Monday, May 01, 2006

May 1, 2006

The Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker has been celebrated liturgically since 1955. Since May Day was the Communist world celebration of work, the Church imposed on top of this para-liturgical Marxist ideology the figure of the working person of St. Joseph.

Marxism was an ideological response to the rising injustice in the Christian West of the separation of capital from labor. Its force came from co-opting part of Christian truth of the universal destination of all things for all men. It then insisted on the apparent logic of the need of men to be fed before they can be evangelized. Of course, we never reach the point of all having enough for the process of evangelization to begin and we have succumbed to the diabolic temptation of giving pride of place to the technology of turning stones to bread and forgetting that man lives not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

The Priority of Work – Priority of Person

The large point to be made is: the true realist solution to the economic is neither the objective structure of socialism, nor capitalism. Rather, the defining dynamic is the working person: the subject. It is enunciated in Gaudium et Spes #24 that says that “man, the only earthly being that God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” The two principles of subsidiarity and solidarity flow from this theological anthropology in the following way: by work, the human person – the “I” – subdues self to get possession of self. Once in self-possession and self-governance, he/she obeys the divine command to subdue the earth by work. As subdued and mastered, the earth belongs to the human person as his/her own. But the person cannot keep anything for self, because the self – made in the image of the relational Persons of the Trinity - cannot keep the self for itself.

John Paul II said that “property is acquired first of al through work in order that it may serve work. This concerns in a special way ownership of the means of production. Isolating these means as a separate property in order to set it up in the form of `capital’ in opposition to `labor’ – and even to practice exploitation of labor – is contrary to the very nature of these means and their possession. They cannot be possessed against labor, they cannot even be possessed for possession sake, because the only legitimate title to their possession – whether in the form of private ownership or in the form of public or collective ownership – is that they should serve albor, and htus, by serving labor, that they should make possible the achievement of the first principle of this order, namely, the universal destination of goods and the right to common use of them. From this point of view, therefore, in consideration of human labor and of common access to the goods meant for man, one cannot exclude the socialization, in suitable conditions, of certain means of production.”[1]

Hence, the solution to every social question, be it political or economic, will not be rooted in any objectified ideology but in the working person, the subject. The working person owns capital only in order to distribute it in the work process. Whatever is kept for self is lost. Hence, there is a priority of work over capital, and the culture which we await will be a true civilization of work that will neither commodity nor workaholism, but the gift of self of persons. In this sense, work as the self-gift of persons is the key to the whole social question.

[1] John Paul II, “Laborem Exercens,” #14.

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