Does Pope Francis get what it takes to feed the poor as he calls for?

We don’t have to take every pronouncement or opinion on every topic from every Pope as if it were the Lord’s ipsissima verba.  What the Bishop of Rome teaches about concerning faith and morals… those things we Catholics had better take really seriously and, often, give consent of will to.  On the other hand, when it comes to contingent moral choices (exactly how to accomplish that which is incumbent on Christians in this vale of tears), we can have an argument.

Here is an interesting contribution to the discussion.

From Forbes:

Pope Francis Doesn’t Really Understand This Economics Thing, Does He?

Pope Francis has told us all that we’re really very naughty indeed to allow food to become a product like any other, a product in which people can speculate and profit. Which leads to a rather sad observation about Il Papa‘s understanding of basic economics: he doesn’t, essentially, he doesn’t understand basic economics. [He must be pretty cynical about economics, given that he comes from Argentina.] It is indeed an outrage that there are still 800 million or more of our fellow human beings who are malnourished. Appalling that while the world grows the calories to feed all not all get fed. [Therefore, we seem to have the supply... there seems to be a demand... so... what's up?] But once we’ve noted those points, decided (as we damn well should) to do something about them, the interesting question becomes, well, what? At which point we might note that it’s the places with well functioning markets, subject to all that horrible speculation and profit making, that have the people who are not malnourished and not starving. Something Pope Francis might have considered before he said this:

The 77-year old said the world had ‘paid too little heed to those who are hungry.’ [Which we can stipulate is true.]

While the number of undernourished people dropped by over half in the past two decades, 805 million people were still affected in 2014. [Which will must stipulate is horrible!]

‘It is also painful to see the struggle against hunger and malnutrition hindered by ‘market priorities’, the ‘primacy of profit’, which reduce foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation and financial speculation in particular,’ Francis said. [Which we .... huh?]

Before I go further in arguing with this distinguished and holy man perhaps I should point out that I was brought up as a Catholic, indeed expensively educated in an attempt to turn me into a Catholic Gentleman (something that has obviously failed on both points), so I do understand the background to these remarks. There’s nothing unusual about them in the context of Catholic social teaching. However, they are still wrong: not in the goal, of course not, we all want the hungry to be fed. But in the understanding of the policies that are required to make this happen.

I’ve argued this so many times that the web is littered with pieces. Herehere and herejust as examples.

But just to lay it out in very simple terms in one place.
Regarding that first point, about profit. Profit is the incentive for people to do things. If people don’t profit from their actions then they won’t do them. Of course, we can take a wide view of what “profit” is: we could, for example, say that the warm feeling a farmer gets from watching a starving child eating the food he has grown is a profit. And it would be as well. [And let us not forget sacrificial love, charity properly understood.] But as we’ve found out over the past century or so (looking at those various attempts at the collectivisation of agriculture is really most instructive) [and "redistribution of wealth"] that that good feeling of having produced what others need is not actually enough. Any and every society that has relied upon such public feelings has had extensive malnutrition if not out and out famine. [Read: it doesn't work.]

So, we want the producers of food to profit from their having produced it. Otherwise we just don’t get enough food.

Then on to speculation and financial speculation. These move the prices of things through time. This is also highly desirable (as Adam Smith pointed out 238 years ago) as by moving prices through time we also move supplies of food through time (see the linked pieces for this in more detail). [NB] We move food from, as Smith said, a time of plenty to a time of dearth: thus reducing malnutrition and starvation. And yes, again, the incentive for people to do this highly desirable thing is to make a profit. [Because by making a profit we can feed more people.]

So we actually want both profit and speculation in food. For the end results are desirable. We get both the production of food in the first place and the movement of it, in both geographic and temporal, terms, to where it is needed.

And thus the Pope is wrong in his condemnations.

That isn’t the end of the story though. [NB] It is still true that there are those malnourished, that there are still people starving. And also that we’ve a moral duty to do something about it. [Precisely!] But if it’s not the greed for profits nor speculation that causes the problem then what is? At which point we can turn to another economist, Amartya Sen. Who has pointed out that, for the past century at least, starvation and famine have not been caused by an absence of food. They’re no longer supply side phenomena and they’ll not be solved by looking at that supply side. [!]

