Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pope Francis Strongly Asserts Workers' Rights and Attacks Economic System Based on a "God Called Money"

Tom Fox reports at National Catholic Reporter that Pope Francis made "one of his strongest attacks" on the global economic system, saying it can no longer be based on a "god called money" and urging the unemployed to fight for work:

Francis, at the start of a daylong trip to the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, put aside his prepared text at a meeting with unemployed workers, including miners in hard hats who told him of their situation, and improvised for nearly 20 minutes. 
"I find suffering here ... It weakens you and robs you of hope," he said. "Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity." 
He discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago. 
Mattana, his voice trembling, told the pope that unemployment "oppresses you and wears you out to the depths of your soul".

Fox reports that a crowd of some 20,000 people chanted what the pope called a prayer for work, and cheered each time he spoke of the rights of workers and the personal devastation caused by joblessness.

I have to say, I'm moved by the willingness of Francis to throw away his prepared speech and to listen instead to the out-of-work laborers to whom he was going to be speaking--then to give voice to their anguish in his extemporaneous remarks. It has been . . . too long . . . since we've had top Catholic pastoral leaders who do that: listen. Simply listen.

With the ears of their hearts. And then reframe what they were going to say because they chose to listen to those on the margins.

And, of course, as I log in on the run on a day when I have many preparatory duties for the testimony I'll be giving this week and about which I blogged earlier today, how can I not read this story and think of the case in which I'll be giving testimony? In which a United Methodist institution is asking permission to ride roughshod over the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church, which are crystal clear about the rights of workers to be treated as persons and not things . . . . And in which a United Methodist institution is asserting its right to fire faculty at will on charges for which faculty members have not had any hearing at all, not been allowed to defend themselves, and which have not been put into writing or substantiated by written reports from complainants. . . . 

I may very well be quoting the pope on more than one point in my testimony this week. I am deeply grateful to those who have left supportive comments responding to my last posting or have emailed me about it. Please know I appreciate each of them and will be replying soon, as time allows me.

The tweet about Francis's comments today is from John Schindler's Twitter feed.

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