Pope Benedict Stresses Principle of the Common Good

"The common good is the purpose that gives meaning to the progress and development"

         Pope Benedict XV

VATICAN CITY, May 24, 2010  -- "The common good is the purpose that gives meaning to the progress and development, which would otherwise be limited solely to the production of material goods; they are necessary, but without an orientation towards the common good, consumerism prevails in the end, along with waste, poverty, and imbalances, negative factors for progress and development," Pope Benedict XVI told participants at the conference sponsored by the Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontifice Foundation on May 22. The conference was on the relationship of "Development, Progress, and the Common Good."

The Holy Father then highlighted how it is essential to identify "those goods to which all peoples must have access to in view of their human fulfillment," pointing out that "the common good consists of several items: material, cognitive, and institutional goods as well as moral and spiritual goods, the former of the two [groups] being subordinate to the latter.

 Pope Benedict XVI speaks on the Common Good

"The concept of integral human development requires precise coordination, such as subsidiarity and solidarity as well as the interdependence among the State, society, and the market. In a global society composed of many peoples and religions, the common good and integral development must be achieved through the contribution of all. In this, religions are crucial, especially when teaching fraternity and peace, because they educate in giving a place to God and to being open to the transcendent in our society marked by secularization." 

In regards to the development of the entire family of nations, the Holy Father said it was "fundamental and priority" to recognize the true scale of property-values: "Only through a proper hierarchy of human goods can one understand what kind of development should be promoted. Integral development of peoples, the main objective of the universal common good, is not achieved only by the spread of entrepreneurship, material goods and cognitive goods such as a house and school, of the choices available. This is especially achieved in an increase in those good choices that are possible when there is the notion of an integral human good, when there is a telos, a purpose, towards which development is designed and intended."

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Entire Text: Translation by Zenit.

Esteemed Cardinal,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Illustrious and Dear Friends,
I am happy to greet you on the occasion of the congress promoted by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation. I greet Cardinal Attilio Nicora, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli and the other prelates and priests present. A special thought goes to the president, Doctor Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, whom I thank for his courteous words, and to you, dear advisers and members of the foundation, who wished to visit me with your relatives.
I appreciate that your meeting is focused on the relationship between "Development, Progress, Common Good." In fact, today more than ever, the human family can grow as a free society of free peoples only when globalization is guided by solidarity and the common good, as well as by social justice, all of which finds in the message of Christ and of the Church a precious source. The crisis and difficulties that international relations, nations, society and the economy suffer at present are, in fact, due to a great extent to the lack of trust and of an appropriate solidaristic, creative and dynamic inspiration oriented to the common good, which leads to authentically human relations of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity also "within" economic activity.

The common good is the end that gives meaning to progress and to development, which otherwise would be limited to the sole production of material goods. Progress and development are necessary, but if they are not oriented to the common good, they lead to the negative consequences of the prevalence of consumerism, waste, poverty and excess.
As I highlighted in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," one of the greatest risks in the present-day world is that "the ethical interaction of consciences and intelligences does not correspond to the de facto interdependence between men and peoples, from which might emerge as a result a truly human development" (No. 9). Such interaction, for example, seems to be too weak for those governing that, in face of renewed episodes of irresponsible speculation in confrontations with weaker countries, do not react with appropriate decisions for governing finances. Politics should have primacy over finance and ethics should guide every activity.

Without the point of reference represented by the universal common good it cannot be said that there is a true worldwide ethos and the corresponding will to live it, with appropriate institutions. It is now decisive that those goods be identified to which all peoples should have access in view of their human fulfillment. And this should be carried out not in any manner whatsoever, but in an ordered and harmonious manner. In fact, the common good is made up of many goods: of material, cognitive and institutional goods, as well of moral and spiritual goods, the latter [two] being superior over the former.

The commitment to the common good of the family of peoples, as for every society, entails, therefore, taking care of and of making use of a complex of institutions that structure juridically, civilly, politically, culturally global social living, in such a way that it takes the form of polis, of the city of man (cf. Ibid., 7). Therefore, one must ensure that the economic-productive order is socially responsible and to the measure of man, with a joint and unitary action on more planes, including the international (cf. Ibid., 57.67). Likewise, the consolidation must be sustained of constitutional, juridical and administrative systems in countries that still do not enjoy them fully. Together with economic aid must be exercised, therefore, aid geared to reinforcing the guarantees proper to the state of law, a just and efficient system of public order, in full respect of human rights, as well as truly democratic and participatory institutions (cf. Ibid., 41).
However, what is fundamental and a priority, in view of the development of the entire family of peoples, is to do one's utmost to recognize the true scale of goods-values. Only thanks to a correct hierarchy of human goods is it possible to understand what type of development must be promoted. The integral development of peoples, central objective of the universal common good, is not happen only with the diffusion of entrepreneurship (cf. ibidem), of the material and cognitive goods such as the house and the instruction, of the available choices. That happens in particular with the increase of those good choices that are possible when the notion exists of an integral human good, when there is a telos, an end, in whose light development is planned and desired.

The notion of integral human development presupposes precise principles, such as subsidiarity and solidarity, as well as the interdependence between state, society and market. In a global society, made up of many peoples and various religions, the common good and integral development are obtained with the contribution of all. Religion is decisive in this, especially when it teaches fraternity and peace, and when, in a society marked by secularization, it instructs the faithful to give space to God and to be open to the transcendent. With the exclusion of religion from the public realm, as well as religious fundamentalism, the encounter and collaboration for the progress of humanity between peoples is impeded, the life of a society is void of motivation, and politics assumes an oppressive and aggressive face (cf. Ibid., 56).
Dear friends, the Christian vision of development, of progress and of the common good, as it emerges in the Social Doctrine of the Church, responds to the most profound expectations of man, and your commitment to further it and spread it is a valid contribution to build the "civilization of love." For this I express my gratitude and best wishes, and bless you all from my heart.

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