The Summa of the Libertarian Catholic, article 2, attempts to address the issue of autonomy. It says,
Objection 1: Libertarianism is based on the erroneous principle of autonomy, which manifests itself in selfish greed. It is of the philosophical tradition of anti-Christian thinkers like Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Rand.
On the contrary: St. Paul said, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.”
I answer that: Libertarianism, which boils down to the non-aggression principle (NAP: The initiation of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property is inherently illegitimate) is derived from the Catholic Scholastics, most notably the School of Salamanca, who based their proto-Austrian economic theory on Natural Rights derived from Scripture and Catholic theology. Thinkers like Francisco de Vitoria, Domingo de Soto, and Francisco Suarez originated the modern concepts of libertarianism based on Catholic moral teaching and St. Thomas Aquinas’s theory of natural law, which stipulates the principle, “one should do harm to no man” (Summa Theologea I-II Q. 95), a progression from the Golden Rule, professed in the Bible: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Lk 6:31
There are many problems to contend with in this brief article. At least one glaring problem, which is similar to the issue I pointed out in the first article of the libertarian Summa, is that the contrary position and the attempted answer to the discrepancy has nothing to do with the initial objection. The objection brings up the “erroneous principle of autonomy”, which can be found in the work of “anti-Christian thinkers like Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Rand.” This is a legitimate concern with modern libertarian political philosophy. How can a thoughtful Catholic reconcile “autonomy”, “selfish greed”, and “anti-Christian thinkers” with the social doctrines of the Church? The Libertarian Catholic is under the impression that quoting Galatians 5:1 initiates a settlement of the dispute. This approach has two very serious deficiencies.
First, referencing this passage of Sacred Scripture in the context of libertarian political philosophy provides an eisegetical hermeneutic which reads back into St. Paul libertarian principles that are not there to begin with. This is not how to properly handle the Sacred Page.
Second, the biblical context for St. Paul’s statement in Galations 5:1 has nothing to do with libertarianism, freedom from government coercion, a pre-modern articulation of the NAP, or anything of that sort. The letter to the Galatians is a stern warning against the acceptance of another gospel, which is no gospel at all. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, St. Paul says,
“Paul, an apostle, not from men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead, and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia. Grace be to you, and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present wicked world, according to the will of God, and our Father. To whom is glory, forever and ever. Amen. I wonder that you are so soon removed, from him who called you to the grace of Christ, to another gospel: Which is not another, only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an Angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you beside that which we have preached to you, let them be anathema. As we said before, so I say now again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.”
The commentary on this passage is useful for clarifying the context of this important letter to the Church of Galatia (emphasis added),
“To another gospel: which is not another. That is, it is not properly another, because they pretended to be Christians, and teach the faith: and yet it was in some measure another, because changed, by such teachers with a mixture of errors, particularly that all converted Gentiles were to observe the Jewish law: and in this sense, they are said to subvert, or destroy the gospel of Christ: so that the apostle hesitates not to pronounce and repeat an anathema, a curse upon all that preaching anything besides, that is, in point of religion, not agreeing with what he had taught.”
St. Paul was contending with Judaizers of Galatia who were not only looking to supplement the gospel, they were looking to also undermine his apostolic authority to preach the gospel. St. Paul views both of these contentions as destructive endeavors. To supplement the gospel is to supplant it, and to undermine apostolic authority is to undermine the teaching authority of the Church.
The teaching of St. Paul, given to him by Jesus Christ, is in stark contrast to his opponents,
“The Gospel of St. Paul was a charter of liberty in regard to the Mosaic regulations, while that of the Judaizers was a code of subjugation to the Law; the Gospel of Paul was the Gospel of grace independent of works, while that of the Judaizers was the Gospel of meritorious works, independently of grace; finally, the Gospel of Paul was the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, which that of the Judaizers would destroy.”
The troublemakers in Galatia were claiming that circumcision was a necessary requirement for converted pagans to attain salvation, or at the very least, a supplement which completes the teachings of Christianity. This context provides the important framework for the passage the libertarian Summa is attempting to utilize in support of the NAP. It is also important to note that the passage being referenced is only half of the biblical text. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The Douay-Rheims version of this same verse says, “Stand firm, and be not held again under the yoke of bondage.” The Douay-Rheims commentary points to verse 9 of the previous chapter of Galatians and its subsequent commentary for clarifying remarks. Galatians 4:9 says, “But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God; how turn you again to the weak and needy elements, which you desire to serve again?” The commentary explains, “The Galatians, whom he addresses, had been converted from paganism, and of course were never subject to the law of Moses. But the apostle, by these words, entreats them not to begin now to serve these weak and useless elements…or by his expression he may mean…the tyranny of error and wickedness.”