No, instead, famine now is an absence of purchasing power among those who simply cannot buy the food that is available. This is such a well known matter that even George Bush, when President, tried to get the rules about US famine relief changed (Obama is trying again now, too, according to reports). Instead of shipping US grain to starving people ship US money to starving people so they can buy the food that is already there. Or if not exactly there, then nearby. And we can rely upon the existence of that effective demand to incentivise people through that profit motive, through speculation, to ship the food from where it is to where the hungry people are.

That is, modern hunger is a demand side phenomenon and will be solved by demand side measures. Like, as above, giving poor people money to buy food with.

This is what actually works, this is how most NGOs now see hunger, many governments too. The problem is not that there’s no food for the poor to buy. It’s that the poor have no money to buy food. The answer is thus not to fiddle around with the supply side, that’s working just fine. For there are supplies of food available. What’s going wrong is the demand side so that’s where the solution must lie. We must turn actual demand (empty bellies) into effective demand (people with empty bellies with money to buy the food that exists).

And that is where I really criticise the Pope. Yes, absolutely it is a Christian duty (and for those of us without faith, a moral one just as strong) to feed the starving and the hungry. But [But...] there are effective ways and ineffective ways to make this happen. And the Pope is putting forward an ineffective one, messing with the supply system of food. When the answer actually is messing with the demand for food: getting the poor the money they need to buy the food that exists. What really annoys is that most of the Catholic charities now know and acknowledge all of this. Why is the Pope so ill informed* on the matter then?

*Yes, a possible joke here on the infallibility of the Pope. But that does only extend to the Pope being infallible upon matters of doctrine. And as far as I can remember it has only been asserted once, that the assertion of the infallibility of the Pope when pronouncing upon doctrine is infallible. It most certainly doesn’t apply to economics any more than it insists that he gets the lottery numbers right every week.

Interesting.  Perhaps this might elicit some thoughtful comments.

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Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Pope Francis, The Drill | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments

Have yourself a tactical little Christmas!

The other day when I posted about how to make my “Tactical Clerical Shirts“, I also shared something a reader sent, about the “Tactical Christmas Stocking”.

I am not making this up – a black tactical Christmas stocking! $7.50

I now have more than mere theoretical knowledge of this spiffy item of holiday cheer. One of you dear readers sent me one!

Here it is, hung up with care.  I have no fireplace, so I’ll put it in the hall for people to deposit sticks and lumps of coal with greater ease and efficiency.


It is quite tactical too.  It has a bi-directional zipper – I don’t know why, but I’m sure it’s tactical.  It has MOLLE webbing, to secure the candy canes tactically.  It has several points to fasten carabiners, which is definitely tactical.  There are two straps with tactical releases and a little pocket tactically enhanced with an Amanaote Plastic 0.22″ Inside Hole Black Spring Snap Hook Side Buckle.  And don’t overlook the reinforced tactical carrying handle.

And the interior is tactically waterproof!


I am sure that it is big enough to handle some….

[cue action film music]


Are you already tired of battling the crowds at the coffee stores to refresh your supply of coffee as the “holiday season” begins?

Are you dreading buying those little gifts for coworkers and other stocking stuffers?

How about a new tactic?

Order your little gifts from the Mystical Tactical Monks!   They are building their new spiritual fortress, their Catholic redoubt, in Wyoming, which is very tactical indeed.  Your purchases help them to construct their entrenched position.

The Mystic Monk 30 Pack Sampler might be exactly what you need to achieve your overall Christmas Stocking and Secret Santa Strategery!  And I think you get tactical free shipping!

The 30 Pack Sampler contains 2 oz. packets:

4 x Mystic Monk Blend
4 x Midnight Vigils Blend
4 x Hermits’ Bold Blend
3 x Cowboy Blend
3 x Medium Colombian
3 x Decaffeinated Arabica
3 x Hazelnut
3 x Royal Rum Pecan
3 x Carmel

Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

Take some to work and then get your office manager to buy Mystic Monk Coffee (using my link).  That’s tactical… for me!

Mystic Monk Coffee!

It’s tactical!

