Indifference in the face of others' suffering, and the attitude of "things that don't affect me don't interest me" can destroy society.
Indifference in the face of others’ suffering — a side effect of individualism — has become a virus just as dangerous for society as Covid-19, reflected Pope Francis on August 12 during the general audience
The pope continued with the series he began just last week, taking up the principles of Catholic social doctrine as a response to the world’s need for healing. His reflection focused today on human dignity, saying that a “renewed awareness of the dignity of every human being has serious social, economic and political implications.”
Here is a 10-point summary of the pope’s audience.
1- The pandemic has made clear that we are all vulnerable and all interconnected. If we don’t care for each other, starting with those most in need, since they are the most affected, then we cannot heal the world. In this regard, we need to recall that creation itself must be cared for.
2- The human and Christian love that so many people have shown during these months is commendable. So many have been committed to giving themselves to the sick, even putting their own health at risk. They are heroes!
3- But the Coronavirus is not the only disease we must battle. The pandemic has brought to the fore wider social pathologies. One of these is a distorted understanding of the person, an outlook that fails to take into account his dignity and his essence as a being in relation to others. Sometimes, we see others as mere objects – things to use and throw away.
4- In the light of faith, however, we know that God does not see man and woman like this. He has not created us as objects, but as persons who are loved and capable of loving. He has created us in his image and likeness. He has thus given us a unique dignity, inviting us to live in communion with Him, in communion with our brothers and sisters, and in respect of all of creation.
5- We should ask the Lord to give us eyes that are attentive to our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer. As disciples of Jesus, we do not want to be indifferent and individualistic. These two evil attitudes are at odds with harmony.
6- We wish to recognize the human dignity of every person, regardless of race, language, or social condition. The harmony created by God, with man at the center, brings us to recognize human dignity.
7- In fact, the human person, in his personal dignity, is a social being, created in the image of the One and Triune God. We are social beings, we need to live in this social harmony. But when egotism reigns, our gaze turns away from others, from the community, and turns inward upon ourselves. This makes us egotistical, evil, ugly — destroyers of harmony.
8- A believer, in seeing his neighbor as a brother and not as a stranger, looks upon him with compassion and empathy, not with disdain or enmity. And looking upon the world with the light of faith, a believer works with the help of grace to develop his creativity and his enthusiasm in order to resolve the problems of the world.
9- As we all work toward a cure for this virus that attacks us all indiscriminately, faith exhorts us to commit ourselves seriously and actively to work against the indifference toward violations of human dignity.
10- A culture of indifference is accompanied by a throw-away culture: Things that don’t affect me don’t interest me. Faith demands that we allow ourselves to be healed and to convert from our individualism — both the personal and the collective kind, for example the individualism of political parties.