Vatican Speaks on Social Justice
Recent reports from the Vatican
From time to time we'll give you brief reports of the statements and actions of the Vatican as it looks out at our troubled world. The Catholic social thought expressed is the moving force of the activities of the parish Human Concerns Committee.
By John Thavis
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican document called for the gradual creation of a world political authority with broad powers to regulate financial markets and rein in the “inequalities and distortions of capitalist development.”
The document said the current global financial crisis has revealed “selfishness, collective greed and the hoarding of goods on a great scale.” A supranational authority, it said, is needed to place the common good at the center of international economic activity. The 41-page text was titled, “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.”
Prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it was released Oct. 24 in several languages, including a provisional translation in English. The document cited the teachings of popes over the last 40 years on the need for a universal public authority that would transcend national interests. The current economic crisis, which has seen growing inequality between the rich and poor of the world, underlines the necessity to take concrete steps toward creating such an authority, it said.
One major step, it said, should be reform of the international monetary system in a way that involves developing countries. The document foresaw creation of a “central world bank” that would regulate the flow of monetary exchanges; it said the International Monetary Fund had lost the ability to control the amount of credit risk taken on by the system.
Military Funds Better Used to Serve World's Poor
On October 11 the Pope's spokesman, Archbishop Chullikatt, told a disarmament committee of the United Nations that worldwide military expenditures in 2009 were up 6%. Between 2000 and 2009 they rose 49%. This money might have been better spent in promoting human development, reducing poverty and reversing the international recession. He reminded the members that the language of the United Nations Charter bases "security and peace not upon a balance of fear but upon full respect for the rights and fundamental liberties of individuals and peoples."
Among the human needs crying for relief:
1. A continuous state of undernourishment in 22 nations, including Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan.
2. International pledges to assist Haitian earthquake victims are late and less than pledged. The U.S. pledge has been delayed by the "hold" of an anonymous Senator.
3. A steep rise in global food prices has caused riots in cities across Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.]
Archbishop Chullikatt lamented that military expenditures were up 6% in 2009, and that from 2000 to 2009 they rose and "astonishing" 49%. He reflected that these figures go against what is stated in the United Nations Charter, which seeks to "ground security and peace not upon a balance of fear but upon the full respect for the rights and the fundamental liberties of individuals and peoples."
"Money used for military endeavors could be used to help the world's poor and to promote authentic human development, affirms the Holy See."
Walt Lundin, Parish Human Concerns Committee, October 2010
Cluster Bombs Are Never Acceptable
In an address published by the Vatican on January 29, 2008, Archbishop Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the U.N. offices in Geneva, stated that both military and financial excuses to defend the use of cluster bombs are unacceptable. He explained that prohibiting arms such as cluster bombs, which can leave behind deadly unexploded "bomblets," in a good faith negotiation with international organizations has never placed states' national security in danger. Rather, there is a greater danger of "over-armament" and trust only in arms for security. He added that development, trust, and creating conditions for a dignified life are what make security possible.
Carol Schaffer, Parish Human Concerns Committee, February 2008
Planet Is Everyone's Responsibility
Archbishop Notes Pontiff's Efforts on Behalf of Environment
NEW YORK, FEB. 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).
Benedict XVI's personal commitment to safeguarding the planet, shown in part by his numerous public appeals, has inspired a change in lifestyles in favor of the environment, the Holy See noted.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, affirmed this Wednesday during the 62nd session of the U.N. General Assembly titled "Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work."
"The ongoing debate on climate change has helped put into focus the inescapable responsibility of one and all to care for the environment, thereby building consensus around the common objective of promoting a healthy environment for present and future generations," he noted.
In this effort, he affirmed, "the Holy See assures of its collaboration."
"In particular, Archbishop Migliore noted the work done personally by the Holy Father."
"The personal commitment and numerous public appeals of Pope Benedict XVI have generated awareness campaigns for a renewed sense of respect for and the need to safeguard God's creation," he stated. "Individuals and communities have started to change their lifestyles, aware that personal and collective behavior impacts climate and the overall health of the environment."