Posted in Lighter fare, Linking Back | Tagged , | 2 Comments

ASK FATHER: Summorum Pontificum, Art. 4 – “observing all the norms of law”

From a reader…


Father, the subject Article IV says: “Celebrations of Mass as mentioned in art. 2 above may – observing all the norms of law – also be attended by faithful, who of their own free will, ask to be admitted.” What does the “observing all the norms of law” refer to?

That’s just standard boilerplate, legal language (servatis de iure servandis), to cover all the bases.

There are certain canons in the universal Code which regulate who can or cannot access certain chapels (e.g. can. 1226 establishes the concept of a private chapel which may limit attendance to a specific group, and can. 1223 on oratories, such as those in religious houses or seminaries, which also may have limited access). In addition, there may be cases wherein a priest is restricted to offering Mass only privately. There also may be situations in which a layperson has been penalized and thus restricted from entering a certain church, chapel, or oratory.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM | Tagged | Leave a comment

REMINDER: CD of music for Advent by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles


Do you remember there is an album of Advent music available?  The wonderful Benedictine Nuns in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph provide it.

Here are a few little samples.

It is still available!

There are zillions of Christmas music offerings out there.  Advent?  Not so much.

This disk can help you keep Advent as Advent.

The UK link is HERE and Canada HERE.

Posted in ADVENT, Linking Back, The Campus Telephone Pole | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Turning to the East in the Diocese of Lincoln – UPDATED

UPDATED: see below

ORIGINALLY POSTED on: Nov 21, 2014

The late-great liturgist Klaus Gamber, who also influenced Joseph Ratzinger (also known by another name), said that turning around the altars was the single most damaging change that happened in the name of the Council, and it wasn’t even mandated by the Council.  There is no document that required tables be set up.

But I digress.

Great news from the Diocese of Lincoln!

His Excellency Most Reverend James Conley has determined that Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Lincoln will be ad orientem.

Bishop’s Column
Looking to the east
Friday, 21 November 2014
Jesus Christ will return in glory to the earth.

We do not know when he will return. But Christ promised us that he would return in glory, “as light comes from the east” to bring God’s plan of redemption to its fulfillment.

In 2009, Bishop Edward Slattery, of Tulsa, Okla., wrote that “the dawn of redemption has already broken, but the sun —Christ Himself—has not yet risen in the sky.” [I wrote about that HERE]

In the early Church, Christians expected that Christ would come soon—any day. There was hopeful expectation. They were watchful—they looked to the sky in the east to wait for Christ. And because they did not know when he would return, they proclaimed the Gospel with urgency and enthusiasm, hoping to bring the world to salvation before Christ returned.

It has been nearly two thousand years now since Christ ascended into heaven. It has become easier to forget that he will come again to earth. It has become easier to forget that we must be waiting, we must be watching, and we must be ready. [Holy Mass must help to prepare us for death.]

In the season of Advent, as we recall Christ’s Incarnation at Christmas, we are reminded to be prepared for Christ’s coming. In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent this year, Nov. 30, Christ tells us his disciples “to be on the watch.”

“You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,” Jesus says. “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

We remember that Christ is coming whenever we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Holy Mass we are made present to the sacrifice at Calvary, and to the joy of Christ’s glory in heaven. But we also remember that Christ will return, and we remember to watch, to be vigilant, to wait for him, and to be prepared.

The Mass is rich with symbolism. The vestments of the priest remind us of the dignity of Christ the King. We strike our breasts, and bow our heads, and bend our knees to remember our sinfulness, God’s mercy, and his glory. In the Mass, the ways we stand, and sit, and kneel, remind us of God’s eternal plan for us.

Since ancient times, Christians have faced the east during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to remember to keep watch for Christ. Together, the priest and the people faced the east, waiting and watching for Christ. Even in Churches that did not face the east, the priest and people stood together in the Mass, gazing at Christ on the crucifix, on the altar, and in the tabernacle, to recall the importance of watching for his return. The symbolism of the priest and people facing ad orientem—to the east—is an ancient reminder of the coming of Christ.

More recently, it has become common for the priest and the people to face one another during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The priest stands behind the altar as he consecrates the Eucharist, facing the people. The people see the face of the priest as he prays, and he sees their faces. These positions can have important symbolism too. They can remind us that we are a community—one body in Christ. And they can remind us that the Eucharist, at the center of the assembly, should also be at the center of our families, and our lives. [As Joseph Ratzinger indicates it also leads to a worshipping body being closed in on itself.]

