On Oct. 4, Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, spoke about social justice at the 2012 Hillsdale College Free Market Forum in Houston. The theme of the Forum, which encourages the study of free enterprise by bringing scholars together for dynamic exchanges of ideas on topics related to free market economics, was “Markets, Government, and the Common Good.” Rev. Sirico spoke about the evolved meaning of the phrase “social justice,” explaining the current usage of the phrase as well as its literal meaning. He also warned that if words and phrases lose their meaning then “chaos can result.”
Rev. Sirico grounds the concept of justice in the nature of the human person:
Justice is rooted in the intellectual tradition as treatment in accord with dessert. In other words, we are bound to treat people as they deserve to be treated. But that raises another question. What do people deserve? And that raised yet another question. Who is the human person who has the right to be treated in a particular way? Now this is where we come upon the most obvious thing about human beings. If we ask a few questions about ourselves, we see that the first thing that the human person is relates to our physiological, corporeal, physical beings. But we know through our experience by thinking about ourselves that there is also something more to us than merely our physicality. When we can love, when we can appreciate art, when we listen to music that evokes within us a sense of our transcendence, we realize that we are transcendent beings as well as corporeal beings. And that is part of who the human person is. The definition of a human person cannot be observed from the perspective of a microscope or chemical analysis. We are more than that and what’s more, each of us knows that we are more than that.
Download the complete text of Rev. Sirico’s talk here.