A Different Kind of Papal Press Conference | Catholic World Report – Global Church news and views

What if the Holy Father applied chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia” to situations involving exploitative employers?

July 11, 2016 11:28 EST

Nick Bottom

Pope Francis speaks during the opening of the Diocese of Rome’s annual pastoral conference at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome June 16. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis: Good morning, everyone.  Thank you for coming.

I have invited you today because I have had a change of heart that I must make public. In a homily recently, I spoke rather forcefully about employers who refuse to pay their workers a just wage.

I have had a chance to reflect on that homily in the light of the principles I set forth in my Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.  I brought a copy so I can refer to it as I take your questions.  Please be patient with me as I find the appropriate passages, eh?

I believe I was too harsh in describing exploitative employers as “slave drivers” and “true bloodsuckers.”  I too must remember that the name of God is Mercy!  Amoris Laetitia rightly criticizes those who “hid[e] behind the Church’s teachings, sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality.”  For “it is not enough simply to apply moral laws . . . as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives” (AL 305).  As paragraph 308 of AL reminds us, “the Gospel itself tells us not to judge or condemn” (AL 308).

I also regret another remark I made in that homily.  The pope must be humble, he must be honest, no?  Somewhat precipitously, I said that cheating workers is “a mortal sin! This is a mortal sin!”  I must now express that in a more nuanced way.

In Amoris Laetitia I made it clear that I was “speaking not only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves” (AL 297).  That of course includes employers who find themselves in the situation of slave-driving their workers.

For them too, we must keep in mind the distinction between objective sin and subjective guilt.  Since there can be in employers’ lives many “mitigating factors . . . it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation” – such as exploiting their employees – “are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace” (AL 301).

Now for your questions.

A reporter:  Your Holiness, I’m a bit puzzled about who has been saying the things that you say should no longer be said.  But leaving that aside, are you not concerned that making the well-known distinction about sin and guilt here might have the effect of watering down the Church’s teaching on the rights of workers?

Pope Francis: No, no, no.  The Church’s teaching about fair wages remains.  The Catechism is still the Catechism! However, while it is certainly true that exploiting workers does not “correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel” (AL 303), “it is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule” (AL 304).  We must always look at the person rather than the rule.

Indeed, we may even say that sometimes it is impossible for an unjust employer to avoid doing wrong.

A reporter: I beg your pardon?

Pope Francis: Yes, it’s true.  There may be no way for an unjust employer to avoid what is objectively sinful.  What Amoris Laetitia says about the divorced and remarried could be true of the employer.  He or she “may know full well the rule, yet . . . be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin (AL 301).”

I will go even further, and say that it is possible for an employer to find, with the secure peace of a good conscience, the will of God in his current failure to stop cheating his workers.

A reporter: . . . etc. Please read more here . . . . 

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