But [BUT...] the symbolism of facing together, and awaiting Christ, is rich, time-honored and important. Especially during Advent, as we await the coming of the Lord, facing the east together—even symbolically facing Christ together at the altar and on the crucifix—is a powerful witness to Christ’s imminent return. Today, at a time when it is easy to forget that Christ is coming—and easy to be complacent in our spiritual lives and in the work of evangelization—we need reminders that Christ will come.

During the Sundays of Advent, the priests in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ will celebrate the Mass ad orientem. With the People of God, the priest will stand facing the altar, and facing the crucifix. When I celebrate midnight Mass on Christmas, I will celebrate ad orientem as well. This may take place in other parishes across the Diocese of Lincoln as well.

In the ad orientem posture at Mass, the priest will not be facing away from the people. [OORAH!] He will be with them—among them, and leading them—facing Christ, and waiting for his return.

“Be watchful!” says Jesus. “Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” We do not know when the time will come for Christ’s to return. But we know that we must watch for him. May we “face the east,” together, watching for Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in our lives.

Fr. Z kudos to Bp. Conley!

UPDATE 25 Nov:

I saw this photo over at NLM.

Doesn’t it quite simply look… right?

And there’s this!

Posted in Fr. Z KUDOS, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity | Tagged , , | 92 Comments

Singing Nuns defend Embattled Bishop


Do you remember there is an album of Advent music available?  The wonderful Benedictine Nuns in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph provide it.

Here are a few little samples.

The UK link is HERE.

These same sisters are defending Bp. Robert Finn, who has been so aggressively attacked by the Fishwrap (HQ is in KC, MO).

At LifeSite:

Missouri nuns defend Finn: ‘Our bishop is a man who inspires faith’

Hundreds of thousands of Americans know and love what would otherwise be an unknown band of traditional Benedictine nuns living in rural Missouri. Thanks to their glorious singing, which has topped the music charts time and time again, the contemplative Benedictines of Mary are famous. Their ‘Lent at Ephesus’ album spent 20 weeks at the top of the Classical Album chart this year.

These contemplative nuns are today speaking out in defense of their bishop, Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO, currently the number one target of the liberal media in America and unwilling to be defended by brother clergy in the country.

“Our Bishop is a man who inspires faith, holiness, and a great zeal for the things of God,” said Mother Cecilia, the young vibrant prioress for the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in an exclusive interview with

After praying that someone’s voice would be heard in his defense, Mother Cecilia embraced this unexpected opportunity to speak out on behalf of Bishop Finn, who has been singled out over several years for censuring in the Church’s sex abuse scandal, even leading to a Vatican investigation.

“It breaks my heart that so many people only know about him what they hear from the blaring voices of the media and news outlets which have carried a prejudice against him from the beginning,” Mother Cecilia said. “Our community was shown the tenderness of Holy Mother Church through Bishop Finn.”

Since assuming leadership in 2005, Bishop Finn has taken steps to refocus the diocese’s direction, including changes to staff and programs, and ensuring the diocesan newspaper operates faithfully. These changes have angered liberal Catholics opposed to the Church’s orthodoxy.

“Ten years ago, Bishop Finn was thrown into the midst of a diocese known far and wide for being a hotbed of heterodoxy and dissent,” Mother Cecilia said. “He made necessary and important changes right from the start, and those who were displeased have never forgotten nor forgiven.”

Mother Cecilia has heard many stories from the pre-Finn days, the most poignant being one in which a Kansas City woman described her horror when during his homily, a priest smashed the high altar with a hammer.

“Amidst energies, money and agendas that are directed toward secular and even sinful ‘progress,’ there is a striking lack of sympathy for the spiritual suffering that countless Catholics had been enduring for the previous two generations, where everything they held sacred was torn to pieces before their eyes,” she said.

These spiritually disenfranchised souls had no voice, no media outlets, no financial resources, no advocate. But they prayed. And Bishop Finn was the answer to their prayers.” [So are blogs, by the way... but I digress....]

