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 30, 2011

Christ Working for Christ

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION WAS SOMETHING LIKE Pandora's box. With all the unquestionable increase in human economic development and the increase in wealth and efficiency in productivity and technical progress that the Industrial Revolution ushered in, came a variety of moral plagues and social evils, particularly for the factory worker, the miner, the child laborer, the family in overcrowded tenement, the disregarded poor, all of whom seemed to suffer from exploitation.

For many, these were hard times. The moneyed capitalist and the bourgeoisie who prospered from this Gospel of Wealth which dulled their appetite for the Eternal and their obligations to their fellow man seemed fat enough. But for the exploited class, it seemed like Hope remained bottled up, hidden somewhere.

Then, to make matters worse, all sorts of human devices were thought up as solutions for the moral and social problems: socialism, communism, anarchism. These seemed to pit class against class, brother against brother, and suggested injustice as an answer for injustice, two wrongs to make a right. These were Godless, materialistic recipes to counter a Godless, heartless capitalism. They were but salt in the wound of class warfare.

This Industrial Revolution and the "social question" it raised, presented the Church with a new challenge. When she saw the crowds, she had compassion on them, because they were distressed and troubled, wandering around like sheep without a shepherd. So she looked into her reservoir of knowledge to see what she could offer to alleviate the problem and counter the spurious solutions. Drawing forth from the natural law and evangelical principles, she brought forth the salve of her social doctrine.

The Church's first sally into this area was Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum, literally "Of New Things." This encyclical was, as, as the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church describes it, "a heartfelt defense to the inalienable dignity of workers," but it also stressed the "importance of the right to property, the principle of cooperation among the social classes, the rights of the weak and the poor, the obligations of workers and employers, and the right to form associations." (Compendium, No. 268)

From Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum novarum to Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in veritate, "the Church has never stopped considering the problems of workers within the context of a social question which has progressively taken on worldwide dimensions."(Compendium, No. 269)

In addressing the social questions raised by the Industrial Revolution and the economic and social changes it brought forth, the Church has had cause to reflect on the meaning of work. Work that is the every-day fact of life for man. Work from which man can derive dignity, but which may in some cases also be impersonal, tainted by injustice, the loss of freedom, and the cause of heavy toil and inhuman suffering.

The Church brings a unique personalistic vision of work, one that finds in it great dignity and great value. For the Church, work is always understood within the context of the human person. The human is never viewed as a commodity, but always as a person, one endowed with body and soul, and one called to an eternal destiny. It is from this personal vantage point that the Church understands work and its dignity.

The Church therefore sees human work from three dimensions: the objective, the subjective,and the social. The first looks first at the work and not necessarily the person doing the work. The second looks at the person doing the work and not necessarily the work done. The third looks at the social aspect of work: how it affects others.

The Church recognizes that work has an objective component. It can be seen as the "sum of activities, resources, instruments, and technologies used by men and women to produce things." The precise boundaries of works therefore changes with the times and with place.

But the Church also sees the more important subjective component of work. In this subjective sense, work is the "actus personae," an act of a person. She recognizes that "work is the activity of the human person as a dynamic being," one made in the image of God and enjoying all the dignity of that image. (Compendium, No. 270) It is this personal, subjective side of work which gives it its dignity, and "which does not allow that it be considered a simple commodity or an impersonal element of the apparatus for productivity." "The subjective dimension of work must take precedence over the objective dimension." (Compendium, No. 271)

From the subjective, personal vantage point, any materialism is excluded. "Any form of materialism or economic tenet that tries to reduce the worker to being a mere instrument of production, a simple labor force with an exclusively material value, would end up hopelessly distorting the essence of work and stripping it of its most noble and basic human finality." (Compendium, No. 271).

Human work, therefore, must recognize "human finality." It must have as its final goal, not work itself or its product, but must have its "final goal in the human person." The "end of work any work whatsoever, always remains man." "Work is for man, and not man for work." (Compendium, No. 272)

There is therefore always a personal, a spiritual part of man involved in work, and for this reason "whatever work it is that is done by man--even if the common scale of values rates it as the meanest 'service,' as the most monotonous, even the most alienating work" retains its subjective value.

Work is never not tied to others. There are invariably social aspects, social connections and interdependency tied to work. One always works with others and for others, and not only for oneself. "Work, therefore, cannot be properly evaluated if its social nature is not taken into account." (Compendium, No. 273)

Work is not an option for man. Work is "an obligation, that is to say, a duty on the part of man." (Compendium, No. 274) (quoting John Paul II, Laborem exercens, 16) In a sense, work may be seen as part of that commandment of loving one's self and loving one's neighbor as one's self. The "Creator has commanded" that man work. That command is not arbitrary, as it recognizes that work is required for a man "in order to respond to the need to maintain and develop his own humanity." Finally, work is a moral obligation "with respect to one's neighbor, which in the first place is one's family," but which may also be seen to including "the society to which one belongs, the nation of which one is son or daughter," and even "the entire human family of which one is a member." Indeed, the duty of work extends beyond our own time, since we are "heirs of the work of generations and at the same time shapers of the future of all who will live after us." (Compendium, No.274)

In trying to understand the Church's personalistic vision of work, we might invoke here the picture of the last judgment presented by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46).

At the end of time, the Lord will separate employers and employees.

And to the employers who understand the dignity of work, the Lord will say, "Come, for you provided me work." And they will respond, "Lord when did we give you work?" And the Lord will respond, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

And to the employees who understand the dignity of work, the Lord will say, "Come, for you worked for me." And these will respond, "Lord when did we work for you?" And the Lord will respond, "Truly I tell you, whatever work you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Think of how the world would differ if the employment relationships were seen as Christ employing Christ and Christ working for Christ.

I'll bet Adam Smith, James Mill, the Comte Saint-Simon, Karl Marx, and Pierre Joseph Proudhon never thought of that.

What a new thing that would be.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We are All Tentmakers: The Duty to Work and Contributive Justice

IT IS AN UNFORTUNATE REALITY that we tend to think of "social justice" only as something that relates to what people ought to get. Short shrift has been given to what people ought to give. In other words, we pay a lot of attention to distributive justice, but very little is heard about contributive justice.

No one is excused from contributing to the extent of his abilities to the greater society in which he lives. This means that we all have to work to the extent we can, first to support ourselves, next to support those that are "our own," i.e., our families and communities, and finally to support the greater common good.

In fact, as Christians we are to go beyond that and work so that we can give to the poor, to the needy in an exercise of charity. How, asks St. Basil in his commentary on his monastic rules, is one to minister to the Christ who comes in the form the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless stranger, the naked, and "Our Lords" the sick? How are we to perform the works of mercy if we have no means?

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is rather blunt about it: "No Christian, in light of the fact that he belongs to a united community, should feel that he has the right not to work and to live at the expense of others." (Compendium, No. 264) Freeloaders, who are to be distinguished from the truly needy, are anathema; they are parasitically unjust to those upon whom they rely for support.

We need to inculcate in society the spirit of St. Paul who worked (he was a tentmaker) so as not to be a burden to his congregations. He told the Ephesians that "these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions." (Acts 20:34)

While in Corinth, he stayed with the Jewish couple Aquila and Priscilla and "stayed and worked with them" mending and making tents to support himself. (Acts 18:1-3) Any other way of living--to eat food free, to fail to work "so as not to burden any of you"--St. Paul considered "disorderly" and unseemly.

He instructed the Thessalonians while among them "that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should one eat." (2 Thes. 3:10).

St. Paul had a well-developed notion of contributive justice.

Sts. Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla Making Tents in Corinth

The early Christian church anticipated the second coming of Christ (what is called the parousia) as imminent. They were taught that "the form of this world is passing away." (1 Cor. 7:31) Even so, they were expected to work to support themselves and to meet the demands of contributive justice so as to be, as St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "dependent on nobody." (1 Thes. 4:12) Not only would this comply with contributive justice, but earning money through work also allowed the Christian to supply charity to "those in need." (Eph. 4:28)

In other words, Christians were expected not only to work so as not to take from the common good and therefore act unjustly. They were expected to work so as to be able to give to the common good in charity.

