Cardinal Czerny invites Christians to come together to rebuild broken world
By Vatican News
In a lecture delivered on Saturday dedicated to Pope Francis’ call for fraternity in his encyclical “Fratelli tutti”, Cardinal Michael Czerny invited all Christians to embrace social friendship and fraternity.
Speaking at an event during a conference entitled “Life, Solidarity, Fraternity: The Consistent Ethic of Life in Light of Fratelli tutti”, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said that with the 2020 encyclical, Pope Francis gave us a new language of social friendship that asks us to promote the development of human life.
The conference was sponsored by the Catholic Theological Union’s Bernardin Center, which continues the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s ministry of reconciliation and peacemaking, interreligious dialogue, leadership development for the Catholic church, the consistent ethic of life, and the search for common ground in the church and the world through various events and programs.
Describing Cardinal Bernardin as a visionary leader, Cardinal Czerny recalled his teachings that upheld human life as “both sacred and social” and he noted that we have a duty to protect and foster it at all stages of development, and this implies the need to create “the kind of societal environment that protects and fosters” human life in all circumstances.
Quoting Cardinal Blase Cupich, his successor as archbishop of Chicago, Czerny said:
The Prefect went on to elaborate on the Catholic doctrine that “teaches that promoting the development of human life, meaning in the fullest sense the flourishing of human life in salvation history, must be a multi-faceted mission that protects and enhances life’s sacredness, its solidarity in which we are all sibling offspring of God, and its caring nurture of our common home.”
We call this ‘integral human development, he said, and suggested taking ‘Fratelli tutti’ as a primary text of reference in this context.
Noting that throughout the Scriptures and in the writings of the Church Fathers as well as in today’s encyclicals and exhortations, “the Church’s moral and social doctrine has consistently maintained and promoted a correct understanding of the human person,” highlighting that “we are created by God, are children of God,” and we are called to care for each other and live together as brothers and sisters, “making known the values of goodness, love and peace.”
The Cardinal pointed to what he described as “flawed anthropology” as something that works “Against our divinely appointed role to care for our common home. Against the sacredness of human life. Against human solidarity. “
He said that for 130 years Catholic social teaching has been trying to correct this flawed anthropology, and he listed a number of encyclicals throughout the past century that condemn an “evil individualistic spirit” and that underscore the fact that “while private property is legitimate and valid, the right to it must always be subordinated to the universal destination of goods, the notion that the goods of the earth are given by God to all persons.”
The principle of the universal destination of goods, Cardinal Czerny continued, is a theme Pope Francis returns to in “Fratelli tutti”.
Effects of globalization on human bonds
And quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he recalled his concern for the effects of globalization on human bonds: “As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but does not make us brothers.”
Listing a series of effects of the global market and new forms of competition between States and then deregulation of the labour market and downsizing of social security systems, the erosion of the rights of workers and of fundamental human rights, Cardinal Czerny said “The starting point is this anthropological affirmation that quotes “Gaudium et Spes”: Human beings are so made that they cannot live, develop and find fulfillment except “in the sincere gift of self to others.”
He went on to elaborate how “the gift of self” is the path to fullness, explaining that “No one can experience the true beauty of life without relating to others, without having real faces to love. This is part of the mystery of authentic human existence.”
Czerny explained that “authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension, including the transcendent dimension”, and that “the person cannot be sacrificed for the sake of attaining a particular good, whether this be economic or social, individual or collective.”
Globalization of indifference
Rejecting the neoliberal claim that the free market alone can foster human flourishing, the Prefect expressed his belief that “To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.”
Recalling Pope Francis’ teachings in “Laudato sì”, he also condemned a culture of relativism and called for integral ecology, “the idea that how we treat nature and our fellow human beings are interconnected.”
This is a vision, he said, and an exclusionary stance that comes from a flawed anthropology: “a disordered anthropology of individualism, which leads to a distortion of the idea of liberty.”
Cardinal Czerny then elaborated on the Church’s teaching on economics which “consistently and repeatedly denounces market economies when their excesses result in neglecting the needs and diminishing the lives of significant majorities, leaving them vulnerable, marginalized, and impoverished.”
“In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species?” he said.
He also examined how our global economy “promotes the viruses of materialism and consumerism across the world stage. Because its invisible hands inexorably promote what sells over anything that does not sell, the global economy often makes it difficult even for well-meaning participants to choose what might be better for the common good, better for the impoverished among us, better to care for the environment, in other words, morally better.”
Catholic social teaching
Cardinal Czerny called for an economics infused with the principles of Catholic social teaching to oppose and overcome the false anthropology of “homo economicus” that has transformed the human being not into “a beloved creation of God, but simply another tool or resource in the market economy.”
"The functioning of the global market economy", he said, "tends more and more to objectify the human person, isolate the human person in fragile and fearful individualism, and prioritize self-interests over the common good. All of this is fundamentally at odds with the sanctity and dignity of human life."
Pointing to an ethical behaviour for tomorrow, the Cardinal noted that to be pro-life, “It is certainly not enough to simply oppose abortion and euthanasia. Nor is it enough to recognize and tolerate the dignity of the lives of all, even with special tolerance for those who, unlike us, are marginalized or poor”
Our world is at odds with the ethic of solidarity
Concluding, he said the contemporary world is at odds with the ethic of solidarity that is so essential in the Christian conception of the human person.
“If we accept the great principle that there are rights born of our inalienable human dignity, we can rise to the challenge of envisaging a new humanity. We can aspire to a world that provides land, housing and work for all. This is the true path of peace,” he said quoting from ‘Fratelli tutti’.
And finally, recalling the parable of the Good Samaritan beloved by Pope Francis, Cardinal Czerny appealed to all Christians to never allow anyone to go through life as an outcast: