“The Common Good” is different from “The Greater Good”

People applaud from their houses in support of the medical staff that are working in COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo/Manu Fernandez)

…recognizing that we are bound by common goods is only the first step. “The common good,” as we use that in Catholic thought, refers to the kind of political, economic, cultural, social, material, and spiritual life of humanity that is like a great class. The participation of everyone in it is what makes it good. You can only have that life if we all have it together.

This is why “the common good” is different from “the greater good,” which implies that some individuals’ well being should be sacrificed for the sake of a larger number. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church puts it, “Belonging to everyone and to each person, [the common good] is and remains ‘common’, because it is indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it, increase it and safeguard its effectiveness, with regard also to the future.” (164)”

This is not about dreamy idealism. Working for the common good is hard work. People have conflicting interests and serious disagreements. Striving to promote the common good means we cannot manage those by shutting one side down, excluding the less powerful, or repressing the hurt. Political life is a spiritual and moral as well as a logistical challenge, when it is seen as the struggle to bring about the common good.

The above is an excerpt from “Pandemic and The Common Good” by Kelly Johnson


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