09 August 2009

Christianity and "Social Justice"

As if I wasn't already overburdened with things to read I recently discovered another writer to add to the list. His name is Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and among other biographical items of note he was a Knight of Malta. Here is an excerpt from his work The Timeless Christian, dealing with Christianity and Social Justice.

Now, there is a genuine social justice which proceeds not from the principle of equality, but from the principle: Suum cuique — to each his own. It is true that to deprive the workman of his just wage is not only a sin, but a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. When one hinders social advance by putting barriers in the way of the diligent and the talented, one not only commits a personal injustice, but damages the common good of the whole nation, which always requires a genuine elite of ability and the contribution of extraordinary brainpower in every walk of life. And it would be socially unjust if a few individuals or certain groups had so much material wealth that, in consequence of this concentration of property and income, other classes had to live not only in povery, but in misery. Whoever lives in real abundance has a Christian duty to assist those living in wrechedness. Before we proceed, however, let us affirm that the notion of misery is different from that of poverty. Péguy has already drawn the distinction between pauvreté and misère. To live in misery means to suffer genuine physical privation: to know cold and hunger, to have no proper dwelling, to be dressed in rags, to be unable to secure medical attention. The poor, by contrast, have the necessities of life, but scarcely any more. They can borrow books, no doubt, but cannot buy them; they can hear music on the radio, but cannot afford a ticket to a concert; they cannot indulge in little extras of food and drink, but should, by self-discipline, be able to save a little. The poor have, therefore, the normal material preconditions for happiness — unless plagued by acquisitiveness or even envy, which has become a political force in the same measure as people have lost their faith. The fact that there are happy poor (alongside unhappy rich people) is beside the point. Demagogues know how to stir up terrible and murderous unrest even among the happy poor, as has been demonstrated clearly by the history of the left from Marat to Marx to Lenin to Hitler. (TC, 53-54)

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