Contradiction: On Libertarianism and LGBTQ Orthodoxy

On February 23, Blaise Cardinal Cupich reiterated an objection to the hijacking of Catholic teaching by libertarian ideology. He was reflecting on how libertarianism impedes Catholics receiving Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ as the authentic magisterial teaching that it is. Libertarian ideology, as Cardinal Cupich explains, leads many to misinterpret the “dominion” human beings are called to in Genesis 1:26–28 as “Go and dominate creation for your own good, for our own profit.”1 While I think this is a fair assessment (and critique) of libertarianism, we should recognize that libertarian conclusions do not form out of nowhere; conclusions, after all, follow premises. To best understand how corrosive libertarianism is to political dialogue and, perhaps more importantly, to Christian thought, it is important to understand the premises by which libertarians reach such conclusions. Having explored these premises, we will explore how the Cardinal contradicts his arguments when he advocates for LGBTQ ideology.

According to a libertarian website, libertarians hold that the most fundamental human value is “liberty”: “Liberty means being free to make your own choices about your own life, [. . .] what you do with your body and your property ought to be up to you.”2 Clearly, adherence to this dogma would lead one to reject the Church’s teaching on, for example, the universal destination of goods.3

At the same time, it is worthwhile to examine the other dominant philosophical and political schools of thought which bear so much resemblance to libertarianism that they are difficult to distinguish from it both in their premises and their conclusions: objectivism and neoliberalism.

Objectivism was formulated by Ayn Rand during and after her escape from Soviet Russia. Ms. Rand insisted, “Just as life is an end in itself, so every human being is an end in himself.”4 This captures well the central tenet of the objectivists’ thinking, a human person has no moral duty to anyone but oneself.

Comparing Ms. Rand’s understanding of the relationship between reason and the appetites with St. Thomas Aquinas’ understanding can demonstrate how discrepant objectivist ideology is from Catholic teaching. St. Thomas teaches that “just as the appetite is the principle of human acts, in so far as it partakes of reason, so are moral habits to be considered virtues in so far as they are in conformity with reason.”5 In short, reason, in the exercise of the virtues, works to control and shape our appetites. Ms. Rand insists on quite the opposite; she insists that “achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose,”6 and that the faculty of reason exists as the means of that achievement. For the Thomist, the passions are “subject to the command of reason and the will,”7 but for the objectivist, reason exists only to satisfy the passions.

While Cardinal Cupich’s comments focus on libertarianism, I would argue that objectivism is both more persuasive and more damaging to Catholics’ moral reasoning in the United States. Despite Ms. Rand’s fierce rejection of religion and strident support of abortion, some Catholic politicians vigorously endorse her writings8 and work hard to convince bishops that her objectivist principles are reconcilable with Catholic teaching.9

Neoliberalism, another philosophy that resembles libertarianism, is slowly becoming a more familiar term, in no small part to Pope Francis raising the alarm about how neoliberal ideology impedes the growth of authentic human fraternity. In Fratelli Tutti, he emphasizes how the “dogma of neoliberal faith . . . simply reproduces itself by resorting to the magic theories of ‘spillover’ or ‘trickle.’”10 Around the same time, in the non-magisterial Let Us Dream, the Holy Father observed that “a neoliberal economy ends up with no real objective other than growth.”11

But what is neoliberalism? “Neoliberalism,” one definition suggests, “sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations;” consequently, “efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive.”12 Of course, competition does not exist for its own sake; it exists, in the neoliberal model, for the accumulation of wealth. Moreover, since neoliberals view wealth as a measure of merit, wealth, instead of virtue, is the means of assessing the morality of a behavior or policy. As a result, neoliberalism — like the similar ideologies discussed here, libertarianism and objectivism — asserts that the desire for a thing itself creates the moral authority for taking that thing.

Many have expressed outrage on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) determination, with the Holy Father’s approval, that “it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage . . . as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”13 Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, for example, has declared his intent to ignore the Church (and, indeed, Our Lord in Matthew 19:4-6), and continue to “bless” such unions, declaring that the Church needs to “evaluate lived homosexuality in principle.”14

Yet, the core anthropological and moral assumptions of this outrage are precisely the same as those at the heart of libertarianism, objectivism, and neoliberalism. Like them, LGBTQ15 orthodoxy asserts that the moral authority of an act is measured by the desire to engage in that act.