"While such lifestyle changes at times may seem irrelevant, every small initiative to reduce or offset one's carbon footprint, be it the avoidance of the unnecessary use of transport or the daily effort to reduce energy consumption, contributes to mitigating environmental decay and concretely shows commitment to environmental care."
"The prelate also noted the Holy See's practical steps to participate in safeguarding the environment. He mentioned the solar panels scheduled to be installed at Vatican City State. One project will be finished this year and will provide all the energy needed for Paul VI hall. Surplus will be used at other locations."
And the archbishop noted participation in a tree planting project in Hungary, which will "will provide environmental benefits to the host country, assist in the recovery of an environmentally degraded tract of land, and provide local jobs."
"Archbishop Migliore highlighted the shared responsibility of individuals and nations in protecting the planet."
"It is incumbent upon every individual and nation to seriously assume one's share of the responsibility to find and implement the most balanced approach possible to this challenge," he said. "Sustainable development provides the key to a strategy that harmoniously takes into account the demands of environmental preservation, climate change, economic development and basic human needs."
Clean and green
The Holy See representative encouraged the use of "clean technologies," saying they are an "important component of sustainable development."
"And he recommended that developing countries be helped to learn from the mistakes made by their highly-industrialized counterparts."
"The pooling of resources makes initiatives of mitigation and adaptation economically accessible to most, thus assisting those less equipped to pursue development while safeguarding the environment," he said.
Archbishop Migliore further urged that markets patronize "green economies" and not to "sustain demand for goods whose very production causes environmental degradation."
"Consumers must be aware that their consumption patterns have direct impact on the health of the environment," he stated. "Thus through interdependence, solidarity and accountability, individuals and nations together will be more able to balance the needs of sustainable development with those of good stewardship at every level."
"Indeed, the challenge of climate change is at once individual, local, national and global. Accordingly, it urges a multilevel coordinated response, with mitigation and adaptation programs simultaneously individual, local, national and global in their vision and scope."
Workers' Rights Need Protecting
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer at the U.N. offices in Geneva, asserted that all trade agreements should include concrete, universal support for rights of workers and that social goals cannot be excluded in a world where wealth is increasing but is not equitably distributed.
The Archbishop went on to explain that with an estimated 195 million men and women unable to find work last year and 1.4 billion people holding jobs that did not pay enough to lift them above the $2 a day poverty line, the responsibility of the international community and of governments is to bring about an enabling economic environment and the availability of decent work. Archbishop Tomasi highlighted the special importance of education as a tool to fight poverty and also called for a simpler lifestyle and a more fair and impartial sharing of the resources of the planet. "It is not possible to continue using the wealth of the poorest countries with impunity, without them also being able to participate in world growth," he said, echoing Benedict XVI.
Carol Schaffer, Parish Human Concerns Committee, August 2007
Vatican Address on Eradication of Poverty
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican permanent observer to the U.N. Geneva, addressed its Economic and Social Council on July 4. His subject was the fact that, although there are many benefits and much wealth flowing from free trade, developing countries are still unable to get out of poverty despite sustained international programs to do just that. [The number of people living on less that $2 a day has risen to 1.3 billion.]
He said the mechanisms that produce wealth are out of kilter with the mechanisms that distribute wealth and goods. Perhaps, he thought, more non-governmental organizations [NGOs], including faith-based ones, should be running programs very specifically aimed at quickly changing the lives of individuals and families. Archbishop Tomasi hinted that Big Government programs were less efficient, more costly and a temptation for each layer of bureaucracy to skim a little off the top. ("Although it is very difficult to condition foreign aid on such factors as corruption and democracy . . . nevertheless . . . aid flows are based primarily on voluntary efforts by people in donor countries. Such trust could be destroyed by repeated misuse of aid flows by corrupt governments in receiving countries.")
Among the recommendations the archbishop made:
1. More investment in education, so that the workforce can be qualified for better-paying jobs.
2. a. Transnational corporations, particularly, should pair with in-country partners. Also, they should facilitate the transfer of technology, develop local management skills and responsibility, and increase local hires. b. Investors in short-term commercial ventures and raw material extractive industries [love 'em and leave 'em] have a responsibility to support long-term development.
3. Governments in developing countries must work to form a nation of laws, stable and equitable tax policies, assured property rights and an infrastructure allowing access to regional and global markets.
