On October 3, 2020, Pope Francis gave the Church and the world a new Encyclical, Fratelli tutti (Brothers All), subtitled “on fraternity and social friendship”. Concern for social affairs has always been an essential component of the teaching of Christian doctrine already from the holy fathers, for the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, Jesus Christ, leads the Church to live committed and embodied with the reality of her time.
It is impossible to be exhaustive, given the extent and variety of topics that the Pope addresses in his encyclical. Therefore, I have chosen to discuss the development of some topics throughout the body of the document. In his selection he has motivated me to contrast them with reality, especially Cuban. The Encyclical’s approaches will always be quoted and referenced by the respective number of the document, in this way they will differ from mine.
This is a material written with reason, as a teacher who wants to enlighten and introduce a student; as a Cuban who feels deeply and with his heart the reality of his land; and above all as a priest and believer, convinced that the gospel and the via amoris are the only way to restore hope.
The root of all human rights: the inalienable dignity of the person
God “has created all equal human beings in rights, duties, and dignity, and called them to live together as brothers and sisters among them” (FT 5). This is the starting point, not only of the document but of any discourse that wants to be authentically evangelical. At the root of our humanity lies a common origin: every human being has been created by God in his image, according to his likeness. “Recognizing each individual as a unique and unrepeatable person” (FT 98) is not only a budget but a requirement. It is therefore essential to recognize and defend the “inalienable dignity of every human person beyond his origin, color or religion, and the supreme law of fraternal love” (FT 39).
The other will always mean a face that comes to my way, and that demands my welcome. Human alterity, the recognition of the face of the other who presents himself before me as a being who asks to be loved and recognized as an interlocutor, returns me to my deepest humanity. The greatest danger to the construction of any human project is the “human frailty, the constant tendency to human selfishness that is part of what the Christian tradition calls ‘concupiscence’: the inclination of the human being to lock himself in the immanence of his own self, his group, his petty interests (FT 166).
One of the most recurrent concepts in Francis’ magisterium is that of the culture of discarding, which becomes more dramatic when its object is people, when in substance “people are no longer regarded as a primary value to be respected and tended” (FT 18). We could point out the gravity of the ‘anthropological discard’ here as a growing and real danger. In this way, the unborn human being and the human being in a terminal state are discarded.
The Gaudium et Spes, in number 22, pointed out that the mystery of man is only clarified in the mystery of the Incarnate Word. He also says that Christ, the new Adam, in the same revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully manifests man to man himself and discovers to him the sublimity of his vocation. Therefore ” the root of modern totalitarianism must be seen, in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person, visible image of God invisible and precisely because of this, a natural subject of rights that no one can violate: neither the individual, the group, the social class, nor the nation or the State” (FT 273).
Every human being is a bearer of rights, which predating the recognition of States because, as such, they do not depend on a legal order, but are based on human nature itself. There is an ontological priority of the right with regard to its recognition: first exists and in a society the rule of law is respected whether or not they are protected. Indeed, “there are fundamental rights that precede any society because they command the dignity bestowed upon every person as created by God” (FT 124). Human beings are a value in themselves and it is never a means. “It is often perceived that, in fact, human rights are not equal for all. Respect for these rights is a precondition for the same social and economic development of a country. When the dignity of man is respected, and his rights are recognized and protected, creativity and ingenuity also flourish, and the human personality can deploy his multiple initiatives for the common good” (FT 22).
A very interesting concept is the relationship that the Pope discovers between the social self-esteem of singular people and self-esteem. “Destroying someone’s self-esteem is an easy way to master it. Behind these trends that seek to homogenize the world, power interests emerge that benefit from low self-appreciation, while through the media and networks we seek to create a new culture at the service of the most powerful” (FT 52).
The defense of the dignity of the human being involves breaking the comfortable silence of inertia, being able to feel as its own the pain of each human being, overcome indifference to the other and its existential situation. “It is not an option to live indifferent to pain, we cannot let anyone be ‘on the side of life’. This must outrage us, until we come down from our serenity to be altered by human suffering. That’s dignity” (FT 68).
