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Moral rectitude To civilize the economy

· Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at the meeting on work organized by ACLI ·

There is the need for strong moral rectitude in order to realize a “civilized economy” to counteract the equally strong “speculative tendency”.  In consideration of the fact that social laws form an “integral part  of the substance of democracy”, the commitment to respect them “cannot depend merely on the progress of income and the market”. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, said this on Thursday morning, 2 September, at the academic conference organized by Associazioni cristiane dei lavoratori italiani [Christian association for Italian Workers] (ACLI)  on the instability of work.

Work, the Cardinal recalled, has always been and continues to be an issue in the forefront of the Church's social doctrine, even so much as to be considered one of her constitutive elements. Among other things, it was precisely on this aspect that he spoke, during the first day of the workshops, Bishop Giuseppe Merisi, President of Caritas in Italy, who dealt with the theme of humanism as integral to work in the social magisterium of the Church. An “expression which seems proper and significant” noted the Secretary of State noting the intervention “since  it is clear that the dynamics of the workplace are among those that first and foremost reflect globalization and its impact on the real life of every person in their own dimension”. In fact, he underlined that the Church's social magisterium offered her concept of work which we can call humanist, personalist and common to all, truly on a global level. On the five continents the teaching of the Church on work is, above all, clear through signs of solidarity and the promotion of  initiatives.

The profound transformation which the working world invests truly does not only today affect certain objective aspects, such as organization, employment or unemployment, salaries, flexibility, job security and so on, but it also significantly involves the ethical and ideal contents.

Taking this into consideration the Secretary of State spoke about work “not only as a relationship of exchange mainly in the light of the “logic of  gift” and of generosity .

According to Benedict XVI, in truth, the principle of generosity and the logic of gift need to find their place within normal economic activity. Looking at work from this perspective “means seeing in it much more than an occupation or a career but also and above all a 'vocation', something connected and not distinct from the most intimate and ultimate meaning of human life”. The church's social teaching accepts this theological dimension of work, there where it points to the social and collective reality, and there where it affirms that human work contributes  - in a mysterious but real way – to the new creation, to the new heaven, and to the new earth.

Work lived as a vocation “is an ordinary means of sanctification – affirmed the Cardinal – because it is lived as a lay and concrete implementation of the will of God. Not only, then the communal dimension of holiness is made evident, holiness not only in monasteries and convents, but also in working communities of women and men”. However, this subjective view of work brings to mind and underlines much more the necessity of safeguarding the objective aspects. “In fact – he said citing Rerum Novarum – in the context of crises, uncertainty in the workplace and the  conditions that lead to personal and grave social difficulties.

Therefore, the dignity of the person and the demands of justice require that, with renew energy “we continue to pursue the objective priority of  job access and its conservation for all”.

How can we achieve this? “The Pope and the Church – the Cardinal conceded – do not offer technical solutions, but they do not on account of this renounce indicating a few prospects”. The first is the “principle of generosity”, placed dialectically according to the logic of the market, with its end the common good. “Here – he noted – we touch upon the nucleus of the Encyclical Laborem exercens of John Paul II, which is a real theological anthropology: in it, in fact, work is always seen in reference to the person and his or her dignity”. From this stems the necessity “of  one concrete and profound form of economic democracy”. While yesterday one could hold that first necessary thing to pursue is justice and that generosity comes into it after, as a compliment, “today it is necessary to say that without generosity it is not even possible to realize justice. It is on this foundation that the Magesterium and the entire Church bases her commitment  to a 'civilized economy' in contrast to the strong speculative tendency”. “A civilized economy – concluded the Secretary of State – cannot ignore the social value of business and the  corresponding responsibility towards the family of workers, of society and the environment”. In this context the Cardinal hinted at “a virtuous cooperative world” that deserves to be  appreciated and supported also for having given work and solidarity in this time of crisis.

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