Taxation and Catholic Social Teaching
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Taxation and Catholic Social Teaching

“Tax policies and tax levies are an unavoidable part of civilized life,” says Robert G. Kennedy in this week’s Acton Commentary. “The social tradition of the Church emphasizes the duty of citizens to support their government as well as the duties of civil authorities to govern wisely and to respect the ownership rights of individuals and families.”

Kennedy outlines five things the tradition Catholic social teaching teaches us about taxation and four things it does not.

What the Tradition teaches:

• As images of God, the natural flourishing of human persons consists in the full exercise of our capacities to reason well, to act for the good, and to participate in civic friendship.

• Individuals and families have a natural right to own property privately.

• Members of a society have a duty to support the common good in various ways, not least by peacefully paying just taxes.

• The burden of taxation should be proportioned to the ability of individuals and households to pay.

• The people of particular nations are free to make determinations about what operations to delegate to government and what forms of taxation, consistent with natural justice, the community will employ to collect revenue.

What the Tradition does not teach:

• That all social issues should be addressed through government action.

• That larger, more comprehensive government is to be preferred.

• That wealth ought to be redistributed through taxation.

• That the needs of the poor take priority over all other items in government budgets.

The full text of the Kennedy’s essay can be found here.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).