13. Fratelli Tutti Audiobook - Chapter 5, Part 2

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Fratelli Tutti

The Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis


Chapter Five, Part Two


170. I would once more observe that “the financial crisis of 2007-08 provided an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth. But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world”.[147] Indeed, it appears that the actual strategies developed worldwide in the wake of the crisis fostered greater individualism, less integration and increased freedom for the truly powerful, who always find a way to escape unscathed.

171. I would also insist that “to give to each his own – to cite the classic definition of justice – means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, entitled to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (especially political, economic, defence-related and technological power) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised”.[148]

172. The twenty-first century “is witnessing a weakening of the power of nation states, chiefly because the economic and financial sectors, being transnational, tend to prevail over the political. Given this situation, it is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions”.[149] When we talk about the possibility of some form of world authority regulated by law,[150] we need not necessarily think of a personal authority. Still, such an authority ought at least to promote more effective world organizations, equipped with the power to provide for the global common good, the elimination of hunger and poverty and the sure defence of fundamental human rights.

173. In this regard, I would also note the need for a reform of “the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth”.[151] Needless to say, this calls for clear legal limits to avoid power being co-opted only by a few countries and to prevent cultural impositions or a restriction of the basic freedoms of weaker nations on the basis of ideological differences. For “the international community is a juridical community founded on the sovereignty of each member state, without bonds of subordination that deny or limit its independence”.[152] At the same time, “the work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity… There is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm”.[153] There is need to prevent this Organization from being delegitimized, since its problems and shortcomings are capable of being jointly addressed and resolved.

174. Courage and generosity are needed in order freely to establish shared goals and to ensure the worldwide observance of certain essential norms. For this to be truly useful, it is essential to uphold “the need to be faithful to agreements undertaken (pacta sunt servanda)”,[154] and to avoid the “temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law”.[155] This means reinforcing the “normative instruments for the peaceful resolution of controversies... so as to strengthen their scope and binding force”.[156] Among these normative instruments, preference should be given to multilateral agreements between states, because, more than bilateral agreements, they guarantee the promotion of a truly universal common good and the protection of weaker states.

175. Providentially, many groups and organizations within civil society help to compensate for the shortcomings of the international community, its lack of coordination in complex situations, its lack of attention to fundamental human rights and to the critical needs of certain groups. Here we can see a concrete application of the principle of subsidiarity, which justifies the participation and activity of communities and organizations on lower levels as a means of integrating and complementing the activity of the state. These groups and organizations often carry out commendable efforts in the service of the common good and their members at times show true heroism, revealing something of the grandeur of which our humanity is still capable.


176. For many people today, politics is a distasteful word, often due to the mistakes, corruption and inefficiency of some politicians. There are also attempts to discredit politics, to replace it with economics or to twist it to one ideology or another. Yet can our world function without politics? Can there be an effective process of growth towards universal fraternity and social peace without a sound political life?[157]

The politics we need

177. Here I would once more observe that “politics must not be subject to the economy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy”.[158] Although misuse of power, corruption, disregard for law and inefficiency must clearly be rejected, “economics without politics cannot be justified, since this would make it impossible to favour other ways of handling the various aspects of the present crisis”.[159] Instead, “what is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis”.[160] In other words, a “healthy politics… capable of reforming and coordinating institutions, promoting best practices and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic inertia”.[161] We cannot expect economics to do this, nor can we allow economics to take over the real power of the state.

178. In the face of many petty forms of politics focused on immediate interests, I would repeat that “true statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the work of nation-building”,[162] much less in forging a common project for the human family, now and in the future. Thinking of those who will come after us does not serve electoral purposes, yet it is what authentic justice demands. As the Bishops of Portugal have taught, the earth “is lent to each generation, to be handed on to the generation that follows”.[163]

179. Global society is suffering from grave structural deficiencies that cannot be resolved by piecemeal solutions or quick fixes. Much needs to change, through fundamental reform and major renewal. Only a healthy politics, involving the most diverse sectors and skills, is capable of overseeing this process. An economy that is an integral part of a political, social, cultural and popular programme directed to the common good could pave the way for “different possibilities which do not involve stifling human creativity and its ideals of progress, but rather directing that energy along new channels”.[164]

Political love

180. Recognizing that all people are our brothers and sisters, and seeking forms of social friendship that include everyone, is not merely utopian. It demands a decisive commitment to devising effective means to this end. Any effort along these lines becomes a noble exercise of charity. For whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the “field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity”.[165] This entails working for a social and political order whose soul is social charity.[166] Once more, I appeal for a renewed appreciation of politics as “a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”.[167]

