The seven dioceses of Michigan have a lobbying group called Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC.) The seven bishops sit as the governing board for MCC and so this is their political arm. This is their organization and so they control what the MCC advocates before the executive, judicial and legislative branches of both the state and federal government.
The MCC produce and distribute a flyer called Focus. This flyer comes out a few times each year vomiting their biased/skewed teaching of the Catholic Church on various issues. They state that “when evaluating specific policies that come before the Michigan Legislator, MCC considers the following questions: 1. Does this policy serve the well-being of people? 2. Have the ethical and moral implications of this policy been considered? 3. Does this policy affect the institutional Church, her mission, her members, and her works?”
The latest edition of Focus is Vol. 47, No. 1, January 2019, entitled A Blueprint for the Common Good; 2019-2020 Advocacy Principles. In this issue, they list “ten guiding principles for staff advocacy at the State Capital…” They are: Human life & dignity, Preferential option for the poor & regulatory policies, Religious liberty, Education, Children & families, Health care, Restorative justice, Immigration & refugees, Care for children, Federal issues.
I am not going to waste time going over each one and show that they have some good points and some bad points. Rather, what I want to point out is that they miss the most important policy that must be the first principle for any discussion on the common good. This policy is fundamental, basic and necessary and yet they and the US bishops fail to teach it. They focus on the liberal social justice issues, selling out the true teachings of the Catholic Church.
The essence of what the US bishops teach in the area of social justice is what we must do and give to all these politically motivated grouping and issues mentioned above. Of course they do this under the guise of preferential option for the poor. According to this teaching, these grouping of people and issues have rights that supersede yours. Really? Isn’t the definition of a right that it is a right? If it is my right, I and only I have the right to sacrifice my right in favor of the rights of others. In other words, I see the needs or plight of others and say within my heart as an act of charity that I will forgo this or that so as to help the other. This is the heart of Charity. That I give and do from my heart. It is this that the preferential option for the poor is teaching us. That we should give preference to the needs of other if I am able to do so.
Scripture says in 1 John 3:17-18, “If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw that one of his brothers was in need, but closed his heart to him, how could the love of God be living in him? My children, our love is not just words or mere talk, but something real and active.” We note that it says “if a man who was rich enough.” It assumes that you have plenty and can give with out harming yourself. There is a reason for this and it has to do with that first principle of social justice and the common good that I mentioned above that the bishops fail to teach.
This first principle flows from Charity (love.) This first principle for a true understanding of the common good is that it is one’s duty to take care of one’s self and his family to the extent that he is able so as to not be an unnecessary burden on others or society. This is a duty before any acts of charity are to be done. We must take care of our needs first, and then if we have extra, we take care of others in need.
Look at it this way. If you have enough and another does not, then we only have to help one person. But if you give what you have, leaving yourself in need, you helped the other person, but unfortunately now we have two people to help rather than one. So how did you really help?
Rather, the preferential option for the poor has to do with your extra. I have extra money left over after taking care of my needs so I will go on a vacation. Is that the best use of your surplus? Or is it here that I sacrifice what I have in preference of the other person’s dignity? I give preference to their needs rather than my want (of a vacation.)
Now we look at what the bishops are doing. I look at the MCC’s issue of Focus called A Blueprint for the Common Good. In this issue, the Bishops teach that we must give and do for these different groups and issues. Give, give, give… How to give and who should give is not mentioned. But we do know that the bishops are going to take care of these needs through the government. Doing so, they empower the government to take, take take… Where do they take from? The people through taxes. They then give, give, give… But to whom? Who they want, not who we want. What do they give? Food, housing and clothing? Yes, but also cable, cell phone, internet, alcohol, cigarettes, trips to the restaurant, movies,… Luxuries!
Our duty to help others after our needs are met, has to do with meeting their needs. It does not mean luxuries. In order to give them luxuries, the government has to take even more money form the people through taxes in order to pay for it.
This is a violation of the 5th commandment, thou shalt not steal. People have a right to the fruits of their labors and to the gifts that are given them (like inheritance.) No one has the right to take it from them. Government does have the right to tax for services rendered, but they do not have the right to take the property of one person and give it to another person. This is the principal of socialism called redistribution. Socialism is defined and declared by the Church as an intrinsic evil.
Granted, the poor will always be with us. So yes, I believe in the common good. But what is common is that we all have the duty to take care of ourselves and our families to the extent that we are able. After that, we look at the preferential option for those in need.
With this I ask, why are the bishops not preaching and teaching the real first duty we all have in common for the good of all? Charity! If I love my neighbor, then I will not become a burden on him as he himself is trying to feed his family.
We can look at this point from scripture. Remember the ten virgins? Five were foolish and five were wise. The foolish did not bring extra oil whereas the wise did. When the time came, the foolish did not have enough oil and asked the wise to give them some of their oil. The wise virgins said, “No, there may not be enough for both us and you. Go into town and buy some for yourselves.” Jesus used this example as a good and smart thing to do. He did not criticize wise virgins for not being charitable, but rather, congratulated them for they are the ones that were invited into the presence of the Groom. It is wise to take care of your own needs first for that is your duty.
As you can see, I write this because there are so many Americans who do not want to take care of themselves but want to be a leach on the butt of society, sucking off the wealth of others who are just trying to care for their families. Why are the bishops supporting and promoting this by empowering the government to exercise socialist policies at the expense of those who work hard to squeak out an existence?
(Please keep in mind that the above is taking into consideration that there is no crisis or some other extraordinary situation taking place in society. When this occurs, charity and it’s demands change this whole scenario. It is my view that our society is in an ordinary situation of dealing with questions that societies deal with. With this in mind, the standard and ordinary morality applies as addressed above.)