Alone & Detached from Reality

It is Societal Too

Refusing the Transcendent

Returning to a theme introduced by Karl Marx, but wrongly applied, Catholic social teaching next points to the issue of Alienation, defined as the loss of the “authentic meaning of life” and goes on to distinguish between personal and societal alienation.

Pope St. John Paul II, 41 

When Am I Alienated?


“A man is alienated if he refuses to transcend himself and to live the experience of self giving”.

Pope St. John Paul II, 41

  • “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
  • “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


“A society 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 

  • “[a]ll humanity is alienated when too much trust is placed in merely human projects, ideologies and utopias.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 53)
  • As Pope Francis says, 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.” (World Day of Peace Message, 1)

The Causes?

  • Consumerism
  • Work settings which isolate a person in a maze of relationships marked by destructiveness, competitiveness and estrangement.
  • Manipulation by the means of mass communication which impose fashions and trends of opinion through carefully orchestrated repetition”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 41)

Who Wants to be Alienated?

“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. 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)

“Social and psychological alienation and the many neuroses that afflict affluent societies are attributable in part to spiritual factors…There cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people’s spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account”.

Pope Benedict XVI, 76

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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