Archive for Economy

The Joy of the Gospel: Part I

Posted in Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

994635-130316-pope-francisPope Francis released his first individually authored document today titled Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel.” The text itself is rather daunting, weighing in at 224 pages (according to the Vatican edition; Reuters reported this morning that the online version is closer to 84 full-letter-size pages) and containing more-than two-hundred footnotes. However, an initial glance at the text, its contents, and its style reveals a document that deserves to be considered slowly, prayerfully, and with full attention. There is so much here that is both challenging and inspiring, clearly following the inspiration named in the title: the Gospel.

Among the themes that are included, Pope Francis addresses important, timely issues like “evangelization, peace, homiletics, social justice, the family, respect for creation, faith and politics, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and the role of women and of the laity in the Church” (for an overview, see the Vatican Radio article).

It is my intention to offer a commentary on the document here over the course of the next weeks and months by means of several installments. In the meantime take a look at some examples from the text. Each of these represents but the smallest sliver of what the Holy Father has to say about reading the “Signs of the times according to the Gospel” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 4).

On the subject of The Economy:

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers” (no. 53).

Also, on The Economy and Money, which echoes the wisdom and modus of Francis of Assisi:

One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption (no. 55).

On The Liberation of the Poor and Solidarity:

Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid. A mere glance at the Scriptures is enough to make us see how our gracious Father wants to hear the cry of the poor… (no. 187).

Solidarity is a spontaneous reaction by those who recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property. The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good; for this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them. These convictions and habits of solidarity, when they are put into practice, open the way to other structural transformations and make them possible. Changing structures without generating new convictions and attitudes will only ensure that those same structures will become, sooner or later, corrupt, oppressive and ineffectual (no. 189).

The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills (no. 202).

On Ecumenical Dialogue in which Pope Francis names leaders of other Christian churches:

Commitment to ecumenism responds to the prayer of the Lord Jesus that “they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). The credibility of the Christian message would be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions and the Church could realize “the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her”. We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another. This means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face (no. 244)…

In this perspective, ecumenism can be seen as a contribution to the unity of the human family. At the Synod, the presence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Rowan Williams, was a true gift from God and a precious Christian witness (no. 245).

On Interreligious Dialogue, especially with Judaism and Islam:

An attitude of openness in truth and in love must characterize the dialogue with the followers of non-Christian religions, in spite of various obstacles and difficulties, especially forms of fundamentalism on both sides. Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities. This dialogue is in first place a conversation about human existence or simply, as the bishops of India have put it, a matter of “being open to them, sharing their joys and sorrows”. In this way we learn to accept others and their different ways of living, thinking and speaking. We can then join one another in taking up the duty of serving justice and peace, which should become a basic principle of all our exchanges. A dialogue which seeks social peace and justice is in itself, beyond all merely practical considerations, an ethical commitment which brings about a new social situation. Efforts made in dealing with a specific theme can become a process in which, by mutual listening, both parts can be purified and enriched. These efforts, therefore, can also express love for truth (no. 250).

Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples. The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians (no. 248).

God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism (no. 249).

Our relationship with the followers of Islam has taken on great importance, since they are now significantly present in many traditionally Christian countries, where they can freely worship and become fully a part of society. We must never forget that they “profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, who will judge humanity on the last day”. The sacred writings of Islam have retained some Christian teachings; Jesus and Mary receive profound veneration and it is admirable to see how Muslims both young and old, men and women, make time for daily prayer and faithfully take part in religious services. Many of them also have a deep conviction that their life, in its entirety, is from God and for God. They also acknowledge the need to respond to God with an ethical commitment and with mercy towards those most in need (no. 252).

Photo: File

Saint Francis, Pope Francis, and The Gospel

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Pope Francis, Scripture, Social Justice with tags , , , , , , on September 22, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Italy Vatican Pope

I think it’s fair to say that today’s off-script remarks in Cagliari, Sardinia, represents one of the most “Franciscan” actions of his pontificate so far. Reuters reports:

Francis, at the start of a day-long trip to the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, put aside his prepared text at a meeting with unemployed workers, including miners in hard hats who told him of their situation, and improvised for nearly 20 minutes.

“I find suffering here … It weakens you and robs you of hope,” he said. “Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity.”

He discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago.

What makes this so Franciscan? Well, it has to do with the overlap of Pope Francis’s understanding about the Gospel notion of the dignity and value of the human person, his critique of current systems of economic degradation, and the Gospel readings for this Sunday.

Saint Francis’s preaching and way of life (i.e., his “deeds”) centered on a response to the emerging money economy of his medieval time. Already in the 13th Century Francis saw what has become so extreme today: the valuation of human persons — their time, their talents, their lives — in terms of wealth and money. He knew that this was not God’s intention, but something insidious that was capturing the imaginations and speaking to the greedy hearts of his contemporaries. If only he knew how bad things would get eight-hundred-years later!

Later in the day, Pope Francis spoke during Mass, echoing the prescient words of the medieval saint after whom the modern pontiff took his name:

“We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money.”

