- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday released an encyclical tackling the moral dimensions of the global economic crisis, just in time for the Group of Eight industrialized nations summit that begins Wednesday in L’Aquila, Italy.

Called “Caritas in Veritate,” or “Charity in Truth,” it calls for selfless love, truth and justice in a globalized society where great gulfs exist between the haves and have-nots.

“If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them,” the pontiff wrote. “To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it.”

Benedict broke new ground with a suggestion that the United Nations be reformed and possibly replaced by a “true world political authority” that would act as a watchdog on international finance.

If all countries are agreed, the pope wrote, this unnamed organization would establish a “political, juridical and economic order” that would “manage the global economy to revive economies hit by the crisis.”

It also would “bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace” and “guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration.”

University of Dayton theology professor Vincent J. Miller said the pope was “taking seriously” radical new situations presented by globalization.

“In the past, the nation-state has kept the market tethered to the moral good,” he said. “He faces that new situation squarely and offers some positive solutions.”

The Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, president of Catholic University, said the pope has been working on the encyclical for several years, intending to release it in 2007 for the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical “Populorum Progressio” on world economics.

When the release of “Caritas in Veritate” got delayed, Benedict added current references to the world economic crisis.

“We have all come to expect brilliance from him, and this is not an exception,” Father O’Connell said. “It will be a source of wisdom for many years to come. It’s jampacked with deep and profound theology. A lot of material is not new, but he’s adapting clearly and poignantly to current issues.”

In much of the document, the pontiff takes the side of poor countries, which are often repositories of oil, gold, diamonds and various rare minerals valued around the globe.

“The stockpiling of natural resources, which in many cases are found in the poor countries themselves, gives rise to exploitation and frequent conflicts between and within nations,” Benedict wrote. “These conflicts are often fought on the soil of those same countries, with a heavy toll of death, destruction and further decay.

“The international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources, involving poor countries in the process … . ”

The nearly 150-page letter to the world’s Catholic bishops also tackles issues ranging from world hunger, global markets and outsourcing labor overseas to investors’ responsibilities, religious persecution and the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that promote sterilization of poor women. It defies political categories, shifting from an almost Marxist paean to the common worker to cheerleading rich countries for spearheading projects that have helped the world’s poor.

But now more than ever, Benedict wrote, the global market makes rich countries plunder poor countries for low-cost workers, which sets back human rights and workers rights. Thus, workers associations or labor unions “must therefore be honored today even more than in the past.”

He castigated multinational corporations that “fail to respect the rights of workers” as well as local producers who divert international aid from its intended recipients. NGOs that “work actively to spread abortion” are also taken to the woodshed.

“In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread … contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality,” he wrote. “Frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other States as if it were a form of cultural progress.”

In some poor countries, he lamented, “development aid is sometimes linked to specific health care policies whichde facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures.” Catholic doctrine forbids artificial birth control.

While rich countries are guilty of “excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care,” poor countries are hampered by backward cultures and social norms that hinder development, he said.

Economic growth in itself is not evil, he wrote, but problems arise when the rich are “lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the country’s international competitiveness.”

“Pope Benedict is going where many U.S. politicians fear to tread in his call for equitable distribution of wealth, robust financial regulations and a strong role for government in promoting the common good,” said John Gehring, spokesman for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. “For Americans battered by Wall Street abuses, the pope’s message is a timely reflection that will make for interesting conversation during his meeting with President Obama this week.”

“Caritas in Veritate” is the latest in a long line of encyclicals that criticize the sins of capitalism, beginning with 1891 “Rerum Novarum” (“Of New Things”) by Pope Leo XIII, which argued for better working conditions, fair wages, union rights and moral standards in business.

Successive popes have written similar encyclicals on anniversary dates of “Rerum Novarum,” such as “Quadragesimo Anno” (“After Forty Years”), a 1931 document by Pope Pius XI that rejected communism and unbridled capitalism.

In 1961, Pope John XXIII wrote “Mater et Magistra” (“Mother and Teacher”), which reached out globally by calling for development aid for poor countries and moral guidelines for richer countries.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II penned “Centesimus Annus” (“The Hundredth Year”) on unjust distribution of worldwide wealth, environmental exploitation and the need to regulate international capital flows to promote the common good.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide