I ask that … for kings, and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.  This is good and pleasing to God our savior who wills everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.

1 Tim 2:2-4

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University of Notre Dame’s President Fr. John Jenkins recently attempted to explain the selection of Vice President Biden as this year’s joint recipient of the University’s Laetare Metal by ineptly invoking a reference to the Catholic concept of the “common good.”

His point seemed to be that, notwithstanding Mr. Biden’s consistent support of abortion and homosexual marriage in opposition to the Church’s view, Biden’s willingness to maintain a friendship with a politician who adheres to the Catholic position somehow advances “the common good.”

Jenkins view is this: an honor reserved for outstanding service to the Catholic Church and society can be awarded to a person who relentlessly opposes fundamental Catholic teaching.

Foggy as this logic is, it requires a refresher on the Catholic view of “the common good.”

The Catholic concept of the common good concerns the advancement of the life of all, and it requires “prudence from each, and even more from those who exercise the office of authority.” (See: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part III, Life in Christ, Article 2, Participation in Social Life, Part II, The Common Good, paragraph 1906.)

The common good consists of three essential elements: (1) respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the human person, (2) the prosperity and development of the spiritual and temporal goods of the society, and (3) the peace (i.e., just order) and security of the group and its members.  (Emphasis added.)

Further, the dignity imparted by God to His beloved created human beings requires the pursuit of the common good.

It follows that each and all are to create and support the institutions that improve the conditions of human life. (As to this, one cannot but think about the killing of unborn children, the damage done to women and motherhood by abortion, along with the damage to the institutions of marriage and family, and to the relationship between men and women resulting from both abortion and the adulteration of marriage.)

The common good presupposes respect for the human person and his and her unalienable rights along with the protection of one’s right to act within the sound norms of conscience particularly in religious matters.  This position, by the way, is adopted in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

Lest there is any question as the relationship of the common good to religious belief and morality, society’s authority (according to Catholic teaching) arises from the moral order derived from God as conformed to human nature.

Apropos, acts which deviate from God’s moral order and human nature lack authority. Yes, think of Biden’s views.  Yes, think of Fr. Jenkins words.

So in Mr. Biden we honor a person whose views and actions deviate from the source of authority and cannot as such, in any form, promote the common good. They are its opposite.

Thus, in this award we honor one who takes positions that are in opposition to the common good and the Church because some have come to think erroneously that one who does serious damage to critical and sacred ideas and institutions is redeemed by befriending one who does not. Go figure.

Perhaps it is best to end with St. Thomas Aquinas who says in Summa Theologiae:

… law has the character of law to the extent that it accords with right reason, and thus derives from the eternal law. Insofar as it falls short of right reason it is said to be an unjust law, and thus has not so much the nature of law as of a kind of violence.

Deviating from eternal law falls short of right reason and advances violence, not the common good.  Is this what the Laetare Metal has come to mean?


As usual, I welcome your comments and your sharing this and yesterday’s post with others.