Term Paper: Moral Theology

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Moral Theology

In today's economically driven world where the placement of focus and personal achievement is determined by the size of one's bank account or net worth, churches and theologians have had to come to issue with how one can balance a traditionally moral life in today's often immoral world. Out of this struggle arose the theories of economic justice and financial responsibility. The essence of these combinations is to bring traditional moral values into economics, thus allowing one to live a moral life through the proper use of their wealth.

Yet even within this basic idea of coordinating morals with wealth arise questions of morals. For instance, using one's personal financial success to assist those who are less fortunate is, at least at first glance, generally viewed as being moral as it follows along the lines of the teaching of Jesus Christ. However, at one point does simply giving charity to others go from a moral act to avoiding the true issue of economic injustice. Can one really overcome the immorality of our economic system and the gross inequalities it creates by making a charitable donation or our humans morally obligated to work towards creating economic justice and financial responsibility?

This paper will examine the question of what are the moral issues raised by economic justice and financial responsibility? Specifically, it will begin with an in-depth description and definition of the scope and impact of the question, followed by a detailed analysis on various doctrinal understandings of the question. From here the paper will include an analysis of the norms, principles and guidelines that apply to the situation, along with an analysis of a morally appropriate outcome. The paper will conclude with a discussion of the role of moral agency, conscience and freedom on reaching a resolution to this complex question.

Defining the scope and impact of the question

Any resolution on the question of the moral issues raised by economic and financial responsibility will have profound effects on society. Further, these effects will be widespread and highly diversified as the question of what is moral is one that is answered in an infinite amount of ways depending on the individual person. As each person has their own unique set of moral values, the moral issues raised by economic justice and financial responsibility will be individually unique. Thus, instead of attempting to focus on the moral issues, this paper will focus primarily on the concepts of economic justice and financial responsibility. Thus, the goal of the paper is to define what role economic justice and financial responsibility have in today's world by using various moral methodologies in order to understand the role and scope these concepts play.

However, even attempting to define "justice" is nearly impossible since it is entirely wrapped up in ones personal moral definitions of what is or is not just. One commonly accepted definition of justice is "giving to each what he or she is due." Yet this definition demonstrates the point of justice's ambiguous definition in that it essentially avoids defining justice and instead passes off the ambiguity to the concept of what is "due."

According to Corran, "justice is a set of universal principles which guide people in judging what is right and what is wrong, no matter what culture and society they live in." In other words, justice is a tool used to assist in evaluating and implementing an individual or society's morals. Using this definition, economic justice would involve the moral principles that guide the designing of both society's economic institutions and an individual's personal financial responsibilities. These institutions are then responsible for determining how each person earns a living, enters into a contract, trades goods and services, and produces products needed for economic success. The purpose of economic justice, according to Corran, is "to free each person to engage creatively in the unlimited work beyond economics, that of the mind and the spirit."

For comparison purposes, compare economic justice to social justice, as social justice encompasses economic justice. According to Corran, "social justice is the virtue which guides us in creating those organized human interactions we call institutions." It is through these social institutions that humans are able to achieve what "is good for the person, both individually and in our associations with others." More so, social justice gives each individual the responsibility to work with others in order to improve our social institutions to benefit society as a whole.

Therefore, since economic justice is fundamentally a part of social justice, it dictates that each individual has an economic responsibility to society. In other words, we all are responsible for creating economic institutions and using our personal finances in order to benefit society as a whole. In so doing, we create a more just world. However, this leads us back to the initial question of what is just, which is essentially asking what is moral. To understand this, we need to approach the question of economic justice and financial responsibility through the use of various moral methodologies.

Moral Methodology for Approaching Solution

Theologian Approach

According to Corran, justice is a "set of universal principles which guide people in judging what is right and what is wrong." Justice, along with courage, temperance, and prudence is one of the four cardinal virtues of classical moral philosophy. According to Corran, virtues are good habits that "help individuals to develop fully their human potentials, thus enabling them to serve their own self-interests as well as work in harmony with others for their common good." The purpose of virtues is to allow humans to be more divine, or god-like.

Corran is quick to highlight the differences between justice, a cardinal virtue, and charity, a religious virtue. According to Corran, charity is the soul of justice as justice "supplies the material foundation for charity." Although the highest aim of charity is the same as the highest aim of justice in that they both aim to elevate each person to where he does not need charity but can become charitable themselves, Corran points out that in no situation is charity a substitute for justice.

As has been previously mentioned, justice is framed by the main heading of social justice, and economic justice serves as a subheading of social justice. According to Corran, there are three principles of economic justice. These three principles are based on achieving the proper levels of input, output and feedback necessary for restoring harmony or balance in society. The three interdependent principles of economic justice include the Principle of Participation (input); the Principle of Distribution (output); and the Principle of Harmony (feedback). According to Corran, these three principles are like the legs of a "three-legged stool," thus "if any of these principles is weakened or missing, the system of economic justice will collapse."

To get a better understanding of how these principles apply in the world of economics, Corran provides the reader with a useful graphic designed by economic theorist Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler.

As can be seen from this explanatory image, each principle plays an essential role in creating economic harmony, which is essentially economic justice. For example, the principle of participation involves how one uses economic input in order to make a living. In order for this principle to work, equal opportunity in gaining access to private property and in opportunity to work is essential. In other words, according to the principle of participation, although equal results cannot be guaranteed, it does require equal opportunities at economic success, either through labor (as an employee) or through capital (as an employer). Thus, as Corran correctly points out, the principle of participation prohibits monopolies, special privileges and any other exclusionary barriers to personal economic success.

The principle of distribution, on the other hand, defines "the output or out-take rights of an economic system matched to each person's labor and capital inputs." In other words, according to the principle of distribution, economic justice is created when a person is allowed to take as much as they contribute. Thus, according to Corran, "Through the distributional features of private property within a free and open marketplace, distributive justice becomes automatically linked to participative justice, and incomes become linked to productive contributions." However, this principle of you get what you contribute is not equal to charity, whose principle is "to each according to his needs." In fact, distributive justice is based on the opposite concept of "to each according to his contribution." This is what makes distributive justice just: it allows everyone to take in equation to what they contributed, thus eliminating anyone taking for free. For this reason, distributive justice breaks down when individuals are not given the opportunity to take in equation with what they put in or when some are able to take when they do not contribute.

The third and final principle, the principle of harmony, is the feedback portion of the transaction that creates the balance of the other principles of input and output. However, the principle of harmony should not… [END OF PREVIEW]

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