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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/23

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ASSOCIATION


ASSOCIATION


Since the indi%-idual is dependent upon so many other individuals for many of those material goods that are indispensable to him, he must frequently combine with those of liis neighbours who are sim- ilarly placed if he would successfully resist the tendency of modern forces to overlook and override the mere individual. A large proportion of the members of everj' industrial community cannot make adequate pro\-ision for the needs that follow in the train of misfortune and old age unless they utihze such agencies as the mutual benefit society, the insurance company, or the sa\-ings bank. Work- ingmen find it impossible to obtain just wages or reasonable conditions of emplojTiient without the trade imion. On the other hand, goods could not be produced or distributed in sufficient quantities except through the medium of associations. Manu- facturing, trade, transportation, and finance neces- sarily fail more and more vmder the control of partner- ships and stock companies.

Turning now from the consideration of these material needs, we find that association plays a no less important part in the religious, moral, intellec- tual, pohtical, and purely social departments of Ufe. Men cannot give God due worship e.xcept in a pubUc, social way. This implies at least the uni^-ersal Church and the parish, and ordinarily it supposes devotional and other associations, such as sodalities, altar societies, chiu-ch-fimd societies, etc. Select soiJs who -nish to embrace the hfe of perfection described by the evangehcal counsels must become organized in such a way that they can lead a common life. In everj- community there are persons who wish to do effective work on behalf of good morals, charity, and social reform of various kinds. Hence we have purity leagues, associated charities, tem- perance societies, etliical culture societies, social settlements. Since large numbers of parents prefer private and religious schools for the education of their children, the need arises for associations whose purpose is educational. Literarj- and scientific associations are necessary to promote original research, deeper study, and wider culture. Good government, especially in a republic, is impossible without political associations which stri\e vigilantly and constantly for the removal of abuses and the enactment of just laws.

In the purely social order men desire to enroll themselves in clubs, "secret" societies, amusement associations, etc., all of which may be made to promote human contentment and human happiness. Many of the forms of association just enumerated are ab- solutely necessary to right human life; none of them is entirely useless. Finally, voluntarj' associations are capable of discharging many of the tasks that otherwise would devolve upon the State. This was an important feature of their acti\-ity in the Middle Ages, and it is verj- desirable to-day when the functions of government are constantly increas- ing. Chief among the organizations capable of limiting State activity are those concerned with education, charitable work, industrj', and commerce, and the improvement of the working classes. In so far as these can perform their several tasks on reasonable terms and without injurj' to the State or to any class of its citizens, the public welfare is better ser\-ed by them than it would be if they were supplanted by the Government. Individual liberty and individual opportunity have a larger scope, individual initiative is more readily called into play, and the danger of Government despotism is greatly lessened.

The right of voluntary association is, therefore, a natural right. It is an endowment of man's nature, not a privilege conferred by civil society. It arises out of his deepest needs, is an indispensable means to reasonable life and normal self-development.


And it extends even to those associations that are not in themselves necessary for these ends — that is. so long as the associations do not contravene good morals or the pubhc weal. For the State has no right to prohibit any individual action, be it ever so unnecessarj% which is, from the public point of view, harmfess. Although it is not essential to liis personal development that the citizen should become a member of an association that can do liim neither good nor harm, it is essential to his happiness and liis self-respect that he should not be prevented from doing so by the State. The moment that the State begins to practise coercion of this kind it violates indi\-idual rights. The general right of voluntarj- association is well stated by Pope Leo XIII in the encyclical, "Rerum Xovarum ": "To enter into private societies is a natural right of man. and the State must protect natural rights, not destroy them. If it forbids its citizens to form associations, it con- tradicts the verj' principle of its own existence; for both they and it exist in virtue of the same principle, namely, the natural propensity of man to live in society."

Nor is the State justified in prohibiting voluntary associations on the ground that they may become inimical to public welfare. An institution should not be utterly condemned because it is hable to abuse; otherwise an end must be made of all institutions that are erected and conducted by human beings. The State has ample power to protect itself against all the abuses to which liberty of association is liable. It can forbid societies that aim at objects contrarj' to good morals or the public welfare, lay down such reasonable restrictions as are required to define the proper spheres of the various associations, punish those societies that go beyond their legitimate fields, and, in extreme cases, dissolve any particular organi- zation that proves itself to be incorrigible. Through these measures the State can pro\-ide itself with all the security that is worth ha%-ing; any further inter- ference with individual hberty would be a greater social evil than the one that is sought to be remedied. The formality of legal authorization, or registration, is not in itself imreasonable. but it ought not to be accompanied by unreasonable conditions. The pro- cedure ought to be such that any society formed in accordance with the appropriate law of association could demand authorization, or registration, as a civil right, instead of being compelled to seek it as a privilege at the hands of an official clothed with the power to grant or refuse it at his own discretion.

The difference between these two methods is the difference between the reign of law and the reign of official caprice; between constitutional liberty and bureaucratic despotism. Precisely this sort of arbitrarj' power is at present exercised by French officials over reUgious congregations. The result is that Frenchmen and Frenchwomen who wish to live in associations of tliis nature are denied the right to do so. Speaking generally of religious congregations, we may justly say in the words of Pope Leo XIII, that they have "the sanction of the law of nature", that is, the same natural right to exist on reasonable conditions as any other morally lawful association, and, on the rehgious side they rightly claim to be responsible to the Church alone". When the State refuses them the right to exist it violates not merely the natural moral law but the supernatural Di\'ine law. For these associations are an integral part of the life of the Church, and as such, he ^^•itllin her proper sphere. Witliin this sphere she is independent of the State, as inde- pendent as one sovereign ci\'il power is of another. Abuses that may grow out of religious associations can be met by the State in the ways outhned above. Treasonable acts can be punished; excessive accumu- lation of property can be prevented; in fact, everj'