Fr. Ben: I just checked out your web site, and I must say that it is remarkable. It is surely the best single source of information on social justice and peace issues that I have found. The current events section is especially good. I have not found another source with so much information on so many issues of current importance. Kudos!
-Jay Guzwiller XU '98
Signs of the Times
Jesus urged us to read the signs of the times. Here I share my own reading of current events in the light of my vision of utopia, the truth of tomorrow. As a community, as a nation, we have a collective light graced story in which God has loved us and we have taken that love to others. The United States affirms civic rights and political rights. We did free the slaves. Much later we did enact civil rights legislation. We did finally give women the right to vote. We have made some advances in fairness to workers. As a nation we do care about the environment. There is a part of the American people that is generous and open to new ideas. We still have the opportunity for non-violent change.
I think we also need to face our collective dark graced story which takes courage and spiritual freedom to admit. God is present in our dark graced story revealing to us that it is dark and helping us to move the dark graced story to the light graced story side of the ledger. You may feel that what follows below is more of the dark graced story than the light. If you have more examples of the light graced story, I welcome them as part of our dialogue. I feel as long as we do not have basic human rights for each human person in our world, we have not reached the beginning. It's not enough for me to be relatively free and secure. I can't be happy as long as there's one person who is basically unhappy and lacking in the bare necessities.
2014 “Comfort and upbuild one another, as indeed you are doing. . cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient toward all. See that no one returns evil to anyone; always seek one another’s good and, for that matter, the good of all. Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks. . Do not stifle the Spirit. . Test everything, retain what is good. Avoid any semblance of evil.” ( 1 Thessalonians, 5.11 ff.) Interfaith Business Builders Fine Feast is Feb. 21. Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel No. 2 says the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures and a blunted conscience suppresses “the quiet joy of God’s love.”
Natural Resources Defense Council
"Fantastic news: Shell has announced that it will NOT attempt to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer.
The oil giant’s stunning reversal came after a momentous court ruling two weeks ago. The federal court agreed with NRDC and our allies that the Bush Administration had wildly underestimated the risks of spills and other hazards when it opened the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea to oil leasing and exploration in 2008.
Simply put: the entire Arctic leasing program was based on a fiction -- as we have long claimed -- and all the leases, including Shell’s, have now been thrown into limbo.
The court victory and Shell’s retreat are huge steps forward in our campaign to close Alaska’s Polar Bear Seas -- the Beaufort and Chukchi -- to oil development and potential catastrophe.
And we have you to thank! You have stood with us every step of the way, to a tough battle against two administrations and Big Oil that has raged in and out of the courtroom for five years. We never gave up because we know just how much is at stake.
The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are home to more than half of America’s polar bears. Their populations are already reeling from global warming. The last thing they need is a catastrophic oil spill.
This remote and rugged region is no place for drilling. In 2012, Shell’s rig had to flee from a 30-mile-long iceberg. Its emergency response equipment was “crushed like a beer can” during tests. And its drill rig ran aground during relatively routine winter weather.
Other oil giants -- including ConocoPhilips and Statoil, the Norwegian multinational oil company -- have long since canceled or suspended their plans. Shell was the last holdout -- until this latest announcement. It’s so crucially important for the Obama Administration to slam the door shut on Arctic drilling by putting it completely off-limits to Big Oil. "
Christmas 2011 From Pax Christi USA "For one second in time everyone has a taste of new beginnings, new possibilities, new life. It is Christmas. For a moment the Kingdom is come.
And who knows in the 60's Mama Cass belted out the promise, There's a new world coming and it's just around the bend. We believers in the Christmas message would have to agree around the bend is always a surprise; around the bend could be a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, whose name is PRINCE OF PEACE. And there's only one way to find out: keep following the Star of Bethlehem.
It is this promise, this hope we call Christmas that will feed the flame within us and lighten the path for the next generation.
This reflection is from Journey of Hope and Grace: Advent 1990, by Monika Hellwig and Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA and a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace.
Published on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by Robert Reich's Blog
The Seven Biggest Economic Lies
by Robert Reich
The President?s Jobs Bill doesn't have a chance in Congress and the Occupiers on Wall Street and elsewhere can't become a national movement for a more equitable society unless more Americans know the truth about the economy.
Here's a short (2 minute 30 second) effort to rebut the seven biggest whoppers now being told by those who want to take America backwards. The major points:
1. Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. Baloney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans' wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and have dropped since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. bju: (Pope Francis seems to agree with this)
2. Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they've been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. (Don't believe small businesses would be hurt by a higher marginal tax; fewer than 2 percent of small business owners are in the highest tax bracket.)
3. Shrinking government generates more jobs. Wrong again. It means fewer government workers everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And fewer government contractors, who would employ fewer private-sector workers. According to Moody's economist Mark Zandi (a campaign advisor to John McCain), the $61 billion in spending cuts proposed by the House GOP will cost the economy 700,000 jobs this year and next.
4. Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Untrue. With so many Americans out of work, budget cuts now will shrink the economy. They'll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.
5. Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that's because the nation's health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid's bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone.
6. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Don't believe it. Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years. It could be solvent for the next century if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800.
7. It's unfair that lower-income Americans don't pay income tax. Wrong. There's nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else.
Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough, start being believed unless they're rebutted. These seven economic whoppers are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth and spread it on.
© 2011 Robert Reich
Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.
The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010 by the John Jay College of Criminal justice. The latter were commissioned by the United States Catholic Conference, but the John Jay College is hardly the Catholic Church. To say the five-year study blames the sixties for priests pedophilia is a grossly inaccurate characterization of the report. I refer you to ?What Caused the Crisis?? By Kathleen McChesney in America June 6-15, 2011. Less than 5 percent of priests with abuse allegations exhibited behaviors consistent with pedophilia. Ibid. p. 14 Formation. .seems to have played a significant role in the likelihood of a man becoming an abuser. .abusers failed to recognize the harm they did to their victims. . . As seminaries gradually intensified the focus of formation on the human aspect of development, the number of incidents of abuse began to diminish. . .The failure of some diocesan leaders to take responsibility for the harms caused by priestly abuse was egregious in some cases. . . The study fairly notes that some bishops were innovators in dealing with the issue of abuse well before 2002 and some, the laggards, were not. . . The study found that the increase of abuse incidents during the 1960's and 1970's was consistent with the rise of other types of deviant behavior such as drug use, crime and changes in social behavior such as the increase in premarital sexual behavior and divorce. This finding may be dangerously misinterpreted by some as a cause of the abuse. While the sexual activities of clergy members with consenting adults during this time may reflect a sexually liberated society, at no time was the sexual abuse of minors legal, moral or justified. As adult followers of the Catholic faith, these offenders knew, or should have known, that their behaviors violated and injured the young.?The sexual abuse of minors is a long-term societal problem that is likely to persist, particularly in organizations that nurture and mentor adolescents. . The report's recommendations reinforce the actions undertaken by bishops and religious superiors to prevent future abuse actions that can and should be replicated in other countries and by other organizations. The suggested prevention policies focus on three areas: education, situational prevention models and oversight and accountability.
bju: I think we can agree with the John Jay College report that the sexual abuse of minors is a long-term societal problem. All faiths need to cooperate together to minimize future abuse. I would add that the world family abuses minors in many other ways as well. Children are hungry, poor, homeless, lacking in proper education, exposed to violence in video games, entertainment, a real-life war system, an exclusive global economy, a deteriorating planet.
Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director, Jewish Voice for Peace: "By now many have heard about the Young, Jewish, and Proud members at the national gathering of Jewish federations where Bibi Netanyahu proclaimed that the movement for peace, justice and equality in Israel and Palestine, the movement to end the Israeli Occupation, is a movement to delegitimize Israel. And one by one, each of these young leaders bravely stood up in front of thousands of unbelievably hostile people and chanted the text on their banners, right in the middle of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's speech: "I'm Young, Jewish, and Proud and the Loyalty Oath delegitimizes Israel" I'm Young, Jewish, and Proud and the Occupation delegitimizes Israel" "I'm Young, Jewish, and Proud and the Settlements delegitimize Israel."
May: ADC Condemns Israeli Use of Deadly Force on al-Nakba Commemorators
Washington, DC | www.adc.org | May 15, 2011 ? The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee strongly condemns the use of deadly force by Israeli forces on Palestinians commemorating al-Nakba or the catastrophe. For Palestinians and others in the Middle East, May 15th marks the destruction of historic Palestine and the massive forced expulsion and displacement of Palestinians by Israeli forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. News reports indicate that Israeli forces opened fire on commemorators in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as in the border areas including Lebanon and the Occupied Golan Heights. The use of deadly force on peaceful civilians, by any nation, must not be tolerated by the international community. Immediate action by the international community must be taken to ensure that the Israelis stop using excessive force on the demonstrators. Further, a clear message must be sent that the use of force will not be tolerated and Israel will be held accountable for its actions. According to media reports, and at the time of this release, at least nine Palestinians have been killed and dozens more injured after Israeli snipers opened fire on the peaceful demonstrators.
Al-Nakba was not a singular event. Displacement continues to this day, affecting thousands of Palestinians throughout the Middle East. There are approximately seven million Palestinian refugees and 450,000 internally displaced persons, representing 70% of the entire Palestinian population worldwide (9.8 million). Internal displacement continues, unabated, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) due to the Israeli construction of the wall, house demolitions, evictions, and land confiscation.
Similar patterns of forced displacement for Palestinians living in Israel occur as well. Urban development plans for the exclusive benefit of Jewish communities are displacing indigenous Palestinian communities in places like Naqab (Negev) and the Galilee. In 2010, the Netanyahu government approved the development of 1,600 new housing units in Occupied East Jerusalem, a policy condemned by the U.S. This development will also forcibly displace several Palestinian families from their land and homes.
ADC is committed to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Any peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict requires the dismantlement of the Israeli Wall (the wall was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice), the cessation and dismantlement of all settlements, an end to the collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian population as a result of Israeli occupation policies, respect for the exercise of democratic rights of Palestinians in electing their government, the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state, and the upholding of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees under international law. ADC will continue to advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination in an independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non-profit, non-sectarian and non-partisan, is the largest grassroots Arab-American civil rights and civil liberties organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk. ADC has a national network of chapters and members in all 50 states.
Warning Against Wars Like Iraq and Afghanistan
WEST POINT, N.Y. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates bluntly told an audience of West Point cadets on Friday, Feb. 25th that it would be unwise for the United States to ever fight another war like Iraq or Afghanistan, and that the chances of carrying out a change of government in that fashion again were slim.
?In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined, as General MacArthur so delicately put it, Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.
"Although most people, if asked directly, will say that they favor the abolition of nuclear weapons, very few have any real idea of the threat which existing nuclear arsenals pose to humans and other complex forms of life. In fact, here in the U.S., most people do not even know that immense nuclear arsenals still exist, that their own nation (and Russia) have 95% of the 22,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and that they keep 2,000 strategic nuclear weapons ready to launch with only a few minutes warning. They have no idea that just one of these weapons can instantly ignite tens or hundreds of square miles of the Earth's surface into a gigantic nuclear firestorm, and that a hundred such firestorms could produce enough smoke to cause deadly climate change, leading to global nuclear famine.
"An uniformed public cannot make informed decisions. We are still conducting our political discussions about nuclear weapons in Cold War terms, focusing upon how we are "behind" if we don't "modernize" our nuclear arsenal, that we are "locked into a position of permanent inferiority" by agreements with the Russians to limit our nuclear weapons. There is absolutely no discussion of the consequences of the use of existing arsenals, particularly those maintained by the US and Russia, the dialogue is dangerously out of touch with the peer-reviewed scientific predictions that *any* nuclear conflict which detonates as little as 1% of existing nuclear arsenals in cities will likely kill at least 1 billion people through nuclear famine. We must bring current scientific understandings of what nuclear war would do to the biosphere, agriculture, ecosystems and global climate into the active debate about the need for nuclear weaponry.
"Furthermore, In a time when we cannot find enough money to maintain our schools, highways, hospitals and basic infrastructure, do we need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild our nuclear weapons manufacturing complex and "upgrade" nuclear weapons systems? No, just the opposite, we need to stop or prevent funding for such projects, which guarantee that there will be no "world without nuclear weapons." I am going to start ending my presentations with a chart which shows what we could do with the endless billions we spend on nuclear weaponry, something like what Eisenhower did with his "Cross of Iron" speech. We have to give concrete examples of what could be immediately gained through the elimination of insane spending for nuclear doomsday machines. We can combat the idea that nuclear spending creates jobs by giving examples of what could be done to construct, for example, needed alternative energy systems (wind, solar, tidal, etc.) that can begin rebuilding our own industrial infrastructure, which has been dismantled and shipped overseas.
If we are going" to get into a race with other nations, let it be a race towards a better human future. Building nuclear weapons does just the opposite, it paves the way for mass extinction of complex forms of life, including human life."
-- Steven Starr,senior scientist with Physicians for Social Responsibility
"A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth, when civic discourse is grounded in verifiable fact. And with the decimation of reporting these sources of information are disappearing. The increasing fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind. The relentless assault on the ?liberal press? by right-wing propaganda outlets is in fact an assault on a system of information grounded in verifiable fact. And once this bedrock of civil discourse is eradicated, people will be free, as many already are, to believe whatever they want to believe, to pick and choose what facts or opinions suit their world and what do not. In this new world lies will become true." Chris Hedges Truthout 6/27/11
Although there were positive elements in the President's State of the Union like no tax cuts for the wealthy or subsidies to big oil, the risk I see in the President's approach is that I think we put too much emphasis on competition and not enough on sharing. We need to expand the notion of "We" to include the whole human family. We're all in this together. The physical, emotional, economic security of one is the security of all. We share one planet. We are one species. There is one economy, but it is not a fair, inclusive democratic economy. We need compassionate listening to the needs of all nations without favoritism and sharing what we have including power and decision-making.. See my web-site elsewhere for a fuller explanation of what I mean. George Washington said we should not favor one nation over another because we will overlook the faults of our friends, and exaggerate the faults of our supposed "enemies." We should work to make everyone equal partners with us. We should listen to the needs of our supposed enemies and move them at least to the column of nations we can work with and who will listen to us.
