Article four: The social order
I. The centrality of the Human Person
118. The cardinal point of this teaching is that individual men are necessarily the foundation, cause, and end of all social institu- tions. We are referring to human beings, insofar as they are social by nature, and raised to an order of existence that transcends and sub- dues nature.
(Mater et Magistra, n. 219)
119. In the economic and social realms, too, the dignity and complete vocation of the human person and the welfare of society as a whole are to be respected and promoted. For man is the source, the center, and the purpose of all economic and social life.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 63)
120. Man, in keeping with the openness of his spirit within and also with the many diverse needs of his body and his existence in time, writes this personal history of his through numerous bonds, contacts, situations, and social structures linking him with other men, beginning to do so from the first moment of his existence on earth, from the moment of his conception and birth. Man, in the full truth of his existence, of his personal being and also his community and social being, in the sphere of his own family, in the sphere of society and very diverse contexts, in the sphere of his own nation or people (perhaps still only that of his clan or his tribe), and in the sphere of the whole of mankind—this man is the primary route the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission: he is the primary and funda- mental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption.
(Redemptor Hominis, n. 14)
121. The foundation and goal of the social order is the human person, as a subject of inalienable rights which are not conferred from the outside but which arise from the person’s very nature…. Likewise, the person is not merely the subject of social, cultural, and historical conditioning, for it is proper to man, who has a spiritual soul, to tend towards a goal that transcends the changing conditions of his existence. No human power may obstruct the realization of man as a person.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1988, n. 1)
II. Society founded on Truth
122. A civic society is to be considered well-ordered, beneficial and in keeping with human dignity if it is grounded on truth. As the Apostle Paul exhorts us: “Away with falsehood then; let everyone speak out the truth to his neighbor; membership of the body binds us to one another” (Eph 4:25). This will be accomplished when each one duly recognizes both his rights and his obligations towards others.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 35)
123. The Supreme good and the moral good meet in truth: the truth of God, the Creator and Redeemer, and the truth of man, cre- ated and redeemed by him. Only upon this truth is it possible to construct a renewed society and to solve the complex and weighty problems affecting it, above all, the problem of overcoming the vari- ous forms of totalitarianism, so as to make way for the authentic freedom of the person. “Totalitarianism arises out of a denial of truth in the objective sense. If there is no transcendent truth, in obedience to which man achieves his full identity, then there is no sure prin- ciple for guaranteeing just relations between people. Their self-interest as a class, group or nation would inevitably set them in opposition to one another” (CA, n. 44).
(Veritatis Splendor, n. 99)
124. First among the rules governing the relations between States is that of truth. This calls, above all, for the elimination of every trace of racism, and the consequent recognition of the principle that all States are by nature equal in dignity. Each of them accordingly is vested with the right to existence, to self-development, to the means fitting to its attainment, and to be the one primarily responsible for this self-development. Add to that the right of each to its good name, and to the respect which is its due.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 86)
125. In the light of faith, solidarity seeks to go beyond itself, to take on the specifically Christian dimension of total gratuity, for- giveness and reconciliation. One’s neighbor is then not only a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father, re- deemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit. One’s neighbor must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her; and for that person’s sake one must be ready for sacrifice, even the ultimate one: to lay down one’s life for the brethren (cf. 1 Jn 3:16).
At that point, awareness of the common fatherhood of God, of the brotherhood of all in Christ—‘children in the Son’—and of the presence and life-giving action of the Holy Spirit will bring to our vision of the world a new criterion for interpreting it. Beyond human and natural bonds, already so close and strong, there is discerned in the light of faith a new model of the unity of the human race, which must ultimately inspire our solidarity. This supreme model of unity, which is a reflection of the intimate life of God, one God in three Persons, is what we Christians mean by the word ‘communion.’ This specifically Christian communion, jealously preserved, extended and enriched with the Lord’s help, is the soul of the Church’s vocation to be a ‘sacrament,’ in the sense already indicated.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 40)
126. [Solidarity], then, is 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. This determination is based on the solid conviction that what is hin- dering full development is that desire for profit and that thirst for power already mentioned. These attitudes and ‘structures of sin’ are only conquered—presupposing the help of divine grace—by a dia- metrically opposed attitude: a commitment to the good of one’s neigh- bor 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).