Idleness was viewed with great disfavor. Witness the declamations of St. John Chrysostom against idleness:

Which is the useful horse, the pampered or the exercised? which the serviceable ship, that which sails, or that which lies idle? which the best water, the running or the stagnant? which the best iron, that which is much used, or that which does no work? does not the one shine bright as silver, while the other becomes all over rusty, useless, and even losing some of its own substance? The like happens also to the soul as the consequence of idleness: a kind of rust spreads over it, and corrodes both its brightness and everything else. How then shall one rub off this rust? With the whetstone of tribulations: so shall one make the soul useful and fit for all things.

Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, XXXV.3

In the time of the Apostles, the Graeco-Roman society--fed in large part by the institution of slavery--tended to view servile work as demeaning, inferior. Pitting themselves against the social mores of the day, the Apostles--following the example of Christ the carpenter--taught that all labor is good if done for the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31) This was not difficult for them, as the majority of them had been simple fishermen. None owned slaves. None were wealthy. None were born of royal or even noble blood.

All are called to contribute to the increase of the world. "By his work and industriousness, man--who has a share in the divine art and wisdom--makes creation, the cosmos already ordered by the Father, more beautiful. He summons the social and community energies that increase the common good, above all to the benefit of those who are neediest." (Compendium, No. 266)

And if one seeks perfection, as St. Basil told his monks, one will not work for oneself, but for others. "Human work, directed to charity as its final goal, becomes an occasion for contemplation, it becomes devout prayer, vigilantly rising towards and in anxious hope of the day that will not end." (Compendium, No. 266)

There are many Saints who gave of their property and their work to the most needy. Of the many we could cite, we might point to the banking heiress St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1988) who contributed her entire vast estate (estimated at $20 million) and selflessly dedicated her entire earthly labor for the education of the Black and Native American peoples who had been such victims of social oppression and racial injustice.

We do not all have the resources of St. Katharine Drexel. Some of us are mere tentmakers and fishermen. But whether we are poor tentmakers or wealthy banking heiresses, we have a duty in contributive justice to work toward the common good.

Indeed, as Christians, we have a duty to go beyond mere contributive justice and give of our plenty to those who are most in need. We are haunted by Christ's words: "Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me." (Matt. 25:45)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Word of God Worked: The Biblical Foundations of Work

“WORK IS NO DISGRACE; it is idleness which is a disgrace," writes the Greek poet Hesiod in his poem, "Works and Days."* Even this noble pagan sentiment fails to capture the Scriptural notion of the nobility of work and our duty to engage in it and sanctify it. Indeed, in the Scriptural view, work is a sort of imitation of God, the entire creation being seen as a workweek in which God brings forth the world out of nothing and gifts it to man so that he may exercise dominion over it and cultivate and care for it. (Gen. 1:28; 2:15; cf. Ps. 8:5-7) In Christ, work is even more ennobled, as we see God in his human nature working in the silent, hidden obscurity of Nazareth, setting for us an example of how work, even the most menial, can be the source of sanctification. In Christ, "human work becomes a service raised to the grandeur of God." (Compendium, No. 262)

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church begins its section on work with a reflection of the Biblical view of work and man's relationship to work. The message that one may take from the Compendium's understanding of the Biblical view of work is that it is a great, but relative good. "Work is part of the original state of man and precedes his fall; it is therefore not a punishment or curse." Work becomes toilsome only after the sin of Adam and Eve, after the fall. (Gen. 3:6-8; 17-19) The soil begrudges its gifts: it "becomes miserly, unrewarding, sordidly hostile." Only "by the sweat of one's brow" will man "get bread to eat." (Gen. 3:19)

The Childhood of Christ by Gerrit van Honthorst

When Christ teaches us to pray, "Give us this day, our daily bread," he is not teaching us to ask for some sort of divine welfare, a life of leisure while bread comes down from heaven as if it were manna. He is enjoining up us also the duty of work as a predicate for the gift of its fruit. "Through work," John Paul II said in his encyclical on human labor, "man must earn his daily bread." The post lapsarian suffering and toil, frustration and burden do not change our essential duty to exercise dominion over, to "cultivate and care for" creation.

Work was part of paradise. Work is part of the world which is no longer a paradise.

Work has a place of honor because it is a source of wealth, a necessary key to flourishing, to fulfillment, to happiness. It is the key to the conditions of a decent life. It is a tool against poverty and hunger. In this world--unless one lives off of the labor of another or off one's inherited or saved capital--work is what will keep body and soul together. "If any man will not work, neither let him eat." (2 Thess. 3:10)

For all its value, however, work and the wealth and money it may bring are not to be idolized. There is such a thing as idols of work, of the marketplace, and of wealth: idola laboris, idola fori, idola pecuniae. The Compendium warns us that one "must not succumb to the temptation of making an idol of work, for the ultimate and definitive meaning of life is not to be found in work." "Work is essential," it recognizes, "but it is God--and not work--who is the origin of life and the final goal of man." (Compendium, No. 257) The work week culminates in the Sabbath rest. "The memory and the experience of the Sabbath constitute a barrier against becoming slaves to work, whether voluntarily or by force, and against every kind of exploitation, hidden or evident." (Compendium, No. 258)

Indeed, the wealth that work may yield--while unquestionably a great good--may also be inordinately loved. "Man," our Lord says, "does not live by bread alone." (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4) There are things greater than wealth--justice, righteousness, and charity among them. "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord," Proverbs 15:16 says, "than great treasure and trouble with it." The same message is repeated: "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice." (Prov. 16:8) We are therefore not to be anxious for earthly goods, like the Pagans. (Matt. 6:25, 31, 34) "But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides." (Matt. 6:33)

There are few things more dangerous than wealth. We know what God has in store for the hoarder who had only his riches in mind, even if these riches were legally and justly acquired: "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you." (Luke 12:20) In the parable of Lazarus and Dives, the rich man Dives lands in Hades. (Luke 16:19-31) "I tell you the truth," Christ says, "it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." He follows it up with an image which is harrowing to a man of means: "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt. 19:23-24; Mark 10:24-25; Luke 18:24-25)

The Christian must therefore always subject himself to an examen of conscience, and he may have no better guide than Job:
Had I put my trust in gold or called fine gold my security;
Or had I rejoiced that my wealth was great,
Or that my hand had acquired abundance
. . .
This too would be a crime for condemnation,
For I should have denied God above.
(Job 31: 24-25, 28)

In his life, Jesus gives us an example of Christian work. One must remember than in all Christ's "hidden years," Jesus labored in obscurity. In fact, Jesus "'devoted most of the years of his life on earth in manual work at the carpenter's bench' in the workshop of Joseph." (Compendium, No. 259) (quoting JP II, Laborem exercens, 6) Nothing Jesus did was in vain. Nor must we think these almost thirty years of obscure labor meant nothing to Jesus or to humankind.

In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton said that there was one thing too great for God to show us when He walked upon earth, and that he "sometimes fancied that it was His mirth."

In truth there was something other than Jesus' mirth that was not shown us: the almost thirty years of obscure labor in Nazareth: God in humility, poverty, and silence--in hiding--doing "the work of human hands," the opera manuum hominum, of a poor carpenter. It was this mysterious "non-revelation" that so inspired Blessed Charles de Foucald himself to live this "hidden life" outside of Tamanrasset, among the Berber Touareg tribe, in the hostile southern Sahara.

He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, the place of the hidden life, of ordinary life, of family life, of prayer, of work, of obscurity, of silent virtues practiced with no witness other than God, his family, and his neighbors, of this holy life, humble, kindly, obscure, that place where the greater part of humans lead their lives, and where he set the example for thirty years.**

The value that Jesus ascribes to work is apparent in his parables and in his words. Useless servants are chastised for hiding talents. (Matt. 24:46) Hired laborers in the vineyard should accept their agreed wage. (Matt. 20:1-6) The laborer deserves his wages. (Luke 10:7) Servants that are faithful to their masters are held in high esteem. (Matt. 24:46) He views his entire mission as work: "My Father is working still, and I am working." (John 5:17)

"Work," reflected upon in the revelation of Jesus Christ, "represents a fundamental dimension of human existence as participation not only in the act of creation but also in that of redemption." (Compendium, No. 263) The difficulties of work can be part of that cross which, as disciples of our Lord, we are called to carry in imitation of our Lord. Our work, not through any merits of its own, but as a result of the grace of Christ, becomes "an expression of man's full humanity, in his historical condition and his eschatological orientation." (Compendium, No. 118)

*ll. 309 (ἔργον δ᾽ οὐδὲν ὄνειδος, ἀεργίη δέ τ᾽ ὄνειδος)
**Il vint à Nazareth, le lieu de la vie cachée, de la vie ordinaire, de la vie de famille, de prière, de travail, d’obscurité, de vertus silencieuses, pratiquées sans autre témoin que Dieu, ses proches, des voisins, de cette vie sainte, humble, bienfaisante, obscure, qu’est celle de la plupart des humains, et dont il donna l’exemple pendant trente ans. Charles de Foucauld, "Voyageur dans la nuit, notes de spiritualité 1888-1916", note quotidienne du 20 juin 1916, éditions Nouvelle Cité, page 208.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Family Manifesto: Families of the World Unite!

