By Devin Watkins
“One of the greatest challenges confronting us is the administration of technology for the common good.”
Pope Francis offered that assessment on Friday in his address to members of the International Catholic Legislators Network.
The network, which was set up in 2010, seeks to support the work of the Holy See by bearing witness to the Gospel in service to members’ home countries.
The Pope thanked the legislators for their witness and cooperation in the Church’s mission.
Root causes of social ills
He noted that the ongoing pandemic continues to rage around the world, despite the “significant progress” made through the creation and distribution of effective vaccines.
“There have been more than 200 million confirmed cases and 4 million deaths due to this terrible scourge, which has caused immense economic and social devastation,” he lamented.
The Pope said the work of lawmakers and politicians is now more important than ever.
“Charged with serving the common good, you are now being challenged to direct your efforts to the integral renewal of your communities and of society as a whole,” he said.
Serving society, added the Pope, requires legislators to get to the root causes laid bare by the pandemic, which include poverty, social inequality, unemployment, and lack of access to education.
Lofty political vocation
Pope Francis went on to praise the political vocation as “serving the common good and placing the welfare of the community before our personal advantage.”
Yet, our age faces the daunting task of administering rapidly-advancing technologies on behalf of the common good.
Modern science and technology, he said, have improved our quality of life, but if left to their own devices or market forces they can become a threat to the dignity of the human person.
So, he added, legislators and public authorities need to set out clear guidelines guided by a sense of social responsibility to regulate technology.
Guidelines for technological advances
The Pope noted that the guidelines he is calling for have “nothing to do with curbing technological advances”.
“By means of policies and regulations, lawmakers can protect human dignity from whatever may threaten it.”
He gave the examples of child pornography, the misuse of personal data, attacks on critical infrastructure, and the spread of false information on social media.
“Prudent legislation can guide the development and application of technology in the service of the common good,” he said.
Moral reflection required
Pope Francis reiterated his call for Catholic legislators to “undertake serious and in-depth moral reflection on the risks and possibilities associated with scientific and technological advances.”
He also recalled that public figures have their own specific gifts to offer to promote the welfare of all.
“All of us are called to foster the spirit of solidarity, starting with the needs of our weakest and most disadvantaged brothers and sisters,” he said. “If we are to heal our world so harshly tried by the pandemic, and build a more inclusive and sustainable future in which technology serves human needs without isolating us from one another, we need not only responsible citizens, but also capable leaders inspired by the principle of the common good.”