Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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PRESENCE OF COMMISSION IN THE WORLD  - CIOFS PRESIDENCY

FORMATION PROGRAMME FOR  2013

October 2013

Dossier written by Mª Lorena Campos U. OFS/ Vittorio Fraternity Battaglioni, Pisa (Italy)

 

 

INTRODUCTION

In answering the challenge to report in the light of the Gospel the worldly affairs, by adapting them to the God's design for this world, « Secular Franciscans must become the agents of social transformation .... Sensitive to economic necessities, in co-responsibility and in solidarity especially regarding those who suffer because of unjust structures of a globalized society that excludes and exploits ».  To do this, one must be aware of the « proper management of human and economic resources » (Conclusions from the General Chapter of the OFS 2011).

The term « Economy » comes from the Greek words oikos that signifies « house » or «family goods» and nomos which means «standard ». The house in the broader sense is greater than what was given to Adam, the standard that is indicated to us by the understanding of the economic knowledge that we suggest as « utilising the limited resources in order to satisfy the individual and collective needs ». But, how to do it, toward which needs and in favour of which less fortunate do we address our efforts, this seems to be rather a matter of values than of science; the Christian way that is shown to us to accomplish this is to act as administrators of goods received in favour of the sons of God. Therefore that is why in this dossier we focus our reflection on the service and on the participation of the Secular Franciscan in the economy:

1.        SERVICE AND PARTICIPATION IN THE ECONOMY

The role of the laity in the economic domain is multiple; they can be consumers and clients, employees and employers, investors and savers, voters and leaders responsible for economic  policies. Often, without being aware, we are all of these things at the same time and, without an evangelical compass that can orient our behavior  in matters of economy, we risk becoming accomplices to the « structures of sin that dehumanize  millions of brothers and sisters » [1].

Even though the economic development has improved the conditions of many peoples, it has nevertheless brought with it imbalances and dramatic problems: the deleterious effects on the activity of financial speculation on personal goods (ex. Mortgage Crisis in 2008), the migrations brought on by the impoverishment due to the commercial policies, the ruinously exploitation of world's resources, etc. If we want to stop serving Mammon to build the Kingdom of God, we must change our mentality and adopt new life styles where the communion with others and with creation determines our choices as consumers, our manner of working, of producing and of using goods or wealth.

 

The cardinal points  of this evangelical compass will allow us to retrieve in our daily life are represented by the principle of the Social Doctrine of the Church[2] that can help us in evaluating and improving our economic as well as political behavior, the laws, the political and economic systems orienting toward  our choices..

The principle of the Dignity of the Human Person reminds us that the good in each person[3] must be in the centre of all economic measure and that, as warned by the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate: « The exclusive aim of profit, if it is produced in a bad fashion or does not have the common good as its ultimate aim, risks destroying wealth and generating poverty ». (CV 21)

It is therefore asked of us to promote and respect the integrity of the person and its economic rights and to assume its responsibility both individually as well as collectively; this comprises the identification of the categories of persons that were concretely called to serve by our work, thanks to the productive activities in the firms in which we take part, with our talents and our worldly goods.  The service, to which we refer, is specifically the one where we place ourselves to be available to all, with impartial criteria, the goods that they need to live in a dignified manner: by offering them employment or the means to provide their proper subsistence, by encouraging productive attitudes, by orienting towards economic opportunities those who are overloaded with unfavourable situations and by sharing with them the material means at our disposal. We must consider ourselves as the administrators of the goods of Him who has created them and has temporarily entrusted us with them. Solidarity must therefore be the criteria that orients our economic ethic and subsidiarity, the principle that helps to resolve all conflicts of interests.

The magnetised needle of our evangelical compass will push us, as Christians , to align ourselves in the magnetic field emanating from the life of Jesus who indicates to us love, the « caritas » as the North toward which to orient our existence.

Before every «economic» action rather then ask ourselves why are we doing this, il would be better to answer the following question: who are doing it for? If the answer is for me/ for my family (ex.  « because I must protect my family », or so that "my  family lacks anything" etc.), this could hide a self-sufficient behavior that forgets the collective dimension of the Good, by not attaching any importance to the mysterious and efficient aspect of Providence to which we contribute ourselves if we adopt the logic of giving. A logic that can make disappear all our fears, prejudices, attitudes of vanity and selfishness only because it comes from the charity « that is found in each man a " fellow man ", a brother and for whom the fellow man, without exception, is some other myself (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1931).