Cultura de la memoria histórica
“Nunca se avanza sin memoria, no se evoluciona sin una memoria íntegra y luminosa” (FT 249). Movido por esta certeza es necesario incentivar una cultura de la memoria y del recuerdo, no para suscitar odios antiguos sino para promover un auténtico progreso. Es importante estar alertas frente a una cierta forma de deconstruccionismo histórico que lleva a otro más peligroso que es el deconstruccionismo antropológico: “…se alienta también una pérdida del sentido de la historia que disgrega todavía más. Se advierte la penetración cultural de una especie de ‘deconstruccionismo’, donde la libertad humana pretende construirlo todo desde cero […] Así funcionan las ideologías de distintos colores, que destruyen –o de-construyen– todo lo que sea diferente y de ese modo pueden reinar sin oposiciones. Para esto necesitan jóvenes que desprecien la historia, que rechacen la riqueza espiritual y humana que se fue transmitiendo a lo largo de las generaciones, que ignoren todo lo que los ha precedido” (FT 13).
Un pueblo solo puede crecer en la medida en que cultive sus raíces. La integración y la restauración del pacto social son posibles y urge que sea partiendo de la verdad de nuestra historia.
Cultura del encuentro y de la amistad social
“La vida no es un tiempo que pasa, sino tiempo de encuentro” (FT 66). La realización humana, en buena medida, radica en la capacidad de apertura a los otros y a Dios, de tal modo que podemos afirmar que no nos hacemos persona solos, y desde la fe, que no nos salvamos solos. Existencia, salvación y alteridad son conceptos y realidades entremezcladas. “Un ser humano está hecho de tal manera que no se realiza, no se desarrolla ni puede encontrar su plenitud ‘si no es en la entrega sincera de sí mismo a los demás’. Ni siquiera llega a reconocer a fondo su propia verdad si no es en el encuentro con los otros […] nadie puede experimentar el valor de vivir sin rostros concretos a quienes amar. Aquí hay un secreto de la verdadera existencia humana, porque ‘la vida subsiste donde hay vínculo, comunión, fraternidad; y es una vida más fuerte que la muerte cuando se construye sobre relaciones verdaderas y lazos de fidelidad’” (FT 87).
Esta reciprocidad de lo humano lleva a un dejarse completar por la otra persona que se me presenta como un sujeto amable, digno de amor; y, contemporáneamente, me implica en el aportar a su existencia más que “acciones benéficas”, la búsqueda de “una unión que inclina más y más hacia el otro considerándolo valioso, digno, grato y bello, más allá de las apariencias…” (FT 94). Esta concepción del amor “nos pone en tensión hacia la comunión universal” (FT 95), o sea, reconocer en el otro, en todo otro, un rostro de hermano que se concreta en “creciente apertura, mayor capacidad de acoger” (FT 95).
En este modo de entender la fraternidad humana, se inscribe un concepto que el Papa acuñó en su encuentro con los jóvenes cubanos en el Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela: la amistad social. El fundamento último de este concepto es la dignidad y el valor de cada persona humana: “percibir cuánto vale un ser humano, cuánto vale una persona, siempre y en cualquier circunstancia” (FT 106).
La construcción de una sociedad amistosa pasa por el reconocimiento del valor intrínseco de la diversidad y del aporte que cada individuo puede brindar a la construcción del pacto social. El Papa Francisco apunta que “el futuro no es monocromático, sino que es posible si nos animamos a mirarlo en la variedad y en la diversidad de lo que cada uno puede aportar. Cuánto necesita aprender nuestra familia humana a vivir juntos en armonía y paz sin necesidad de que tengamos que ser todos igualitos” (FT 100). El auténtico progreso de la humanidad proviene de la resolución de las tensiones que pueden generar las diferencias pues las “diferencias son creativas” (Cfr. FT 203). Urge, pues, una educación en una auténtica cultura del respeto del derecho a la mismidad personal y a la diferencia: “reconocer al otro el derecho de ser él mismo y de ser diferente. A partir de ese reconocimiento hecho cultura se vuelve posible la gestación de un pacto social” (FT 218).
El único camino posible para edificar una convivencia humana que satisfaga a todos los miembros del cuerpo social es el diálogo sereno y respetuoso. “Acercarse, expresarse, escucharse, mirarse, conocerse, tratar de comprenderse, buscar puntos de contacto, todo eso se resume en el verbo dialogar” (FT 198). En Cuba sabemos exponer nuestros criterios y sostenerlos, incluso con vehemencia. Tengo la impresión de que necesitamos ejercitarnos mejor en la capacidad de conversar, intercambiar, interpelar y ser interpelados, hablar y escuchar, acoger, dejarnos cambiar y ser capaces de incidir, respetuosamente, en el cambio de la opinión del otro. El monólogo es una realidad cómoda pero que mutila el crecimiento. Cuando nos cerramos al diálogo se pueden generar dos extremos igualmente perniciosos: “la indiferencia egoísta y la protesta violenta” (FT 199). Sin embargo, del diálogo auténtico brotan el entendimiento, la familiaridad y los proyectos de futuro.