From Just Foreign Policy: U.S./Top News
1) Palestinians are planning a "day of rage" in response to the US veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the Guardian reports. Anti-US rallies took place in Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Jenin after the 14-1 vote on the resolution, in which the US stood alone against the rest of the Security Council, including Britain, Germany and France. The use of the veto for the first time under Obama will strengthen perceptions in the Arab world that for the US, protection of Israel overrides a just outcome for Palestinians, the Guardian says. According to the Palestinian press, Obama had suggested to President Abbas that US aid to the Palestinian Authority could be halted if the resolution went ahead. But a Palestinian official told Reuters that "people would take to the streets and topple the president" if Abbas backed down.
The Encyclical Love in Truth of Pope Benedict XVI in conjunction with the footnotes below indicate that the thought of the Catholic Church is toward an effective world authority.
67. "In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect  and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago. Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good , and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights . Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization . They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations."
*  Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 41: loc. cit., 843-845.
*  Cf. ibid.
*  Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 20: loc. cit., 422-424.
*  Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 85: loc. cit., 298-299.
*  Cf. John Paul II, Message for the 1998 World Day of Peace, 3: AAS 90 (1998), 150; Address to the Members of the Vatican Foundation ?Centesimus Annus ? Pro Pontifice?, 9 May 1998, 2; Address to the Civil Authorities and Diplomatic Corps of Austria, 20 June 1998, 8; Message to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, 5 May 2000, 6.
*  According to Saint Thomas ?ratio partis contrariatur rationi personae?, In III Sent., d. 5, q. 3, a. 2; also ?Homo non ordinatur ad communitatem politicam secundum se totum et secundum omnia sua?, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 21, a. 4, ad 3.
*  Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 1.
*  Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Sixth Public Session of the Pontifical Academies of Theology and of Saint Thomas Aquinas, 8 November 2001, 3.
*  Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church Dominus Iesus (6 August 2000), 22: AAS 92 (2000), 763-764; Id., Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life (24 November 2002), 8: AAS 96 (2004), 369-370.
*  Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 31: loc. cit., 1010; Address to the Participants in the Fourth National Congress of the Church in Italy, Verona, 19 October 2006.
*  John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 5: loc. cit., 798-800; Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the Fourth National Congress of the Church in Italy, Verona, 19 October 2006.
*  No. 12.
*  Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno (15 May 1931): AAS 23 (1931), 203; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 48: loc. cit., 852-854; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1883.
*  Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, loc. cit., 274.
*  Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 10, 41: loc. cit., 262, 277-278.
*  Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to Members of the International Theological Commission, 5 October 2007; Address to the Participants in the International Congress on Natural Moral Law, 12 February 2007.
*  Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Thailand on their ?Ad Limina? Visit, 16 May 2008.
*  Cf. Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi (3 May 2004): AAS 96 (2004), 762-822.
*  John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens, 8: loc. cit., 594-598.
*  Jubilee of Workers, Greeting after Mass, 1 May 2000.
*  Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 36: loc. cit., 838-840.
*  Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, New York, 18 April 2008.
*  Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, loc. cit., 293; Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 441.
*  Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 82.
From Current Events 2009 August
The US is beginning to have a more positive view of the International Criminal Court. Those wishing to be involved e-mail Outreach@globalsolutions.org
Modern media control public opinion and thus our limited democracy. Modern media promote our culture of violence. Modern media does not represent adequately workers, the environment, sustainable farming, peace groups, most of what you find on this web-page. Modern media is owned by and controlled by corporations. Modern media influences our understanding of religion and faith.
I think we need a three-fold approach to the media. We need to critique TV, radio, and the newspapers. See also,
- Fairness in Accuracy in Reporting
- The electronic intifada critiques the media on Middle East questions
Below is an example of a critique of the corporate media: "Because This Is the Middle East" FAIR 20 July 2006
"On July 16, CBS Face the Nation host (and CBS Evening News anchor) Bob Schieffer dedicated the entire Sunday morning news show to the Middle East conflict. In his closing editorial, he adapted a well-known fable in an attempt to explain the causes of the current conflict--or rather, the lack of causes: "Finally today, when the war broke out in the Middle East, the first thing I thought about was the old story of the frog and the scorpion who were trying to cross a river there. The scorpion couldn't swim, the frog was lost. So the scorpion proposed a deal, 'Give me a ride on your back, and I'll show you the way.' The frog agreed, and the trip went fine until they got to the middle of the river, and then suddenly the scorpion just stung the frog. As they were sinking, the frog asked, in his dying breath, 'Why would you do that?' To which the scorpion replied, 'Because this is the Middle East.'"
"Lest there be any doubt about who is the frog and who is the scorpion in that parable, Schieffer went on to spell it out: "It is worth noting that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip did not kidnap that Israeli soldier and provoke all of this because the Israelis were invading Gaza. No, all this happened in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal, which was what the Palestinians supposedly wanted. But this is the Middle East. Why would fundamentalists in Gaza and Lebanon choose to provoke this war at this time? There is no real answer except this is the Middle East."
"Schieffer was echoing the media's conventional wisdom in portraying the Palestinian raid that captured the Israeli soldier as an inexplicable provocation. The New York Times, in a June 29 editorial headlined "Hamas Provokes a Fight," declared that "the responsibility for this latest escalation rests squarely with Hamas," adding that "an Israeli military response was inevitable."
The media assumption is that in withdrawing from Gaza in September 2005, Israel ended its conflict with at least that portion of Palestine and gave up, as Schieffer put it, "what the Palestinians supposedly wanted." In reality, however, since the pullout and before the recent escalation of violence, at least 144 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli forces, often by helicopter gunships, according to a list compiled by the Israeli human rights group B'tselem. Only 31 percent of the people killed were engaged in hostile actions at the time of their deaths, and 25 percent of all those killed were minors.
