Falsehood: "Redistribution of wealth" is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches and requires.

Truth: Catholic Social Teaching has always been that individuals have a right to private property and that every human being has a right to access to goods and services necessary for living.

Access is not the same as possession. Access is the ability to possess or own by means of purchase or in exchange for labor rendered. Socialism and Communism are political ideologies that deny the individual right of ownership of private property under the guise of achieving an equal distribution (actually, a forced redistribution by the government) of goods and services among the population. It takes property away from owners and gives government control over it under the illusion that the State alone can and should parcel out what it considers equitable distribution. In reality, the masses are not treated fairly or equally. The elite (politicians or military) enjoy easy access whereas the general population have restricted or denied access.

Consumerism, on the other hand, is Capitalism without a conscience. It only seeks to accumulate more possessions, in fact, as much as can be obtained, without any thought to social responsibility. The Christian Gospel does not demand we deny justice, rather that we implement it with charity (love). Compassion is not pity, for it does not seek to alleviate a guilty conscience insomuch as it seeks to enable our neighbor to become and to do better.

Helping the poor is a social obligation for individuals and for the government (the State). Real help is not taking from the rich and giving it to the poor, however. Robin Hood economics are not compatible with the Gospel. Providing opportunities gives greater access to goods and services. Hence, creating a climate that creates more jobs, which give a fair wage in exchange for fair labor, is far better and more just than merely redistributing money and property. Even in the mediaeval feudal system, the aristocracy had a noblesse oblige, a noble obligation to use their wealth, power and prestige to help the less fortunate. Helping the poor is not the same as enslaving the poor. Making them dependent on public assistance is an injustice. Ignoring the poor and doing nothing to increase their opportunities for greater access to goods and services is also an injustice of negligence.

Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, and Centesimus Annus are Catholic Social Teaching documents that advocate economic distributism. There is a world of difference between the Catholic principle of "distributism" and the secular practice of "redistribution." The latter is the compulsory taking from the few claiming to later give it to the many. Problem is that the State (government) takes and then keeps it 'for' the many and parcels it out as it sees fit. The former, on the other hand, is a key principle (fundamental truth or proposition that serves as a foundation for right belief, behavior, or reasoning) that social and economic structures should promote wide ownership of corporations and is the basis for anti-trust laws and economic cooperatives including credit unions. Promote is not the same as force or compel. It means encourage and help make possible while respecting human freedom and liberty. Moreover, the Catholic Church teaches (e.g., as in Caritas in Veritate) that "charity in truth" must be the foundation of all understanding and must be at the heart of all action, lest principles such as distributism be degenerated by contingent subjective emotions and opinions, and become abused, distorted, corrupted, and misused. Totalitarian regimes (e.g., socialist or communist regimes) are notorious for hi-jacking Catholic Social Principles – especially the principle of distributism and imposing it as a means of control. The Catholic Church condemns totalitarianism and the perversion of Catholic principles.

Rev. John Trigilio and Dcn. Joseph Gorini, July 19, 2012

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