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Catholic Voice

 June 8, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA

  Related stories
 
New encyclical calls for ‘a profoundly new way of understanding business’
 
Commentators: Encyclical breaks new ground
 
Pope praises contributions of migrants to economy
 
Pope urges unions to adapt to growing global economy
 
New encyclical calls
for ‘a profoundly new way
of understanding business’

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ethical values are needed to overcome the current global economic crisis as well as to eradicate hunger and promote the real development of all the world’s peoples, Pope Benedict XVI said in his new encyclical.

The document, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), was released at the Vatican July 7.

The truth that God is the creator of human life, that every life is sacred, that the earth was given to humanity to use and protect and that God has a plan for each person must be respected in development programs and in economic recovery efforts if they are to have real and lasting benefits, the pope said.

Charity, or love, is not an option for Christians, he said, and “practicing charity in truth helps people understand that adhering to the values of Christianity is not merely useful, but essential for building a good society and for true integral development,” he wrote.

Pope Benedict XVI signs a copy of his encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), at the Vatican July 6. The encyclical addresses the global economic crisis.
CNS PHOTO/L’OSSERVATORE
ROMANO via REUTERS

In addressing the global economic crisis and the enduring poverty of the world’s poorest countries, he said, “the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity.”

Reform of institutions

The global dimension of the financial crisis is an expression of the moral failure of greedy financiers and investors, of the lack of oversight by national governments and of a lack of understanding that the global economy required internationally recognized global control, Pope Benedict said.

“In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth,” the pope wrote.

“To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority,” he said.

Pope Benedict insisted that the idea of the world’s richest nations scaling back development aid while focusing on their own economic recovery overlooked the long-term economic benefits of solidarity and not simply the human and Christian moral obligation to help the poor.

“In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all,” the pope said.
The economic growth of poorer countries and their citizens’ demands for consumer goods actually benefit producers in the world’s wealthier nations, he said.

Encyclical text available

“Caritas in Veritate” can be ordered from Origins, the CNS Documentary Service, in both print and electronic versions by calling 202-541-3290.

The English version of the text can be found online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html.

The Spanish version can be found online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_sp.html.
 
The pope said that “more economically developed nations should do all they can to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid,” respecting the obligations they made to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals aimed at significantly reducing poverty by 2015.

Universal rights to food, water

Pope Benedict said food and water are the “universal rights of all human beings without distinction or discrimination” and are part of the basic right to life.

He also said that being pro-life means being pro-development, especially given the connection between poverty and infant mortality, and that the only way to promote the true development of people is to promote a culture in which every human life is welcomed and valued.

“The acceptance of life strengthens moral fiber and makes people capable of mutual help,” he said.
He said the environment, life, sexuality, marriage and social relations are inextricably united.

If society does not respect human life from its conception to its natural end, “if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology,” he said.

Development programs and offers of aid that encourage coercive population-control methods and the promotion of abortion do not have the good of people at heart and limit the recipients’ motivation to become actors in their own development and progress, the pope said.

Concern for the poor

In addition, he said, an anti-life mentality in the world’s richest countries is related to the lack of concern for the poor.

“How can we be surprised by the indifference shown toward situations of human degradation when such indifference extends even to our attitude toward what is and is not human?” the pope asked.

“While the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human,” he said.

Pope Benedict also emphasized Church teaching that making money and being wealthy are not sins, but that the way the money is made and the way it is used can be.

The encyclical condemned corruption, the exploitation of workers, the destruction of the environment, the continuing practice of wealthy nations imposing such high tariffs on imports that they shut poor countries out of the international marketplace and, especially, an “excessive zeal” for enforcing patents, especially on medications that could save the lives of thousands of poor people if they were available at a reasonable cost.

Pope Benedict called for “a profoundly new way of understanding business,” which recognizes that investors are not a company’s only stakeholders, no matter how the business is structured and financed.

Employees, those who produce the raw materials, people who live in the communities where the company is based, where its products originate and where its products are sold all have a stake in the business, the pope said.

