Dear People Whom God Loves,
The justice teaching of our church goes back a long way and is currently confirmed by modern papal teachings. When we look at how St. Thomas Aquinas defined justice in the 13th century we can see why our church’s position today does not endorse either socialism or capitalism. Thomas calls justice the “desposition, in virtue of which, a man has the firm and constant will to render to everyone his due”.
The classical doctrine of justice divides it into three types.
1. Commutative justice, in the relations of individuals with each other.
2. Distributive justice, in the relations of society (family, state, Church) with its individual members whereby they are given a share in the common good.
3. Legal justice, in the individual’s relations to society whereby for his part he subordinates himself to the common good.
I think that in our country we are largely in agreement about commutative justice. I see our disagreements being created in the latter two. In our country socialism often sounds bad and capitalism often sounds good. I see that as an unnuanced judgment. Either one when carried too far is bad. In my judgment our church’s teaching sees both the good and the dangers of both.
It does this by valuing both the individual good and the common good. The danger of socialism is not to value sufficiently the individual good. The danger of capitalism is not to value sufficiently the common good. We humans are both individual beings and social beings. We are called to honor both. In the political world the devil is in the details. However, I think that if we honored both values we would not get locked in our narrow perspective and then be able to get something done.
Smile, God loves you,