In this brief series we’ve again been looking at the issue of faith and reason. As we’ve already known, the bottom line here is that there is massive confusion today (as there has been for centuries) over some very fundamental issues. What is the role of the Church? What is the role of the State? Most immediately and importantly, what is the role of the human person?
If, however, humanity has a higher purpose, and the meaning of this life is to prepare us for being with God in the next, then the human person under God, not under Church or State, is at the center of things. It is up to each individual to become more fully human and more fully an adopted child of God.
Human beings become more fully human by acquiring and developing natural virtue, and more fully adopted children of God by acquiring and developing supernatural virtue. All virtue, both natural and supernatural, is acquired and developed by exercising rights, a right being defined as the power to do or not do some act or acts in relation to others. Rights are not, therefore, an end in and of themselves, but have a clear and definite purpose and meaning.
The ability to exercise rights requires power, power being defined as “the ability for doing.” Within the context of the common good, the institutional environment within which human beings as political animals ordinarily acquire and develop virtue, “Power,” as Daniel Webster observed, “naturally and necessarily follows property.”
Capital ownership is, therefore, in a just society a necessary adjunct to and precondition of the acquisition and development of virtue. This is why Pope Leo XIII declared “The law . . . should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.” (Rerum Novarum, § 46.)
To bring an end to “the bitter strifes of these days,” then, it is essential to correct those “false conclusions concerning divine and human things, which originated in the schools of philosophy, [that] have now crept into all the orders of the State, and have been accepted by the common consent of the masses. For, since it is in the very nature of man to follow the guide of reason in his actions, if his intellect sins at all his will soon follows; and thus it happens that false opinions, whose seat is in the understanding, influence human actions and pervert them.” (Æterni Patris, § 2.)
In common with other members of the core group of the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ), then, I believe it would be of great benefit to everyone, not just the Catholic Church, if the teaching authority of the Catholic Church would investigate and study the principles of economic and social justice that constitute the theoretical foundation of the Just Third Way and, if deemed consistent with the natural law and compatible with the Magisterium of the Church, promulgate them.