The need to protect employment [124 – 129]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora and will add my comments over time. Papa Francisco's 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do

124. Any approach to an integral ecology, which
by definition does not exclude human beings,
needs to take account of the value of labour, as
Saint John Paul II wisely noted in his Encyclical
Laborem Exercens. According to the biblical account
of creation, God placed man and woman in
the garden he had created (cf. Gen 2:15) not only
to preserve it (“keep”) but also to make it fruitful
(“till”). Labourers and craftsmen thus “maintain
the fabric of the world” (Sir 38:34). Developing
the created world in a prudent way is the best way
of caring for it, as this means that we ourselves
become the instrument used by God to bring
out the potential which he himself inscribed in
things: “The Lord created medicines out of the
earth, and a sensible man will not despise them”
(Sir 38:4).

125. If we reflect on the proper relationship
between human beings and the world around us,
we see the need for a correct understanding of
work; if we talk about the relationship between
human beings and things, the question arises as
to the meaning and purpose of all human activity.
This has to do not only with manual or agri
cultural labour but with any activity involving a
modification of existing reality, from producing
a social report to the design of a technological
development. Underlying every form of work is
a concept of the relationship which we can and
must have with what is other than ourselves. Together
with the awe-filled contemplation of creation
which we find in Saint Francis of Assisi, the
Christian spiritual tradition has also developed a
rich and balanced understanding of the meaning
of work, as, for example, in the life of Blessed
Charles de Foucauld and his followers.

126. We can also look to the great tradition of
monasticism. Originally, it was a kind of flight
from the world, an escape from the decadence
of the cities. The monks sought the desert,
convinced that it was the best place for encountering
the presence of God. Later, Saint Benedict
of Norcia proposed that his monks live in community,
combining prayer and spiritual reading
with manual labour (ora et labora). Seeing manual
labour as spiritually meaningful proved revolutionary.
Personal growth and sanctification came
to be sought in the interplay of recollection and
work. This way of experiencing work makes us
more protective and respectful of the environment;
it imbues our relationship to the world
with a healthy sobriety.

127. We are convinced that “man is the source,
the focus and the aim of all economic and social
life”.100 Nonetheless, once our human capacity
for contemplation and reverence is impaired, it
becomes easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood.
101 We need to remember that men
and women have “the capacity to improve their
lot, to further their moral growth and to develop
their spiritual endowments”.102 Work should be
the setting for this rich personal growth, where
many aspects of life enter into play: creativity,
planning for the future, developing our talents,
living out our values, relating to others, giving
glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of
today’s global society, it is essential that “we continue
to prioritize the goal of access to steady
employment for everyone”,103 no matter the limited
interests of business and dubious economic

128. We were created with a vocation to work.
The goal should not be that technological progress
increasingly replace human work, for this
would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity,
part of the meaning of life on this earth,
a path to growth, human development and per

100 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution
on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes,

101 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus
(1 May 1991), 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.

102 Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26
March 1967), 34: AAS 59 (1967), 274.

103 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate
(29 June 2009), 32: AAS 101 (2009), 666.

sonal fulfilment. Helping the poor financially
must always be a provisional solution in the face
of pressing needs. The broader objective should
always be to allow them a dignified life through
work. Yet the orientation of the economy has favoured
a kind of technological progress in which
the costs of production are reduced by laying
off workers and replacing them with machines.
This is yet another way in which we can end up
working against ourselves. The loss of jobs also
has a negative impact on the economy “through
the progressive erosion of social capital: the network
of relationships of trust, dependability, and
respect for rules, all of which are indispensable
for any form of civil coexistence”.104 In other
words, “human costs always include economic
costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve
human costs”.105 To stop investing in people, in
order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is
bad business for society.

129. In order to continue providing employment,
it is imperative to promote an economy
which favours productive diversity and business
creativity. For example, there is a great variety
of small-scale food production systems which
feed the greater part of the world’s peoples, using
a modest amount of land and producing less
waste, be it in small agricultural parcels, in orchards
and gardens, hunting and wild harvesting

104 Ibid.

105 Ibid.

or local fishing. Economies of scale, especially
in the agricultural sector, end up forcing smallholders
to sell their land or to abandon their traditional
crops. Their attempts to move to other,
more diversified, means of production prove
fruitless because of the difficulty of linkage with
regional and global markets, or because the infrastructure
for sales and transport is geared to larger
businesses. Civil authorities have the right and
duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support
of small producers and differentiated production.
To ensure economic freedom from which
all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally
have to be imposed on those possessing greater
resources and financial power. To claim economic
freedom while real conditions bar many
people from actual access to it, and while possibilities
for employment continue to shrink, is to
practise a doublespeak which brings politics into
disrepute. Business is a noble vocation, directed
to producing wealth and improving our world.
It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the
areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the
creation of jobs as an essential part of its service
to the common good.


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