THE COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE of the Church has a sort of social manifesto for the family. The political manifesto revolves around the notions of the "social subjectivity" and the "social priority" of the family. It suggests that the family as a institution has certain "family rights." It enjoins upon societies too often structured around false notions of individualism to re-think their basic premises, and to modify their economic, political, legal, and cultural institutions to accommodate the family.

The concept of "social subjectivity" is a concept that is intended to steer us in between two social errors: radical individualism or atomism, on the one hand, and socialism or collectivism, on the other. In the former, only the individual matters, the group does not. In the other, only the group matters, the individual does not. The notion of "social subjectivism" intends to place responsibilities on individuals and recognize their intrinsic dignity, but at the same time stress that whatever we do affects others. We necessarily exercise our subjectivity within society, hence the notion of "social subjectivity."

The notion of "social subjectivity" is a notion that includes not only individuals, but also families. Hence families are not separate cells unlinked with other families. There is, in fact "demonstrations of solidarity and sharing among families themselves," which ought to extend out into "various forms of participation in social and political life." (Compendium, No. 246) The notion "social subjectivity" understands that "people must not be considered only as individuals, but also in relation to the family nucleus to which they belong, the specific values and needs of which must be taken into due account." (Compendium, No. 254)

Una Familia by Fernando Botero

The concept of the "social priority" of the family is one where civil society recognizes the "priority and 'antecedence' of the family." The family ought to be the focus of all civil society, and it "should never fail in its fundamental task of respecting and fostering the family." (Compendium, No. 252) (quoting JP II, Familiaris consortio) Therefore, economic, social, political, legal, juridical, and cultural realms will focus on the family and recognize the priority of the family. This will call for a shifting of values in societies which have--for generations--structured their institutions with an eye toward individualism.

The notion "social priority" of the family means that the family ought to be understood to have preeminent rights to social recognition. The State and all society must recognize the family, must protect, appreciate, and promote the family, understood as the "natural society founded on marriage" between one man and one woman.

There ought to be no confusion between the family and those forms of cohabitation which mock it. The family, "understood correctly," is what is to receive social priority and which has family rights. This is not true for "all other forms of cohabitation which, by their very nature, deserve neither the name nor the status of family." (Compendium, No. 253)

A family is open to other families in solidarity, keeping in mind the common good:

This is a solidarity that can take on the features of service and attention to those who live in poverty and need, to orphans, the handicapped, the sick, the elderly, to those who are in mourning, to those with doubts, to those who live in loneliness or who have been abandoned. It is a solidarity that opens itself to acceptance, to guardianship, to adoption; it is able to bring every situation of distress to the attention of institutions so that, according to their specific competence, they can intervene.

(Compendium, No. 246)

The Church calls upon families to take an active, protagonistic role in forming society itself, in inculcating society and politics with its values. "Far from being only objects of political action," the Compendium states, "families can and must become active subjects." The Church asks families to unite, to work toward seeing that "the laws and institutions of the State not only do not offend but support and positively defendant the rights and duties of the family." (Compendium, No. 247)

The Compendium issues forth a cri-de-coeur that there be a "family politics," one that is transformative of civil society, including its economic, social, juridical, and cultural aspects, so that civil society serves the family's needs. Civil society must recognize the "social priority" of the family. "To this end, family associations must be promoted and strengthened." (Compendium, No. 247) Families have the right to associate with other families and with institutions to better fulfill their purpose, to protect their rights, and to foster the goods and advance their interests.

There is a particularly significant link between family life and economic life. Indeed, in less-industrialized societies the home is the center of economic life. A vestige of this is indicated by the very word economy, which comes from the Greek oikonomia, meaning household management. Even when the household is no longer the center of economic activity, there remains a "very special relationship" between family life and work, one that ought not be give short shrift. (Compendium, No. 249)

The family is in fact a focus, "one of the most important terms of reference," when assessing economic institutions and their morality. Economic institutions that harm the family are immoral. The economy was made for the family, not the family for the economy.

In fact, the existence of the family is what justifies private property. The relationship between labor and the family "has its roots in the relation existing between the person and his right to possess the fruit of his labor." A man is due the fruits of his labor, and he uses these to support his family. By saving money and acquiring property, a family both assures its freedom and is able to insulate against need or future economic demands. Therefore, labor and property concerns "not only the individual as a singular person but also as a member of a family, understood as a 'domestic society.'" (Compendium, No. 249)

The family must not be forgotten in the economic life of a nation. Family life is not independent of economic life as if they operate in two different moral realms. True, economic life must take into account economic laws and the "broad networks of production and exchange of goods and services that involves families in continuously increasing measure." (Compendium, No. 248) But economic life cannot be limited to a one-dimensionality, to a "market mentality" alone. Rather, the economy must be "the logic of sharing and solidarity" not only among families, but also across generations. For this reason, the family "must rightfully be seen as an essential agent of economic life." (Compendium, No. 248)

Work is the engine that feeds the family: "Work is essential insofar as it represents the condition that makes it possible to establish a family, for the means by which the family is maintained are obtained through work." (Compendium, No. 249) Obviously, it is work that allows the family to supported and maintained, and this not only is a monetary sense, "since a family afflicted by unemployment runs the risk of not fully achieving its end." (Compendium, No. 249)

To nurture and protect the intrinsic relationship between work and family, the Church proposes the notion of a "family wage," which she defines as "a wage sufficient to maintain a family and allow it to live decently." (Compendium, No.250) Maintenance goes beyond subsistence, and includes a notion there ought to be an amount beyond mere subsistence so as to allow a frugal and responsible family to save money and acquire property. The ownership of property by families is a "guarantee of freedom." (Compendium, No. 250)

How the "family wage" is achieved is something open to prudential judgment. Obviously, in a healthy economy a "family wage" will be the result of private agreement between and employer and an employee. But where this is not occurring for a variety of reasons, the wage can be supplemented by subsidies, tax credits to the employee or employer which encourage higher effective wages, or other "forms of important social provisions to help bring it about." (Compendium, No. 250)

In modern industrialized societies, one confronts the problem of unremunerated work. There is work done within the family--"housekeeping" by both wives and husbands--whose worth goes unpaid and often unrecognized. One has to recognized the value of "housekeeping" as work that directly contributes to the common good because it is "a service directed and devoted to the quality of life, constitutes a type of activity that is eminently personal and personalizing." (Compendium, No. 251) This work ought to be "socially recognized and valued," and this in concrete terms, through some sort of "economic compensation in keeping with that of other types of work." (Compendium, No. 251) Again, how this is achieved is something relegated to prudential judgment.

There has to be a greater symbiosis between the economy and the family so that families do not feel that they have to avoid having children to assure economic survival. "[C]are must be taken to eliminate all obstacles that prevent a husband and wife from making free decisions concerning their procreative responsibilities and, in particular, those that do not allow women to carry out their maternal role fully." (Compendium, No. 251)

While the State and civil society have as responsibility to safeguard family values, to "promote the intimacy and harmony within families," to assure "respect for unborn life," and to provide for "the effective freedom of choice in educating children," one must also remember the principle of subsidiarity. "[N]either society nor the State may absorb, substitute, or reduce the social dimension of the family; rather, they must honor it, recognize it, respect it, and promote it according to the principle of subsidiarity." (Compendium, No. 251)

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Family as the First School

THE FAMILY IS MAN'S FIRST SCHOOL, and it is within the family where man is formed "in the fullness of his personal dignity according to all his dimensions, including the social dimension." This includes cultural, ethical, social, spiritual, and religious values. One of the things the family has as its mission is to educate. By fulfilling its mission to educate, the family plays an irreplaceable role and advances the common good of a society. (Compendium, No. 238)

It is within the family where children are raised and formed as human beings. The parental role in this human formation is governed by love, a love which places itself "at the service of children to draw forth from them ("e-ducere") the best that is in them" and which "finds its fullest expression precisely in the task of educating." (Compendium, No. 239) That is why the family may be called the "first school."

