A quick background. Thomas of Aquin, or Thomas Aquinas as he’s more generally known pondered greatly in the 13th century. Such a ponderor the world seldom sees. Truely a prodigious ponderor was he. So prodigious that he endeavored to write the a complete compendium of all the Church’s teachings as a teaching guide which today we know as “Summa Theologica”. It’s a tremendous tome that Tom wrote.
One area for exploration is on the ideas of social justice. Seems pertinent in a world that believes government is the answer to most all issues of the day. The long held teachings of the Church on social justice held that the individual, operating from a position of free will and charity was the best approach to the matter of the poor. Paraphrasing the Thomasian teachings, a man has the right to his own wages, and a citizen has the right to be protected by government from the evils of theft of those wages. Thomas was very very big on “rights”. Natural Law and the rights that derive from God are among the fruits of Thomasian thought. But I digress.
A man has a RIGHT to his wages and to be protected from theft. The virtue of rights presupposes the obligation of others to respect those rights. The virtue of men respecting the natural rights of other men is justice. Still with us?
The proper act of justice is to render to each man exactly what is due that man. The social contract requires each man act in perfect justice, allowing men to act in such a way as to expect freedom from injury or theft, and to take risks to build up wealth knowing he shall be protected in doing so. As wealth increases, all of society is lifted up. Where justice rules, the fruits of a man’s labor is his own. As justice falters, men lose the incentive to labor as the stability of social life dies.
Enter charity. Man may merit grace when practicing the act of charity. Grace is a supernatural gift from God and is required for salvation. Grace cannot be earned, but is freely given. The act is worthy of grace which we hope will be extended.
Taxation by government to force help for the poor conveys no merit to the consideration of grace. To subscribe to a theory of government where the rule of government and the power of the gun is used to force the wages of one man’s labor to support another both injures the social fabric of justice which builds up wealth of a society but simultaneously discourages the true virtue of charity and the grace it may impart. Moreover, that happiness which comes from knowing you are choosing to do good works is taken from you as well.
Look at where we are today. Government is the answer. Taxes support the poor, not charity. Churches are irrelevant. Class conflict rages. Happiness is missing. St. Thomas Aquainas, Doctor of the Church. 1225 – 1274.
(Acknowledgement to Frs, Walter Farrell and Martin Healy for their pocket version of Summa Theologica, “My Way of Life, the Summa Simplified for Everyone”. http://www.amazon.com/My-Way-Life-Walter-Farrell/dp/9992056940/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_2/181-9876552-6576657)