After Laudato Si’, in which Pope Francis focussed on how to deal with ecological problems, he presented recently an encyclical letter on fraternity and social friendship, addressing all “brothers and sisters” while using Francis of Assisi’s words “fratelli tutti” for its title. Pope Francis gives a sketch of how the world could look like. He quotes many of his other works maybe not well-known outside of the Catholic Church and, interestingly, among those is a paper he authored together with Al-Azhar Sheik and Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb from Cairo who is a representative of the Sunni Islam, a paper he quotes frequently.
The Encyclical gives an analysis of the current world situation. It criticises
- market radicalism as dogma of neoliberal faith that resorts to the magic theories of ‘spillover’ or ‘trickle'” down (par. 168);
- disruptive globalisation;
- the situations of violence having become so common as to constitute a real “third world war” (par. 25) fought piecemeal;
- the misunderstanding and misuse of the concept of human rights as individualistic ones forgetting the social ones besides the individual ones;
- the supersession of rights of peoples and the poor by free enterprise – “[t]he right to private property is always accompanied by the primary and prior principle of the subordination of all private property to the universal destination of the earth’s goods, and thus the right of all to their use” (par. 123);
- populism for egoistic interests – whereas “those who defend the rights of the most vulnerable members of society tend to be criticized as populists” (par. 163);
- politics that is “subject to the dictates of finance” (par. 168);
- the manipulation by social media and big companies attacking a culture of dialogue;
- the death penalty
and a lot of more cases of current societal developments worth criticising.
The critique is not an immanent one. It measures those developments against the vision of a good society in which the commune bonum is centre stage, the common good for any and all members of our species. And such a vision needs to be fought for, if our species wants to survive.
Pope Francis calls to action. In that context, he speaks of wrong concepts of forgiveness. There are social conflicts that need to be settled. “Forgiveness does not entail allowing oppressors to keep trampling on their own dignity and that of others, or letting criminals continue their wrongdoing.” (par. 241)
While public attention is so far restrained, conservatives, e.g. from the Munich ifo-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, accuse the Pope of falsehood, prejudices, an anti-market ideology and misjudgement of globalisation and the role of private property.
[The picture of Pope Francis: copyright KNA]