To form and cultivate the economic ethic of a Christian, it is indispensable to know the indications of the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning the 7th commandment (see CCC 2401-2446) and to examine the daily facts and our own behavior under this light.

 

As Franciscans, the pivot around which turns the needle of our conscience can only be that of Saint Francis and the terrain on which we are called to orient ourselves is the society in which we live and in which we ask us to participate in the construction of the Kingdom of God.[4]

The Rule and the General Constitutions show us how to act, by inviting us to be sober consumers that simplify their own material and personal necessities[5] ; given the excessive inequalities economic and social between persons and between peoples are scandalous  and are contrary to social justice[6], we must avoid covetousness and rather seek to share more with our brothers, while at the same time fight against the society of consumers and all thought or action that puts richness before human and religious values.[7].                                   

 The form of life to which we have been called to embody show us equally the principles to follow in our productive contribution, characterized by the sense of responsibility that make us carry out faithfully our commitments, according to professional competence and formation, pursued with in a Christian spirit of service that « considers work as a gift and as participating in the creation and redemption of mankind[8].

The preferred apostolate of a secular Franciscan being his personal witness in the milieu where he lives as well as in the area where he works, he retains as being part of his mission, initiative,  collaboration and his position taken in the defense of work and its promotion as a right and duty to be respected  and to which all must be able to reach without prejudice to their  own dignity[9], as well as the denunciation  and the search to eliminate the inefficiencies and injustices of productive systems that lead to marginalisation, to personal poverty and to the destruction of creation.[10]. 

2.       THE PERVERSE ROLE OF MONEY IN THE ECONOMY.

The planet is full of money, to the point where there is more that would be needed to buy all the goods produced in the whole world. So, we ask why all this money if it is not used only to buy everything that we need? Often, money is used to get power: power over others, over States and over the populations of entire nations. As confirmed by Pope Francis: « we live in a world where money commands ...in a culture where reigns the fetishism of money"[11].

In principle, money is neither good or evil, it becomes accodring to the use we make of it: money is only an instrument that is accepted in exchange for goods or for services; so by economising money, we accumulate the possibility of power being bought afterwards. The money deposited in the banks is defined as financial capital and represents a wealth kept under the form of monies. Some people save to be able to purchase certain items, others find themselves saving because they do not seem to spend all the money that have at their disposal. In this last case, the revenue can give – to persons and firms – the possibility of influence, to control or to manage the economic system as well as the politics[12], someting that, unfortunately, turns out regularly and the reason maybe understood by the words of saint Paul who maintained that : « The principle of all evils, is the love of money; brought on by the desire, that certain have strayed from the faith » (1 Tm 6, 10).

Therefore, it seems prudent to seek to understand the mechanisms with which these things can be verified, if we do not want to recklessly remove ourselves from our faith.

The saver maintains that his money, left unused, allow him the power to always buy the same quantities of goods, and consequently, following this capitalistic reasoning according to the costs of merchandises will constantly increase, he finds it normal that the money deposited in the bank should bring some return (to cover the risks and inflation).

But, given that to make the investments prosper is not so easy, one goes to professional specialists of management saving, others such as (banks and financial intermediaries) who lend to those who can pay the interest.

However, something is not working at the moment when the firms and the very rich persons start to use part of their money to « gain returns » instead of using it to produce goods; as a consequence of this behavior, the amount of deposited money increases more rapidly than the possibility of placing "sure" investments "sure" (that is in loans to those who can return the money with interest). Paid to make gains for their clients / investors, the economic agents have invented high risk financial practices and, sustained by scientists without scruples and with the consent of politics, have created mechanisms that have revealed them to be frauds[13] besides going against the ethics and so was born financial speculation.                                                   

In the long run, financial speculation sets off crisis such as the one that cost, in 2008, their homes to millions of persons in the world; it attacks the public debt or the currency of countries by causing unemployment, reduction in public services and making miserable the aging of millions of retired persons in the whole world by causing the failure of systems of security and social help.

