Do Catholics have something to say about pension reform? If the Church in the broad sense intervenes very regularly on questions of bioethics or the reception of migrants, it is, in France, more cautious in the economic and social field.
Between legitimacy affected by the crisis of abuse, doubt about their ability to be heard or lack of time to dig into the subject, it is clear that few bishops venture to tackle the subject of pensions head-on. Unlike 2010, during the last major reform.
Among those who spoke, Mgr Xavier Malle, Bishop of Gap, or Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, Archbishop of Reims and President of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF), on RCF, the day after the mobilization day against the bill. The latter insisted on the place to be given to older people in the labor market.
“We want to highlight the dignity of workers”
But should we expect only a word from the episcopate in this area? Beyond priests and bishops, the Church positions itself on the reform of pensions through the commitment of lay people within the various Catholic movements involved in economic and social life, such as the Christian Movement of Executives and Leaders (MCC) or the Christian Movement of Pensioners (MCR). Sometimes with divergent options.
Thus, the Catholic Worker Action (ACO) demonstrated against the reform, as did the Christian Worker Youth (JOC) and the Rural Movement of Christian Youth (MRJC). “We are not called upon to carry out actions, that is the role of the trade unions in particular. On the other hand, we have, I believe, a specific word to propose, explains Jean-François Courtille, one of the three national secretaries of the ACO. Above all, we want to highlight the dignity of workers. “It seems very important to us that all committed Catholics, at all levels, pay this attention to economic and social justice,” he continues.
However, the same attention to major principles such as concern for the dignity of the person does not lead to the same position. The Christian Entrepreneurs and Leaders (EDC) have not planned to speak with a common voice on the pension reform but are following the debate very closely. “The pension system is a common good whose sustainability must be ensured,” insists Pierre Guillet, president of the EDC. No doubt Christians are too shy to give their opinion on everything related to work and the economy: it is part of life. »
In what place can a Christian thought in these areas be elaborated? The Center for Research and Social Action (Ceras), Social Weeks or the Center Sèvres – which is organizing a conference on pensions on February 7 – provide a framework for a debate of ideas. The working group launched at the CEF, at the end of 2019, to allow the various Church movements to talk to each other on the pension reform, has not yet been reactivated.
The social doctrine of the Church, a support to evaluate the bill
Coordinator of this group, the Jesuit Grégoire Catta, director of the family and society service of the CEF, defends with conviction that the social questions agitating the country are “not foreign to our faith; on the contrary”, they are just as important as societal or bioethical questions. “We probably need to remember this,” he believes, while mentioning Pope Francis who gives a major place to the social question in his concern for evangelization.
Encouragement to get involved, but relying on what resources? “The last great social encyclical is Fratelli tutti, which is structured around meditation on the parable of the Good Samaritan, insists Grégoire Catta. This will not tell us whether to move the legal retirement age, but it allows us to ask ourselves the right questions with the concern of the weakest and most fragile. »
More broadly, according to the Jesuit, the social doctrine of the Church offers – “not to say in the name of the Church that such and such a pension reform is necessary” – support for evaluating a bill in the light of great principles: solidarity, the preferential option for the poor or the pursuit of the common good.
Yellow vests, when the episcopate took part in the debate
The last example of public engagement of the Catholic Church, and in particular of the bishops, in the economic and social field, dates back to the crisis of the yellow vests in 2018-2019. In December 2018, a month before President Macron in turn launched a major national debate, the Permanent Council of the Conference of Bishops of France had published a call for dialogue and debate to contribute to a way out of the crisis, in s relying on the territorial network of the parishes. After this invitation to act, parishes contributed by organizing evenings of exchanges and debates.
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