4. Shift more investments to increase "social capital" (supportive services, such as health and education) from weapons purchases. [He said military expenditures of $1.48 billion annually are far higher than investments in human development.]
The archbishop, in conclusion, said that while governments in poorer countries have a responsibility to provide good governance and internal programs to eliminate poverty, "the active involvement of international partners is indispensable . . . . It is a grave and unconditional moral responsibility."
Walt Lundin, Parish Human Concerns Committee, August 2007
Vatican Address to U.N. Human Rights Council
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican permanent observer at the U.N. in Geneva, addressed the fifth session (in its two-year existence) of its Human Rights Council.
[News reports indicated that little of substance was achieved although much was said.] The archbishop diplomatically remarked, "The consensus reached . . . is a starting point to move ahead and remedy the deficiencies that excessive compromise may have brought about at the expense of a more determined and effective support and promotion of human rights for all men and women, even in remote or silenced regions of the world.
"A globalization of human rights should match the globalization of the economy, of commuications, of the movement of people. The priority of the rights of the human person takes precedence over narrow political considerations and immediate advantages that may accrue by tolerating the violation of these rights."
Walt Lundin, Parish Human Concerns Committee, August 2007
Vatican's Position on the Death Penalty
At the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Paris on Feb 1-3 the Vatican said, "The use of the death penalty is not only a denial of the right to life but also an affront to the human dignity shared by all humankind." The Vatican continues to maintain that legitimate state authorities have an obligation to protect society from aggressors, but there are more effective nonlethal means of deterrence and punishment that are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Capital punishment incurs a number of risks: danger of punishing the innocent, tendency to promote a violent form of revenge rather than justice, an offense against the inviolability of human life, and for Christians, contempt for the Gospel teaching on forgiveness.
Mary Fong, Parish Human Concerns Committee, March 2007
Pope's Comments About AIDS
Just before the observance of World AIDS Day on December 1, Pope Benedict XVI expressed a hope that the event will bring more efforts for a cure and an end to discrimination against those infected. He prayed for "the Lord's consolation on the sick and their families."
A related news release revealed:
1. A recent UN/WHO AIDS Update estimated 39.5 million people live with HIV.
2. This year there were 4.3 million new infections, of which 65% were in sub-Saharan Africa.
3. Rates in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have risen sharply since 2004.
4. About 2.9 million people will have died of AIDS-related illnesses this year.
Walt Lundin, Parish Human Concerns Committee, December 2006
Pope's Address to Foreign Diplomats in Ankara
Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the assembled diplomatic corps accredited to Turkey. He said justice is needed if economic imbalances and political strife and violence are to be eased. He asked for respect and effective support for international institutions. These institutions, he suggested, could set about encouraging dialogue between parties in conflict. Where there are armed opposing belligerents, he encouraged buffer zones of peacekeepers.
Walt Lundin, Parish Human Concerns Committee, December 2006
The Social Gospel According to Benedict
by Jill Rauh from Center Focus, Issue 171/September 2006
Since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in April of last year, his statements and speeches have revealed a previously unnoticed and surprising emphasis on issues of social and economic justice. The following are some social themes that have arisen in Benedict's writings and speeches since his election:
Catholics have a duty to participate in public life and help transform unjust structures.
In his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), Benedict identified participation in the transformation of structures and institutions as an important responsibility of the lay faithful. "The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society," he wrote, "is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquish their participation 'in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good.' The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly (#29)."
Progress and development must be people-centered. Underdevelopment is a "scandal".
"True global development," Benedict wrote in his message to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, must "define the true causes of poverty and to provide concrete answers, with an appropriate formation of persons and communities as a priority." The impact of development must be judged according to how the human person is impacted, he affirmed: "Technical progress will not be really effective unless it finds its place in a wider perspective, where man occupies the center. . ."
Furthermore, underdevelopment is an offense against what it means to be human. "It is quite impossible," Benedict wrote, "to separate the response to people's material and social needs from the fulfillment of the profound desires of their hearts." He then quoted a former Pope: "My venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, accurately described the scandal of underdevelopment as an outrage against humanity," Benedict said. "In this sense, in the Encyclical 'Populorum Progressio,' he denounced 'the lack of material necessities and 'oppressive social structures, whether due to the abuses of ownership or to the abuses of power, to the exploitation of workers or to unjust transactions'."
