Summary: New social justice problems have emerged in recent years, straining systems of insurance and welfare. How shall we as Christians respond?
Monday of 28th week in course
October 12, 2009
Caritas in Veritate
The queen of the South and the men of Nineveh will rise up and condemn the generation of pharisees for not believing in Jesus. At the end of time, they will also condemn the pharisees of our day for not believing in Jesus or His Church when they prophetically speak about justice in human development. They didn’t listen to Paul VI when he preached against unfettered exploitation of people and resources, and against forced contraception and abortion, and we are reaping the whirlwind as a result. Perhaps they will see the wisdom of Pope Benedict’s words, at least some of them.
“The world that Paul VI had before him. . .was. . .far less integrated than today’s world. Economic activity and the political process were both largely conducted within the same geographical area, and could therefore feed off one another. Production took place predominantly within national boundaries, and financial investments had somewhat limited circulation outside the country, so that the politics of many States could still determine the priorities of the economy and to some degree govern its performance using the instruments at their disposal.” (24) This is the reason that Paul VI “assigned a central, albeit not exclusive, role to ‘public authorities.’” Today, however, nations find their sovereignty in matters of economics rather limited by the international character of trade and finance, so that their political power is limited. In the current crisis, the Pope seems to imply, public authorities intervene and apply their power in the old manner to a new situation. In my own opinion, much of what they have done has made the problem worse, because of the international mobility of money. The pope tells us that the role and power of central governments need to be “prudently reviewed and remodeled so as to enable them. . .to address the [new] challenges of today’s world.” Then new forms of political participation, both national and international, could renew the citizens’ “interest and participation in the res publica.”
New social justice problems have emerged in recent years, straining systems of insurance and welfare. With a global market, rich countries and industries have discovered outsourcing, thus reducing the prices of goods and increasing their own purchasing power and profit. Countries vie for these outsourcing centers, offering the companies great financing deals and lower taxes. This leads to a “downsizing of social security systems,” which becomes the price paid for seeking greater competitive advantage globally. This in turn endangers the rights of workers, fundamental human rights and the solidarity that has grown up with the modern social state. When tax bases fall, social services are the first thing to be cut. The pope tells us that this leaves “citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations,” particularly when governments, for reasons of economic utility, limit the freedom or negotiating ability of labor unions.
I suspect that much of what is happening in Congress today is a kind of last-ditch effort to mobilize a coalition to resist and push back this effort. The pope seems to imply that instead of patching up old systems, we develop new ones based on supporting human dignity. As he says, “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 and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life”. (25)