Cardinal Michael Czerny Cardinal Michael Czerny 

Cardinal Czerny: Fraternity is the key for human development

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development speaks at an academic event about the contribution of Catholicism to global sustainable development, highlighting the importance of educating the new generations to the values of fraternity and of solidarity in State relations.

By Lisa Zengarini

Speaking on Tuesday at a webinar on the “The Contribution of Catholicism to Global Sustainable Development”, Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., reiterated the crucial importance of solidarity between States and of educating the new generations on the values of fraternity highlighted by Pope Francis.

The online conference, sponsored by the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University and the University of St. Michael’s College of Toronto, examined the role of both the Church and lay Catholics in promoting sustainable development, furthering Pope Francis’ vision outlined in his Encyclical Letter ‘Laudato Si’’ on our Common Home. 

Freedom equality and fraternity

Cardinal Czerny focused his presentation on the ‘Fratelli tutti’ Encyclical on human fraternity. Reminding  that man and the full realization of his potential are at the center of the Church's concerns, he noted  that the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen issued during the French Revolution, which also inspired the milestone Universal Declaration of Human Rights of  1948, is one  the “highest expressions of the recognition of human dignity” and a point of reference for Western modern democracies.

However, Cardinal Czerny remarked that the atrocities committed against human dignity that we still witness today - including catastrophic wars, genocide, torture, the death penalty, fundamentalism, racism, and discrimination against women and girls - show us that basic human rights are still “not effectively enjoyed by all”.

Starting from a “consciously cultivated” fraternity

In ‘Fratelli tutti’ - he explained - Pope Francis tells us that we must start from a “consciously cultivated” fraternity, based on the recognition of the fundamental and innate equality of all human beings, which is founded on natural law preceding the positive law of a given society.

“Unless we all recognize ourselves as siblings, the exercise of freedom is restricted and reduced to autonomy, a weaker expression of human liberty.”

Individualism doesn’t make us more fraternal

Citing the Encyclical Letter, Cardinal Czerny reiterated that “individualism does not make us more free, more equal, more fraternal”, and that if  we do not recognize that every human being has a fundamental and inalienable right to his or her integral development, then “there will be no future either for fraternity or for the survival of humanity”.

The  principle of solidarity and the social role of property

In this regard, he called attention to two key themes of the Social Doctrine of the Church that Pope Francis has developed in ‘Fratelli tutti’: the principle of solidarity and the social role of property. Echoing the Pope’s words, he remarked that ”seeing our all being siblings and equal through the lens of individual liberties threatens the universality of human rights and that “the same is true of the absolute and unquestionable freedom of the market”.

“The rights of commercial enterprises cannot be put before the dignity of the poor or the care of the environment.”

Educating to fraternity against a"throw-away culture"

He then reiterated that families, schools, parishes, cultural and recreational centers must cultivate fraternity and transmit the values of freedom, mutual respect, sharing and inclusion as opposed to the "throwaway culture".

“Restoring the chain of transmission of the value of the person, restoring the primacy of human dignity in the formation of the human person, is a precious form of social and moral responsibility.”

The responsibilities of the richer countries

Cardinal Czerny then dwelled on the implications these two principles of the Catholic social doctrine entail for State policies and for international relations, pointing out “that every nation is responsible for the development of other countries and for promoting the integral development of people, even beyond their own borders, who are denied the right to material subsistence and progress”.

He therefore insisted on the need for countries with advanced economies “to help rather than dominate” nations with emerging economies, “so that everyone might have what is necessary to live decently, in dignity”.

The criterion of love

Bringing his presentation to a close, Cardinal Czerny called for change from an individualistic approach to a “criterion of love” in discerning today’s global problems, which he said, means “stimulating and accompanying processes, not imposing certain approaches”. “We must look at personal freedom through the lens of being siblings, sharing a sense of belonging to one another, and not via the French Revolution’s myth of individualism. Likewise, our notion of private property must acknowledge the priority of the right of everyone to access the goods of the earth”, he concluded.


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27 April 2022, 17:33