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Vatican foreign minister warns of hyper-individualized, Hobbesian society

June 03, 2024

» Continue to this story on L'Osservatore Romano (Italian)

CWN Editor's Note: Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, delivered a lecture at the Croatian Catholic University and warned that society in heading toward the “state of nature” about which the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote—one in which homo homini lupus [man is a wolf to man].

In “The Human Person: A Communion of Relations,” Archbishop Gallagher linked the transformation of “healthy patriotism into a dangerous nationalism” to an earlier shift from the “we” of the human person (in Greek philosophy) to the “I” of the individual, a shift he attributed to the French philosopher René Descartes.

This individualism, he continued, has become a hyper-individualized atomism in which people no longer see themselves in a web of relationships and as collaborators for mutual benefit, but rather as competitors. In this context, the prelate compared freedom “from,” freedom “for,” and freedom “with.”

Citing an address by Pope Francis, Archbishop Gallagher said that politics “should always be understood not as an appropriation of power, but as the highest form of charity.” The Christian politician, said Gallagher, does so when he is attentive to the fundamental principles that serve the dignity of the human person and promote the common good.

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