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.
Here are three more excerpts from the Pope Francis speech, followed by my comments. [Note: this post represents the second and final installment. Go here to read part 1.]
- “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.”
Here Pope Francis roots social justice where it belongs. It does not derive from some arbitrary absolute of a tyrannical society, but from the moral principle of the dignity of all human life. This applies to all life, without exclusion for any reason, from conception to natural death. The sharing is not under compulsion, but from “complete human freedom.” The compulsion is internal: free human beings selflessly motivated to love their fellow human beings. Note that the “goods” we possess are the gifts of God’s providence. They are God’s; we are mere stewards of these goods for the benefit of creation and our fellow human beings. Note that we are to share, not simply material capital (as would be the case in a naturalistic framework). A comprehensive understanding of capital also includes ideas – metaphysical capital and spiritual capital. In fact, the Pope Francis list could be expanded to include at least six other kinds of capital:
- Natural capital (those resources in the ground),
- Moral and spiritual capital,
- Economic capital,
- Social capital,
- Intellectual and aesthetic capital,
- Institutional capital, including government, civil laws and infrastructure (roads, power grids, internet, et al).
All these gifts of God are to be shared, not grudgingly as a selfish individual operating from a culture of greed would do, but lavishly, from a culture of generosity. God is a generous God. He expended the price for grace, the death of his son Jesus. God lavishes grace upon us. Our thankful response is to be lavish in our generosity. As Jesus taught in Matt 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
- “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.”
It is here that the world’s elites focus, especially the phrase the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State. Pope Francis qualifies this call with the an additional statement of the need for cooperation between the private sector and civil society. As we have argued on this blog, an important distinction exists between equity – equality of all citizens before the law, and equality – equal economic outcomes. The first promotes freedom; the second imposes state tyranny in an effort to force an artificial economic equality. The question, in my mind, is the role of the state in determining economic outcomes. People are created to be free and responsible human beings. Too often the state, in its good intentions to help people who are poor, designs bureaucratic solutions that create dependencies that rob people of their freedom and dignity. Help for people who are poor best comes from individuals, from the companies they found and the voluntary associations they form. (An upcoming post on Christian social responsibility will feature one example: Arthur Guinness, and his company, Guinness Brewing.)
This is something Pope Francis will need to clarify
This is something Pope Francis will need to clarify. Most of what he has argued in this piece is from the foundation of Biblical principles. However, if he is saying that the state has a responsibility to forcibly redistribute economic benefits so that all people have the same outcome, this is a violation of the eighth and tenth commandments. This would indicate that his fallback economic framework is that of a closed universe. See the graphic below.
- “Consequently, while encouraging you in your continuing efforts to coordinate the activity of the international agencies, which represents a service to all humanity, I urge you to work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded.”
Pope Francis ends his message by calling for a worldwide ethical mobilization. He understands that at their root, economic issues are moral issues. To see people and nations flourish requires a moral/ethical framework and commitment. His call for fraternity and solidarity with the poorest of the poor is recognition of the natures of the one and many of the human community. He understands that the root of the word “compassion” is to suffer together with another person.
– Darrow Miller