The Gentile Gallery was filled Thursday night with students eager to hear three Franciscan University of Steubenville professors critically analyze Pope Francis’s latest papal encyclical “Fratelli Tutti.”
First, a brief outline of the document’s chapters set the stage for discourse. The panel’s subsequent discussion was informal and focused on topics of interest presented in “Fratelli Tutti.”
Michael Sirilla, who holds a doctorate in systematic theology, commented that Francis does not mention who he is specifically addressing at the encyclical’s start.
Sirilla said, “‘Fratelli Tutti’ is an invitation to everyone, Catholics and non-Catholics, anyone who has good will, to enter into a dialogue. So (Francis) is not presenting it as a definitive teaching … even though later on he’ll say things in a very definitive tone.”
Michael Welker, who holds a doctorate in international economics, addressed the topic of private property brought up in the document.
Welker referenced “Veritatis Splendor” by Pope John Paul II and its comments on the rich young man Jesus interacts with. Welker said, “Possessions are to be submitted to the Lord. … Practicing prudential judgements and trying to work out … what does the Holy Spirit want me to do with my wealth, that’s tough.”
Speaking about economic opinions presented in the document, Stephen Hildebrand, who holds a doctorate in historical theology, said Francis does not quite make the connection between free markets and economic opportunities. He also noted that Francis is critical of welfare.
Hildebrand said, “I think it’s very clear in (Francis’s) mind that if the free markets don’t have all the answers … the state (also) doesn’t have all the answers.”
A question and answer session followed the main discussion. Students asked about Francis’s recent comment on civil unions and also how “Fratelli Tutti” affects church doctrine, among other topics.
Hildebrand closed with the advice: “Love (Francis), pray for him, respect him and submit to him when he speaks authoritatively.”
Senior Lane Tschirhart said, “I thought the talk was terrific. … It was also a very good example of how we as Catholics can come together when we’re invited to discuss topics with charity and kindness and reason.”
Freshman Margaret McKinnon said, “I thought the talk was pretty insightful overall. … It was quite interesting … learning more about Pope Francis’s thoughts on the market and private property.”
The discussion was sponsored by the department of accounting, business administration and economics as well as the Christian Students in Free Enterprise.