What really is the 'Common Good'
There’s no question mark after that, because it’s not a question.
It’s a ‘course correction’ we seem to need as politically motivated
leaders set out to shape public policy and religiously motivated
leaders set out to shape public awareness of (and response to) policy
that will impact the nation.
For instance, last Sunday on the news talk shows, President-elect Obama’s transition chief John Podesta referred to “the common good”
over and over again as a talking point about some executive decisions
Obama may make quickly after his inauguration. Some decisions that
involve - besides things like energy and drilling - things like
embryonic stem cell research and federal funding for abortion.
The next day, the US Bishops conference began in Washington, and
they’ve been talking about the common good, too. Cardinal George opened
the conference Monday by recalling its meaning.
We come to this Assembly in the interim before a new
presidential administration takes office in our country. Symbolically,
it is a moment that touches more than our history when a country that
once enshrined race slavery in its very constitutional order should
come to elect an African American to the presidency. In this, I
believe, we must all rejoice. Pragmatically, we must also hope that
President Obama succeed in his task, for the good of all…
We can also be truly grateful that our country’s social conscience
has advanced to the point that Barack Obama was not asked to renounce
his racial heritage in order to be president, as, effectively, John
Kennedy was asked to promise that his Catholic faith would not
influence his perspective and decisions as president a generation ago.
Echoes of that debate remain in the words of those who reject universal
moral propositions that have been espoused by the human race throughout
history, with the excuse that they are part of Catholic moral teaching.
We are, perhaps, at a moment when, with the grace of God, all races
are safely within the American consensus. We are not at the point,
however, when Catholics, especially in public life, can be considered
full partners in the American experience unless they are willing to put
aside some fundamental Catholic teachings on a just moral and political
As some have very publicly done in this election (and previous ones). Which is why George is clarifying…
In working for the common good of our society, racial
justice is one pillar of our social doctrine. Economic justice,
especially for the poor both here and abroad, is another…
The common good can never be adequately incarnated in
any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at
choice. If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision that
African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than
persons were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be
president of the United States. Today, as was the case a hundred and
fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common
Or redefining it.
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