Christian parents have a double duty. They must not see to the education of their children in natural virtues, in an authentic humanism. For the Christian, the family is not only the "first school," it is also a "garden" or a "first seminary" "in which the seeds of vocation, which God sows generously, are able to blossom and grow to full maturity."*

The parental duty to educate children comes tied to a right. Parents are the "original and primary" educators of their children, and their duties as well as their rights are "irreplaceable and inalienable."(Compendium, No. 239) The duty is non-delegable. The parent is ultimately responsible for his or her child. Though the parent may obtain the help of other persons or institutions, these always remain in loco parentis, in the parents' place. Importantly, this is a task shared by both parents, and so "the role of the father and that of the other are equally necessary." (Compendium, No. 242)

The State must recognize the preeminent role of the parents, particularly in the matter of religious and moral education of their young. Modernly, the State and its educational bureaucracy is invasive. It tends to be distrustful of parents, and often sets itself in opposition to the values of the parents. Particularly vicious is the relativistic and secular nature of modern education, a nature that is inspired by false educational philosophies and erroneous notions of separation of Church and State and interpretations of the Constitution's establishment clause.

Obviously, the parental charge to educate their children requires the help of civil and ecclesial authorities and scholastic institutions. But these are "agents of education," which means that they remain answerable to the parents as principals. "Parents have the right to choose the formative tools that respond to their convictions and to seek those means that will help them best to fulfill their duty as educators, in the spiritual and religious sphere also." (Compendium, No. 240)

In practice, parents are often stymied in their educational decisions. The system that is currently in place is weighted in favor of the public school, and parents are for financial reasons frequently unable to exercise real choice. The power to tax and the power to allocate tax revenue is entirely devoted to sustaining a public school system to the disadvantage of private, faith-based schools. This state of affairs is unacceptable:

"Parents should not have to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of this freedom." The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice. "Whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice. . . . The State cannot without injustice merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to its financial assistance."

(Compendium, No. 241)**

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church insists that the family's educational rights includes the notion of "integral education." This includes the mandate that all education be directed to the proper formation of the human person "in view of his final end." It requires recognition of the virtues "of justice and charity." (Compendium, 242) This means that a God-less education is unacceptable. Man's final end is God, and inculcation of the virtue of justice and charity demand a theistic philosophy of education. Secular theories of education--such as the influential progressivist, pragmatist, empiricist theories of education advanced by John Dewey (1859-1952)--are unacceptable.

In the area of sex education, the parental role is particularly to be well-guarded. Sex education is to be presented "in an orderly and progressive manner," one that takes into account the age and maturity of the child. Additionally, sex education is to include "the human and moral values connected" to human sexuality. This means that disordered, immoral expressions of human sexuality--homosexuality, contraception, premarital sex, transgenderism and so forth--will not be taught as authentically human and moral life choices. The objective moral law as it relates to human sexuality ought not to be neglected. "Parents have the obligation to inquire about the methods used for sexual education in educational institutions in order to verify that such an important and delicate topic is dealt with properly." (Compendium, No. 243)

Children, of course, have the full dignity that is theirs as human persons. That dignity is to be respected and any rights that flow from that dignity protected. For this reason, "the rights of children must be legally protected within juridical systems."

One of the most fundamental rights of a child, his "first right," is to "be born in a real family." (Compendium, No. 244)*** With the development of genetic technology and with the recognition of homosexual civil unions and same-sex marriage, this right must be enforced. Children have a right to be conceived, born, and raised in families that are normal, not families that are based upon disordered an inauthentic human values.

Because of their relative weakness and inability to defend themselves, children are too often the victims of great injustice. Their rights are not infringed merely by inadequate access to food, medical care, and education. Their rights are all-too-often violated by such scourges as child labor, child trafficking, pedophilia, child pornography, and child marriage. These wrongs call forth from the Church a most strident demand:
It is essential to engage in a battle, at the national and international levels, against the violations of the dignity of boys and girls caused by sexual exploitation, by those caught up in pedophilia, and by every kind of violence directed against these most defenseless of human creatures. These are criminal acts that must be effectively fought with adequate preventive and penal measures by the determined action of the different authorities involved.
(Compendium, No. 245)

*Message of John Paul II for the XXXI World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
**Quoting the Holy See, Charter of the Rights of the Family, art. 5b and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's instruction, Libertatis conscientia, 94.
***Quoting from JP II, Address to the Committee of European Journalist for the Rights of the Child (13 January 1979).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Family: Sanctuary of Life

THREE TO GET MARRIED was the name of a popular book written by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Marriage involves more than two parties: Man, woman, and the third party, often forgotten in what Bishop Sheen called the "dis-God-ed" generation, is God. The institution of marriage, one must not forget, is not one designed by the will of the parties. The parties enter into the institution by an act of self-donation which certainly requires free will; but they do not define the institution. The institution of marriage, like all of what is, is entirely dependent on God, the God who is the "author of marriage" and who "endowed it with various benefits and purposes."

One of the benefits of marriage is conjugal love. Here, too, God is its author and endowed it with various benefits and purposes. The benefits do not come without responsibilities. Perhaps the most apparent and perhaps the most abused modernly: "Conjugal love is by its nature open to the acceptance of life." (Compendium, No. 230)

Not only have severed the tie between sex and marriage, we have severed the tie between sex and procreation. Modern man has a penchant for separating things that ought to be together and putting things together that ought to be separate.

Holy Family by El Greco

Though sex and procreation are things human persons share with other animals, we must not be fooled that these acts are the same. Biological similarity is not ontological similarity. Whatever humans do involves persons, and this changes the entire matter. Sex involving persons is something entirely different from sex involving brute animals. One cannot forget that the procreative privilege given man is unique in that it leads to creation, together with God, of persons, that is, those with the image and likeness of God.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church speaks of the "social subjectivity of the family." By its very nature, the family is subjected to society and is therefore subject to the laws of social life. Uniquely, the family is the fundamental cell where human life is transferred from generation to generation, almost in a manner that a baton is passed from runner to runner in a relay race.

This notion of marriage and family as the social vehicles for the "handing down" or tradendere of life itself has been largely lost. "It is necessary to rediscover the social value of that portion of the common good inherent in each new human being." (Compendium, No. 230)

Every human life generated within the family which travels through time is a boon to life in common. Human life continues to burn within families from generation to generation in a "communion of generations" much like the sacred fire of Vesta burned for generations in the beautiful circular Temple of Vesta in Rome attended by its vestal virgins. (Compendium, No. 237)

In this manner every child born to a family is a benefit not only his or her mother, father, brothers or sisters, but also to the entire community into which he or she is born. The family is the temple where the flame of life is transmitted. It is a temple dedicated to the Lord of Life. The family is naturally ordered to serve what John Paul II has called the Gospel of life, evangelium vitae. Every birth ought to declare: Life is good news!

The family is therefore an intensely spiritual society, and the conjugal act that is at the heart of the marriage which is its fire has a spiritual dimension which is forgotten. "Fatherhood and motherhood represent a responsibility which is not simply physical but spiritual in nature." Through motherhood and fatherhood "there passes the genealogy of the person, which has its beginning in God and which must lead back to him." (Compendium, No. 237) (quoting JP II, Gratissimam sane, 10)

"The family contributes to the social good in an eminent fashion through responsible motherhood and fatherhood, the spouses' special participation in God's work of creation." (Compendium, No. 232) For this reason, civil society--including the State--is obliged to assure that its customs and laws support it. Most fundamentally, neither the State nor civil society may impinge or in any manner "violate the right to life, from conception to natural death." Rather, the civil society and the State are obliged to "protect and promote it." (Compendium, No. 231)

Motherhood and fatherhood must be exercised responsibly, with full consideration of a proper hierarchy of values. This means that that married couples must be open to life. Granted, motherhood and fatherhood are not exercised in a vacuum. Couples are entitled to consider the "physical, economic, psychological, and social conditions" which they confront. These present the setting in which responsible parenthood is practiced. Within these constraints or opportunities, couples confront the gamut of possibility from the "duly pondered and generous decision to have a large family" to the "decision, made for serious reasons and in respect of the moral law, to avoid for a time or even indeterminately a new birth." (Compendium, No. 232)

The practice of responsible procreation, however, must be "in respect of the moral law." Some methods of responsible parenthood are to be rejected outright.

