Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Weekly Update from CCM

Dear Students,

Today is Election Day.  I hope you all were able to vote.  More on that later... for now, here's what's coming up with CCM this week!

Come join us for our regular weekly fellowship dinner & program this Wednesday at 6:30.  Ali is cooking for us, and in a little post-Halloween spookiness, Kevin is putting together a program about those renegade angels... demons!  Come learn a little about the creepier side of our faith.  It should be interesting!

The "Tea @ 10" discussion group is meeting in Starbucks at 10pm.  Anyone is welcome to join, and bring your questions about the Catholic faith.  Also a note:  due to an Education Vicariate meeting in Hickory, I will be out of my office all day on Thursday.

Come join us for our Bible Study at 3pm, followed by Eucharistic Adoration in our chapel at 4pm.  

This Saturday is our Habitat For Humanity work day!  If you have already contacted Kaitlyn Conger about going, she will soon be sending you information about what time to meet.  (We don't usually know exactly where the work site is until a few days before hand, so that impacts how early we will need to meet to leave campus).  If you have not already sent your intent to go to Kaitlyn, please do so ASAP!  Her email is kmconger1@catamount.wcu.edu or you can find her on Facebook.

Rosary at 7:00pm.  Mass at 7:30pm.  

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote his masterpiece (one of many masterpieces, I may add), City of God, in the early fifth century.  He wrote this work to explain Christianity's relationship not only with competing religions and philosophies, but with the Roman empire, as well.  It is perhaps the earliest work that tackles the subject of how the church should relate to the state.  In that work, St. Augustine argues that it does not really matter what form of government man lives under, so long as that government does not force him into iniquity.

What does Augustine mean by that?  Aren't some forms of government better than others?  Well, sure.  But it is important to remember that the Catholic Church does not endorse any one particular form of government.  The Church allows for people to live in a democracy, under a monarchy, in a federal republic, a tribal system, and many other forms of government.  One can argue that certain types of government are better economically, or socially, etc., but these are questions for lay people to decide.  In terms of the Christian faith, St. Augustine says any of these are fine, so long as none of them force man "into iniquity."  That is, no form of human government should force a man to live in sin.

This is, in Augustine's view, the exact opposite of government's purpose.  Government, according to his treatise, is aimed primarily at the common good.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting from the Second Vatican Council, tells us that the common good is "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily" (CCC 1906).  The Catechism then goes on to identify three elements of the common good: respect for the human person, social well-being and development, and peace.  "It is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society" (CCC 1910).  Finally, "the common good is always oriented towards the progress of persons: 'The order of things must be subordinate to the order of persons, and not the other way around.'  This order is founded on truth, built up in justice, and animated by love" (CCC 1912).

So in a just society, persons come before things.  And the common good helps those persons to reach their fulfillment.  Now human persons have certain needs that need to be met; food, water, hygiene, education, etc.  A just society should allow people to acquire those things.  But these essentials are there in order that we may more easily pursue our fulfillment.  The ultimate end of man, our purpose in life, is to be holy so that we may share eternity with our Creator.  A just society is one in which each individual is allowed to better himself and grow in holiness.  

This does not mean that human governments should necessarily outlaw everything that is immoral and damaging to a man's soul.  Even St. Augustine saw that this would be foolish.  He makes the point that making everything that is a sin punishable by law would place an unduly heavy burden on people.  Only those sinful things which are especially damaging to the social order should be outlawed (things like murder and theft, etc.).  

But the flip side of this is that human government should NOT in any way, through its laws and precepts, inhibit men from living good moral lives.  Human government should never force its citizens to cooperate in sinful actions, to act against their consciences, or otherwise prohibit people from following the good.  Such a government would stymie moral growth and development, and do harm to the common good.

I thought about St. Augustine and his City of God today when I read this quotation from one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson.  "A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."  I thought about St. Augustine today in the voting booth as I cast my ballot.

I know most students reading this will have already voted by absentee ballot.  I just want to say to you, no matter how the election turns out, to please do your best, throughout your lives, to do what you can to help form and sustain a just society in our country.  At the end of the day, your job is not to be a good Republican or a good Democrat.  It's not even to be a good American.  Your job is simply to be good.  Let's pray for our government leaders, that they may help to create a society that helps people achieve the good.

God bless!

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

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