Leave aside his plea to God ‘ to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor’ – a prayer unanswered by the Deity for centuries – the Pope’s ‘Evangeliia Gadium’, his manifesto released today, is a withering attack on capitalism and its dire consequences for humanity. His heart-felt critique seems to reflect in part his recent meeting with the Dominican friar, Gustavo Gutterriez,, a pioneer of liberation theology in Latin America in the 1960’s and 70’s or perhaps I exaggerate. I suspect Ivan Illich and Paolo Freire, icons for many within youth and community work, would be impressed by the Pope’s forthright views.
“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, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
“We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.”
“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”
“Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”
Given the remarkable renaissance of faith-based youth work in recent years I’m bound to ask, ‘what is the response of Christian youth workers, in particular, to the Pope’s passionate and pointed words?’ Forget your sectarian differences, will his confrontational ‘Joy of the Gospel’ be taken up in discussions with young people?
As an irreconcilable atheist I can but applaud his courage and integrity. Bravo and solidarity with Brother Francis – an injury to one is indeed an injury to all.
La Lutta Continua!
It is a fascinating development, not least considering that his immediate predecessor Ratzinger, very much still alive and in retirement was the papal boot boy who went into South America, declared liberation theology as heresy and purged the church of it’s adherents and practitioners. They are fine words… but will the actions follow? The kingdom is not achieved by fine words alone but in action… “understanding, reading or speculating do not make a theologian, but living, or rather dying and being damned.” says Luther, a not insignificant figure of liberating theology. Bonhöffer described this sacrifice as a willingness to be “a spoke in the wheels of injustice” not simply a bystander who bandages the wounds of those who experience the effects.
Of course you are right. The test will be how the rhetoric is translated into practice as is ever the case. For the moment though I let myself be caught up in the pleasure of hearing a Pope speak in this vein. And indeed the task of turning words into practice, of being spokes in the wheels of injustice, falls to us all, whatever our faith.
And I am genuinely interested to see how this call is taken up within faith-based youth work.