Pope Francis on the Personalistic Dimension of Work, Freedom, and Dignity

Here are some key passages from Pope Francis’ message to the participants in the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences:

  • The Social Doctrine of the Church (SDC) insistently invites us to find ways to apply, in practice, fraternity as the governing principle of the economic order.
  • The periods we have left behind – the 1800s and above all the 1900s – were characterised by arduous battles, both cultural and political, in the name of solidarity and rights, and this was a good thing – if one thinks of the history of the trade unions movement and the struggle to obtain civil and social rights, struggles that are in any case very far from being concluded. What is most disturbing today is the exclusion and marginalization of the majority from equitable participation in nationwide and planetary distribution of both market and non-market assets such as dignity, freedom, knowledge, belonging, integration, and peace.
  • Inequalities – along with wars for dominance, and climate change – are the causes of the greatest forced migration in history, affecting over 65 million human beings. Think too of the growing drama of new slavery, in the forms of forced labour, prostitution, and organ trafficking, which are true crimes against humanity. It is alarming and symptomatic that today the human body is bought and sold, as if it were a commodity for exchange.
  • Calling for integral development means engaging in widening the space of dignity and freedom of people: freedom, however, not only in the negative sense of the absence of impediments, nor only in a positive sense as a choice. It is necessary to add freedom “for”, that is, the freedom to pursue its vocation of both personal and social good. The key idea is that freedom goes hand in hand with the responsibility of protecting the common good and promoting the dignity, liberty and well-being of others, reaching the poor, the excluded and future generations.
  • Just work is not merely that which ensures fair remuneration, but which corresponds to the person’s vocation and is therefore able to develop his or her skills. Precisely because work transforms the person, the process by which goods and services are produced acquires moral value. In other words, the workplace is not simply the place where certain elements are processed according to certain rules and procedures in products; it is also the place where the character and virtue of the worker are formed or transformed.
  • The recognition of this powerfully personalistic dimension of work is a great challenge we still face, even in liberal democracies where workers have made considerable gains.