"Then as the revenue of a minority increases in an exponential manner, the revenue of the majority grows weaker. This imbalance comes from ideologies promoting the absolute autonomy of the markets and the financial speculation, denying the right of control to the States in charge nevertheless to supply the common good. A new invisible tyranny, sometimes virtual, install itself and imposes unilaterally, and without possible recourse, its laws and its rules. Besides, the debt and the credit removes from countries their true economy, and the citizens' power of real purchase. To that is added, if the need be, sprawling corruption and a selfish fiscal evasion that have taken on global dimensions.  The will for power and possession has become without limit".(Speech of Pope Francis  on 16/5/2013)

 

It seems evident that a certain point in our economic reasoning the importance of the person has been lost. The problem has its first origin in the denial of the primacy of mankind. Why, as denounced many times by Pope Francis, have we accepted to maintain a connection with money that lead to its domination over us and over our societies ?... Money must serve and to govern[14] !

The Pope exhorts us to reflect on the fact that is our duty to free ourselves from these economic and social structures that make us slaves[15] and show solidarity and ethics as the means for this freedom. And even though « In such a context, solidarity, that constitutes the peoples' treasure, it is often considered as counter-productive, contrary to financial and economic rational[16]», our catechism reminds us that solidarity manifests itself in the first place in the distribution of goods (even our own goods) and in the payment for work[17] (even that of our employees and of those who produce the merchandise we purchase.).

We are called to abandon all superficial attitude and ask ourselves if we are not falling into the pitfall of reducing the human person to a single one of its necessities: consumerism ....or worst even, if we are considering our neighbour as a means of consumerism to use and then to throw away and whether we favour this culture of rubbish rather than of that of the gift.

The Pope calls for a disinterested solidarity, and a return to ethics for mankind in the financial and economic reality[18]. Ask ourselves if all the reasons to save are just, if all the forms of saving that are proposed to us  are ethical and why there is such a high rate of taxation on investment; il it is acceptable to gain a certain percentage on the work of others (as in multi-level or triangular sales), if the mirage that money works for us does not come from our laziness and that it does not cause a mechanism of injustice, if behind the acquisition of goods at low cost does not hide the exploitation of someone else working in the black for you. 

Let us respond to the Pope's call  who wishes the realization of a financial reform that is ethical and that can bring about in turn an economic reform; this ask of us the courage to change our attitude and to assert it in our political leaders.

3.        SOURCES AND REFERENCES

-      Catechism of the Catholic Church http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_fr/ccc-it_index_en.html (3rd,  first section, second chapter: the human community, Article 2: The participation in the social life)

-     Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace": http://doctrinesocialedel'eglise.net/

-     Rule of OFS (Art. 6, 10, 11 et 16) http://ciofs.org/portal/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=72&Itemid=28&lang=fr

-     General Constitutions OFS. (Art. 15,3; 17,2; 19,20 e 21) http://www.ciofs.org/portal/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=72&Itemid=28&lang=fr

-     International Pact relating to Social, Cultural and Economic Rights (part III, Art. 6 to Art.  12) en http://unipd-centrodirittiumani.it/it/strumenti_internazionali/Patto-internazionale-sui-diritti-economici-sociali-e-culturali-1966/12

-     Film Inside the Job (2010) produced, written and realized by Charles Ferguson.

-     Definition of the Ethical Bank  http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banca_etica

4.       ECONOMY OF COMMUNION[19]

And why would they not turn to God to be inspired by his plans? Then, in that case, a new political and economic mentality would contribute to the transformation of an absolute dichotomy between the economic and social spheres of   healthy   cohabitation[20].

The economy of communion (EC) applies to this ideal; it an economic reality articulated that has become a real school of economic thinking. It was started by Chiara Lubich in May 1991 and  it involves  contractors, employees, leaders, consumers, savers, citizens, researchers, economic operators, all committed at different levels in promoting a practice and a culture based on communion, gratuity and reciprocity, by proposing and adopting a style of life different from that in vogue at the centre of the capitalistic system.

 

-          The Economy of Communion is working at a great education project for the culture of the gift, by the way of schools, meetings, formation events centered on the youth, workers, contractors and citizens.

