Pope Francis has begun a new catechetical series during his weekly General Audiences, focused on Catholic social teaching.
Announcing the series on August 5, the Holy Father invited the faithful around the world to reflect with him on pressing questions raised or brought into focus by the coronavirus emergency, “especially the social ills,” he said.
“We will do it in the light of the Gospel,” Pope Francis went on to say, “[in light] of the theological virtues and of the principles of the Church’s social doctrine.” He proposed exploring “how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious illnesses,” and expressed the desire “that everyone reflect and work together, as followers of Jesus who heals, to construct a better world, full of hope for future generations”.
He also apparently anticipated some of the use people might be tempted to make of his remarks, noting at the outset that the Church “is not an expert” in epidemiology or public health policy. “She helps with the sick,” Francis said, “but she is not an expert”, nor does the Church “give specific socio-political pointers”. That, he noted, “is the job of political and social leaders.”
That admonishment cuts both ways. It precludes use of the Pope’s musings as moral support for one’s preferred policy stances. It also means anyone claiming he has a specific political agenda has a long row to hoe. Meanwhile, Francis’s unique brand of homespun has again proven itself especially suited to the sort of informal talks that can be particularly engaging and genuine and food for thought.
This past week, for example, Pope Francis noted: “The coronavirus is showing us that each person’s true good is a common good, not only individual, and vice versa, that the common good is a true good for the person.”
In a world that pits radical individualism against various kinds and degrees of collectivism, the notion that the good of each is bound up with the general and vice versa is one we need to hear. The order in which Francis put the matter makes you stop and go: “Hmmm.”
On whatever side of whatever issue one finds oneself, we all need to do more of that, and Francis seems to know it.
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