Sunday, January 24, 2010

Caritas in Veritate: Charity, Justice, and the Common Good

Last time I posted about Caritas in Veritate was in August of 2009. I'd been reading Section 5, where Caritas in Veritate gets into charity and the Church's social teaching.

First, though, three words about practical charity:
  • Haiti
  • Earthquake
  • Relief
My household gave, at a second collection in today's Mass at Our Lady of the Angels church. Maybe you've donated already. In case you haven't, or want to help again, there's a list of charities in another blog's post: Back to Caritas in Veritate.

Section 6 is about justice, mostly. The common good is mentioned, but that's more a Section 7 thing. The second paragraph starts with:
"...First of all, justice. Ubi societas, ibi ius: every society draws up its own system of justice. Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is 'mine' to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is 'his', what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting...."
(Section 6)
Charity isn't justice, and justice isn't charity: but you can't have charity without justice.
"...Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity[1], and intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity or, in Paul VI's words, 'the minimum measure' of it[2], an integral part of the love 'in deed and in truth' (1 Jn 3:18), to which Saint John exhorts us. On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples...."
(Section 6)
Well, that's clear enough.

The section goes on to talk about the effort we're called to make, building an earthly "according to law and justice". Rights and duties are basics: but we're expected to have relationships of mercy and communion - with "gratuitousness". "Gratuitousness" isn't a word I run into all that much. I checked, and sure enough: "gratuitousness" means 'the state of being gratuitous'. And gratuitous means "costing nothing" or "unnecessary and unwarranted". (Princeton's WordNet)

So, we're expected to be merciful without having a reason, or expecting reward: and to give with the same conditions - or lack thereof?

I think it's more the 'not expecting a reward' part that's meant here. I've yet to run into something in Catholic teaching that's unreasonable. Difficult, yes. Unpleasant, sometimes. But not unreasonable.

Section 7 talks about the common good.
"...To love someone is to desire that person's good and to take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good...."
(Section 7)
In other words, "my end of the boat isn't sinking" isn't a valid position.

Okay, so action is called for. What are we supposed to do?
"...To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pĆ³lis, or 'city'. The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them...."
(Section 7)
In other words, "get involved?" Works for me.

So, as long as we are involved with what's going on in our own town or city, we're okay, right?

Sort of.

There's more, as usual.

"Think globally" is probably a cliche by now - with connotations of love beads and protest banners. Just the same, this is the 21st century. People get around. I live in a small town in central Minnesota, but my circle of friends and acquaintances extends around the world. So, in all probability, does yours.
"...In an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family, that is to say, the community of peoples and nations[5], in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God...."
(Section 7)
You don't have to be a dedicated secularist, or someone who's yearning for the worker's paradise, to recognize that we're all neighbors. And, act on that recognition.

Not that there's anything wrong with nations, or being a good citizen of the nation you're in. Actually, being a good citizen is a requirement. (June 9, 2009) I've no illusions about America being perfect, but on the whole I like this country - which makes being a good citizen here easier. But, easy or not: it's a requirement for a Catholic.

And, clearly, I'm also expected to be a 'good citizen' for humanity as a whole. Not all by myself, thank God.

Let's see. I've read and studied seven sections in Caritas in Veritate. There are 79 in all. I've got 72 to go.

As I've written before, this could take a while.
Links to other posts about my study of Caritas in Veritate:

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