The "first to be rejected as morally illicit are sterilization and abortion." Abortion in particular "is a horrendous crime and constitutes a particularly serious moral disorder." Abortion, being an intrinsic evil, is far from being something of right. (Compendium, No. 233)

Any form of artificial contraception is likewise to be rejected. Anyone sensitive to "a correct and integral understanding of the person and of human sexuality" will recognize at once why and how seriously artificial contraception offends against the conjugal act and the natural moral law. "Rejecting contraception and using natural methods for regulating births means choosing to base interpersonal relations between the spouses on mutual respect and total acceptances, with positive consequences also for bring about a more human order in society." (Compendium, No. 233)

The choice to use contraception is not a moral option for the couple. A fortiori, the promotion of contraception by social institutions or States is immoral. "All programs of economic assistance aimed at financing campaigns of sterilization and contraception, as well as the subordination of economic assistance to such campaigns, are to be morally condemned as affronts to the dignity of the person and the family." (Compendium, No. 234) In this matter, both the U.N. and the U.S. may be the greatest offenders.

Responsible parenthood demands the exercise not of all options, but only of moral options, and the moral decisions do not only involve the decision to prevent conception. They also involve the decision to promote conception. There is no absolute "right to children," and no desire to be a mother or a father justifies immoral means to conceive them.

Modern technology has invaded the temple of the family in a sort of abomination of desolation which separates the procreative act from the unitive act and seeks to replace or substitute for the conjugal act. The upshot is that "the child comes about more as the result of an act of technology than as the natural fruit of a human act in which there is a full and total giving of the couple." (Compendium, No. 235) The immoral techniques that are immoral are legion: the donation of sperm or ova, surrogate motherhood, homologous and heterologous artificial fertilization, and so on. While there are some techniques that "end assistance to the conjugal act or to the attainment of its effects" which are legitimate, there are a whole host of illicit and immoral techniques that ought to be rejected. The ends do not justify the means.

One must also not forget that the child has certain rights to be born or raised within the confines of a natural family. "The unborn child must be guaranteed the best possible conditions of existence through the stability of a family founded on marriage, through the complementarities of the the two persons, father and mother." (Compendium, No. 235) Efforts to provide children to persons involved in some sort of civil union other than a family founded on the marriage of one man and one woman are to be shunned.

Finally, human cloning--defined as "the reproduction of a biological entity that is genetically identical to the originating organism"--is something to be abjured. Whether for reproductive or therapeutic purposes, human cloning is "contrary to the dignity of human procreation because it takes place in total absence of an act of personal love between spouses." It is an "agamic and asexual reproduction" unworthy of man. It represents, moreover, "a form of total domination of the reproduced individual on the part of the one reproducing it." It is a form of technological tyranny. (Compendium, No. 236)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Family: The Economy of Love

THE WORD ECONOMY comes from the Greek word oikonomia, which literally means law of the house or law of the hearth. There is an oikonomia, a law of the hearth, a law of the family, and that law is a law of love. The means of exchange in the family economy is not one measured in specie, but one measured in communion.

In the oikonomia, the family "business," investments are made not in securities or manufacturing plants or in fixed assets, but in persons. "The family is present as a place where communion . . . is brought about. It is the place where an authentic community of persons develops and grows thanks to the dynamism of love . . . ." (Compendium, No. 221)

In the economy of the family, profit is of no motive, and there is not thing such as Pareto efficiency; rather, love is at the heart of it all. And love does not think in terms of efficiency or net margins. "To love means to give and to receive something which can neither be bought nor sold, but only given freely and mutually." (Compendium, No. 221) Indeed, love is profligate, wasteful, heedless of efficiency and gain.

In the family economy, men and women not exploited in self-interest, sharp practice, or fraud. No. The relationship is one as distant from mutual exploitation as can be possible, for the dignity of the other is what is at the heart of all labor and effort. It is in marriage and family that the person "is recognized, accepted, and respected in his dignity." The "only basis for value" in this family economy is the dignity of the other, and this results in "heartfelt acceptance, encounter, and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service, and deep solidarity." (Compendium, No. 221) (quoting JP II, Familiaris consortio, 43) These are the goods that are traded.

What a contradiction is the economy of the family from the economy on Wall Street or even Main Street! Indeed, the "existence of families living this way exposes the failings and contradictions of society that is for the most part, even if not exclusively, based on efficiency and functionality." (Compendium, No. 221)

If the "Occupy Wall Street" folks want to challenge Wall Street greed, be more that adult street urchins, and see a stimulus that works, then the first thing they should do, after taking showers and finding jobs, is to found families. For it is by "constructing daily a network of interpersonal relationship, both internal and external," that the family becomes "the first and irreplaceable school of social life, and example and stimulus for the broader community relationships by respect, justice, dialogue, and love." (Compendium, No. 221) (quoting Familiaris consortio, 43)

The family thrives on this reversal of values, and that is why the law of the jungle that seems to govern businessmen will cast away those things that are most treasured in the law of the hearth: The young--who are treasured for their promise and their innocence, and the elderly--who are treasured for their prior contributions and their current wisdom. The usufruct of the old never declines. The elderly in particular have something to teach us, for "they show that there are aspects of life--human, cultural, moral, and social values--which cannot be judged in terms of economic efficiency . . . ." (Compendium, No. 222)

The elderly are therefore a source of capital never exhausted:

As the Sacred Scripture says: "They still bring forth fruit in old age" (Ps. 92:15). The elderly constitute an important school of life, [one] capable of transmitting values and traditions and of fostering the growth of younger generations, who thus learn to seek not only their own good but also that of others.

(Compendium, No. 222)

At the foundation of the family is a contract. But this is no ordinary contract, one based on the consideration or peppercorn. And it is a contract without any condition, without any escape clause. It is a contract more properly called a covenant, where force majeure based upon fickle feelings is unknown, and where the only "act of God" clause is this: "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Mark 10:9)
When it is manifested as the total gift of two persons in their complementarities, love cannot be reduced to emotions or feelings, much less to sexual expression. In a society that tends more and more to relativize and trivialize the very experience of love and sexuality, exalting its fleeting aspects and obscuring its fundamental values, it is more urgent than ever to proclaim and bear witness that the truth of conjugal love and sexuality exist where there is a full and total gift of persons, with the characteristics of unity and fidelity.
(Compendium, No. 223)

In the greater economy, at least modernly, the ideal seeks to erase distinctions between man and woman: equal work, equal pay. Women and men are to be judged solely on individual merit, without regard to sexual identity. Asexual beings is the preference.

In the economy of the family, this sort of reasoning is unknown:

[T]he Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: "Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarities, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out. According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage.*

(Compendium, No. 224)

In the world at large, unions are measured in terms of convenience, not of permanency. And while it may be acceptable for the consumer to shift loyalties from Kellogg's Frosted Flakes to General Mill's Cheerios, or from the Blackberry to the iPhone, and from Sprint to Vonage, such fickleness is not part of marriage and family life. In the family, loyalties outlast even death.
The nature of conjugal love requires the stability of the married relationship and its indissolubility. The absence of these characteristics compromises the relationship of exclusive and total love that is proper to the marriage bond, bringing great pain to the children and damaging repercussions also on the fabric of society.

The stability and indissolubility of the marriage union must not be entrusted solely to the intention and effort of the individual persons involved. The responsibility for protecting and promoting the family as a fundamental natural institution, precisely in consideration of its vital and essential aspects, falls to the whole of society. The need to confer an institutional character on marriage, basing this on a public act that is socially and legally recognized, arises from the basic requirements of social nature.

