What if the Church Went Galt?

In the famous novel Atlas Shrugged, the capitalists, maligned and put upon by the overreaching hand of government, all suddenly disappear so that the world would discover how much they really needed the capitalists. They called it “Going Galt” after the man named John Galt who initially vanished.

Today, few groups are more maligned and put upon than Catholics both here in America and around the world. We’ve all heard it suggested that the world would be better off without the Catholic Church.

So this is my response. Not that it could ever happen but what if the Catholic Church went “Galt.” What would happen to the world if the Catholic Church just stopped. Everything. Leaving aside all spiritual aspects, here’s a few things which would occur immediately.

Almost 7,000 schools would close in the United States alone. Already under-performing public schools suffering from overcrowding would likely collapse under the weight of about 2.6 million children showing up at the door expecting a free education. You think test scores are low now? Wait until 2.6 million more kids show up.

Over 200 Catholic colleges and universities with over 600,000 students would suddenly be without a school, leaving supply diminished and demand unchanged thus skyrocketing the already exorbitant cost of college.

The over 200 Catholic residential homes for children, or orphanages, which serve 50,000 children in a given year would be gone. The children would be shuttled into already crammed government programs or lost completely.

The over 84 million people who receive care at any of about 600 Catholic hospitals every year would be forced to seek help elsewhere, clogging up hospitals. The more than 15 million emergency room visits per year to Catholic hospitals would be headed to other hospitals already suffering from financial losses of emergency rooms. Emergency vehicles would also have increased travel times, driving up fatality rates.

The Catholic health care network, which also includes over 400 health care centers and over 1,500 specialized homes, would shut down. Many assisted living facilities, adult day care and senior housing would be gone.

Many crisis pregnancy centers would vanish, leaving women without options or help when they need it most.

Many homes for pregnant women or abused women would disappear, forcing women to the streets or a return to a perhaps abusive relationship from which they sought escape.

Nearly 70% of U.S. dioceses sponsor housing or housing-related services. That would stop, and homeless numbers would rise.

Over 135 national and hundreds more local Catholic lay organizations that serve the Church and provide services in communities throughout the United States like the Knights of Columbus and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul would disappear. To get an idea, in a given year, the K of C donated $139,711,619 to charity and volunteered 64,039,706 hours. All of that would be gone. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has about 120,000 members serving 15 million people per year, which include 646,820 home visits, 360,596 hospital visits, 361,420 aged daycare visits, 159,257 prison visits, and $392 million in total expenditures and volunteer services. All gone.

The Catholic Church and organizations supported by the Catholic Church are the largest care providers of HIV and AIDS in the world. All of that would be gone.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which has granted hundreds of millions to thousands of community-based, self-help projects initiated and led by people living in poverty, would cease all grants, leading to the destruction of programs aimed to help the poor.

Catholic Relief Services spends millions to help provide clean water, improve agriculture, and educate the young in countries with little access to any of it. But that too would all be gone along with programs that deliver mosquito nets to prevent malaria in Africa, without which thousands more would likely die needlessly of malaria.

Catholic Charities—which alone is the fourth largest charity in the United States, above the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, and consists of 1,400 agencies that run soup kitchens, temporary shelters, child care, and refugee resettlement all around the country and provides help for 6.5 million people, regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds—would be gone.

This isn’t even close to a complete list of the charitable endeavors of the Catholic Church. There’s so much more. So, do you still think the world would be a better place without the Catholic Church?

Next time someone asks you to imagine a world without the Catholic Church just say you have. And it’s scary.

HT USCCB which detailed many of the statistics in this piece.

Pentecost depicted in stained glass.

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