181. Every commitment inspired by the Church’s social doctrine is “derived from charity, which according to the teaching of Jesus is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36-40)”.[168] This means acknowledging that “love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world”.[169] For this reason, charity finds expression not only in close and intimate relationships but also in “macro-relationships: social, economic and political”.[170]

182. This political charity is born of a social awareness that transcends every individualistic mindset: “‘Social charity makes us love the common good’, it makes us effectively seek the good of all people, considered not only as individuals or private persons, but also in the social dimension that unites them”.[171] Each of us is fully a person when we are part of a people; at the same time, there are no peoples without respect for the individuality of each person. “People” and “person” are correlative terms. Nonetheless, there are attempts nowadays to reduce persons to isolated individuals easily manipulated by powers pursuing spurious interests. Good politics will seek ways of building communities at every level of social life, in order to recalibrate and reorient globalization and thus avoid its disruptive effects.

Effective love

183. “Social love”[172] makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. Charity, with its impulse to universality, is capable of building a new world.[173] No mere sentiment, it is the best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone. Social love is a “force capable of inspiring new ways of approaching the problems of today’s world, of profoundly renewing structures, social organizations and legal systems from within”.[174]

184. Charity is at the heart of every healthy and open society, yet today “it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility”.[175] Charity, when accompanied by a commitment to the truth, is much more than personal feeling, and consequently need not “fall prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions”.[176] Indeed its close relation to truth fosters its universality and preserves it from being “confined to a narrow field devoid of relationships”.[177] Otherwise, it would be “excluded from the plans and processes of promoting human development of universal range, in dialogue between knowledge and praxis”.[178] Without truth, emotion lacks relational and social content. Charity’s openness to truth thus protects it from “a fideism that deprives it of its human and universal breadth”.[179]

185. Charity needs the light of the truth that we constantly seek. “That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith”,[180] and does not admit any form of relativism. Yet it also respects the development of the sciences and their essential contribution to finding the surest and most practical means of achieving the desired results. For when the good of others is at stake, good intentions are not enough. Concrete efforts must be made to bring about whatever they and their nations need for the sake of their development.


[147] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 189: AAS 107 (2015), 922.
[148] Address to the Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, New York (25 September 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 1037.
[149] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 175: AAS 107 (2015), 916-917.
[150] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 67: AAS 101 (2009), 700-701.
[151] Ibid.: AAS 101 (2009), 700.
[152] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 434.
[153] Address to the Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, New York (25 September 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 1037, 1041.
[154] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 437.
[155] SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 5: AAS 96 (2004), 117.
[156] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 439.
[157] Cf. SOCIAL COMMISSION OF THE BISHOPS OF FRANCE, Declaration Réhabiliter la Politique (17 February 1999).
[158] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 189: AAS 107 (2015), 922.
[159] Ibid., 196: AAS 107 (2015), 925.
[160] Ibid., 197: AAS 107 (2015), 925.
[161] Ibid., 181: AAS 107 (2015), 919.
[162] Ibid., 178: AAS 107 (2015), 918.
[163] PORTUGUESE BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE, Pastoral Letter Responsabilidade Solidária pelo Bem Comum (15 September 2003), 20; cf. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 159: AAS 107 (2015), 911.
[164] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 191: AAS 107 (2015), 923.
[165] PIUS XI, Address to the Italian Catholic Federation of University Students (18 December 1927): L’Osservatore Romano, 23 December 1927, p. 3.
[166] Cf. ID., Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno (15 May 1931): AAS 23 (1931), 206-207.
[167] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 205: AAS 105 (2013), 1106.
[168] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 2: AAS 101 (2009), 642.
[169] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 231: AAS 107 (2015), 937.
[170] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 2: AAS 101 (2009), 642.
[171] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 207.
[172] SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 15: AAS 71 (1979), 288.
[173] Cf. SAINT PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 44: AAS 59 (1967), 279.
[174] Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 207.
[175] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 2: AAS 101 (2009), 642.
[176] Ibid., 3: AAS 101 (2009), 643.
[177] Ibid., 4: AAS 101 (2009), 643.
[178] Ibid.
[179] Ibid., 3: AAS 101 (2009), 643.
[180] Ibid.: AAS 101 (2009), 642.

03 October 2022