102. A humanist ecology
The science and the art of common life – a family, inter-family and human life – is called, or ought to be called, communitarian ecology and economy. The learned men who made our civilisation are our guides here.
The supreme law for regulating this family well-being is neither biological, mathematical, metaphysical, moral nor religious. It is specific to and characterises ecological science. It is prudence, a natural virtue, a practical wisdom, applied to creation, to the extension and conservation of the material and spiritual heritage of families, the prime object, in the temporal order, of men’s desires.
1. Our ecology and our economy are defined as the speculative science and the practical art of the ideal conditions and of the possible realisations of family prosperity, through the virtue of prudence and for the purpose of a happy life involving fraternal human communities.
Such a definition, very modern, ties in with those of Aristotle and Saint Thomas (Sum., IIa-IIae qu.50 art. 3; cf. Ad 2 !). It is opposed to individualist or collectivist definitions of the social reality and to any materialist conception of the end sought. It opposes even its ideal of “ family prudence ” to the personalist and spiritualist conception of the economy very much in vogue in contemporary Catholicism.
2. Essentially different from kantian moralism, Catholic doctrine recognises the proper value of the good things of natural life. It is a humanism in the sense that it accepts the fundamental principle of autonomy, also referred to as “ subsidiarity ” : let each first be concerned for himself ; each family for its own life and its own prosperity.
The Church, therefore, recognises the natural autonomy of temporal communities, and she recognises their authority to determine their ends and means, their rights and duties, through a science and an art that come under reason alone.