Month: May 2020

CONSCIENCE CONVERSATIONS – Subsidiarity: what is it, and why does it matter?

Matt: Brendan, in one of our recent Facebook postings, you posed an important question relating to that most elusive of all Catholic social teachings, the principle of “subsidiarity”— which the official Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church describes as being “among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church’s social doctrine.”

The question you posed was, “How does subsidiarity touch our own environmental and economic policies in Canada? What is appropriate action for our federal government, and what is best left to provincial or local governments —or even to our own families?”

Unfortunately, although this is a question of first importance, it is far too frequently ignored, simply because the concept of subsidiarity is not as easily grasped as the other three Permanent Principles of Catholic Social Teaching: life & human dignity, the common good, and solidarity.

I wonder if we could help improve understanding by briefly examining one or two current social initiatives through the lens of solidarity. To start, we’d better ensure we’ve adequately defined it: subsidiarity is the principle that social decisions should always be pushed to the lowest level that they can be responsibly left to.

Properly applied, this makes subsidiarity a critical tool for preserving individual and social freedom —which itself is one of the fundamental values of the Church’s social teaching. The idea is that each of us should retain the maximum responsible amount of control over our own lives, so that we can put the unique gifts God has entrusted to us to work in seeking our own proper paths back to God. Government should not do things for us that can responsibly be left to us to do for ourselves, or left to our families or our communities; to ethical and responsible private initiatives such as business, civil society organizations, the press, schools, or the church; or to more-localized levels of government. As you pointed out in the posting I mentioned, this enables each of us to maximize our opportunities for learning and growth; and helps ensure that policies reflect of the legitimate and particular needs and concerns of local communities, respecting that it is most often these local communities that best understand their needs.

In some ways, subsidiarity helps to shape and inform the principles of solidarity and the common good—for example, by reminding us that while we are unequivocally called to care for those around us, and to consider that anything that hurts our neighbor hurts us as well, there is a wide and critical difference between helping others to realize their own destinies and diminishing their dignity as human beings by doing things for them that they can should do themselves.

One of the most remarkable examples of subsidiarity I’m aware of provided by the Canadian healthcare system. The basic framework for Canadian healthcare is provided by an act of the federal parliament, which requires each of the provinces and territories to assess the requirements and determine how they might best be applied in order to ensure that basic healthcare services are available to its residents. This ensures that basic levels of service are provided, while leaving the provinces and territories significant latitude to fill in the many blanks provided by the legislation in accordance with their own notions of propriety. Thus, healthcare in Ontario is different in some ways than it is in British Columbia, and each of those is different from healthcare as provided in Quebec and Nova Scotia.

It also provides plenty of scope for continuing debate on the proper shape and limits of healthcare in Canada. Are enough important services covered in each province—for example, should important prescription medicines be covered? Would it be better to leave options for provision of some services through private healthcare providers? Would it be appropriate to shift some greater or lesser portion of the burden of healthcare to individual patients, as for example through implementation of modest co-payments, or to alternative forms of care, such as naturopaths? To what degree should these questions be left to the individual provinces and territories? These are interesting questions, with no unambiguously correct answers.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on new questions. For example, several of the provinces, acting out of rightful concern for their citizens and the limited healthcare resources at their disposal, have attempted to restrict traffic coming into their borders. Is that appropriate? If so, to what extent? And can alternatives to inter-provincial travel be provided?

Brendan, what do you think? Are there other examples of social initiative that help to shed light on the elusive meaning of ‘subsidiarity?’

B: I’m glad you’ve raised the topic of subsidiarity Matt, as I think it’s one of the least commonly understood aspects of the Church’s social teaching. Many have an intuitive grasp of the common good—the social conditions which collectively allow all children of God to reach their full and authentic development. Solidarity also makes intuitive sense. Indeed, solidarity seems to connect most naturally and organically with our well-trodden understanding of Catholic social values, so eloquently and simply expressed in the phrase “Love thy neighbour.” Subsidiarity often goes unmentioned. But it is so critical, it could be argued rightly that it is impossible to understand and promote the common good or solidarity without the additional, essential pillar of subsidiarity.

