Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Goodness of Work

According to Esolen and his reading of Pope Leo XIII's writings, work is for family, for neighbors, and for God.  But material wealth is not the goal.  God's commandments restrain "the greed of possession" and "the thirst for pleasure."  Indeed, according to Pope Leo, spending a "life in the pursuit of earthly pleasures, and in forgetfulness of the happiness which alone lasts forever" is "a waste" and "a terrible punishment."  Those who have received blessings have a duty to use them to benefit others so that they can live a virtuous life aimed at eternal life with God.

To be human, work must be a true society.  In their guilds, workers had a "genuinely human society" with a common goal.  Today, the guilds are gone, but workers and owners should respect each other as brothers.  Among other responsibilities, an owner should pay fair wages to support workers and their families so that they can live decently and virtuously.  A worker "puts himself into his work" and, as a reward, earns and possesses property, including land, which is the basis of all economic activity. And those possessions enable the worker's family to live a fully human life.

Discounting moral concerns for the greater good

On Friday, The Washington Post had an article by Sarah Kaplan about research on a chimera technique.  (Such research cannot receive federal funding.)  The article mentioned the moral and ethical concerns from different viewpoints but also included this quote from Vardit Ravitsky at the University of Montreal:
The more you can show that it stands to produce something that will actually save lives ... the more we can demonstrate that the benefit is real, tangible, and probable---overall it shifts the scale of risk-benefit assessment, potentially in favor of pursuing research and away from those concerns that are more philosophical and conceptual.

Ravitsky's argument is a utilitarian one ("it's useful, so let's do it") that prioritizes the ends over the means and ignores any reasonable bounds that reflect our values and beliefs about the dignity of human life. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Church as a Society

According to Esolen and his reading of Pope Leo XIII's writings, the Church, although full of sinners, is a perfect society because its members follow Christ and accept the responsibility to obey Christ's commandments to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" and "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31).  This love creates a social bond, not a contract, and this bond is meant to help us achieve our end by moral improvement, for true liberty is the opportunity to attain this end, which is union with God.  The two commandments must go together, for "He who does not love does not know God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8). 

In this perfect society, where all are welcome, however, not all are equal, for "God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles" (1 Corinthians 12:28-29).  The answer is "No," but all are members of the same body: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free -- and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many" (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

Despite the inequality, the love for each other creates a social bond: "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Role of Associations

According to Esolen and his reading of Pope Leo XIII's writings, men and women have a right to form groups to help others, and these associations help us carry out our duties to God, family, neighbors, and country.  In particular, they provide a means to love and help particular persons (not abstract others such as "the poor") through direct action, not indirectly by paying taxes to the state.  This action is crucial, for those who hunger and thirst need not only food and water but also someone to feed them and love them, and the state cannot do that.  These works of mercy are based on the fact that all men and women are created equal, and we all have the same end---to be children of God---despite our different roles and stations in life.  Moreover, these associations and our actions strengthen the virtue of piety.

The state, which has displaced God, seeks an artificial equality via taxes, a mechanical redistribution that removes our personal obligations and produces the pathologies that weaken men and undermine virtue.  To accomplish this, the state must eliminate our associations, despite our rights, because they weaken the need for the state.  As an example, Esolen highlighted Leo's condemnation of the expulsion of French religious orders from their institutions in the late 19th century.