July 23, 2017
It’s pretty obvious that the world God showed to Adam on the morning after creation was absolutely undivided; the entire globe belonged to the whole of humanity. Even the coming of Eve did not result in a division of the earth.
This obvious fact has led Catholic thinkers to assert with great consistency and clarity that the notion that private ownership of parts of the earth or its riches is simply not faithful to God’s plan at the start of the whole show. The world belongs to each of us and all of us alike.
Although the Church has taken part from time to time in such things as the definition of the line that separates Portuguese territories from Spanish in the New World, she is much more famous for insisting that borders must be permeable and ownership must be conditional.
Some of the spin-offs of this doctrine have great relevance to our current scene: a universal right to health care, a universal right to live anywhere on the earth, the obligation of those who can help to do so generously.
In another age, this doctrine was criticized as Communism; now it is berated as an erosion of national identity or a threat to national security or creeping socialism. The 1% and their operatives hate this notion. The left wingers on the world embrace it as a moral cannon with which to destroy the world order based on the sacredness of the American Dollar.
Before you stop reading entirely, let me point out that this teaching, like so many others, is not aimed as a criticism of anything that anyone or any country or any class or any party holds dear. It is proclaimed as part of a view of the world that is not grounded in a resigned acceptance of a permanent state of warfare or in a reductionist economic view of history and humanity or in an a-historical assumption that what is must forever be so. Instead, this idea that whole world belongs indivisibly to the undivided whole of humanity is offered as a shorthand version of what Eden was. Everything that comes later is tainted by original sin. Working out the pragmatic details of ‘how to get back to the garden’ must be done by those who have the will and the power to decide on what can be done in every here and now.
How does the Church get away with proposing such a goal? Well, compared to the slogans and programs that motivate self-interested voting and national paralysis and international stress and strife, it has this advantage: it comes from what we know of God — who is always good — instead of what we know of weak human nature. In this, as in so many things, the Church speaks for a humanity that is loved (be God) in all its forms and places to a humanity that thinks of love as that which ‘begins at home’ and goes no further. Where are the politicians or diplomats or economists or community organizers or union agitators or anyone else who speaks such language?
Really and truly and undividedly yours,