-          In the economic practice, EC develops through industrial and productive poles in the Pilot-Cities of the Movement of the   Focolari (ex. Pole « Spartaco Lucarini » in Brazil, Pole Lionello in Italy, Pole Solidaridad in Argentina and   Pole « Giosi Guella » in Portugal, etc.)

-          At the end of 2012, in the interior of these pilot-cities, there were 861 firms that, continued to manage their revenues according to the EC methodology by distributing their profits in three parts, the first part which was used for the development of the firm (means of production and human resources) , the second  part was dedicated to human promotion of the less fortunate, in the aim of making them autonomous and the third part to finance the growth of EC project  principally by the creation of new resources.

-          The firms adhering to the economy of communion defined their own «mission» by adopting communion as a fundamental value of their organisation, at all levels. In order for this to be realized, the functions and roles in the firms are clearly defined  and exercised in a spirit of service and responsibility, with a style of participative management. The firm's objectives are shared and verified in a transparent manner, by placing a particular accent on the quality of the relationships between all the subjects concerned (the shareholders).

EC is henceforth a movement of global range that shows how one can place the dignity of mankind in the centre and make of solidarity a concrete measure in the economic system that is inspired by the values of Christian faith.  

5.        POINTS OF REFLECTION AND  DIALOGUE IN FRATERRNITY

6.       Am I aware of the economic rights of the person[21] and do I promote it by offering contracts and modes of work that respect it?

7.        Do I put the talents received from God at the service of institutions dominated by the structures of sin that do not place Him  at the centre?

8.       In the milieu of work or business, with which criteria, do I resolve conflicts of interest that touch my pocketbook, my professional   prestige, my work, etc.?

9.      

"Le mauvais riche et le pauvre Lazare"

When making a purchase, do we ask ourselves the following question: "do I only want it or do I really need it"?

10.     While speaking of economic questions with someone (a small business owner, a client, users, at college, to my chief) do I happen to ask myself if I am about to serve the person in his human dignity, or, the general interest hidden behind my quest for selfish profit?

[1] Conclusions du Chapitre Général OFS 2011, pag. 2.

[2] See 2nd  formation dossier  – february  2013

[3] Cf  Pope Francis address for the Foundatio of  Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, 25 mai 2013

[4] Cf  Rule. 6 et Constitutions Gen. 17,2.

 

[5] Cf  Rule.11 et Constitutions Gen. 15,3.

[6] Cf  CEC 1938

[7] Cf  Gen Constitutions.  15,3.

[8] Cf  Rule. 10 e 16, Gen Constitutions.  20 e 21

[9] Cf  Gen Constitutions.   21  et  Gaudium et spes 67

[10] Cf  Gen Constitutions.  art.19

[11] Pope Francis address to the General assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral of Migrants and displaced people, 24th of mai 2013

[12] Paolo Palazi. The Finance at the real economie. A perverse relationship?  Volounteers and third world   nr. 1-2, 2010

 

 

[13] Idem, see previous note

[14] Cf. Pope Francis address of 16 mai  2013

[15] Cf. Pope Francis address  of 7 june 2013

[16] Cf. Pope Francis address  of 16 mai 2013

 

[17] CEC 1940

[18]  Cf  Pope Francis address of  16 mai 2013

[19] From web site ÉdeC http://www.edc-online.org

[20] Cf. Pope Francis address of  16 mai 2013

 

[21] Les droits économiques se résument en droit au travail sans discrimination aucune, à la reconnaissance du droit à la parité hommes-femmes, droit à la jouissance des meilleures conditions d'hygiène et sécurité sur le travail, droit aux avancements de carrière, droit au temps de repos, de loisirs, à la limitation raisonnable de la durée du travail et les congés payés périodiques, ainsi que la rémunération des jours fériés. Le droit à la liberté syndicale, droit à la protection par un système de sécurité sociale; droit à la protection de la famille, au congé de maternité payé, droit à l'interdiction de l'emploi salarié de la main-d'œuvre enfantine, reconnaissance du droit de toute personne à un niveau de vie suffisant pour elle-même et sa famille, y compris une alimentation, un logement et un habillement adéquats.