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 38)
127. In the spirit of solidarity and with the instruments of dia- logue we will learn: respect for every human person; respect for the true values and cultures of others; respect for the legitmate autonomy and self-determination of others; to look beyond ourselves in order to understand and support the good of others; to contribute to our own resources in social solidarity for the development and growth that come from equity and justice; to build structures that will ensure that social solidarity and dialogue are permanent features of the world we live in.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1986, n. 5)
128. The same duty of solidarity that rests on individuals exists also for nations: “Advanced nations have a very heavy obligation to help the developing peoples” (GS, n. 86). It is necessary to put this teaching of the Council into effect. Although it is normal that a na- tion should be the first to benefit from the gifts that Providence has bestowed on it as the fruit of the labors of its people, still no country can claim on that account to keep its wealth for itself alone. Every nation must produce more and better quality goods to give to all its inhabitants a truly human standard of living, and also to contribute to the common development of the human race. Given the increasing needs of the under-developed countries, it should be considered quite normal for an advanced country to devote a part of its production to meet their needs, and to train teachers, engineers, technicians and scholars prepared to put their knowledge and their skill at the dis- posal of less fortunate peoples.
(Populorum Progressio, n. 48)
129. In order to overcome today’s widespread individualistic mentality, what is required is a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity, beginning in the family with the mutual support of hus- band and wife and the care which the different generations give to one another. In this sense the family, too, can be called a community of work and solidarity.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 49)
130. We are all united in this progress toward God. We have desired to remind all men how crucial is the present moment, how urgent the work to be done. The hour for action has now sounded. At stake are the survival of so many innocent children and, for so many families overcome by misery, the access to conditions fit for human beings; at stake are the peace of the world and the future of civiliza- tion. It is time for all men and all peoples to face up to their respon- sibilities.
(Populorum Progressio, n. 80)
131. The exercise of solidarity within each society is valid when its members recognize one another as persons. Those who are more influential, because they have a greater share of goods and common services, should feel responsible for the weaker and be ready to share with them all they possess. Those who are weaker, for their part, in the same spirit of solidarity, should not adopt a purely passive atti- tude or one that is destructive of the social fabric, but, while claim- ing their legitimate rights, should do what they can for the good of all. The intermediate groups, in their turn, should not selfishly insist on their particular interests, but respect the interests of others.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 39)
132. In this way what we nowadays call the principle of solidar- ity, the validity of which both in the internal order of each nation and in the international order I have discussed in the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (cf. SRS, nn. 38–40), is clearly seen to be one of the fundamental principles of the Christian view of social and political organization. This principle is frequently stated by Pope Leo XIII, who uses the term ‘friendship,’ a concept already found in Greek philosophy. Pope Pius XI refers to it with the equally meaningful term ‘social charity.’ Pope Paul VI, expanding the concept to cover the many modern aspects of the social question, speaks of a ‘civili- zation of love’ (cf. RN, n. 25; QA, n. 3; Paul VI, Homily for the Closing of the Holy Year, 1975).
(Centesimus Annus, n. 10)
133. Solidarity helps us to see the ‘other’—whether a person, people or nation—not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbor,’ a ‘helper’ (cf. Gn 2:18–20) to be made a sharer, on a par with ourselves, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 39)
134. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activi- ties of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good” (CA, n. 48; cf. QA, nn. 184–186). God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the func- tions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence. The principle of subsidiarity is op- posed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and so- cieties. It tends toward the establishment of true international order. (CCC, nn. 1883–1885)
135. Moreover, just as it is necessary in each state that relations which the public authority has with its citizens, families and intermediate associations be controlled and regulated by the prin- ciple of subsidiarity, it is equally necessary that the relationships which exist between the worldwide public authority and the public authori- ties of individual nations be governed by the same principle. This means that the worldwide public authority must tackle and solve prob- lems of an economic, social, political or cultural character which are posed by the universal common good. For, because of the vastness, complexity and urgency of those problems, the public authorities of the individual states are not in a position to tackle them with any hope of a positive solution. The worldwide public authority is not intended to limit the sphere of action of the public authority of the individual state, much less to take its place. On the contrary, its pur- pose is to create, on a world basis, an environment in which the pub- lic authorities of each state, its citizens and intermediate associa- tions, can carry out their tasks, fulfill their duties and exercise their rights with greater security.
