Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Four Principles and Four Values of Catholic Social Doctrine

THE BUDDHIST HAS HIS four noble truths, and the eightfold path. The Muslim has his five pillars. The Catholic has the Ten Commandments, the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Corporal and Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy, the Seven Virtues, the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Four Last Things.

The Church's Social Doctrine has Four Permanent Principles and Four Fundamental Values.

The Four Permanent Principles of Catholic Social Doctrine are: (1) the principle of the dignity of the human person; (2) the principle of the common good; (3) the principle of subsidiarity; and (4) the principle of solidarity. (Compendium, No. 160) These principles, known by both faith and reason, are permanent, general, fundamental, and of universal applicability. They "concern the reality of society in its entirety: from close and immediate relationships to those mediated by politics, economics, and law." They govern relations between persons, peoples, and nations. (Compendium, No. 161)

The Four Fundamental Values are: (1) Truth, (2) Freedom, (3) Justice, and (4) Love.

The Four Principles serve as a tool to criticize current social relations, but they also serve a constructive function, in that they "indicate the paths possible for building a good, authentic, and renewed social life." They are principles that are to mold our conscience, and they therefore "have a profoundly moral significance" in reference to the "ultimate and organizational foundations of life in society." (Compendium, No. 163) The Four Principles serve to define orthodoxy and orthopraxis, right thinking and right acting, in social life. Ultimately, they are at the heart of authentic freedom.

We have treated the issue of human dignity in a prior post,* but we might summarize this notion. All men are made in the image of likeness of God, and all men are called to Redemption through the God who assumed human nature, who lived among us as a man, founded his Church, who suffered, died on the Cross, and rose again. This common call to live in communion with God is the source of man's dignity: his personhood. This dignity of human persons transcends all accidental qualities of men which show themselves in race, culture, or nationality. It encompasses within its both man (vir) and woman (mulier): in other words, all mankind. It is not a matter of function, but a matter of being, and so even those human who suffer from mental or physical disabilities enjoy this dignity. Since we all share in this dignity, man has a certain unity and equality that derives from that shared dignity.

The principle of the common good is a necessary by-product of the equal dignity which unites all men. It "stems from the dignity, unity, and equality of all people." (Community, No. 164) The principle of the common good is taken to mean the totality of social conditions which allow persons, both individually and in groups of various kinds, to flourish or, as we Americans might say it, to achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Perhaps controversially in countries that absolutize the principle of private ownership, the principle of the common good is an intrinsic limitation on the right to private property, since the principle of the common good implies the principle of the universal destination of goods and a universal right to use the goods of the earth. (Compendium, No. 171-72) To a certain extent, the common good as it relates to the the goods of the earth, is colored by a "preferential option for the poor," which is interpreted to include, the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised.

The principle of subsidiarity is the third great principle of Catholic Social Doctrine. The human person, and all his myriad relations and networks of civil society--family, groups and associations of all kinds that involve economic, social, cultural, recreational, professional, political, and religious in nature--pre-exist the State. They must therefore be protected, encouraged, and their relative independence respected. The relationship between higher associations (e.g., the central government) and the lower associations (e.g., the municipal government) must be one of help (subsidium) and not one of absorption, intermeddling, substitution, or destruction.

The last great principle of Catholic Social Doctrine is the principle of solidarity. Solidarity is the term that is given to the reality of the interdependence of all mankind. It is the sense that "we're in this together," and it is a principle that is found at various levels of association. Marriage, families, neighborhoods, cities, counties, state, nations, the world . . . each have their sense of solidarity, this sense of "we're in this together."

The Four Principles of Catholic Social Doctrine and the Four Fundamental Values work together. They are a relation of "reciprocity, in that social values are an expression of appreciation to be attributed to those specific aspects of moral good that these principles foster, serving as a point of reference for the proper structuring and ordered leading of life in society." (Compendium, No. 197). All men, individually and in society, are called to put into practice and foster the values of truth, of freedom, of justice, and of love.

Therefore, social relations must not be built upon falsehood, must respect freedom, must not be unjust, nor trespass against love.
*See The Equal Dignity of All Persons.

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