Como la construcción de la fraternidad es una obra artesanal, está amenazada por la acepción y la discriminación de las personas que se vuelve particularmente peligrosa cuando se realiza desde las estructuras del ordenamiento social: “Quien mira a su pueblo con desprecio, establece en su propia sociedad categorías de primera o de segunda clase, de personas con más o menos dignidad y derechos. De esta manera niega que haya lugar para todos” (FT 99). “Blindarnos en posiciones, esquemas de razonamientos del pasado, solo genera una cultura del individualismo. Se puede correr el riesgo de vivir cuidándonos unos de otros, viendo a los demás como competidores o enemigos peligrosos” (FT 152). “El aislamiento, no; cercanía, sí. Cultura del enfrentamiento, no; cultura del encuentro, sí” (FT 30).
Otra tentación contra el diálogo y la amistad social es “la tendencia a construir deliberadamente enemigos: figuras estereotipadas, que concentran en sí mismas todas las características que la sociedad percibe o interpreta como peligrosas. Los mecanismos de formación de estas imágenes son los mismos que, en su momento, permitieron la expansión de las ideas racistas” (FT 266). Cuando en una sociedad se incentivan estas dinámicas se conduce inevitablemente al individualismo, al desencuentro, a la sospecha y a la desintegración social.
El uso de las redes sociales, bueno, si se trata éticamente, entraña un peligro adicional: el irrespeto a la privacidad de las personas. “Todo se convierte en una especie de espectáculo que puede ser espiado, vigilado, y la vida se expone a un control constante. En la comunicación digital se quiere mostrar todo y cada individuo se convierte en objeto de miradas que hurgan, desnudan y divulgan, frecuentemente de manera anónima. El respeto al otro se hace pedazos y, de esa manera, al mismo tiempo que lo desplazo, lo ignoro y lo mantengo lejos, sin pudor alguno puedo invadir su vida hasta el extremo” (FT 42). Es importante seguir creyendo y defendiendo el respeto a la intimidad de las personas, denunciar lo inmoral de la exposición indebida de la vida particular como mecanismo para desvirtuar y deteriorar la imagen.
La solución propuesta por el Pontífice al aislamiento y la cerrazón, que se constata de un modo dramático en las crisis migratorias de algunos países desarrollados, es la participación social, política y económica de todos los sectores que componen la sociedad. “En una sociedad pluralista, el diálogo es el camino más adecuado para llegar a reconocer aquello que debe ser siempre afirmado y respetado, y que está más allá del consenso circunstancial. Hablamos de un diálogo que necesita ser enriquecido e iluminado por razones, por argumentos racionales, por variedad de perspectivas, por aportes de diversos saberes y puntos de vista” (FT 211). Aquí se nos presenta una tarea formidable que consiste en la educación de las nuevas generaciones en una concepción social que excluya el paternalismo y dinamice procesos de participación ciudadana.
El ejercicio fructífero del diálogo gesta otra realidad política importante: la confiabilidad social entendida como la posibilidad efectiva y afectiva de confiar en las instituciones sociales, en los pactos establecidos, en la justicia no solo la firmada en papeles sino aquella que se fundamente en el respeto a la palabra empeñada: “se debe sostener ‘la exigencia de mantener los acuerdos suscritos’, de manera que se evite ‘la tentación de apelar al derecho de la fuerza más que a la fuerza del derecho’” (FT 174).
In the service of the common good
The common good calls on all the men and women of society, so that their active search is the responsibility of all and not just those who govern: “We do not have to expect everything from those who govern us, it would be childish. We enjoy a space of co-responsibility capable of starting and generating new processes and transformations. Let us be an active part in the rehabilitation and relief of injured societies” (FT 77). Thus, according to the Pontiff’s thinking, we are all called to engage in the work of the rehabilitation of our societies by eliminating social infantilism and in the face of any form of political paternalism.
The common good is shown and lived as a service. The service always looks at the brother’s face, touches his flesh, feels his ‘friendhood’ and even in some cases ‘suffers’ it and seeks the promotion of the brother. That is why service is never ideological, as it is not used for ideas, but is served to people” (FT 115).
The Christian tradition has defined justice in the service of the good of society and the duties that arise from it: “to give each one his own, following the classical definition of justice, means that no individual or human group can be considered omnipotent, authorized to pass beyond the dignity and rights of other singular persons or their social groups” (FT 171).
Political charity, commitment to the truth
and social kindness
Political vocation carries deep responsibility. It means “generating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, it enters ‘the field of the broadest charity, political charity’. It is a question of moving towards a social and political order whose soul is social charity” (FT 180).
