VI. The common destination of goods [93-95]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Pappa francescos 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.

93. Whether believers or not, we are agreed
today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance,
whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.
For believers, this becomes a question of
fidelity to the Creator, since God created the
world for everyone. Hence every ecological approach
needs to incorporate a social perspective

69 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2418.
70 Conference of Dominican Bishops, Pastoral Letter
Sobre la relación del hombre con la naturaleza (21 January 1987).

which takes into account the fundamental rights
of the poor and the underprivileged. The principle
of the subordination of private property to
the universal destination of goods, and thus the
right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule
of social conduct and “the first principle of the
whole ethical and social order”.71 The Christian
tradition has never recognized the right to private
property as absolute or inviolable, and has
stressed the social purpose of all forms of private
property. Saint John Paul II forcefully reaffirmed
this teaching, stating that “God gave the
earth to the whole human race for the sustenance
of all its members, without excluding or favouring
anyone”.72 These are strong words. He noted that
“a type of development which did not respect
and promote human rights – personal and social,
economic and political, including the rights
of nations and of peoples – would not be really
worthy of man”.73 He clearly explained that
“the Church does indeed defend the legitimate
right to private property, but she also teaches no
less clearly that there is always a social mortgage
on all private property, in order that goods may
serve the general purpose that God gave them”.74

71 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens (14
September 1981), 19: AAS 73 (1981), 626.
72 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 31:
AAS 83 (1991), 831.
73 Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December
1987), 33: AAS 80 (1988), 557.
74 Address to Indigenous and Rural People, Cuilapán, Mexico
(29 January 1979), 6: AAS 71 (1979), 209.

Consequently, he maintained, “it is not in accord
with God’s plan that this gift be used in such a
way that its benefits favour only a few”.75 This
calls into serious question the unjust habits of a
part of humanity.76

94. The rich and the poor have equal dignity, for
“the Lord is the maker of them all” (Prov 22:2).
“He himself made both small and great” (Wis 6:7),
and “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the
good” (Mt 5:45). This has practical consequences,
such as those pointed out by the bishops of
Paraguay: “Every campesino has a natural right to
possess a reasonable allotment of land where he
can establish his home, work for subsistence of
his family and a secure life. This right must be
guaranteed so that its exercise is not illusory but
real. That means that apart from the ownership
of property, rural people must have access to
means of technical education, credit, insurance,
and markets”.77
95. The natural environment is a collective
good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility
of everyone. If we make something
our own, it is only to administer it for the good

75 Homily at Mass for Farmers, Recife, Brazil (7 July 1980):
AAS 72 (1980): AAS 72 (1980), 926.
76 Cf. Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 8: AAS 82
(1990), 152.
77 Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference, Pastoral Letter El
campesino paraguayo y la tierra (12 June 1983), 2, 4, d.

of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences
with the weight of having denied the existence
of others. That is why the New Zealand bishops
asked what the commandment “Thou shalt not
kill” means when “twenty percent of the world’s
population consumes resources at a rate that
robs the poor nations and future generations of
what they need to survive”.7


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