Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Ten Challenges for American Catholics Implicit In Pope's New Encyclical

Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, “Love in Truth,” like all Papal encyclicals, is not country-specific in the issues that it raises. Nor is it addressed only to Catholics. Rather, the Pope’s analysis deals with the “challenges of today’s world.” Nevertheless, many of those challenges ought to be of special concern to American Catholics, both as office-holders and as ordinary citizens of the world’s leading power.

Here is my partial list of such challenges, 10 of them, selected from among those that fall within the province of this Weblog, Human Rights for Workers. The quotes, italics included, are directly from the Vatican text.


“The processes of globalization, suitably understood and directed, open up the unprecedented possibility of large-scale redistribution of wealth on a world-wide scale; if badly directed, however, they can lead to an increase in poverty and inequality, and could even lead to a global crisis. It is necessary to correct its malfunctions, some of them serious, that cause new divisions between peoples and within peoples, and also to ensure that the redistribution of wealth does not come about through the redistribution or increase of poverty…”


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.”


“Unemployment today provokes new forms of economic marginalization, and the current crisis can only make that situation worse. Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded is man, the human person in his or her integrity.”

Role of government

“The integrated economy of the present day does not make the role of States redundant, but rather it commits governments to greater collaboration with one another. Both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State. In terms of the resolution of the present crisis, the State’s role seems destined to grow, as it regains many of its competences.”


“Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task in representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Chuch’s social doctrine…for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past.”

The Market and Ethics

“Efforts are needed – and it is essential to say this – not only to create ‘ethical’ sectors or segments of the economy or the world of finance, but to ensure that the whole economy – the whole of finance – is ethical, not merely by virtue of an external label, but by its respect for requirements intrinsic to its very nature.

Rights and Duties

“Many people today would claim that they owe nothing to anyone, except themselves. They are concerned only with their rights, and they often have great difficulty in taking responsibility for their own and other people’s integral development. Hence, it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not lo become mere license.”

Intellectual property protection

“On the part of rich countries there is an excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to protect intellectual property, especially in the field of health care.”

Investor responsibility

“Both the regulation of the financial sector, so as to safeguard weaker parties and discourage scandalous speculation, and the experimentation with new forms of finance, designed to support development projects, are positive experiences that should be further explored and encouraged, highlighting the responsibility of the investor.”

The Environment

“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, toward future generations, and toward humanity as a whole.”
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To repeat: that’s my list of 10. There certainly are other challenges that demand attention, but 10 is a nice round number, and for a blog this posting is already overly long.

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