From the time of the pullout until the recent upsurge in violence, according to B'tselem's lists, no Israelis were killed by violence emanating from Gaza. Although during this period Palestinian militants launched some 1,000 crude Kasam missiles from Gaza into Israel, no fatalities resulted; at the same time, Israel fired 7,000 to 9,000 heavy artillery shells into Gaza. On June 9, just two weeks before the Hamas raid that killed two Israeli soldiers and captured a third, an apparent Israeli missile strike killed seven members of a Palestinian family picnicking on a Gaza beach, which prompted Hamas to end its 16-month-old informal ceasefire with Israel. (Though Israel has denied responsibility for the killings, a Human Rights Watch investigation strongly challenged the denial, calling the likelihood of Israel not being responsible "remote"; Human Rights Watch, 6/15/06.) Hamas has repeatedly pointed to the Gaza beach incident as one of the central events that prompted its cross-border raid--indeed, Schieffer's own CBS Evening News has reported that claim (CBS Evening News, 6/25/06). Even so, Schieffer seems unable to recall this recent event.
Hamas also points to the capture of some of its leaders by Israel as the provocation for its raid. If Israelis had every right, as Schieffer said, to respond with force to the capture of one soldier by Hamas, then how are Palestinians expected to feel about the more than 9,000 prisoners captured and held by Israel--including 342 juveniles and over 700 held without trial (Mandela Center for Human Rights, 4/30/06)?
Moreover, Israel's withdrawal did not remotely give Palestinians "what they wanted." In addition to its continued deadly attacks on Gaza, Israel has continued to control Gaza's borders and has withheld tens of millions of dollars of tax revenue in response to Hamas' victory in democratic elections in January 2006. Israel's actions crippled the Gaza economy and prompting warnings from the U.N. of a looming humanitarian disaster (UNRWA, 7/8/06).
None of this is to say that Hamas, which has regularly ignored the distinction between military and civilian targets, does not share part of the blame for the current crisis. But to act as though Israel had been behaving as a peace-loving neighbor to Gaza until the soldier's capture is a willful rewriting of very recent history. The most Schieffer can bring himself to say about Israel is this: "Israel had every right to respond, and it did. But again, this is the Middle East, so perhaps a response may have made it all worse by giving moderate Arabs in the region an excuse to distance themselves from Israel."
"Israel's "response" has resulted in the deaths to date of at least 103 Palestinians, while no Israelis have died other than one soldier killed by friendly fire (New York Times, 7/19/06). Meanwhile, Israel has also destroyed Gaza's main power plant and its water system, leaving tens of thousands of Gaza families without access to food, water and medical care (Oxfam, 7/19/06). In Lebanon, Israel has killed over 300 people, the vast majority of them civilians, wounded over 1000 and displaced half a million (MSNBC, 7/19/06). To call such devastation an "excuse" for Arabs to "distance themselves from Israel" is a trivialization of real human suffering.
Why is Bob Schieffer allowed to get away with such shallow, dismissive coverage of complicated and tragic events? Because it's the Middle East."
We also need alternative sources of information from the mainline news sources. One of these are the links on this web page. Another are the newsletters of the many peace and justice groups. One of the alternative sources of information is the web-site of the National Office of Jesuit Social Ministries www.jesuit.org Here you can access immediate information updates and urgent action steps which are priorities of the National Jesuit Social Ministries. Jesuit Advocates is a relatively easy way to contact your legislators.
The US Jesuit Conference is in a process of strategic discernment concerning the future apostolic priorities of the Society of Jesus. If you wish to give in-put, click here. See also,
- Archdiocese of Cincinnati
- Ecumenical Advocacy Days
- Sojourners of Rev. James Wallis
- Jewish Voice for Peace also makes it relatively easy to contact public officials about Israel/Palestine/Lebanon
A third approach is to create our own means of communication. The picture above is taken in the radio studio of WVXU, 91.7 FM. For twenty eight years I had a weekly radio show called Faith and Justice Forum the response of religious groups to God's call for social action.
A fourth approach would be community ownership of the communications media or more wide-spread ownership. Presuming we achieve a genuine democracy, I think this would give everyone a better chance to exercise their natural right of free speech.
Free Press is a national nonpartisan organization working to increase informed public participation in crucial media policy debates, and to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector.
We believe that a more democratic US media system will lead to better public policies - at home and abroad. As our world becomes more and more interconnected, it is imperative that any kind of development takes into account basic environment, economic, and human rights, while defining corporate and personal responsibilities. Free Press considers information to be among the most important resources to any society. We strive to open up the media system to allow more diversity of opinion to be expressed, to present a broader perspective, and to increase the caliber of information available to everyday people. This, in turn, will lead to a more participatory and accountable government and to more sustainable policies and practices regarding national and global development.
2009 Current Events
End of Catholic Liturgical Year 2009
We know the fiscal year is ending when our financial reports are due. We know the calendar year is ending because of New Year's Eve parties. We know the end of the Christian liturgical year only if we are praying the Divine Office or following closely the liturgical cycle. Liturgical time is sacred time, different from calendar time or clock time or from temporality. Temporality is our grasp of our graced story. How well we have assimilated our past which makes us more present, and points us in the right direction for the future. Clock time is the measure of motion according to before and after. Clock time is that which we need to prioritize so that we can enjoy temporality and liturgical time.
Sacred time makes the past present in a much more forceful and real way than does a simple commemoration. At the Last Supper Jesus said, "This is my body--this is my blood--do this in memory of me. When the priest says these words at Mass, Christ dies and rises again in a mystical, unbloody, but real way. We join ourselves and all of nature to Christ as He presents all of creation to the Father. The Catholic Church teaches the Mass is a living memorial. The American Revolution is over. We're not fighting the battle of Lexington and Concord. Christ's redemptive act is not over. Christ really dies and rises. Sacred time not only makes the past present, it makes the future present. Through sacred time in seed the full establishment of God's reign is with us now. Christ has come, reconciling all things to Himself. Ending the liturgical year, the feast of Christ the King reminds us of a special kind of kingship, a reign of peace, justice, love, and truth. Christ is our origin and our goal, the infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being; the magnetic focus drawing all things to himself.
That we are sinners, often rationalizing ourselves, does not deter us from speaking in love the truth as we see it. Faith-based communities such as Christian Life Communities can help us to discern together and minimize self-deception. We are called to accept the challenge of the Second Vatican Council to scrutinize the signs of the times and interpret those signs in the light of the Gospel. St. Paul says our goal is restoration of all things in Christ. If we are removed and absent from God's physical creation, we are alienated from God. If we are separated from our sisters and brothers made in the image of God, we are separated from God.
Like love, truth begins at home, with greater communication with those close to us, listening and talking to one another. God's reign is built on truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth can hurt, but ultimately the truth makes us free. If we listen to others, we have a better chance that they will listen to us.
To some we are only waiting around now in the lobby, waiting for the movie of heaven to start. To me we are co-creators with God, working with God to bring God's act of creation to perfection. We are preparing the world for its final transformation and transfiguration. There is continuity between this life and the life to come. It's this world, these relationships that will be transformed. What we do now has eternal significance.
