Gerard V. Bradley – Law, Notre Dame Law School
Robert P. Hunt – Political Science, Kean College of New Jersey
William P. Luckey – Political Science, Christendom College
Robert F. Cuervo – Political Science, St. John's University, Staten Island
Kenneth L. Grasso – Political Science, Southwest Texas State University
by Kenneth L. Grasso
At its 1996 Meeting at Franciscan University, the Society of Catholic Social
Scientists (SCSS) presented its annual "Pius XI Award for Contributions
Toward the Building Up of a True Catholic Social Science" to Francis
Canavan, S.J. The Society's decision to present Father Canavan this prestigious
award, like that several years ago of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars
to present him its Cardinal Wright Award, represents some much deserved and
long-overdue recognition of Father Canavan's many years of loyal and selfless
service to the Church and the important contribution which his work has made
to Catholic intellectual life in contemporary America.
Born in 1917, Father Canavan received his primary and secondary education
in the public schools of New York City and Long Island. (Canavan not only
attended the same elementary school which had educated another future Jesuit,
John Courtney Murray, some fifteen years earlier, but also graduated from
Lawrence High School with Harry V. Jaffa and Joseph Cropsey, both of whom,
like Canavan, went on to become prominent political theorists). He received
his B.S. and M.A. degrees from Fordham University in 1939 and 1947, his
Ph.L. from St. Louis University in 1944 (where he met a fellow alumnus of the
"Jamaica Model School" John Courtney Murray, who subsequently became a
friend and major influence on Canavan's own work), his S.T.L. from
Woodstock College in 1951, and his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1957. He
entered the Society of Jesus the same year he received his B.S. and was
ordained in 1950.
In the course of his career he has taught at Regis High School (1944-1945),
Canisius College (1945-1946), St. Peter's College (1950-1956) and Fordham
University (1966-1988). From 1960 and 1966 he served as associate editor of
America. Since 1988 he has been professor emeritus of political science at
While at Duke Canavan studied with John H. Hallowell. One of the nation's
leading political philosophers, Hallowell, an Episcopalian, wrote from an
unapologetically Christian perspective and sought to articulate a theory of politics
rooted in the Christian vision of man. Like Murray, Hallowell subsequently
became a friend and exerted a profound influence on Canavan's intellectual
development. While studying with Hallowell he developed an interest in the
political thought of Edmund Burke, whose conception of political reason
became the subject of his doctoral dissertation. Published in 1960 by Duke
University Press, The Political Reason of Edmund Burke was followed by two
subsequent volumes on Burke's thought, Edmund Burke: Prescription and
Providence (1987, Carolina Academic Press) and The Political Economy of
Edmund Burke (1995, Fordham University Press). No less an authority in the
field than Peter J. Stanlis has remarked that Canavan's work has earned him "a
very high permanent place of honor among Burke scholars, living or dead."1
At the risk of oversimplifying, Canavan's writings on Burke might be said to
focus on restoring Burke to his rightful place among the pantheon of
Christian political thinkers. Burke, he demonstrates, is no mere party hack.
Nor is he, as is sometimes asserted, a Humean, utilitarian, cultural relativist
or historicist precursor of Hegel. On the contrary, "Burke did his political
thinking within the framework of a 'realistic' metaphysics derived from the
biblical and Christian doctrine of creation."2 Indeed, at the heart of Burke's
thought is the vision of a divinely created and "teleologically" ordered universe,
"composed of creatures with distinct natures serving natural ends,
subject to natural laws, and all directed to the ultimate purpose of the
Creator," and whose "intelligible order [was] accessible to human reason."1
Yet, if the focus of Father Canavan's work has been the recovery of the
authentic Burke, it is at the same time obvious that his interest in Burke is not
purely historical in nature. He shares Alfred Cobban's view, that as "a school
of statesmanship," Burke's work possesses "permanent value."4 Burke's writings,
he contends, offer us "a richer and fuller way of understanding" political
life "than one founded on the sovereign individual and his rights."5
Simultaneously, Burke's "profound and luminous mind" offers us "a way of
thinking about politics . . . and its problems which makes it possible to
approach them rationally, while avoiding both unprincipled expediency and
doctrinaire idealism."6 Thus, although "Burke is not a major figure in the
history of political philosophy" his work nevertheless teaches many lessons
that contemporary America needs badly to learn.7
If Burke's work has been Canavan's primary interest, it has hardly been his
only one. His writings include an acclaimed study of the political theory of the
freedom of speech (which was named to Choice's, "Outstanding Academic
Book List for 1985"), scores of essays exploring the problem of law, religious
pluralism, and public morality in contemporary America, and numerous essays
exploring various aspects of contemporary Catholic social thought, the
American Catholic scene, and the interaction between Catholicism and
American culture.8 One of the threads that connects each of these areas of his
work is Canavan's utterly uncompromising rejection of liberal individualism
and his ongoing effort to outline a public philosophy for contemporary
America rooted in a richer and sounder model of man and society than that
which informs the liberal tradition.
However much "we may applaud the historical achievements of liberalism"--
its role in breaking "the power of absolute monarchs" and fostering the
rise of "limited, constitutional government"—the liberal model of man and
society, Canavan is convinced, embodies an irremediably flawed theory of
politics and "is now a menace rather than a support of constitutional democracy."
9 "The corrosive acid of [liberalism's] individualism" threatens to dissolve
both the matrix of institutions and the complex virtues and convictions on
which a free society depends for its vitality and ultimately its very viability.
The "better theoretical foundation" that our public life "so badly needs," he
insists, must take its bearings from a "sounder" theory of man than that which
informs liberalism, from an anthropology which sees man "as a social being
from whose nature flow relations to his family, neighbors, fellow workers, the
community and the political order," relations that "are the foundation of both
rights and obligations that are prior to and independent of consent."10
What emerges in these writings is nothing less than a devastating critique of
the liberal assumptions that dominate our public life today (including a powerful
critique of liberalism's pretensions of neutrality and its essentially sectarian
character that long predates the work of Michael Sandel and Alasdair
Maclntyre) and a penetrating examination of the malaise that besets the
American body politic today. One of the most striking aspects of his work on
liberalism and contemporary America's quest for a public philosophy is, as
several observers have noted, its prescience. More than three decades ago, he
was predicting both the moral free fall—proceeding mostly from the collapse
of traditional values and convictions, and the institutions that embody and
transmit them—that has become perhaps the defining feature of contemporary
American public life, and the collapse of liberalism into "mere permissiveness.""
Over the past three decades, as Robert P. George has observed,
Canavan has been the "most incisive and trenchant critic" of "the sectarian
moral agenda of liberal secularism" and the "judicial activism" by which it has
been imposed on the American body politic.12
In conjunction with Father Canavan's receipt of the 1996 Pope Pius XI
Award, a roundtable was assembled at the SCSS's meeting to explore his work.
Of the panel's five participants, four—Professors Cuervo, Grasso, Hunt and
Luckey—studied under Father Canavan at Fordham, while the fifth—Professor
Bradley—is a friend and admirer whose own work has been influenced by
Canavan. Each participant addressed a different aspect of Father Canavan's
work. Bradley explored Canavan's writings on the problem of law, public
morality and religious pluralism in contemporary America; Hunt examined his
critique of liberalism; Luckey analyzed his work on the political theory of what
has come (under the impact of liberalism) to be known as "freedom of expression";
Cuervo provided an overview of his far-ranging writings on Burke; and
Grasso addressed his work on Catholic social thought.
The essays that compose this symposium are based on the remarks that the
contributors delivered at that roundtable. Although this format arguably gives
short shrift to both Canavan's work on Burke (and imposes on Professor
Cuervo the unenviable task of having to summarize the argument of all three of
