Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is Private Property in Capital "Catholic"?, V: What is Economic Personalism?

We didn't finish yesterday's response, if only because the commentator raised another important issue. She accused us of implying that charity is not the heart of Catholic social teaching — something we never said. Justice — which necessarily implies the natural rights of life, liberty and property — is to be infused with charity, but we cannot speak of charity until and unless the demands of justice have been met — and justice is not fulfilled until all free adults share equal political status, which only capital ownership secures and protects. As Blessed John Paul II made clear in Laborem Exercens, private property in capital is the basis of a just economic order.

We suggested that if the commentator can find one of the rare copies, she should read Heinrich Rommen's The State in Catholic Thought. She might have a hard time finding one, though. Ave Maria School of Law seems to have bought up all available copies, and we can't find who owns the copyright since B. Herder went out of business.

Rommen's The Natural Law is available, however, although not quite as in-depth as it addresses only the issue of the distortions that have crept into the general understanding of the natural law. Rommen was a student of Father Heinrich Pesch, S.J., and a member of the Königswinterkreis before being forced to leave Germany to escape from the Nazis.

Rommen taught at Georgetown University, along with another member of the Königswinterkreis, Goetz Briefs, and both agreed on the importance of private property in Catholic social teaching. It is (as Rommen said) "the dowry of the personality," which, as Rommen was a lawyer, has a specific meaning, tying in directly with John Paul II's economic personalism. A "person" is that which has rights, a natural person is that which has rights by nature, that is, by the natural law.

The most important natural rights are life, liberty (freedom of association/contract) and property, meaning that we cannot exist as "persons" without these rights being secured to us. Thus, for John Paul II to speak of personalism and not be clearly understood as referring specifically to the means of securing and protecting life and liberty — private property in capital — simply does not make sense.

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