Wednesday, May 1, 2013


This homily is very good and quite interesting and apt for today's Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.

And a few words from His Holiness, Pope Francis from the chapel of his place of residence at the Vatican's Motel 6:

"Work gives us dignity! Those who work have dignity, a special dignity, a personal dignity: men and women who work are dignified. Instead, those who do not work do not have this dignity. But there are many who want to work and cannot. This is a burden on our conscience, because when society is organized in such a way that not everyone has the opportunity to work, to be anointed with the dignity of work, then there is something wrong with that society: it is not right! It goes against God himself, who wanted our dignity, starting from here. "

"Not paying a just [wage], not providing work, focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at making personal profit. That goes against God! How many times – how many times – have we read in 'L'Osservatore Romano' .... A headline that impressed me so much the day of the Bangladesh tragedy, 'Living on 38 euros a month': this was the payment of these people who have died ... And this is called 'slave labor!'. And today in this world there is slavery that is made with the most beautiful gift that God has given to man: the ability to create, to work, to be the makers of our own dignity. How many brothers and sisters throughout the world are in this situation because of these, economic, social, political attitudes and so on ... ".

"When a brick accidentally fell, it was a tremendous problem, a scandal: 'But look what you've done!'. But if one of those people building the tower fell: 'Requiescat in pace!' And they let him be ... the person was [less] important than the brick. This is what the medieval rabbi told and this is what happens now! People are less important than the things that give profit to those who have political, social, economic power. What point have we come to? To the point that we are not aware of this dignity of the person; this dignity of labor. But today the figure of St. Joseph, of Jesus, of God who work - this is our model - they teach us the way forward, towards dignity. "


rcg said...

This is a good homily. This situation has continued since the medieval rabbi complained. Ironically, the situation is perpetuated, even worsened, by collective efforts to solve it. Not so ironically, it is alleviated when lay people are allowed to be lay people and solve the problems at hand with what they have, as the Pope has pressed in previous homilies. The planning and execution for the billions of actions wants to be guided by the Holy Spirit with a thought to fitness for the results before the Father.

Anonymous 2 said...

rcg: I have four related questions?

First, are you suggesting that there is no place for “collective efforts” to solve the problems Pope Francis is addressing?

Second, how does one in practice “[allow] lay people . . . to be lay people and solve the problems at hand with what they have.”

Third, what practical steps can we take, then, to address the abuses of political, social, and economic power that are at the foundation of these problems?

Fourth, who precisely should undertake the “planning and execution for the billions of actions” that is to be guided by the Holy Spirit?

rcg said...

First, Yes.

Second, by allowing them to exercise their gifts given by God, which includes the use of their own mental powers to decide how to do it.

Third, recognise that those abuses come from attempts to solve people's problems for them.

Fourth, see Second, above.

Anonymous 2 said...

rcg: Thanks for clarifying those points.

If you will indulge me further, I have some follow-up questions in which my premise is that people are not atomistic isolated individuals but act through and in the context of various forms of collective organization (the family being the primary form, of course) to which they owe the substance of their lives:

(1) I assume you are not opposed to collective efforts originating in civil society – for example, the alleviation of suffering through the charitable work of the Church (a very large collective organization indeed) or of other charitable organizations. Am I correct about that?

(2) Am I correct, further, in thinking that your concern is really about collective efforts by unions and by the government?

(3) If so, are you as concerned about those collectivities we call corporations? If not, why not? Is it because people are more virtuous and guided by the Holy Spirit when they pursue collective corporate profit but are not as virtuous and guided by the Holy Spirit when they pursue collective goals through unions or through government? Some of Pope Francis's remarks in today's homily seem relevant here.

(4) If those collectivities we call corporations are capable of abusing their power just like unions and governments are capable of abusing theirs, and if we cannot expect people inevitably to act virtuously and to be guided by the Holy Spirit in the context of such collectivities, however desirable that may be, then presumably we need to seek realistically practical steps that can be taken to curb abuses of power by collectivities, whether the collectivity be a government, a union, or a corporation (or a charity or even, unfortunately, the Church).

To echo the Founding Fathers, we need to prevent undue concentrations of power and to guard against abuses of power through checks and balances, and we need to do these things through the rule of law. Just ask the families of the dead garment factory workers (slave laborers?) in Bangladesh or the families of the dead fertilizer factory workers in Texas – cases where government regulation clearly did not work because, for some reason, it was not properly enforced but presumably could have prevented these disasters if it had been. (At the same time, of course, we need to encourage virtue and the working of the Holy Spirit in ourselves, and in others by helping to evangelize the world as Pope Francis calls us to do.)

rcg said...

A2, don't parse it. You can't march a column into Heaven or make people accept God or do His will. Collective efforts ask people to give up thinking for themselves.

Anonymous 2 said...

rcg: I do understand where you are “coming from” and I agree with you insofar as it goes. I just don’t think it goes far enough. I do not see “collective efforts” and “people thinking for themselves” as two mutually exclusive categories.

First, often we “think for ourselves” as part of a collectivity, even in politics (hence the notion of political “self-rule”).

Second, to the extent collective efforts displace people “thinking for themselves” we may have to accept the trade off. In fact, we do it all the time. We don’t let people “think for themselves” in the matter of stealing or murder. And you wouldn’t suggest that “people think for themselves” regarding the matter of abortion, would you, or that they “think for themselves” in the matter of same-sex marriage? No, you would suggest government regulation of these things. So, why would you let them “think for themselves” and store dangerous levels of fertilizer chemical or build dangerous edifices that come crashing down killing people inside when that can be prevented by reasonable and properly enforced government regulation?

The problem, as we know, is that we are not in Heaven. We are in a fallen world and we cannot avoid the practical question of what to do about that by saying it is up to the Holy Spirit to sort it all out for us. Gene can probably tell us the theological term for evading responsibility by doing that. The political term is libertarianism.

Gene said...

Anon 2, Well, certainly universalism leads to that as does the logic of Calvinism. It is also a type of indifferentism. I do not think you are being fair to Libertarianism, although I understand why some may draw that conclusion regarding the Libertarian ideology. I am not, by any stretch, a Libertarian...however, I am sympathetic to their belief that we have entirely too much government and that the gridlock and oppressiveness of government leads to a situation that is tantamount to "doing nothing." I find, in reading many of your recent posts, that you and I have a bit more common ground than I had assumed...

Anonymous 2 said...

“I find, in reading many of your recent posts, that you and I have a bit more common ground than I had assumed...”

I have been trying to tell you that, Gene. We will, of course, still have differences on some things, and I look forward to debating those matters, but finding common ground on which we can stand together is good.

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. Thank you for the theological explanations. The point about the logic of Calvinism is illuminating.

I agree that in some respects we have too much government, and your observation that gridlock and government oppressiveness may be tantamount to doing nothing is insightful.

I also concede that I may not have been entirely fair to libertarianism. It is important to make distinctions between Ayn Rand’s brand of libertarianism, for example, and less selfish forms.

So, the central question is: How does one avoid the oppressive nanny state at one extreme and callous and selfish indifference at the other extreme, given that we live in a fallen world inhabited by sinners not saints?

Gene said...

Anon 2, Maybe an enlightened monarch?