On February 18, Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego delivered a speech at the U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements during a panel discussion on the barriers marginalized people face in housing and work. The following are excerpts:
Global Warming skepticism fueled by conspiring forces (just like like tobacco companies)
One of the most striking elements of “Laudato Si” is [Pope Francis’] clear and bold analysis of the empirical realities that threaten the Earth which is our common home. “Seeing the situation clearly” is the whole foundation for that encyclical. It is the starting point for transformative justice. Pope Francis was unafraid to venture into this controversial set of questions about climate change and the environment despite the fact that massive social and economic forces, especially within our own country, have conspired to obscure the scientific realities of climate change and environmental degradation, in the very same way that the tobacco companies obscured for decades the medical science pertaining to smoking.
The United States’ economy must be contained within a big government “juridical structure”; everyone deserves wealth
The fundamental political question of our age is whether our economic structures and systems in the United States will enjoy ever greater freedom or whether they will be located effectively within a juridical structure which seeks to safeguard the dignity of the human person and the common good of our nation.
In that battle, the tradition of Catholic social teaching is unequivocally on the side of strong governmental and societal protections for the powerless, the worker, the homeless, the hungry, those without decent medical care, the unemployed. This stance of the Church’s teaching flows from the teaching of the Book of Genesis: The creation is the gift of God to all of humanity. Thus in the most fundamental way, there is a universal destination for all of the material goods that exist in this world. Wealth is a common heritage, not at its core a right of lineage or acquisition.
For this reason, free markets do not constitute a first principle of economic justice. Their moral worth is instrumental in nature and must be structured by government to accomplish the common good.
In Catholic teaching, the very rights which are being denied in our society to large numbers of those who live in our nation are intrinsic human rights in Catholic teaching: The right to medical care; to decent housing; to the protection of human life, from conception to natural death; of the right to food; of the right to work. Catholic teaching sees these rights not merely as points for negotiation, provided only if there is excess in society after the workings of the free market system accomplished their distribution of the nation’s wealth. Rather, these rights are basic claims which every man, woman and family has upon our nation as a whole.
These are the fundamental principles which the Church points to as the basis for judgement for every political and social program that structures economic life within the United States. And they are supplemented in Catholic teaching by a grave suspicion about enormous levels of economic inequality in society. Pope Francis made clear the depth of this suspicion two years ago. “Inequality,” he said, “is the root of social evil.”
In his encyclical “The Joy of the Gospel,” Francis unmasked inequality as the foundation for a process of exclusion that cuts immense segments of society off from meaningful participation in social, political and economic life, as we have all heard this morning. It gives rise to a financial system that rules rather than serves humanity and a capitalism that literally kills those who have no utility as consumers.
Now, when I quote the Pope that “this economy kills,” people very often say to me, “Oh come on, that’s just an exaggeration; it’s a form of speech.”
I want to do an experiment with you. I want you to sit back in your chair for a moment. And close your eyes, and I want you to think of someone you have known that our economy has killed: A senior who can’t afford medicine or rent; a mother or father who is dying, working two and three jobs, really dying because even then they can’t provide for their kids; young people who can’t find their way in the world in which there is no job for them, and they turn to drugs, and gangs and suicide. Think of one person you know that this economy has killed.
Now mourn them.
And now call out their name; let all the world know that this economy kills.
Co-creators with God deserve $15 an hour
For Catholic social teaching, the surest pathway to economic justice is the provision of meaningful and sustainable work for all men and women capable of work. The “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” states, “Economic and social imbalances in the world of work must be addressed by restoring a just hierarchy of values and placing the dignity of workers before all else.”
In work, the Church proclaims, men and women find not only the most sustainable avenue to economic security but also become co-creators with God in the world in which we live. Work is thus profoundly a sacred reality. It protects human dignity even as it spiritually enriches that dignity. If we truly are in our work co-creators with God, don’t we think that deserves at least $15 an hour?
We must all become disruptors
After the panel yesterday, when the panelists were asked in one word how they would summarize their message, I tried to think, what is the “act” that summarizes how we must act in this moment?
And I came up with two words. The first, sadly, has been provided by our past election. President Trump was the candidate of “disruption.” He was “the disruptor,” he said.
Well now, we must all become disruptors. We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our streets to deport the undocumented, to rip mothers and fathers from their families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies rather than our brothers and sisters in terrible need. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men, women and children as forces of fear rather than as children of God. We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor. We must disrupt those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.
But we, as people of faith, as disciples of Jesus Christ, as children of Abraham, as followers of the Prophet Muhammad, of people of all faiths and no faith, we cannot merely be disruptors, we also have to be rebuilders.
We have to rebuild this nation so that we place at its heart the service to the dignity of the human person and assert what that flag behinds us asserts is our heritage: Every man, woman and child is equal in this nation and called to be equal.
We must rebuild a nation in solidarity, what Catholic teaching calls the sense that all of us are the children of the one God, there are no children of a lesser god in our midst. That all of us are called to be cohesive and embrace one another and see ourselves as graced by God. We are called to rebuild our nation which does pay $15 an hour in wages, and provides decent housing, clothing and food for those who are poorest. And we need to rebuild our Earth, which is so much in danger by our own industries.
From Diocese of San Diego website.