Pope Bummed About Failure at Copenhagen

PopecropThe Pope gave a talk on 11 January 2010 to the Vatican diplomatic corps in which he expressed how bummed out he was about the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference.

Of course, being the Pope, he says it all in a much more elevated language and puts it all in its broader moral framework. Below are some of the more significant pull quotes:

In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I invited everyone to look to the deeper causes of this situation: in the last analysis, they are to be found in a current self-centred and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature. Today I would like to stress that the same way of thinking also endangers creation. …

The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation. It follows that the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, in as much as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God. …

If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown. As Saint Thomas Aquinas has taught, man represents all that is most noble in the universe (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 29, a. 3). Furthermore, as I noted during the recent FAO World Summit on Food Security, “the world has enough food for all its inhabitants” (Address of 16 November 2009, No. 2) provided that selfishness does not lead some to hoard the goods which are intended for all. …

How can we forget, for that matter, that the struggle for access to natural resources is one of the causes of a number of conflicts, not least in Africa, as well as a continuing threat elsewhere? For this reason too, I forcefully repeat that to cultivate peace, one must protect creation! Furthermore, there are still large areas, for example in Afghanistan or in some countries of Latin America, where agriculture is unfortunately still linked to the production of narcotics, and is a not insignificant source of employment and income. If we want peace, we need to preserve creation by rechanneling these activities; I once more urge the international community not to become resigned to the drug trade and the grave moral and social problems which it creates. …

Among the many challenges which it presents, one of the most serious is increased military spending and the cost of maintaining and developing nuclear arsenals. Enormous resources are being consumed for these purposes, when they could be spent on the development of peoples, especially those who are poorest. …

On this solemn occasion, I would like to renew the appeal which I made during the Angelus prayer of 1 January last to all those belonging to armed groups, of whatever kind, to abandon the path of violence and to open their hearts to the joy of peace. …

The grave acts of violence to which I have just alluded, combined with the scourges of poverty, hunger, natural disasters and the destruction of the environment, have helped to swell the ranks of those who migrate from their native land. Given the extent of this exodus, I wish to exhort the various civil authorities to carry on their work with justice, solidarity and foresight. …

It is clear that if relativism is considered an essential element of democracy, one risks viewing secularity solely in the sense of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion. But such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle approaches other than its own, finishes in a dead end. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility. …

Read the whole thing here.

A Love Letter From the Pope

charity-in-truthIn July, Pope Benedict wrote you a love letter. Like all love letters, it’s worth savoring.

I say he wrote it to you because Charity in Truth, his third encyclical, isn’t just for Catholics. It’s addressed to “all people of good will.”

I call it a love letter because the opening word is caritas—love. And because any social change worth its salt must spring from love and pursue love as its ultimate goal.

The media says this encyclical is about globalization, international development, transnational governance, and the financial crisis. It’s about all those things. It’s also about fostering sensitivity to life, healthy sexuality, human ecology, and the way technology reveals our human aspirations. But its bookends are love.

If you’ve watched your 401(k) plummet in the last two years or sweated to make your mortgage payment, then there is something in Charity in Truth for you. If you wonder what good it does to dump billions of dollars in aid money to developing countries while we’ve got 9.7 percent unemployment at home, there’s something for you. If you want to know why labor unions are important and why they have to change, or why families are the building blocks of society, or why happiness is sometimes confused with material prosperity, pick it up. The pope is writing you a love letter because his heart breaks at the burdens you carry. He wants your life and struggles to have meaning.

Charity in Truth is about the relationship of economies to human dignity. “Grave imbalances are produced,” the pope writes, “when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.” The marketplace, he says, cannot become a sphere where the strong subdue the weak. In fact, it must be a yeasty mix of the fair exchange of goods and services, judicious redistribution of wealth in service of social justice, and an unexpected dash of profligate generosity. In this kind of economy, businesses that are solely responsible to their investors have limited social value and should be in the minority.

You’ll find mention of the fair trade movement, microfinance and microcredit, the sins of predatory lending and speculative finance, the temptation of aid agencies toward poverty pimping (my language, not his), the “grammar of nature” that teaches us how not to exploit our environment, and a proposal for a “worldwide redistribution of energy resources.”

Some commentators wrongly portray the pope as promoting “one world government.” Don’t be fooled. Christian Zionists have been raising this specter for years as a way to demonize Catholics and Jews. I clarify this to keep focused on the actual point: Trickle-down economics within nation-states is dead. If we are going to direct capital markets toward a global common good, then reform of international financial institutions is mandatory.

You don’t have to agree with what the pope writes. There are sections that will genuinely irk political conservatives and liberals. But Charity in Truth prompts the right questions and opens up a conversation that American Christians, in particular, need to have. We’ve been deadlocked so long in a Religious Right-Secular Left battle that it has warped our brains. This fight has deprived us of a culture that fosters self-knowledge, teaches ethics and values as tools for making personal, professional, and political decisions, and nurtures interiority, soul-making, and reflection.

Charity in Truth is a love letter reminding us that openness to God opens us to one another. Our lives are made for joy and our work for fulfillment and shared satisfaction.

Rose Marie Berger, a Sojourners associate editor, is a Catholic peace activist and poet. This column first appeared in the Sept-Oct 2009 issue of Sojourners magazine.