On May 9 Pope Francis met with UN General Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and executives from the United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes meeting in Rome. He called upon the United Nations to contribute to a worldwide ethical mobilization.
Much of the media focused on his call for the “legitimate redistribution of wealth” by the state. Sadly, many reports took this comment out of context. Francis is concerned about injustice. He calls for “ethical mobilization” by which he means challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the “economy of exclusion,” the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death.”
For the most part, the Western media and academic institutions are informed by a naturalistic paradigm. All problems are reduced to material causes and solutions. There is little room for the ethical and moral standards of Judeo-Christian faith. Yet Pope Francis is calling out the common humanity of UN leaders to participate to a worldwide mobilization of morality.
Here are two excerpts from the Pope Francis speech followed by my commentary.
1. “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.”
Evil is found in three forms. There is personal, moral evil such as murder, theft, and adultery; institutional evil, what Pope Francis calls “structural causes,” such as slavery, corruption and sex trafficking; and natural evil – earthquakes, droughts, and tsunamis. All three forms of evil contribute to poverty and hunger. Here the Pope is focusing on institutional evil, but all three forms need to be addressed.
He identifies the comprehensive and integrative nature of the problems faced by the human family. He recognizes the need for environmental stewardship of the world and its resources. He acknowledges the dignity of work. This entails fostering healthy work environments and nurturing a wide range of significant vocations (see the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics’ video Freedom to Flourish). It means protecting the family, under attack today on so many fronts.
Pope Francis continues by describing other forms of injustice found in the modern, materialistic culture. These include an “economy of exclusion,” the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death.”
The “economy of exclusion” fails to recognize that humanity is founded on the Trinitarian principle of community: the One and Many God. Communities are comprised of individuals. The human family is a community of communities. Neither the distorted individualism of the modern West or the collectivism of Marxist philosophy represents the ideal. Rather, we have a moral responsibility to care for people who are poor and not to exclude them from the life of the community.
The “throwaway culture” is a reflection of modern materialistic greed. Only material things have value. Man is basically a consuming animal. The hedonistic mantra – “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die” – is an apt description of life today. We work to consume. Many consumer goods are made of cheap plastic so they will quickly need to be replaced. Planned obsolescence is designed into our furniture, appliances, and automobiles. Quality goods built with excellence are rare; deferred gratification rarer still. Our system supports an insatiable desire for more and more now. Immediate gratification drives our economy.
Pope Francis speaks of the “culture of death”
Pope Francis speaks of the “culture of death,” an atheistic framework which yields no place for the right to life. After all, we are here by some form of cosmic accident. The culture of death promotes human destruction in many forms: abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, gendercide (200,000,000 fewer females in the world are alive than should be). The right to life is the most fundamental. Without an understanding of the dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death, there is no framework to fight the injustices of hunger and poverty. Our doctrine, derived from Darwin, is red in tooth and claw – the survival of the fittest.
All three of these injustices are derived from an atheistic (read amoral) culture. Thus the call by Pope Francis for worldwide ethical mobilization. Without moral, thinking citizens, these injustices will become commonplace. They will weave even more tightly into the fabric of our existence.
2. “With this in mind, I would like to remind you, as representatives of the chief agencies of global cooperation, of an incident which took place two thousand years ago and is recounted in the Gospel of Saint Luke (19:1-10). It is the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus, as a result of which Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. This same spirit should be at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity.”
Pope Francis retells the story of Jesus’s confrontation with Zacchaeus, a Jew who collected taxes for the occupying Roman government. Zacchaeus was guilty on two counts. First, he was serving an oppressive foreign power, helping subjugate his own people. Second, he was corrupt. He collected more taxes than were due and pocketed the balance for himself.
As Pope Francis reminds us, “the gaze of Jesus” confronted Zacchaeus with his sin and prompted his repentance. We see this same confrontation and grace found in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. Bishop Myriel of Digne extends grace to the thief Jean Valjean. This marked the turning point in Jean Valjean’s life just as the confrontation with Jesus changed Zacchaeus. He repented of his corruption and became a man of justice. It is this spirit of radical repentance that should frame our personal and corporate political and economic activity.
– Darrow Miller
… to be continued