Creating a more humane society in Barbados- Reflections on Pope Benedict’s
                       Encyclical “Charity in T...
means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks
            destroying wealth and creating poverty” (21).
“‘Ethical financing’ is being developed, especially through micro-credit and, more
generally, micro-finance. These process...
There are doubtless other reforms required but if at least some of the above
are introduced, then it will be possible to b...
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Caritas in Veritate: Economic Issues


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A presentation by Fr. Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ at a September 21 seminar in Barbados, a follow-up to the September 12-13 AEC Justice and Peace Seminar.

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Caritas in Veritate: Economic Issues

  1. 1. Creating a more humane society in Barbados- Reflections on Pope Benedict’s Encyclical “Charity in Truth” (Seminar 21 September 2009 facilitated by Emeritus RC Bishop Anthony Dickson) CARITAS IN VERITATE : ECONOMIC ISSUES Presentation By Fr. Michael Campbell-Johnston SJ One of the more radical demands of CHARITY IN TRUTH is the Pope’s clear call for a new world order. In paragraph 67 he speak of “a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organisation, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth”. Why does it need real teeth ? The simple reason is that the present world order has shown itself to be incapable of defending the poor and the weak from discrimination against them by the rich and the powerful. The scandalous gap between nations, the massive inequality between them and within them is growing all the time. It is intolerable, as has so often been pointed out, that 225 people have greater wealth than the annual income of 2,600 million people from poorer countries: or the fact that the fortune of just 3 people outweighs the GNP of the 48 poorest countries in the world where 600 million people live. The wealthy countries, and especially their leaders, are well aware of this. In the year 2000 the largest gathering ever of Heads of State signed a declaration which committed them to achieve 6 specific development goals with clear targets by the year 2015. They concerned poverty, hunger, education, infant mortality, AIDS, etc. But the nearer we come to 2015, the more these millennium goals are receding and showing themselves to be unrealisable. This, it seems to me, is the principal concern behind the Pope’s recent encyclical. He starts with a strong confirmation of the definition of integral human development given by Pope Paul VI in the great encyclical Populorum Progressio (the Development of Peoples). Integral human development “has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man”. (14) Pope Benedict claims this message is just as relevant today as when first proclaimed and that Pope Paul’s Letter deserves to be considered “the Rerum Novarum of the present age”, the foundation document of the Church’s social teaching today. As he says: “The truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development. This is the central message of Populorum Progressio, valid for today and for all time” (18). However, in the 40 years that have passed since this encyclical was written, many new problems have arisen which need to be analysed carefully and which oblige us “to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment….. in which to shape a new vision for the future” (21). This sums up the aim of Charity in Truth. The Pope identifies the following 6 problems directly concerned with economic issues: 1) Making profit the exclusive goal of economic activity. For, as he says, “once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper
  2. 2. means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty” (21). 2) “The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase. In rich countries, new sectors of society are succumbing to poverty and new forms of poverty are emerging. In poorer areas some groups enjoy a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation” (22) This is due to a variety of causes among which are: corruption, illegality, large multi-national corporations, a refusal to share knowledge and technology. 3) “Progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient” (23). If this is recognised and acknowledged, then there should be “a comprehensive new plan for development” (23). 4) The power of the State and its public authorities is often severely limited “by the new context of international trade and finance, which is characterized by increasing mobility both of financial capital and means of production, material and immaterial” (24). 5) The development and growth of the global market make it harder for trade unions and other similar agencies to provide effective systems of social security. The Pope refers to the problems of unemployment, partial employment and migrant workers. 6) Though “the elimination of world hunger has also, in the global area, become a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet” (27), many countries and communities no longer have access to sufficient food or water and cannot choose freely their use of agricultural land or farming techniques. These more specifically economic problems, together with others relating to respect for life, culture, religious freedom, moral issues and scientific research, can often militate against the true development of the individual or society and thus lead to the “systemic increase of social inequality” (32). This, in turn, can encourage “new forms of colonialism and continued dependence on old and new foreign powers” (33), sometimes heightened through “grave irresponsibility within the very countries that have achieved independence” (33). It would be unreasonable to expect Pope Benedict to provide ready-made solutions to all these problems, but the document does identify a number of requirements, some quite specific, if they are to be faced realistically. Here I mention five of them, hopeful that they may be relevant to our situation here in Barbados. 1) Economic development, as well as development in the social and political fields, “if it is to be authentically human, needs to make room for the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity” (34). In other words, a purely consumerist or utilitarian view of life leads to the false conviction that man is self- sufficient or that the economy is autonomous and free from any moral influence. This is clearly contrary to human nature and the good of society. As the Pope says: “The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly – not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people centred” (45). And this applies to the accounts and investment funds of banks and the whole world of finance. As he notes,
  3. 3. “‘Ethical financing’ is being developed, especially through micro-credit and, more generally, micro-finance. These processes are praiseworthy and deserve much support. Their positive effects are also being felt in the less developed areas of the world” (45). 2) This, in turn, will require markets that permit “the free operation, in conditions of equal opportunity, of enterprises in pursuit of different institutional ends” (38). This introduces the possibility for commercial entities not necessarily concerned with profit-making but with community service in a variety of ways. It would also require, as Pope Paul VI saw, “the creation of a model of market economy capable of including within its range all peoples and not just the better off” (39). This is “a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise……. A growing conviction that business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other shareholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference” (40). 3) Of relevance to the present situation is the insistence that “what should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit, without regard to the long-term sustainability of the enterprise, its benefit to the real economy and attention to the advancement, in suitable and appropriate ways, of further economic initiatives in countries in need of development” (40). To achieve this, he claims that the entire financial system must be aimed at sustaining true development and be well regulated “so as to safeguard weaker parties and discourage scandalous speculation” (65) 4) Much emphasis is also given to the encouragement of micro-projects and the need for the active mobilization of all the subjects of civil society (47). Consumers associations are important both for the benefits they bring and to help consumers realise that they have “a specific social responsibility which goes hand in hand with the social responsibility of the enterprise” (66). Also required are flexible aid programmes which must be considered “a valid means for creating wealth for all” (60). But, to repeat, it is “the entire financial system that has to be aimed at sustaining true development” (65) This would seem a direct invitation to banks and similar institutions to make their resources and expertise more available to the community at large, especially so that “poor people should be helped to derive real benefit from micro-credit” (65). 5) A special call is made for the ethically responsible use of technology which, in itself, can never be considered self-sufficient. It is rather “a response to God’s command to till and to keep the land that he has entrusted to humanity, and it must serve to reinforce the covenant between human beings and the environment, a covenant that should mirror God’s creative love” (69). For the natural environment “is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure; it is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a ‘grammar’ which sets for ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation” (48). And the problem of climate change is very closely linked to that of energy. “The fact that some States, power groups and companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represent a grave obstacle to development in poor countries” (49). What is needed is “a worldwide redistribution of energy resources so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them” (49).
  4. 4. There are doubtless other reforms required but if at least some of the above are introduced, then it will be possible to become the protagonists, rather than the victims, of the process of globalization that is affecting the whole world. For it is a process that “is neither good nor bad. It will be what people make of it” (42). But this will require on the part of all a sustained commitment to “promote a person-based and community-oriented process of worldwide integration that is open to transcendence” (42). The Pope concludes this important letter by asserting that “without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is” (78). Consequently he insists that the greatest service to development is a Christian humanism “that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity” (78). *************************