Friday, August 24, 2012

Clarifications on the Political Common Good

Solidarity, subsidiarity, and principled sanity by Carl E. Olson (via Insight Scoop)

A lot of people have made use of a picture of Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride and the quotation, "You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means," with reference to some disputed term or other. I think it would be humorous to make one of these photos with "common good."

Is the definition of the common good (along with subsidiarity), as put forth by contemporary CST and used by Mr. Olson, helpful? Yes, but primarily with reference to the modern nation-state. He cites the Compendium: "The common good of society is not an end in itself; it has value only in reference to attaining the ultimate ends of the person and the universal common good of the whole of creation. " The political common good, as "traditionally" understood by Thomists and Aristotelians, is not the same as the instrumental good defined by John XXIII and adopted into contemporary CST. The common good, the good of the community, is an end in itself - desirable for its own sake and not merely as a means to an end desired for itself. This does not mean that it is not subordinate to a "higher" end or good, like the supernatural common good (and man's ultimate end), God Himself. The common good, as defined within contemporary CST, may be an instrumental good to the political common good, but it is not identical to the political common good:
The principle of the common good, to which every aspect of social life must be related if it is to attain its fullest meaning, stems from the dignity, unity and equality of all people. According to its primary and broadly accepted sense, the common good indicates “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily”.
This instrumental good is explained as such by proponents of the New Natural Law Theory, for example. And yet there is use of language usually associated with the traditional [definition of the] common good:
The common good does not consist in the simple sum of the particular goods of each subject of a social entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person, it is and remains “common”, because it is indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it, increase it and safeguard its effectiveness, with regard also to the future. Just as the moral actions of an individual are accomplished in doing what is good, so too the actions of a society attain their full stature when they bring about the common good. The common good, in fact, can be understood as the social and community dimension of the moral good.
An explanation of how the common good is common, though it may have been better to explain how it is common or shared - not as belonging to them, like property (in which case common would be said in praedicando), but as a shared end. And in the next paragraph:
A society that wishes and intends to remain at the service of the human being at every level is a society that has the common good — the good of all people and of the whole person [347] — as its primary goal. The human person cannot find fulfilment in himself, that is, apart from the fact that he exists “with” others and “for” others. This truth does not simply require that he live with others at various levels of social life, but that he seek unceasingly — in actual practice and not merely at the level of ideas — the good, that is, the meaning and truth, found in existing forms of social life. No expression of social life — from the family to intermediate social groups, associations, enterprises of an economic nature, cities, regions, States, up to the community of peoples and nations — can escape the issue of its own common good, in that this is a constitutive element of its significance and the authentic reason for its very existence[348]

Can the second part of this section be harmonized with the first? If the common good is the "social and community [communal] dimension of the moral good [the life of virtue]" then is it the same as "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily"?

As for Fr. Barron's essay -- "Now in Catholic social theory, subsidiarity is balanced by solidarity, which is to say, a keen sense of the common good, of the natural and supernatural connections that bind us to one another, of our responsibility for each other." Solidarity may be identified with the virtue of social justice (or legal justice), or with civic friendship, or both, depending on, of course, its definition. The Compendium:
Solidarity is also an authentic moral virtue, not a “feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all”[418]. Solidarity rises to the rank of fundamental social virtue since it places itself in the sphere of justice. It is a virtue directed par excellence to the common good, and is found in “a commitment to the good of one's neighbour with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to ‘lose oneself' for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to ‘serve him' instead of oppressing him for one's own advantage (cf. Mt 10:40-42, 20:25; Mk 10:42-45; Lk 22:25-27)”[419].
I've already written about subsidiarity (as well as the contemporary notion of common good) and how these terms probably are better understood as reactions to the growth of the modern nation-state and polities that are too big for their own good, and the concomitant political and economic centralization. This may have been a conscious formulation for the first theorists, but those currently presenting CST as a basis for seeking political solutions may be unaware of the original contextual background of the terms.

Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts when we consider the [political] community and its members? Is legal justice distinct from civic friendship? I will have to address these questions at some other time. At some point I will also have to rewrite the discussion of how one cannot talk about common good if a community is mostly absent and the potential for community must be developed first, addressing the need for a common culture and a single identity, one people. Taking the United States as one nation, or polity, is a problem, because the scale is too big and the relationship between all of its members to one another too tenuous for the most part. Talking about the common good (and subsidiarity and solidarity) when the current political order (taken broadly as to referring not only to the federal government but also the culture and social order), or constitution in the Aristotelian sense, mitigates against it.
The Purpose of Education: A Catholic Primer by Stratford Caldecott

Discussing primarily the formation in the intellectual virtues, rather than in the moral virtues.

His Beauty in the Word is published by Angelico Press.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

CMT: What is Happiness? by Charles Camosy

How does one relate goods to ends and activities? Some precision would be helpful.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From December of last year: In Defense of Human Dignity – on the 500th Anniversary of the Preaching of the Dominican Friars in Hispaniola

Related: Dominicans in the Americas
Join us in celebrating our 500th anniversary!

