Peace and Justice - Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston

Peace and Justice - Globalization


The Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith. A mystery is ineffable, unable to be expressed adequately in words. We fumble and stumble and mumble when we talk about God. Yet, it is important that we try because it is better to know a little about God than a lot about anything else. God is our roots, our origin, where we came from. God is our sustainer, our life now. God is our future, our goal, our happiness. God is our past, our present, and our future.

All of us in our hearts yearn for unity and harmony with one another. We want the common good, the good of all. Yet we also want our own individual freedom. We want to retain our own individual identity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have perfect unity--the same identical nature. Yet, each is a distinct individual person. The Trinity is a model of common harmony and individual freedom.

In our own lives there is always a tension between the common good and individual rights and personal dignity. I think the solution does not lie in denying either part of the tension but in balancing both the common good and the individual in a responsible way. Certainly if selfishness and greed mask themselves as individual freedom, I don't think I'm acting responsibly. If the individual is absorbed in the collectivity, I don't think that's responsible either. If one observes this issue in the larger world picture, one might conclude that in the U.S. we come down to a great extent on the side of individualism. But whatever one's analysis, there needs to be a balance between individual freedom and the common good.

The Catholic French philosopher Gabriel Marcel said: "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived." I would add "God is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived. Let us enter into God and be absorbed into the mystery of God's love, wisdom, and power."

Holy Spirit

The English Jesuit poet Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S. J. saw God in the world even though modern technology has tended to obscure God's presence. Hopkins had hope that deep down God's presence cannot be suppressed. Sensing that God is active in our lives as individuals and as a community, Hopkins believed the Holy Spirit broods over our world "with ah! bright wings."

"Not many of you are wise. .influential.. well-born.. God singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong." In the Acts of the Apostles we see the Holy Spirit very much alive and present. At Pentecost the apostles experience the Holy Spirit visibly, palpably. There are tongues of fire, a driving wind, the whole house shakes. Acts is an exciting faith story--the early preaching of the good news, the spread of the church, the conversions, persecution, internal struggle, the closeness of the early community, sharing all things in common.

Jesus was true to his word of sending the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still with us, and we need to discern the action of the Holy Spirit today. Perhaps the presence of the Holy Spirit is not as subtle as we might think. Ferdinand Marcos was displaced in the Philippines in a non-violent way. The Cold War ended without a nuclear conflagration, without even a skirmish. The Holy Ghost broods over our world with ah! bright wings. There is a way. The process is good news. Let's not say I can't. Let us say we will. Let us never underestimate the will and power of God for good. When the odds are impossible, the Spirit breaks through!

One intriguing approach and way of viewing our world has begun to be developed by Deb Reich, author of No More Enemies. This different way can spread throughout our globe.

We have a choice between global dictatorship by a few or global democracy. Indeed we need to decide whether we want a globe at all! The earth on which we live has evolved over millions of years. The economic, political, cultural, and ethical relationships which we study have been built up over hundreds even thousands of years. Through nuclear weapons, we could destroy our globe in a few days. Or we can gradually destroy the earth on which we live and the relationships we have built through global climate change, global economic collapse, sustained injustice, etc.

With Victor Hugo I think there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. I hope that day by day we take a tiny step closer to global democracy by taking a tiny step closer to the idea of global democracy.

Once upon a time I was an undergraduate student at Xavier. It was during the Second World War, and I volunteered for the US Army. I found myself in Patton's Third Army in Europe. I was also in the Philippine Islands. World War II affected people in different ways. I sometimes think we have become fixated on World War II even though everything has changed but our way of thinking. I came away from World War II with a passion for peace. I suppose I could have tried to become an economist or a politician or a social worker. I decided to become a Jesuit priest. We can use our knowledge to form an interdisciplinary vision of a world more in accord with God's Word. Making that vision a reality means we have to be willing to pay the price. That's a spiritual problem. Just being open to real change is a spiritual enterprise.

There has always been only one globe, one human family. Over the centuries we have built structures and relationships, more recently the nation state, a modern communications media, an economic system, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the modern corporation, advanced technology, improved methods of education, the Internet, TV, radio, etc. All of these have been human creations, created by human persons who are made in God's image but who also are sinners, thus subject to change, growth, and God's grace. The laws of physics such as the law of gravity we cannot change. We can change sinful economic and social structures.

