CLARIN

Argentina Plays Politics With Pope's Words On Property Rights

Some would like to paint the Argentine-born Pope Francis as a sympathizer of his native country's leftist government. But his 'socialist' declarations are in line with more than a century of Church doctrine.

Pope Francis speaking in the Saint Damaso courtyard in the Vatican
Pope Francis speaking in the Saint Damaso courtyard in the Vatican
Sergio Rubin

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Ever since Pope Leo XIII issued the Rerum novarum encyclical (1891), which christened the Roman Church's Social Doctrine, any time a pontiff attributes a social purpose to private property, the Catholic defenders of capitalism make their voices heard.

And whenever the current pontiff, Pope Francis, reiterates the position as he did recently, calling property rights a "secondary right," criticism is even sharper, since many free market advocates considered him a "leftist," unlike other popes like John Paul II. Yet the Polish pope, who helped bring down communism, said many of the same things, asserting in his encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987) that private property is "indebted to society."

In Argentina's case, the native son pontiff Francis happened to return to the subject (in a message to the recent International Labour Conference on June 19 in Geneva) just as Argentine President Alberto Fernández was criticizing the owners of idle farming lands and the Avellanada municipal council (in Buenos Aires) voting a controversial motion to confiscate such plots.

It does not imply the abolition of the property right or its collectivization.

Let's be clear, these declarations should be considered separately, says Pablo Blanco, professor of Social Doctrine at the Papal Catholic University of Argentina. "When property rights are described as "secondary," it means for starters that it is a right that is subordinate to a higher end, namely the enjoyment of goods and opportunities by all men, as recognized by the universal destiny of goods." Blanco adds that the fact that it is not an absolute right is in line with what "the Social Magisterium has already recognized from Leo XIII to John Paul II, that there is a social debt above the property right itself." But it is also a confirmation that as a recognized right, institutional regulation of its application is required.

Blanco says that calling property rights a "secondary right does not imply the abolition of the property right or its collectivization." It is instead simply an observation that it is a right to be "regulated and subordinated in order to attain the common Good of society." He dismisses the idea that in reiterating an established Church principle, the Pope was echoing the Argentine president or backing the ordinance approved in Avellanada. "We should stop being so self-referential and think that everything the Pope says and does has to do with Argentina," he said.

In a paper published in 2014 by the UCA Digital Library, Father Gustavo Irrazábal states that the "Church's Social Doctrine has maintained since its inception the legitimacy of private property as a guarantee of personal autonomy, identifying its diffusion as a path to social justice, above all through payment of a fair wage."

So even if Francis won't manage to avoid another controversy in his country, and Argentina's ruling coalition will likely pounce on his words to make political capital, calmer minds should simply remember that Jorge Bergoglio is no longer the archbishop of Buenos Aires, but Pope to one billion Catholics around the world.

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Geopolitics

REvil Bust: Is Russian Cybercrime Crackdown Just A Decoy From Ukraine?

This weekend’s unprecedented operation to dismantle the cybercriminal REvil network in Russia was carried out on a request and information from Washington. Occurring just as the two countries face off over the Russian threat to invade Ukraine raises more questions than it answers.

Kyiv blamed Russia for another cyber-attack that knocked out key Ukrainian government websites last week

Cameron Manley

The world’s attention was gripped last week by the rising risk of war at the Russia-Ukraine border, and what some have called the worst breakdown in relations between Moscow and Washington since the end of the Cold War. Yet by the end of the week, another major story was unfolding more quietly across Russia that may shed light on the high-stakes geopolitical maneuvering.

By Friday night, Russian security forces had raided 25 addresses in St. Petersburg, Moscow and several other regions south of the capital in an operation to dismantle the notorious REvil group, accused of some of the worst cyberattacks in recent years to hit targets in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West.

And by Saturday, Russian online media Interfax was reporting that the FSB Russian intelligence services revealed that it had in fact been the U.S. authorities who had informed Russia "about the leaders of the criminal community and their involvement in attacks on the information resources of foreign high-tech companies.”

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