“The world has become an idolator of this god called money,” he said.

How timely this critique and call to action really is today! In all three of our readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary time we hear proclaimed the Wisdom of God in indicting and challenging ways.

The first reading, from the Book of the Prophet Amos — one of the twelve minor prophets in Hebrew Scriptures best known for scathing critique of social injustice — decries those in authority who exercise their power in such a way as the benefit at the expense of the least among the community.

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!
(Amos 8: 4-7)

The ancient prophet’s words really speak for themselves. They traverse the divide of time, space, and culture to strike at the ears and hearts of women and men in our day — but do we listen? Do we take this seriously?

The Second Reading from the First Letter to Timothy is significant for at least two reasons. First, prayers are requested for the conversion of the “kings and all in authority” so that they might prioritize prayer, tranquility, peace, and justice over their other preoccupations — presumably with power. Second, there is the affirmation that God desires “everyone be saved” and that Christ Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all.” This is striking especially for those who want to form an “elite” church and vision of salvation. That is not God’s plan, that is a human misrepresentation and distortion that reflects selfishness and exclusivity unknown in the Gospel.

Finally, today’s Gospel summarizes the major theme of the Christian life this weekend with the line: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Or, for those who aren’t familiar with that term, put more simply: You cannot serve both God and money!

How do we orient our lives? Do we prioritize our own wealth and live according to the norms of a capitalistic culture that values human beings according to dollar signs and the accumulation of material goods? Or do we, hearing the cry of the poor (Psalm 34) through the proclamation of the Gospel in the exhortation of Pope Francis and in the example of Saint Francis, live following in the footprints of Christ Jesus in working for a just world?

Photo: Wire

Reconsidering Our Ecclesiastical Priorities: Penance and Social Justice

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 14, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Reports out of the Fall USCCB assembly have been mixed, to say the least. News outlets and social-media sources have effectively reported on some of the more controversial statements, discussions, proposed texts, and documents to be the subject of consideration in Baltimore in recent days. To be fair, not everything has been negative. Take, for example, the USCCB’s interest in social media and internet presence of the church. On Sunday the USCCB hosted a gathering of significant Catholic bloggers that allowed for the bishops and those who were providing online content in a variety of forms to interact. The event included a panel discussion with clergy and laity who are actively engaged with social media today. The reports about this event from colleagues has been generally positive (by way of full disclosure, I was invited by the secretary for communications to participate in this event, but had to decline due to pastoral ministry obligations).

However positive the initial steps to explore social media and internet presence as modes of evangelization might have been, the news chatter has been preoccupied with some more disconcerting reports. The first was related to Cardinal Dolan’s presidential address in which he called for a more concrete sense of penance. Citing Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dolan asserted that the Second Vatican Council’s call for penance has, rather than being taken up wholeheartedly, seems to have diminished from sight. He said:

What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.

He rightfully challenges us as members of the Church, which is the Body of Christ, to be aware of the need for consistent penance and, as we recall at the start of every Eucharistic liturgy, to be mindful of “what we have done and what we have failed to do.” He continued:

And so it turns to us, my brothers. How will we make the Year of Faith a time to renew the Sacrament of Penance, in our own loves and in the lives of our beloved people whom we serve? Once again, we will later this week approach the Sacrament of Penance.

And we’ll have the opportunity during this meeting to approve a simple pastoral invitation to all our faithful to join us in renewing our appreciation for and use of the Sacrament. We will “Keep the Light On”during the upcoming Advent Season!
The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent. Our pastoral plan offers numerous resources for catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance, and the manifold graces that come to us from the frequent use of confession. Next June we will gather in a special assembly as brother bishops to pray and reflect on the mission entrusted to us by the Church, including our witness to personal conversion in Jesus Christ, and so to the New Evangelization.

For the most part, this is a welcomed attempt to draw our attention the perennial need we have to be aware of our own individual sinfulness. Yet, what is more absent than present is the admittance and call for continual awareness of our collective sinfulness.

Contrary to Francis of Assisi’s powerful expression that human beings are to be reconcilers and peacemakers (see Canticle of the Creatures) — and Francis is of course the paradigmatic model of Christian penitence — this exhortation for the faithful to abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year seems to miss the mark.

What the Cardinal does not seem to consider is the individualistic quality of such an act, one in which unity might be seen as ghettoized superficiality rather than an expression of genuine solidarity. My understanding of the lifting of the mandatory abstinence from meat throughout the year in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC) is rooted in this very fact. Instead of something as trivial as dietary abstinence, the faithful was simultaneously challenged and empowered to engage in more constructive, solidarity-building, and meaningful forms of good deeds and penance.

It’s hard to see how the reinstatement of meatless Fridays will effect the spirit of penance Dolan genuinely and legitimately sees as part of the spirit of Vatican II.

Furthermore, what makes this suggestion controversial is that, some have argued, it is not the “people in the pews” who are in most need of renewed emphasis on penance in their Christian lives — God knows (literally) how difficult it is to live authentic Christian discipleship today in light of the various pressures from all sides and conflicting narratives that both come from within and without the Church — BUT, there is a need for our ecclesiastical leaders, especially the bishops, to demonstrate their embrace of penance.

