Sunday, 19 January 2014

Evangelii Gaudium: "No to the inequality which spawns violence"

In Chapter 2 of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis considers "briefly the context in which we all have to live and work", as a preliminary to taking up questions more directly related to the work of evangelisation. He does not claim an exhaustive analysis, and indicates a primarily pastoral perspective. Among the challenges that Pope Francis identifies is that of "the inequality which spawns violence", treated in nn.59-60 of Evangelii Gaudium.
...until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence.
Pope Francis identifies the source of this violence, not just in the reaction that is likely from those who are excluded, but from a structurally unjust situation in which injustice tends to expand its influence for evil.

By way of commentary on the concern sketched out by Pope Francis in these two paragraphs, I turned to an analysis of different types of violence in one of the four pastoral letters of Archbishop Oscar Romero. It forms part of the third pastoral letter, dedicated to the Church and the Popular Political Organisations. The analysis occurs on p.19 ff of the pdf text here. What Pope Francis articulates as "exclusion and inequality" is expressed by Archbishop Romero as "Instituionalised Violence":
It is the result of an unjust situation in which the majority of men, women, and children in our country find themselves deprived of the necessities of life.
This violence finds expression in the structure and daily functioning of a socio-economic and political system that takes it for granted that progress is impossible unless the majority of the people are used as a productive force under the control of a privileged minority.
Archbishop Romero continues to delineate the repressive violence of the state, terrorist violence, spontaneous violence, violence in legitimate self-defence and finally the power of non-violence, before addressing the Church's moral judgements on these different types of violence - p.21ff of the pdf text.

But what is very thought provoking, and provides a vivid commentary to Pope Francis words in Evangelii Gaudium, is the identification by Archbishop Romero of the range of those responsible for the exclusion and inequality/structural violence, for which he cites the teaching of the meeting of Latin American Bishops at Medellin (my italics added):
(They) are those who monopolise economic power instead of sharing it, those "who defend them through violence", and all "those who remain passive for fear of the sacrifice and personal risk implied by any courageous and effective action".
It is that reference to "those who remain passive" that is most challenging and perhaps has widest application!

No comments: