed as today's neo-conservatives, they defended property rights and a Free-Market with few regulations. Quite contrary to what is understood as liberalism in the United States today. What is considered economic liberalism owes itself more to the socialist movements, from Utopian Socialism to Marxism. The emphasis on the workers and the roll of government in regulating the economy would stem from these philosophical and political ideologies.

Can the same be said about the Social Doctrine of the Church, which mostly draws from the writings of the popes in their papal encyclicals from Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum to Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate? I think not.

The Church takes a longer view on these issues than most people are inclined to consider when speaking on the subject. The focus of the Social Doctrine of the Church (SDC) is the dignity of man (1) the foundation of which is the creation of man in the image and likeness of God. The first social encyclical shows this long view of history when it laments that the traditional safeguards of this dignity have been set aside by modern society: "the ancient workingmen's guilds" and the "ancient religion" (2). Hardly a leftist proposition.

A mark of liberal thought is that man can be self-perfected. Reform is sought in order to create a perfect human society. This is also quite contrary to what the Church teaches. As His Holiness now Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI said in closing his social encyclical Caritas in Veritate: "Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us."

The writings of the Popes, like all Church doctrine, cannot be pigeonholed into the modern categories of "left" and "right", "liberal" or "conservative". Many of the things they propose will agree with one side, and many others will agree with another. As a whole, however, it quite simply does not agree with either.


Debate Round No. 1


i dont know what point was really served in con going on about giving historical context and pointing out the various counties, just mention it in passing and move one. we should assume USA liberalism is what i meant.

im not sure what con is trying to get at by saying it's "hardly a leftist position" that the church has always recogizes the dignity of man etc. this is too vague to be a right or left principle, but if anything given the left is usually said to be for the "little guy", it seems itd be a left idea if anything.

i have a lot of respect for con's debating skills etc, but his points about development are hard to read, somewhat incoherent. something like "progress is given to us, not done by us"? im not sure the point. but that dont look like a right position either. trying to pigeon hole whether development is either right or left or good with god or not, is way to vague and abstract to mean anything.

also the last point about not either right or left doesnt say much... this is acknoledged by me... all i said is there's a left bias, thats inclination is all.


I will try to be more clear as to my reasons for mentioning the things I did and on my reasoning in the rest.

Historical Context

In mentioning the controversy behind the word "liberal" I am showing two tings. First that the term itself is contested, and as such, even if we maintain it in the context of the United States, is problematic if left undefined. Secondly, I am showing what philosophical tradition this understanding of liberalism stems from, which happens to be one which has been condemned on many occasions by the Church and hardly the basis for Church teaching on these matters.

Hardly a leftist position

Closer to the view of the Social Doctrine of the Church than "liberal" or "leftist" politics have been the traditionalist movements in various countries and the distributist movement in England. These regard capitalism not as the status quo which should be overthrown, but as a problematic novelty. The removal of the dignity of man from the center of the economy, the idea that any and all collective endeavors are "socialistic" or the conception of property as an absolute right are innovations from the French Revolution onwards, and not a traditional understanding of the economy. The Catholic Church was not born yesterday, and in Her teachings on economy a wider view is necessary. Liberalism and leftism sees itself as a fight against an unjust established order, Catholic Social Teaching sees both economic conservatism and economic liberalism as revolts against the natural order.


A mark of most (if not all) liberal thought, is the more or less vague idea of the perfectibility of man. If we enact enough reforms, if we perfect our social order, we would be able to create the ideal society. None will go hungry, and all will be equal. This, of course, discounts the doctrine of Original Sin and ignores the Catholic idea that for humanity to truly progress, we must put our trust in God and not Man. This may seem abstract at first, but it has quite a few practical implications. A movement within the Church decided to discard this way of viewing things and actually did take a leftist bent, the Theology of Liberation movement. This group, condemned by the Church, wished to "immanentize the eschaton" that is, create a heaven on earth through revolution or reform. This is not acceptable from an orthodox Catholic perspective.

Neither left nor right

I am glad my opponent agrees with me on this, as it is the crux of the matter. The very notion that the Church has a Conservative position on some issues (morality, abortion, gay rights) and a liberal position on others (economics, war, nuclear proliferation, the death penalty) suffers from a rather myopic and binary vision. The current left-right divide is no ore than three hundred years at the most generous. The Church takes her positions on the problems of the times from her full tradition. To try to apply modern categories to such an ancient institution will only lead to a less than adequate understanding of what is being taught.
Debate Round No. 2


con basically is agreeing with meiin the last paragraph. he said the church has a liberal position on some things and lists the economy as one.

i agree that given history it is hardly a leftist positon as it is many positions historically. but this goesback to why is all these academic notes necesary given it's clear we are talking modern USA liberalism.
i appreciate claications but i basically reiterate my points against each he raised


It is rather difficult to debate when the opponent so consistently misses the point. I am not sure exactly how Pro believes that to say that it is myopic and binary to say that the Church is liberal in some things and conservative in others is tantamount to agreeing with that statement. This is rather like saying that Richard Dawkins is a young earth creationist because he once said this position was untennable. I maintain that this is a reductionist and wholly inadequate way of understanding Church teaching and I am confident the readers will understand this.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by DudeWithoutTheE 4 years ago
Wow, 'We should assume USA liberalism' really ought to have come out in the first round, because that's the precise opposite of what 'Economic liberalism' is normally taken to mean (which is free markets).
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Sojourner 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: This debate suffered from a lack of definition in the resolution. Con effectively explained that categorizing the Church's teaching with regards to economics (among other areas) is too narrow a view. Pro had the burden of proof. A series of unsourced quotes was not an effective way to make a case. S/G for lack of capitalization by Pro. Sources to Con, as Pro had none.