The Summa of the Libertarian Catholic’s third article has at least three arguments being made, a general philosophical argument, an appeal to papal authority, and an appeal to the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas. The general philosophical argument has been thoroughly addressed and refuted, so the next step in the process of refuting the third article is to demonstrate a mishandling of authoritative papal documents to make the libertarian case.
As a reminder, here is what the third article states:
Article 3: Whether government promotes the common good.
Objection 1: Libertarianism cannot be correct because the point of life isn’t freedom from harm, it is to do good. Just as man’s purpose is not simply to avoid evil but to do good, it is the purpose of government to make men better by inculcating them with virtue.
Objection 2: It would seem that government is necessary to promote the common good as Pope Pius XII wrote in Summi Pontificatus, “it is the noble prerogative and function of the State to control, aid and direct the private and individual activities of national life that they converge harmoniously towards the common good.”
On the contrary: St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Human government is derived from the Divine Government, and should imitate it. Now although God is all-powerful and supremely good, nevertheless He allows certain evils to take place in the universe, which He might prevent, lest, without them, greater goods might be forfeited, or greater evils ensue” (ST II-II Q. 10)
I answer that: The absolute minimum for civilized society is the acceptance of Vulnero Nemo (harm no one) and the only legitimate purpose of government is to enforce this principle. In other words, the only legitimate role of government is to protect its citizens from harm to their negative rights. Whenever government steps outside its natural bounds it necessarily works against the common good.
The first thing to take note of in this article is how the libertarian summa puts St. Thomas Aquinas against the authority of Pope Pius XII. The entire paragraph quoted in Summi Pontificatus highlighted in Objection 2 says,
“Hence, it is the noble prerogative and function of the State to control, aid and direct the private and individual activities of national life that they converge harmoniously towards the common good. That good can neither be defined according to arbitrary ideas nor can it accept for its standard primarily the material prosperity of society, but rather it should be defined according to the harmonious development and the natural perfection of man. It is for this perfection that society is designed by the Creator as a means.”
The complete context of the paragraph is significant because the answer provided by the libertarian summa is contrary to the promulgation of Pope Pius XII. According to the authoritative social doctrine of the Catholic Church, the state is meant to be guided by a jurisprudence which works toward the “harmonious development and the natural perfection of man.” This means that a flourishing society is measured by more than material affluence and the protection of negative rights as the libertarian summa clearly articulates against the magisterial authority of the Church.
In addition to this, the statement used by St. Thomas against Pope Pius XII is not even dealing with negative rights, jurisprudence, or issues regarding the State’s responsibility for protecting the common good. The statement taken from ST. II-II Q. 10 is in reference to answering the question Of Unbelief in General, which St. Thomas answers in twelve articles. The quote highlighted is taken from the eleventh article addressing the question Whether the Rites of Unbelievers Ought to Be Tolerated?
Here is the entirety of that section:
Whether the Rites of Unbelievers Ought to Be Tolerated?
We proceed thus to the Eleventh Article:
Objection1. It would seem that rites of unbelievers ought not to be tolerated. For it is evident that unbelievers sin in observing their rites: and not to prevent a sin, when one can, seems to imply consent therein, as a gloss observes on Rom. i. 32: Not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them. Therefore it is a sin to tolerate their rites.
Obj. 2. Further, the rites of the Jews are compared to idolatry, because a gloss on Gal. v. 1, Be not held again under the yoke of bondage, says: The bondage of that law was not lighter than that of idolatry. But it would not be allowable for anyone to observe the rites of idolatry, in fact Christian princes at first caused the temples of idols to be closed, and afterwards, to be destroyed, as Augustine relates (De Civ. Dei xviii. 54). Therefore it follows that even the rites of Jews ought not to be tolerated.
Obj. 3. Further, unbelief is the greatest of sins, as stated above (A. 3). Now other sins such as adultery, theft and the like, are not tolerated, but are punishable by law. Therefore neither ought the rites of unbelievers to be tolerated.
On the contrary, Gregory says, speaking of the Jews: They should be allowed to observe all their feasts, just as hitherto they and their fathers have for ages observed them.
I answer that, Human government is derived from the Divine government, and should imitate it. Now although God is all-powerful and supremely good, nevertheless He allows certain evils to take place in the universe, which He might prevent, lest, without them, greater goods might be forfeited, or greater evils ensue. According in human government also, those who are in authority, rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred: thus Augustine says (De Ordine ii. 4): If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust. Hence, though unbelievers sin in their rites, they may be tolerated, either on account of some good that ensues therefrom, or because of some evil avoided. Thus from the fact that the Jews observe their rites, which of old, foreshadowed the truth of the faith which we hold, there follows this good – that our very enemies bear witness to our faith, and that our faith is represented in a figure, so to speak. For this reason they are tolerated in the observance of their rites.
On the other hand, the rites of other unbelievers, which are neither truthful nor profitable are by no means to be tolerated, except perchance in order to avoid an evil, e.g. the scandal or disturbance that might ensue, or some hindrance to the salvation of those who if they were unmolested might gradually be converted to the faith. For this reason the Church, at times, has tolerated the rites even of heretics and pagans, when unbelievers were very numerous.
This suffices for the Replies to the Objections.
When the context remains intact given the question being examined, we discover the truth that St. Thomas is not offering an opinion regarding the nature of the state in opposition to that of Pope Pius XII; rather, the Angelic Doctor is making the case for why various religious rites may or may not be tolerated in society. Far from being a principled support of libertarianism, St. Thomas is making arguments for the appropriate discernment of tolerating manners in which God might be worshipped, even if done incorrectly by Jews, heretics, or pagans.
