Tuesday 7th July 2015

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

David Brat: Calvinist Catholic Libertarian

June 30, 2014 Featured Today No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

I don’t like admitting this in public; I like to think of myself as someone who keeps himself informed on the political issues of the day. But I never heard of David Brat before he defeated Eric Cantor in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District Republican primary on June 10. I thought Cantor was a shoo-in, so I never spent time reading about the campaign in Virginia.
To make up for my oversight, I have been racing to find out as much about Brat as I can. One thing I discovered I found especially intriguing. Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, identifies himself as a “Calvinist Catholic libertarian.” We owe it to ourselves to examine what he means by that, since it could turn out that he will be a significant political player in the months to come. The man is attractive, articulate, and at ease in front of the camera. And not afraid to put his faith front and center. After his stunning victory on June 10, he waved a piece of paper with a Bible verse to the crowd. It read: “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God’.”
It’s doubtful that Brat is Catholic in the way readers of this column are likely to be Catholic. He states that he “attends” a Catholic church, St. Michael’s, but also lists other churches as “affiliations” — Christ Church Episcopal, Third Presbyterian, and Shady Grove Methodist. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Hope College, a Christian liberal arts college in Holland, Mich., which is historically affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, a Protestant denomination that sprouted during the 17th century. He earned a master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian school. Perhaps Brat will clear up what these “affiliations” signify in the coming weeks.
Until then, I suggest we not get overwrought about what he means when he calls himself a “Catholic Calvinist libertarian,” even though many have been reacting with alarm.
Consider some of the comments made in reference to an article by Julie Ingersoll on the website Religion Dispatches the day after Brat’s primary victory:
“How can someone be a Catholic Calvinist? Is Brat just an imbecile?” “Aren’t ‘Catholic’ and ‘Calvinist’ mutually exclusive descriptions?” “If a Catholic can be Calvinist, then a Catholic can be pro-choice.” “Economic libertarianism has been denounced by Pope Francis. It violates the long tradition of Catholic social teaching and the gospels themselves.”
Maybe these folks are well-intentioned. Or maybe they are Democratic activists looking to score political points. I can’t read minds. But I think they are jumping the gun. I don’t know Brat. I hold no brief for him, but I am convinced that his description of himself as a Catholic Calvinist libertarian is one that most Catholics who identify themselves as “conservatives” or “on the right politically” would feel comfortable with. I include myself in that category.      I submit that Brat’s point is that he is not a doctrinaire Calvinist or economic libertarian. That is why the word “Catholic” is part of his self-designation. He is saying that he is attracted to certain positions that are taken by Calvinists and libertarians that do not clash with Catholic teaching. There are such things.
We should keep in mind that the 18th-century French Jansenists became heretical when they went too far in stressing those elements of Catholic teaching that focused on original sin and man’s fallen nature. Many Jansenists were accused of secretly harboring Calvinist convictions.
But what must not be forgotten is that the Church does teach that humanity is scarred by the stain of original sin. It is a teaching that many trace back to the writings of St. Augustine. It was the reason why the Church instructed that mankind needed the sacraments and the authority of a teaching Church. The Enlightenment philosophes argued against this belief, stressing instead the “natural goodness of man.”
If someone asked me if there are elements of Calvinism that I feel comfortable with, I would say, “Yes, those parts that agree with St. Augustine.” For example, I would argue that children need discipline from their parents and teachers, that a vigorous police and military are needed to keep in check those who would do us harm, that porn should be censored to prevent it from corrupting the country’s attitudes toward sex and marriage, that our border guards should be vigilant to prevent those who would sneak across our borders and do damage to our economy and culture. My hunch is that this what Brat means by his “Calvinist” reference.
As for the libertarian label? In recent decades, except for a few eccentrics, we seldom hear a libertarian or free-market capitalist who subscribes to what the Church has condemned as “economic individualism.” Brat included. When was the last time you heard anyone who should be taken seriously arguing that we should let the poor die of starvation and lack of medical care for the good of society as a whole? Social Darwinists are few and far between these days.
Modern advocates of economic libertarianism accept that we need a safety net for those who cannot take care of themselves. What they do not accept is that socialism or some other form of a command economy is a better method for alleviating poverty than a growing and prosperous economy and the jobs it will create. The masses of the Third World looking for ways to sneak into the United States are fleeing from command economies that claim to be devoted to the needs of the poor.
It does not go against the Church’s social teachings to take note of that fact, and to argue that it would be a mistake for the United States to emulate those failed economies.
The social encyclicals condemn a dog-eat-dog Social Darwinist view of the economy; that is what they mean by “economic individualism.” They do not condemn those who argue that it will be better for the poor and society as a whole if we put in place economic policies that promote economic growth. I am convinced that that is what David Brat means when he calls himself a libertarian. Absent some evidence to the contrary, it is a cheap shot to maintain otherwise.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Do You Know What’s Coming into Your Teen’s Phone?

