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Lutheran archbishop slams government’s programme, defends church’s right to social criticism

Archbishop Tapio Luoma of Finland's Evangelical Lutheran Church argues the government is over-stressing the importance of work, which he says is not a measure of human dignity.

Archbishop Tapio Luoma.
Archbishop Tapio Luoma. Image: Paula Collin / Yle
Yle News

In a blog post on Wednesday, Lutheran Archbishop Tapio Luoma said he believes that the current government places too high a value on work in its programme. He went on to remind his readers that human dignity is not measured by a person's productivity or ability to work.

"It is important to give emphasis to the right and the opportunity to work, but according to the government programme, they have become the most fundamental virtues of society. Social agency is so strongly tied to work and consumption that suitability for the labour market seems to have become a parallel to social acceptability," Luoma argues.

Archbishop Luoma says that a person's right to participate in society and live a good life is not dependent on the work they do, their economic status or consumption choices.

"The value of work has traditionally been stressed in the Lutheran Church. However, the value of the person is always greater than the value of their work. Human value is not measured by what kind of benefit a person produces for society," he continued.

Church's concerns

The archbishop expressed concern the way immigration policy is laid out in the government's programme. He also does not consider dismantling social safety nets and shifting an increasingly large responsibility onto families and volunteer groups to be a desirable development.

"The support networks of society are seen as relying even more on family, and volunteers in the future and, for example, on the services of the church. However, the promotion of human rights is primarily the task of the state. For many, a society based on charity is extremely fragile," Luoma wrote.

Archbishop Luoma also took up the question of why the church takes stands on social issues and on government policies.

He stressed that the church – although state-supported – looks at society from the stance of its own value base, regardless of any party programmes or positions.

"Criticism is heard especially when the church's perspective does not correspond to someone's wishes. Sometimes attempts are made to silence the church's voice by labelling it as a political actor. Participating in public social debate is not party politics," stated Luoma.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Orthodox Church have legal status as state-supported national churches.

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