Friday, July 13, 2007
The Leavings of the Powerful
My reading of “basic health care” ethics continues:
“In our contemporary world, there are two predominant views about the relation of a person to community, and they are in constant competition. One is collectivism, which is characteristic of communist governments…Generally, collectivism favors an economic system in which the state closely regulates the production and distribution of wealth. Collectivism teaches that the welfare of individual persons must be strictly subordinated to the welfare of the total community, and thus the rights of persons can be sacrificed to the interests of the nation.
“The other theory, individualism, begets a system that is characteristic of democracies in the Western world. We often hear individualism called the “democratic way of life”.
"Many argue that the goal of government is to protect maximum individual freedoms from the influence of collectivism, so that any restrictions on freedom, including any regulation of the economy, are believed to be an attack on the survival of the nation.
“The Christian point of view, which also has support in many other religions and philosophies of life, rejects both collectivism and individualism. Christianity repudiates collectivism, because the community should exit to serve persons and not persons to serve the community as if the community were a superperson. Christianity also renounces individualism, because Christianity teaches that the highest and most important goods of the person are not private property but spiritual goods, which can be achieved and fully enjoyed only by sharing with others. Because modern states, both collectivistic and individualistic, are oriented to maximizing material goods and economic power rather than maximizing spiritual goods, the struggle between person and community has become chronic.
“The Christian point of view is neither idealistic nor altruistic. The words of Jesus are “Treat others in the way you would have them treat you; this sums up the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12) and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). According to this teaching, we are not asked to love our neighbor and not love ourself, but to love our neighbor as ourself. In other words, if we really love ourself—not selfishly, but intelligently—we will realize that we cannot be happy in isolation, because we were created as social beings. We can be truly happy only by sharing in a community of happy people, and that means that we each must not only respect the rights of others in a negative sense, but must be actively concerned to promote each other’s welfare.
“The social teaching of the Catholic Church, which is derived from the teaching of Jesus, insists therefore that the human community, including its governments, must be actively concerned to promote the health and welfare of every one of its members, so that each member can contribute to the common good. This concern cannot be a matter of a mere trickle down by which the weak live on the leavings of the powerful, but must be aimed directly at enabling the weak to share in the goods of life.”
Ethics of Health Care, Third Edition
Benedict M. Ashley, O.P.
Kevin D. O’Rourke, O.P.