Are we losing the idea of common good? Or is the common good losing its depth and importance? Even worse, are we unable by now to concur on what we mean by the common good? These are the questions sought to be answered in the latest issue of the “Bulletin of the Social Doctrine of the Church of the Observatory Cardinal Van Thuân which, together with the La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, has oranized the Academy of the Social Doctrine of the Church that Rt. Rev. Giampaolo Crepaldi will inaugurate on 1 June. This issue contains articles by Rt. Rev. Crepaldi, Stefano Fontana, Danilo Castellano, Giovanni Turco and Samuele Cecotti.
Considering these three questions, the third one is feared to be the most realistic. Each political group says it pursues the common good and each law – people say – is crafted and passed for the common good, but the impression is that the common good is actually damaged because people have false conceptions of it.
The common good is what legitimizes political authority, also in a democracy. The vote of the electors decides those who will govern, but does not legitimize their authority. By way of example, let’s take a look at taxes. They are licit (as Mr. Cecotti explains in his article in the ‘Bullettin’) when they are moderate and not in contrast with the common good. Let’s take a look at Italy: with our tax money those who hold political power finance abortion, artificial fecundation, sex changes, families that are not families, and, if the law is passed, euthanasia. Therefore, the current fiscal system in Italy would be illegitimate, even if it is legal. And this without even mentioning activities funded by the state (central government) which are licit as such, but problematic because of the way they are conducted. Schooling, for example, is a good in itself, but the centralized manner disrespectful of the principle of subsidiarity (fundamental for judgment to be passed on the common good) with which it is provided is not good.
The concept of common good has also lost depth and substance among Catholics as well if we consider that many of them have no doubts at all that a homosexual relationship may contribute to the common good. Fashionable nowadays is the common good understood as ‘general interest’, which means the satisfaction of what individual citizens understand as their good, or the good of the country, as Prof. Danilo Castellano explains in the ‘Bulletin’ of the Observatory Van Thuân. What citizens retain to be their good, however, is opinion or wishful thinking, and the good of the country is often the good advantageous to a few persons and not many people.
Then again, if people today no longer think it possible to know good, how is it possible to speak about the common good? If what prevails is voluntarism bereft of reasons or vested interests with no argumentation whatsoever, the common good is the fig leaf concealing human miseries. Rampant are imitations: people say common good and don’t understand one another. If society as such is a convention, the common good will also be one, and hence its contents or substance will be changeable according to what the majority sees fit.
Therefore, great indeed is the need to engage in a complete reconsideration of “the reasons of the common good”, that is the title of this monographic issue. Prof. Giovanni Turco takes this up and reminds us first of all that the common good is a moral concept, that is to say a concept linked with the ends of man in society, and above all the ultimate end of man, God. Stemming from this as well is the verticality of the common good, this being the idea that without God there can be no common good because lacking would be the selfsame foundation of good. This is why a laicity closed or indifferent to the truth of religions, and to the true religion, is not able to either conceive or pursue its common good proper. The concept requires the Christian religion to have a public role.
An important and essential idea underpinning the entire issue is that the common good certainly stands before us because it is to be forged with the social and political virtues regarding the ends of man in society. Nonetheless, it also stands behind us because it is the order to which each individual must belong if he/she wants to be ‘person’. This is not a personalistic order. Insofar as the person follows and does not precede the common good, it is therefore a personalizing order. Here is the misunderstanding introduced by personalism (Christian as well); the fact that the person is the synthesis of the common good entails a laicity of politics that excludes God from the common good and rejects the idea of the common good not only as an end to be attained, but also as an order to be conserved. Moreover, if the end is not expressed by an order (finalistic), it is ideological, arbitrary and violent in the sense of contrary to the true common good. Looked upon as the pursuit of aims not part of an order, progressivism is a race towards a truthless future; it is a revolution insofar as complete rupture with the natural and traditional order. Lastly, it is violence insofar as the imposition of a biased truth as if it were absolute.
These are rguments that will be dealt with and developed by Archbishop Crepaldi in his Academy of the Social Doctrine of the Church with La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.