(Pacem in Terris, nn. 140–141)
136. At the outset it should be affirmed that in economic affairs first place is to be given to the private initiative of individual men who, either working by themselves, or with others in one fashion or another, pursue their common interests.
(Mater et Magistra, n. 51)
137. Nevertheless, it remains true that precautionary activities of public authorities in the economic field, although widespread and penetrating, should be such that they not only avoid restricting the freedom of private citizens, but also increase it, so long as the basic rights of each individual person are preserved inviolate. Included among these is the right and duty of each individual normally to provide the necessities of life for himself and his dependents. This implies that whatever be the economic system, it allow and facilitate for every individual the opportunity to engage in productive activity.
(Mater et Magistra, n. 55)
138. In this regard, Rerum Novarum points the way to just re- forms which can restore dignity to work as the free activity of man. These reforms imply that society and the State will both assume re- sponsibility, especially for protecting the worker from the nightmare of unemployment. Historically, this has happened in two converging ways: either through economic policies aimed at ensuring balanced growth and full employment, or through unemployment insurance and retraining programs capable of ensuring a smooth transfer of workers from crisis sectors to those in expansion…. The State must contribute to the achievement of these goals both directly and indi- rectly. Indirectly and according to the principle of subsidiarity, by creating favorable conditions for the free exercise of economic ac- tivity, which will lead to abundant opportunities for employment and sources of wealth. Directly and according to the principle of solidar- ity, by defending the weakest, by placing certain limits on the au- tonomy of the parties who determine working conditions, and by ensuring in every case the necessary minimum support for the unem- ployed worker.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 15)
139. The two aspirations, to equality and to participation, seek to promote a democratic type of society. Various models are pro- posed, some are tried out, none of them gives complete satisfaction, and the search goes on between ideological and pragmatic tenden- cies. The Christian has the duty to take part in this search and in the organization and life of political society. As a social being, man builds his destiny within a series of particular groupings which demand, as their completion and as a necessary condition for their development, a vaster society, one of a universal character, the political society. All particular activity must be placed within that wider society, and thereby it takes on the dimension of the common good.
(Octogesima Adveniens, n. 24)
140. It is essential for every human being to have a sense of participating, of being a part of the decisions and endeavors that shape the destiny of the world. Violence and injustice have often in the past found their root causes in people’s sense of being deprived of the right to shape their own lives. Future violence and injustice cannot be avoided when the basic right to participate in the choices of soci- ety is denied.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1985, n. 9)
141. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow funda- mental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not allow those bur- dened by such needs to perish. It is also necessary to help these needy people to acquire expertise, to enter the circle of exchange, and to develop their skills in order to make the best use of their capacities and resources.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 34)
142. It is in full accord with human nature that juridical–politi- cal structures should, with ever better success and without any dis- crimination, afford all their citizens the chance to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political com- munity, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders…. Authorities must beware of hindering family, social, or cultural groups, as well as intermedi- ate bodies and institutions. They must not deprive them of their own lawful and effective activity, but should rather strive to promote them willingly and in an orderly fashion. For their part, citizens both as individuals and in association should be on guard against granting government too much authority and inappropriately seeking from it excessive conveniences and advantages, with a consequent weaken- ing of the sense of responsibility on the part of individuals, families, and social groups.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 75)
143. All citizens have the right to participate in the life of their community: this is a conviction which is generally shared today. But this right means nothing when the democratic process breaks down because of corruption and favoritism, which not only obstruct legiti- mate sharing in the exercise of power but also prevent people from benefitting equally from community assets and services, to which everyone has a right.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1999, n. 6)
144. While scientific and technological progress continues to overturn man’s surrounding, his patterns of knowledge, work, con- sumption and relationships, two aspirations persistently make them- selves felt in these new contexts, and they grow stronger to the extent that he becomes better informed and better educated: the aspiration to equality and the aspiration to participation, two forms of man’s dignity and freedom.
