Pope Encourages Integral Development, Solidarity, and Economic Redistribution by the State

Pope Francis met with a number of representatives from the United Nations today, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Here are some of the key points he made in his address to the UN delegation.

Pope Francis explained how future development goals should reflect a commitment to integral development:

Future Sustainable Development Goals must therefore be formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development. Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the “economy of exclusion”, the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death” which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.

He argues that it is the spirit of solidarity and sharing, along with recognition of the dignity of all, that should guide us:

The gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions with immediate results, like the decision of Zacchaeus. Does this spirit of solidarity and sharing guide all our thoughts and actions? Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have earlier unjustly refused to others…Equitable economic and social progress can only be attained by joining scientific and technical abilities with an unfailing commitment to solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level.

Finally, he explicitly highlighted the responsibility of the state to engage in economic redistribution, while also highlighting the responsibilities of the international community, private sector, and civil society:

A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.

Quote(s) of the Day

Three from Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga:

“The Church decidedly bets on living the globalization of mercy and solidarity.”

“In practice, the hyperventilation of the economy has produced great amounts of money, fruit of the erosion of governmental regulation and a symptom of the failure of materialism. But, as a result, there is always a particular category of victim: ‘the poor.’ Jesus of Nazareth made a warning that should be heeded by all the powers: civil and religious, democratic, monarchic, socialist, of any type: ‘You know that those who are considered the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave.’ (Mark 10: 41; Matthew 20: 25).”

“There is no doubt that doctrinal argument is important, but people will be attracted by the humanity of Christians, those who live by the faith, who live in a human way, who irradiate the joy of living, the consistency in their behavior.”

Pope Francis: Worship God, Not the Free Market

In an address earlier today, Pope Francis made comments that are sure to shake Catholic free market enthusiasts down to their boots.  The Pope pointed to technological and other forms of progress that have accompanied modernity, but he also said “we must acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences.”  He identified not just the prevalence of poverty, but also widespread fear, desperation, violence, indecency, and a diminishing sense of the joy of life.

The Holy Father argued that money is playing too dominant a role in shaping our lives and our society.  He stated that the financial crisis is rooted in “the denial of the primacy of human beings.”  Pope Francis argued, “The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

He attacked the commodification of human life, where “human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away.”  He highlighted the way solidarity is seen as counterproductive when it comes to finance and the aims of the economy.

He attacked economic libertarianism and the economic inequalities it creates, saying, “This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.”  He likened this to tyranny and “a rejection of God.”

Against those who would argue for private charity alone, the Pope said, “I encourage the financial experts and the political leaders of your countries to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom: ‘Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs.’”  Political leaders are charged with ensuring that each person has their fundamental needs met, with the integral development of all of their citizens.  Francis stated, “The Church encourages those in power to be truly at the service of the common good of their peoples.”

A central point was that “there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone.”  The personal acts of solidarity with the poor and vulnerable displayed by Pope Francis are now joined by a clear, direct call for structural changes to protect the poor and promote their integral development.  Proponents of Catholic social teaching cannot help but be inspired by this clarion call to action.

“First an Earthquake, then a Hurricane”: Life & Justice Interview with John Allen

National Catholic Reporter senior correspondent and CNN’s Vatican correspondent John Allen was the keynote speaker at the Diocese of Camden’s Justice for All Dinner last week. John is one of the most respected Church observers, and he provided invaluable coverage throughout Pope Benedict’s resignation and all that followed.

At the end of his talk here, John said he hoped the evening would just be the start of a conversation. I took him up on the offer, and emailed him some Life & Justice questions connected to his areas of expertise: the papacy and the ongoing transformation of the Catholic Church. He kindly replied despite his incredibly full schedule.

MJL: You mentioned at the Justice for All Dinner Pope Francis’ line that he wants a church that is “poor and for the poor.” How have you seen this commitment lived out already early in his papacy? How do you think it might develop in the future?

JA: There’s the obvious: shunning the papal limo as much as possible, living in the Casa Santa Marta rather than the papal apartment, and so on. I visited his sister’s home in Buenos Aires, and it gives new meaning to the term “simple”! More deeply, it’s clear based on the trajectory of this pope’s life that the poor are at the heart of his pastoral vision. My suspicion is that Francis will nudge Catholicism towards a simpler, more evangelical style of life, and towards greater solidarity with the poor at all levels.

 MJL: The vision of Life & Justice Ministries in Camden is to promote a consistent ethic of life, from conception until natural death and every moment in between. Pope Francis seems to embrace this both/and philosophy, resisting the barriers that sometimes divide “pro-life Catholics” and “social justice Catholics.” Do you see this “both/and” vision in Francis’ thinking?

JA: Very much so, but I saw it in Benedict XVI and John Paul II as well. We Catholics are often creatures of our culture, and the political culture in the States does a terrific job pitting these two dimensions of Catholic social teaching against one another. If we’re going to overcome that, it will require a deeply counter-cultural commitment from us, not just once-and-for-all but every day. Papal vision can help, but ultimately it’s up to us.

MJL: As the Catholic Church’s population center continues shifting toward the Global South, what can we in the United States do to stand in solidarity with our Catholic sisters and brothers who are not from the West?

JA: Most deeply, we can accept the premise that American Catholics are just six percent of the global Catholic population, so membership in this global family of faith means that we can’t always have things our own way and that the welfare and perspectives of Catholics in other parts of the world matters too. Everything else flows from that.

What was one of the most powerful things your saw or learned during your recent visit to Cardinal Bergoglio’s hometown of Buenos Aires?

I visited one of the villas miserias, the slums in Buenos Aires, where then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio spent enormous amounts of time and where his pastoral vision of a “poor church for the poor” came alive. Talking to the often abandoned people who live there, it was clear that politics and the media may have forgotten about them, but the Church under Bergoglio had not.

MJL: A little experiment, if you’re willing: Write a six-word memoir of your experience in Rome since February 11, the date Pope Benedict announced his resignation.

JA: First an earthquake, then a hurricane.

This interview is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.  You can also follow their work on facebook.