The Pope railed in a major speech Friday against ecological sins and the resurgence of “Nazi”-inspired homophobia, anti-Semitism and Romaphobia.
Driving the news
Francis was speaking in an audience with participants of the 20th World Congress of the International Association of Penal Law, a group of experts in penal law and criminology with more than 3,000 members.
The group is in Rome until Saturday for a conference on “Criminal Justice and Corporate Business”.
In his speech, the Pope focused on “threats” that he said “impinge on democracies and the full force of the rule of law”.
Those threats, he said, include the “idolatry of the market” and the “principle of profit maximisation” that lead automatically “to a model of exclusion… that violently inflicts on those who suffer its social and economic costs in the present”.
But Francis reserved some of his strongest words for the “crimes committed by the most powerful, in particular the macro-delinquency of corporations”.
“Global financial capital is the source of serious crimes not only against property but also against people and the environment”, the Pope deplored.
“It is organized crime that is responsible, among other things, for the over-indebtedness of states and the plundering of the natural resources of our planet”.
Francis denounced that large-scale speculation and other similar enterprises “are crimes that have the seriousness of crimes against humanity, when they lead to hunger, misery, forced migration and death from avoidable diseases, environmental disaster and ethnocide of indigenous peoples”.
The Pope insisted that “an elementary sense of justice” would require that these anti-social activities of large corporations not go unpunished.
In particular, he explained, all those activities “that can be considered as ‘ecocide’: the massive contamination of air, land and water resources, the large-scale destruction of flora and fauna, and any action capable of producing an ecological disaster or destroying an ecosystem”.
For its part, the Pope continued, the Church must introduce in the Catechism “the sin against ecology, the ecological sin against the common home, because it is a duty”.
“We are thinking about it”, Francis revealed, recalling that the bishops at last month’s Amazon Synod in Rome “proposed to define ecological sin as action or omission against God, against one’s neighbour, the community and the environment”.
Ecocide “is a sin against future generations and is manifested in acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment, in transgressions against the principles of interdependence and in the breaking of networks of solidarity between creatures”, the Pope explained.
Why it matters
Francis also referred in his speech to legal and juridical problems around the world that have worsened in recent years, such as the misuse in various countries’ penal systems of pre-trial detention, the false legal accusations thrown back-and-forth between political opponents or the use of tax havens around the world.
But again, the Pope saved his strongest condemnation for the degeneration of our “throwaway culture” into a “culture of rejection and hatred”.
“It is no coincidence that sometimes emblems and actions typical of Nazism reappear”, Francis warned, citing as possible causes the “social hardships” and disaffection of both youth and adults.
“I confess to you that when I hear some speeches, some head of the order or of the government, Hitler’s speeches in 1934 or 1936. Today”, the Pope confessed.
“They are actions typical [of Nazism] which, with its persecution of Jews, gypsies, people of homosexual orientation, is the quintessential negative model of the culture of rejection and hatred.
“This is what was done in that time and today these things are being reborn.
“It is necessary to be vigilant, both in the civil and ecclesial spheres, in order to avoid any possible compromise which is assumed to be involuntary – with these degenerations”, the Pope warned.
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