Purpose – Catholic social teaching is predicated upon their notion of “social justice.” In this perspective, the rich, as do the poor, have rights only to a bare subsistence level of income. Any wealth greater than this amount is owned by all of mankind, not by those who hold private property title to it. Rawls, a secular egalitarian, supports this notion with his concept of the veil of ignorance, according to which, if we did not know the future roles we would play in society, we would all choose moderate egalitarianism. Design/methodology/approach – The present authors argue, along with the libertarian Nozick, that such redistribution is unjust, amounting to theft. It is also counterproductive to the supposed goals of the egalitarians, since the poor are much better off in societies that eschew such forced redistribution. Findings – A possible reconciliation between libertarianism and Catholic social teaching is broached: as long as social justice applies only to members of this faith, it is not incompatible with the ethic of free enterprise and private property rights. Originality/value – The paper sheds light on the views of the Catholic social teaching philosophy on distributive justice.
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