Earlier this week, I read about a conference which took place January 10 at Catholic University in Washington DC – “Erroneous Autonomy: The Dignity of Work”. “Erroneous Autonomy” is based on Pope Pius XI encyclical Quadragesimo Anno statements –
“Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching.” #88
Bishop McElroy of San Diego spoke on the three framing forces life in our country today and how they are in opposition to Catholic Social Teaching.
- Drive for sovereignty of the markets: “But as Catholic social teaching has made clear in every moment of the modern era, free markets do not constitute a first principle of economic justice. Their moral worth is only instrumental in nature and must be structured by society and government to accomplish the common good.”
- Technocratic paradigm: “The technocratic paradigm is a devastatingly corrosive form of erroneous autonomy. It claims moral status through its ability to capture one element of reality and promises that this one element has the capacity to produce human flourishing.”
- Nationalism: “As a consequence nationalism as a directive force in society is an example of erroneous autonomy; it is a moral good only when it is connected and subordinated to the order of justice and freedom.”
Those forces Bishop McElroy points out do not have any moral authority by themselves. On the other hand, Catholic Social Teaching is rooted in the moral principles of:
- Dignity of the human person: Every human being is infinitely valuable and loved in the eyes of God, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion or physical appearance.
- Pursuit of the common good: The common good is the complete development of all the people of the world. John XXIII describes it as ‘the sum total of conditions of social living, whereby persons are enabled more fully and readily to achieve their own perfection.’ Mater et Magistra – “Mother and Teacher” (1961), paragraph 65.
- The principle of subsidiarity: Its basic principle is that matters should be dealt with at the lowest and most appropriate authority and that a central authority should perform only those tasks that cannot be carried (effectively) out at a more local level.
- The call to solidarity: Solidarity is about valuing our fellow human beings and respecting who they are as individuals.
- “The many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice, are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity. New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless”. In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do ut des which is both pragmatic and selfish.” Pope Francis
Cardinal O’Malley reflected the Catholic commitment to the dignity of labor. He worked with migrant workers as director of El Centro Catolico Hispano. Dignity of labor is not an abstract concept. Additionally, Cardinal O’Malley reminded those attended and us that affordable health care is – “Foundational to well-being…and the lack of health care directly threatens human dignity…Our moral obligation (is) not to abandon people in their times of need is clear.”
For more information on the conference see https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/conference-examines-clash-between-us-culture-catholic-social-teaching.
These are challenging times regardless of your perspective. It is time to pray, listen, learn, think and act together even more guided by our common faith in Christ
In closing, I want to share the following –
“Our rights can only be enhanced by those of everyone else”. – Simon Tugwell, The Beatitudes: Soundings in Christian tradition.
In Christ and Peace,
John M. Kingery