The Universal Destination of Creation and the Common Good

The Common Good is the good of the whole human family. When a couple marries, the individual spouses no longer seek each one’s individual good independent of the other but must pursue the good of the marriage, the couple, and the family they form. The same is true for the city, state, nation, the Church, and for all mankind—we form God’s family as his sons and daughters, so we must pursue the universal common good in the unity of the human family (see CCC 1911).

Pursuing the Common Good requires respect for the person (his fundamental and inalienable rights and freedoms), assuring each has what is needed to live a truly human life (food, clothing, health, security, education, work, right to establish a family, culture, suitable formation) while pursuing the group’s common good (see CCC 1906-1909). The common good needs a political community and state to defend, support, and promote a secure and just order (peace, stability, and collective defense) that recognizes and pursues the common good in civil society for all its citizens and other groups.

Pursuing the common good achieves the progress of persons, as it always puts persons before things; it is founded on truth, builds justice, and is animated by love (see CCC 1912).

God created the whole universe as a gift for his Son, Jesus Christ, and for all his human family. Thus all material goods are destined to benefit, at least indirectly, all human beings throughout time. This is called the universal destination of creation. So as stewards of creation, we must take care of the earth and its resources, master them by our work, and enjoy the fruits with everyone. While private ownership enables us to meet our personal and family needs, enhance our dignity by exercising our freedom and creativity, God calls us to use those private goods in ways that foster peace and solidarity among all the children of his family—private property can never be hoarded or used in a selfish way.

What is set forth by the 7th commandment? The seventh commandment requires respect for the universal destination and distribution of goods and the private ownership of them, as well as respect for persons, their property, and the integrity of creation. The Church also finds in this Commandment the basis for her social doctrine which involves the correct way of acting in economic, social and political life, the right and the duty of human labor, justice and solidarity among nations, and love for the poor (CCCC 503).

Human work and labor is a sharing in God’s work of creation. Thus it can sanctify us. It can also be redemptive by uniting its hardship with that of the Cross, while providing for sustenance and maintenance of one’s own life and family, and serving the human community.

Economic life is our way of working together in providing for the needs and welfare of all. An economic system must reflect and respect our human dignity by paying workers a living and just wage. The state has a right to regulate economic life for the welfare of all.

Applying the universal destination of goods to the earth, we must respect and protect the environment for current and future generations; as applying it to private property, we must use our body and the possessions we control for the good of all; applying it to national borders means that all locations are a gift to benefit all, and immigration laws should reflect this.

The breakdown of peace can be caused by structures of sin in our society, including unregulated financial capitalism, and local and international crime. This breakdown is also caused by cultural factors, especially in forms of ethics that are merely pragmatic and subjective, leading to the “dictatorship of relativism… inspired by criteria of power or profit. To be continued…

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.