At a Mass in Rome this past Saturday, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, delivered a homily in which he analyzed the current trends of globalization, secularization and the dignity of human life in modern culture.
Addressing the attendees of the Second World Congress of the Ecclesial Organizations working for Justice and Peace, Bishop Wenski linked the events depicted in the Book of Maccabees to present-day globalization.
Though echoing Pope John Paul II's advice that globalization itself is "neither all light nor is it all shadow," he said the ancient Greek attempt to forcibly assimilate the Jews was in some ways similar to present-day globalizing trends.
"The Greeks were insisting that the Jews adopt their ways - and their gods. In other words, they held that the God of the Jewish people, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, did not matter," Bishop Wenski said.
He said this organization of life as if God did not matter was one of Pope Benedict XVI's definitions of secularism.
But in Bishop Wenski's view, a world that lives as if God does not matter ends up undermining itself. In the mystery of the Incarnation, God has become man. This means that He is one of us and one with us. Thus, if society ignores God then it also is ignoring man, Wenski said. The bishop cited John Paul II's statement in Ecclesia in America, "Jesus Christ is the human face of God and the divine face of man."
Christians must model a life in which God matters, and because God matters man must matter as well. Both Christian witness and human flourishing, Bishop Wenski said, necessarily requires work for justice and peace.
Bishop Wenski summarized Catholic social teaching in one phrase: "no man is a problem." Thinking of another human being as a problem is an offense against his or her dignity. Looking at people as problems can lead us to look for solutions, even "final solutions," the bishop said, alluding to the genocidal Nazi campaign against Jews.
He denied that there was such a thing as a "problem pregnancy." Instead of a “problem”, he said, there is "only a child who is to be welcome in life and protected by law."
Bishop Wenski discussed other people easily viewed as "problems," saying "The refugee, the migrant is not a problem. He may perhaps be a stranger but a stranger to be embraced as a brother. Even criminals--for all the horror of their crimes--do not lose their God-given dignity as human beings. They too must be treated with respect, even in their punishment. This is why Catholic social teaching condemns torture and works for the abolition of the death penalty."
At the close of his homily the bishop thanked conference attendees for their Christian witness and prayed that the Eucharist sustain everyone working for the progress of people.