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Supererogation

May 24, 2020

Word for the day: Supererogation.

Merriam-Webster defines it as “the act of performing more than is required by duty, obligation, or need.” The Latin roots are ‘super’ (over and above) and ‘erogare’ (to expend public funds after asking the consent of the people).

The political relevance for today seems clear: duty to the common good, doing better than merely what’s required, and ethical representation. But the roots are in church matters. I encountered the term in Aquinas’ *Summa Theologica*, in relation to the expectations of bishops.

I don’t need my president, senator, governors, mayor, or alderperson to act like a medieval bishop, but I’m not surprised to find ideas about the ethics of public offices rooted in questions about Church bureaucracy and administration.

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