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Drew ChristiansenDecember 12, 2013

The release today of Pope Francis’s 2014 World Day of Peace Message, “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace,” is the pope’s second major statement in two weeks. A significant theme in the message is the link between poverty and inequality. The Holy Father notes that while we are witnessing a reduction in so-called “absolute poverty” (degrading abject poverty), “there is a serious rise in relative poverty, that is, of instances, of inequality of peoples and of groups who live to together in particular regions or in determined historical-cultural context.”

People “who are equal in dignity and fundamental rights” require, the pope argues, (equal) “access to capital, services, educational resources, healthcare and technology, so that every person has an opportunity to express or realize his or her life project and can develop as a person.” Contemporary Catholic social teaching going back to John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra (1961) has contended that the common good consists in just this: the sharing of resources in the interest of the full development on the part of every human being.

What the tradition has also insisted, though it is sometimes denied, that in the interest of protecting the poor, inequalities have to be held in check. Accordingly, Francis argues that the excessive imbalance between incomes must be lightened (reduced), invoking the notion of “the social mortgage on private property,” the notion that private property is not just for one’s own use but for the good of all as well, and so subject to social control in the interest of ameliorating poverty. It is by growing in the spirit of fraternity, the pope maintains, that we will be able to rethink our models of economic life and undertake a shift in lifestyles that will enable people to enjoy a just peace together.

Drew Christiansen, S.J.

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JR Cosgrove
10 years 7 months ago
There are a couple things wrong with this OP as can be seen with this statement
invoking the notion of “the social mortgage on private property,” the notion that private property is not just for one’s own use but for the good of all as well, and so subject to social control in the interest of ameliorating poverty.
First, most of the increase in wealth in the world is not due to the rich owning more land. There are other assets that account for this increase in wealth. The great increase in disparity between the rich and the average person in the US takes place when the stock market increases in value and with it other capital assets such as production facilities that are fueling the underlying increase in the stocks. It is not land or its ownership that is the source of modern wealth. The greatest divide took place in the 1990's under President Clinton as the world saw the dot com bubble make millionaires out of many ordinary people who happened to be in the right place or had the right skill at the moment. This OP represents and outdated conception of wealth and what causes relative poverty. It is interesting that it is relative poverty that is mentioned, not actual poverty. There is still a lot of the latter around but it is getting less each year all over the world.Second, if there is one sure way to ensure the poor remain relatively poor it is the confiscation of property and then giving it away or limiting how much one can hold. It has never helped the poor get out of poverty. Agricultural wealth is not a potential source of improvement for the poor any more in most of the world. What helps the poor get out of poverty is opportunity for good employment and that depends on the initiative of a small group of people who innovate. This small group may get fabulously wealthy but in the process they will create unbelievable efficiency in the production and distribution of goods and yes it will trickle down to the poor all over the world as they get to use these efficiencies. Only the willfully blind cannot see that this is what has happened in this country and a lot of the world. There are major problems all over the world but the redistributing of assets will never solve these problems. But uninformed people will insist that we do just that and create more problems than it will ever solve.

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