The Common Good
As the name suggests, it means whatever is good for everyone. However, this definition sounds rather pedestrian or too basic. If this were to be taken at face value, one would assume that this idea is absolute and applicable everywhere. In realistic terms, this is not the case and there is no definite way to fully capture the meaning of common good. One can at least grasp the spirit or essence of these two words. This essay will tackle the concept of the common good as seen in the purview of the Catholic Church.
The duty of the Catholic Church is to minister to its followers which are widely scattered around the world and it does more than just religion, it also applies its teachings in everyday life and central to this is the common good. The Church recognizes the rights of the individual to live in accordance to his or her wishes. However, in a community, the individual must be willing to relinquish some of these rights and it is necessary for a purpose – to promote that “common good.” What can be inferred here is that the Church teaches one to be altruistic – be willing to set aside self-interest and contribute to the benefit of all. The rationale behind it is that if the interests of others are met, one’s own interests will be met in the process as well. It discourages selfishness and self-serving manners, and it encourages generosity, fairness and to an extent, charity as well as promoting a sense of responsibility (Catholic Church, 80). This is also because it would not be fair that many will suffer while only a few benefit. All are equal in the sense of entitlement and no one should deprive others of what they deserve to get.
The most obvious example and model of one looking out for the common good is none other than Jesus Christ who exemplifies self-sacrifice. He died on the cross because it is for the common good as all mankind would be redeemed. If Jesus did not care for the common good, he never would have had to go through that passion and suffering leading to his crucufiixion. Christians are encouraged to follow his example though not exactly in the same manner. This is somewhat similar to the social contract concept of Jean Jacques Rousseau where he emphasized the “general will.” The good of all far outweighs the good of the individual or the few.
In closing, the common good is the good of all or what is in their best interests though in reality this is impossible in the sense that not everyone will either benefit or receive the benefits that is forthcoming. Nevertheless, as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, this does not mean giving up, it makes an effort to try to reach out to all like Christ seeking out the proverbial lost sheep leaving the rest of the flock behind in doing so.
Catholic Church. Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church. Dublin, Ireland: Veritas Publications, 2005.