Several recent works of scholarship explore how Establishment Clause jurisprudence has been shaped by broader political debates over the role of religion in public life. This literature focuses on the politics of anti-Catholicism, particularly during the early years of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in the1940s and 1950s. While not questioning the centrality of this period to the historical narrative, this Note argues that the political contest over church and state took shape in an earlier debate over the compatibility of Catholicism and the Constitution during the 1920s. The Church’s response to the anti-Catholicism of this period was of particular importance. Catholic apologists actively challenged the widespread argument that Catholicism could not be reconciled with a democratic liberal political order. In fact, Catholics not only defended the doctrinal compatibility of Catholic social thought and the constitutional separation of church and state. They argued that Catholicism was ideally suited to preserving the moral foundations of the free society. Far from imperiling American democracy, Catholicism was, in the words of the Church’s leading social theorist, "The Indispensable Basis of Democracy." Thus, rather than aiming to depoliticize the church-state fracas of the 1920s, American Catholics drove the issue ever more fully into the realm of politics and culture. In the process, Catholics developed a worldview that now stands at the heart of Establishment Clause politics.Calo's newest paper is Catholic Social Thought, Political Liberalism, and the Idea of Human Rights.
As the dominant moral vocabulary of modernity, the language of human rights establishes significant points of contact between the religious and the secular. Yet, the human rights movement increasingly finds itself in a contested relationship with religious ideas and communities. Even as the idea of human rights draws on the inherited moral resources of religion, the movement, at least in many of its dominant institutional and intellectual expressions, has established itself as an autonomous moral discourse. In this respect, the human rights movement, as an expression of western liberalism, presents itself as a totalizing moral theory that challenges countervailing theological accounts of human rights. This paper considers the distinctive account of human rights which has emerged out of Catholic social thought’s engagement with political and economic questions. Particular attention is given to the process by which Catholic thinking about human rights has embraced the possibilities of political liberalism while also bounding liberalism within a particularistic theologically-informed account of the human person. The distinctiveness of the Catholic account of human rights raises questions about the role of Catholicism, and religious communities more generally, in shaping the law of human rights. To what extent can secular and religious approaches to human rights law find common cause and overlapping consensus? How does a Catholic account of human rights rooted in theological anthropology relate to a regnant secular tradition which rests on theological categories shorn of religious content (and which has become its own intellectual and moral tradition that is, in important respects, aAlso posted is an article, From Poor Relief to the Poorhouse: The Response to Poverty in Prince George’s County, Maryland, 1710-1770. It appeared in Maryland Historical Magazine (1998).
counter-theology)? While a Christian theological jurisprudence must maintain a concern with the common good, the fractured moral consensus of late modernity usually demands that the goods identified be described with reference to the internal resources of the tradition. Catholicism, in this respect, might both advance and challenge the universalistic impulses of the human rights movement.
In 1671, the Maryland legislature empowered county justices to levy a tax for support of the poor. Because the number of poor remained small during this period, providing them with annual pensions proved to be an efficient and economical means of meeting the needs of elderly and infirm residents who were unable to labor and achieve self-sufficiency. Furthermore, those public dependents who were particularly old or disabled and thus in need of assistance beyond what standard pensions could provide were placed in the homes of community members whom the county paid to act as caretakers. Dramatic changes that developed in the early 1760s rapidly undermined the effectiveness of the traditional poor relief system. For one, a steady increase in the population of several counties forced the relief system to provide for more people. Even more significant was the tremendous growth in the number of pensioners who received relief for long periods of time. This trend made it necessary for county taxpayers to support a population of dependents who were increasing at a faster rate than the population as a whole. At the same time the poor relief system was becoming more expensive to operate, broad social and economic changes were limiting opportunities for financial advancement and thus creating a class of landless vagrants who roamed the region looking for a means of survival. Unlike traditional recipients of public relief, vagrants were generally young able-bodied males whom the public did not consider worthy of assistance. As a result, many counties began to petition the legislature for the right to construct poorhouses that could confine and control beggars and also provide a more economical means of caring for public dependents. In this study, I argue that the transition from outdoor relief to the poorhouse encouraged new attitudes toward the poor. While the poor were once viewed as pitiable people worthy of public support, county residents came to view the poor as shameful and burdensome people who needed to be separated from society. The once stark distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor was largely eliminated.And there is more on SSRN: 'True Economic Liberalism' and the Development of American Catholic Social Thought, 1920-1940, which appeared in the Journal of Catholic Social Thought (2008), and a chapter from Calo's book manuscript, The Circumscribed Radicalism of New Deal Catholicism: Catholic Liberalism in the 1930s.