Individual rights and freedom obviously are essential for human flourishing, but human happiness depends a lot on relationships — kinship and friendship, but also the broader common good, said Dominican Sister Helen Alford.
The 2007-2008 global financial crisis, the climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic — “these are some of the results of a too individualistic mindset,” said the English Dominican, vice rector of Rome’s Pontifical University of St Thomas.
Pope Francis named Sr Alford a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in early September.
“We could think of some societies even today that don’t give people enough individual freedom, and that’s a problem,” she said. “But we can also have too much of it in the sense that it leads to breakdown, (a) breakdown of communities, breakdown of relationships.”
When the individual becomes the source and summit of life in society, “people feel they can’t speak to each other,” she said.
“If you think about some of the political situations that we’re dealing with today where people feel they have absolutely nothing in common with each other and that the political divide between them is so profound that they can’t talk to each other, they can’t even work together in government.”
Photo: Dominican Sr Helen Alford, vice rector of Rome’s Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, gives an interview at the university on 10th September. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)