Canavan's Burke volumes in the brief compass of a single essay) and his writing
on the state of American Catholicism, it has the advantage of providing a
broad overview of all the major aspects of Canavan's work and focusing on
Canavan's own teaching about the proper ordering of political life.
The contributors to this symposium make no effort to conceal their admiration
for Father Canavan and his work. For the reader heretofore unfamiliar with
Canavan's work, the essays composing the symposium make the grounds for
this admiration readily apparent. Canavan's work exhibits a thorough command
of the literature on the subjects it addresses; an extraordinary knack for getting
at the heart of complicated theoretical issues (including the ability to make the
sort of subtle distinctions necessary to come to grips with such issues); and a talent
for articulating complex subjects in a concise and jargon-free manner.
Indeed, Canavan offers us a model of how the Catholic thinker ought to
engage his discipline, and, more broadly, his culture. He does so by uniting a
thorough command of contemporary scholarship in his chosen discipline with a
deep knowledge of, and profound fidelity to, the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Precisely for this reason, Canavan can engage the best scholarship in contemporary
political theory without becoming captive to the horizon within which it
operates. He can recognize, for example, that to reject the liberal theory of religious
liberty is not to reject religious liberty per se. Canavan thus can assimilate
the valid insights that emerge in contemporary political theory, while
retaining the critical distance necessary to evaluate contemporary thought in the
light of the Catholic faith and the intellectual tradition that has emerged under
its aegis. He can learn from Leo Strauss, for example, without becoming a convert
to Straussianism, without uncritically embracing Strauss' reading of intellectual
history and the worldview it presupposes.
"The Catholic mind," Canavan once remarked, "is by nature a synthesizing
mind." As a result, "every thinking Catholic has the lifelong task of harmonizing
his faith with the findings of human reason that are available to him in his
time."13 Father Canavan's work illustrates just how such a mind operates.
His work neither uncritically embraces, nor uncritically rejects contemporary
culture, but rather engages it from the perspective of the Catholic faith,
appropriating what is valid within it and rejecting what is not. At a time
when far too many Catholics confuse engaging the world with abjectly capitulating
to the reigning Weltanschauung, and when the only alternative to such
capitulation is increasingly held to be a sectarian withdrawal from the world
(of the type traditionally associated with certain varieties of Protestantism),
we are truly fortunate to have him and his work available to remind us of just
how the Catholic mind should approach the culture around it. I know I
speak not only for my colleagues in the Society of Catholic Social Scientists,
but for Father Canavan's many students, friends and admirers, in thanking
him for his work and example.
1. Peter J. Stanlis, review of Edmund Burke: Prescription and Providence, in Review
of Politics 50 (Fall 1988): 743-747.
2. Francis Canavan, Edmund Burke: Prescription and Providence, xiii.
3. Ibid., 4, 13.
4. The Political Reason of Edmund Burke, 95.
5. Francis Canavan, "The Relevance of the Burke-Paine Controversy to American
Thought," Review of Politics 49 (1987): 175.
6. The Political Reason of Edmund Burke, 194.
7. "The Relevance of the Burke-Paine Controversy," 175.
8. The "Documentation" section of this journal contains a bibliography of Canavan's
writings. A number of his most important essays on law, religious pluralism and public
morality were collected in The Pluralist Game: Pluralism, Liberalism and the Moral
Conscience (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995). Pins in the Liberal
Balloon: Sixty Short Essays on the Church in the Modernist World (New York: The
National Committee of Catholic Laymen, 1990) contains some of Canavan's best short
pieces on contemporary American public life and the American Catholic scene.
9. The Pluralist Game, 132-133.
10. Ibid., 134, 133, 137.
11. Ibid., 133.
12. George's remark appears on the back cover of the paperback edition of The
Pluralist Game.
13. Pins in the Liberal Balloon, 52.
I have just gotten the news that the man I studied under for my doctorate at Fordam University, Rev. Francis P. Canavan, S.J., Ph.D. has passed away.

This is truly a sad loss, not only for me and his former students, but for the Catholic world and the world in general.  He was a solid, orthodox Catholic priest, a great scholar, a world-class expert on the thought of Edmund Burke, and exceptionally humble.  As former associate editor of America magazine, and through his writings and later books, he attacked liberalism in all its trappings, and was firm defender of life. 

Besides changing my life for the better, there were two reletively recent events that gave some of the recognition he deserved.  The first was a celebration at Christendom College where scholarly papers were given in his honor and a dinner was held for him and his 50th anniversary as a priest.  The second was that my youngest son asked Father Canavan to come down and be the celebrant at his wedding, which he did. This was the last time I saw Father.

But even though we who knew him are greatly saddened, he, on the other hand, I am sure, is rejoicing as Our Blessed Lord says to him:  "Welcome, Oh good and faithful servant; enter the joy of your Lord!"

What a gift he was!  Let us thank God for his presence among us.


Part I – Introduction 

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Our Lord says the following: 

"When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."

Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes asks us to try to interpret the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel. Obviously, interpreting the signs of the times is very important, but not easy. 

Today, as in other times, the United States is confronted with many serious problems. A failing economy, the imposition of many socialist measures which purport to deal with the failing economy, the growth of statism here and in Russia, and declining morality, which seems to be picking up some speed lately. Our young people have profligates and libertines in the entertainment industry as heroes. We have a society loaded with cheaters: cheaters on taxes in the President’s cabinet; cheaters on spouses so common that almost no one is shocked by it; liars as governors of states and senators; clerics living double lives; and an epidemic of cheating on examinations. Islamic fascism still threatens us, but so many politicians, lawyers and media personnel act as if this is all in our heads. 

Now, economics and political science are real sciences and successfully attempt to explain many of these phenomena. The problem is that at times another science needs to be brought in to help us to understand the reality behind these distressing things. That science is sacred theology. 

What does theology tell us? It tells us that there is a whole sub- and super-strata surrounding the visible world. As for the sub-strata, St. Paul tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). In other words, behind the visible life we see is a struggle going on between Satan and his minions and God and his angels, with us the living as the battlefield. We Catholics cannot afford the luxury of working on our personal salvation only. The whole cultural and unseen spiritual milieu affects the spiritual life of everyone. To ignore this, as most of us do, is to let the forces of Satan triumph. 

In his famous book The Apostleship of Prayer, Father Ramière, S.J., writes that just as God will not save us without our cooperation, neither will he save our brothers and sisters without our cooperation. The world lives in darkness (see 1 Jn). In order to dispel the darkness, Jesus Christ must be brought into the world. God has entrusted his Church—all of it—clergy, religious and especially laity, to bring the light of Christ into the world. (See John Paul II’s encyclicalChristifidelis laici.) But the signs of the times demonstrate clearly that this is not being done. 

This will be a five-part series that will examine the signs of the times and hopefully will evoke severe soul-searching among us Catholics who tend to look on the natural side of current affairs. We will look at events in the Scriptures and in history, and then at spirituality to provide food for thought and prayer, so that we can do all in our power to turn things around toward the Truth.

The notion of capital formation and accumulation led me to wonder whether the formation or accumulation of capital in non-profit organizations was the same as it is in regular businesses. In order even to start to understand the non-profit organization, one must realize that there are different types. There are some that function like a business, taking money for services from those who use the organization, such as colleges and most hospitals. But there are some who give their services to those from whom they expect no contribution, such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and those who rely on mere donations, as opposed to payment, from those who use their services, such as churches. 

The complexity discovered in this initial search led to the perusal of some of the standard literature on the subject of non-profit organizations. The results can be summarized as follows: 

a. Many sources see the purposes of non-profits as taking up the slack from either market failure or government failure, thus revealing a pro-statist, anti-market bias. 

b. The rest of the studies tend to cram the non-profit organization into the neo-classical paradigm. These studies, assuming the “maximization of profit” rationale, also assume that the non-profit organization must be maximizing something. Thomas Carroll of Memphis State writes: “One [allegedly] fruitful approach is to view not-for-profit producers [notice the term producers] as professional syndicates, whose members try to maximize the sum of income and amenities. This sometimes leads to tensions between the ‘professionals’ and the ‘staff’ of such institutions.” One example he gives is that of well-heeled physicians wanting more money and exploiting underpaid nurses, an example that is irrelevant in that the physicians are usually independent operators, and the examples he gives really do not say much about the organization itself.1

c. There is, in the neo-classical analysis, both of non-profit organizations and of business in general, too much orientation to heavy industry, reflecting the era in which most of the terms and concepts were developed. The Austrians are also influenced in this way, though to a lesser extent. 

d. The “standard” Austrians have virtually nothing to say regarding non-profits, even though non-profits comprise 2–3 percent of GDP. 

What this means, of course, is that my desire to discuss capital accumulation in non-profits is now subordinated to a study of the real nature and behavior of non-profits. 