Happiness and Its Discontents by Fr. Michael Sherwin, OP

Zenit: Pope's Message to Rimini Meeting
"Not only my soul, but even every fiber of my flesh is made to find its peace, its fulfillment in God"
Thus do we discover the truest dimension of human existence, that to which the Servant of God Luigi Giussani continually referred: life as vocation. Everything, every relationship, every joy, as well as every difficulty, finds its ultimate meaning in being an opportunity for a relationship with the Infinite, a voice of God that continually calls to us and invites us to lift our gaze, to find the complete fulfillment of our humanity in belonging to Him. “You have made us for Yourself – wrote St. Augustine – and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (Confessions I, 1,1). We need not be afraid of what God asks of us, through the circumstance of our lives, were it even the dedication of ourselves in a special form of following and imitating Christ, in the priesthood or religious life. The Lord, in calling some to live totally for Him, calls everyone to recognize the essence of our own nature as human beings: we are made for the Infinite. And God has our happiness at heart, and our complete human fulfillment. Let us ask, then, to enter in and to remain in the gaze of faith that characterized the saints, in order that we might be able to discover the good seed that the Lord scatters along the path of our lives and joyfully adhere to our vocation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dominicana: J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P., “Theological Method and the Magisterium of the Church,” Dominicana 54:2 (2011), 51-61.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tired of the Conflict Between Catholics

Spiritual Consumers by Matthew Cantirino

One of my mom's friends had recounted to my mother how a priest had admonished people for being picky and choosey as to which Masses they attended.

It can be rather easy to do some amateur "psychologizing" about groups of people, in order to draw some sort of moral point. I've done it as well. But it has to be couched in terms of hypotheticals; and is it really that helpful for the intended audience? It can easily degenerate into condemnation of the "other." But it does get boring, whether it be from the right or the left, when there is a failure to grasp reality and the nature of the problem. Are both just different forms of Americanism? Do older, "left-leaning" Catholics really think institutionally? Or is their comfort level first and foremost?

Mr. Cantirino writes:
This is anecdotal, but virtually all of the youngish (say, under-35) orthodox Catholics I know, for example, don’t attend Mass at their local parish. They’ll travel long distances–sometimes, clear across cities–to certain “special” chapels or “traditionalist parishes” or order houses where a dynamic priest keeps them coming back. In many ways this is highly commendable: That someone is willing to take significant additional time out of their day to commute to church signifies a deep commitment to the liturgy and an impressive grasp of its importance. And it’s a sympathetic dilemma: Certainly, young people don’t do this to spite their canon-law pastor, but they do often find the services on offer in their bailiwick in some sense impoverished, or the preaching theologically wayward, or the architecture grossly midcentury, and for the good of their spiritual health decide they can and must find a home elsewhere.

But should this be the end goal? Might it be fruitful to encourage a way of thinking that emphasizes not only the individual’s conscious embrace of orthodoxy (key though individual response has always been in Catholicism), but which also sees this commitment as eventually settling, becoming the norm, and integrating itself into the existing framework rather than subsisting outside of or in a subculture of it? This, then, would seem to be an emerging challenge for the “movement” back towards orthodoxy. We’ve become, maybe by accident, accustomed to a sort of “remnant” mindset rather than an institutional one, to prophetic denunciations from without but with not enough “working within.” So perhaps it’s time for “self-conscious” young Catholics to start seeing themselves less as dissidents and “choosers” and more simply as part of the future of the Church, and begin working out what that means.

Traddies and conservative Catholics may put a premium on orthodoxy and good liturgical praxis and sometimes, their ability to live as a community suffers since they have to travel over long distances to their church. Many may be ignorant that this is not the idea, but even if they are aware of the problem, when looking to the good of their family, a strong parish life may not compare. Sure, some may have a mindset which is opposed to an awareness of communion with those who are ignorant. But should the burden be on them or on the priests and ultimately the bishop of the local Church?

Commonweal and the like belong to the past, even if that crowd may feel good at the moment because a SWPL Democrat occupies the White House, because it is tied to a dying, unsustainable political economy. How many go beyond an easy, painless progressivism to make real sacrifices for others that is in accordance with the order of charity (rather than following their own notions of victim classes and the "preferential option")?
Not a “Swerve,” but a “Slouch” by Anthony Esolen
Modern atheists may think they’ve found an ally in ancient Epicureanism. They’re quite mistaken.

Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 20 August

On the Love of God

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fr. Augustine's Book Talk Rescheduled

I saw Fr. Augustine today and asked him to sign some copies of his book. I mentioned the book talk at the DSPT and he responded that it had been rescheduled for January, so that Regis Martin could participate. (? I think I am remembering the correct name.)

Fr. Augustine may also be giving a talk at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi in October, but that has not been finalized yet.