Get ready for a look at sacrifice, integration, and unity over the next seven paragraphs. Thomas Aquinas begins our discussion:
THE EXERCISE OF POLITICAL LOVE
186. There is a kind of love that is “elicited”: its acts proceed directly from the virtue of charity and are directed to individuals and peoples. There is also a “commanded” love, expressed in those acts of charity that spur people to create more sound institutions, more just regulations, more supportive structures. [Catholic moral doctrine, following the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, distinguishes between “elicited” and “commanded” acts; cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, qq. 8-17; M. ZALBA, S.J., Theologiae Moralis Summa. Theologia Moralis Fundamentalis. Tractatus de Virtutibus Theologicis, ed. BAC, Madrid, 1952, vol. I, 69; A. ROYO MARÍN, Teología de la Perfección Cristiana, ed. BAC, Madrid, 1962, 192-196]
It would seem to go without saying, but laboring against poverty would seem to be a requirement for a Christian.
It follows that “it is an equally indispensable act of love to strive to organize and structure society so that one’s neighbor will not find himself in poverty”. [Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 208] It is an act of charity to assist someone suffering, but it is also an act of charity, even if we do not know that person, to work to change the social conditions that caused his or her suffering. If someone helps an elderly person cross a river, that is a fine act of charity. The politician, on the other hand, builds a bridge, and that too is an act of charity. While one person can help another by providing something to eat, the politician creates a job for that other person, and thus practices a lofty form of charity that ennobles his or her political activity.
I would call working to change social conditions more an action of justice, but we’d be agreed such work is not only necessary, it is also Christian by definition.
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