Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Bishops as policy wonks

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 13, 2005

If you live in Minnesota, your taxes aren't high enough.

That's what the Catholic bishops of Minnesota say, and they should know, because bishops are experts on public policy in general, and fiscal management in particular. (Have you noticed how prudent our bishops have been recently in their handling of their own diocesan budgets?)

Frankly, I don't live in Minnesota, and I don't know what the state's tax structure is like. I do have a pretty good idea of how much the Catholic bishops pay in taxes, however. And I'm guessing that while they don't find their tax burden onerous, it's a different story for folks trying to make ends meet on their family farm.

But the bishops aren't worried about the effect of higher taxes on struggling middle-class families. "We know they are willing to sacrifice for their poor brothers and sisters facing difficult financial hardships," they assure us.

Wait: If they "are willing to sacrifice" and (a consideration the bishops never address) have the means to sacrifice, couldn't they already help the poor by contributing to non-profit agencies. Come to think of it, couldn't Church agencies help the poor, support by voluntary contributions from the faithful?

No, the bishops tell us; "… we cannot rely on the solutions of the recent past, since these solutions would only cause greater hardship than ever for families and individuals already financially stressed." Ah, yes; and higher taxes won't put financial stress on anyone. Now I understand.

In their statement on the issue, the bishops explain why the state government needs more money:

Government requires the payment of taxes from its citizens because it has the responsibility to serve the common good, provide a safety net for the vulnerable, defend human life, rights and dignity, overcome discrimination and ensure equal opportunity. Among other things, taxes allow us to build road and develop public transit systems, educate our children, protect our families and homes, invest in economic and agricultural development, safeguard our environment, and most importantly, care for our brothers and sisters in need.

If you look at that list of the alleged functions of government, two things should strike you. First, the authors of the US Constitution would put many of those functions outside the sphere of a limited government. Second, authors of the four Gospels would defined them as clearly within the mission of Christ's Church.

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