You might be surprised at what your kids are exposed to every day   It is 11:30 P.M on a Thursday night. Your 13-year-old daughter is asleep. Suddenly she awakes to a ding from her phone. She quickly realizes that…Continue Reading

No, America Is Not a Great Nation

Here’s the truth: I am not happy with this country, and you shouldn’t be, either. I am disappointed in it. It disgraces itself. It turns from God. It kills its young. It attacks the family. Am I supposed to pretend otherwise…Continue Reading

Listen to the Pope, Iowa Catholic Leaders Tell GOP

Catholic leaders call on GOP hopefuls to heed pope’s teachings on climate, economics By THOMAS BEAUMONT and RACHEL ZOLL, Associated Press ANKENY, Iowa (AP) — Roman Catholic leaders in the early voting state of Iowa implored candidates for president Thursday…Continue Reading

Supreme Court upholds ObamaCare subsidies

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld ObamaCare subsidies nationwide, in the second major court victory for President Obama on his signature health care law. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that subsidies are valid even in states that did…Continue Reading

Synod on the Family’s working document sets the stage for spirited discussion

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2015 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- That the discussion at October’s Synod on the Family is going to be a lively one is indicated by the fact that the most controversial paragraphs of the final report…Continue Reading

Abortion Drone Will Fly Dangerous Abortion Pills to Poland to Violate Its Pro-Life Laws

drone

The pro-abortion organization that formerly ran the abortion boat that distributed the dangerous abortion pill in international waters outside pro-life nations that protect unborn children has come up with a new marketing scheme to push abortion in pro-life nations: drones.…Continue Reading

St. Louis’ Catholic Archbishop Carlson discusses same-sex marriage, clergy sex abuse, racism, more

At their annual spring meeting held in St. Louis last week, U.S Catholic bishops discussed several issues currently facing the Catholic Church, including: the clergy sex abuse scandal, what the Church sees as challenges to marriage, and the pope’s upcoming…Continue Reading

Nienstedt resigns; New Jersey bishop named interim head of Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Archbishop John Nienstedt has resigned in the wake of criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for its “role in failing to protect children and contribution to the unspeakable harm” experienced by victims in priest sex-abuse cases. Nienstedt says…Continue Reading

Priests needed: As Church growth explodes worldwide, parishes can’t keep up

Washington D.C., Jun 12, 2015 / 05:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The global Catholic population is growing – so quickly, in fact, that priest and parish numbers cannot keep up, says a new study on trends in the worldwide Church. And…Continue Reading

Cardinal Kasper hints at new ‘Vatican II’ strategy to gain approval of Communion proposal

June 11, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – In the face of increasing opposition to his plan to approve giving Holy Communion to people who are in adulterous remarriages, Cardinal Walter Kasper is hinting at a new “Vatican II” strategy for accomplishing his…Continue Reading

No Law Can Be Based on Injustice

In 2010, the United States Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was designed by President Obama and Congressional leaders to expand access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance coverage in the United States. After the law…Continue Reading

Cardinal: Divorced and remarried Catholics need support for conversion, not changes on communion

Catholics who have divorced and remarried need help for the “difficult climb” of conversion and spiritual growth, not a change in Church practice on the reception of Holy Communion, a prominent cardinal said. Cardinal Ennio Antonelli summarized the advice of…Continue Reading

Newsmax

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis: For families, the best wine is yet to come

pope799

(Vatican Radio) In his first homily during his Apostolic Voyage to South America, Pope Francis focused on Mary as a model for families as he spoke about the Gospel account of the wedding at Cana. More than one million people joined the Holy Father for Holy Mass in the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador. Christ’s miracle at Cana – turning water into wine – was made possible, the Pope said, precisely because the Blessed Virgin…Continue Reading

Pope Francis en route to Ecuador

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is en route to Ecuador, the first stage of a three-country tour in Latin America that will also see him in Bolivia and Paraguay – three “sister nations” as the Holy Father described them in the video message broadcast in the three countries simultaneously ahead of the visit. The Holy Father’s flight departed Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport (Fiumicino) shortly after 9:30 AM Rome Time on Sunday morning, and is scheduled…Continue Reading

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI receives honorary doctorates

