|Bl. Pope John Paul II warned the West of the 'Culture of Death'|
Pope Benedict XVI often lamented, as did Blessed Pope John Paul II the Culture of Death, a culture endemic in the West that rejected in principle the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life.
Movement away from 'the Gospel of Life'?
Both Popes placed this culture in contrast to the Gospel of Life heralded by the Catholic Church. Benedict XVI was keen to continue this theme in the Church's mission of evangelisation. For both Popes this formed a distinct base for Catholic social teaching, recognising that without adherence to fundamental principles concerning the defence of human life, marriage and the family, Western society sowed the seeds of its own destruction. Likewise, Benedict XVI had a desire to place together, as his predecessor, the politically charged issues of abortion, human embryology, IVF, divorce, artificial contraception, assisted suicide and euthanasia, homosexual unions and the modern phenomenom of homosexual 'marriage', as well as other features of modern relationships. The Church's confrontation of this culture that fails to show respect for man, made 'in the image and likeness of God', has always brought it sharp and angry criticism from mass media, politicians and also civil society.
Pope Francis seems to have abandoned this confrontational analysis of society's ills, but is it really true that it has been totally 'dropped'? Perhaps this is not entirely the case for, instead, Pope Francis has opted to present some of the destructive evils that confront Western society (and the World as a whole) in a new light, describing the disposable nature of human life and human dignity in terms of a 'throwaway culture'. With the rhetorical teaching shift from attacking the 'culture of death' to the 'throwaway culture', it can certainly be argued that some hot political and social issues have yet to be included in the new Pontiff's analysis of what threatens modern man. It remains mysterious why this should be the case.
Are certain unpopular areas of concern being abandoned?
To date Pope Francis has not, for example, mentioned human embryology and IVF, despite the Catholic Church's traditional defence of human life 'from conception to natural death'. On a few occasions, including in his Apostolic Exhortation, the Successor of St Peter has, however, lamented abortion as an aspect of a 'throwaway culture'.
Within this context, he has also mentioned homelessness, poverty, the loneliness and isolation of the elderly, youth unemployment, the waste of food and the destruction of the environment and positioned the 'throwaway culture' as an unfortunate feature of modern capitalism. In actual fact, it would appear that endemic consumerism is the perhaps the real target of Francis's concern since it is consumerism that fosters our sorrowful tendency to put a price on human life and dignity.
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