THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Source of Power


Whether carrying out individual or social acts of virtue, the ordinary means of economically empowering persons both as individuals and as members of groups is private property in capital.  Recognizing equal access to private property in productive capital as a universal human right is a crucial difference between economic personalism and both capitalism and socialism. (Laborem Exercens, §§ 14-15.)


As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, the “gift of self” has two aspects, one individual (acts that affect individuals directly), and one social (acts that affect institutions directly, and individuals indirectly).  The key work in the concept of gift is “act” — as in Pope John Paul II’s reference to “the acting person.”

Acting or doing requires power; “power” is defined as “the ability for doing” . . . and personal power ordinarily comes from private property in capital.  That is why capitalism and socialism don’t measure up to the minimum requirements for respecting the dignity of the human person under God in true economic democracy:

·      In capitalism, ownership of capital is concentrated in a relatively tiny elite.  This limits the ability of persons to relate to others in society as persons of equal dignity.

·      In socialism, the collective owns or controls capital.  This abolishes or controls the ability of persons to participate in society.

·      In economic personalism, widespread capital ownership links every human being to the common good by securing all other rights and their status as free persons.

Thus, economic democracy provides the material foundation of political democracy.  By enabling all persons to meet their most basic human needs through their own efforts, widespread capital ownership also provides the opportunity and means for each person to become virtuous, thereby becoming more fully human — the goal of personalism.


Wojtyła stressed the fact that personalism recognizes a radical distinction between persons and things, the latter category consisting of other beings and non-persons. (Wojtyła, “On the Dignity of the Human Person,” Person and Community, op. cit., 179.) This is important, because the distinction between persons and things opposes what may be one of the most serious errors of the modern age, and one that has inhibited or prevented many people from understanding Catholic social teaching.  That is the failure to distinguish between actual human beings as persons, and collective humanity or “the People,” which is an abstraction — a thing.

At the same time, Wojtyła’s Thomistic personalism does not contradict or present an alternative to Catholic social teaching, especially that of Leo XIII and Pius XI.  Instead, Wojtyła’s thought reaffirms the truth of natural law and thus of Catholic social teaching.  His presumably innovative implementation of the reforms of Vatican II are a textbook example of the techniques and goals of Pius XI’s Catholic Action, the organization that pope reformed to be the primary vehicle to restructure the social order. (“Catholic Action contributes . . . . directly; by promoting and assisting all the organizations and enterprises that set out to apply Christian principles to politico-social life.” Civardi, A Manual of Catholic Action, op. cit., 33.)

Knowing what social justice actually is might help.


Wojtyła’s personalism reaffirms Catholic social teaching — and the importance of a firm grounding in natural law — by making explicit what was implied, and by providing new insights into the profundity of Catholic social thought and natural law theory.  This counters superficial and anti-personalist interpretations imposed by adherents of the new things, especially all forms of socialism.

This is particularly the case regarding the correlation of personalism’s gift of self with Pius XI’s doctrine of social virtue.  What Wojtyła called the gift or giving of one’s self is not a slogan, poetic metaphor, platitude, or — as he made clear — a way of justifying any form of socialism or collectivism.

Giving of one’s self is a key element in Wojtyła’s personalism.  It is (and can only be) the act of organizing with others to benefit the common good that is the essence of Pius XI’s social doctrine.


Using Ferree’s analysis, then, we can easily draw the now-obvious correlation between the act of social charity and the gift of self. The act of social charity is loving our institutions as we love ourselves, and our neighbor as ourselves, while recognizing their flaws and seeking their perfection.  Just as giving of one’s self to others and to the whole of the common good as an individual is the act of individual charity, giving of one’s self and to the whole of the common good in an organized manner is manifestly the act of social charity.

How the gift of self makes each of us more fully human is even more obvious once we realize the true character of social justice.  The act of social justice (as opposed to acts of individual justice) does not consist of others providing directly for our individual wants and needs.

Do you suppose it's possible they missed the point?


Neither is social justice a mandate for us to provide directly for the wants and needs of others.  Instead, the act of social justice consists of organizing and working with others to make it possible for everyone to provide for his own wants and needs through his own efforts.

This does not change in the case of dire emergencies, such as natural disasters when public relief may be essential.  As Leo XIII explained, in extreme cases the character of providing for others changes from charity to justice, (Rerum Novarum, § 22.) but it does not change from individual to social virtue.

Public relief, welfare, etc., is directed to the good of individual persons, even if numbering in the millions and carried out by the State or international agency, and only affects the common good indirectly.  Social virtue by definition is not directed to individual good, but to the common good, that is, the good of institutions, and only affects individual good indirectly.  Social justice does not consist of the direct relief to persons even in an emergency, but comes in to the picture as organized efforts to change the system to prevent the emergency from happening again.

"It's about virtue, not violence, guys."


Social justice thereby assists each person in becoming more fully human by becoming more virtuous — but only if we have first given of ourselves to others through acts of social charity and of social justice.  In Pius XI’s social doctrine this is done by organizing with others for the common good.  The goal is to remove barriers that inhibit or prevent every person from having full access to the institutions of the common good.

The question then becomes how people are to be empowered to be able to participate in the common good when it is well-structured — and it is not by having their needs taken care of by others as the Great Reset proposes.  This implies also that people must be able to organize with others to carry out acts of social justice to reform the system when it is flawed and in need of correction, not simply impose changes by government fiat and enforced coercively.

And that is what we will look at in the next posting on this subject.