St. Paul is teaching the freedom of Christ as opposed to the yoke of the Mosaic Law. Grace precedes good works, which is a gift from God. When good works are accomplished under the reign of grace, God rewards those works as a Father who loves his children. The Judaizers of Galatia were arguing that meritorious works precede the grace of God, which destroys the gratuity of grace and is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is the teaching of St. Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia.
It is clear, then, that the libertarian Summa wrenches this passage out of its context in order to erroneously suggest that it lends support to the modern liberal invention of individual autonomy expressed via the NAP.
And while biblical support for the NAP has been weighed and found wanting, the NAP itself remains a vacuous political principle for organizing the civil society and informing a moral culture. The non-aggression principle stipulates a foundation which begs all the important moral questions. What does it mean to use physical force against a person or property? What constitutes a just use of physical force? What are the moral liberties and limits that might follow from this asserted principle? What counts as legitimate “physical force”? What counts as a “person”? What counts as “property”? What does it mean to make a threat of aggression against a person or property? All of these questions must be answered and explained because the axiom by itself does not properly guide us to any objective conclusions. Consider for a moment the issue of abortion. The NAP does not settle the issue because libertarians disagree as to whether or not abortion constitutes a violation of non-aggression. Some libertarians would argue that abortion is an aggressive act against the pre-born baby, and others would argue that it is an aggressive act to prohibit a mother from exercising her “right” to bodily autonomy. The Libertarian Catholic ought to condemn abortion, but the NAP does not settle the dispute. The moral teachings of the Church takes precedent when informing this “axiom”. This should be evident due to the fact that the same principle is used to justify divergent moral views regarding abortion from within the libertarian framework. If the same libertarian axiom creates discord on important moral issues such as abortion, what good is the principle in the first place?
It is also worth noting that the NAP presents an untenable, and ultimately incoherent philosophical position regarding the order of a civil society. The NAP, as presented above, makes the claim that the threat of force against person or property is always illegitimate, and yet, if it is going to be the organizing principle of a civil society it requires its legitimacy to be backed by the threat of force against those who might undermine it as a comprehensive governing doctrine. That is, the mantra of non-aggression is the libertarian version of the Rawlsian “original position”; it attempts to articulate a rejection of totalizing governing principles while simultaneously becoming a totalizing principle. What this amounts to is a libertarian re-articulation of the myth of moral neutrality. In addition to this, and similar to the liberalism inherent in the “original position” presented by Rawls, the axiom of non-aggression guarantees only what it has already presupposed.
Article 2 of the libertarian Summa has been shown to be faulty for at least three reasons. The first reason is that the issue of autonomy brought up in the objection is not dealt with in any meaningful way. The contrary position and answer to the alleged discrepancy with the objection doesn’t even come close to addressing the problematic tenets of individual autonomy, nor does it address the concern regarding anti-Christian thinkers within the libertarian intellectual tradition. The second reason is the eisegetical libertarian hermeneutic applied to Galatians 5:1. This passage of inspired Scripture has nothing to do with political philosophy, libertarianism, or the NAP. It is addressing the false gospel of the Judaizers looking to yoke pagan converts to the Mosaic Law by undermining St. Paul’s doctrines of grace emphasized by the preaching of Christ crucified. Finally, far from being an enlightening axiom of reality informing the pillars of the civil society, the NAP is a vacuous slogan that begs more questions than it answers. It is for these three reasons that the second article has been demonstrated to be in serious error.
– Lucas G. Westman
 Galatians 1:1-9
 Douay-Rheims Commentary
 “A crisis much more terrible than that of Corinth had just broken out at another point of the vast empire conquered by St. Paul for Jesus Christ. We are indebted to it for the Epistle to the Galatians and, also, by its reactive force, for the Epistle to the Romans. At Corinth the infatuation for new ideas was still far from heresy; party spirit did not go so far as to produce schism; the abuses, crying though they were, did not affect the very essence of Christianity; if doubts began to assert themselves in opposition to its fundamental teachings, they were small and circumscribed; it is true, the authority of Paul was threatened, his mission disputed, and his acts and intentions misrepresented, but his adversaries had not yet becomes so bold as to throw off the mask and preach a Gospel contrary to his. The Judaizers of Galatia, further away from the Apostle and seeing him contending with difficulties which he seemed incapable of settling, had this audacity. Our Epistle is the reply to their defiance.” The Theology of Saint Paul: Volume I, Prat S.J., Pg. 163
 Ibid, Pg. 166
 “The first tenet of this new ‘Gospel’ was the necessity of circumcision for converted pagans, either as an essential condition of salvation, according to the extreme doctrine of the Judaizers at Antioch and Jerusalem, or, more likely, as a last perfection and indispensible complement of Christianity.” Ibid, Pg. 166
 Douay-Rheims Commentary
 I will address the incorrect application of Saint Thomas and the School of Salamanca in other installments of this refutation.