Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

1/15/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Love is the most identifying value of the Church's social doctrine. It is what makes it uniquely Christian.

Here is a truly radical challenge: to take love, which, as St. Thomas teaches in his Summa Theologiae, is the "form of the virtues," and to socialize it or institutionalize it into what the Compendium calls "social and political charity."  This task is the modern challenge of our time.  "'Social charity makes us love the common good.'  It makes us effectively see the good of all people, considered not only as individuals or private persons but also in the social dimension that unites them."

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/15/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Love, mercy, charity, social justice, caritas, common good, agape, solidarity, compendium, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Love is the most identifying value of the Church's social doctrine.  It is what makes it uniquely Christian.  When Jesus gave us the new command, "Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34), He injected a radical new law into the world and an almost impossible standard.  It is, in fact, unachievable without grace, but the grace is freely supplied to the willing, which even itself is a grace.  This is a law whose perfect achievement requires a total receptivity to grace, a heroic amount of self-abnegation, and an openness to the other.  This love is "grace upon grace," gratia pro gratia. (cf. John 1:16)

In the Church's view, love as a value is "the highest and universal criterion of the whole of social ethics." (Compendium, No. 204)  But in saying this, we need to define terms.  The love we are speaking of here is not the sop love of every day talk, of "relationships of physical closeness," as the Compendium delicately puts it and which we see touted on movies and TV.  Nor is the love the Church has in mind limited to namby pamby feeling, to "merely subjective aspects of action on behalf of others."  This is not love as the Church understands it, love as caritas (the Latin word for it) or agape (the Greek word for it).

Love as caritas or agape is the font of the other values of social justice in their fullness.  "[F]rom the inner wellspring of love" the "values of truth, freedom, and justice are born and grow."  Love is what makes us able to see the other as a friend, as another self, so that "the needs and requirements of others seem as one's own." (Compendium, 205)

What love does to justice when they embrace is perhaps the most remarkable of all.  "Love presupposes and transcends justice."  This means that love builds upon justice just like grace builds upon nature.  For what happens when love meets justice, look to the Cross of Christ, the Cross of Christ which is our law.  Lex Christianorum crux est sancta Christi, filii Dei vivi.

Without justice, there is no love.  Without justice, love does not survive.  Justice is fulfilled by love, which, of course, means that justice, for all its rock-like beauty, is incomplete. 

In his book Doctrine of Right, which is the first part of his Metaphysics on Morals, Kant insisted that, in justice, the law of punishment was a categorical imperative which admitted no exception.  "For if justice goes, there is no longer any value in human beings living on the earth."

Kant is entirely correct.  A world without justice is, to be sure, too horrible to behold.  However, a world with justice but without love is equally as bad or worse.  It is the world of Pharisees, of whitened sepulchers.  "Human relationships," the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church tells us, "cannot be governed solely by the measure of justice." (Compendium, No. 206) 

Nor, one might add, the relationship between God and man.  For if justice alone governed-and mercy and love were nowhere to be found-is there any doubt what that relationship would be like?  It would be nothing less than Hell.

What doth the Lord require
But to do justly,
Love mercy,
Walk humbly with thy God.


The prophet Malachi quoted above ((Malachi 3:3) tells us that God requires more than doing justice.  He requires us to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him.

Justice goes awry without love's mercy, and so justice must, "so to speak, be 'corrected' to a considerable extent by that love which, as St. Paul proclaims, 'is patient and kind' or, in other words, possesses the characteristics of that merciful love which is so much of the essence of the Gospel and Christianity." (Compendium, No. 206) (quoting JP II, Dives et misericordia, 14)

Summum ius, summa iniuria was a Roman aphorism or maxim mentioned by Cicero (De officiis, I.10.33).  It is a brilliant, ambiguous saying which can be translated, "extreme justice is the greatest injustice," or an "extreme justice is an extreme wrong."  For John Paul II, this saying was a tacit pagan recognition that justice requires a tempering spirit, one that is fulfilled somewhat in the human quality of mercy, but most especially in the Christian virtue of love.

"The experience of the past and of our own time," John Paul II states in a section of his encyclical Dives et misericordia which is quoted by the Compendium, "demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself." (Compendium, No. 206)

Similarly, law alone--whether it is human law or divine law, supposed or real--will never succeed in inculcating virtue in people.  This is the great defect of Islam and the great defect of the secular Western positivistic jurisprudential philosophies.  "No legislation, no system of rules or negotiation will ever succeed in persuading men and peoples to live in unity, brotherhood, and peace; no line of reasoning will ever be able to surpass the appeal of love." (Compendium, No. 207)

Here is a truly radical challenge: to take love, which, as St. Thomas teaches in his Summa Theologiae, is the "form of the virtues," and to socialize it or institutionalize it into what the Compendium calls "social and political charity."  This task is the modern challenge of our time.  "'Social charity makes us love the common good.'  It makes us effectively see the good of all people, considered not only as individuals or private persons but also in the social dimension that unites them." (Compendium, No. 207)

The medieval Cistercian monk, Stephen Harding (1059-1134), an abbot of the monastery of Cīteaux, struggled with the governance of a monastic order that was just developing.  It was his genius that brought forth a constitution that would guide the developing order and the relationship among the mother abbey and its daughter abbeys.  This constitution was called the Charter of Charity or Carta Caritatis.

We need a new Carta Caritatis, a "Charter of Charity," a new world order that is founded not upon secular values, but upon Christian love, upon "social and political charity," a caritas socialis, which is nothing other than identical with solidarity, solidarietas, and which is a "direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood."