There are manifold ways in which we could offer a litany of the things our bishops have “done and have failed to do” in the last decades and in recent years. The model of the Archbishop of Dublin and our own Cardinal Séan O’Malley in the penitential act seeking forgiveness for the abuse cover-ups in Ireland some years back is a good start. Yet, the US bishops have failed to do something similar.

Then there is the controversial text that, thank God, was not approved this week (despite it still garnering a plurality of bishop support). The proposed statement, “The Hope of the Gospel in Difficult Economic Times: A pastoral message on work, poverty and the economy,” was a pathetic shadow of the true depth, richness, and challenge of Catholic Social Teaching. This was made most clear by the retired Archbishop (and former USCCB President) Joseph Fiorenza. According to an NCR article, Fiorenza publicly decried the draft text and noted that it “did not have a single reference, even in a footnote, to the bishops’ landmark 1986 pastoral letter, ‘Economic Justice for All,; which the bishops developed after years of consultation with economists and other experts. The letter addressed a full range of applications of Catholic social teaching to economic policy and practice in the United States.” The article continued:

“I am very disappointed, and I fear that this draft, if not changed in a major way,” will harm the U.S. bishops’ record on Catholic social teaching, he said.

“The title of this document is about work, and it seems you only gave one sentence to our social teaching … on the right of workers to unionize,” he said.

“One sentence,” he added. “It’s almost like it was an afterthought. But when you look at the compendium of the social teachings of the church, there are three long paragraphs on the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike.”

Those kinds of rights are “at the heart of our social teaching” on the rights and dignity of workers, he said.

Indeed this is most troubling. That the bishops would even consider a text containing such an oversight bespeaks some serious problems. On the one hand, it might be symbolic of the shift in the US episcopacy toward a political engagement with so-called “conservative” views that have been extraordinarily hostile to organized labor and the rights of workers in recent years. On the other hand, it might be symbolic of the general ignorance of the USCCB’s textual history and Catholic Social Teaching more broadly on the part of recently appointed bishops in recent years and decades.

That 134 bishops would still vote to pass such a text is halting. (The text failed to gain the necessary votes even with 134 yes; 84 no, and 9 abstentions).

The NCR piece continued:

“Why don’t we address [in the proposed statement] the growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots, beginning with Paul VI in Populorum Progressio [his 1967 encyclical letter, “On the Progress of Peoples“] and John Paul II, Benedict XVI: They speak about the growing gap between the haves and have-nots and the right to a redistribution — redistribution has become a dirty word, yet the [recent popes] have said that this must take place,” he said.

“There’s not a word about this” in the proposed new statement on the economy, he said.

“I fear that this will not be an effective instrument” for the bishops to address the current woes in the U.S. economy or the people suffering from those problems, Fiorenza said.

What is striking, and fearsome at the same time, is that the most vocal critics of this new direction are the retired bishops. Where are the current bishops who should know better? When the retired auxiliary bishop of Hartford, Peter Rosazza, asked the chair of the drafting committee whether an economist had been consulted — the disturbing answer was that none had! How did these bishops responsible for drafting a document on the economy propose to do so without consultation of economists, ethicists, and theologians?

These two issues to come out of the Fall USCCB meeting are indeed troubling, but we must not get too carried away with concern just yet. What this signals to me is the need for the Church in the United States to collectively and genuinely reconsider its priorities. What is important? What are the signs of the time? and How do we read these signs in light of the Gospel?

Photo: CNS/Pool

New Vatican Document on Economy Released (Updated)

Posted in Social Justice, The Papal Watcher, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

While the text is not yet available online [UPDATE: Link to full text!], news reports outline the new text titled, “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority,” drafted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Here is a brief overview published by Catholic News Service this morning.  For more information, see the links below.

VATICAN CITY — 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 16-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.

The document also proposed:

– Taxation measures on financial transactions. Revenues could contribute to the creation of a “world reserve fund” to support the economies of countries his by crisis, it said.

– Forms of recapitalization of banks with public funds that make support conditional on “virtuous” behavior aimed at developing the real economy.

– More effective management of financial “shadow markets” that are largely uncontrolled today.

Such moves would be designed to make the global economy more responsive to the needs of the person, and less “subordinated to the interests of countries that effectively enjoy a position of economic and financial advantage,” it said.

In making the case for a global authority, the document said the continued model of nationalistic self-interest seemed “anachronistic and surreal” in the age of globalization.

“We should not be afraid to propose new ideas, even if they might destabilize pre-existing balances of power that prevail over the weakest,” it said.

The “new world dynamics,” it said, call for a “gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation’s powers to a world authority and to regional authorities.”

“In a world on its way to rapid globalization, the reference to a world authority becomes the only horizon compatible with the new realities of our time and the needs of humankind,” it said. Helping to usher in this new society is a duty for everyone, especially for Christians, it said.

Additional Reports about new Vatican document.

UPDATE: Link to full text.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 764 other followers

%d bloggers like this: