April 15, 2013
Taxing their patience
By Brian Caulfield *

By Brian Caulfield *

My seventh-grade son is covering the Constitution and government structure in History class. While driving to school the other day, we were reviewing the division of powers between federal and state levels. Federal powers are “delegated,” that is, carefully circumscribed and limited to those defined in the Constitution. To underscore this point, we kept going over the Tenth Amendment, the key to understanding the balance: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.”

“We are not creatures of the government,” I explained. “The powers ‘we the people’ have not delegated remain with us. Ultimately, these powers, or rights, come from the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God, with inalienable dignity and an eternal destiny.”

I’m not sure if my little editorial helped him on the test that day, but dads are supposed present the Big Picture.

Continuing our drive-time review, we went over the specific federal and state powers, and what the textbook called concurrent powers, which both the states and the feds possess – such as exacting taxes, the topic of my next mini-lecture.

“You should remember that we pay both federal and state taxes, a tax on top of a tax. Then there’s your real estate tax, which mostly goes to the public schools which we don’t use by sending you and your brother to Catholic school. And in Connecticut we have this novel thing called a ‘car tax’ in which all vehicles registered in your name are taxed according to some formula known only to the state.”

My son smiled, and said, “I guess you’re all worked up because Monday is April 15.”

“What’s that?” my 8-year-old asked.

“That’s when dad has to file his taxes,” the older boy said.

Not wishing to miss an opportunity for forming future responsible citizens, I ventured a little farther from the seventh-grade text.

“When Jesus was asked about paying taxes, he said to ‘Render unto Caesar’ the payments set for taxes, but never to let our allegiance to earthly power undermine our worship of God,” I said. “God comes before any earthly power, and what we owe God comes before anything the government demands. If the two conflict, we must obey God and not men.”

In the rearview mirror, I saw my boys look at one another with the expression, “There goes dad again!”

“Hey guys, I saw that,” I smiled. “You’re lucky I don’t quote from the Catechism. It says that we are social beings and that it is natural and necessary for us to form associations and governments to promote and guard the common good. But there must be a principle of subsidiarity, so that the lower, more local bodies are not swallowed up by the larger, more powerful ones. What individuals can do alone or in groups should not be trampled on by the state, and the same in regards to state and federal authorities. This is a big issue today on so many issues.”

I had just taught my younger boy “transubstantiation” for his First Holy Communion next month, so I didn’t think “subsidiarity” was too big a word.

“The bottom line, boys,” I told my car-captive audience, “is that we may not like it, but paying taxes for the common good is part of our Catholic faith.”
“Can we get back to the separation of powers, Dad?” my son said. “I have a test.”

With not much help from me, he did well.

Brian Caulfield is editor of the website Fathers for Good, an initiative by the Knights of Columbus that features regular articles, videos and other multimedia on the subject of Christian fatherhood. A father of two young boys, Brian writes on the spiritual truths found in daily life and the issues men face while striving to live out their vocation.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Pope Francis in the Philippines: Manila Welcomes the Pope
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Highlights
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Interview with Cardinal Ranjith
Pope Francis in SriLanka: Inter-religious Faith Meeting
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day

Liturgical Calendar

January 26, 2015

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mk 3:22-30


Daily Readings

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mk 3:22-30

Text only

Follow us: