Tag Archives: lumen fidei

Liberty and solidarity

DR. ANDREW ABELA writes that poverty can only be conquered through businesses leaders working to provide opportunities for the impoverished. Not only is this a Catholic position, but it’s the only way that will work.  We are called to practice solidarity — the love of others — in everything we do, and particularly in running our companies . . .

Andrew Abela

Andrew Abela

The market economy is falling out of favor. Politicians who favor statist solutions to all social problems appear to be only too happy to seize upon the dissatisfaction of the poor and the middle class and promote class conflict.

We can make theoretical arguments about how the market economy lifts societies out of poverty, and we can cite the ample historical evidence that this has happened time and again, but if large numbers of citizens hold the perception that here and now their incomes continue to stagnate while owners prosper, then the market economy is truly in jeopardy.

The Church’s social teaching holds the solution. We are called to practice solidarity — the love of others — in everything we do, and particularly in running our companies. Solidarity is “first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 38). This is something we must do ourselves.

Benedict warned that “when both the logic of the market and the logic of the State come to an agreement that each will continue to exercise a monopoly over its respective area of influence, in the long term much is lost: solidarity in relations between citizens, participation and adherence…” (Caritas in Veritate, 39).

Benedict is denouncing the conventional view that it’s the job of business to make money and the job of government to tax that money and redistribute it. He says this view weakens solidarity, responsibility and charity. What he’s saying, in effect, is that we should not rely on the government to solve the problem of poverty. If government is perceived to be the solution to poverty, the poor are going to want more government! Instead, we as business leaders should be leading the charge to solve the problem of poverty — and we should do this by drawing more people into the “circle of exchange” (Centesimus Annus, 34), the market economy.

Free markets and Christian love — liberty and solidarity — can and should work together within commercial activity. An individualistic perspective denies this. It sees them as opposing one another. Solidarity, to the extent that it obliges me to “lose myself” in the service of others, seems to put a limit on my economic freedom. By contrast, the Church teaches that the more we serve others, the more free we become.

Pope Benedict affirmed this: “Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfill its proper economic function. The principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity” (Caritas in Veritate, 35-36). We need solidarity for the market to work well.

Look, we already know this. We know that when business runs well, it runs on trust — even on generosity. Whenever we give a break to an unproven new hire, whenever we extend extra credit to a struggling customer because we believe they will make it, we are practicing solidarity. Don’t believe those who argue that what we’re doing is just “enlightened self-interest.” Yes, doing the right thing will most often lead to good results for the firm, but that’s not only why we do it. We do it because that’s how we love God and our neighbor in our daily work.

This is the only way forward. Pope Francis, in his first encyclical, wrote: “Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure. We need to return to the true basis of brotherhood” (Lumen Fidei, 54). Pope Francis affirms it: Christian brotherhood can only succeed under the Father — not under Big Brother.

This will only work if we’re determined to fight poverty through our businesses. How do we do this? Could we find ways to employ people who are considered unemployable? For example, could our employees, on a volunteer basis, run seminars on how to interview for a job? Could we come up with creative ways to serve customers in underserved areas? Could we extend opportunities to employees, customers, and community members to invest in our businesses, so that they can experience for themselves the rewards of being “capitalists”? The more we do this, the less demand there will be for government aid to poverty. And less demand for government, period.

Interested in hearing more? Attend the conference on Liberty and Solidarity at the Catholic University of America, Sept. 24-26, 2014.

ANDREW V. ABELA, PH.D. is the dean of the newly created School of Business & Economics at The Catholic University of America, and a charter member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.

Lumen Fidei: A light to the nations

Kathryn Jean Lopez writes that Pope Francis’ first encyclical is a must-read …

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez

To read Pope Francis’ new encyclical is to understand the relevance of the Catholic faith in the lives of men and women in our day. Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith) resonates. It’s a magnetic light. It illuminates even as it talks about illumination.

Faith “is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim,” he wrote in the encyclical, which was begun by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI and officially released on June 29. “The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence.”

“In the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere” (#4), Lumen Fidei explains.

“Our culture has lost its sense of God’s tangible presence and activity in our world,” but Christians “profess their faith in God’s tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection” (#17), he writes.

This comes back to a theme that both Benedict and Francis have been almost incessant about: sacramental encounter with Christ. “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives” (#4).

The light of faith is the vision by which all makes more sense, by which we love more because we become in love with “the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets,” Francis writes. “Transformed by this love,” we have “new eyes” with which to see.

We see the “great promise” of everlasting fulfillment: “Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. On the one hand, it is a light coming from the past, the light of the foundational memory of the life of Jesus which revealed his perfectly trustworthy love, a love capable of triumphing over death. Yet since Christ has risen and draws us beyond death, faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion” (#4).

It would be truly hard to read Lumen Fidei and not be both humbled and grateful. This loving letter to the Church — really the world — makes it so easy to see how the millennial trend toward unchurched spirituality is an impoverished one. It’s too important and too consequential to live one’s life without the spiritual treasures of the Church, without the grace of the sacraments, without supernaturally inspired direction. “It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus” (#38), Lumen Fidei explains.

As with World Youth Day in Rio this summer, we are reminded that faith is never for us alone, individually, without community, without sharing. (Click here for related story.) Our mandate is to bring people to Jesus. That’s what all the current New Evangelization church-talk is about. This is not just for the kids, needless to say.

Those 3.7 million pilgrims who gathered to pray in Brazil have a tremendous energy, and they can set fire to the world, spiritually speaking, in the most revolutionary ways. But they need adults in the room: in the secular halls of power, in business and law and entertainment — wherever they find themselves. They need practical spiritual mentors, encouragement, and models.

This New Evangelization calls lay people to a deeper and bolder trailblazing. We’re going to build a culture where faith and marriage flourish, where they are irresistible and understood to be the very foundation of a society that works. We cannot wait for or get too bogged down in devising a brilliant pastoral plan. As Pope Benedict said to Catholic leaders from the Americas last December, all the plans in the world mean very little if they aren’t conceived in and renewed by life in union with the Trinity.

And thanks be to God we don’t do it alone! “Believing means entrusting oneself to a merciful love which always accepts and pardons, which sustains and directs our lives, and which shows its power by its ability to make straight the crooked lines of our history,” Lumen Fidei teaches. It’s “by constantly turning towards the Lord,” that we discover a sure path which liberates us from the dissolution imposed upon us by idols” (#13).

There is no time for idling. We hold a lamp that can give our brothers and sisters the hope they desire! How could we ever hide it?

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ is a nationally syndicated columnist and editor-at-large at National Review. She is a director at Catholic Voices USA.