Pope Francis next tackles an issue that is traditional in Catholic teaching (from the era of the “Church Fathers,” in fact) but which is controversial, to say the least, today. It is the principle of the common use of created goods, the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order” (## 119-120). Just in case you were wondering, the quote actually comes from Pope St John Paul II, in his encyclical Laborem Exercens. The Catholic Compendium on Social Doctrine calls this “a natural and inherent right that takes priority over others.” What’s the fancy theological word for this principle? Sharing. It is an explicit rejection of the sort of economic philosophy that says business is all (and only) about increasing shareholders’ profits, at whatever cost.
It is in this section that the Holy Father begins in earnest a style of writing that he’s exhibited in his other exhortations: including statements from various episcopal conferences as teachings of authority. He starts off by quoted the USCCB (#124). Later, he’ll cite episcopal conferences of France, Portugal, Australia, Congo, Southern Africa, Colombia, Croatia, and India. He is revealing that the concept of “magisterium” (teaching authority) is not limited to the Vatican but is reflected in the Church universal.
Chapter Four is a direct address to the issue of migrants and refugees. His desired approach is four-fold: welcome, protect, promote, and integrate (#129). He lists ways in which this can and should happen—none of them new to us who know that our country’s immigration policy is desperately in need of revision (though Congress lacks the political will to do so). When I hear politicians say “those people” ( = from Latin America) need to come in legally, I reflect on the facts that 1) my grandfather was an illegal immigrant (!), and 2) that Ellis Island in those days was an open spigot and not a dripping faucet. But I digress (or maybe I don’t…).
Pope Francis desires us to see the benefit of integrating new peoples into our varying cultures because of the new gifts they bring, enriching themselves and the cultures they enter (##133ff). And we all know it’s true. For all the hatred exhibited in the 19th century against the Irish, for example, they’ve given us great heritage, including, for a great long time, our priests. This is why the Pope wants us to see our national cultural heritage as in the shape of a polyhedron—a multi-faceted reality. He insists, “The solution is not an openness that spurns its own riches” (#143). The desire is for new arrivals to add to, and not supersede or counteract. It is by engaging in a rich and positive sense of our own culture that we can fully and properly integrate new aspects of others’ culture into our lives. We’re the richer when we can celebrate Tet or Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe or Simbang Gabi along with our own celebrations. Does anyone remember last year’s multi-cultural festival? What a joyful event that was! It marked what Pope Francis insists on: “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of the parts” (#145).
Still more to come!