Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gaudium et Spes 69

Our look at Gaudium et Spes continues, heavily fortified by Scripture, the saints, and a few popes: God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should be in abundance for all in like manner.(Cf. Pius XII, encyclical Sertum Laetitiae: AAS 31 (1939), p. 642, John XXIII, consistorial allocution: AAS 52 (1960), pp. 5-11; John XXIII, encyclical letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), p. 411.) Whatever the forms of property may be, as adapted to the legitimate institutions of peoples, according to diverse and changeable circumstances, attention must always be paid to this universal destination of earthly goods. In using them, therefore, (human beings) should regard the external things that (they) legitimately possess not only as (their) own but also as common in the sense that they should be able to benefit not only (individuals) but also others.(Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica: II-II, q. 32, a. 5 ad 2; Ibid. q. 66, a. 2: cf. explanation in Leo XIII, encyclical letter Rerum Novarum: AAS 23 (1890-91) p. 651; cf. also Pius XII allocution of June 1, 1941: AAS 33 (1941), p. 199; Pius XII, birthday radio address 1954: AAS 47 (1955), p. 27.) On the other hand, the right of having a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one's family belongs to everyone. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church held this opinion, teaching that (people) are obliged to come to the relief of the poor and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods.(10. Cf. St. Basil, Hom. in illud Lucae "Destruam horrea mea," n. 2 (PG 31, 263); Lactantius, Divinarum institutionum, lib. V. on justice (PL 6, 565 B); St. Augustine, In Ioann. Ev. tr. 50, n. 6 (PL 35, 1760); St. Augustine, Enarratio in Ps. CXLVII, 12 (PL 37, 192); St. Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Ev., hom. 20 (PL 76, 1165); St. Gregory the Great, Regulae Pastoralis liber, pars III c. 21 (PL 77 87); St. Bonaventure, In III Sent. d. 33, dub. 1 (ed Quacracchi, III, 728); St. Bonaventure, In IV Sent. d. 15, p. II, a. a q. 1 (ed. cit. IV, 371 b ); q. de superfluo (ms. Assisi Bibl. Comun. 186, ff. 112a-113a); St. Albert the Great, In III Sent., d. 33, a.3, sol. 1 (ed. Borgnet XXVIII, 611); Id. In IV Sent. d. 15, a. 1 (ed. cit. XXIX, 494-497). As for the determination of what is superfluous in our day and age, cf. John XXIII, radio-television message of Sept. 11, 1962: AAS 54 (1962) p. 682: "The obligation of every(one), the urgent obligation of the Christian (person), is to reckon what is superfluous by the measure of the needs of others, and to see to it that the administration and the distribution of created goods serve the common good.") If one is in extreme necessity, (that person) has the right to procure ... what (is needed) out of the riches of others.(In that case, the old principle holds true: "In extreme necessity all goods are common, that is, all goods are to be shared." On the other hand, for the order, extension, and manner by which the principle is appplied in the proposed text, besides the modern authors: cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica II-II, q. 66, a. 7. obviously, for the correct application of the principle, all the conditions that are morally required must be met.) Since there are so many people prostrate with hunger in the world, this sacred council urges all, both individuals and governments, to remember the aphorism of the Fathers, "Feed the (person) dying of hunger, because if you have not fed (that person), you have killed (that person),"(Cf. Gratiam, Decretum, C. 21, dist. LXXXVI (ed. Friedberg I, 302). This axiom is also found already in PL 54, 591 A (cf. in Antonianum 27 (1952) 349-366)i.) and really to share and employ their earthly goods, according to the ability of each, especially by supporting individuals or peoples with the aid by which they may be able to help and develop themselves.

These principles are well-founded in Scripture and tradition. The Christian would insist that our possessions are not totally our own; that we and these possessions together have a call to labor on behalf of the gospel. That labor would include an option, preferential, if you will, to serve the poor.

In economically less advanced societies the common destination of earthly goods is partly satisfied by means of the customs and traditions proper to the community, by which the absolutely necessary things are furnished to each member. An effort must be made, however, to avoid regarding certain customs as altogether unchangeable, if they no longer answer the new needs of this age. On the other hand, imprudent action should not be taken against respectable customs which, provided they are suitably adapted to present-day circumstances, do not cease to be very useful. Similarly, in highly developed nations a body of social institutions dealing with protection and security can, for its own part, bring to reality the common destination of earthly goods. Family and social services, especially those that provide for culture and education, should be further promoted. When all these things are being organized, vigilance is necessary to present the citizens from being led into a certain inactivity vis-a-vis society or from rejecting the burden of taking up office or from refusing to serve.

No support for the charity-alone approach. The big question for the US today, as I would see it, is how to move people off dependency while at the same time protect those who are substantially endangered. One might argue that bureaucracy moves against a preferred trend, but church agencies are not immune to the fumbling of bureaucracy.

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