He also said that investing always has a moral as well as an economic significance.

“What should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit without regard for 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,” he said.

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Commentators: Encyclical breaks new ground

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), breaks new ground on such topics as microfinancing, intellectual property rights, globalization and the concept of putting one’s wealth at the service of the poor, according to Catholic scholars and Church leaders.

In interviews with Catholic News Service and in statements about the encyclical released July 7 at the Vatican, commentators said the more than 30,000-word document takes on a variety of issues not previously addressed in such a comprehensive way.

“I was surprised . . . at how wide-ranging it is,” said Kirk Hanson, a business ethics professor at Santa Clara University and executive director of the Jesuit-run university’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. “It’s not just an updating of ‘Populorum Progressio’” (“The Progress of Peoples”), the 1967 social encyclical by Pope Paul VI, he added.

Hanson said he also was struck by Pope Benedict’s concept of “gratuitousness” or “giftedness,” which reminds people “not to consider wealth ours alone” and asks the wealthy to “be ready to put (their money) in service for the good of others.”

The encyclical is “a plea for the wealthiest on the planet to put their wealth toward the development of peoples,” he said. “In many ways, (Microsoft founder and philanthropist) Bill Gates would be the poster child for this document.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated billions of dollars for health and development programs worldwide, as well as for education and housing programs in the United States.

Terrence W. Tilley, who chairs the theology department at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York and is immediate past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said one unique aspect of the encyclical is Pope Benedict’s “vision that all flows from the love of God.”

“It’s unusual as a theological reflection on social justice,” he said. “But that’s what holds it all together.”
Tilley said the encyclical makes a “pedagogical attempt to get people out of the mindset that charity is just giving money to those poor people over there.” The pope rejects such a “dismissive attitude,” he said.

The Fordham professor also said he was “delighted to see the strength with which (Pope Benedict) supports labor organizations.” But the pope also stresses “the responsibility of both management . . . and labor to take care of and be responsible to other than their own constituencies,” he added.

The current president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, Father Bryan N. Massingale, called the encyclical “a welcome contribution to the discussion of how Christians should think and act in a global economy.”

An associate professor of theological ethics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Father Massingale said the encyclical’s “most challenging insight . . . is its repeated criticism of the short-term thinking and profit-making that has dominated our financial markets and political discussions on the economy.”

Pope Benedict’s “support for the longer view, as well as for active participation in the political process to ensure that financial markets serve the needs of all, and not simply those with access to wealth, will definitely challenge the usual political discourse in this country, if we have the courage to take his call seriously,” he added.

Father Massingale, a Milwaukee archdiocesan priest, also said that, although the pope’s support for the labor movement “is hardly surprising to those familiar with Catholic social teaching, the force with which Benedict reaffirms the role of labor unions in the pursuit of economic justice is unmistakable.”

John Sweeney, a Catholic who is president of the AFL-CIO, said “Caritas in Veritate” “reaffirms the need for exploited and marginalized workers to have the freedom to come together and form unions to bargain and negotiate for a better life.”

“We stand with the Catholic Church in the belief that when workers can form unions they lift up their communities and nations and create a culture of dignity and respect for all workers,” Sweeney added.

But Father Massingale noted that the encyclical also “calls upon unions to adopt a more international perspective in light of the global mobility of labor” — a call that the theologian said “could spur creative thought in revitalizing movements for worker justice.”

Vincent Miller, associate professor of theology at Georgetown University in Washington, said Pope Benedict “rejects the dominant vision of economics as abstract, technological efficiency” and “calls for a revisioning of economics as an essentially moral undertaking.”

“His complex thought does not fit easily into our political map, but there is no doubt that Benedict is much more critical of contemporary economics than any political party in our country,” added Miller, who was recently named to the Gudorf chair in Catholic theology and culture at the University of Dayton in Ohio

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Pope praises contributions of migrants to economy

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI described migration as “a social phenomenon of epoch-making proportions” in his social encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”).

