A passionate defence of the human being who today is undervalued by a culture that reduces him to “cog in a productive and financial mechanism that towers over him”; addressing the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – whom he received in Audience on Monday morning, 3 December, in the Consistory Hall – Benedict XVI enlisted the Church’s social doctrine to vigorously reaffirm the truth about man, exalting his primacy as “constitutively transcendent” in comparison with all “other earthly beings and goods”.
The Pope clearly denounces a society where, “although the defence of rights has advanced by leaps and bounds in our time, today’s culture, marked among other things by a utilitarian individualism and a technocratic economism, tends to undervalue the person. The latter is conceived of as a “fluid” being, with no lasting consistence. In spite of being immersed in an infinite network of relations and communication the person today often appears paradoxically as an isolated being, because he is indifferent with regard to the constitutive relationship of his being – which is the root of all other relationships – his relationship with God”. Today the human being “is considered in a mainly biological key or as “human capital”, as a ‘resource’”. And although the dignity of the person continues to be proclaimed, new ideologies are being affirmed – and the Pope lists that “of sexual and reproductive rights, or of an immoderate financial capitalism that prevails over politics and takes the real economy apart” – which contribute, increasingly, to perceiving “the dependent worker and his or her work as minor goods, and to undermining the natural foundations of society, especially the family”.
The duty of Christians, the Pontiff says, is to commit themselves to a “new evangelization of society” that can help to “topple modern idols, replace individualism materialistic consumerism and the technocracy with the culture of brotherhood and giving freely, of solidary love”.
An “authority” is necessary, he recalls, citing John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris, which can build a world community “motivated by love for the common good of the human family”. This would mean, he adds, replacing the idea of a “super-power concentrated in the hands of the few, that would dominate all the peoples, exploiting the weakest”, with the concept of an authority understood above all, “as a moral force, a faculty to influence in accordance with reason, namely, as a shared authority, limited by competence and by law”.
The Pope finally concludes by expressing his desire for a serious reflection on the need for a reform of the international financial and monetary system.