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Common good key to reversing trust deficit

  • 26 November 2018


Many Australians are concerned with the current state of our political, economic and social institutions and the leadership of them. Australians are outraged by the behaviour of our political leaders securing their hold on power and position, and by the behaviour of our economic and social institutions highlighted by recent royal commissions.

While for some the rage burns, for the rest the response is a collective shrug of the shoulders and a question of resignation: 'What can I do about it?'

Whenever institutional interests are put ahead of the legitimate concerns of others, including the poor and marginalised, there develops a trust deficit. This deficit is gripping institutions here and overseas. Its impact is deep and destructive.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, a global survey across 28 countries, shows that trust in each of Australia's four key institutions — government, business in general, the media and not-for-profits — has fallen. Since 2017, trust in government has fallen from 37 per cent to 35 per cent, business from 48 per cent to 45 per cent, media from 32 per cent to 31 per cent and NGOs from 52 per cent to 48 per cent. These were not great numbers to begin with, but the slide, which is going all in one direction, should give cause for alarm.

As our trust in institutions declines, so too does our commitment to them. Our relationship with the political system and its parties, our economic institutions and even churches has become detached. The salacious reporting of the countless examples of wrongdoing has, for many, extinguished the fire of outrage that would demand change. Instead, these scandals of self-interest have increased antipathy towards the very institutions that we have created to support and be part of our society.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is a concise yet comprehensive overview of the Catholic Church's social teaching and is self-described as a 'treasure trove of radical wisdom offered to the whole of humanity in the interests of the common good'.

Gaudium et Spes, one of the key documents that emerged from the Second Vatican Council, expresses the common good as the sum of those conditions of social life that allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment. The common good holds in tension the fulfilment of an individual's interest and the interests of the whole.


"When there is an authentic commitment to others