However, LGBTQ articles of faith take this assertion one step further (the only step left for libertarianism, objectivism, and neoliberalism) into a corrosive form of metaphysics. It insists that not only do our desires create moral authority, but they also define our essential nature. In this model, all we are, and all we can hope to be, is fixed by our passions. As a result, our passions are immutable, and not only can we never hope to better order our passions, it is also offensive even to try.

I started with Cardinal Cupich’s observation of how embracing libertarianism deforms a coherent understanding of Catholic teaching. Yet in reacting to the CDF’s response, His Eminence indicated a need “to be creative and resilient and find [. . .] ways to encourage all LGBTQ people into our family of faith.”16 This is not a new feature of the Cardinal’s thinking. Back in 2017 he argued that “the terms gay and lesbian, L.G.BT. [sic], all of those names that people appropriate to themselves, should be respected.”17 Of course, as the The Catechism of the Catholic Church so clearly states, persons with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC §2358), but we are talking about a much larger issue.

This acquiescence to LGBQT articles of faith bolsters the core premises shared by libertarianism, objectivism, and neoliberalism. Encouraging people to base their ontological self-understanding on desire, as Cardinal Cupich seems to do, promotes libertarianism, objectivism, and neoliberalism even more than the devotees of those schools do (although he is certainly not alone in this regard). Why? This is because libertarianism, et al., only assert that the moral right of an act resides in the desire to perform that act. LGBTQ doctrine moves this distortion from a political principle to a metaphysical principle. In doing so, it insists that the desire for an act not only provides the moral permission, it actually creates an obligation to engage in the act.

Libertarianism, objectivism, neoliberalism, and LGBTQ all require adherents to reject the teaching of Jesus Christ — either explicitly or implicitly. In the same way that libertarianism and its kindred ideologies implicitly reject the care for the poor that Our Lord commands (e.g. Matthew 25:31–46), so do the LGBTQ articles of faith require the jettison at least two of His teachings: firstly, the value of the virtue of chastity, and secondly that our femininity and masculinity are created and gifted to us by God (see especially Matthew 19:1-12).

Cardinal Cupich attempts to defend Laudato Si’ from libertarian critique by writing that, in libertarian thought, “the command in Genesis . . . has been reduced to ‘Go and dominate.’” He concludes by saying, “[I]n fact there are people of faith who are not faithful to that tradition.” That unfaithfulness, the Cardinal asserts, presents a “real challenge”18 to faith leaders. In Laudato Si’, the Holy Father poses this question:

In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, [and] the drug trade . . . ?19

How does this question, asked in the context of our “culture of relativism,” not also apply directly to the inculcation of LGBTQ articles of faith? Even more so, LGBTQ orthodoxy demands that “our own desires” become the very source of “objective truth.” This provides libertarianism, objectivism, and neoliberalism a stronger moral rationale than their proponents even propose.

To promote the actions involved in the LGBTQ ideology is to depart from Sacred Tradition in the same way that libertarianism, objectivism, and neoliberalism depart from Sacred Tradition. In objecting to libertarianism while promoting LGBTQ orthodoxy, Cardinal Cupich contradicts himself and confounds our shared efforts to authentically grow “our family of faith.”20