As Christians we believe that “charity, with its universal dynamism, can build a new world” (FT 183). While this dimension of love as a “political and social” reality is not new to the papal magisterium, Francis’ development in this Encyclical is very interesting, following the theological doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas on human acts and the implication of reason and will in them: “There is a so-called ‘elycical’ love, which are acts that come directly from the virtue of charity , aimed at people and peoples. There is also an ‘imperado’ love: those acts of charity that drive to create healthier institutions, fairer regulations, more supportive structures. Hence, ‘an equally indispensable act of charity is the effort to organize and structure society so that others do not have to suffer misery’. It is charity to accompany a person who suffers, and it is also charity all that is done, even without direct contact with that person, to modify the social conditions that cause his suffering” (FT 186). Francis affirms that charity saves the politician from impersonalism in his management, for it leads him to perceive the dignity of the other.
There is no true charity, authentic good for the person and for society if not sought from the truth. “Charity needs the light of truth” (FT 185).
In the world of political activity, listening and dialogue spring precisely from respect for each other. “Political charity is also expressed in openness to all. Mainly the one who has to govern is called to renounce that make the encounter possible, and seeks confluence in at least some issues. He knows how to hear each other’s point of view making it easier for everyone to have a space. With resignations and patience a ruler can help create that beautiful polyhedro where everyone finds a place” (FT 190).
“While we see that all kinds of fundamentalist intolerances damage relations between peoples, groups and peoples, let us live and teach the value of respect, love capable of making every difference, the priority of the dignity of every human being over whatever his ideas, feelings, practices and even his sins […] a good politician takes the first step to resonate with the different voices. It is true that differences generate conflict, but uniformity generates suffocation and causes us to be culturally phagocited” (FT 191).
As I read the Encyclical, I have felt a call to recover and enhance a characteristic feature of our people which is social kindness, which today, more than ever, is called to express themselves “as kindness in treatment, as a care not to hurt with words or gestures, as an attempt to relieve the weight of others” (FT 223).
Right to emigrate and right to remain
The world is continually marked by the migratory fact. In Cuba it is an accentuated reality that is verified by various factors, among which are economic, family, labor, political, social, ideological, etc. It is given in it as a negative aspect when it causes the real, and sometimes dramatic, division of families. It must be said that it is completely legitimate to change the territory of residence in search of future ideals. It is important to reaffirm that staying in one’s own land is also a human right, which must include the possibility of dreaming and conceiving projects that can be carried out from the person’s day. It is therefore legitimate and necessary to “reaffirm the right not to emigrate, that is, to have the conditions to remain on one’s own land” (FT 38). In this consideration, the value of work is of particular importance. “Work is an indispensable dimension of social life, for it is not only a way to earn bread, but also a channel for personal growth, to establish healthy relationships, to express oneself, to share gifts, to feel co-responsible in the perfection of the world, and ultimately to live as a people” (FT 162).
Cultivate a culture of hope
Christian hope is a virtue that energizes all Christian life. The Christian, precisely because he hopes, commits himself to work by making present the seeds of the Kingdom in today’s history. An essential part of this service to society is to detect and not be conquered by the signs of death and hopelessness that come our way.
Hopelessness, in the words of Pope Francis, can even be a mechanism of control and social dominance. “The best way to dominate and advance without limits is to sow hopelessness and arouse constant mistrust, even disguised behind the defense of some values. Today in many countries the political mechanism of exasperating, exacerbating and polarizing is used. In various ways others are denied the right to exist and to have an opinion, and for this we turn to the strategy of ridiculing them, suspecting them, close them. Its share of truth, its values, is not collected, and in this way society becomes impoverished and reduced to the arrogance of the strongest” (FT 15).
A first step in combating hopelessness is to break social indifference and learned helplessness. The Pope, using the image of the ‘road jumpers’ manifests the existence of a kind of ‘complicity’ in those who turn away from the brother good. “There is a sad hypocrisy when impunity for crime, the use of institutions for personal or corporate gain and other ills that we fail to banish, joins in a permanent disqualification of everything, the constant sowing of suspicion that causes distrust and perplexity. The deception of ‘everything is wrong’ is answered with a ‘no one can fix it’, ‘what can I do?’ In this way, disenchantment and hopelessness are nourished, and that does not encourage a spirit of solidarity and generosity. Sinking a people into discouragement is the closure of a perfect wicked circle: this is how the invisible dictatorship of true hidden interests works, which seeded resources and the ability to have an opinion and thought” (FT 75).
