“Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) and the Economy

Stephen DeWitt, OFM Justice and Peace, Resources

The papacy of Pope Francis has brought new energy and excitement to many in the Church. The Franciscan community gladly joins him in his call for a new evangelization. In this spirit, Holy Name Province has prepared a number of brief reflections on elements of Pope Francis’ statements and writings, particularly “Evangelii Gaudium.”

In his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (EG), Pope Francis addresses a number of important challenges in today’s world to the work of evangelization. One of these challenges is what the Pope calls an economy of exclusion (pars. 53-54). This economy is created by a system which privileges profits over people by reducing people to “consumer goods to be used and then discarded (par. 53).”

Such a system further dehumanizes us by leading to a “globalization of indifference (par. 54).” This globalization of indifference deadens us to the pain and suffering of others and encourages us to focus on our own needs and wants, while ignoring those of others.

The root cause of this system is what the pope calls the new idolatry of money. This idolatry is the result of economic systems which sacralize consumption, the autonomy of markets, and financial speculation (pars. 55-56). By prioritizing money over human needs we have created a system where the economy rules us rather than contributing to the dignity of all people (pars. 57-58). The resulting inequality of such a system leads to violence and a disintegration of the social order (pars. 59-60). The only solution to these problems is a wholesale rejection of this idolatry of markets and money and a re-emphasis on the dignity of each person and on the common good (pars. 202-03). While the pope does not go into the meaning of these concepts, they are both core elements of the Church’s social teaching.

According to the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” (CSD), our human dignity is rooted in our identity as people created in the image and likeness of God (CSD, par. 108). This means that the human person is the only proper end of society. Any political, social, or economic principle
which violates this requirement is by its nature unjust and immoral (CSD, pars. 132-33). The principle of the common good is rooted in this dignity – and the unity and equality of all people it implies – and refers to the social conditions necessary for human fulfillment (CSD, par. 164). In other words, all people must have equal access to what is necessary to live dignified, fully human lives. While all people bear some responsibility for creating and maintaining the common good, its promotion is the particular responsibility of the State (CSD, par. 168). This is because the promotion of the common good is the reason for political authority to exist in the first place.

Based on these principles the pope calls for “decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality (EG, par. 204).” It is the responsibility of government and financial leaders to work to ensure that all people have dignified work, education, and healthcare (EG, par. 205). As citizens it is our responsibility to elect and support politicians dedicated to the realization of these goals.