Pope Francis’ emotional arguments for economic reforms

Unlike Leo XIII and Pius XI, Francis’ analysis is not rooted in our obligations in justice (although he places a few off hand allusions to justice). The overwhelming thrust of his argument is emotional. Rather than requiring all to fulfill their duties in justice he exhorts those in business to have a sentimental emotional reaction to the plight of the poor. This leads him to plea for mercy and generosity, which are good things to seek, but to neglect claims of justice.

The problem with appeals predominately to mercy and generosity is that such terms suggest that action is optional or discretionary and not required by the moral law. Rather than talking about our sins against justice Francis decries our “being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain” Whereas the prior popes explained the inherent limits on the use of private property as a principle of Natural Law, for Francis this is only a “spontaneous reaction”

Essentially Francis conceives of Catholic social doctrine as an emotional “option for the poor” to avoid inequality. The ultimate source of this reduction of traditional doctrine lies in the conflation of the supernatural with the natural initiated by the “new theology” of Henri de Lubac.

This theologian accused of Modernism before the Council but rehabilitated by John XXIII to become a Council expert, rejected the Thomistic distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Although for St. Thomas grace builds on nature, nature is not grace and our life here is only our natural end. Our ultimate end is greater and distinct. Our pursuit of our natural end must be in light of and oriented toward our ultimate supernatural end.

This blurring of the distinction results in a theology and philosophy centered on man and his natural well-being, which has now been elevated to a supernatural status rather than centered on God.

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2 Comments

  1. I suppose that, since he is pope, I should take Francis seriously and read this post.

    Nah. Waste of time.

    • Mark,
      I share, your lack of Enthusiasm!


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