(Vatican Radio) Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI received Doctorates honoris causa on Saturday from the Pontifical John Paul II University of Krakow and the Krakow Academy of Music. The motivation for the honors issued by the University’s Academic Senate specifies five contributions Pope Benedict has made to knowledge and culture: his great respect for the musical tradition of the Church and remarkable sensitivity to the music of faith; the life-long and constant demonstration of a special concern for…Continue Reading

Univ. of San Francisco Celebrates SCOTUS Marriage Ruling, Despite Catholic Mission

usan

July 2, 2015, at 11:22 AM  |  By Justin Petrisek  | While the U.S. bishops responded to last week’s marriage ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court by upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church, one Jesuit university chose to publicly celebrate the decision in direct conflict with its Catholic identity and mission. Over the weekend, the University of San Francisco (USF), a Jesuit Catholic university, used its Twitter and Facebook accounts to celebrate the San Francisco…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Serving The Cause Of Dissent And Division

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN The Coup at Catholic University, by Peter M. Mitchell (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2015), 311 pages; $19.95. Available through www.ignatius.com. Can Catholics be American and remain Catholic, rendering to Caesar the things that belong to him and rendering to God what is due to the Lord? Can Catholic universities be both bona…Continue Reading

Quo Vadis, America?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN “Natural law — God’s law — will always trump common law,” said Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a Christian leader in her own right, “God will have the final word in this matter.” But, for now, Justice Anthony Kennedy has the final word. Same-sex marriage is…Continue Reading

So Now Is It “Hate Speech” To Deplore The Obergefell Decision?

By PHIL LAWLER (Editor’s Note: LifeSiteNews reprinted this article from CatholicCulture.org with permission. All rights reserved.) + + + The ink was barely dry on last week’s Supreme Court ruling when Fr. James Martin, SJ, began scolding Catholics who were, from his decorous perspective, too strident in denouncing the decision. “No issue brings out so…Continue Reading

The Popes, Marian Devotion, And The New Evangelization

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 3 This is the third article in a series which looks at Marian devotion, and the New Evangelization, in the light of the teaching of recent Popes. It is noteworthy, that even before St. John Paul II became Pope in 1978, he had adopted the Latin phrase “Totus Tuus” as…Continue Reading

Although Their Adversaries Seem Strong . . . Law-School Interns Are Reminded That Even Old USSR Collapsed

By DEXTER DUGGAN PHOENIX — Almost ready to start applying their new knowledge to battle moral challenges around the globe, law-school students at a dinner here were reminded that the Soviet Union once was regarded as an invincible adversary, but it finally collapsed in relatively short order. The Christian law students from 11 countries, interns…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

A Leaven In The World . . . Legalizing Abortion And Redefining Marriage: The Anti-God Crisis

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The past week’s 5-4 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision to redefine marriage as no longer between one man and one woman is merely the latest step in a journey away from God marked on its path through our history also in 1973 by Roe v. Wade. These two legal interferences are rooted…Continue Reading

An Apologetics Course… Why Be A Christian? Why Not Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 9 There are many religions in the world today, all claiming to be true. Many were founded by individuals who claimed to be “prophets” of God — or of the gods, depending. In this context, why be a Christian at all? Why not be a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Hindu, an animist,…Continue Reading

The Four Marks Of The Church — Holiness

By DON FIER Part 2 The second of four distinguishing marks or properties of the one true Church, as we saw last week, is that she is “unfailingly holy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 823). Despite being composed of sinners, “the Church is holy because she was founded by Jesus Christ, who is all-holy, and because she teaches, according…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

  Editor’s Note: D.M. has e-mailed to us the following thoughtful comments: “In a recent reply regarding the bishops and our borders, you noted that our immigration system is ‘badly broken.’ To me that was a bit like hearing the proverbial fingernails on a blackboard. It seems to me that those who seek to dominate all of us use the refrain,…Continue Reading

Chosen By God

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fifteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR B) Readings: Amos 7:12-15 Eph. 1:3-14 Mark 6:7-13 In the first reading, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel (the place of the original Temple of the Lord), chastises the Prophet Amos for preaching against the goings on in the House of God. The priest tells the prophet to go and make…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Pechersky

By CAROLE BRESLIN In the northeastern section of Greece, a peninsula drops down from the mainland, upon which are located 20 monasteries. This mountainous region also claims Mount Athos, an area known as the site of monasteries since the early years of the Church. Homer mentions it in the Iliad (book 14, 229). This same piece of land was on…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Josemaria Escriva

By CAROLE BRESLIN Part 2 With the outbreak of civil war in Spain and the attack on the Catholic Church, many priests and religious were martyred. The existing government changed the constitution to legalize persecution of the Church by closing Catholic schools, ceasing reparation payments, and suppressing religious discussion. Among other things, this helped lead to the secularization of society…Continue Reading