Why is subsidiarity so critical? It stands between the twin monsters of collectivism—the idea that all decision-making should be made by larger aggregations of distant governing bodies—and individualism, the idea that all power should be invested in individuals and that only individual interests should drive societal decision-making. Both lead to terrible social evils, the former because human dignity is trampled underneath the whims of the majoritarian collective, and the latter because no restraint is placed on the totalizing and often corrupted desires of individuals and the harm they can cause to their neighbours. Subsidiarity takes the concept of servant-leadership—that the greatest must be the least and must support those they lead—and applies it to institutions. In this sense, higher levels of governance serve and support the self-directed needs of lower levels of governance, without crushing the initiative, enterprise, and self-determination of those lower levels. In addition to that “vertical” understanding of subsidiarity, there is also a “horizontal” understanding, namely the diffusion of power among differing institutions serving different purposes. This ensures that no one institution can unjustly dominate the others, nor that no one institution takes on responsibilities which it is not capable of properly serving. With this principle, every layer of governance or communal organization is imbued with the powers it is most capable of responsibly undertaking for the dignity of all—from the family, to the town and city, to civil society, to our provincial and federal governments, and all the various institutions in between.

From the perspective of subsidiarity, we’re blessed to live in a country like Canada, where the principles of subsidiarity are constructed right into the architecture of our federation. The Canadian model of government created multiple layers of government—specifically a federal government and multiple provincial governments—each with strictly enunciated powers of governance. Over time, through legal proceedings, these powers have been further clarified, largely to the benefit of the provincial governments. In my opinion we are lucky in Canada to have a government so strictly localized through our constitution. We are a geographically and culturally dispersed nation. Each region has unique needs, values, and aspirations. Such a decentralized federal model allows those regions to pursue their local aspirations while working collectively at the national level on issues of mutual concern.

We still have more work to do on this front. You asked me about a relevant political issue that touches on subsidiarity. Consider the issue of granting further powers to municipal governments and clarifying those powers. Municipalities in Canada are largely so-called “creatures of the provinces,” created by provincial legislation, which can be changed by a simple majority vote of the provincial legislature. Thus, was the case when Ontario Premier Doug Ford reduced the size of Toronto city council by half, right in the middle of a municipal election. Courts eventually ruled that this move didn’t violate the Constitution but it prompted much public discussion: do cities deserve more rights and powers of self-government, protected from the whims of provincial governments, so they can better govern according to the wishes of their citizens?

Like the common good and solidarity, subsidiarity is a bedrock principle that must be accounted for in any Catholic perspective on public policy issues.

M: Just a final observation about New Testament roots for the principle. In a single chapter of the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 25), Christ addresses both the individual and social aspects of Christianity in a way that highlights the individual’s responsibility for both himself and his society. At Matthew 25:14-30 Christ explains, through the parable of the talents, that each individual is called to use the gifts God has entrusted to him for God’s purposes—which are to love God and to love one another. And in the very next passage (lines 31-46) he warns that individuals will be judged not only on the basis of our individual actions, but also for our collective activities as members of “nations.”

Likewise, the Apostle Paul stresses both individual and social aspects of responsibility, with emphasis on the duties of the individual. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul stresses the requirement that each conduct himself in an orderly fashion, and to avoid burdening others. “In fact,” he notes, “we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” “But you, brothers,” he continues, “do not be remiss in doing good.” (2 Thess. 3:6-13). And he reiterates that the purpose of life is to seek God, and the purpose of societies is to assist each of their members in doing so. In Acts 17, Paul explains that it is God

who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us…

God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed… 

The greatest act of solidarity in the history of the world?

May 2020 Common Good Catholic (Newsletter)

Coming closer to God, our Christian community, and to the Canadians we serve – even as we remain apart Dear friends,

We hope you and your families are safe and healthy as we continue our lockdown in the face of coronavirus. This has been a strange time for all of us. It’s been defined by so much fear—for our own health, the health of our loved ones, and the health of our wider society. And of course, for so many, those fears have been cruelly realized. Too many have died from this terrible disease and too many loved ones have been lost. We pray for all of those who have suffered loss at this time.

At the same time, we remain hopeful for the future of Canada and our fellow Canadians because we’re seeing extraordinary solidarity within our communities. Beyond this, so many are growing closer to God in this time. We hear from so many friends and family that there is more praying, more spiritual thinking, more striving to understand God’s purposes for us. And of course, even as we are isolating, we continue to serve our neighbours—donating our time and money, offering hot meals, comforting the sick and afflicted, and more. We at Catholic Conscience continue our program planning for 2020. We’re excited to bring you new programs and events once this crisis passes—all aimed at our mission of forming Common Good Catholics rooted in Catholic social teaching, to serve Canadians in politics and civic life.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the Common Good Catholic, rich with stories of hope and Christian love in dangerous times. May they remind you that even as we remain physically isolated from one another, our collective love for neighbour has never been stronger. We hope you find your own way to express that love through concrete acts of service. Read below for just some ways you can give of yourself!

