Friday, March 12, 2010

Daniel Larison, The Common Good

Count me as a skeptic whenever administration allies begin claiming that the White House is guided by ideas derived from Catholic social thought, or indeed from any form of theological reflection....

The most obvious reason to be skeptical here is that the previous administration had any number of willing helpers who were happy to dress up whatever injustice or error it was committing as being either entirely consistent with Catholic teaching or an expression of Catholic moral theology. Whether it was George Weigel re-inventing just war theory to approve of preventive warfare or Michael Gerson declaring Bush’s immigration policy to be the embodiment of solidarity, we have been inundated with people appropriating Catholic teaching for very bad or questionable causes. Marc Thiessen is the most recent and perhaps most egregious example of this, but he is hardly alone. Those are admittedly extreme examples, but they serve as a warning whenever administration allies begin claiming theological guidance for their policies.

As many have pointed out, a concept of the common good can be used to justify all sorts of laws and policies. But does that concept respect justice? Commutative justice, distributive justice, and legal justice?

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