By far the best study that I came across on non-profit organizations was done by the Austrian management expert Peter Drucker, in Managing the Non-profit Organization: Principles and Practices2. While he is not primarily an economist, somewhere I read that Drucker says that he has been heavily influenced by the Austrian economists. In point of fact, as is typical of an Austrian analysis, we recognize real human beings in Drucker’s analysis, and not in the neo-classical analysis. For example, instead of maximization of the utility of the managers or workers of the non-profit organization, Drucker says that the purpose of the non-profit organization is to produce a “changed human being”3. In these organizations, the people, including the board, are “deeply committed”, and this explains the high level of volunteers, unpaid staff and low-paid professors at certain private religious colleges. 

Returning to the problem of capital accumulation in non-profits, since non-profits do not produce anything, it cannot be said that the production of the capital they do acquire is stimulated by a perceived market demand as it is in a real business. Major exceptions to this might be medical equipment and the scholarly publishing industry, with all that these imply, but I doubt that these are non-profit. But then it comes to mind that the source of most funds gotten by most non-profit organizations are contributions. Every non-profit has a list of regular contributors, and acquires lists of potential contributors. Since the contributors are not usually the beneficiaries of the services of the organization, they are not the customers, although they are the source of funds. Are the contributors the capital? 

My recommendations are as follows: 

a. To follow Aristotle’s advice in book II of the Politics, and adapt the methodology of the study to the requirements of the subject at hand. Certainly, the current concentration on “production” and “maximization” and “profit” has led to a dead end in not only in the current economy but in the non-profit segment as well. 

b. A completely new study of non-profit organizations is necessary, being sure to separate them by types. The category “non-profit” is too broad for a (shall we say) “profitable” analysis. 

c. It needs to be asked whether some organizations, because they were run by the Church and religious orders in the middle ages for free, should still be non-profit. Would it not be more efficient for the non-profit organizations that get money from those who use their services to be for-profit organizations? There are already some examples. Some technical colleges and hospitals are for-profit. Are there any studies of these organizations comparing them to their non-profit counterparts? 

1  Thomas M. Carroll, Microeconomic Theory: Concepts and Applications (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983), 314. 

2  (New York: HarperBusiness, 1992). 

3  Drucker, xiv. His emphasis.
There are so many people out there who think that businesses are just rich, evil institutions. They do not reflect that it is business that gives us all the wonderful things we have today, many of which did not even exist in my childhood, and also employ countless people. They therefore cry out to government to tax corporations, because these folks think that they have too much money, and somehow they have stolen it from us, forgetting that no one is forced to buy anything. Let us look at the business tax situation. 

1. Taxes on earnings. After deducting expenses to run the business, a company must pay taxes on its remaining earnings. The person on the street says, “Well, they should!” But let us look at business as the dynamic institution it is. Competition keeps a company sharp, efficient, and forces it to upgrade its current products and bring new ones to market. We benefit from these activities. In order to do this, the company needs money. Now a company has a number of ways to get that money. First, it can issue stock. But that option is limited by at least two things. What is the current price of its stock? If it is low, the investment bank who will buy the initial offering of stock might not be willing to buy it, or will give it too low a return. Secondly, it can borrow it, by selling bonds or going to a bank. If they do that, they have to pay interest, and as we wrote last time, that raises the cost of capital and makes it have to get a larger return on their product in order to pay the interest back. The best way to pay for the development of new products is to take it from your net earnings. There is no interest on your own earnings. But the more earnings are taxed, the less earnings available to use for product development. 

The result of the taxes on earnings is that it force many businesses into the credit market. If the economy is in a recession, the interest rates might be very high due to less savings. If the Federal Reserve tries to lower interest by swelling the money supply, this will cause inflation, and raise the cost of capital, because inflation drives up prices. So if I borrow a million dollars today in an inflation environment, by the time I get to pay for the product development, I see that I did not borrow enough, prices having risen. This forces the company to borrow more, and so forth. 

2. Sales taxes. This one is easy. A sales tax artificially raises the price of an item and with that price rise, sales decline. So the buyer pays more for the item, and the company sells less. Therefore the income of the company declines in a proportion to the level of the tax. Some states have very high sales taxes, and those states have always seen a flight of the tax base as companies go elsewhere. This is a main cause of the growth of the “sunbelt” in the 1970s and 1980s. Even I, a native New Yorker, live in Virginia, something I never thought I would be doing. 

So the next time someone says, “Let’s tax these evil corporations,” remember that those who say that are cutting your throat, or even their own.