History And The Theology Of Liberation

human beings had not committed sin, they would share everything with each other and live in a state of justice-without private property. Basil was a monk, and the monks lived a life in common as opposed to the system of private ownership that prevailed in civilized towns and cities.

According to Thomas Aquinas, private property is a jus gentium, not a natural right. The notion of the "right of peoples or nations" is discussed by a scholastic professor of Salamanca, the late Santiago Ramirez. He explains that private property is a secondary natural right. I have a natural right to those means and resources which are necessary if I am to achieve my end or goal. The end of man is happiness, and he has a right to those means which will enable him to attain that end: i. e., to food, clothing, shelter, education, and so forth. But what about those means that are not necessary? What about the second car, the second house, and so forth? I do not have a natural right to those things, because I do not need them to attain my end. This is the clear and unmistakable doctrine of Christian tradition. My power over secondary, non-necessary means is merely a positive right; it is not a natural right.

Consider for a moment the Amerindians living on the Argentinian pampas before these areas were incorporated into the present nation. Those Indians lived there by natural right because the land and its basic resources were necessary for them. Then General Roca came along, drove out the Indians with his army, and handed the land over to people living in Buenos Aires. Was his action peaceable and just? Who really had a right to those lands-the native Indians or his soldiers? Doesn't it seem clear that the Indians had a natural right to those lands, whereas the soldiers merely obtained a positive right to them?

When someone says that private property is inalienable, he may well be wrong. Private property held merely by positive right is not inalienable. Only what is necessary for man's end is a natural right; all else is not. As medieval commentators put it: "In case of necessity, everything is common." And here we might well ask the same question that Thomas Melville asked: "If we are not dealing with a case of necessity in Latin America, where in the world can we talk about cases of necessity at all?"

The point is that we do not have to introduce innovations in doctrine here. We have traditions which go back to the Acts of the Apostles that can be applied to our present situation. In theory, then, there is no reason why we cannot contemplate the implementation of socialism. It may not be the best course. It may prove to be a failure. But speaking theologically, we can say that there is no legitimate objection to it in principle.

Some months ago I stressed this point at a meeting of Latin American bishops, and I stress it here today. I do not hink that Marxism should be identified with Latin American socialism. Socialism is very much a possibility for Christians on our continent, but it need not be Marxist.

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