(Octogesima Adveniens, n. 22)
145. The dignity of the human person involves the right to take an active part in public affairs and to contribute one’s part to the common good of the citizens. For, as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, pointed out: “The human individual, far from be- ing an object and, as it were, a merely passive element in the social order, is, in fact, must be and must continue to be, its subject, its foundation and its end” (Christmas Eve Radio Message, 1944).
(Pacem in Terris, n. 26)
VI. Alienation and marginalization
146. Marxism criticized capitalist bourgeois societies, blaming them for the commercialization and alienation of human existence. This rebuke is of course based on a mistaken and inadequate idea of alienation, derived solely from the sphere of relationships of produc- tion and ownership, that is, giving them a materialistic foundation and moreover denying the legitimacy and positive value of market relationships even in their own sphere…. [N]evertheless, alienation— and the loss of the authentic meaning of life—is a reality in Western societies too. This happens in consumerism, when people are en- snared in a web of false and superficial gratifications rather than be- ing helped to experience their personhood in an authentic and con- crete way. Alienation is found also in work, when it is organized so as to ensure maximum returns and profits with no concern whether the worker, through his own labor, grows or diminishes as a person, either through increased sharing in a genuinely supportive commu- nity or through increased isolation in a maze of relationships marked by destructive competitiveness and estrangement, in which he is con- sidered only a means to an end. The concept of alienation needs to be led back to the Christian vision of reality, by recognizing in alien- ation a reversal of means and ends. When man does not recognize in himself and in others the value and grandeur of the human person, he effectively deprives himself of the possibility of benefiting from his humanity and of entering into that relationship of solidarity and com- munion with others for which God created him.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 41)
147. The man of today seems ever to be under threat from what he produces, that is to say from the result of the work of his hands and, even more so, of the work of his intellect and the tendencies of his will. All too soon, and often in an unforeseeable way, what this manifold activity of man yields is not only subjected to alienation, in the sense that it is simply taken away from the person who produces it, but rather it turns against man himself, at least in part through the indirect consequences of its effects returning on himself.
(Redemptor Hominis, n. 15)
148. The question of morality, to which Christ provides the an- swer, cannot prescind from the issue of freedom. Indeed, it considers that issue central, for there can be no morality without freedom: “It is only in freedom that man can turn to what is good” (GS, n. 17). But what sort of freedom? The Council, considering our contempo- raries who “highly regard” freedom and “assiduously pursue” it, but who “often cultivate it in wrong ways as a license to do anything they please, even evil,” speaks of “genuine” freedom: “Genuine free- dom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image in man. For God willed to leave man ‘in the power of his own counsel’ (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he would seek his Creator of his own accord and would freely arrive at full and blessed perfection by cleaving to God” (GS, n. 17). Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obliga- tion, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, n. 2).
(Veritatis Splendor, n. 34)
149. Not only is it wrong from the ethical point of view to disre- gard human nature, which is made for freedom, but in practice it is impossible to do so. Where society is so organized as to reduce arbi- trarily or even suppress the sphere in which freedom is legitimately exercised, the result is that the life of society becomes progressively disorganized and goes into decline.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 25)
150. Freedom is the measure of man’s dignity and greatness. Living the freedom sought by individuals and peoples is a great chal- lenge to man’s spiritual growth and to the moral vitality of nations.
(Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 1995, n. 2)
151. Freedom is not simply the absence of tyranny or oppres- sion. Nor is freedom a license to do whatever we like. Freedom has an inner ‘logic’ which distinguishes it and ennobles it: freedom is ordered to the truth, and is fulfilled in man’s quest for truth and in man’s living in the truth. Detached from the truth about the human person, freedom deteriorates into license in the lives of individuals, and, in political life, it becomes the caprice of the most powerful and the arrogance of power.
(Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Or- ganization, 1995, n. 12)
VII. Social freedom
152. Since it is not an ideology, the Christian faith does not presume to imprison changing socio-political realities in a rigid schema, and it recognizes that human life is realized in history in conditions that are diverse and imperfect. Furthermore, in constantly reaffirming the transcendent dignity of the person, the Church’s method is always that of respect for freedom.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 46)
153. It has also to be borne in mind that relations between States should be based on freedom, that is to say, that no country may un- justly oppress others or unduly meddle in their affairs. On the con- trary, all should help to develop in others a sense of responsibility, a spirit of enterprise, and an earnest desire to be the first to promote their own advancement in every field.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 120)
154. Consequently, the inseparable connection between truth and freedom—which expresses the essential bond between God’s wisdom and will—is extremely significant for the life of persons in the socio-economic and socio-political sphere.
