Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2
To follow up on my first installment of “Set Me Free (From Ideologies), I am going to draw again from the rich well of Pope Benedict’s powerful encyclical Caritas In Veritate. In this case it would seem that in paragraph #25 the Pope is sounding kinda liberal if we would attempt to fit the views expressed into one or another of our American political ideologies.
Now my mission in this series is not to try to make the case that Pope Benedict XVI’s social teaching contributions are by and large liberal rather than conservative- in future entries I will provide examples of official documents that I would say to my ear sound more friendly to Americans in one of the “conservative” encampments. My point- which I don’t want anyone to miss- is that I believe that an honest and comprehensive reading of the Church’s official social doctrine teachings and prudential judgment advisements, offered by those tasked with the responsibility for the official social doctrine, should lead one away from embracing one or another political ideology- as the Pope himself warned about in my Part 1 quotation.
The ideologies, themselves, are dividing us up into hero-worshipping Reaganites or Obamaites- which is something I just can’t sit back and watch. I am at present still a Democrat myself, but my inclination is to at some point try to formulate an Independent “Common Good” political party- not daring to call it “Catholic” because all efforts to reduce the entire social doctrine down into a political program are doomed to failure due to human weakness and due to the complexity of applying every principle correctly into every concrete reality- there is room for prudential disagreement- though this point has been overplayed by those who want to simply go off in any and all directions- left or right when it fits their ideological or patriotic leanings.
So- here is the next offering which comes directly from the Pope. One can refuse to take some of the prudential advice to heart- but all faithful Catholics have a duty to take the words of the Pope seriously, and deep into one’s conscience. So- one may not agree with the Church’s criticism of a “downsizing of social security”, or “The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of worker’s associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more tha in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.”, or even the really big theme that “the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: ‘Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.’”. But here is what the Pope has said and I will let the Pope speak now from his encyclical - paragraph #25 Caritas In Veritate:
25. From the social point of view, systems of protection and welfare, already present in many countries in Paul VI’s day, are finding it hard and could find it even harder in the future to pursue their goals of true social justice in today’s profoundly changed environment. The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations. Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.
The mobility of labour, associated with a climate of deregulation, is an important phenomenon with certain positive aspects, because it can stimulate wealth production and cultural exchange. Nevertheless, uncertainty over working conditions caused by mobility and deregulation, when it becomes endemic, tends to create new forms of psychological instability, giving rise to difficulty in forging coherent life-plans, including that of marriage. This leads to situations of human decline, to say nothing of the waste of social resources. In comparison with the casualties of industrial society in the past, unemployment today provokes new forms of economic marginalization, and the current crisis can only make this situation worse. Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life”.