“Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”, Pope Francis says. “Where, then, should a healthy economic policy begin? What are the necessary pillars for public administration? The answer is precise: the dignity of the human person and the common good. Unfortunately, however, these two pillars, that ought to structure economic policy, often seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for integral development. … Please, be courageous and do not be afraid, in political and economic projects, to allow yourselves to be influenced by a broader meaning of life as this will help you to truly serve the common good and will give you strength in ‘striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all’”.–Pope Francis to business leaders focused on “Feeding Our Planet – Energy for Life” on Feb. 7, 2015
In 2010, Dom Erwin Kräutler, Catholic bishop of Xingu, Brazil, received the Right Livelihood Award for his work for the human and environmental rights of indigenous peoples and his efforts to save the Amazon forest. He has been a leading opponent of the controversial Belo Monte dam in his diocese — and warns of the connection between unchecked “development” and global warming. This excerpt is part of a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in US Catholic magazine.
When Pope Paul VI in his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio surprised the world with his slogan “Development is the new name for peace,” he wasn’t thinking of the kind of economic growth at all cost that allows a few oligarchies and business people to get filthy rich while intentionally excluding most people and plunging many into poverty. Pope Paul called on all the people of the world to promote development that is based on justice and solidarity.
The definition of development is key. When the free market is seen as the engine of progress and the measure of all things, earth, water, air, and fire will be commodified and subordinated to the rules and powers of the market, multinational companies, and international trade.
But when life in human dignity is the goal and meaning of all development, then development will be geared toward the survival and well-being of all people, including the generations that are coming after us.
The unrelenting pursuit of increasing exports, trade surpluses, and economic growth that exploits the human family and its environment has become a dangerous dead end.
A change in the direction of our thinking and actions is urgent. What is needed is development that is oriented toward the protection and promotion of life and human capacities; toward education, health, security, housing in dignity; and toward environmentally responsible agriculture, stewardship of our water resources, and careful protection of biodiversity.
Averting climate change and saving our planet will require both a change in consciousness and concrete measures that hold all people and countries of the world accountable.–Dom Erwin Kräutler, Catholic bishop of Xingu, Brazil
Read Dom Erwin Kräutler’s whole article here.
My buddy Mari Castellanos’ commentary A Supreme Case for the Court is a good preparation for the Supreme Court hearings on the racist anti-immigrant laws in Arizona.
I call the laws “racist” and “anti-immigrant” because they are. But there are legitimate questions that need to be raised about overhauling our immigration system so that it responds humanely to new needs and the massive migrations that are happening around the world. The current spate of “anti-immigrant” laws are rooted in views of “scarcity of resources” and histories of white supremacy.
How can the church model a way of approaching these issues rooted in human dignity and a love that drives out fear? Read Mari’s whole post, and below is an excerpt:
On Monday April 23rd, the Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments in a landmark case, State of Arizona v. United States, which challenges the authority of a state to enact its own immigration enforcement laws instead of following federal regulations. On the surface, this case is about a state usurping a federal power. Underneath the surface it is about a lot more.
At the heart of the Arizona legislation are some dangerous provisions that we had hoped to be done with in this country—at least legally, if not in practice as many of us know. A key provision requires any law enforcement officer to verify the immigration status of every person stopped or detained, regardless of how trivial the infraction, if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person may be in the country illegally (Section 2B). Reasonable suspicion, one can just as reasonably assume, may be triggered by dark skin, short stature, or poor English language skills. If a person fails to yield the right of way, she or he can be assumed to be an illegal alien and arrested, if the person has no identification other than a driver’s license. Under similar circumstances, most people would receive merely a citation. Persons who “look Latina/o” and have no immigration papers will go to jail. It is also a crime, under Arizona law, for people who fail to carry their “alien registration document” (Section 5C). One could be justified in thinking that Arizona has legalized racial profiling. Similar, if not more insidious laws have been enacted by other states, such as Utah, Alabama and South Carolina. ….–Mari Castellanos, United Church of Christ
Read the rest here.
Torture is an assault on human dignity — both the dignity of the victim and the inflicter. While the Obama administration has worked hard to try to reverse the abhorrent policies of the Bush administration on torture, there’s still a long way to go. The Guantanamo detention camp is still functioning. The “black sites” are still hidden and functioning around the world under shadowy CIA-leadership. Rogue dictators and militias still brutalize the innocent. In other words, the insidious underside of human sin is still dismembering people and their families in hidden cells around the world.
Richard Killmer, former head of the National Council of Churches, was profiled in the digital edition of U.S. News and World Report this week. Killmer now heads up the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a leading coalition of faith groups in the U.S. trying to dismantle the torture policies. Killmer was interviewed by Alex Kingsbury in the article The Morality of Torture. This is a great piece to distribute in your church bulletins. It’s short and to the point. It appeals to political conservatives and liberals – and has Bible. Here’s a quote:
Before 9/11, there was national consensus on the illegitimacy of torture. After all, it was President Reagan who made the country a signatory in 1984 to the United Nations Conventions Against Torture, which both banned the practice and called for universal jurisdiction for its prosecution. But the events of the intervening years have changed the nation to the point where Killmer’s message is now that of a radical. “I don’t know what has gone so wrong,” says Killmer, sitting in his modest office across the street from the Supreme Court. “Whatever the political or security issues are, they don’t change the basic moral fact that some things are always, always, always wrong.”
Read the whole article here.
More than 36 million people use the inconspicuous plastic cards issued by the government for “food stamps” to buy staples like milk, bread, and cheese. I see the cards all the time at the grocery store I use in Columbia Heights, D.C. Food stamp usage has increased by 22 percent in D.C. since 2007 and 36 percent of the District’s kids are on food stamps.
According to the New York Times, “virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, but their eclectic ranks testify to the range of people struggling with basic needs. They include single mothers and married couples, the newly jobless and the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks and workers whose reduced hours or slender wages leave pantries bare.”
The food stamp program is one way that through social institutions we answer God’s plea in Isaiah 58 to share our food with the hungry poor. Government programs should not perpetuate poverty, but they should provide a path of human dignity for those who are powerless in the culture.
Catholic social teaching reminds us: How we organize our society — in economics and politics, in law and policy — directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. The obligation to “love our neighbor” has an individual dimension, but it also requires a broader social commitment. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the good of the whole society, to the common good.
Check out the interactive map of “food stamp” usage around the country. Who’s hungry where YOU live? What does it mean?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousnessa will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”–Isaiah 58:6-8
Another historic “first” that hasn’t been too highlighted in the news is that Obama’s victory brings with it Joe Biden as the first Catholic vice president of the United States. Biden is a good representative of most American Catholics. He loves his church. He respects its traditions. He listens carefully to its teachings and to the bishops who are its shepherds. He tries his best to live out his faith in the midst of the world. He forms his own conscience. He tries to act with mercy. He also demands that bishops provide real pastoral answers to contemporary issues, not simply archaic legalism. Sometimes this puts him into creative dissent with some aspects of the Catholic hierarchy.
Oh well. That’s like most of us. We say our prayers and get up the next morning and try to follow Jesus.
I pray that there will be an American bishop who is strong enough and secure enough to engage Joe Biden in an authentic, intellectual, compassionate, public dialogue on the role of the church and the state, the way scripture shapes and guides our values, the centrality of respect for human life and dignity, the role of forgiveness in public life, the way churches and governments can participate in God’s loving vision for the world beyond denominations, creeds, or nationalism. But this needs to be a bishop who respects Biden and his role, not one who is trying to punish him, humiliate him, or use him as a foil for what’s wrong with “liberalism.”.