A favela in Pernambuco, northeast of Brazil where 33.1 million people live in hunger A favela in Pernambuco, northeast of Brazil where 33.1 million people live in hunger  (AFP or licensors)

Cardinal Czerny invites Christians to come together to rebuild broken world

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Integrity focuses on the message contained in the encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’ and quotes from other encyclicals and Church teachings to call on Christians to foster solidarity and ethics in order to help rebuild a 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 Church is calling for a consistent ethic of solidarity that aims at making sure no one, from the first moment of life to natural death, from the wealthiest community to our poorest neighbourhoods, is excluded from the table of life.”

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.”

“Tragically, unjustly and acting contrary to life, the momentum of our age is against integral human development.”

Flawed anthropology

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.”

“Life exists where there is bonding, communion, fraternity; and life is stronger than death when it is built on true relationships and bonds of fidelity. On the contrary, there is no life when we claim to be self-sufficient and live as islands: in these attitudes, death prevails.”

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.”

“Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

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.”

“Individualism does not make us more free, more equal, more fraternal. The mere sum of individual interests is not capable of generating a better world for the whole human family.”

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”

“The genuinely pro-life also requires accompanying, welcoming, and joining together with others as sibling children of God – especially those who because of their difference are hardest for us to love. A consistent ethic of life is also a consistent ethic of solidarity.”

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:

“My brothers and sisters, recognizing each other as the sibling offspring of God that we are, let us come together in solidarity and social friendship to rebuild this broken world, our only home, this human race, our one and only family under God.”

18 September 2022, 17:25