There’s more going on in the pope’s critique of modernity, and something we on the Right are susceptible to: Romanticizing the pre-industrial world as one that is inherently more moral because things were harder. In that respect, I suggest the pope and his team spend some time with Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas: “The essence of virtue consists in the good rather than in the difficult.”

The point being that, while people don’t like to get things they haven’t earned (even people on welfare will insist they “deserve” those checks), grace is, again, the essence of the Gospel, besides being built into our natural world because it’s an intrinsic characteristic of that world’s creator. Grace means getting something you don’t deserve as an entirely free gift (not through forcing other people to hand it over, either). The difficulty of a thing is not in itself a trustworthy marker for how moral a thing is.

So, with apologies to Wendell Berry, plowing fields with mules is not inherently more virtuous than plowing them with a John Deere. Neither is returning to the days when people shoveled their own shit an improvement upon the days we can have machines do so for us—especially because poop lying around tends to breed disease, as Third-World denizens whose family and friends die from diseases sanitation would have prevented know very well. Now, I could choose to plow fields because I think that’s necessary to develop my own character, but it’s not someone else’s place to prescribe that for me. The Bible says we should work hard and honestly, but it doesn’t specify at what.