Pacem In Terris 85: An lmperative of the Common Good

How much more can be said about the common good? Is it just a matter of maximizing happiness of the most citizens most of the time? Pope Pius XII suggests something deeper:

85. But one of the principal imperatives of the common good is the recognition of the moral order and the unfailing observance of its precepts. “A firmly established order between political communities must be founded on the unshakable and unmoving rock of the moral law, that law which is revealed in the order of nature by the Creator Himself, and engraved indelibly on (human) hearts . . . Its principles are beacon lights to guide the policies of (people) and nations. They are also warning lights—providential signs—which (people) must heed if their laborious efforts to establish a new order are not to encounter perilous storms and shipwreck.” (Cf. Pius XII’s broadcast message, Christmas 1941, AAS 34 (1942) 16)

God-given morality is indeed unchanging. How can we interpret the variety of responses of otherwise good people to things such as colonialism, torture, slavery, intolerant persecution, and the like? How can we know for sure that our modern approaches are in any way less flawed?

These providential signs spoken of–I would hope this is more than just a measure of discontent, followed by a convenient scapegoating. Since Pius XII, we’ve seen the end of colonialism, women’s rights, racial rights, and now gay rights movements in the West. Are these moral impulses? If so, how do they affect past human interpretation of the “unmoving rock?” If not, are they morally neutral, or even flawed? And if flawed, how do we engage that underlying moral approach spoken of here?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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