Rejecting Transcendence

Detached from Reality

Belonging to No One

There is a Solution

Fails to Recognize the Grandeur of the Human Person

“The loss of the authentic meaning of life.”

Pope St. John Paul II, 41

Two Forms of Alienation

It’s Personal

“There is no worse form of alienation than to feel uprooted, belonging to no one.

Pope Francis, 53

People drink wine at a dinner table, showing the personal level at which consumerism could affect us
  • “Man is alienated when he is alone, when he is detached from reality, when he stops thinking and believing in a foundation.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 53)
  • “A man is alienated if he refuses to transcend himself and to live the experience of self giving”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 41)
  • “All humanity is alienated when too much trust is placed in merely human projects, ideologies and utopias.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 53)

It’s Societal

“Alienation…is a reality in Western societies”.

Pope St. John Paul II, 41

People walk along a city street surrounded by billboards, showing the effect of consumerism on society as a whole
  • We live “in a world marked by a ‘globalization of indifference’ that makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves.” (Pope Francis)
  • “[S]ociety is alienated if its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer this gift of self and to establish solidarity between people”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 41) and (Pope Francis, 196)
  • “A land will be fruitful, and its people bear fruit and give birth to the future, only to the extent that it can foster a sense of belonging among its members, create bonds of integration between generations and different communities, and avoid all that makes us insensitive to others and leads to further alienation”. (Pope Francis, 53)
  • “A land of fruitfulness demands contexts in which roots can be planted and give rise to a vital network capable of ensuring that the members of its communities feel ‘at home’.” (Pope Francis)

Why This Surge of Alienation “At Every Level”?

A woman gets rid of boxes of junk, showing how we could start dealing with consumerism

It’s Practical

“[P]eople use one another…they seek an ever more refined satisfaction of their individual and secondary needs, while ignoring the principal and authentic needs which ought to regulate the manner of satisfying the other ones”.  (Pope St. John Paul II)

“Sometimes we prove hard of heart and mind; we are forgetful, distracted and carried away by the limitless possibilities for consumption and distraction”. (Pope Francis, 196)

Pope St. John Paul II points to some specific (and actionable) causes (Centesimus Annus, 41):


  • Increased isolation in a maze of relationships marked by destructive competitiveness and estrangement”;
  • Manipulation by the means of mass communication which impose fashions and trends of opinion through carefully orchestrated repetition”.

It’s Spiritual

“[A]lienation and the many neuroses that afflict affluent societies are attributable in part to spiritual factors”. (Pope Benedict XVI, 76)

“When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves.” (Pope Benedict XVI) 

“When man does not recognize in himself and in others the value and grandeur of the human person, he effectively deprives himself of the possibility of benefiting from his humanity and of entering into that relationship of solidarity and communion with others for which God created him.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 41)

The Solution

“The concept of alienation needs to be led back to the Christian vision of reality, by recognizing in alienation a reversal of means and ends.”

Pope St. John Paul II, 41

A woman gets rid of boxes of junk, showing how we could start dealing with consumerism

The Gift of Self

“[T]here cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people’s spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account”. (Pope Benedict XVI, 76)

“Each of us…discovers and expresses himself…as a calling…sharing one’s being and one’s gifts with others for the common good”. And this “is not an external task”. Rather, it is “a dimension that involves our very nature”. (Pope Francis)

“This discovery takes us out of the isolation of a self-referential ego and makes us look at ourselves as an identity in relation: I exist and live in relation…called to embrace a specific and personal mission with joy and responsibility.” (Pope Francis)

We can “overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practicing the works of mercy.” (Pope Francis, 3)

“This gift is made possible by the human person’s essential ‘capacity for transcendence’.”

Pope St. John Paul II, 41

We Must Avoid the Ultimate Alienation!

“[T]he danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell.”

Pope Francis

The Answer to These Pathologies is the Family

The Four Pathologies

The Church identifies four dangers or major ‘risks and problems’ eating away at the cultural, economic, and political systems and begins to identify how to cure them.


“The exclusive pursuit of material possessions prevents man's growth as a human being and stands in opposition to his true grandeur.” (Pope St. Paul VI, 19) A person who is concerned solely or primarily with possessing and enjoying – who can no longer subordinate his instincts - cannot be free.

Environmental Degradation

Both our physical and human environment are at risk and the Church insists we ignore neither! “It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development." (Pope Benedict XVI, 51)


We are losing the “authentic meaning of life”! When we refuse to transcend ourselves “and to live the experience of self-giving". (Pope St. John Paul II, 41)  when society “is marked by a ‘globalization of indifference’ that makes us…closed in on ourselves.” (Pope Francis, 1)  both the individual and society are alienated.

Radical Secularism

“The greatest challenge of our time is secularization” (Pope Benedict XVI, 3) Why? Radical secularism holds that there is no such thing as an objective truth. But, “Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 5)

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