With love,
Matthew Marquardt & Brendan Steven

WORKS OF MERCY IN OUR COMMUNITY

HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE AT A GREATER RISK OF COVID-19. LUCKILY, THERE’S A GOOD SHEPHERD.
 
On the streets of Toronto, Good Shepherd Ministries is a comforting name. A Catholic agency, the Good Shepherd provides hot meals, clean clothes, a clean bed, and more for homeless people living in Toronto. Good Shepherd brings together volunteers, donors, religious, and others to bring dignity and love to those living on the streets. In the words of their Executive Director, Brother David Lynch, “Homelessness isn’t my problem. It isn’t your problem. It isn’t the government’s problem. It isn’t the faith community’s problem. Homelessness is our problem. Only when we work together can we make a difference.” Let’s work together with them, now when our neighbours need us more than ever before.
 
Read more about Good Shepherd Ministries on the Archdiocese of Toronto’s blog by clicking here. And click here to donate to Good Shepherd Ministries and support their work during COVID-19—let’s stand with the most vulnerable among us and see Christ in every person!

CONSCIENCE CONVERSATIONS

CONSCIENCE CONVERSATION: The greatest act of solidarity in the history of the world

In this edition of our Conscience Conversations, Matt and Brendan reflect on the everyday heroism and holiness of ordinary people in the time of COVID-19— “A holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.”

“In this moment of agony I can’t help but see God’s reflection in all those around me and across the country, Christian and irreligious alike. I see it in every kindness and small act of service. And I see how these little actions, compelled by the Holy Spirit, are together moving mountains of holiness in the world. An enormous plurality of humanity is locked indoors together. Is this the greatest single act of solidarity in the history of the world? Billions of people huddled inside, to prevent the transmission of a virus which destroys the life of the most vulnerable among us? I can’t help but see the holiness in that. I can’t help but drink up its implications.”

Read the full conversation by clicking here.

UPCOMING EVENTS

GLOBAL CATHOLIC CLIMATE MOVEMENT: #LiveLaudatoSi Learning Webinar on Women of Faith & Ecoleaders
 
Our friends at Global Catholic Climate Movement are hosting a webinar with two women of faith leading the way in building an integral human ecology and sustainable future for the world. This webinar is a part of Laudato Si Week, an excellent time to reflect on the crisis of climate change and how we can collectively build an economy and culture which promotes the full, authentic development of the human person, closely connected to God’s creation, as Pope Francis called for in his ground-breaking Laudato Si exhortation.
 
Click here to RSVP!

SERVING YOUR COMMUNITY

Join the COVID-19 Volunteer Response Team

Volunteer Toronto—Canada’s largest volunteer centre, connecting volunteers to the organizations that need them—has been organizing a special volunteer response team for COVID-19. They periodically send email updates to subscribers, sharing volunteer roles to help play a part in serving those most affected by the crisis. Sign-up if you’re still looking for ways to help your community get through this struggle.

Click here to sign-up.

FROM THE HOLY FATHER

Photo of Pope Francis
FROM THE HOLY FATHER: Pope Francis says pandemic can be a “place of conversion”
 
In a rare English-language interview for The Tablet in April, Pope Francis reflected on the coronavirus crisis and the personal and societal changes he hopes to see after the crisis ends:
 
“You ask me about conversion. Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity: the opportunity to move out from the danger. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption (Laudato Si’, 191) and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion.

“Yes, I see early signs of an economy that is less liquid, more human. But let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it. We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back at this time.

“And speaking of contemplation, I’d like to dwell on one point. This is the moment to see the poor. Jesus says we will have the poor with us always, and it’s true. They are a reality we cannot deny. But the poor are hidden, because poverty is bashful.”

 
Click here to read the full interview.
Join Pope Francis for daily Mass online
 
The COVID-19 crisis has brought a new and special closeness between the Pope and the global Catholic community, no matter where we live. Since the start of the pandemic and the closure of public Masses around the world, Pope Francis has begun to livestream his daily Masses from Santa Marta chapel in Vatican City. After the live stream, a video of the Mass is posted on the Vatican News website.