The violence of war "disfigures humanity."
In an address to ambassadors, Benedict appealed to "leaders of nations and to all people of good will to cooperate in order to put an end to the violence that disfigures humanity and jeopardizes the growth of peoples and the hopes of numerous populations." He noted, "[T]he principal victims of war are always the people whose lives are so badly disrupted by violence and destruction." To Benedict, the "distressing images of huge camps throughout the world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire need" are particularly close to his heart. He asked, "Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters?" In response to such tragedy, Benedict called for the international community to "overcome with courage and generosity, the obstacles still standing in the way of effective, humane solutions" to conflict. He also called for the world to "strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament" so that nations' resources that "would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor."
Benedict Speaks on a Variety of Other Issues.
In his address on migrants, Benedict proclaimed that "believers are called to open their arms and their hearts to every person, from whatever nation they come." On Darfur, he called for "a stronger international resolve to ensure security and basic human rights. For World AIDS Day, Benedict called attention to the UN's effort to "invite the International Community to a renewed commitment in the work of prevention and supportive assistance to those afflicted." Prior to a certain recent contentious quote on Islam, Benedict made many other statements in his papacy affirming mutual respect between religions and expressing a desire to "weave an open and sincere dialogue with them." On globalization, he called for a commitment to "building a free, brotherly and supportive world, where attention to people takes precedence over mere economic aspects." Reacting to the July 2005 London bombings, Benedict emphasized, "There is no clash of civilizations, but small groups of fanatics . . . [T]he dialogue between religions which have Abraham as a Father is important." Most recently, on the Israel-Lebanon conflict, Benedict urged both parties "to adopt a cease-fire immediately and allow humanitarian aid to be sent, so that, with the support of the international community, ways will be found to begin negotiations." He also spoke words of sympathy for "the unarmed civilian populations, unjustly struck by this conflict in which they are merely victims."
God chooses to stand on the side of the poor - and so should we.
A common thread woven through all of these statements and messages is concern for the most vulnerable in society. In his commentary on Psalm 137, Benedict exhibited a profound sense of the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable which informs so much of Catholic social thought on situations and events in the world. "God chooses," Benedict said, "to be with the weak, with victims, with the last: This is made known to all kings, so that they will know what their options should be in the governance of nations. Of course, he does not just say it to kings and to all governments, but to all of us, as we also must know which option we must choose: to be on the side of the humble, the last, the poor and the weak." This is a powerful statement--even a challenge--to leaders and citizens who might be more inclined to side with the status quo.
U.S. media has publicized Benedict's stances on many other issues that are more well-known among Catholics. This is another topic for another day. Today we recognize important words that have been said about issues which are largely neglected-but which should not and cannot be neglected by the Church. As individuals, we are called to embrace these statements and, holding high Pope Benedict's words, invite our fellow Catholics to join us in the struggle for justice.
For more of Pope Benedict XVI's quotes on social justice and the most current commentary on social issues from a Catholic Social Teaching perspective, visit the Education for Justice website (www.educationforjustice.org).
Jill Rauh is Senior Project Associate for Education for Justice.
This article is excerpted from the Center of Concern site: http://www.coc.org/bin/view.fpl/1090/article/10513.html
Vatican On Human Rights
On June 20, 2006, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican Secretary of State, addressed the new U.N. Human Rights Council. He urged it to make human rights more than a theory: to "close the breach between . . . enunciation of the system of human rights and the reality of their application in the different parts of the world."
His concerns: 1) Imposition of birth control. 2) Denial of the right to life. 3) Attempts to control consciences. (repression of religions.) 4) Denial of access to public justice. 5) Denial of the right to self-defense. 6) Repression of political dissidents. 7) Degrading working conditions. 8) Discrimination against women.
Archbishop Lajolo, in the name of the Holy See, said the right to life was primary and paramount. He urged developed nations to recognize that respect for human rights, including those of immigrants, is not antithetical to the common good or the preservation of cultural values.