The gospel for the Feast of Christ the King points to the way we will prepare the world for its final transformation. The Son of Man comes in glory escorted by all the angels of heaven, sits upon his royal throne, and all the nations assemble before Him. Then Jesus reveals who He is. Jesus is those who are hungry, the foreigners, the criminals, those ill and in rags. Those who neglect these least, neglect Jesus. Those who serve these least, serve Jesus. Those who work for peace and justice prepare the world for its final transfiguration. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Christ will put all enemies under His feet, and will destroy death itself. The Triune God will be all in all.
The end of the Liturgical Year is an occasion to reflect on our individual and collective light and dark graced stories for 2009.
The liturgical season of Advent is testimony that the first Christians were definitely a Church of the future. The first Christians lived in constant expectation and anticipation of the Parousia, the final coming of Christ, the full establishment of the reign of God. "The community which extended itself through so much of the Roman world was not an eschatological group withdrawn from the world. .To describe this uniquely vital and energetic movement as a tight little eschatological group which was content to let the world go to perdition while it awaited the coming of its savior in the clouds seems to be as great a perversion of Jesus and the Church as anyone has ever proposed." Fr. John L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, Parousia.
"The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age. . . After we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, solidarity and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of what we are and what we do, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured." (Vatican II, "The Church in the Modern World" No. 39) In this life we're not just waiting in the lobby for the movie of heaven to start. We're making the movie. God will edit it and touch it up. God will transform and transfigure our own efforts. But it will be this world and these relationships that will be transformed and transfigured. What we do now makes an eternal difference.
Happy Advent, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Eid Fetr!
I never underestimate the will and power of God for good. Once we had kings and queens. Now democracy is the norm. Once we had slavery, later de jure and de facto segregation. Now we have civil rights legislation, even a black President. Once women were not permitted to vote. Now we have the League of Women Voters. As St. Paul says, "Where sin abounds, there grace does more abound." (Romans 5.20)
Hopes for the Second African Synod
By Peter Henriot, SJ
[The following article appears in the September 2009 issue of Hakimani, the e-newsletter of the Jesuit Hakimani Center, a peace and justice center in East Africa. Fr. Peter Henriot, SJ, is the director of the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection, Lusaka, Zambia.]
When some 200-plus bishops and advisers from all over Africa gather in Rome in October, a special focus will be on how the Catholic Church can best serve the people of this continent. The Second African Synod (officially called the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops) meets October 4-25, with the theme "The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: 'You are the Salt of the Earth. You are the Light of the World' (Matthew 5: 13-14).
Preparations - Preparations for the Synod have been going on for the past three years, with efforts of mixed success to involve a cross section of Catholics to explore the significance of the theme and its implications for theological reflection and pastoral practices. I say "mixed success" because in many dioceses and parishes much activity has gone on and in many others very little activity.
In 2006, a set of discussion guidelines (in Latin, Lineamenta) was circulated to prompt early conversations about the theme, inviting an "examination of conscience" about our life as "family of God." The results of these conversations were then communicated to the Vatican for preparation of the agenda (Instrumentum Laboris) to focus the debates of the Synod. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Cameroon in May, he presented the agenda with a call for reflection and prayer to engage all of us in this important event.
Personally, I am struck by the relevance of the agenda topics to the life of the Church in Africa. There is an honest reflection on the difficulties of implementation of the First African Synod (1994), with clear recognition that many parts of Africa have in the past decade been severely wracked by armed conflicts and ineffective governance. The concrete experience of the Church in relating to this challenging situation is sketched with obvious questions regarding the effectiveness of our responses.
Challenges - Of many points that can be emphasized about the significance of Synod debates and decisions, here are three that seem to me to be very important: First, is the necessary formation that needs to be done in the church social teaching (CST) across all of the Church bishops, clergy, religious, laity. There still is too much ignorance of the content of the CST and/or reluctance to take seriously its call for prophetic stances by everyone in the Church. Many lay people, including those in important positions of government and business; simply do not know about the CST because many priests and pastoral leaders have never communicated its content and challenge in homilies, workshops, catechetical programs, etc.
Second, priority is to put high emphasis upon promotion of the dignity of women in both Church and society. As the agenda clearly notes, "Women and the laity in general are not fully integrated in the Church?s structures of responsibility and the planning of her pastoral programs." Anti-evangelical cultural and ecclesial attitudes, patterns and structures must be challenged head on by the Synod if any true reconciliation is to be possible.
Third, priority that Synod discussion and decision must address is something which is surprisingly absent from the agenda. This is the topic of environmental concern touching issues such as climate change (global warming), ecological integrity, life-style adjustments, and industrial pollution by new investors coming to the Continent (e.g., in the extractives sector). Aside from one passing reference to multinational corporations? not paying adequate attention to the environment, this topic that is so much in the forefront of problems in Africa is not explored. Surely, the actual Synod deliberations will take up the topic!
In 2009 the U.S. lost "the most trusted man in America" on July 17, Citizens for Global Solutions lost an irreplaceable partner and friend.
When accepting our Norman Cousins Global Governance Award in 1999, Walter Cronkite said,
"Those of us who are living today can influence the future of civilization. We can influence whether our planet will drift into chaos and violence, or whether through a monumental educational and political effort we will achieve a world of peace under a system of law where individual violators of that law are brought to justice."
Cronkite believed that we have the power to achieve a world of peace, as do I. But, as he said, achieving such a world requires an enormous effort. Your support is critical to keep Citizens for Global Solutions at the forefront of this endeavor.
A decade ago, Cronkite proposed "three suggestions for immediate action that would move us in a direction firmly in the American tradition of law and democracy:"
"Keep our promises? Americans overwhelmingly want us to pay our UN dues, with no crippling limitations."
"Ratify the Treaty to Ban Land Mines, the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Convention to Eliminate All forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Most important, we should sign and ratify the Treaty for a Permanent International Criminal Court."
"[Consider] a more representative and democratic system of decision making at the UN. This should include both revision of the Veto in the Security Council and adoption of a weighted voting system for the General Assembly."
Clearly, it's time to complete Cronkite's past due "immediate action" items and move on from there.
I am proud that this is the focus of Citizens for Global Solutions' current efforts. We are playing offense rather than defense on our priority issues - the Law of the Sea, the International Criminal Court, U.N. Peacekeeping, Nuclear Weapons, Climate Change, Human Rights, and U.N. Reform.
Pope Benedict XVI Love in Truth
CHAPTER FIVE: THE COOPERATION OF THE HUMAN FAMILY
53. One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation. If we look closely at other kinds of poverty, including material forms, we see that they are born from isolation, from not being loved or from difficulties in being able to love. Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God's love, by man's basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself, thinking himself to be self-sufficient or merely an insignificant and ephemeral fact, a ?stranger? in a random universe. Man is alienated when he is alone, when he is detached from reality, when he stops thinking and believing in a foundation . All of humanity is alienated when too much trust is placed in merely human projects, ideologies and false utopias . Today humanity appears much more interactive than in the past: this shared sense of being close to one another must be transformed into true communion. The development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side .
