Bergoglio’s Latest Attack on Property: It’s a ‘Secondary Right’
In Fratelli tutti, Pope Francis defines his vision of what an improved social order would look like, using theological elements, historical misconceptions,1 and political philosophy to create what has been dubbed his “quasi-humanitarian” manifesto. But in an attempt to swim with today’s political current, Francis pushes a “re-envisaging [of] the social role of property,” going against what previous popes have written and completely ignoring sound economic teachings.
As Dr. Samuel Gregg explained, Francis’s insensible treatment of economic questions has been an ever-present trait of his pontificate, making the claims in Fratelli tutti just a continuation of what Saint Peter’s 266th successor has written in previous papal documents. And it is with this reality in mind that we must approach his characterization of property rights.
Property Rights and Natural Law
In Fratelli tutti, Francis first claims that Christian thinkers understood that “if one person lacks what is necessary to live with dignity, it is because another person is detaining it.” In other words, those who are poor are such because someone else is holding the goods that all men require to live with dignity.
He then went on to echo Saint Pope John Paul II, saying that the “right to private property” was never considered “an absolute or inviolable right” in the Christian tradition. Instead, the church has always “stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property,” adding that the common use of created goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order.”
Common good, he concludes, is “a natural and inherent right that takes priority over others,” a claim he links back to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a document published in 2004 based on documents written by Pope John Paul II. In today’s society, Francis then explained, “secondary rights displace primary and overriding rights, in practice making them irrelevant.”
When Francis claims property rights are secondary rights, he is referring to what Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Secunda Secundae Partis of Summa Theologica.
Addressing those who questioned whether it was “natural” for man to possess things “as his own” when we consider that all things are God’s property, Aquinas wrote that the private possession of goo
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