For developing nations he asserted that respect for human rights will advance economic development and promote justice and social equality.
Vatican on Nuclear Disarmament
The International Atomic Energy Agency met in Vienna in September. A Vatican representative addressed the agency on Sept. 18.
He said the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is the only legal means to try to get rid of nuclear weapons. Don't weaken it. He reminded the audience of Pope Benedict's statement on the 2006 World Day of Peace in which he asserted that "nuclear arms do not ensure the security of a country . . . This point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious." In a nuclear war "there would be no victors, only victims."
The Pope's representative urged diplomacy in dealing with Iran. [North Korea was not mentioned.]
Vatican On Arms Trade
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's permanent observer to the U.N., spoke in October to a committee working on disarmament and international security. There had been a U.N. Small Arms Review conference in July - it closed without agreement. The archbishop said that debates on weapons were undertaken "in abstract concerns from preconceived positions." Let's move from the abstract to the human dimension, he suggested, and perhaps then we can get an Arms Trade Treaty.
Weapons "kill and maim tens of thousands, spark refugee crises, undermine the rule of law and spawn a culture of violence and impunity." He said they had deep impact on children. Some statistics he cited: There are about 27,000 nuclear weapons. . . . For the second year in a row world military expenditures were over $1 trillion. . . . There is no agreement to control the arms trade of $4 billion annually.
He concluded, "Military force does not bring the expected improvement for the common good. Recent wars have unleashed forces that still corrode civilizations and the consequent human suffering is inexcusable in an age that possesses the mechanisms for mediation, peacemaking and peacekeeping."
On April 5, 2006 the Vatican's nuncio and observer at the U.N. addressed the 39th session of the Commission on Population and Development of the Economic and Social Council. In a lengthy statement Archbishop Celestino Migliore recalled how the Commission's mandate had shifted. In the past there had been dismal fears about the projected global population increases and the globe's ability to sustain that increase. Now, after the "radical population policies" then adopted, we find the world facing the dilemmas of falling birthrates (in aging developed nations) and imbalances between women and men in the population. The nuncio urged that future policies be truly "people-centered" if they are to be both sustainable and rational. He asserted that viewing migration as a threat and a handy topic for political advantage weakened the attainment of human rights "to life, to citizenship, to work and to development." This weakening affects more than just the 191 million people now recognized as migrants.
Archbishop Migliore considers the economic impact of international migration to be "generally positive," although he concedes there may be small regional (rather than national) short-term adverse effects on low-pay wages and on unemployment. Over a longer period, however, he sees job growth and a net fiscal gain. He foresees that the "brain drain" from developing countries will be detrimental unless emigres maintain their ties to their native countries.
By 2030, the archbishop said, migration may account for ALL [emphasis added] population growth in developed (aging) countries. He suggested more study of the positive and negative effects of large scale migrations on both receiving and sending countries.
In conclusion, he urged world leaders to take measures to insure "respect for and protection of the human rights of migrants, migrant workers and members of their families . . ."
Holy Land Violence
On June 14 the director of the Vatican press office reported that Pope Benedict XVI was troubled and grieved at the continuing violence. The Pope prayed in sympathy for all affected by it and deplored "the illusion of being able to resolve . . . problems through force or in a unilateral way." He specifically urged Hamas and the Abbas ministry to negotiate their differences.
On June 14 Hans Blix, former U.N. nuclear arms official, gave Pope Benedict XVI a report about the spread of mass destruction armaments - ("weapons of terror", he called them). In his remarks Blix said the Pope's "moral authority is recognized by the whole world."
Blix's report had been given to U.N. Secretary--General Kofi Annan on June 1. Copies were also sent to the U.N. Islamic Conference Organization and to the World Council of Churches.
Pope Benedict XVI in an address in St. Peter's Square on June 16 (two days before the U.N. World Refugee Day), urged the international community to heed the plight of refugees from violence in their own countries. He wished "that the rights of these people will always be respected."
(The 2005 report of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights shows a reduction to 8.4 million refugees from 9.5 million in 2004. However, the number of refugees from violence within their own countries [Darfur, e.g.] rose to 6.6 million in 16 countries, up from 5.4 million in 13 countries in 2004.)