Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has offered to the world powerful signs of how we should aspire to treat each other as human beings, as brothers and sisters in the one human family. He has communicated his message and his teachings in myriad ways: through symbolic gestures; his presence and words at gatherings in our world’s most troubled places; brief messages, homilies and meditations; and official documents that continue the application of the principles of Catholic social teaching to contemporary social questions. What might these prophetic signs and statements mean for the dialogue between Catholic social thought and other disciplines? This Article focuses on how the teachings of Pope Francis may illuminate how to theorize the legal obligations of a bystander to a person in need of emergency assistance. In particular, it zeroes in on the so-called “easy rescue” cases in which assistance would seem to pose little or no risk to the bystander, often typified by the trope of a passerby who notices a toddler drowning in a wading pool. In the teachings of Pope Francis, reflections on the moral obligations of bystanders—often in the form of meditations on the seminal “rescue” story, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, as well as extended analysis of the perils of a culture of indifference—are no mere footnote, but a central feature.
Amelia J. Uelmen, Where Morality and the Law Coincide: How Legal Obligations of Bystanders May Be Informed by the Social Teachings of Pope Francis, 40 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 1359 (2017).