Faith & Economics
NUMBER 77, Spring 2021
How Does a Catholic Approach to Social Questions Teach Us to Approach Federal Policy, Attitudinally?
Abstract: This essay approaches this panel’s question by asking what sort of attitude toward policy planning is encouraged by Catholic methods of social analysis. Specifically, it introduces the tradition of natural law ethics and the “See, Judge, Act” method at the heart of Catholic social thought, focusing on how these both teach us that our moral judgments rely on our fallible and finite interpretation of empirical reality, and are thus always provisional. This essay proposes that these methods demand both a flexibility and an attentiveness to marginalized communities that it is simply unrealistic to look for in federal policies. However, this essay does not conclude that this should be grounds for cynicism or Christian indifference with regard to taxation and public spending proposals. Rather, it suggests that we should advocate policies that we have reason to hope will promote justice with a posture of humility, holding our plans and economic theories lightly, and with a willingness to update our prudential judgments when necessary.