"Social and political charity is not exhausted in relationships between individuals, but spreads into the network formed by these relationships, which is precisely the social and political community; it intervenes in this context seeking the greatest good for the community in its entirety.  In so many aspects the neighbor to be loved is found 'in society,' such that to love him concretely, assist him in his needs or in his indigence may mean something different than it means on the mere level of relationships between individuals." 

"To love him on the social level means, depending upon the situation, to make use of social mediations to improve his life or to remove social factors that cause his indigence.  It is undoubtedly an act of love, the work of mercy, by which one responds here and now to a real and impelling need of one's neighbor, but it is equally indispensable act of love to strive to organize and structure society so that one's neighbor will not find himself in poverty, above all when this becomes a situation within which an immense number of people and entire populations must struggle, and when it takes on the proportion of a true worldwide social issue."  (Compendium, No. 208)

What an ideal!  It is the Christian ideal.  And as G. K. Chesterton reminds us in his book What's Wrong With the World, "[t]he Christian ideal has not been found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."

What on heaven or on earth compels the Church to suggest this love as our ideal? What compels the Church to suggest this difficult ideal which has not been found wanting, but difficult and left untried?

Caritas Christi urget nos.  The love of Christ urges us on. (1 Cor. 5:14)

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2015
General Intention:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Missionary Intention: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Living Faith

What Does the Lord Jesus Mean When He Calls us to Be Perfect? Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The character of Jesus Christ is being formed in each one of us as we say yes - and choose to cooperate with the Lord who is making us new, every day.  Perhaps our problem is rooted in understanding - and responding - to this call to be perfect. Perhaps it is ... continue reading


Making a Lenten Retreat with Pope Francis: Learning from Elijah Watch

Image of There is a mystery here, deep and profound, yet as simple as the broom tree encounter of our teacher Elijah. God is searching for men and women who will surrender their lives in love to Him in this hour. Often, it takes the depletion of all of our own efforts and resources before we are willing to give up - and give in - to Him. When we do, the life of true faith begins. It is there we learn to hear the God of surrendered love in the whisper of the wind. It is there that we learn the Faith of Elijah, under the broom tree.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In many respects, our life on this earth is a classroom of love and a continual invitation to holiness. As we age, we are given the opportunities we need to receive the graces we need to empty ourselves of all that clutters up our life - so that we can be free to ... continue reading


ISIS is not the first to persecute Christians, a look at the Roman persecutions of the early Church (PART ONE) Watch

Image of St. James the Greater, one of the first Christian martyrs.

By Robert Mullen (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It is a sad and disheartening fact that many Christians suffer from constant-and often brutal-persecution today, most visibly in places like the Middle East where the Islamic State rules, or in Asian nations like India or China where Christianity is a ... continue reading


Vatican deeply apologizes for Pope Francis' Argentina 'Mexicanization' comment Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis did not mean any offense - but in a private email about his native land Argentina's drug trafficking issues, the pope expressed concern over Argentina's "Mexicanization." The Vatican is now trying to clarify and apologize to any parties that may ... continue reading


UPDATE: Two years after resignation Pope Emeritus Benedict said to be doing well Watch

Image of Pope Emeritus Benedict is said to be in better health since his resignation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With Pope Francis in the spotlight, many wonder what is happening with Pope Emeritus Benedict, who is keeping true to his pledge to remain out of the public eye. For the curious, we have good news, Pope Emeritus Benedict is doing well, if not even better than before. ... continue reading


Beating swords into plowshares

Image of

By Tony Magliano

"In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills," writes the prophet Isaiah. "Many peoples shall come and say: Come, let us go up to the Lord's mountain . that he may instruct us in his ... continue reading


Andrew M. Greenwell: St. Bonaventure on Counsel Watch

Image of

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

In Bonaventure's analysis of this gift of counsel, there are three steps to sound counsel, which we may also call distinctions.  Counsel relates to whether something is permitted, and, if permitted, whether it is appropriate, and, if permitted and ... continue reading


Pope Francis wants you to pray to end Christian persecution. But will Catholics answer him?

Image of Christians face more than the Islamic State. Destitute, they lack sanitation, privacy, food and water, and their spiritual end educational needs aren't being met. A tremendous effort will be needed to restore these people. Let us pray.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With the mass kidnapping of over 100 Christians in Syria, it has become painfully clear that the Islamic State thinks nothing of targeting innocent civilians and children, threatening, enslaving and murdering anyone whose faith is different. We need now, more than ... continue reading


Saint Gregory of Narek to become 36 Doctor of the Church Watch

Image of An image of Saint Gregory of Narek on an illuminated manuscript.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An Armenian monk and poet from the 10th-century has been named a Doctor of the Universal Church by Pope Francis, an announcement which may be timed coming so close before the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, in which over a million Armenians were ... continue reading


Join Pope Francis and Christians around the world in a Global Day of Prayer to STOP the violent persecution of Christians at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists

Image of The world is asked to join in prayer to end the grave dangers Christians face around the globe.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

We have come to a time of great trial and tribulation in the Church. Christians around the world face more persecution today than they did in ancient Rome. On a daily basis, Christians are being martyred only because they refuse to renounce their faith. It is time for ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Deuteronomy 26:16-19
16 'Yahweh your God commands you today to observe ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8
1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 5:43-48
43 'You have heard how it was said, You will love ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 28th, 2015 Image

St. Hilary, Pope
February 28: Pope from 461-468 and guardian of Church unity. He was born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter