Monday, January 06, 2014

Structures of Sin and the Development of Persons through Work

“Development” is a notion in function of persons, not structures.

The notion of “development” involves in its depth the development of the person. “According to Sacred Scripture… the notion of development is not only ‘lay’ or ‘profane,’ but is also … the modern expression of an essential dimension of man’s vocation.”[1] Man was not created immobile and static. Rather, the Bible “presents him as a creature and image, defined in his deepest reality by the origin and affinity that constitute him.  But all this plants within the human being – man and woman – the seed and the requirement of a special task to be accomplished by each individually and by them as a couple. The task is ‘to have dominion’ over the other created beings, ‘to cultivate the garden.’ This is to be accomplished within the framework of obedience to the divine law and therefore with respect for the image received, the image which is the clear foundation of the power of dominion recognized as belonging to man as the means to his perfection )cf. Gen. 1, 26-30; 2, 15-16; Wis. 9, 2-3)….

                “It is logical to conclude, at least on the part of those who believe in the word of God, that today’s ‘development’ is to be seen as a moment in the story which began at creation, a story which is constantly endangered by reason of infidelity to the Creator’s will, and especially by the temptation to idolatry. But this ‘development’ fundamentally corresponds to the first premises. Anyone wishing to renounce the difficult yet noble task of improving the lot of man in his totality, and of all people, with the excuse that the struggle is difficult and that constant effort is required, or simply because of the experience of defeat and the need to begin again, that person would be betraying the will of God the Creator. In this regard, in the Encyclical, Laborem Exercens, I referred to man’s vocation to work, in order to emphasize the idea that it is always man who is the protagonist of development.”[2]

                John Paul II explains that “development” and “the dream of ‘unlimited progress,’ is grounded in that “God the Father has decided from the beginning to make man a sharer of his glory in Jesus Christ risen from the dead, in whom ‘we have redemption through his blood… the forgiveness of our trespasses’ (Eph. 1, 7).”[3]  He goes on to say that “Some Fathers of the Church were inspired by this idea to develop in original ways a concept of the meaning of history and human work, directed towards a goal which surpasses this meaning and which is always defined by its relationship to the work of Christ. In other words, one can find in the teaching of the Fathers an optimistic vision of history and work, that is to say of the perennial value of authentic human achievements, inasmuch as they are redeemed by Christ and destined for the promised Kingdom.”[4]

                Therefore, we do not expect development in and from structures, but in and from persons who create structures. And, therefore, the social doctrine of the Church does not work in structures but with the person. Hence “(t)he Church’s social doctrine is not  a ‘third way’ between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism,  nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: rather, it constitutes a category of its own. Nor is it an ideology, but rather the accurate formulation of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church’s tradition. Its main aim is to interpret these realities., determining their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching on man and his vocation, a vocation which is at once earthly and transcendent; its aim is thus to guide Christian behavior. It therefore belongs to the field, not of ideology, but of theology and particularly of moral theology.”

                As solution to the critique made by the pope, then, is a theology of work as offered by John Paul II in Laborem Exercens, a Christian anthropology of work as found in “Christian Freedom and Liberation”[5] and the spirituality of work as offered by Opus Dei.

Consider Pope Francis’ remarks  in #202 – 204 in Evangelii Gaudium: The economy and the distribution of income:

202. The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality,[173]no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

203. The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies. At times, however, they seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development. How many words prove irksome to this system! It is irksome when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked, when the distribution of goods is mentioned, when reference in made to protecting labour and defending the dignity of the powerless, when allusion is made to a God who demands a commitment to justice. At other times these issues are exploited by a rhetoric which cheapens them. Casual indifference in the face of such questions empties our lives and our words of all meaning. Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.

204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.

205. I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! 

Consider on the socialist side,  Vaclav Havel’s confrontation of the Communist Structure: “The Power of the Powerless.”

[1] John Paul II, “Of Social Concern,” December 30, 1987. #30                                    
[2] Ibid.
[3]Ibid. 31.
[4] Ibid
[5] “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation,” CDF Joseph Ratzinger, Alberto Bovone, Marc 22, 1986,  Chapter V, #71-100. 

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