(Veritatis Splendor, n. 99)
155. There are many ties between the message of salvation and human culture. For God, revealing Himself to His people to the ex- tent of a full manifestation of Himself in His Incarnate Son, has spo- ken according to the culture proper to each epoch. Likewise, the Church, living in various circumstances in the course of time, has used the discoveries of different cultures so that in her preaching she might spread and explain the message of Christ to all nations, that she might examine it and more deeply understand it, that she might give it better expression in liturgical celebration and in the varied life of the community of the faithful.
But at the same time, the Church, sent to all peoples of every time and place, is not bound exclusively and indissolubly to any race or nation, any particular way of life or any customary way of life recent or ancient. Faithful to her own tradition and at the same time conscious of her universal mission, she can enter into communion with the various civilizations, to their enrichment and the enrich- ment of the Church herself.
The Gospel of Christ constantly renews the life and culture of fallen man; it combats and removes the errors and evils resulting from the permanent allurement of sin. It never eases to purify and elevate the morality of peoples. By riches coming from above, it makes fruitful, as it were from within, the spiritual qualities and traditions of every people and of every age. It strengthens, perfects and re- stores them in Christ. Thus the Church, in the very fulfillment of her own function, stimulates and advances human and civic culture; by her action, also by her liturgy, she leads them toward interior liberty.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 58)
156. All human activity takes place within a culture and inter- acts with culture. For an adequate formation of a culture, the involvement of the whole man is required, whereby he exercises his creativity, intelligence, and knowledge of the world and of people. Furthermore, he displays his capacity for self-control, personal sac- rifice, solidarity and readiness to promote the common good. Thus, the first and most important task is accomplished within man’s heart. The way in which he is involved in building his own future depends on the understanding he has of himself and of his own destiny.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 51)
157. Rich or poor, each country possesses a civilization handed down by their ancestors: institutions called for by life in this world, and higher manifestations of the life of the spirit, manifestations of an artistic, intellectual and religious character. When the latter pos- sess true human values, it would be grave error to sacrifice them to the former. A people that would act in this way would thereby lose the best of its patrimony; in order to live, it would be sacrificing its reasons for living. Christ’s teaching also applies to people: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he suffers the loss of his soul?” (Mt 16:26)
(Populorum Progressio, n. 40)
158. Culture is the vital space within which the human person comes face to face with the Gospel. Just as culture is the result of life and activity of a human group, so the persons belonging to that group are shaped to a large extent by the culture in which they live. As persons and society change, so too does the culture change with them. As a culture is transformed, so too are persons and societies transformed by it. From this perspective, it becomes clearer why evangelization and inculturation are naturally and intimately related to each other. The Gospel and evangelization are certainly not identical with culture; they are independent of it. Yet the Kingdom of God comes to people who are profoundly linked to culture, and the building of the Kingdom cannot avoid borrowing elements of human cultures.
(Ecclesia in Asia, n. 21)
159. As she carries out missionary activity among nations, the Church encounters different cultures and becomes involved in the process of inculturation…. She transmits to them her own values, at the same time taking the good elements that already exist in them and renewing them from within.
(Redemptoris Missio, n. 52)
160. …[I]t is not possible to understand man on the basis of economics alone, nor to define him simply on the basis of class mem- bership. Man is understood in a more complete way when he is situ- ated within the sphere of culture through his language, history, and the position he takes towards the fundamental events of life, such as birth, love, work and death. At the heart of every culture lies the attitude man takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God. Different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence. When this question is elimi- nated, the culture and moral life of nations are corrupted.
(Centesimus Annus, n. 24)
IX. Genuine human development
161. Increased possession is not the ultimate goal of nations nor of individuals. All growth is ambivalent. It is essential if man is to develop as a man, but in a way it imprisons man if he considers it the supreme good, and it restricts his vision. Then we see hearts harden and minds close, and men no longer gather together in friendship but out of self-interest, which soon leads to oppositions and disunity. The exclusive pursuit of possessions thus becomes an obstacle to individual fulfillment and to man’s true greatness. Both for nations and for individual men, avarice is the most evident form of moral underdevelopment.