The introduction of divorce into civil legislation has fueled a relativistic vision of the marriage bond and is broadly manifested as it becomes "truly a plague on society."
(Compendium, No. 225) (quoting CCC § 2385)

Marriage is a natural institution between two persons, but it is also a social institution since it has "a social dimension that is unique . . . attending as it does to caring for and educating children," with the aim of having them both self-integrated and integrated into social life. That is one reason, among others, that the law ought not to legitimize forms of relationships that are nothing but ersatz marriages or relationships that ape--even mock--marriage.

De facto unions . . . are based on a false conception of an individual's freedom to choose and on a completely privatistic vision of marriage and family. . . . . Making "de facto unions"** legally equivalent to the family would discredit the model of the family, which cannot be brought about in a precarious relationship between persons but only in a permanent union originating in marriage, that is, in a covenant between one man and one woman, founded on the mutual and free choice that entails full communion oriented towards procreation.

The fact is that there will never be anything close to approaching a just society as long as our laws do not recognize the characteristic traits of marriage: a relationship between one man and one woman that is marked by unity, indissolubility and fidelity, and fruitfulness. It must reject other false models of marriage. Similarly, it must promote the unique oikonomia of the family.

Granted, where the social evil reigns as it does in our society, the law may have to tolerate evil. In the current state of Western society, it would impossible to enforce the natural law of marriage. Yet toleration is not promotion. Positively, the law ought not to "weaken the recognition of indissoluble monogamous marriage as the only authentic form of the family." Though it may cut against the grain of specious liberty, there is such a thing as the pedagogy of the law. The law must teach of the importance of marriage and family life as understood by the Church:
It is therefore necessary that public authorities "resist these tendencies which divide society and are harmful to the dignity, security, and welfare of the citizens as individuals, and they must try to ensure that public opinion is not led to undervalue the institutional importance of marriage and the family."
(Compendium, No. 229) (quoting JP II, Familiaris consortio, 81)

Clearly, positive law alone will not cure the social ills we suffer from false concepts of marriage and family. Positive law is a slim reed, and is a poor tool to hold social corruption in check. The cure for our social disease will require the concerted action of the entirety of civil society:

It is the task of the Christian community and of all who have the good of society at heart to reaffirm that "the family constitutes, much more than a mere juridical, social, and economic unity, a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual, and religious values essential for the development and well-being of its members and of society."

(Compendium, No. 229) (quoting Holy See, Charter of the Rights of the Family (24 November 1983), Preamble, E)

*For those Catholics that are tone deaf as a result of listening to the loud music of modernity: this means no civil unions or same sex travesties of "marriage." Later, the Compendium tackles the issue head on when it refers to the demands of legal recognition of homosexual unions. Under the light of authentic anthropology, the incongruity of the demand to accord marital status to such unions is patent. (Compendium, No. 228) By nature, these unions are unopen to life, infertile per se. Moreover, the requisite complementarity is absent. And while homosexual persons (but not homosexual acts!) are to be given the respect due all persons, there is no justification for "the legitimization of behavior that is not consistent with moral law." "By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties." What God has clearly sundered, let no man join.
**A pastoral way of saying what used to be called in the days of a moral theology less pastoral but more accurate: in peccato existens, living in sin. Legally, it was called concubinage.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marriage, Natural Institution at the Foundation of the Family

IF SOCIETY IS VISUALIZED AS A BODY, then the family is its vital cell. It is the first natural society, the smallest indivisible unit of society, and is at the center of all social life. It is a marvelous society, one formed by the communion of two human persons in the bond of marriage. Marriage is a permanent union between a man and a woman, persons equal in dignity, yet each with a personhood distinct and complementary. Indeed, it is this complementarity that yields the great fruit of procreation, an office "which makes [the spouses] co-workers with the Creator." (Compendium, No. 209)

Though the family is a natural society, and though it is established through the "free choice of the spouses to unite themselves in marriage," the basic form of the family is not one that can be redefined by man. This is because marriage which is the family's foundation is an "institution that does not depend upon man but on God himself." (Compendium, No. 215) "For God himself is the author of marriage and has endowed it with various benefits and purposes." (Compendium, No.215) (quoting VII, Gaudium et spes, 48) What God has written, no man ought to unwrite or rewrite.

The institution of marriage might be defined as an "intimate partnership of life and love . . . established by the Creator and endowed with him with its own proper laws." (Compendium, No.215) (quoting VII, Gaudium et spes, 48) The institution of marriage, its form, and its laws, are therefore not something that is the result of "human conventions or legislative prescriptions." We therefore tamper with it at our peril. It is a gift given, not a gift we make for ourselves.

"Marriage is in fact endowed with its own proper, innate, and permanent characteristics." (Compendium, No. 216) While culture and societies may color marriage with different customs, at its center, marriage, which has a dignity of its own, remains unchanged. This intrinsic dignity of marriage must be respected and safeguarded. In fact, society is not at liberty "freely [to] legislate with regard to the marriage bond by which the two spouses promise each other fidelity,assistance, and acceptance of children." Rather, society is "authorized [only] to regulate its civil effects." (Compendium, No.216)

The characteristic traits of marriage are four: totality, unity, indissolubility and fidelity, and fruitfulness, but they are all interrelated.
  • totality: nothing is held back in the mutual spousal self-giving.
  • unity: the result of the spousal self-giving, which, in biblical language is expressed as the spouses become "one flesh." (Gen. 2:24)
  • indissolubility and fidelity: this characteristic comes from the total, permanent, and unique bond of marriage.
  • fruitfulness: the spouses are open to new life, as it is at the heart of their self-giving as expressed in the self-giving conjugal act. "In its 'objective' truth, marriage is ordered to the procreation and education of children." "Nonetheless, marriage was not instituted for the sole reason of procreation." It therefore retains its other characteristics even if "children, although greatly desired, do not arrive to complete conjugal life." (Compendium, No 218-19)
Any custom or law that does not respect these characteristics is unjust. Though we take them for granted, laws allowing for divorce and remarriage are therefore intrinsically unjust. They violate the dignity of marriage, its nature of indissolubility, and are a blemish and a scourge on the society which lives under them. A fortiori, laws that allow for polygamy or same-sex marriage or civil unions are even more execrable, as they make a mockery out of true marriage. Adultery is obviously a practice that is offensive to the characteristic of fidelity, and it represents a great act of injustice against the other spouse. Similarly, the use of artificial contraception violates the fundamental characteristic of marriage of fruitfulness.

Though of divine institution, marriage is something that is intimately human. Indeed, at its heart, marriage requires two reciprocal human acts. The spouses are the dispensers of their own marriage. Marriage arises "from the human act by which the partners mutually surrender themselves to each other," not for a time, but for all their lives.

This mutual giving of self-to-other self which is at the heart of conjugal love is what gives marriage its unchangeable nature. This mutual giving of self-to-other self is a "total and exclusive gift of a person to a person," a "definitive commitment expressed by mutual, irrevocable, and public consent." (Compendium, No. 215) It is not a commitment for a time, for a utilitarian purpose, for convenience. In this mutual giving self-to-other self, nothing is held back. Nothing is reserved. Because of this, marriage by its very nature has permanency.

Marriage is a natural right, a human right. For this reason, "[n]o power can abolish the natural right to marriage or modify its traits or purpose." (Compendium, No. 216)

Of course, the family, and the marital covenant which is at its heart, extends beyond procreation of children. It also includes the important function of the education of children. It is within the family, the "cradle of life and love" formed by a "communion of life and love," that children are "humanized." As children grow within the family, they are taught lessons of virtue, of wisdom, of truth and goodness, and of love as they "develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity, and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny." (Compendium, No. 212)

The family is "the first natural society," one of divine institution. As the "first natural society" of divine institution, the family has "underived rights that are proper to it" given to it by God. (Compendium, No. 211) "The family possesses inviolable rights and finds its legitimization in human nature and not in being recognized by the State. The family, then, does not exist for society or the State, but society and the State exist for the family." (Compendium, No. 214)

In a country such as ours, where we nourish an unhealthy individualism, the family and hence society tend to suffer. There is a certain danger in this overemphasis on individualism. It is important to nourish health families because they constitute a bulwark against the danger of collectivism, of an overweening State. "A society built on a family scale is the best guarantee against drifting off course into individualism or collectivism, because within the family the person is always at the center of attention as an end and never a means." (Compendium, No. 213)

