Last month on The Orthosphere, Kristor published “The Production of Righteousness” about the ultimate aim of social policy. The post and its comments are worth reading.
In undergrad., I remember reading various facile distinctions between the legitimate aims of secular society and those of the Church. A common marker was that politics aimed for material well-being while religion aimed for spiritual well-being. A more respectable opinion held that the commonwealth inculcated the natural virtues, while the Church cultivated the theological virtues. I found and continue to find these distinctions bogus. If the ultimate aim—the highest good—of man is God, then all other considerations follow from that. If a king is to consider the good of his people, then he must facilitate their attainment of the highest good, in relation to which all other goods have their place and meaning. If the bishop’s job is to shepherd his flock toward salvation, he, too, must concern himself with their character development and with conditions conducive to living morally. A king and a bishop in a Christian society wear different crowns (figuratively if not literally, thanks to the Turks!), but the common delineations of their duties remain unsatisfactory. One leads the institution of the state, which is simply the organizing power of the whole people for the preservation of society, while the other leads the ecclesiastic institution, which is simply the organizing power of the whole people (in a Christian society) for the salvation of souls. However, measures that preserve society and those that foster spiritual growth largely overlap. It is for this reason that “Church and state” ought to cooperate in a partnership—a symphony—for the good of men.