">Society ensures social justice when it provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation. Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority"Thus begins the catechism's section on Social Justice. What does it really mean? Well, when society allows justice to be done, you have social Justice - obviously. Social justice is part and parcel of both the common man and of leaders.
Notice what it does not say, however - it does not say that leaders or the common man must give justice to people or groups. It says that society (meaning the common men and leaders) are to allow people or groups to obtain what is their due.
In other words Social Justice is not the giving of things to people by government, it is the conditions of society that allow justice to be gained.
The Catechism goes on to say,
"Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. "More briefly 'human rights are granted by God, not society, and the moral legitimacy of any worldly authority or society is based upon recognizing and supporting these rights'. Or, 'any society or authority that denies the inherent, God-given rights of Man is not legitimate'.
So governments, whatever their nature, must support the inherent rights of its people or it will have no legitimacy and and society that flaunts these rights is also illegitimate. This is key because it means that a core contention of Democracy, that legitimacy of society and authority is derived from the will of the people, i.e., the opinions of a majority of voters, is false. If 50.1% of voters support the murder of innocents that does not make the murder of innocents acceptable, it makes the society that supports such voters illegitimate.
Later the catechism states,
"Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity."Or 'the inherent rights of all men are the same'. The peasant has the same chance of heaven as the cardinal; the stable boy has as much right to justice as the prince.
"On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth. The "talents" are not distributed equally... ...These differences belong to God's plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular "talents" share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods; they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures"More shortly, 'equality of inherent rights does not mean equality in all ways; people are tall and short, smart and dumb, skilled speakers and reticent, leaders and followers. These differences are part of God's plan and are good for all involved'. So while the peasant has the same chance of heaven as the cardinal, the cardinal has gifts and authority the peasant does not. Likewise, while the stable boy has the same right to justice as the prince, the prince has duties and obligations the stable boy never will. And this is not just acceptable, it is good.
The Catechism then warns us that,
">There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women...."In this the Catechism is speaking of when societies and leaders have or implement systems that impose sinful inequalities upon people. It continues with,
"...Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions."Remember how beginning of this piece we pointed out that,
"t says that society (meaning the common men and leaders) are to allow people or groups to obtain what is their due."This portion tells us that when society actively prevents people or groups from obtaining what is their due it is sinful.
The Catechism concludes its section on Social Justice with,
" Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this."Or, 'love of neighbor and charity among and between people is the solution to social injustice'.
So the central ideas of Social Justice are quite clear; be just and allow others to obtain justice; love your neighbor and be charitable.
But are their guidelines for rulers and leaders as to the nuts and bolts of implementing this?
The Catechism focuses heavily on Solidarity. Solidarity has two meanings; the earning of a livelihood through work and the friendship and social charity between all people in a society. At its heart Solidarity is the rejection of class as a dividing force between people. The poor are to show solidarity with everyone, not just the poor. The rich are to show solidarity with everyone, not just the rich. Emploers, workers, farmers, artisans, men, women, etc. - all are part of society. By rejecting class as a dividing factor it is also inherently a rejection of individualism as a defining element of humanity. While we are all individuals and have individual needs, etc. no one is ever alone and just as society is an outgrowth of the family no one in a society is capable of being truly apart from that society just as no man can ever not have a mother.
Solidarity is also much more spiritual and emotional rather than material. The goal of Solidarity isn't wealth, the goal is justice. Granted, justice often leads to increased wealth....
Yet Solidarity is not collectivist! As we read above, justice is about the individual person; individuals have God-given natural rights, not societies or governments. In the end Solidarity is an explicit rejection of such Liberal concepts such as Communism and Libertarianism - both collectivism and material individualism are rejected as false and, thus, unjust.
Another key element of a just society is Subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the principle that,
""a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."Or as the OED states,
"The principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate, local level."More simply, 'as local and personal as possible'. There are many reasons for thus ranging from simple efficiency (how can a distant administrator have a clearer idea?) and moral (rights are individual, not collective, so avoid the collective). Again, this is a direct rejection of collectivism and individualism; the collective is to be avoided as much as possible, but there are times when the collective is the only answer.
The next core element is Private Property. The Catechism tells us that,
"In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. the appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men."Or, 'men have a right to private property'. Indeed, private property is an element of dignity and freedom and part of Solidarity. But the Catechism also warns us,
"The right to private property, acquired by work or received from others by inheritance or gift, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. the universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.
In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself. The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.
Goods of production - material or immaterial - such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor. "Another reminder that we are part of a family and that we owe all good to God and, thus, we owe solidarity to our neighbors. Note as well that yet again there is an explicit rejection of collectivism ('the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise') and individualism (' legitimate goods he... ... owns not... exclusive to himself but common to others...'). Indeed, we are morally obligated to make our property fruitful because fruitfulness helps others. If we are 'middlemen' then we must be as efficient as possible so that we do not waste what could be used charitably. The Catechism later states,
"Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good"Tied with the obligation to respect the right to private property this means that governments have the right to regulate, say, workplace safety, waste disposal and pollution, etc. to ensure the common good. So while private property is a right, it is not an absolute right. Indeed,
"Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.
The following are also morally illicit: speculation in which one contrives to manipulate the price of goods artificially in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; corruption in which one influences the judgment of those who must make decisions according to law; appropriation and use for private purposes of the common goods of an enterprise; work poorly done; tax evasion; forgery of checks and invoices; excessive expenses and waste. Willfully damaging private or public property is contrary to the moral law and requires reparation."
Note how this states that waste, excessive expense, and willfully damaging your own property is immoral. Also, the inescapable conclusion is that to be moral we must reject not just collectivism and individualism but also Communism/Socialism and laissez-faire Capitalism. Communism rejects the idea of private property, denying people freedom, security, and the option for their own justice. Socialism rejects subsidiarity and demands central planning, dehumanizing the person. Laissez-faire Capitalism rejects Solidarity and focuses on profits instead of people. The inherent collectivism of Communism and Socialism (which rejects individual rights and justice) is matched by the inherent individualism of Capitalism (which rejects legitimate authority and the common good. Thus, Edan embraces Distributism, which is no more than the consolidation of Catholic social justice.
Here are the core ideas of Edan:
1) All citizens have a right to private property, a right to just compensation for their goods and services, and a right to enter into contracts, including employment contracts, of their own free will
2) Ownership of private property and work are both inherently good for the individual and for society. 'Work' includes physical, artistic, intellectual, and spiritual work.
3) The government has the authority to regulate private property and business for the common good.
4) Decisions should be made as far 'down' the hierarchy of authority as possible.
5) Co-operatives and guilds are preferred to unions and corporations.
6) Government is for leadership, not charity.