Click here to watch recent Masses and the latest Mass with Pope Francis—join him in praying for all of us affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING: Cardinal Collins’ reflection for Catholic Education Week

In the parish, the home, and the school, we are blessed in Ontario to enjoy world-class Catholic education across our province. This education grounds us in our faith, our Gospel values, and it’s where the mission of forming Common Good Catholics begins—for the good of us all. We greatly enjoyed last week’s reflection on Catholic education by Cardinal Thomas Collins, as Ontarians celebrated Catholic Education Week.

“That’s what Catholic education is all about: It lifts us beyond ourselves, and sends us out to serve our neighbour, and in doing that, to serve our Lord God.”

Watch the full reflection by clicking here.

To learn more about Catholic education in our province, follow Catholic Education in Ontario on Facebook by clicking here.

PRAYER

THE PRAYER OF SAINT FRANCIS
 
Pray for all of those who live burdened by the injustice of racism, and those whose lives have been harmed by the social upheaval across North America. Keep them all in your hearts.
 
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

At the end of April, our Holy Father wrote and shared two new prayers with the Catholic faithful, both aimed at bringing a swift end to the coronavirus crisis. Please join the Catholic community all around the world in praying these words with our Pope.

First Prayer to Our Lady

O Mary,
You shine continuously on our journey
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the foot of the cross,
were united with Jesus’ suffering,
and persevered in your faith.
“Protectress of the Roman people”,
you know our needs,
and we know that you will provide,
so that, as at Cana in Galilee,
joy and celebration may return
after this time of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the will of the Father
and to do what Jesus tells us.
For he took upon himself our suffering,
and burdened himself with our sorrows
to bring us, through the cross,
to the joy of the Resurrection.
Amen.

We fly to your protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

The second Prayer

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.
In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.

Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.

Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.

Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.

Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.

Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.

Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.

Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.

Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.

THE PRAYER OF SAINT FRANCIS
 
Pray for all of those who live burdened by the injustice of racism, and those whose lives have been harmed by the social upheaval across North America. Keep them all in your hearts.
 
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

CONSCIENCE CONVERSATIONS: The greatest act of solidarity in the history of the world

Brendan: “How many saints have we never heard of?” I remember reading that once, Matt, and I’ve been thinking about it lately as we’ve watched the extraordinary heroism of everyday love which has emerged globally with the COVID-19 pandemic. This ordinary heroism has to me been the defining cultural feature of the crisis, and the one which has given me so much hope even as so much suffering emerges from this virus. Every day we see little acts of heroism that are collectively saving the world: the doctor or nurse who bravely steps into the breach, the children comforted nightly and given strength by parents, the army of volunteers delivering groceries and medicines to those locked inside, the friends reaching out constantly to others living alone or in suffering to give them strength.

The list truly goes on and on. This everyday heroism reminds me of what Pope Francis called the “middle class of holiness” in Gaudium et spes, and it’s worth quoting his observations at length:

The Holy Spirit bestows holiness in abundance among God’s holy and faithful people, for “it has pleased God to make men and women holy and to save them, not as individuals without any bond between them, but rather as a people who might acknowledge him in truth and serve him in holiness”. In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people.

I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.

Let us be spurred on by the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest members of that people which “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, spreading abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity”. We should consider the fact that, as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross suggests, real history is made by so many of them. As she writes: “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed”.

This line, in particular, feeds my soul: “A holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.” There is so much cynicism about the moral state of our world and culture. Sin is everywhere, as it has always been. But in this moment of agony I can’t help but see God’s reflection in all those around me and across the country, Christian and irreligious alike. I see it in every kindness and small act of service. And I see how these little actions, compelled by the Holy Spirit, are together moving mountains of holiness in the world. An enormous plurality of humanity is locked indoors together. Is this the greatest single act of solidarity in the history of the world? Billions of people huddled inside, to prevent the transmission of a virus which destroys the life of the most vulnerable among us? I can’t help but see the holiness in that. I can’t help but drink up its implications.

Matt, I would love to hear your thoughts on this great mass of “middle class holiness” we are witnessing and the immense solidarity of this moment.

Matt: Well, Brendan, I don’t think I can improve on what you’ve written.  The best I can hope for to is ratify and perhaps amplify it.