Pope Paul VI noted that ?the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking? . He was making an observation, but also expressing a wish: a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; interaction among the peoples of the world calls us to embark upon this new trajectory, so that integration can signify solidarity  rather than marginalization. Thinking of this kind requires a deeper critical evaluation of the category of relation. This is a task that cannot be undertaken by the social sciences alone, insofar as the contribution of disciplines such as metaphysics and theology is needed if man's transcendent dignity is to be properly understood.
As a spiritual being, the human creature is defined through interpersonal relations. The more authentically he or she lives these relations, the more his or her own personal identity matures. It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God. Hence these relations take on fundamental importance. The same holds true for peoples as well. A metaphysical understanding of the relations between persons is therefore of great benefit for their development. In this regard, reason finds inspiration and direction in Christian revelation, according to which the human community does not absorb the individual, annihilating his autonomy, as happens in the various forms of totalitarianism, but rather values him all the more because the relation between individual and community is a relation between one totality and another . Just as a family does not submerge the identities of its individual members, just as the Church rejoices in each ?new creation? (Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:17) incorporated by Baptism into her living Body, so too the unity of the human family does not submerge the identities of individuals, peoples and cultures, but makes them more transparent to each other and links them more closely in their legitimate diversity.
54. The theme of development can be identified with the inclusion-in-relation of all individuals and peoples within the one community of the human family, built in solidarity on the basis of the fundamental values of justice and peace. This perspective is illuminated in a striking way by the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity within the one divine Substance. The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity. God desires to incorporate us into this reality of communion as well: ?that they may be one even as we are one? (Jn 17:22). The Church is a sign and instrument of this unity . Relationships between human beings throughout history cannot but be enriched by reference to this divine model. In particular, in the light of the revealed mystery of the Trinity, we understand that true openness does not mean loss of individual identity but profound interpenetration. This also emerges from the common human experiences of love and truth. Just as the sacramental love of spouses unites them spiritually in ?one flesh? (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:5; Eph 5:31) and makes out of the two a real and relational unity, so in an analogous way truth unites spirits and causes them to think in unison, attracting them as a unity to itself.
55. The Christian revelation of the unity of the human race presupposes a metaphysical interpretation of the ?humanum? in which relationality is an essential element. Other cultures and religions teach brotherhood and peace and are therefore of enormous importance to integral human development. Some religious and cultural attitudes, however, do not fully embrace the principle of love and truth and therefore end up retarding or even obstructing authentic human development. There are certain religious cultures in the world today that do not oblige men and women to live in communion but rather cut them off from one other in a search for individual well-being, limited to the gratification of psychological desires. Furthermore, a certain proliferation of different religious ?paths?, attracting small groups or even single individuals, together with religious syncretism, can give rise to separation and disengagement. One possible negative effect of the process of globalization is the tendency to favor this kind of syncretism  by encouraging forms of ?religion? that, instead of bringing people together, alienate them from one another and distance them from reality. At the same time, some religious and cultural traditions persist which ossify society in rigid social groupings, in magical beliefs that fail to respect the dignity of the person, and in attitudes of subjugation to occult powers. In these contexts, love and truth have difficulty asserting themselves, and authentic development is impeded.
For this reason, while it may be true that development needs the religions and cultures of different peoples, it is equally true that adequate discernment is needed. Religious freedom does not mean religious indifferentism, nor does it imply that all religions are equal . Discernment is needed regarding the contribution of cultures and religions, especially on the part of those who wield political power, if the social community is to be built up in a spirit of respect for the common good. Such discernment has to be based on the criterion of charity and truth. Since the development of persons and peoples is at stake, this discernment will have to take account of the need for emancipation and inclusivity, in the context of a truly universal human community. ?The whole man and all men? is also the criterion for evaluating cultures and religions. Christianity, the religion of the ?God who has a human face? , contains this very criterion within itself.
56. The Christian religion and other religions can offer their contribution to development only if God has a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions. The Church's social doctrine came into being in order to claim ?citizenship status? for the Christian religion . Denying the right to profess one's religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development. The exclusion of religion from the public square ? and, at the other extreme, religious fundamentalism ? hinders an encounter between persons and their collaboration for the progress of humanity. Public life is sapped of its motivation and politics takes on a domineering and aggressive character. Human rights risk being ignored either because they are robbed of their transcendent foundation or because personal freedom is not acknowledged. Secularism and fundamentalism exclude the possibility of fruitful dialogue and effective cooperation between reason and religious faith. Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith: this also holds true for political reason, which must not consider itself omnipotent. For its part, religion always needs to be purified by reason in order to show its authentically human face. Any breach in this dialogue comes only at an enormous price to human development.
57. Fruitful dialogue between faith and reason cannot but render the work of charity more effective within society, and it constitutes the most appropriate framework for promoting fraternal collaboration between believers and non-believers in their shared commitment to working for justice and the peace of the human family. In the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, the Council fathers asserted that ?believers and unbelievers agree almost unanimously that all things on earth should be ordered towards man as to their centre and summit? . For believers, the world derives neither from blind chance nor from strict necessity, but from God's plan. This is what gives rise to the duty of believers to unite their efforts with those of all men and women of good will, with the followers of other religions and with non-believers, so that this world of ours may effectively correspond to the divine plan: living as a family under the Creator's watchful eye. A particular manifestation of charity and a guiding criterion for fraternal cooperation between believers and non-believers is undoubtedly the principle of subsidiarity , an expression of inalienable human freedom. Subsidiarity is first and foremost a form of assistance to the human person via the autonomy of intermediate bodies. Such assistance is offered when individuals or groups are unable to accomplish something on their own, and it is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility. Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others. By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state. It is able to take account both of the manifold articulation of plans ? and therefore of the plurality of subjects ? as well as the coordination of those plans. Hence the principle of subsidiarity is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development. In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together. Globalization certainly requires authority, insofar as it poses the problem of a global common good that needs to be pursued. This authority, however, must be organized in a subsidiary and stratified way , if it is not to infringe upon freedom and if it is to yield effective results in practice.
58. The principle of subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa, since the former without the latter gives way to social privatism, while the latter without the former gives way to paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need. This general rule must also be taken broadly into consideration when addressing issues concerning international development aid. Such aid, whatever the donors' intentions, can sometimes lock people into a state of dependence and even foster situations of localized oppression and exploitation in the receiving country. Economic aid, in order to be true to its purpose, must not pursue secondary objectives. It must be distributed with the involvement not only of the governments of receiving countries, but also local economic agents and the bearers of culture within civil society, including local Churches. Aid programmes must increasingly acquire the characteristics of participation and completion from the grass roots. Indeed, the most valuable resources in countries receiving development aid are human resources: herein lies the real capital that needs to accumulate in order to guarantee a truly autonomous future for the poorest countries. It should also be remembered that, in the economic sphere, the principal form of assistance needed by developing countries is that of allowing and encouraging the gradual penetration of their products into international markets, thus making it possible for these countries to participate fully in international economic life. Too often in the past, aid has served to create only fringe markets for the products of these donor countries. This was often due to a lack of genuine demand for the products in question: it is therefore necessary to help such countries improve their products and adapt them more effectively to existing demand. Furthermore, there are those who fear the effects of competition through the importation of products ? normally agricultural products ? from economically poor countries. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that for such countries, the possibility of marketing their products is very often what guarantees their survival in both the short and long term. Just and equitable international trade in agricultural goods can be beneficial to everyone, both to suppliers and to customers. For this reason, not only is commercial orientation needed for production of this kind, but also the establishment of international trade regulations to support it and stronger financing for development in order to increase the productivity of these economies.
