The Common Good, pt 3: Catholics pay heed



God, Who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all men should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood. For having been created in the image of God,,, #24

Gaudium et Spes,Vatican ll

The  late William Sloane Coffin had a pungent observation:

In times of oppression, if you don’t translate choices of faith into political choices, you run the danger of washing your hands, like Pilate.

In a democracy this means that one must vote even though it is a minimalist act. Our whole lives are political in the Greek sense of that word—they impinge on the way we construct a society, what  we wish to achieve in the broader community. In this sense the USA is a failed state. As of now it has left 25 million human beings without  health care. This betrayal of fellow humans, citizens of the wealthiest country in the world costs thousands of lives yearly. Why in a supposedly religious country is there such a cavalier attitude to our contemporaries? The answer is people get enmeshed in organizations whose purposes are to look after themselves and their bank balances to the exclusion of the greater good. Every few years they vote their selfish interests, the common good be damned. In America these are legion, the most notable those who work for private medical outfits, the HMOS, medicine for profit people. Are these people evil? No but they are short-sighted.In the USA they are largely Republican, many Catholic. They consistently vote for a party at war with the common good. As for health care (a pillar of the ministry of Jesus) they reject the wisdom of a single payer system. They vote for a bloated military budget which robs the poor, they vote for the 1% over the 99%, they are bullish on guns.These are family values?

Vatican ll’s Gaudium et Spes analyzed this:

But if by this social life the human person is greatly aided in responding to his destiny, even in its religious dimensions, it cannot be denied that men are often diverted from doing good and spurred toward and by the social circumstances in which they live and are immersed from their birth. To be sure the disturbances which so frequently occur in the social order result in part from the natural tensions of economic, political and social forms. But at a deeper level they flow from man’s pride and selfishness, which contaminate even the social sphere. When the structure of affairs is flawed by the consequences of sin, man, already born with a bent toward evil, finds there new inducements to sin, which cannot be overcome without strenuous efforts and the assistance of grace.(25)

Men are often diverted from doing good. Yes, in the advanced capitalist countries turbocapitalism overwhelms decent people. Massive indoctrination occurs daily. It is voracious, relentlessly  promoting phony needs, diverting people’s natural goodness and sociability. It breaks our solidarity with oppressed and poor people and promotes a hyper-individualist orientation.The collective is suborned and we get infected by greed. The common good suffers. People’s voting habits change as they accrue more wealth. They lose focus on the human family.


Section 26 of Gaudium et Spes states: Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family.

At the same time, however, there is a growing awareness of the exalted dignity proper to the human person, since he stands above all things, and his rights and duties are universal and inviolable. Therefore, there must be made available to all men everything necessary for leading a life truly human, such as food, clothing, and shelter; the right to choose a state of life freely and to found a family, the right to education, to employment, to a good reputation, to respect, to appropriate information, to activity in accord with the upright norm of one’s own conscience, to protection of privacy and rightful freedom even in matters religious.

This is a marvelous vision. And G and S continues:

Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity,(8) so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.

In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, “As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).(27)

This was the soaring  vision of the great Council—working toward what Jesus proclaimed as malkuta Yahweh—God’s reign—on earth as the Lord’s Prayer insists.

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

The Council ended in 1965.Turbocapitalism only accelerated. In the past 50 years we have seen the inner lives of good people colonized and often taken over by this omnivorous plague of selfishness. people are often overwhelmed by the siren call to narcissism,self-gratification.This deadly pathogen is carried by television, computers, radio and every form of social media. Gaudium et Spes was prophetic in 1965 when it reflected on the damage done to faith life:

This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age. Long since, the Prophets of the Old Testament fought vehemently against this scandal(15) and even more so did Jesus Christ Himself in the New Testament threaten it with grave punishments. (43)



1 Comment »

  1. 1
    theobloke Says:

    Some of your best writing yet on what ails the “common good”!!
    Harper’s “death by a thousand nicks” programs/cuts, etc., [Pt. 2] – – – spot on.

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