Christian existence and political exercise
Politics “is a very high vocation, it is one of the most precious forms of charity, because it seeks the common good” (FT 180). Since Aristotle, there is in philosophical thinking the conviction that a trait that defines man is to be a political animal, that is, not a being who merely lives in society but lives in a politically organized society.
At the background of the relationship between Christianity and politics, a biblical text can be placed: Mt. 22:15-21. This is the question about the tax due to Caesar, to which Christ responds by affirming the distinction and autonomy of the political and religious levels. Affirming the autonomy of political realities does not mean re-extending the Church’s mission to the private-cultural sphere (cf. FT 276). From Christian existence springs a dynamism that imppels the Christian to social commitment, for the Gospel is a source of human dignity and fraternity. “Therefore, the Church cannot ‘cannot and should not stay out’ in building a better world or stop ‘awakening the spiritual forces’ that fertilize all life in society. It is true that religious ministers should not make part-up politics, typical of the laity, but even they cannot renounce the political dimension of existence that implies a constant attention to the common good and concern for integral human development. The Church ‘has a public role that is not exhausted in its assistance and education activities’ but seeks ‘the promotion of man and universal fraternity'” (FT 276).
Let us be craftsmen of peace willing to generate, with ingenuity and audacity, healing and reunion processes. This is a final finding of the Encyclical that seeks not only a diagnosis but the restoration of health. Precisely to assist in these healing processes, Francis proposes a series of steps that, by their value, I present synthetically below:
- Give up the idea that we will be again those of old, for over time and conflict we have all changed (FT 226).
Restart from the truth, without plugging or concealing: “converse from the clear and naked truth. there is no longer room for empty diplomacies, for disguises, for double discourses, for concealments, for good manners that hide reality” (FT 226).
Recognize the existence of conflicts. “When conflicts are not resolved but hidden or buried in the past, there are silences that can mean becoming complicit in serious mistakes and sins. But true reconciliation does not escape conflict, but is achieved in conflict, overcoming it through dialogue and transparent, sincere and patient negotiation” (FT 244).
Reconcile by assuming the different parts of responsibility that correspond to us in the disentro, from a “penitential memory, capable of assuming the past to liberate the future from our own dissatisfences, confusions or projections. Only from the historical truth of the facts can they make the persevering and long effort to understand each other and to try a new synthesis for the good of all” (FT 226).
Recognize that we need time and process to heal, “in a patient work that seeks truth and good” (FT 226), that despises revenge and rejects violence in any way that is presented.
Never separate truth, justice and mercy. “The three boards are essential to building peace and, on the other hand, each of them prevents the others from being altered. […] Truth should not, in fact, lead to vengeance, but rather to reconciliation and forgiveness” (FT 227).
Give up homogenizing society “[…] unite many in pursuit of common searches where everyone wins” (FT 228). This is to recognize that you can live from the dynamics of win-win. “Our society wins when every person, every social group, truly feels at home” (FT 230).
“To identify well the problems that society is going through to accept that there are different ways of looking at and solving difficulties” (FT 228).
“Recognize the possibility that the other will provide a legitimate perspective, at least in part, something that can be rescued, even if it has been wrong or has acted wrong” (FT 228).
To look and recognize in the other a brother, even if he disagrees with me, even if he has declared himself an adversary. “If we could see the political opponent or the neighbor of the house with the same eyes as children, wives, husbands, fathers or mothers, how good it would be” (FT 230).
The preferential option for forgiveness does not mean giving up justice but promoting it in a real commitment to history: “It is not a question of proposing forgiveness by renounting one’s rights before a powerful corrupt, before a criminal or someone who degrades our dignity. We are called to love everyone, without exception, but to love an oppressor is not to consent to it remaining so; nor is it making him think that what he does is acceptable. On the contrary, to love him well is to seek in different ways that he stops oppressing, is to take away that power that he does not know how to use and that disfigures him as a human being. Forgiveness does not mean allowing them to continue to trampl on their own dignity and that of others … Those who suffer injustice must strongly defend their rights and those of their families precisely because they must preserve the dignity that has been given to them, a dignity that God loves” (FT 241). Forgiveness is what allows us to seek justice without falling into the vicious cycle of vengeance or the injustice of oblivion (FT 252).
Seek, from the various, peace. Be bridge builders and not wall builders. “Each of us is called to be a craftsman of peace, unserting and not dividing, extinguishing hatred and not conserving it, opening the paths of dialogue and not erecting new walls” (FT 284). “And whoever builds a wall, who builds a wall, shall end up a slave within the walls which he has built, without horizons” (FT 27). Ω