The conjugal bond and family life ought therefore to be protected and promoted by society and the State. "In their relationship to the family, society and the State are seriously obligated to observe the principle of subsidiarity." (Compendium, No. 214) Of course, this means that the society and the State must not impede, frustrate, or needlessly interfere with the conjugal bond or family life. Therefore, ways of life, customs, laws, and institutions that do not support the permanency of the conjugal bond or the health of family life are to be condemned.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Caritas Christi Urget Nos

LOVE IS THE FINAL AND PERHAPS MOST identifying value of the Church's social doctrine. When Jesus gave us the new command "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34), he injected a radical new law into the world and an almost impossible standard. It is, in fact, unachievable without grace, but the grace is freely supplied to the willing, which even itself is a grace. This is a law whose perfect achievement requires a total receptivity to grace, a heroic amount of self-abnegation, and an openness to the other. It is "grace upon grace," gratia pro gratia. (cf. John 1:16)

In the Church's view, love as a value is "the highest and universal criterion of the whole of social ethics." (Compendium, No. 204) But in saying this, we need to define terms. The love we are speaking of here is not the sop love of every day talk, of "relationships of physical closeness," as the Compendium delicately puts it and which we see touted on movies and TV. Nor is the love the Church has in mind limited to namby pamby feeling, to "merely subjective aspects of action on behalf of others." This is not love as the Church understands it, love as caritas or agape.

Love as caritas or agape is the font of the other values in their fullness. "[F]rom the inner wellspring of love" the "values of truth, freedom, and justice born and grow." Love is what makes us able to see the other as a friend, as another self, so that "the needs and requirements of others seem as one's own." (Compendium, 205)

What love does to justice when they embrace is perhaps the most remarkable of all. "Love presupposes and transcends justice." This means that love builds upon justice just like grace builds upon nature. For what happens when love meets justice, look to the Cross of Christ, the Cross of Christ which is our law. Lex Christianorum crux est sancta Christi, filii Dei vivi.

Without justice, there is no love. Without justice, love does not survive. Justice is fulfilled by love, which, of course, means that justice, for all its rock-like beauty, is incomplete. In his book Doctrine of Right, which is the first part of his Metaphysics on Morals, Kant insisted that, in justice, the law of punishment was a categorical imperative which admitted of no exception. "For if justice goes, there is no longer any value in human beings living on the earth."*

Kant is entirely correct. A world without justice is, to be sure, too horrible to behold. However, a world with justice but without love is equally as bad or worse. "Human relationships," the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church tells us, "cannot be governed solely by the measure of justice." (Compendium, No. 206)

What doth the Lord require
But to do justly,
Love mercy,
Walk humbly with thy God.

(Malachi 3:3)

The prophet Malachi requires more that doing justice. He requires us to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.

Justice goes awry without love's mercy, and so justice must, "so to speak, be 'corrected' to a considerable extent by that love which, as St. Paul proclaims, 'is patient and kind' or, in other words, possesses the characteristics of that merciful love which is so much of the essence of the Gospel and Christianity." (Compendium, No. 206) (quoting JP II, Dives et misericordia, 14)

Summum ius, summa iniuria was a Roman aphorism or maxim mentioned by Cicero (De officiis, I.10.33). It is a brilliant, ambiguous saying which can be translated, "extreme justice is the greatest injustice," or an extreme justice is an extreme wrong. For John Paul II, this was a recognition by the pagans that justice requires a tempering spirit, one that is fulfilled somewhat in the human quality of mercy, but most especially in the Christian virtue of love. "The experience of the past and of our own time," John Paul II states in a section of his encyclical Dives et misericordia which is quoted by the Compendium, "demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself." (Compendium, No. 206)

Similarly, law alone--whether it is human law or divine law, supposed or real--will ever succeed in inculcating virtue in peoples. This is the great defect of Islam and the great defect of the secular Western positivistic jurisprudential philosophy. "No legislation, no system of rules or negotiation will ever succeed inpersuading men and peoples to live in unity, brotherhood, and peace; no line of reasoning will ever will ever be able to surpass the appeal of love." (Compendium, No. 207)

Here is a truly radical challenge. To take love, which, as St. Thomas teaches in his Summa Theologiae, is the "form of the virtues,"*** and to socialize it or institutionalize it into what the Compendium calls "social and political charity," is the modern challenge of our time. "'Social charity makes us love the common good.' It makes us effectively seem the good of all people, considered not only as individuals or private persons but also in the social dimension that unites them." (Compendium, No. 207)

The early Cistercian monk, Stephen Harding (1059-1134), an abbot of the monastery of Cîteaux, struggled with the governance of a monastic order that was just developing. It was his genius that brought forth a constitution that would guide the developing order and the relationship among the mother abbey and its daughter abbeys. This constitution was called the Charter of Charity or Carta Caritatis.

We need a new Carta Caritatis, a "Charter of Charity," a new world order that is founded not upon secular values, but upon Christian love, upon "social and political charity," a caritas socialis, which is nothing other than identical with solidarity, solidarietas, and which is a "direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood."†

Social and political charity is not exhausted in relationships between individuals, but spreads into the network formed by these relationships, which is precisely the social and political community; it intervenes in this context seeking the greatest good for the community in its entirety. In so many aspects the neighbor to be loved is found 'in society,' such that to love him concretely, assist him in his needs or in his indigence may mean something different than it means on the mere level of relationships between individuals. To love him on the social level means, depending upon the situation, to make use of social mediations to improve his life or to remove social factors that cause his indigence. It is undoubtedly and act of love, the work of mercy, by which one responds here and now to a real and impelling need of one's neighbor, but it is equally indispensable act of love to strive to organize and structure society so that one's neighbor will not find himself in poverty, above all when this becomes a situation within which an immense number of people and entire populations mus struggle, and when it takes on the proportion of a true worldwide social issue.

(Compendium, No. 208)

What an ideal! It is the Christian ideal. And as G. K. Chesterton reminds us in his book What's Wrong With the World, "[t]he christian ideal has not been found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."

What on heaven or on earth compels the Church to suggest this love as our ideal? What compels the Church to suggest this difficult ideal which has not been founding wanting, but difficult and left untried?

Caritas Christi urget nos. For the love of Christ urges us on. (1 Cor. 5:14)
*AA 6:331 f. (Wenn die Gerechtigkeit untergeht, so hat es keinen Werth mehr, daß Menschen auf Erden leben.)
**Other translations could be extreme legalism is extreme injustice, or the greater the justice, the greater the harm. Therefore, it can be interpreted as John Paul II interprets it in his encyclical letter
Dives et misericordia as meaning that extreme justice corrupts itself to injustice. It can also be interpreted to mean that excessive legalism leads to injustice. Finally, it can have a more positive construction that the greater the right (that is infringed), the greater the injustice that occurs. One might compare here the saying of Terence in his comedy Heautontimorumenos : "ius summum saepe summast [summa est] malitia" (the greatest law is often the same as the greatest evil).
***S. T. IIª-IIae q. 23 a. 8 co. (forma virtutum)
†Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 1939

Friday, November 18, 2011

Iustitia Christi Urget Nos

JUSTICE IS THE THIRD fundamental value of the Church's social doctrine. As a virtue, justice is classically defined, by the likes of Cicero and Justinian, as the firm resolve to render each his due: suum cuique. It is considered one of the four cardinal virtues, the others being temperance, fortitude, and prudence. In calling justice one of the values of the Church's social doctrine, the Church draws from that cardinal virtue of justice.

In discussing the value of justice, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church does not forget that there is a justice due God as well as a justice due man. Pope Leo XIII's exasperation is evident in the words of his encyclical Tametsi: "The world has heard enough of the so-called 'rights of man.' Let it hear something of the rights of God." We might paraphrase this good pope and say that the world has heard enough of the justice due man, let it hear something about the justice due God.

On second thought, however, it would be more accurate to say that modern man has neither heard enough about the justice due God nor the justice due man, especially regarding the objective component of justice due God or man. Justice, the Compendium reminds us, has both a subjective and an objective component, both of which must be present for real justice to exist.

"From a subjective point of view, justice is translated into behavior that is based on the will to recognize the other as a person." This is an internal attitude.

On the other hand, "from an objective view," justice "constitutes the decisive criteria of morality in the intersubjective and social sphere." (Compendium, No. 201) What this means is that there are objective absolute or exceptionless norms as well as prudential norms that must govern interactions between two people, a person and society, and society as a whole. Both this internal other-regarding attitude and the external conformity to objective morality must co-exist for real justice to exist.

