The term, “Common Good,” is something that may be lost on many people and is too often being replaced with individual rights with no regard to anyone else. This rugged individualism has been condemned by the Church. We can ill afford to be silent about this issue which is at the base of many if not all social issues confronting our society today.
In general, when the justification is used that a certain behavior doesn’t hurt anyone else, commonly such an argument reveals a myopic vision of the world and a lack of understanding of the consequences of our individual and even private actions. We must more deeply grasp the effects we have on our relationships with others near to us as well as the larger community in which we live in order to understand the common good. We are not an island. To think and behave as if we are opens up the potential to great harm for all. Here’s some examples which illustrate this point.
Here’s a simple yet less controversial issue: When someone dies and they want their ashes scattered over a mountain or forest, everyone else is robbed of the ability to go to a burial place where they can mourn. The deceased person’s wish negates the good of others who need to mourn. It is also an undignified way to repose the former temple of a person who was made in God’s image. This is not a viewpoint with the Common Good in mind, just the individual.
In the abortion debate, the individual right of the mother trumps the good of the child in the womb or even the right of the father who may disagree with the decision. In this holocaustic viewpoint, countless millions have been killed in the name of an individual. The fact that entire generations have been wiped out by a so-called right is clear evidence that it is against the dignity of the human person and the Common Good.
So-called, doctor assisted suicide arguments claim the individual’s right to end their own life on their terms so as to avoid suffering, autonomy, control, and the like, negating the use of effective palliative care and equating one’s value or dignity in terms of abilities or capacity. It is a grievous act akin to murder (See The Gospel of Life., #66). The legalization in Oregon of euthanasia, its true title, may justify its use in some people’s minds, but it is against the dignity of the human person and the Common Good.
The current movement to redefine marriage is based on the assumption that marriage is the simple desire and right of individuals to do what they want, regardless of the good of children and Divine law. Marriage is not a right which just anyone can validly undertake even between heterosexual couples. I have processed all too many annulments which were granted on the grounds that they did not, and may never have, the capacity to live out the commitment that marriage demands. In these cases, the couple erroneously attempted to enter into the Sacrament which they could not do. Marriage is a privileged state which God designed and which we have no authority to define or reinvent. Anyone desiring to be married should send to prayer if they are capable and sufficiently prepared to undertake such an awesome Sacrament. Redefining marriage diminishes its sanctity and is against the Common Good.
A more current issue which is being placed before the voters this November 4th is the effort to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Proponents of this movement commonly argue the right to do what they will with their own body. However, this viewpoint does not consider the consequences to children and the safety of others. Archbishop Sample’s current column in the Catholic Sentinel fills this in well. The argument that it does not harm the user taking the drug is fallacious since the very act of getting “high” diminishes one’s abilities, distorts one’s senses, suppresses the immune system, decreases motivation, darkens the conscience, and ultimately damages the soul. The fact that marijuana may be easy to acquire or that it is being used by one’s family or friends, or even if it does become legal, does not change the fact that it is harmful to one’s body and soul as well as to our culture. It is against the common good.
With regard to the current ballot measure for offering drivers cards for those without a social security number, particularly immigrants who are our modern day neighbors, there needs to be away to help them. By offering a way for them to acquire a drivers card increases the number of people who are trained in driving and thus makes our roads safer. Voting “yes” for this bill will create safer drivers. Voting for this bill is for the Common Good.
So, we need to ponder more deeply than our own desires and wants. We need to be on guard against our own desire for individualism. As Catholic Christians, we need to consider the consequences of things in regard to the Common Good. Such a frame of reference broadens our minds and allows us to make more ethical and moral choices. It also gets us out of partisan thinking and voting. It brings to the fore our faith before all other ideologies. Remember that we are Catholic Christians before all else. We need to pray to have the view of God who desires the good for all.
Fr. William Holtzinger