In the following installment I will provide overwhelming evidence that St. Thomas is not a proto-libertarian, but for now, it is sufficient to recognize that the use of St. Thomas against Pope Pius XII in the manner of the libertarian summa is completely illegitimate.
It is interesting to note that on the one hand the libertarian summa uses St. Thomas against Pope Pius XII’s statement regarding the state as a necessary means for protecting the common good of the civil society, but on the other hand they will quote the exact same Encyclical they take issue with when it allegedly supports their libertarian views.
To this end, the libertarian summa references paragraph 60 of Summi Pontificatus,
“To consider the State as something ultimate to which everything else should be subordinated and directed, cannot fail to harm the true and lasting prosperity of nations. This can happen either when unrestricted dominion comes to be conferred on the State as having a mandate from the nation, people, or even a social order, or when the State arrogates such dominion to itself as absolute master, despotically, without any mandate whatsoever. If, in fact, the State lays claim to and directs private enterprises, these, ruled as they are by delicate and complicated internal principles which guarantee and assure the realization of their special aims, may be damaged to the detriment of the public good, by being wrenched from their natural surroundings, that is, from responsible private action.”
It is important to note that the statement they take issue with above is paragraph 59, which provides the comparative context for paragraph 60. This seems to indicate a clear case of quote mining, where the contextual reality of the given document is ignored in order to find statements to support an idea that the document itself is rejecting. Before allowing the argument of Pope Pius XII to frame the context of the Encyclical being used for illegitimate purposes, recall this statement found in the third article which is being refuted,
“To force the Church’s moral theology on people takes away free will and negates any possibility for a moral choice in the matter. God gave us free will; he intended us to use it.”
Now, let the argument of Summi Pontificatus refute this absurd position of the libertarian summa,
“52. But there is yet another error no less pernicious to the well-being of the nations and to the prosperity of that great human society which gathers together and embraces within its confines all races. It is the error contained in those ideas which do not hesitate to divorce civil authority from every kind of dependence upon the Supreme Being – First Source and absolute Master of man and of society – and from every restraint of a Higher Law derived from God as from its First Source. Thus they accord the civil authority an unrestricted field of action that is at the mercy of the changeful tide of human will, or of the dictates of casual historical claims, and of the interests of a few.
53. Once the authority of God and the sway of His law are denied in this way, the civil authority as an inevitable result tends to attribute to itself that absolute autonomy which belongs exclusively to the Supreme Maker. It puts itself in the place of the Almighty and elevates the State or group into the last end of life, the supreme criterion of the moral and juridical order, and therefore forbids every appeal to the principles of natural reason and of the Christian conscience. We do not, of course, fail to recognize that, fortunately, false principles do not always exercise their full influence, especially when age-old Christian traditions, on which the peoples have been nurtured, remain still deeply, even if unconsciously, rooted in their hearts.
54. None the less, one must not forget the essential insufficiency and weakness of every principle of social life which rests upon a purely human foundation, is inspired by merely earthly motives and relies for its force on the sanction of a purely external authority.
55. Where the dependence of human right upon the Divine is denied, where appeal is made only to some insecure idea of a merely human authority, and an autonomy is claimed which rests only upon a utilitarian morality, there human law itself justly forfeits in its more weighty application the moral force which is the essential condition for its acknowledgment and also for its demand of sacrifices.
56. It is quite true that power based on such weak and unsteady foundations can attain at times, under chance circumstances, material successes apt to arouse wonder in superficial observers.
57. But the moment comes when the inevitable law triumphs, which strikes down all that has been constructed upon a hidden or open disproportion between the greatness of the material and outward success, and the weakness of the inward value and of its moral foundation. Such disproportion exists whenever public authority disregards or denies the dominion of the Supreme Lawgiver, Who, as He has given rulers power, has also set and marked its bounds.
58. Indeed, as Our great predecessor, Leo XIII, wisely taught in the Encyclical Immortale Dei, it was the Creator’s will that civil sovereignty should regulate social life after the dictates of an order changeless in its universal principles; should facilitate the attainment in the temporal order, by individuals, of physical, intellectual and moral perfection; and should aid them to reach their supernatural end.
59. Hence, it is the noble prerogative and function of the State to control, aid and direct the private and individual activities of national life that they converge harmoniously towards the common good. That good can neither be defined according to arbitrary ideas nor can it accept for its standard primarily the material prosperity of society, but rather it should be defined according to the harmonious development and the natural perfection of man. It is for this perfection that society is designed by the Creator as a means.
60. To consider the State as something ultimate to which everything else should be subordinated and directed, cannot fail to harm the true and lasting prosperity of nations. This can happen either when unrestricted dominion comes to be conferred on the State as having a mandate from the nation, people, or even a social order, or when the State arrogates such dominion to itself as absolute master, despotically, without any mandate whatsoever. If, in fact, the State lays claim to and directs private enterprises, these, ruled as they are by delicate and complicated internal principles which guarantee and assure the realization of their special aims, may be damaged to the detriment of the public good, by being wrenched from their natural surroundings, that is, from responsible private action.”
It has been demonstrated then, by using the exact same references provided by the Summa of the Libertarian Catholic’s third article, that the very positions they are seeking to defend cannot even withstand an honest application of their own usage. The third article has been shown to be philosophically inadequate, and the attempt to put St. Thomas against Pope Pius XII completely fails. The next step is to demonstrate that their use of St. Thomas as a proto-libertarian is without merit.
– Lucas G. Westman
 Paragraph 59