Pope Francis Calls For A Work, Not A Welfare, Culture

Pope Francis said something truly controversial recently, but not in that Jesuit interview, though -- in Sardinia.

It didn't get that much attention. I will be charitable and think it was because he didn't actually say it, he released it in a prepared statement after speaking off the cuff to the audience in front of him. But if liberal and conservative Catholics want to fight about something, how about this?

To laborers in Cagliari (trip to Sardinia):
work is a very important factor for the dignity of the person; work must be guaranteed if there is to be a genuine promotion of the person. This is a task that belongs to the whole of society, because of this, great merit is recognized to those entrepreneurs that, despite everything, have not stopped committing themselves, investing and risking themselves to guarantee employment. The culture of work, as opposed to that of welfare, implies education to work from one’s youth, accompanying work must be the dignity of every work activity, the sharing of work, elimination of every black [market --illegal] work. In this phase, the whole of society, in all its components, must make every possible effort so that work, which is the source of dignity, is the central concern [emphasis mine].
It's not the first time the Pope has spoken about a just society building a culture of work. Here's an excellent piece on how hard work shaped the life of Cardinal Bergoglio and what he says about it in the Spanish-language biography, "The Jesuit." On the plane over to Rio for World Youth Day he told reporters about the young people he was going to encounter:
I read last week the percentage of the young without work. Just think that we risk having a generation that has never worked, and yet it is through work that a person acquires dignity by earning bread. The young, at this moment, are in crisis. We have become somewhat accustomed to this throwaway culture: too often the elderly are discarded! But now we have all these young people with no work, they too are suffering the effects of the throwaway culture.
I could swear I just read him invoking JP II's encyclical on work too, but I can't recall where.

At any rate, the Pope doesn't want a welfare culture -- so the society where we "help" the poor by causing the food stamp rolls to burgeon to the point of 1/6 of the nation being enrolled is not a Christian vision according to Pope Francis -- it's not consistent with human dignity. (And he doesn't approve of illegal work, either -- what implications does that have for the USCCB's position on undocumented workers?)

I used the Zenit translation of his remarks because the Vatican's English version translates the line to give it the opposite meaning.
The culture of work together with that of social assistance, entails an education in work from a young age, guidance in work, dignity for any work activity, sharing work, and the elimination of all illegal work.....
I refrain from speculating whether that's sloppy or mischievous translating, but "together with" doesn't even make sense in context --how could welfare contribute to a culture of education and guidance in work? Still, let's compare the original Italian text and the other language translations to assure ourselves that Zenit has it right.

Italian original: " La cultura del lavoro, in confronto a quella dell’assistenzialismo, implica educazione al lavoro fin da giovani, accompagnamento al lavoro, dignità per ogni attività lavorativa, condivisione del lavoro, eliminazione di ogni lavoro nero."

"In confronto a" means "in comparison with."

Here's the French translation: "La culture du travail, contrairement à celle de « l’assistance », implique l’éducation au travail dès la jeunesse, l’accompagnement au travail, la dignité de toute activité de travail, le partage du travail, l’élimination de tout travail au noir."

Contrairement? Anyone going to argue that "au contraire" means, "I agree?" 

This -- HOW to create an economic culture of human dignity and flourishing, where the work is for the worker and not vice versa-- would be a much more interesting and fruitful discussion for Catholics to have in my view than eating our own over whether or not the first pope to attend a march for life is actually anti-abortion or not. There is an awful lot of cant, with an intellectual failure to truly confront the implications of the Church's social teaching -- by which I do NOT mean, failure of the Right to adopt the Democratic Party economic policy. I mean there is systematic refusal to think about what that teaching actually says and how it applies in our times.