October 1, 2012
What is Justly Mine?
Catechism Readings: Paragraphs 2401 - 2463
The Seventh Commandment: You shall not steal.
This section of the catechism explains six key points regarding ownership of material goods: Private Ownership of Goods, Respect for Persons and Their Goods, The Social Doctrine of the Church, Economic Activity and Social Justice, Justice and Solidarity Among Nations, and Love For the Poor. I admit that more than once I found myself saying “What!??” to some of the words of this section, as it seems presented from a certain point of view. But, to summarize:
“The right to private property, acquired by work or received from others by inheritance or gift, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise. 2403 In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself. The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family. 2404 Goods of production … oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number.” 2405
“The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity. 2408 Promises must be kept and contracts strictly observed to the extent that the commitments made in them are morally just. 2410 Reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner. 2412 The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason lead to the enslavement of human beings. 2414 Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation. 2415 It is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals, if it remains within reasonable limits, is morally acceptable. It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.” 2417-8
“The Church makes a moral judgment about economic and social matters when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it. 2420 The Church’s social teaching proposes principles for reflection, criteria for judgment, and guidelines for action: (i.) Any system in which social relationships are determined entirely by economic factors is contrary to the nature of the human person and his acts. (read: prostitution); (ii.) a theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable; (iii.) a system that subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production is contrary to human dignity; and (iv.) the Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with ‘communism’ or ‘socialism.’ She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of ‘capitalism’, individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives in keeping with the just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good is to be commended.” 2423-5
“Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God … hence work is a duty. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. 2427 Everyone has the right of economic initiative; everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all and to harvest the just fruits of his labor. 2429 Economic activity presupposes sure guarantees of individual freedom and private property, as well as a stable currency and efficient public services. (efficient public services??? You can presume that??) Hence, the principal task of the state is to guarantee this security. (Principal??) Another task of the state is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society.” 2431 (You can see from my comments in this section, that I was coughing loudly at these statements which put the government into private enterprise, making it a government’s responsibility. The footnote for these words in paragraph 2431 referenced the 1991 encyclical Centesimus annus. To try and understand this further, I went to that document and saw that these particular words were excised from much more detail, which was ignored, including the paragraphs noting the “malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance (Welfare) State, and the need for “the principle of subsidiarity to be respected.” Those words are a far cry from talk about the supposed efficient public services.)
“Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. Profits are necessary; they make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment. 2432 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account.” (I had a problems with these words, also, although I did not research their related papal document source. I can accept that need and contribution are one of a number of things which must be taken into account, but not that they are the sole factor, as could be read into the CCC words. If needs had to be taken into account, then the line worker who had a family of 4 would be paid more than the single line worker for the same job, and there would be no such thing as “sacrifice” in starting a company to enable it to grow to higher paying jobs --- not even by one self-employed. I don’t accept those words in isolation.)
“Recourse to a strike is morally legitimate when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit. It becomes morally unacceptable when accompanied by violence, or when objectives are included that are not directly linked to working conditions or are contrary to the common good. 2435 It is unjust not to pay the social security contributions required by legitimate authority. 2436 (Here again I had some issues of wording. Is a coercive contract by a labor union to pay no social security/pension contributions a “legitimate authority?” Is a government which gives anything and everything to people to get their votes, and then taxes to get those monies a “contribution” required by a “legitimate authority?” I think there is much open to discussion here beyond the simple words.)
“There must be solidarity among nations which are already politically independent. It is even more essential when it is a question of dismantling the ‘perverse mechanisms’ that impede the development of the less advanced countries.” 2438 (Here again I take issue with the wording of this paragraph. This sentence references the 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, paragraph 9. Reading that paragraph it notes that there are more rich countries than poor, there needs to be a solidarity among nations and peoples to distribute the goods of the earth, and “True development cannot consist in the simple accumulation of wealth and in the greater availability of goods and services, if this is gained at the expense of the development of the masses, and without due consideration for the social, cultural and spiritual dimensions of the human being.” Nowhere in that paragraph does it mention dismantling anything, nor any perverse mechanisms impeding the development of any nation. This wording is done with an agenda ---- this guy could be a U.S. news reporter.) “It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.” 2442
“Love for the poor is one of the motives for the duty of working so as to be able to give to those in need. Love for the poor is incompatible with the immoderate love of riches or their selfish use. 2444-5 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. 2447 Those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity.” 2448
“The Church contradicts those who conclude from the social obligation associated with property that there should be no private property and that everything should belong to everybody, or to the state.” YOUCAT Q427 Q. What does the Church say about democracy? A. … True democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law that recognizes the fundamental God given rights of all and defends them, if necessary, even against the will of the majority.” Q441 “In a market, products and services are exchanged for goods having the same value. In many regions of this world, however, the people are so poor that they cannot offer anything in exchange and therefore continue to be left behind. So there is a need for economic initiatives that are defined, not by the “logic of exchange,” but rather by the “logic of unconditional gift.” Q447
And with that simple and clear explanation of things we’ll this summary of the CCC on the seventh commandment. Next week is the eighth commandment, about bearing false witness. “Truth? What is truth?” We’ll find out.