Posted by: matt25 | March 3, 2009

On a High Wire, With No Net

Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI said political leaders and industrialists must make workers and their families the priority during the current economic crisis.

That was the Holy Fathers Angelus appeal this Sunday as he welcomed employees of a FIAT factory from Pomigliano DArco, Naples to St Peters square. He said I wish to encourage political leaders and industrialists, so that by working together we can face this delicate moment. In fact, strong, joint efforts are needed that keep in mind that the priority must be workers and their families.

Marking the first Sunday of Lent, Benedict XVI also renewed his invitation to the faithful to make use of this liturgical time to overcome everyday temptations, calling for a conversion of the heart towards the essential things in life. In recalling the 40 days and nights that Christ spent in the desert, the pope underlined the presence of angels as the counter-point of Satan. He said we must ceaselessly invoke their support in our commitment to following Christ so that we may identify ourselves in Him.

The first part of the Pope’s message has been a consistent theme in Catholic social justice especially brought to focus since Rerum Novarum in 1891, through Vatican II, and John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem exercens on human work in 1981 as well as many other works. In my own business I have told people that the agency exists to serve our clients and the families of those who work there, not the other way around. It is a message that must be repeated often so that big business and big government can be steered in the right direction as they also should exist to serve the people rather than the other way around.

It is only in keeping human beings as the first priority, focusing upon individuals and families and how they are impacted,  that we can somehow steer our way through the thorny issues that we face in global economics.  Too often those that are in power whether by virtue of being elected or through the influence of the wealth that they have leveraged, look only to the consolidation of power and the maximization of profits as their guiding principles.  This is short sighted and will eventually cause the collapse of all they hope to build.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that the profit motive has its place alongside the rights of ownership.  But it cannot have priority over the needs of the people who live and work within society.  If it does the gap between rich and poor will continue to widen which will inevitably sow seeds of dissent and social unrest with the potential of tearing the world as we know it apart.

It is a balancing act to be sure, performed on a high wire, with no net.  If we continue to drive the church’s voice from public debate and refuse to listen, marginalizing people of faith as irrelevant or superstitious fools, I fear that this trapeze act will end tragically to the detriment of all, especially our children and grandchildren.  So let us pray and hope that wisdom will prevail and as a people, as a nation, as leaders of all kinds of institutions we will be able to overcome everyday temptations of lust for money and power, and obtain a healthy conversion of the heart towards the essential things in life, for the good of us all.

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