Populist Pope to Peoples’ Movements: ‘I Unite My Voice With Yours’

tolaw_femmesThis morning Pope Francis addressed representatives from popular movements for social justice from around the world. I can’t find a raw transcript, but reading the reports below will give you a taste of his salty flavor!

#Favorite Pope Quote: “Solidarity, understood in its most profound sense, is a way of making history.”

#Favorite Pope Quote: “It is not possible to tackle poverty by promoting containment strategies to merely reassure, rendering the poor ‘domesticated,’ harmless and passive.”

#Favorite Pope Quote: “Creation is not our property, that we may exploit as we please; far less so, the property of the few.”

#Favorite Pope Quote: “Christians have something very good, a guide to action, a revolutionary programme, we might say. I strongly recommend that you read it. It’s called the Beatitudes”.

Below are two reports that give significant quotes from Pope Francis’ talk:

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements which is holding a conference here in Rome to discuss problems facing the poor, the unemployed and those who’ve lost their land. The group chose to hold their three-day conference here because of Pope Francis’ particular attention to the struggles of the poor.

“This meeting of Popular Movements is a sign, a great sign,” Pope Francis told his audience. “You came to be in the presence of God, of the church… [to speak about] a reality that is often silenced. The poor not only suffer from injustice, but they also fight against it.”

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Pope Francis Kicks At the Money Changers

goldencalfYesterday, Pope Francis addressed a gathering of new ambassadors with his first major analysis on the causes of the global financial crisis.

I appreciate how he makes the connection between ethics and God. In our post-Enlightenment world, we are strong on human ethics as separated from religion. But against cancerous market capitalism, ethics separated from human solidarity and God are not powerful enough. Ethics then simply becomes a new thing to be manipulated in the market place.

“…Our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.

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Brazil’s Bishop: ‘Reckless Development is Coming to a Dead End’

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.

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.