… is from page 115 of volume 2 of The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian  (2006); specifically, it’s from Alchian ‘s 1986 essay, co-authored with William Meckling, “The Bishops and the Lay Commission”; this essay was written in response to two documents issued in the mid-1980s under the auspices of the Roman Catholic church – one is a document from the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the second is from a 30-member Commission of lay Catholics (footnote deleted):
The work of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ad hoc committee and the Lay Commission both start from the same presumption: that there is a well-defined body of Catholic thought or, more accurately, set of values, which united with economic principles will yield an economic policy prospectus. The truth is that there is no such well-defined body of Catholic thought, i.e., set of values, and it is quixotic to believe that there could be. If the history of the Catholic Church teaches us anything it is that the Church as an organization has extraordinary survival characteristics both across nations and through time. The Catholic Church is nothing if not universal, i.e., catholic. It has been and is all things to all people. Can we reasonably expect such an organization to have a unified view of what constitutes justice, or what trade-off is appropriate between present and future poverty, or between freedom and distributive capacity? This lack of a coherent set of Catholic values, of course, says nothing about the quality of the analysis or the efficacy of the policy viewpoints contained in these monographs. What it does say is that the search for policy foundations in Catholic Social Teaching/Thought is on a par with the search for the Holy Grail.