Friday, November 26, 2010

Social Justice Before Liberation Theology; Fr. Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio, S.J.

Fr. Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio, S.J.
This week marks the birthday of a man most folks have never heard of, although he coined one of today’s most ubiquitous phrases: Social Justice. Born in 1793, Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio was an Italian Jesuit scholar who co-founded the theological journal Civiltà Cattolica and served as rector of the seminary Collegio Romano. Taparelli wrote frequently about social problems arising from the Industrial Revolution, and his influence was significant. 
Pope Leo XIII’s social encyclical Rerum Novarum, published in 1891, drew on insights from his former teacher, Taparelli. Today, political activists often use the phrase “social justice” to justify government redistribution of wealth. 
In the mid-1800s, however, Taparelli prefaced “justice” with “social” to emphasize the social nature of human beings and, flowing from this, the importance of various social spheres outside civic government. For Taparelli, these two factors were essential in formulating a just approach to helping those in need.
Link (here) to read the full article by Ryan Messmore at First Things


TonyD said...

The author of this article criticizes government distribution of wealth.

But a government may accurately represent “love your neighbor” and reflect society’s collective values – and that may or may not result in a government redistribution of wealth – it depends on the specific collective values and a best judgment about how to meet those values. Those specific values may not be Catholic.

My point is that the truly important values are being completely missed by this author. Every poll that I’ve ever read shows a strong concern (here in the US) for fighting poverty. Judgment is required to determine if meeting that “value” involves redistribution of wealth. Conversely, fighting poverty may involve strengthening some local organizations or catering to some “special interests”. In either case, the metric measured should be “poverty”, and failure to address that metric should be a cause for reevaluation of the particular process.

I find myself distressed that so many people try to use religious sounding prose to justify positions that are not truly religious. Ideology and “positions“ on both the left and right are not equivalent to living “love your neighbor”.

Anonymous said...

TonyD, the "poor" in the U.S. today are not at all "poor" by historical standards; they are quite wealthy. "Poverty" is a moving target that leftist, money-grabbing, power-hungry politicians use as an excuse to confiscate more and more wealth from the most productive and hard-working Americans. Sorry, but the left in this country today does not represent virtue; the left cloaks itself in the language of virtue to bamboozle people into voting for them and unknowingly supporting their hidden tyrannical agenda. Catholics who support the left in the incarnation of the modern Democrat Party are traitors to the faith.

TonyD said...

We must balance our values with the genuine values of our society. If I feel that the death penalty is appropriate then I may choose not to participate in such an activity to the best of my ability. Further, I may do my best to teach others why I feel that way – and I might explain that my reason is faith in God, and that I can only speculate about why He feels that way. Hopefully, I will live in a society that reflects my values.

If my society genuinely believes that the death penalty is appropriate, however, then I should respect the collective values of my society. That is what “love your neighbor” tells us. We should not dismiss the genuinely held values of our neighbors. Evil is real. And, although evil is often hard to identify, we know that “love your neighbor” is the greatest commandment and reflects our love for God. Therefore, dismissing your neighbor’s values represents a truly great evil – there are very few evils that are greater. (And this actually changes the lesser evil into a non-evil.)

This is what Catholicism should be – and rarely is.

And I cannot justify actions by either the left or the right in the US government. So attacking the “liberals” in favor of the “conservatives” is mistaken. Neither side represents real Catholic values. In general, it is not Catholic to pass laws that impose Catholic “positions” on those who do not hold those values.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter how I feel about poverty. My duty to God requires me to avoid evil, and that requires me to respect a genuine community value about poverty. You must make your own judgments, I can only offer advice.

Anonymous said...

This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.