Monday, September 21, 2009
Seeing our sicknesses and other sufferings as social injustices makes us resent them more, makes us search for someone (the State) to blame for them, makes us less grateful to those officials who alleviate them (because we are only, at last, being given what we are owed). [Think here of the Gospel story of those who worked a full day and so resented the fact that those who worked a partial day received the same pay.] So there are advantages to letting non-just (not un-just) forces like nature, the market, or the absence of a gift be held responsible for the hardships in our lives, and for charity-compassion-solidarity, rather than justice, to be the motivation for relief of our plight.
The problem is that charity-compassion-solidarity itself rightly makes us want to be sure that everyone who suffers is ministered to, and the rights-oriented idea of social justice seems to offer itself as a efficient means to accomplish that goal. Is there a way to balance these two needs, for non-resentment at the vicissitudes of life and gratitude for their alleviation and also for concern to help all those in need? Does the idea of subsidiarity contain any sort of an answer here? How about tremendously increasing the tax benefits of charitable contributions aimed at improving health care for the poor? Would that help us achieve adequate material benefits without the spiritual harm found in the sense of entitlement? [I have no answer i'm trying to push here -- just thinking out loud.]