During his time in the diocese, Bishop Finn has fostered explosive growth in vocations to the priesthood and diaconate, opened the cause for canonization of a religious sister, and overseen the building of two new churches, all of which is passed over in media coverage in favor of critics calling for his removal.

“Our Bishop has endured and suffered so much throughout these years,” said Mother Cecilia. She explained that shortly after his arrival, one local paper distributed a scathing eight-page issue dedicated exclusively to biasing the faithful against their new shepherd, placing it in numerous churches throughout the diocese.

“I continue to be amazed and inspired by his humility, charity, and patient resignation amidst so many relentless attacks,” said Mother Cecilia.

Bishop Finn clearly understands the Church’s primary role is to sanctify her individual members, she said, likely the reason he’s drawn the ire of Church foes.

Denigration of Bishop Finn intensified in 2010 after he learned from his vicar general that a diocesan priest had inappropriate pictures of young girls on his personal computer. The diocese immediately notified a ranking Kansas City police officer, and the pictures were provided to legal counsel as well. Both opined that the photos did not constitute child pornography as they did not contain sexual conduct or contact as defined by Missouri law.

The priest was immediately called and told to appear at the chancery the next day, but he did not. He was instead found unconscious in his garage after an attempted suicide. He remained unconscious for four days, and was not expected to live.

After recovering and undergoing psychiatric care, Bishop Finn removed the priest from pastoral duties, and said he was not allowed electronic devices or any interaction with children. When the priest breached those restrictions, the diocese turned him over to civil authorities. Detectives then discovered images of a pornographic nature at the priest’s family’s home, and he was charged that same day.

Misdemeanor charges were filed against the bishop and the diocese. In order to spare the victims a drawn out jury trial and have the charges against the diocese dropped, which would have likely resulted in crippling insurance increases, Bishop Finn submitted to a one day bench trial and was indicted and found guilty of a misdemeanor for not reporting suspected child abuse.

It was the first case of its kind with a U.S. Catholic bishop. He was placed on probation and agreed to regular visits with the county attorney to discuss any abuse allegations made against the diocese. At the hearing where Bishop Finn was found guilty, the bishop received a “suspension in sentencing,” whereby when his probation was completed, he would have no record. The two-year probation has been completed.

Many see what took place as a political vendetta against the bishop for his orthodoxy and an obvious attempt to make him an example in the Church sex abuse scandal, as the specifics of his case do not involve him perpetrating or willfully facilitating abuse.

The independent investigation ordered by Bishop Finn did find fault with the diocese’s handling of some parts of the process, but the lapses do not amount to criminal conduct, according to Missouri attorney Michael Quinlan, who said the statute under which Bishop Finn was charged, in fact, doesn’t even apply to the circumstances of the case.

Regardless, his critics were further emboldened. [Especially during the last few months.]

The Church has faced strong criticism for its handling of clergy sex abuse since the scandal broke in 2002, and the narrative has continued through Pope Francis’ establishment of a commission on the matter.

The Vatican sent a Canadian archbishop to the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in September for an apostolic visit, assumed to be an assessment of the leadership of Bishop Finn. The result of the visit remains to be seen.


You really should read the rest there.

Posted in Be The Maquis, Fr. Z KUDOS, Women Religious | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Kudos to Sacred Heart in Cincinnati!

I was delighted to receive a link to a Facebook page with photos of a Low Mass of a Bishop celebrated by His Excellency Most Reverend Andrew Cozzens, Auxiliary Bishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis… in Cincinnati.  The occasion was the 20th anniversary of the Traditional Latin Mass at Sacred Heart in Cincy.

Here is one shot (go see the rest there) which shows a moment in the process of vesting the bishop before Mass.   (Too bad about that table altar there… but…)

Kudos to Sacred Heart parish!  And kudos to Bp. Cozzens!

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, Fr. Z KUDOS, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM | Tagged , | 9 Comments

I missed “STIR UP SUNDAY”! But it’s not too late.

Last Sunday, the final Sunday of the liturgical year, was “Stir Up” Sunday, taken from the translation of the Latin Collect for Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form (which probably was just transferred into the Book of Common Prayer).

This was the Sunday to begin making the Christmas Puddings!

And I missed it.   I was on the road.

But I’m back now.  I will have to make my Christmas Pudding during Stir-Up Week.

It’s not too late!  You can get into too.

On Stir Up Sunday, in a family, every member of the household had to take turns stirring together the mixture for the pudding.  Very cool.  A great family thing to do.

Let us know what your plans are.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Registration error: Wherein Fr. Z screwed up!

Friends, I’m tired.

I just deleted a whole bunch of registrations by accident.

If you have the patience, and you registered lately and nothing came of it, you might try again.

Also… remember to use well that important field in the form wherein you say something about yourself.  It doesn’t have to be long or detailed.  Include something to let me know that you are not a spammer or a nefarious ne’er-do-well.  Mention your confirmation name, for example.  That doesn’t say anything that could compromise online security, but it’ll tell me that you aren’t a mindless bot.


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Pope Francis: “Europe is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant”

During the last few days someone remarked to me…

- birth rates are lower than ever in developed countries (except where certain groups seem to be having lots of children, such as Muslims in formerly-Christian Europe)

- a pop tart, Lady Gaga, has recommended that young people don’t have sex at all, because they ought not to bother with other people, they are sufficient in an of themselves: they don’t need anyone

- it is possible that, within 10 years, an artificial womb may be viable, functional

Against that backdrop, I read that Pope Francis addressed the parliament of the European Union (for what it’s worth… and I don’t the the EUP is worth much).

Something of what he said.  It’s really long, so I’ll give just a few bits:


I feel bound to stress the close bond between these two words: “dignity” and “transcendent”.
“Dignity” was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War. [Thank you USA and the Marshall Plan] Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in constrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries. Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person. This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterized as it is by an enriching encounter whose “distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them”,2 [that's a footnote... I'm ignoring them for now] thus forging the very concept of the “person”. [Which includes the unborn.]
Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries. This is an important and praiseworthy commitment, since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age. [or being still unborn?]
In the end, what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing one’s thought or professing one’s religious faith? What dignity can there be without a clear juridical framework which limits the rule of force and enables the rule of law to prevail over the power of tyranny? What dignity can men and women ever enjoy if they are subjected to all types of discrimination? What dignity can a person ever hope to find when he or she lacks food and the bare essentials for survival and, worse yet, when they lack the work which confers dignity?
Promoting the dignity of the person means recognizing that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests.
At the same time, however, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse. [Homosexual unions falsely called "marriages" are NOT a right.] Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts, as if the person were a “monad”[see above] I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the “all of us” made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.3 In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence.
To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that “compass” deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation.4 Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation. In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others. This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate, and also in the young who lack clear points of reference and opportunities for the future. It is also seen in the many poor who dwell in our cities and in the disorientation of immigrants who came here seeking a better future.
This loneliness has become more acute as a result of the economic crisis, whose effects continue to have tragic consequences for the life of society. In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful. [WATCH THIS...] In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.
Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, [like refusing to have children or being in relationships which are intended to be sterile] marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor. To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings.5 Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.
This is the great mistake made “when technology is allowed to take over”;6 the result is a confusion between ends and means”.7 It is the inevitable consequence of a “throwaway culture” and an uncontrolled consumerism. Upholding the dignity of the person means instead acknowledging the value of human life, which is freely given us and hence cannot be an object of trade or commerce. As members of this Parliament, you are called to a great mission which may at times seem an impossible one: to tend to the needs of individuals and peoples. To tend to those in need takes strength and tenderness, effort and generosity in the midst of a functionalistic and privatized mindset which inexorably leads to a “throwaway culture”. To care for individuals and peoples in need means protecting memory and hope; it means taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalization and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it.8
How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?
To answer this question, allow me to use an image. One of the most celebrated frescoes of Raphael is found in the Vatican and depicts the so-called “School of Athens”. Plato and Aristotle are in the centre. Plato’s finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say. Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality. This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe’s practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems. [A deep concern of Ratzinger/Benedict is the identity of Europe and her future if Christianity is jettisoned.  In other words, whatever else it might be, without Christianity, Europe isn't Europe.]
The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements. A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.
Taking as a starting point this opening to the transcendent, I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of the moment. I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth. This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment. This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person.


That’s enough for now.  You can read the rest there.

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