“And” Is Another Important Word16 May

Sr. Mary Schmuck

Sr. Mary Schmuck, RSM

by Sr. Mary Schmuck, R.S.M.

It impresses me that a number of very short – 2 to 4 letter – words are quite important in communication and especially in thinking.

These are words like with, when, to.

Another very important one in this small club of words is and.

Certainly it is a big one in Christian theology.  Key uses include:  Jesus is God and human; we are individuals and social beings; God is both within us and all around us. Just 3 letters strung together in our English alphabet do such powerful connecting.

Another important use of it occurred recently in a  response to our U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee which recently released its proposed federal budget. The chair of that committee, Representative Paul Ryan, noted that his committee’s budget is in keeping with the principle of subsidiarity – where it is a good thing when decisions are made at the lowest possible level of society.

However, US Catholic Bishops have written to all members of House Ways and Means  and Agriculture Committees noting that subsidiarity is indeed an important principle in Catholic social doctrine. However, it is inseparable from other very important principles: solidarity, a genuine concern for community, especially persons in that community who are poor and vulnerable; and distributive justice, where each member of a community is giving an appropriate proportionate share as measured by the common good of the whole. Subsidiarity AND solidarity AND distributive justice are needed together to judge the morality of something like a budget.

Though U.S. Catholic bishops will quickly acknowledge they are not professional economists, they are moral teachers, and the consequences of proposals like budgets have big consequences for society, especially people in society who are poor and vulnerable, our sisters and brothers (another important use of “and”).

Now this necessary concern for our human community members who are poor and vulnerable does not originate with U.S. Catholic Bishops.   Prophets in Hebrew Scriptures proclaimed the need for the community to care for its orphans, widows and strangers. Jesus likewise had strong things to say on the matter.

This care and concern is not just a personal or interpersonal responsibility.  It is ours together as a society, too, and society organizes itself for common action through government at various levels. So business, the market, has to be regulated by us together for the sake of the common good and serious protection of human dignity.

Thus it seems to me that we need to be careful not to try to separate morality from the economy and  business any more than we should separate morality from government.

How can we adequately care for persons who are poor and vulnerable when some in our society generate economic rules that make self-sufficiency increasingly difficult?  Shall we talk about big tax breaks and laws/regulations favoring our ultra rich people and mega corporations while life becomes harder for everyone else through shredding the safety net and protections for our smaller businesses, our middle class and poor people?  And is suffering the consequences for our enormous federal debt to be borne by all–except our ultra rich people and mega businesses?  Where is the sharing in needed sacrifice here, especially from those of us with the most resources available? And we say we don’t want revolution?

Government has major responsibilities for defense of the nation and the general welfare of the population. All these values have to come into play at once: subsidiarity and solidarity and  the common good and distributive justice and government responsibilities as well as personal responsibility and personal moral goodness.

All this is a major responsibility to tend individually and together in society! It all is much like a healthy diet that needs to include proteins and carbohydrates and fluids and roughage. And all things kept in healthy balance.

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