I continue to blog about the Holy Father’s visit to
Sep 14-16. Lebanon
While more evident in countries which are experiencing armed conflict – those wars so full of futility and horror – there are assaults on the integrity and the lives of individuals taking place in other countries too. Unemployment, poverty, corruption, a variety of addictions, exploitation, different forms of trafficking, and terrorism not only cause unacceptable suffering to their victims but also a great impoverishment of human potential. We run the risk of being enslaved by an economic and financial mindset which would subordinate “being” to “having.”
The destruction of a single human life is a loss for humanity as a whole. Mankind is one great family for which all of us are responsible. By questioning, directly or indirectly, or even before the law, the inalienable value of each person and the natural foundation of the family, some ideologies undermine the foundations of society. We need to be conscious of these attacks on our efforts to build harmonious coexistence. Only effective solidarity can act as an antidote, solidarity that rejects whatever obstructs respect for each human being, solidarity that supports policies and initiatives aimed at bringing peoples together in an honest and just manner…
Nowadays, our cultural, social and religious differences should lead us to a new kind of fraternity wherein what rightly unites us is a shared sense of the greatness of each person and the gift which others are to themselves, to those around them and to all humanity. This is the path to peace! This is the commitment demanded of us! This is the approach which ought to guide political and economic decisions at every level and on a global scale!
Address to Government and National Leaders,
Sept 15, 2012
Reflection – The Church’s social doctrine, of which the above passage is an admirable example, does not fit into tidy political categories of ‘right’ and ‘left’, ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.’
This is because the Church is concerned primarily not with ‘society’ or ‘economy’ but with human beings, with the individual, and with individuals coming together to form the family of man. And so the extremities of any political economic ideology are to be condemned. A top-heavy planned economy where a central government stifles innovation and entrepreneurial spirit is bad for individuals, does not foster the flourishing of human gifts and potential.
At the same time, a coldly laissez-faire approach where people are divided up into ‘makers’ or ‘takers’ – and their value as human beings assessed in those terms, violates human solidarity and human dignity.
As always in the case of human affairs, virtue lies in the middle, and as always in the case of politics and economics, that middle will be an elusive ever-shifting point. At the moment, speaking personally, I favour less government and more room for private personal initiative, simply because the current system doesn’t seem financially viable for too much longer. People are going to need to learn to shift for themselves when our governments actually run out of money in the next decade or two—we may as well start learning now!
But these are always prudential judgments about which we can differ, not ideological dogmas. Certainly the Church, while stating very clearly the focus and the broad principles of social and economic morality, carefully avoids giving magisterial support to specific policy questions of individual governments.
Government and economic policy is at the service of the human person and of fostering human dignity. And this dignity is expressed both in subsidiarity (people taking maximum responsibility for their own lives) and solidarity (the lively awareness that we are all one human family responsible for one another). And these principles don’t just apply to government leaders and the decisions they make, but to how you and I are going to live our lives today, the choices we make and how we treat the people around us.