Saint Mary’s hosts Cardinal for annual Aquinas lecture
Colleen Fischer | Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Saint Mary’s hosted Cardinal Peter Turkson, first prefect of the dicastery for the promotion of integral human development, as its annual McMahon Aquinas lecture speaker Tuesday night. Turkson spoke of the Vatican’s perspective on helping the poor and vulnerable.
Turkson discussed a three-part approach to identifying ways to assist the needy in society. It begins with seeing, he said, followed by judging and ending with acting.
“We look at examples of representations of the poor and the vulnerable in our midst,” Turkson said. “This would be the moment of seeing for us, and then we shall seek to understand the humanity of the existence and the experiences of the poor and the vulnerable in our midst in the light of the Biblical Christian tradition, and that would be the moment of judgment. Finally, we should consider what concrete action may be formulated and applied as responses and remedies to the existence of the poor and the vulnerable in our midst, and then we act.”
The inciting forces for Turkson’s work within the Vatican were one of Pope Francis’ Masses, during which he spoke about Catholics being guardians of the poor and environment, and later meetings Turkson had with leaders of popular movements.
“Pope Francis’ invitation to be guardians drew attention to the poor in our midst,” Turkson said. “Then the invitation to the organizations meeting for the popular movement drew attention to the hopelessness of situations the poor … in our cities, the need for land for work, a roof over their head and what to do.”
Turkson said the enemies to developing the poor are indifference and apathy.
“We must never allow the culture of prosperity to deaden us and to make us incapable of feeling compassion for the outcry of the poor, weeping of other people’s pain and sense the need to help them at all,” he said. “We cannot remain silent in the face of the suffering of millions of people whose dignity is wounded, nor can we continue to move forward if the spread of poverty and injustice has not healed.”
This apathy and indifference can be healed through the realization that all of humanity is rooted in Genesis from the same first family, Turkson said. This realization naturally leads to the necessity for equality.
“The fact that they [humans] come from the same womb means that they share the same nature, that they are equal in dignity,” Turkson said. “One brother does not have more dignity than the other brother so that equality as an equal sense of dignity is very crucial and that means that it is crucial for both the rich and the poor.”
All of humanity has an interest in promoting the human dignity of the poor, Turkson said.
“There is nobody who can live full human dignity so long as there is another who cannot live in full human dignity,” he said.
Turkson said he sees the end of inequality to come through the development of the poor and vulnerable in ways that recognize their God-given dignity. This development, Turkson said, comes through seeing that the world is equally given to all of humanity.
“Development as a realization of human dignity must apply to all,” he said. “True development must then be universal, developing what every person possesses by nature. Everything that is created is destined for all of humanity, all of humanity is meant to benefit.”
Human dignity and the responsibility of development applies not only to Catholics but also to political leaders. Turkson said the goal of a leader should be “an inclusive society and an inclusive political system.”
“People who are responsible for public authority must have a valued conception of the common good, to promote and implement some of those conditions which permit and foster the human beings,” Turkson said.