Sunday, May 13, 2012

Individuals, the Common Good, and All That

One thing I really like about the Easter season is renewing our baptismal promises at mass.

Actually, "we" don't renew "our" promises: it's more 'I renew my baptismal promises,' together with other folks in this parish. There's a difference.

This is what I promised:
  • Do you reject Satan?
    • I do.
  • And all his works?
    • I do.
  • And all his empty promises?
    • I do.
  • Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
    • I do.
  • Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
    • I do.
  • Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
    • I do.
  • This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    • Amen.
    (source: "Pastoral Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Sydney on the Occasion of the XXIII World Youth Day," p. 139)
    (April 8, 2012)
The last part, starting with "This is our faith," isn't what we say in this parish: and that's another topic.

Getting Lost - or Hiding in - a Crowd

I spent my teens in the '60s, when quite a few folks, adolescents included, were concerned about getting lost in the crowd: 'losing their individuality.'

Standing out in a crowd was never an issue for me: it just happened. There was the time when I'd been assigned the role of announcer for some high school event. I'd been told to not clown around, to be serious. Understandably, given the reputation I'd earned by then.

I had no problem with being serious, and fully intended to 'play it straight.' Then, when someone handed me the cut-open envelope with the name inside, I held it by its edges. It wouldn't open, so I blew a puff of air to widen the opening: and sailed the envelope almost two dozen feet.

Like I said, standing out as an individual was never an issue for me. Blending in? That I wasn't so good at.

Getting lost in a crowd, becoming just one more piece of humanity jostling along a sidewalk, may not be a goal for many folks.

On the other hand, hiding in a crowd can be quite convenient. It's a way of distributing individual responsibility: or maybe shifting the whole load onto the group. "Convenient," maybe, but not necessarily "good." And that's yet another topic.

Lockstep Conformity

Like I've said before, I can be nostalgic: but I don't want the 'good old days' to come back. I've got a pretty good memory. Among other things, I really don't want to see any of the 'my way or the highway' attitudes again. I've posted about various flavors of lockstep conformity and the Gray Flannel Suit before. (December 7, 2010)

A Nonconformist: (not) Like Everybody Else

Back in my youth, I was a bit of a non-conformist, but not in the conventional way. Some of my peers were expressing their individuality by not cutting their hair and wearing jeans. Just like everybody else who was defying convention.

("All together now: Say 'I - am - an - individual.' ")

I let my sideburns grow; wore pants that were a little too short, with white socks; and was seldom seen without a pocket protector and an array of writing instruments. I've been over this before. (August 26, 2010, September 19, 2009) I've mentioned nerdiness, too, on occasion. (November 30, 2010)

Individuality: Catholic Style

I converted to Catholicism because it made sense, and because I found out who currently holds the authority my Lord gave Peter. (Matthew 16:13-19)

I like being Catholic in part because there's room for someone like me. Although individual Catholics can be as narrow-minded as anyone else, the Church says that we're not all alike: and that this is a good thing. (August 26, 2010)

"Not Just Something, But Someone"

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is pretty definite about whether or not individual human beings are important:
"Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone...."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 357)
Like I've said before, Catholic teachings and science get along just fine. But the Church's insistence that all human beings are people with intrinsic worth, not commodities, means that something can be 'scientific,' but not right:
"...'Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity'85 which are unique and unrepeatable."
(Catechism, 2275)

Individuals and the Common Good

As far as I can tell, the Catholic Church says that since I'm a human being: I'm an individual. I'm not just like everybody else, and I'm not supposed to be.

That's not the same as saying that what I want and what I need is all that matters. Here's where it starts getting complicated. Or interesting, depending on your - what else? - individual point of view:
"In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in turn can be defined only in reference to the human person:
"Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already justified, but gather instead to seek the common good together.25"
(Catechism, 1905)
"Common good" is the name of a political party in the United Kingdom; a "non-partisan" advocacy group from Los Angeles; and, according to Princton's WordNet, "the good of a community."

Here's what "common good," Catholic style, means:
"By common good is to be understood 'the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.'26 The common good concerns the life of all. It calls for prudence from each, and even more from those who exercise the office of authority. It consists of three essential elements:

"First, the common good presupposes respect for the person as such. In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. Society should permit each of its members to fulfill his vocation. In particular, the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation, such as 'the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard . . . privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion.'27"
(Catechism, 1906-1907)
Working for "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily?" Sounds reasonable to me.

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.