Luca Volonte: Human Dignity and Free Market Need Not Be Mutually Exclusive

EU Politician Says Pope Francis’ Social Thought Cannot Be Ignored When Analyzing Democracy

Italian politician Luca Volontè wants to see more emphasis placed on promoting the common good and the dignity of the human person rather than the latest GDP figures.

Speaking to ZENIT on the sidelines of the Third Annual Conference on Human Dignity in Rome, the former Italian member of parliament, and chairman of the pro-life think tank the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI) believes the human person must always be valued, never discarded.

Luca Volontè was speaking at a recent DHI conference entitled “Poverty and Common Good: Putting the ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’ at the Service of Human Dignity”. The institute aims to uphold human dignity based on the anthropological truth that man is created in the image and likeness of God. Conference speakers included senior Vatican officials, politicians, journalists and business leaders, all of whom met together at the Casina Pio IV, the home of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, in the Vatican gardens.

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ZENIT: Please describe the event, what are your hopes for it, and what do you feel it has achieved?

The event was based on one specific issue: How is it possible to consider in a positive way, human dignity and the evolution of the free market society. This is a crucial point that we must discuss together, considering many different points of view, such as the preferencial option for the poor, as well as other Christian contributions to the field, including especially also the new important approach prioritised by Pope Francis concerning the culture of waste as applied to human beings.

This lack of valuing people refers to many different people: the sick, the elderly, the unborn, and handicapped people, to name a few. According to the Pope’s constant message, it’s essential to reflect on this matter, and to act justly.  We must bring wider attention especially to the poor, and to the societal structures that keep people poor.  Therefore our work tries to consider some of these difficulties from a philosophical point of view, including considering approaches of various economic theories of wealth creation, including how Christian churches reflect on human dignity, of our being made in the image and likeness of God, which is true of every human person (including the socially discarded, as listed above). We must also keep in mind that each person is part of a society, and especially in democratic societies, we are societies that also value freedom. This is the underlying philosophical scope of this important conference.

ZENIT: Will there be another conference, of this type, in the future, and what will be its theme?

Next year, we are already thinking about exploring the topic of “How should we consider the crisis of human dignity within democracy?”, facing the exemplary difficulties that are emerging such as the marketing of humans in sex trafficking, and slavery; and new difficulties facing society such as cultural differences, religious differences, avoiding the totalitarian temptation to homologize any differences.

We should reflect on what is our situation of democracy, our idea of electoral law, or separation of powers, and should respect diversity to improve society.

So, now we are facing major problems that appear year by year, issues that not only emerge as problems, but which also have the potential to destroy this sense of democracy in the coming century.

ZENIT: Was there logic behind how those who have been speaking during the conference were selected?

We have many speakers from different countries, representing various parts of the globe, from various continents. Our institute wanted to feature these differences and include contrasting points of view. We are facing, and we are discussing, global issues: so the more varied and diverse the points of view we have participating and reflecting, the more likely it is that we can have some possibility of deriving a new common idea, a new common way, which is more than necessary for our times.  We want to introduce a new consensus that is more likely to be pushed at civil and social society level, with popular support, because few are reflecting on the current crisis of democracy, including within the mass media. For one hour, we reflected on the rise of the new types of slaveries in our June conference – an incredibly powerful speech presented by Mons. Marcelo Sánchez-Sorondo, but what about the rest of the 24 hours! Those moments are not enough by themselves to be useful, if they don’t bring with them a strong reflection to come up with some positive proposals of change for all people – a reflection that moves people to go out and be the agents for change in their own wider societies.

ZENIT: For an event such as this centered on poverty and the common good, what have you observed as being the reactions of participants?

General reactions to this conference, and others such as this, have been consistently positive. The speakers are invited to express their views and be as candid as possible in their reflections. They express their own points of view and discuss where they have a strong expertise or specialty in a given issue.

It’s not just about the speakers’ discourses, however. These speakers rather have another opportunity while taking part, as they can use the personal discussion to develop and foster a global friendship. A global friendship, not only in the sense of having a very nice glass of wine or sharing an important dinner or lunch, but rather a friendship that was built starting from a problem that sometimes is only a problem, but also an occasion that can be turned into an opportunity to create a new level of cooperation among us. In the general sense of the conference and the general idea of the next steps, it’s a strong encouragement to go ahead, to go forward along this line.

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