He praised migrants’ contributions to the economic development of both their country of origin and their host country and criticized current policies and certain international organizations, including the United Nations, for excluding representation from the poorest nations when they hold summits on economic concerns.

For Johan Ketelers, secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Coalition, the pope’s encyclical offers up suggestions that will help shape a better world.

“’Caritas in Veritate’ calls for a rights-based approach and invites all to reconsider the link between justice, truth and charity,” he said. “The encyclical raises the need for political commitment to establish global order and global governance respectful of human rights.”

The pope acknowledged social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems that arise from the migration issue and the challenges it poses to nations, but he called for policies that safeguard “the needs and rights of individual migrants and their families, and at the same time those of the host countries.”

“’Caritas in Veritate,’ in a visionary way, strongly invites us to think differently and invites us to contribute to the building of another more global and more humane world,” Ketelers said.

The pope recognized the significant contributions migrants make to the economy but warned they should not be treated or “considered as a commodity or a mere workforce.”

Ira Mehlman, national media director for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, agrees that immigrants should be treated humanely but his organization maintains the rising number of immigrants entering the United States is an issue of national security and that mass immigration drives down wages and can result in job loss for U.S. citizens.

The organization cites evidence from Rice University that estimates that more than 1.8 million U.S. workers are displaced from their jobs every year by immigrants.

“I understand the pope is the voice of moral authority and his concerns are based on charity, but in terms of international migration what is forgotten is the impact it has on education, health care and employment,” said Mehlman. “The benefits of migration are mostly received by the migrants themselves, and the direct employers who gain a larger workforce. But this has an enormous impact on American citizens working in the same trades. Their concerns need to be taken into account as well.”

He said his organization is not anti-immigration, but wants to reduce the overall level of legal immigrants entering the country to a national level of about 300,000 annually.

Catholic officials, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, have been key advocates for comprehensive immigration reform and are involved in a number of campaigns that educate citizens about the benefits of immigration and provide immigrants with services.

Cardinal Mahony has said he wants a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants but endorses deportation for those convicted of committing crimes and those who are members of gangs.

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Pope urges unions to adapt to growing global economy

WASHINGTON (CNS) — When Pope Benedict XVI released his third encyclical — “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) — he stressed that the voice of workers must be heard as heads of state, industry moguls, labor union leaders and environmentalists develop long-term solutions for the ailing global economy.

The pope’s encyclical — released in early July — re-emphasizes the Catholic Church’s continuing support of workers associations going back to Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, “Rerum Novarum,” in 1891, but it also challenges labor union leaders to adapt to a growing global economy to remain relevant.

According to John Carr, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the pope’s encyclical says a healthy economy depends on workers who earn a sustainable wage, receive reliable health benefits and have a safe environment in which to perform their jobs.

“Pope Benedict, like earlier popes, thinks labor unions are a big part of the solution,” Carr told Catholic News Service.

The encyclical encourages a strong voice for labor to balance the authority of management in the global economy — a give-and-take system expected to achieve long-term financial security.

Labor union president John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO applauded the pope’s support of labor unions in the encyclical, saying it offers an ethical critique of the global economic crisis.

Sweeney also said the encyclical proposes concrete elements for policies anchored in moral values that enhance the dignity of all, especially the poor and working people.

“The encyclical levels a strong critique at the forces of unfettered free-market capitalism and globalized greed,” he said.

Though “Charity in Truth” does support the workers movement, it’s far from being just a pro-labor document.
Stephen Schneck, director of the Life Cycle Institute at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said Pope Benedict calls on labor union leaders to address the needs of workers, industries and nations beyond the scope of their membership.

“That’s really a strong statement,” Schneck told CNS. “That’s calling on union members and union leaders to recognize that union interests aren’t what it’s all about. That they are part of a much broader enterprise, this idea of the common good and that unions need to be focusing and serving the common good — just as business interests, just as the state, just as all of the groups and individuals in society need to be focused on the common good.”

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