By Linda Bordoni
Wrapping up the “Pan-American Judges' Summit on Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine” in the Vatican, Pope Francis addressed the over 100 magistrates present urging them to commit to defending social rights.
The Summit focused on the responsibilities and work of judges from the three Americas whose competences include the effective implementation of Social Economic and Cultural Right.
Organized and hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, it came in the wake of a successful first conference on the same subject that was held in June 2018 in Buenos Aires, during which magistrates and judicial officials discussed the legal inspiration ingrained in the fundamental documents of the Magisterium of Pope Francis.
During his long discourse in Spanish, the Pope expressed his concern for what, he said, appears to be a growing improper use of legal procedures and a consensus that sees social rights as “old, obsolete and having nothing to contribute to our societies”.
He said this attitude affirms the economic and social policies that have led to an acceptance and justification of “inequality and unworthiness.”
Pope Francis condemned rampant "injustice and lack of tangible and concrete opportunities” for so many poor people and the failure of many policy-makers to “put themselves in the shoes of the other”.
“And I shouldn't say 'shoes', because in many cases these people do not even have shoes,” he said.
The soul of peoples is at stake
The Pope said we are living in a historical phase of change “in which the soul of peoples is at stake”.
He said ours is a time of crisis - of dangers and opportunities - in which there is a paradox: “on the one hand, a phenomenal development of norms, on the other hand, a deterioration in the effective enjoyment of consecrated rights at a global level”.
He pointed out that more and more often societies and policy-makers adopt “de facto” rules and regulations, especially in relation to the laws that regulate social rights, and - he said - they do so with different motivations be they budget deficits, social benefits or other argumentations.
Systematic violations of social rights
The Pope lashed out against 'lawfare', a practice in which the legal system is used against a perceived enemy, saying that in addition to seriously jeopardizing democracy, "it is used to undermine emerging political processes and tends towards the systematic violation of social rights”.
“In order to ensure the institutional quality of States, it is essential to identify and neutralize these types of practices resulting from improper judicial activities”, he said, in combination with “parallel multimedia operations.”
Judges have an essential role to play
Pope Francis concluded his long speech to those present saying: “Dear magistrates, you have an essential role to play,” and he described them as potential “social poets” when – he said - they are not afraid to play a leading role in the transformation of the judicial system that must be based on courage, justice and the primacy of the dignity of the human person over any other interest or justification.