National Catholic Register

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Life, Liberty and Faith

Book review of Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government.

BY Father C. John McCloskey

Nov. 17-30, 2013 Issue | Posted 11/16/13 at 10:28 AM

 

TEA PARTY CATHOLIC

The Catholic Case for

Limited Government

By Samuel Gregg

Crossroad Publishing Co., 2013

272 pages, $24.95

To order:

crossroadpublishing.com

 

The highly acclaimed author of Becoming Europe, Samuel Gregg has recently penned Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government. In his newest entry, Gregg builds an argument for free economy and human flourishing that is a must-read, regardless of your political affiliation or whether you are Catholic or a serious Christian concerned about the rapidly diminishing religious liberty in the United States.

It should be pointed out that the author has no affiliation with the tea-party movement itself, although he clearly admires its aim of reducing the role of government and expanding the sphere of true religious and economic freedom.

Gregg, who is originally from Australia, has a doctorate from Oxford, where he studied under the well-known natural-law philosopher John Finnis. Gregg is a full-time fellow of the Acton Institute in Michigan. I will save you all the endorsements this book has received from prominent people, other than to say you would undoubtedly recognize all the endorsers: Gregg is a big hitter.

He clearly knows (and loves up to a point) the history of the United States inside out.

Although he quotes Alexis de Tocqueville frequently — Tocqueville being the greatest analyst of the singularity of our country from its beginnings — Gregg prefers to concentrate on the Catholic Founding Father Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Pardon my own shared interest with Gregg: I grew up in Maryland (originally founded as a Catholic colony) not too far from Carroll’s ancestral home and grave (see related story on page B1).

Read what Carroll wrote to the Secretary of War James McHenry, in a letter from Nov. 4, 1800: "Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time."

In short, Carroll is telling McHenry (and us), that, for a free country to flourish or even survive over the centuries, its populace has to live a Christian life and strive to follow the commandments and the beatitudes as they come down to us from Scripture, based on the authority of the Catholic Church (even though Carroll does not mention Catholicism by name in the letter to McHenry).

Gregg argues for a return to the concept of subsidiarity for human flourishing.

He writes, "Though an important form of social organization, government is only one of a number of communities and should not displace or absorb the responsibilities properly assumed by individuals, businesses, clubs and other forms of non-state association. Subsidiarity tells us we should not automatically look to government. ... When no other group can render assistance in the appropriate form of help, the state may need to become involved."

Gregg makes his case well that only religiously derived morals, faith and economic liberty can bring the United States out of the death spiral in which it is caught.

Spread the word.

Father C. John McCloskey

is a Church historian and

research fellow at the

Faith and Reason Institute

in Washington.