Spirituality and Economics

Reginald Garrigou-LagrangeFather Garrigou-Lagrange often compared material goods and spiritual goods. For him, this was important because the world in the interwar years was experiencing a major economic crisis. Material goods were talked about all the time. This is rather like the present. We are and have been in a major financial crisis for some time now.

What does Father Garrigou-Lagrange say? He emphasizes, along with Saint Augustine, that temporal goods can only belong to one person at a time. Although temporal goods have, by right, a universal destination, the institution of private property, which must in justice serve the common destination of goods, means that only one person can own something at the same time. This can cause problems. When greed rears its head, we will end up in dire straits.

On the other hand, spiritual goods are shared. They can be shared; there is no limit on how many people can “own” a painting’s beauty, an idea’s truth, a story’s moral goodness, God’s love, and so on. Even more than, this the very act of having spiritual goods of the order of grace implies that they will be shared; they must be shared. To have goods of the order of grace and not want to share them would be to lose them.

And so here we have the solution to economic crises: spiritual goods must come first for us, for it means that we will pursue that which spills out onto our neighbours, not that which we can hoard for ourselves. Economics being linked to morality, this principle must fit in somehow.

In light of this reasoning, who could justly say that Christian contemplation and spiritual values are worthless, impractical, or inefficacious?

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2 thoughts on “Spirituality and Economics

  1. One hopes that the sharing of spiritual goods would shape the soul in such a way as to incline the individual (and community) toward justice and even generosity concerning material goods.

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