59. Cooperation for development must not be concerned exclusively with the economic dimension: it offers a wonderful opportunity for encounter between cultures and peoples. If the parties to cooperation on the side of economically developed countries ? as occasionally happens ? fail to take account of their own or others' cultural identity, or the human values that shape it, they cannot enter into meaningful dialogue with the citizens of poor countries. If the latter, in their turn, are uncritically and indiscriminately open to every cultural proposal, they will not be in a position to assume responsibility for their own authentic development . Technologically advanced societies must not confuse their own technological development with a presumed cultural superiority, but must rather rediscover within themselves the oft-forgotten virtues which made it possible for them to flourish throughout their history. Evolving societies must remain faithful to all that is truly human in their traditions, avoiding the temptation to overlay them automatically with the mechanisms of a globalized technological civilization. In all cultures there are examples of ethical convergence, some isolated, some interrelated, as an expression of the one human nature, willed by the Creator; the tradition of ethical wisdom knows this as the natural law . This universal moral law provides a sound basis for all cultural, religious and political dialogue, and it ensures that the multi-faceted pluralism of cultural diversity does not detach itself from the common quest for truth, goodness and God. Thus adherence to the law etched on human hearts is the precondition for all constructive social cooperation. Every culture has burdens from which it must be freed and shadows from which it must emerge. The Christian faith, by becoming incarnate in cultures and at the same time transcending them, can help them grow in universal brotherhood and solidarity, for the advancement of global and community development.
60. In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all. What aid programme is there that can hold out such significant growth prospects ? even from the point of view of the world economy ? as the support of populations that are still in the initial or early phases of economic development? From this perspective, more economically developed nations should do all they can to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid, thus respecting the obligations that the international community has undertaken in this regard. One way of doing so is by reviewing their internal social assistance and welfare policies, applying the principle of subsidiarity and creating better integrated welfare systems, with the active participation of private individuals and civil society. In this way, it is actually possible to improve social services and welfare programmes, and at the same time to save resources ? by eliminating waste and rejecting fraudulent claims ? which could then be allocated to international solidarity. A more devolved and organic system of social solidarity, less bureaucratic but no less coordinated, would make it possible to harness much dormant energy, for the benefit of solidarity between peoples.
One possible approach to development aid would be to apply effectively what is known as fiscal subsidiarity, allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a portion of the taxes they pay to the State. Provided it does not degenerate into the promotion of special interests, this can help to stimulate forms of welfare solidarity from below, with obvious benefits in the area of solidarity for development as well.
61. Greater solidarity at the international level is seen especially in the ongoing promotion ? even in the midst of economic crisis ? of greater access to education, which is at the same time an essential precondition for effective international cooperation. The term ?education? refers not only to classroom teaching and vocational training ? both of which are important factors in development ? but to the complete formation of the person. In this regard, there is a problem that should be highlighted: in order to educate, it is necessary to know the nature of the human person, to know who he or she is. The increasing prominence of a relativistic understanding of that nature presents serious problems for education, especially moral education, jeopardizing its universal extension. Yielding to this kind of relativism makes everyone poorer and has a negative impact on the effectiveness of aid to the most needy populations, who lack not only economic and technical means, but also educational methods and resources to assist people in realizing their full human potential.
An illustration of the significance of this problem is offered by the phenomenon of international tourism , which can be a major factor in economic development and cultural growth, but can also become an occasion for exploitation and moral degradation. The current situation offers unique opportunities for the economic aspects of development ? that is to say the flow of money and the emergence of a significant amount of local enterprise ? to be combined with the cultural aspects, chief among which is education. In many cases this is what happens, but in other cases international tourism has a negative educational impact both for the tourist and the local populace. The latter are often exposed to immoral or even perverted forms of conduct, as in the case of so-called sex tourism, to which many human beings are sacrificed even at a tender age. It is sad to note that this activity often takes place with the support of local governments, with silence from those in the tourists' countries of origin, and with the complicity of many of the tour operators. Even in less extreme cases, international tourism often follows a consumerist and hedonistic pattern, as a form of escapism planned in a manner typical of the countries of origin, and therefore not conducive to authentic encounter between persons and cultures. We need, therefore, to develop a different type of tourism that has the ability to promote genuine mutual understanding, without taking away from the element of rest and healthy recreation. Tourism of this type needs to increase, partly through closer coordination with the experience gained from international cooperation and enterprise for development.
62. Another aspect of integral human development that is worthy of attention is the phenomenon of migration. This is a striking phenomenon because of the sheer numbers of people involved, the social, economic, political, cultural and religious problems it raises, and the dramatic challenges it poses to nations and the international community. We can say that we are facing a social phenomenon of epoch-making proportions that requires bold, forward-looking policies of international cooperation if it is to be handled effectively. Such policies should set out from close collaboration between the migrants' countries of origin and their countries of destination; it should be accompanied by adequate international norms able to coordinate different legislative systems with a view to safeguarding the needs and rights of individual migrants and their families, and at the same time, those of the host countries. No country can be expected to address today's problems of migration by itself. We are all witnesses of the burden of suffering, the dislocation and the aspirations that accompany the flow of migrants. The phenomenon, as everyone knows, is difficult to manage; but there is no doubt that foreign workers, despite any difficulties concerning integration, make a significant contribution to the economic development of the host country through their labour, besides that which they make to their country of origin through the money they send home. Obviously, these labourers cannot be considered as a commodity or a mere workforce. They must not, therefore, be treated like any other factor of production. Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance .
63. No consideration of the problems associated with development could fail to highlight the direct link between poverty and unemployment. In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or ?because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family?. For this reason, on 1 May 2000 on the occasion of the Jubilee of Workers, my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II issued an appeal for ?a global coalition in favour of ?decent work?', supporting the strategy of the International Labour Organization. In this way, he gave a strong moral impetus to this objective, seeing it as an aspiration of families in every country of the world. What is meant by the word ?decent? in regard to work? It means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labour; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one's roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.
