2.2.10 Four other principles of CST

Back to 2.2.9

Unit 2 Contents

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To conclude this unit’s study of the main principles of CST, we read a few pages in the Compendium on each of four others.  I give an initial definition on screen, and I hope you’ll find that the section in the Compendium corresponds with this definition and explains it more fully.

‘The universal destination of material goods’

This rather daunting phrase refers to a fairly simple idea.  Whatever people do with the material goods they have – whether investing, or using them to produce something else, or selling or buying – they should be making use of those particular goods in a way which will, even if only indirectly, serve the common good.

So the ‘universal destination of material goods’ is the criterion or standard by which we need to assess all that we do with material goods to make sure that these contribute to the common good, rather than the reverse.  This principle can be studied further in Unit 5 of this module.

‘The preferential option for the poor’

The next reading introduces this also, in ##82-84.  Commitment to ‘the preferential option for the poor’ means that Christian people should always seek, through the various activities in which they engage, to ensure that those who are poor will benefit.  Maybe you are poor.  The principle applies both in people’s own lives and in wider economic or political matters.  It is a challenging idea.  It proposes introduction of a kind of ‘bias to the poor’ in the way we act and in how institutions work and shared activities take place.

In light of our study of the common good, we should be able to see that we all lose out if some people are so poor and excluded from social participation that they can’t employ their gifts and abilities to participate in generating the common good.  However this is not the direct reason for ‘the preferential option for the poor’.  The primary reason for this principle is of course to enable poor people to benefit and to get out of poverty, so that the suffering and frustration it causes is overcome.

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Reading (7pp)

Compendium, ##171-184 (Chap 4, sec. III)

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‘Subsidiarity’

The term ‘subsidiarity’ is used to refer to a principle that mainly governs the scope and limits of what government does.  It holds that all the things that can be done best not by governments – for example, bringing up children in families and supplying many goods and services through markets – should indeed not be done by governments.  Rather, the role of government is limited to those things that, to the end of the common good, really are best done by governments.  Clear examples of this include: running an effective criminal justice system, and ensuring that monopoly producers of particular goods, who aren’t challenged by competitors, doesn’t abuse their position.

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Reading (3pp)

Compendium, ##185-188 (Chap 4, sec IV)

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In this module, we give some attention to subsidiarity in Unit 6, especially in connection with family life.  But it can be studied more fully in the Module B on ‘Living in a Just and Free Society’.

‘Solidarity’

Finally, the virtue of solidarity is the quality of a person’s character, the ‘virtue’, that means they have a persevering commitment to seek the common good, and especially to act in line with the preferential option for the poor.  Without such solidarity, those other principles could in practice never be realized.

This principle is very significant in a number of areas, including two to be studied in this module: work and rest (Unit 4) and business life (Unit 5).  As you will see in Unit 4, it has very great significance in Pope John Paul’s teaching about how to seek justice in working life.

It also comes up prominently in Module B, especially in connection with international development.

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Reading (4pp)

Compendium, ##192-196 (Chap 4, sec VI)

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This completes our initial study of the main principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  It should already be fairly obvious that all of these are deeply rooted in the way Christian theology sees the world – for example, in how God has made human beings, and in the promise that the gospel offers of eternal communion with God.  Later units, especially Unit 3, will show more fully some of their roots in Christian theology.

I mention this because it is important to realize that CST doesn’t just present a list of principles that appear arbitrary or random.  Each of them has very deep roots in Christian practice and thought.  We need to be aware of these roots, in order to avoid simply asserting them without explanation or argument.

To conclude this unit, we turn to the question of how to connect up what people find in CST with what they experience in the ‘real world’.

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End of 2.2.10

Go to 2.3 CONCLUSION: HOW TO ENGAGE WITH CST

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