Is Francis proposing a new way forward?

Revitalising the church

Pope Francis has made headlines with comments about abortion, gay marriage, contraception, work and capitalism. His primary focus is pastoral and missionary: Francis is concerned with the church putting its words into action, writes Joel Hodge.

- The Conversation

Francis has also criticised the global economic system for its idolisation of money and inability to provide dignified work for people. How can we make sense of these comments? There is an underlying consistency to Francis' remarks, though this consistency can get lost when only sections of Francis’ comments are reported.

In the first place, Francis is reflecting Catholic Church teaching on life and social issues – for example, that human life is sacred and has an inherent dignity. This dignity is the basis for human rights for all, including a right to life and to dignified work. Without this basis in the absolute dignity of the human person, rights lose their foundation and meaning.

Speaking to a group of Catholic gynaecologists, Francis argued: 'the paradoxical situation is seen in the fact that, while new rights are attributed to the person, sometimes even presumed, life is not always protected as primary value and primordial right of every man [human].'

Francis is critical of the cultures and economic system that disrespect human dignity and rights. Speaking in Sardinia, where the divide between rich and poor is stark, he was critical of systems and organisations that make money the sole focus of economic and social decisions.

Profits are legitimate, but excessive profiteering with little or no respect for the dignity of people to work in meaningful occupations and just conditions is highly problematic. Francis knows the results of this excessive profiteering in the experience of his own family who had to migrate from Italy to find work, and in the experience of South America.

Francis is highlighting how this excessive focus on profits and money – rather than people – is corrosive of the global economic system. Given the effects of the global financial crisis, are the lessons of greed and profiteering being learned, or are they becoming more ingrained in global economics? Francis is continuing and intensifying the critique of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI in this regard, particularly in Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, which addressed the GFC.

In making these statements, however, Francis’ primary focus is pastoral and missionary. What this means is that Francis is concerned with the church putting its words into action. That is, putting the person at the heart of its actions.

FULL STORY Is Francis proposing a new way forward?

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