64. While reflecting on the theme of work, it is appropriate to recall how important it is that labour unions ? which have always been encouraged and supported by the Church ? should be open to the new perspectives that are emerging in the world of work. Looking to wider concerns than the specific category of labour for which they were formed, union organizations are called to address some of the new questions arising in our society: I am thinking, for example, of the complex of issues that social scientists describe in terms of a conflict between worker and consumer. Without necessarily endorsing the thesis that the central focus on the worker has given way to a central focus on the consumer, this would still appear to constitute new ground for unions to explore creatively. The global context in which work takes place also demands that national labour unions, which tend to limit themselves to defending the interests of their registered members, should turn their attention to those outside their membership, and in particular to workers in developing countries where social rights are often violated. The protection of these workers, partly achieved through appropriate initiatives aimed at their countries of origin, will enable trade unions to demonstrate the authentic ethical and cultural motivations that made it possible for them, in a different social and labour context, to play a decisive role in development. The Church's traditional teaching makes a valid distinction between the respective roles and functions of trade unions and politics. This distinction allows unions to identify civil society as the proper setting for their necessary activity of defending and promoting labour, especially on behalf of exploited and unrepresented workers, whose woeful condition is often ignored by the distracted eye of society.
65. Finance, therefore ? through the renewed structures and operating methods that have to be designed after its misuse, which wreaked such havoc on the real economy ? now needs to go back to being an instrument directed towards improved wealth creation and development. Insofar as they are instruments, the entire economy and finance, not just certain sectors, must be used in an ethical way so as to create suitable conditions for human development and for the development of peoples. It is certainly useful, and in some circumstances imperative, to launch financial initiatives in which the humanitarian dimension predominates. However, this must not obscure the fact that the entire financial system has to be aimed at sustaining true development. Above all, the intention to do good must not be considered incompatible with the effective capacity to produce goods. Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity, so as not to abuse the sophisticated instruments which can serve to betray the interests of savers. Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another. If love is wise, it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions.
Both the regulation of the financial sector, so as to safeguard weaker parties and discourage scandalous speculation, and experimentation with new forms of finance, designed to support development projects, are positive experiences that should be further explored and encouraged, highlighting the responsibility of the investor. Furthermore, the experience of micro-finance, which has its roots in the thinking and activity of the civil humanists ? I am thinking especially of the birth of pawnbroking ? should be strengthened and fine-tuned. This is all the more necessary in these days when financial difficulties can become severe for many of the more vulnerable sectors of the population, who should be protected from the risk of usury and from despair. The weakest members of society should be helped to defend themselves against usury, just as poor peoples should be helped to derive real benefit from micro-credit, in order to discourage the exploitation that is possible in these two areas. Since rich countries are also experiencing new forms of poverty, micro-finance can give practical assistance by launching new initiatives and opening up new sectors for the benefit of the weaker elements in society, even at a time of general economic downturn.
66. Global interconnectedness has led to the emergence of a new political power, that of consumers and their associations. This is a phenomenon that needs to be further explored, as it contains positive elements to be encouraged as well as excesses to be avoided. It is good for people to realize that purchasing is always a moral ? and not simply economic ? act. Hence the consumer has a specific social responsibility, which goes hand-in- hand with the social responsibility of the enterprise. Consumers should be continually educated regarding their daily role, which can be exercised with respect for moral principles without diminishing the intrinsic economic rationality of the act of purchasing. In the retail industry, particularly at times like the present when purchasing power has diminished and people must live more frugally, it is necessary to explore other paths: for example, forms of cooperative purchasing like the consumer cooperatives that have been in operation since the nineteenth century, partly through the initiative of Catholics. In addition, it can be helpful to promote new ways of marketing products from deprived areas of the world, so as to guarantee their producers a decent return. However, certain conditions need to be met: the market should be genuinely transparent; the producers, as well as increasing their profit margins, should also receive improved formation in professional skills and technology; and finally, trade of this kind must not become hostage to partisan ideologies. A more incisive role for consumers, as long as they themselves are not manipulated by associations that do not truly represent them, is a desirable element for building economic democracy.
67. In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of the responsibility to protect  and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago. Such an authority would need to be regulated by law, to observe consistently the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, to seek to establish the common good , and to make a commitment to securing authentic integral human development inspired by the values of charity in truth. Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all, regard for justice, and respect for rights . Obviously it would have to have the authority to ensure compliance with its decisions from all parties, and also with the coordinated measures adopted in various international forums. Without this, despite the great progress accomplished in various sectors, international law would risk being conditioned by the balance of power among the strongest nations. The integral development of peoples and international cooperation require the establishment of a greater degree of international ordering, marked by subsidiarity, for the management of globalization . They also require the construction of a social order that at last conforms to the moral order, to the interconnection between moral and social spheres, and to the link between politics and the economic and civil spheres, as envisaged by the Charter of the United Nations.
-  Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 41: loc. cit., 843-845.
-  Cf. ibid.
-  Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 20: loc. cit., 422-424.
-  Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 85: loc. cit., 298-299.
-  Cf. John Paul II, Message for the 1998 World Day of Peace, 3: AAS 90 (1998), 150; Address to the Members of the Vatican Foundation ?Centesimus Annus ? Pro Pontifice?, 9 May 1998, 2; Address to the Civil Authorities and Diplomatic Corps of Austria, 20 June 1998, 8; Message to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, 5 May 2000, 6.
-  According to Saint Thomas ?ratio partis contrariatur rationi personae?, In III Sent., d. 5, q. 3, a. 2; also ?Homo non ordinatur ad communitatem politicam secundum se totum et secundum omnia sua?, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 21, a. 4, ad 3.
-  Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 1.
-  Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Sixth Public Session of the Pontifical Academies of Theology and of Saint Thomas Aquinas, 8 November 2001, 3.
-  Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church Dominus Iesus (6 August 2000), 22: AAS 92 (2000), 763-764; Id., Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life (24 November 2002), 8: AAS 96 (2004), 369-370.
-  Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 31: loc. cit., 1010; Address to the Participants in the Fourth National Congress of the Church in Italy, Verona, 19 October 2006.
-  John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 5: loc. cit., 798-800; Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the Fourth National Congress of the Church in Italy, Verona, 19 October 2006.
-  No. 12.
-  Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno (15 May 1931): AAS 23 (1931), 203; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 48: loc. cit., 852-854; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1883.
-  Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, loc. cit., 274.
-  Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 10, 41: loc. cit., 262, 277-278.
-  Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to Members of the International Theological Commission, 5 October 2007; Address to the Participants in the International Congress on Natural Moral Law, 12 February 2007.
-  Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops of Thailand on their ?Ad Limina? Visit, 16 May 2008.
-  Cf. Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Instruction Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi (3 May 2004): AAS 96 (2004), 762-822.
-  John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens, 8: loc. cit., 594-598.
-  Jubilee of Workers, Greeting after Mass, 1 May 2000.
-  Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 36: loc. cit., 838-840.
-  Cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, New York, 18 April 2008.
-  Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, loc. cit., 293; Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 441.
 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 82.
Current Events 2009 August
The US is beginning to have a more positive view of the International Criminal Court. Those wishing to be involved e-mail Outreach@globalsolutions.org