I’m particularly struck by your observation that this is very likely the “greatest single act of solidarity in the history of the world.”  Let’s think about that for a moment—or, preferably, many moments.

For me, the overriding feeling inspired by this time of separation and seclusion—aside from the deeply shared compassion for the millions of people who have so far been affected by the pandemic, and particularly those who have or will fall victim to it—is the hope that the spirit of solidarity and humanity so many of us are feeling now will grow and take root.  And for me that hope borders on certainty: the whole broad history of the world consists in a virtually infinite series of big steps forward and slightly smaller steps backward.

The fact is, some of the improvements being witnessed in social thought and interactions that we are witnessing now will stick and will grow.  Sure, a measure of complacency will return, we will regress from some as-yet undefined point of maximum advance, but we will not regress so far as to return to a state equivalent to that which existed before the pandemic.

My hope is that we will witness that advance in many ways—social as well as personal.  But the spirit of the individuals living on the 30th floor of the building across the street from me—as evidenced by the sign they placed in the windows across their unit—will persist, and grow.

History is a great progression of human love, conceived, inspired, lived, and passed forward by millions and millions of the everyday saints you and Pope Francis are highlighting.   Not in the same way by everyone, but in as many different ways as there are everyday human beings.


Brendan: 
Matt, the Pope himself as echoed the very point you are making—the need to preserve this great advance in solidarity, once our moment of crisis passes. In an interview in April he said:

This crisis is affecting us all, rich and poor alike, and putting a spotlight on hypocrisy. I am worried by the hypocrisy of certain political personalities who speak of facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but who in the meantime manufacture weapons. This is a time to be converted from this kind of functional hypocrisy. It’s a time for integrity. Either we are coherent with our beliefs or we lose everything.

You ask me about conversion. Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity: the opportunity to move out from the danger. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion.

Yes, I see early signs of an economy that is less liquid, more human. But let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it. We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back at this time.

We must begin a time of integrity, as the Pope puts it—we must be coherent with our beliefs or lose everything. And this is where Catholics are called especially. We believe every person is a child of God. How do we live that fundamental truth coherently in our lives and in the life of our country? How do we build that more human economy the Pope points too? How do we bring our economic systems into line with the true reality of the universe, that every human being is imbued with an infinite dignity? We must inch ever closer to building a world where relations among people grow closer to the relations between God and His people.

Consider, for a moment, the idea of “essential workers” in this crisis. People who are most needed in the workplace at this time, to continue moving essential supply chains—like grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, and others—are often among those who are paid the least in our economy. They are among the least secure. They are among those who least enjoy the benefits of our collective prosperity. That lack of integrity and disconnection from truth in our economic life has always been present, but the crisis reveals it in all its naked injustice. How do we change that?

Let’s all work towards that more humane economy, where the memory of solidarity and humanity from this crisis becomes a turning point in our history—and not simply a blip we forget.


Matt:
Everything you say is true, Brendan.  We need, as both global and local societies, to take the next step toward a time of integrity and just economic and governmental structures.  It’s a challenge that will require our attention and our action for a long period of time.  First, we need to educate ourselves in the injustices faced by so many of our neighbors, now and in the period of recovery that will follow the COVID crisis.  And we must bear in mind the certainty that there will be opportunists looking to profit from this crisis.

But we cannot, and should not, let the opportunists and the self-absorbed daunt us. There will be changes, sure. The Church will lose some people, as they wander away seeking new pleasures—but it will also gain people. And the tough roots of the Church will survive, with healthier branches than ever – branches that will flower into new strength and beauty, growing ever closer toward the vision that God holds for us all—toward the “time acceptable to the Lord.”

Twice a month, Matthew Marquardt and Brendan Steven get together over breakfast (virtually, in the time of COVID-19!) and talk about what it means to be a Christian citizen. These are their Conscience Conversations. Want to join the conversation? Want to learn more about Catholic social teaching, and how you can serve your community as an active Christian citizen? Reach out to us: email growth@catholicconscience.org

Matthew Marquardt is President of Catholic Conscience, of counsel to a Toronto law firm, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, as well as a lay associate of the Redemptorists.

Brendan Steven is Executive Director of Catholic Conscience, a writer based in Toronto, active with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and other Catholic and civic institutions, and a parishioner at St. Basil’s Catholic Church.

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