(Populorum Progressio, n. 19)
162. In brief, modern underdevelopment is not only economic but also cultural, political and simply human, as was indicated twenty years ago by the Encyclical Populorum Progressio. Hence at this point we have to ask ourselves if the sad reality of today might not be, at least in part, the result of a too narrow idea of development, that is, a mainly economic one.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 15)
163. Integral human development—the development of every person and of the whole person, especially of the poorest and most neglected in the community—is at the very heart of evangelization. Between evangelization and human development—development and liberation—there are, in fact, profound links. These include links of an anthropological order, because man who is to be evangelized is not an abstract being but is subject to social and economic questions.
(Ecclesia in Africa, n. 68)
164. The development of technology and the development of contemporary civilization, which is marked by the ascendancy of technology, demand a proportional development of morals and eth- ics. For the present, this last development seems unfortunately to be always left behind. Accordingly, in spite of the marvel of this progress, in which it is difficult not to see also authentic signs of man’s great- ness, signs that in their creative seeds were revealed to us in the pages of the book of Genesis, as early as where it describes man’s creation, this progress cannot fail to give rise to disquiet on many counts. The first reason for disquiet concerns the essential and fundamental ques- tion: Does this progress, which has man for its author and promoter, make human life on earth ‘more human’ in every aspect of that life? Does it make it more ‘worthy of man’? There can be no doubt that in various aspects it does. But the question keeps coming back with regard to what is most essential—whether in the context of this progress, man, as man, is becoming truly better, that is to say, more mature spiritually, more aware of the dignity of his humanity, more responsible, more open to others, especially the neediest and the weak- est, and readier to give and to aid all.
(Redemptor Hominis, n. 15)
165. At the same time, however, the ‘economic’ concept itself, linked to the word ‘development,’ has entered into crisis. In fact, there is a better understanding today that the mere accumulation of goods and services, even for the benefit of the majority, is not enough for the realization of human happiness. Nor, in consequence, does the availability of the many real benefits provided in recent times by science and technology, including the computer sciences, bring free- dom from slavery. On the contrary, the experience of recent years shows that unless all the considerable body of resources and poten- tial at man’s disposal is guided by a moral understanding and by an orientation towards the true good of the human race, it easily turns against man to oppress him.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 28)
166. If further development calls for the work of more and more technicians, even more necessary is the deep thought and reflection of wise men in search of a new humanism which will enable modern man to find himself anew by embracing the higher values of love and friendship, of prayer and contemplation. This is what will permit the fullness of authentic development, a development which is for each and all the transition from less human conditions to those which are more human.
(Populorum Progressio, n. 20)
X. The common good
167. By the common good is to be understood “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as indi- viduals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (GS, n. 26). The common good concerns the life of all. It calls for pru- dence 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 per- son. 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” (GS, n. 26).
Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbi- trate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.
Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should en- sure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its mem- bers. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense.
(CCC, nn. 1906–1909)
168. Every day, human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result, the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increas- ingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. 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….
This social order requires constant improvement. It must be founded on truth, built on justice and animated by love; in freedom it should grow every day toward a more humane balance. An improve- ment in attitudes and abundant changes in society will have to take place if these objectives are to be gained. God’s Spirit, Who with a marvelous providence directs the unfolding of time and renews the face of the earth, is not absent from this development. The ferment of the Gospel, too, has aroused and continues to arouse in man’s heart the irresistible requirements of his dignity.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 26)
169. Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take mea- sures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, “authority breaks down com- pletely and results in shameful abuse” (PT, n. 51).
