Like Catholic teaching itself, Pope Francis is inspired by personalism, which is premised on the innate worth and dignity of each person and the importance of our relationships as members of numerous communities, rather than as autonomous individuals or parts of a mass collective. Michael Gerson has a great column in the Washington Post on Pope Francis’ personalism. He explains:
God regards us — all of us, proud and broken, wounded and whole — as equal in value and dignity. Francis described ‘the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.’ The social implications of this personalism are profound. Human beings can’t be reduced to the sum of their consumption or the total of their pleasures. They can’t be made instruments for the benefit of others. This is not a view of human rights rooted in contract theory or chosen behind a veil of ignorance. It is a belief that human beings can’t be exploited or abused without defacing the divine.
This approach puts the person first and rejects ideologies that dehumanize or depersonalize others:
Catholic social thought is broad and complex. It does not dictate a political ideology, but it clearly rules some out: social Darwinism, materialism, nativism, and libertarianism. Without dictating policies, Francis is leading in the direction of a more humane politics. At one point in the speech, referring to the world’s current upsurge in refugees, he insisted on the importance of “seeing their faces.” Which is a pretty good summary of his message.
Gerson also discussed Francis and his approach in a recent video, which you can view below: