Rev José Mario O Mandía
Since man is made in God’s image and likeness, there is a reflection of the Trinity in man. In God there is a relationship of knowledge and love. God also wants this relationship to be reflected among men. Thus, the CCC (No. 1878) affirms: “There is a certain resemblance between the unity of the Divine Persons and the fraternity that men are to establish among themselves in truth and love.”
The Church teaches that living with others is an intrinsic requirement of human nature. Society is not an artificial add-on that one may do without. By nature, man is not only rational, but also social. Thus, the CCC (No. 1879) teaches: “The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation” (cf. Gaudium et Spes 25, 1).
We can say that man’s social nature stems from his rational nature. The fact that man has an intellect means he can communicate with others and share ideas and ideals with them. And because man has a will, he can love and be loved. This relationship of knowledge and love brings about society.
Some thinkers like Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), John Locke (1632-1704) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) taught that society did not come about naturally but is the result of a social contract. The Church, on the other hand, teaches that society and the authority that governs it are all requirements of human nature.
God has wanted men to need one another. Thus, point 1936 of the CCC says: “On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth (cf. Gaudium et Spes 29, 2). The ‘talents’ are not distributed equally (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:27).”
CCC No. 1937 continues: “These differences belong to God’s plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular ‘talents’ share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods; they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures:
‘I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to one, some to others…. I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one, a living faith to that one…. And so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another…. I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me’ (St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue I, 7).”
The CCC (No. 1880) defines society as follows: “A society is a group of persons bound together organically by a principle of unity that goes beyond each one of them. As an assembly that is at once visible and spiritual, a society endures through time: it gathers up the past and prepares for the future. By means of society, each man is established as an ‘heir’ and receives certain ‘talents’ that enrich his identity and whose fruits he must develop (cf Luke 19:13,15). He rightly owes loyalty to the communities of which he is part and respect to those in authority who have charge of the common good.”