(CCC, n. 1903)
170. Moreover, if we carefully consider the essential nature of the common good on the one hand, and the nature and function of public authority on the other, everyone sees that there is an intrinsic connection between the two. And, indeed, just as the moral order needs public authority to promote the common good in civil society, it likewise demands that public authority actually be able to attain it. From this it follows that the governmental institutions, on which public authority depends and through which it functions and pursues its end, should be provided with such structure and efficacy that they can lead to the common good by ways and methods which are suit- ably adapted to various contingencies.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 136)
171. Considering the common good on the national level, the following points are relevant and should not be overlooked: to pro- vide employment for as many workers as possible; to take care lest privileged groups arise even among the workers themselves; to maintain a balance between wages and prices; to make accessible the goods and services for a better life to as many persons as possible; either to eliminate or to keep within bounds the inequalities that exist between different sectors of the economy—that is, between agriculture, in- dustry and services; to balance properly any increases in output with advances in services provided to citizens, especially by public au- thority; to adjust, as far as possible, the means of production to the progress of science and technology; finally, to ensure that the advan- tages of a more humane way of existence not merely subserve the present generation but have regard for future generations as well.
As regards the common good of human society as a whole, the following conditions should be fulfilled: that the competitive striv- ing of peoples to increase output be free of bad faith; that harmony in economic affairs and a friendly and beneficial cooperation be fos- tered; and, finally, that effective aid be given in developing the eco- nomically underdeveloped nations.
(Mater et Magistra, nn. 79–80)
172. It is agreed that in our time the common good is chiefly guaranteed when personal rights and duties are maintained. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are acknowledged, respected, coordinated with other rights, defended and promoted, so that in this way each one may more eas- ily carry out his duties. For to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the fulfillment of his duties, should be the chief duty of every public authority.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 60)
173. That these desired objectives be more readily obtained, it is necessary that public authorities have a correct understanding of the common good. This embraces the sum total of those conditions of social living, whereby men are enabled more fully and more readily to achieve their own perfection. Hence, we regard it as necessary that the various intermediary bodies and the numerous social undertakings wherein an expanded social structure primarily finds expression, be ruled by their own laws, and as the common good itself progresses, pursue this objective in a spirit of sincere concord among themselves. Nor is it less necessary that the above mentioned groups present the form and substance of a true community. This they will do, only if individual members are considered and treated as persons, and are encouraged to participate in the affairs of the group.
Accordingly, as relationships multiply between men, binding them more closely together, commonwealths will more readily and appropriately order their affairs to the extent these two factors are kept in balance: (1) the freedom of individual citizens and groups of citizens to act autonomously, while cooperating one with the other; (2) the activity of the State whereby the undertakings of private indi- viduals and groups are suitably regulated and fostered.
(Mater et Magistra, nn. 65–66)
174. It is also demanded by the common good that civil authori- ties should make earnest efforts to bring about a situation in which individual citizens can easily exercise their rights and fulfill their duties as well. For experience has taught us that, unless these au- thorities take suitable action with regard to economic, political, and cultural matters, inequalities between the citizens tend to become more and more widespread, especially in the modern world, and as a result human rights are rendered totally ineffective and the fulfill- ment of duties is compromised.
(Pacem in Terris, n. 63)
XI. “Social sin”
175. Moreover, one must denounce the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipu- lated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuat- ing the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest. These mechanisms, which are maneuvered directly or indirectly by the more developed countries, by their very functioning favor the interests of the people manipulating them. But in the end they suffocate or con- dition the economies of the less developed countries. Later on, these mechanisms will have to be subjected to a careful analysis under the ethical-moral aspect.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 16)
176. To speak of ‘social sin’ means in the first place to recog- nize that, by virtue of human solidarity, which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others…. Some sins, however, by their very matter con- stitute a direct attack on one’s neighbor and, more exactly, in the language of the Gospel, against one’s brother or sister. They are an offense against God because they are offenses against one’s neigh- bor. These sins are usually called ‘social sins,’ and this is the second meaning of the term…. Likewise, the term ‘social’ applies to every sin against justice in interpersonal relationships, committed either by the individual against the community or by the community against the individual…. Also social is every sin against the common good and its exigencies in relation to the whole broad spectrum of the rights and duties of citizens.
(Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, n. 16)
177. If the present situation can be attributed to difficulties of various kinds, it is not out of place to speak of structures of sin which, as I stated in my Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, are rooted in personal sin, and thus always linked to the concrete acts of individuals who introduce these structures, consolidate them and make them difficult to remove. And thus they grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins, and so influence people’s behavior.
(Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, n. 36)