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Bishop Opens Catholic Lecture Series by Exploring the “Common Good”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

“Who is my brother? Who is my sister?”

Opening this year’s Catholic Lecture Series on October 1, Most Rev. Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego, posed these and other questions while speaking on “Catholic Teaching and the Emergent Common Good,” part of St. John’s University’s annual Founder’s Week celebration.

In this “globalized era,” the answer to those questions “is rooted in the notion of the common good,” Bishop McElroy told students, faculty, and staff at St. Thomas More Church on the Queens, NY, campus. “The common good includes respect for the individual person, but also requires regard for the development of the group itself. In addition, the common good requires peace and just relations within each society.”

The Catholic Lecture Series, sponsored by St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is intended to further St. John’s strategic objective of visibly embedding its Catholic and Vincentian mission in the academic life of the University. 

The goal of his own lecture, Bishop McElroy noted, was to answer the question of global responsibility to “our brothers and sisters,” an issue that Pope Francis often raises during his travels throughout the world.

“Pope Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict all pointed repeatedly to the growing theme of globalization—and to the new relationships and challenges it creates,” Bishop McElroy said. “The primary question is not whether globalization is forming new webs which bind peoples more tightly together in their social, cultural, economic, and political lives.” It is, instead, “what are the central bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood which the empirical reality of globalization thrusts upon us all as members of the human family?”

The key is to recognize that there is a “true international common good,” and “the most profound human problems that touch upon these affirmations of faith and humanity lie far beyond the ability of any nation or small group of nations to address justly in a globalized society.”

Pope Francis, in particular, has eloquently expressed this understanding, Bishop McElroy observed, by emphasizing the international dimensions of poverty and economic justice; the need to protect the environment; and the obligation to care for refugees. “These issues,” said the bishop, “comprise elements of a truly international common good, which is a claim upon and an end for the newly emerging international community which globalization has forged.”

Ultimately, he said, new “structures” are needed to help nations confront the threats that today’s global society poses to humanity. These, in turn, must transcend current economic and military systems. “They cannot be primarily the advancement of the national interest of a few peoples with minor accommodations to the right of the many.”