“While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place.”

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Pope Benedict XVI

Caritas in Veritate, 38

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2 Responses

  1. Avatar M. says:

    What does it mean?

    • Avatar Anthony Fisher says:

      More context:
      “My predecessor John Paul II drew attention to this question in Centesimus Annus, when he spoke of the need for a system with three subjects: the market, the State and civil society[92]. He saw civil society as the most natural setting for an economy of gratuitousness and fraternity, but did not mean to deny it a place in the other two settings. Today we can say that economic life must be understood as a multi-layered phenomenon: in every one of these layers, to varying degrees and in ways specifically suited to each, the aspect of fraternal reciprocity must be present. In the global era, economic activity cannot prescind from gratuitousness, which fosters and disseminates solidarity and responsibility for justice and the common good among the different economic players. It is clearly a specific and profound form of economic democracy. Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone[93], and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State. While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place. What is needed, therefore, is a market that permits the free operation, in conditions of equal opportunity, of enterprises in pursuit of different institutional ends. Alongside profit-oriented private enterprise and the various types of public enterprise, there must be room for commercial entities based on mutualist principles and pursuing social ends to take root and express themselves. It is from their reciprocal encounter in the marketplace that one may expect hybrid forms of commercial behaviour to emerge, and hence an attentiveness to ways of civilizing the economy. Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself.”

      Essentially, this little bit can be seen as an inversion of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati’s dictum: “Charity is not enough: we need social reform.” When it comes to issues of the common good/social justice, we cannot rely completely on people’s goodwill/charity, nor can we rely solely on State intervention. We are to work for ways to “civilize the economy”–both through regulations and changing hearts to properly ensure justice. The quoted section from the OP specifically means that we cannot say “Well, the State probably is taking care of justice for the poor–I am not required to give anything–if I do happen to give, it is because I am being generous, not because of any obligation of justice.” Benedict says no, that private property must always be directed toward the common good (rather than primarily my own good), and that you can’t just say, “Whelp, the govt will take care of it.” I have an obligation to help whenever I am able, not just as a nice add on if I feel like it.

      Any other thoughts to add, WPI?

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