Sincerity is not enough. Legalistic justice is not enough. There must be a joinder of internal attitude and external objectiveness. As Pope Innocent III (ca. 1160-1216) said in his On the Misery of the Human Condition [II.3]: "[S]ome seek justice with justice, others injustice with injustice; and some seek justice by unjust means, while others seek injustice by just means." We are to seek justice with justice.

There is also that sort of justice that is broadly called "social justice." The "social justice" that the Church calls for is not the adoption of some leftist agenda, as if the Church asks us to become rabble rousing followers of the Gracchi, Che Guevara, or Saul Alinsky. Neither does the Church ask us to advocate some partisan plan, left or right or in between. We are, in each and every instance, to be followers of Jesus. Christians march to the beat of a different drummer.

So the "social justice" called for by the Church is not something based upon a worldly philosophy; rather, it is "the most classical form of justice," which in today's age may actually be more rigorously revolutionary than anything dreamed of in the philosophy of Guevara and Alinsky. This classical form of justice includes those kinds of justice classified as commutative (between two persons), distributive (between the community and the individual), and legal justice (between the community and the one who has care of the community), but it goes beyond them.

Social justice is a general term which comprehends commutative, distributive, and legal justice. The notion of "social justice"--the term, by the way, coined by the Jesuit mentor of Pope Leo XIII, Luigi Taparelli (1793-1862), and based upon the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas--is "the justice that regulates social relationships according to the criterion of observance of the law." (Compendium, No. 201) Lawless justice is not justice.

There is some urgency in getting back to the classical notions of justice built upon an authentic Christian anthropology because of the modern mindset of reducing or restricting justice by basing it on other criteria such as utility, autonomy, ownership, or egalitarianism.

Particularly prevalent in our relativist, materialist and secular society is the notion that justice is not an objective reality, but a conventional reality. For conventionalists, justice is something determined by social agreement, by social contract. They mimic the teachings of the ancient philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) who stated that "absolute justice does not exist. There are only mutual agreements among men, made at various times and places, not to inflict nor allow harm." But Epicurus and his ilk are to be rejected. "Justice, in fact, is not merely a simple human convention, because it is not first determined by the law but by the profound identity of the human being."(Compendium, No. 202)

Of itself, the virtue of justice is not sufficient to structure communal life. The virtue of justice can be merciless, cold-blooded, even cruel. It tends to separate, cause rifts, and it is not adept at reconciliation. It is susceptible to capture, to corruption, to hypocrisy, resulting in many complaints such as the one the French writer Anatole France who in his book Crainquebille cynically stated through his character President Bourriche that "justice is the sanction of established injustice."**

It is this susceptibility to failure, self-interest, and blindness in a justice whose quality is--in Shakespeare's words in the Merchant of Venice--"strain'd" or restrained to justice and no other external source that can make justice "even betray itself." (Compendium, No. 174). Justice must therefore be open to, informed by, tempered through, and supplemented with such things as solidarity, love, mercy, and forgiveness, all of whose qualities are "not strain'd."

*See Doctrine 33. (Οὐκ ἦν τι καθ’ ἑαυτὸ δικαιοσύνη, ἀλλ’ ἐν ταῖς μετ’ ἀλλήλων συστροφαῖς καθ’ ὁπηλίκους δή ποτε ἀεὶ τόπους συνθήκη τις ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ βλάπτειν μηδὲ βλάπτεσθαι.)
**Anatole France,
Crainquebille (Wildside Press, 2008), 29.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Libertas Christi Urget Nos

“FOR FREEDOM, CHRIST HAS SET US FREE," the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians (Gal. 5:1): qua libertate nos Christus liberavit. Freedom is a central value of the Church's social doctrine, along with truth, justice, and love. Libertas Christi urget nos. The freedom of Christ spurs us on.

Freedom, however, is one of those words that is so easily abused in the lips of the libertine, of the moral relativist who considers himself unbounded by objective truth and objective right. "O Liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom!" exclaimed Madam Roland as she bowed before the statute of liberty in the Place de la Révolution before the guillotine severed here head from her body. "O Liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!"

Many kinds of slavery wear a false frock of freedom to cover their blemishes. But the freedom the Church has in mind is a responsible freedom, not an irresponsible freedom. As John Paul II defined it in his homily in Orioles Park at Camden Yards in October 1995, "freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."

It is not the freedom to do what we want, but the freedom to do what we ought that is the "highest sign in man of his being made in the divine image and, consequently, as a sign of the sublime dignity of every human person." (Compendium, No. 199) An irresponsible freedom detracts from the freedom of the sons of God and consequently stains--even eclipses--his dignity. "Every human person," states the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, "created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being." (Compendium, No. 199) It is important to note the conjunction: we have a natural right to be "free and responsible," not "free and irresponsible."

Freedom is not something we exercise only in regard to ourselves, solipsistically, egoistically. Such a restrictive notion of freedom is Hell. "Hell," T. S. Eliot had the loveless husband say to his unloving wife in his play "The Cocktail Party," "is oneself, Hell is alone, the other figures in it, merely projections. There is nothing to escape from and nothing to escape to. One is always alone." In such a place, there is no where to go, nothing to do. All is restraint. There is no choice. There is no freedom.

In his "Stanzas on Freedom," the American Romantic poet and abolitionist James Russell Lowell asked this question:
Is true Freedom but to break
Fetters for our own dear sake,
And, with leathern hearts, forget
That we owe mankind a debt?
Freedom is exercised not only for oneself, but with regard to others, that is to say, communally. Freedom is necessarily "exercised in relationships between human beings." For this reason, the "meaning of freedom must not be restricted, considering it from a purely individualistic perspective and reducing it to the arbitrary and uncontrolled exercise of one's own personal autonomy." (Compendium, No.199) Heaven is not alone. Heaven is communion, communion with God, and with his angels and saints. To invoke again James Russell Lowe, who answers the question he posed just earlier in the poem and quoted above:
No! true freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear,
And, with heart and hand, to be
Earnest to make others free!
The Compendium summarizes this quite nicely: "Far from being achieved in total self-sufficiency and the absence of relationships, freedom only truly exists where reciprocal bonds, governed by truth and justice, link people to one another."* (Compendium, No. 199).

While communal and not solipsistic, the cloth of freedom is not dyed one color and does not come in one size, like a Mao suit. Freedom allows for legitimate self-expression within certain moral constraints and constraints required by the requirements of civil society and life in common. Freedom's value allows for the "expression of the singularity of each human person" within the constraints of right and due order. (Compendium, No. 200)

This sort of freedom should be reflected in the civil liberties enjoyed and practiced by those in a well-ordered polity. In a well-ordered civil society, the following are the broad freedoms within which one can express his personal autonomy responsibly:
  • the freedom to fulfill his personal vocation;
  • the freedom to seek the truth and profess his religious, cultural, and political ideas;
  • the freedom to express his opinions;
  • the freedom to choose his state of life, and, as far as possible, his line of work;
  • the freedom to pursue initiatives of an economic, social, or political nature.
Naturally, these freedoms are not exercised in vacuo, in a vacuum. They are exercised in communio, within a community. For this reason, they must be exercised within the matrix of a "'strong juridical framework,' within the limits imposed by the common good and public order, and, in every case, in a manner characterized by responsibility." (Compendium, No. 200)

There are some places where freedom cannot go, where it may not enter. For there are places where one goes from freedom to unfreedom, from true freedom to what are just elusive shades and shadows of freedom. Freedom will recognize those limits, and therefore it will "refuse what is morally negative, in whatever guise it may be presented." Freedom accordingly includes the "capacity to distance oneself effectively from everything that could hinder personal, family, or social growth." (Compendium, No. 200) This suggests that freedom is found only in virtue, and never in vice. "Only a virtuous people," wrote Benjamin Franklin unerringly, "are capable of freedom."

In short, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it (§ 1731):

Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

The Compendium summarizes its view of freedom in this manner: "The fullness of freedom consists in the capacity to be in possession of oneself in view of the genuine good," which, of course ultimately is God, "within the context of the universal common good." (Compendium, No. 200)
*The Compendium quotes the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Libertas conscientia, 26.