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.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jacques Maritain and Natural Law: Rights of Labor, Part 2

WORK MUST BE MORAL, and so the moral life governs the life of work. Ultimately, therefore, the "political sphere," whose principal organ is the State, has competence over the common good, and thus "possesses authority over the economic sphere." Maritain, 91.

The political life and organization of the State affect the common life of human persons and their direction towards a common task, which assumes the strength, peace and harmony of the social body, and which must aim at the conquest of freedom and the establishment of a brotherly city as its supreme ideal; they are of an order superior to the life and organization of economic groups.

Maritain, 91. The common good is, of course, much broader than merely the economic well-being of the human person. Man is more than homo economicus. The common good of man must consider moral, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. So neither moneyed interests, nor "trade-unions, economic institutions, vocational bodies," should direct the political life of a nation, although it goes without saying that they ought to "play a consultative role." Maritain, 92.

There is a danger of economic totalitarianism, socialism, and this is a danger, an unwelcome development that Maritain seeks to avoid. Socialism as it has come down to us is a "totalitarian principle," that entails perversion. Maritain seeks to avoid "the methods of dialectic conflict and paralyzing irresponsibility" of the past. Maritain, 92, 93. Instead of these ways of doing things, Maritain advocates a "pluralist principle." Maritain, 92. The fact is that we need each other and we need each other's ideas and views. What ought to inform the public authority should be as broad, as expansive as possible, so that public authority is not aligned with the interests of any one group, whether they be capital or labor, or anythings else:
[W]e may count upon [the pluralist principle] for a reasonable solution of the school problem and the problem of the harmonious dwelling together of various spiritual families, with their specific moral conceptions, in the bosom of the temporal community. In the economic order it lays the foundation not only for the autonomy of groups and associations . . . but also for the diversity of regime of organization which is suitable to the various typical structures of economic life, in particular, to the structure of industrial economy and to those of agricultural economy.
Maritain, 92.

Maritain closes his reflections on the rights of the working person with a reflection on bondage of one man to another, a bondage which may be legal, economic, or moral. Maritain advances the notion of a fundamental, that is natural and absolute, right of liberty:

[O]ne of the fundamental rights . . . [is] the right of every human being to personal liberty, or the right to direct his own life as his own master, responsible before God and the law of the community. Such a right is a natural right, but it concerns so profoundly the radical aspirations of the person and the dynamism which they entail that all of human history would not be too long for it to develop completely.

Maritain, 93.

This natural right, of course, "implies the condemnation of slavery and forced labor." Maritain, 93. Awareness of this natural right, and the condemnation of slavery and forced labor it implied, was, of course, slow in developing:
[T]he greatest thinkers of Antiquity had not dreamed of condemning slavery, and the medieval theologians considered only slavery in its absolute form as opposed to natural law, where the body and the life of the slave and his primary human rights, like the freedom to marry, are at the mercy of the master.
Maritain, 93. The reasons behind mankind's inability to perceive this arose from the material and technical conditions and "obstacles suffered by spiritual energies in collectively life," which "grievously, and in the manner of a punishment, thwart the normal development of the fundamental right in question." Maritain, 93. In short, it was the result of blindness associated with the Fall of man, with his original sin, which impeded him from seeing the truth.

Of course, bondage and slavery can be more than chattel slavery or and indentured servitude. Bondage or servitude is not always as stark as that. The chains may not be of iron, but of another element, even intangible, such as those involved with serfdom or with the proletariat, "and still other forms." The natural right in question opposes any "form of authority of one man over another in which the one who is directed is not directed towards the common good by the official charged with this duty, but is at the service of the particular good of the one who is doing the directing." Maritain, 93-94. This sort of more subtle servitude may be detected by the fact that the relationship results in "alienating [one person's] activity and giving over to another the benefit (the fruit of his activity) which should rightly be his." Maritain, 94. In other words, "becoming to that extent the organ of another person." Maritain, 94.

With regard to natural law, absolute bondage thus appears as opposed to natural law considered in its primary requirements, and the other more or less attenuated forms of servitude as opposed to natural law considered in its more or less secondary requirements or yearnings, and in the dynamism which it enfolds. This dynamism will be fully gratified only when every form of servitude shall have disappeared--under the "new heavens" of the resurrection.

Maritain, 94. This, of course, means mankind will be working on this for a long, long time, "as human history approaches its term," that is, until Christ's second coming and the end of human history as we know it.

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