Doesn’t “Common Good” include souls?

One of the three basic principles of Catholic social teaching (along with Natural Law and subsidiarity) is the Common Good (solidarity), often contrasted in political discourse with “American individualism” or “Protestant individualism.” In practice, these three general principles tend to come in conflict, and even the Popes suggest they are difficult to reconcile, when, really, they’re not.

I once argued with a Franciscan University of Steubenville ethicist, for example, who argued that common good trumps individual conscience, and that’s why in his view vaccinations from aborted fetal tissue should be mandatory.

However, ever since that discussion, and the more refined my understanding of Catholic Social Teaching has become, I’m left with one big problem with “Common Good” as a standard of its own.

Natural Law is pretty straightforward.

Subsidiarity is pretty straightforward *except* that progressive Catholics (TM) tend to argue that they are supporting subsidiarity by their totalitarian positions because they think it is impossible to do most things at the local level, and federal or global control is the only way to effectively do them.

However, Common Good is very open ended. For progressive Catholics (TM), common good is a purely material function and might as well be Common Greed. Again, in the view of my aforementioned neoconservative interlocutor, a collaborator of Greg Popcak, physical health is more important than spiritual health.

Yet, as Francis Cardinal George, OMI, said, “Abortion destroys the common good.” There is no common good without basic morality. If basic morality and the family, which the principles of Natural Law and subsidiarity safeguard, are damaged, then so is common good. Of course, there is a great deal of truth to how economic evils lead to moral evils, and I’m not disputing that here.

What I am disputing is how any Catholic can really talk about Common Good and not acknowledge that the Common Good is meaningless without mass conversion. The primary good for any soul is salvation. Isn’t there an inherent conflict, then, between the Church’s emphasis on “Common Good” and the post-Vatican II emphasis on Freedom of Religion over the old model of the Catholic state?

Can we honestly talk about Common Good without talking about the necessity of converting people to Catholicism?
Can we honestly talk about Common Good without acknowleding that the state should play a role in at least preventing moral evil if not encouraging virtue and the practice of religion?
(That is *not* to say that the state should legally force people to be Catholic or punish people for adopting other religions, but a model like Malta or the Philippines, where Catholicism is legally favored, and Natural Law is upheld by civil law).


One response to “Doesn’t “Common Good” include souls?

  1. I have to say that my concept of the common good MUST include souls as well as material wealth- but I’d also argue that the seven mortal sins destroy souls as much as not going to church does- and so to design an economic system that rewards the seven mortal sins, EVEN if you are working for conversion of souls, will defeat your purpose.

    One cannot believe in atheist libertarianism and Catholicism simultaneously; one cannot separate economic ethical teaching from the rest of moral teaching and think that one is being moral.

    The state cannot play a role in preventing moral evil (the seven mortal sins) without rewarding moral virtue (the seven holy virtues); and I personally think (unlike many conservatives) that income tax policy is an opportunity to *directly* influence morality without religion.

    Unfortunately, the real problem in the United States isn’t Vatican II and it’s emphasis on eccumenicism. That is a reaction, an effect that was preceeded by a cause. The *real* problem is the Bavarian Illuminati freemasonic ideal of religious liberty to begin with- eccumenicism is just a reaction to the first amendment of the US Constitution (and other laws like it)- the Church saying to the world “Ok, if you want religious liberty, we’ll support you in that fight, but here are the rules”.

    Distributism is impossible without *local* mass conversions; without everybody understanding the good that can be achieved by limiting to local purchases, invarably the economy of scale mass production offers will win out and put small, more distributed ownership networks out of business.

    I’m not sure it entirely requires conversion to Catholicism or Christianity however. Islam too has a strong distributist ethic; as does Buddhism and most tribal religions including Judaism.

    But yes, mass conversions and single-culture towns are required for distributism to work.

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