  1. “Cupich: Libertarian Ideology Hinders Laudato Si’ Adoption in the Church,” World Catholic News website, March 4, 2021. www.worldcatholicnews.com/cupich-libertarian-ideology-hinders-laudato-si-adoption-in-the-church-earthbeat/.
  2. “What is a Libertarian,” www.libertarianism.org/what-is-a-libertarian.
  3. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. Updated (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2016), §2403.
  4. Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism (New York: Signet, 1964), 27.
  5. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, I–II, q. 58, a. 2.
  6. Rand, Virtue of Selfishness, 27.
  7. ST, I–II, q. 24, a.1.
  8. Daniel Burke, “The Anti-Gospel of Ayn Rand.” The Christian Century 128 (2011), № 13: 14–15, 14.
  9. Alec MacGillis, “The Philosopher Prince,” New Republic 243 (2012), № 15: 12-15, 13.
  10. Francis, Encyclical Letter on Fraternity and Social Friendship (Fratelli tutti), 3 October 2020, §168.
  11. Francis and Austen Ivereigh, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020), 110.
  12. George Monbiot, “Neoliberalism – The Ideology at the Root of All Our Problems,” The Guardian, April 15, 2016, www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot.
  13. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Responsum to a dubium regarding the blessing of the unions of persons of the same sex,” 22 February 2021, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20210222_responsum-dubium-unioni_en.html.
  14. “Viennese Cardinal Displeased by Vatican ‘No’ to Same-Sex Blessings,” Catholic World Report, March 25, 2021, https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2021/03/25/viennese-cardinal-displeased-by-vatican-no-to-same-sex-blessings/.
  15. This abbreviation here includes “T,” for “transgenderism,” because that is the typical expression of this phrase. The observations in this article, however, are not intended to apply to transgenderism. This is because transgenderism asserts a different approach to epistemology and metaphysics than the other ideas in the abbreviation, although that approach is as irrational as the LGBQ positions.
  16. Phillip Pullella, “Vatican Ruling on Same-Sex Couples Prompts Defiance, Pain, Confusion,” Reuters, March 17, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-vatican-lgbt-resistance.
  17. Michael J. O’Loughlin, “Chicago’s Cardinal Cupich: Saying Gay, Lesbian, and L.G.B.T. Is a Step Toward Respect,” America, July 18, 2017, www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/07/18/chicagos-cardinal-cupich-saying-gay-lesbian-and-lgbt-step-toward-respect.
  18. Brian Rowe, “Cardinal Cupich on Catholics Who Use Libertarianism to Distort Catholic Teaching,” Millennial, March 8, 2021. millennialjournal.com/2021/03/08/cardinal-cupich-on-catholics-who-use-libertarianism-to-distort-catholic-teaching/.
  19. Francis, Encyclical Letter on Care for Our Common Home (Laudato si’), 24 May 2015, §123.
  20. Pullella, “Vatican Ruling,” Reuters, March 17, 2021.
Fr. Bill Fox About Fr. Bill Fox

Fr. Bill Fox is a priest for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Northwest Missouri, ordained to the priesthood in 2018. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the State University at Stony Brook, New York. He holds both a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Moral Theology from Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Before entering seminary formation, Fr. Fox worked for over twenty years in Child Welfare in and around New York City. He currently serves as Parochial Vicar at both the Church of the Annunciation in Kearney, MO and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Smithville, MO.

Comments

  1. Avatar Donald Paul says:

    I don’t think that the Cardinal is promoting LGBTQ libertarianism when he removed a priest found being active homosexually. He is following Cardinal George in accepting the AGLO ministry to homosexuals that lets them be open about their sexual orientation while striving to grow into chastity that the Gospel calls us all into. There are also Courage ministries that he allows like Cardinal George.

  2. Avatar Fr Bill Fox says:

    NB: Footnote 9 should read:

    Alec MacGillis, “The Philosopher Prince,” New Republic 243 (2012), № 15: 12-15, 13.

  3. Avatar Joris John Heise says:

    I respect the effort of this writer to compare and contrast the various “isms” of neoliberalism, objectivism, libertarianism, and on and on and on and on–along with an appreciation of tradition and the Magisterium. What I find missing is any relevance to the Spirit of Love and Truth which are the unspoken element(s) omitted (or not) in these ‘isms’–and the omission of the Gospel in general suggests that a revisit in those terms might turn the discussion into a somewhat different direction. Ayn Rand is against love. Period. LGBTQ people (whether rightly or wrong to the observer) argue for a love not deemed good by tradition and the Magisterium, but arguably worth including in the discussion. I recall how usury transformed from a sin to a bank account; how eating shellfish once condemned so vehemently (“abominatin”) is now disregarded…and wonder whether these evolutions fit into the discussion of Tradition and Magisterium vis-a-vis “non-traditonal” love affairs.

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