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Monday, February 23, 2015

You Owe Me!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1906 By common good is to be understood "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily."26 The common good concerns the life of all. It calls for prudence from each, and even more from those who exercise the office of authority. It consists of three essential elements:
1907 First, the common good presupposes respect for the person as such. In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. Society should permit each of its members to fulfill his vocation. In particular, the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation, such as "the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard . . . privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion."27 1908 Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.28 1909 Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense.

I have heard a lot of people demanding their rights lately and it got me thinking.  If I understand them correction, if I want something that you (or a group) has that want is a right.

To question my want is to indicate that you want to deprive me of my right to have that want, whatever it is, and that makes you a very bad person.

I rarely hear the word 'responsibility' paired with the word 'right' anymore unless that responsibility is placed upon those who are questioning the assertion.  At that moment, it becomes their responsibility to acquiesce, to say, "okay" and probably, "I'm sorry".  The apology, of course, is because they had the audacity to even ask the question, "Is your want a right?".

When I look to the teaching of Holy Mother Church I see an interesting view of what society needs to aim for in terms of social justice.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, The Church reminds us all that we are one body and, therefore, should strive for what philosophers refer to as 'The Common Good".

The Common Good requires three essential elements.  Any first year High School philosophy class will teach this (or at least used to) because it is so very foundational to understanding what role society plays in the protection and nurturing of the individual.  While all three elements are essential, it is worthy to note that the very first one discussed is respect.

Without respect, in particular the respect for the individual, no one gets to exercise their rights in the manner in which God intends.  Why?

I maintain that without respect for the individual one becomes self-absorbed to the point where the only thing that matters is what they want and what they think they need.  Unless one develops the ability to look both inward and outward one never develops an ability to see themselves as a small part of a greater whole.  They start to think they don't matter because they cannot see how they are connected to those around them.  When someone starts to think they don't matter, they become afraid and when they become afraid they develop predatory instincts.  If I don't matter to you, then I have to defend myself against you.  If I am in a constant state of fear because I think I don't matter to anyone, I have to strike first in order to remain safe.

Turning my attention outward allows me to recognize that I matter because you matter.  I start to see the place I occupy as something given to me by my Creator and something to nurture and share rather than defend or enlarge.  If, by circumstances, I gain some authority in the world I do not see it as something to wield like a club; rather, I see it as a tool to lift others up and to make God's World a better place for the Common Good.

Today I am fully aware that my rights are accompanied by my responsibilities.  I must have the ability to see both - without that ability, I am just another angry woman waving my arms and demanding that you give me what I want right now.

After's my right. 

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