ABSURD CLAIM THAT ADAM SMITH WAS A "DISTINGUISHED CATHOLIC" THEOLOGIAN
“Pope Francis’ American honeymoon is over.”
“At first, some political conservatives complained Francis was showing insufficient respect for distinguished Catholic theologians such as Adam Smith and Milton Friedman. But now, more thoughtful Catholic writers wonder if the pope is laying the groundwork for more substantive changes on the sacrament of marriage and access to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried.”
Er, “distinguished Catholic theologians such as Adam Smith and Milton Friedman”!
Surely not! Whatever else Adam Smith is “distinguished” for it certainly was never as a “Catholic theologian”.
Where did this absurd idea come from? Whatever happened to the renowned ‘fact checkers’ of old-style, US journalism?
Adam Smith was born into a Protestant household on 5th June 1723, and, as was common with a sickly child, he was baptised immediately by the local Church Minister from the Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Kirkcaldy (St Brides). His mother, Margaret Douglas Smith, a very religious member, regularly attended the same Church. Adam was brought up, according to the practice, by Confirmation as a member of the Church at around 11 years of age. At age 67, Adam was buried in July 1790 in the Canongate Kirk Yard, High Street/Royal Mile, Edinburgh.
He remained a church-going member of the Calvinist Protestant Church while his mother was alive and maintained good relations with several famous preachers and scholars all his life. In Wealth Of Nations he devoted a critical chapter on Church government and practices, with several acerbic remarks about Catholic teachings and church behaviours.
In private, he became sceptical of the teachings of Christian ‘Revealed Religion’. His essay, History of Astronomy (1744-58), first published posthumously in 1795, includes a history of pagan religions and their imaginary explanations of the natural world. His writing of this essay prompted him to change his mind about continuing on the Ordination course for a Priesthood in the Church of England (Episcoplaian Church in Scotland) and he switched to the Juris degree course at Oxford University in August 1744. He was disciplined by his tutors for private reading David Hume’s ‘Treatise’, and he left Oxford in 1746 without graduating. Smith’s subsequent writings on religion reveal a latent alienation from Christian theology and behaviours.
I have written in considerable detail on these subjects: Kennedy: The Hidden Adam Smith in his Theology’, JHET. Septembe, 2011 and Kennedy, 2011. ’Adam Smith on Religion’, Chapter 11, Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith, eds. Berry, Paganelli, Smith, Oxford University Press.
As for Milton Friedman’s absurdly alleged ‘Catholicism’, surely Michael Gerson is having a laugh?