Saturday, March 08, 2008

Anthony Esolen on law, voting, and the common good

He went to a lecture given by Russell Hittinger on the Thomistic view of law and draws these corollaries:

1. Voting is a mechanism for securing justice, and the common good. As such, it should be evaluated as any other mechanism would be. It is not in itself an object of justice. It could only be thought so, if law were the expression of will -- for then, to deny to a people the ability to vote would be to deny them the expression of their wills. But if law is a function of right reason, the vote as such is neither here nor there. There may be all kinds of ways in which a community may deliberate effectively, and come to a decision regarding what course of action to take.

2. The justice of a law depends upon its promotion of the common good. Now the common good, if it is an order embracing all the individuals within it, is not the same thing as a good parceled out. Consider the analogy of a family. The little baby in that family does not diminish the amount of love the other children receive from the parents. Rather, the baby adds a new way in which the parents will love the other children: as the brothers and sisters of this unique child. The order of the family is made greater and more complex. The common good is like that; it transcends the compromises made necessary by a fixed amount of goods to be shared (and envied). The greater the number of souls embraced by the common good, the greater the good. For we enjoy not only our share in the good, but also the good itself as shared by everyone else. Your enjoyment of the common good increases my enjoyment.

3. There is a sense in which, for the common good, genuine diversity, which results from genuine inequalities in talent, luck, wisdom, and so on, is better than flat sameness. Again, the analogy of a family is apropos. If we were actuated by charity and not envy, would we expect the impossible (and even the undesirable) from our parents, that they should love each of us children the same? John was the beloved disciple of Jesus -- was that an offense to Peter? Or does a sense of the common good welcome that difference?

"Your enjoyment of the common good increases my enjoyment."

Hrm. How would Dr. Esolen define the common good? For the virtuous, this proposition may be true, but what of those who differ in virtue, or someone who is vicious? Perhaps the problem is with the subjective attaining of the common good, rather than the objective common good? But is there an objective common good apart from the subjective attainment of it by the citizenry? Living well with others in society--if I act virtously I am contributing to the common good, but if I act viciously I do not, and I may even be harming the common good. If I am vicious will I benefit from others acting virtuously? Not in the sense that I may be able to take advantage of their honesty or some other virtue. Rather... I will certainly not be harmed by them, unless they punish for some crime I commit. They may treat me in a friendly manner and so on. At least there will be some degree of peace (until the vicious decide to violate it). So it does seem that even the vicious benefit from the virtuous pursuing the common good.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Statement on Meeting of Armenian Patriarch and Cardinal Bertone

Statement on Meeting of Armenian Patriarch and Cardinal Bertone

VAGHARSHAPAT, Armenia, MARCH 6, 2008 ( Here is the joint communiqué released on the occasion of the Tuesday meeting between Karekin II, supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and Benedict XVI's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is visiting Armenia this week.
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His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State for the Holy See, came together in the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin with a holy greeting of peace and offered their fervent prayers to Almighty God in heaven.

The State Secretary, Cardinal Bertone, conveyed the warmest greetings of unity in Jesus Christ and the fraternal love of His Holiness Benedict XVI, the Pope of Rome, to His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians. Cardinal Bertone also presented a handwritten letter from the Pope, with his invitation to visit the See of Peter.

His Holiness and His Eminence offered their gratitude to God for this cordial meeting -- a sign of the continuing development of ties between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Caholic Church -- to know one another better, to appreciate each other’s incomparable spiritual heritage, and to love one another, confirming their equal calling to serve mankind as is required by our one Lord Jesus Christ. They agreed to continue taking steps on these blessed paths.

The Catholicos and the Cardinal appealed to God during these difficult days for Armenia, so that peace and reconciliation be established within the country. They prayed together for the souls of the victims and asked the Lord to keep and protect the Armenian people and reinforce them with faith, hope and love.

The Cardinal expressed the complete support of the Catholic Church to the Armenian Church, for her efforts utilizing her high moral standing, aimed at providing solutions to all concerns through the promotion of dialogue and peaceful means and fostering a common sense of responsibility, so that the dignity of the Armenian people and state remain unharmed within international society.

His Holiness and His Eminence jointly entreated the Most High to make statesmen and politicians realize that politics is also a spiritual calling, which demands honesty, mutual respect, love tolerance and defence of the rights of the poor and vulnerable.

May God bless Armenia and all Armenians -- the first Christian people in the world -- so that all of Christendom can continue to enjoy their exceptional and irreplaceable contributions.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

De Koninck's discussion of the common good

The translation published in The Aquinas Review is available online.

Edit (July 10, 2010).
The document is no longer available.