As we’ve been pointing out on this blog for some time, people, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, liberal or conservative, Jew or Greek, slave or free, . . . whatever . . . have a positive knack for misunderstanding virtually everything that Pope Francis says. Of course, a lot of this is conditioned by, one, the fact that most people (even doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs), have never learned how to think critically. Two, most people hear what they want to hear, or what they think they want to hear. The combination is fatal.
So, what did Pope Francis say this time? Objectively speaking, and from a Just Third Way perspective, it was pretty innocuous stuff. As he tweeted,
“How I wish everyone had decent work! It is essential for human dignity.
Obviously, the character limit of Twitter prevents a tweet from being anything more than a brief comment, with no room for the subtle nuances and cautious qualifications of, say, an encyclical or an apostolic exhortation. So, we have to be careful not to read too much into these brief comments, and to keep in mind at all times that, as pope, Francis’s comments, teachings, and pretty much everything else relating to his office must, and can only be, understood within the context of more than 2,000 years of Christianity, and who knows how many millennia of Judaism, as well as whatever is true in other faiths and philosophies. The Catholic Church, according to its own statements and beliefs, claims a fullness of truth (at least so far as it is within human capacity to grasp), not a monopoly that prevents anyone else from being right.
(And, frankly, who would want to belong to any religion or adhere to any philosophy that claimed you could not believe everything it taught? After all, it’s one thing to discover you’ve made a mistake in something and work to correct it, but quite another to declare that it’s false, but you must believe it, anyway.)
Back to Pope Francis, however. We believe that he is correct in that work is essential to human dignity. The problem today is twofold — and Francis, constrained by space, couldn’t say enough to make an important qualification that permeates Catholic social teaching and its treatment of work: people limit themselves too much when they automatically link “work” and “income.”
Yes, in the current condition of society, in which most people have only their labor to sell, they are constrained to limit their income generating capacity to what they can realize by selling their labor. That’s just a fact of life . . . for now.
As advancing technology takes over more and more of the task of producing goods and services, however, relying on labor alone to generate a living income becomes problematical. What results is that, without ownership of the capital that is producing goods and services (and thus the right to receive the profits from that capital), most people are constrained to perform fake, boondoggle jobs just to get income, or resort to State handouts: welfare. Both are offenses against human dignity. Work changes from ennobling man, to degrading him, while becoming a permanent dependent of the State — effectively a slave — is even worse.