To determine to what extent we have global democracy now, I suggest three basic questions: Who is making the decisions? Who is benefiting most from these decisions? Who is paying most of the cost? You may find that those who are making the decisions are the ones reaping the benefits; those excluded from the decision-making process are paying most of the costs.

Although what has happened in our world, is happening, and could happen gives me nightmares, I also have dreams. I feel that unless I have a vision I cannot see the forest for the trees. I can get so lost in details and the myriad of issues that I lose a sense of the larger picture. The companion of Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, always called for clarification of thought. Ignoring obstacles, what kind of world would I like to see in 2030? Can we have global democracy by 2030? Can we at least start to move in that direction?

If you have read my web-site, you know what my vision is.

Without a culture of basic human rights, especially economic rights, the human family does not have the minimum essentials necessary for human life. God did not create us to be essentially frustrated. There are two Cincinnati 's (indeed two cities in most areas of the US); the one that the educated middle and upper class know and have lived in; the second Cincinnati that doesn't have the minimum essentials necessary for human life; whose needs are enormous, whose frustrations are endless, whose potential is wasted, whose voice is not heard. There are two Nazareths, Palestinian Nazareth, Israeli Nazareth. "But this agony need not be! We are interdependent. Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, and so we have respect for the community of living beings, for people, animals, and plants, and for the preservation of Earth, the air, water and soil. . We must consider humankind our family. . We must strive for a just social and economic order, in which everyone has an equal chance to reach full potential as a human being. . .Without risk and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change in our situation. Therefore we commit ourselves to a global ethic, to understanding one another, and to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and nature-friendly ways of life." 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago, Illinois, USA Towards a Global Ethic.

We need to start with our local community, but we cannot end there. As a global human family we need to cooperate with one another and share the global commons, the human and natural resources of our tiny planet.

We cannot turn our attention to the second Cincinnati that lacks minimum essentials without at the same time working toward global democracy. Without democratic international law, basic human rights are not possible. Because of our fear and insecurity, we pour all of our resources into national military weapons, secrecy, and a police state. But a single nation state or a group of nation states are incapable of judging fairly or acting promptly. Without a democratic global political entity, we do not have freedom from war, from economic oppression, or environmental pollution. If it is democratically chosen with sufficient checks and balances, a global governing body, and only a global governing body, can insure global democracy and a healthy earth for all.

The present United Nations has been a step in the right direction and has accomplished much, but it is only a confederation. The US should at least support the International Criminal Court, the Responsibility to Protect, and international treaties. Without common security I don't think national, regional, state, and local governments can operate properly. National governments are being asked to do what they are incapable of. This hinders their ability to do in an adequate manner what they were created for. Those who think we can create a global common good without eliminating the war system are ignoring a major challenge to our global human family.

A companion to democratic global world order is global economic democracy, global economic equity, global economic freedom. Without global economic democracy we will not achieve or maintain global political democracy. Global political democracy is not enough to insure basic freedom. Indeed genuine global political democracy would be difficult without global economic democracy. If only a few control the means of production, the media, the banks, those few will also control politics. In global democracy the people need to be able to make the crucial policy decisions now made by the few concerning global climate change, bioengineered seed, and allocation of resources.

Global economic democracy could take many forms. At the very least it would mean that each human person would have the minimum essentials to be human. Eventually it would mean widespread local ownership of the factories and farms. I think the principle of subsidiarity needs to be followed in the economic as well as the political sphere. This would result I believe in much more local community ownership of the means of production rather than large, overly centralized conglomerates. Economies of scale would dictate regional, national, and international economic entities following the principle of subsidiarity. We don't go to a higher level of government unless that higher level is necessary. We should not go to higher economic unit unless a larger unit is appropriate. For the sake of discussion, let's say that food production be local, energy regional, health care national, the oceans, seas, and natural resources of the earth be owned globally in common.

Without the many forms of active non-violence, we will not reach or maintain genuine peace, basic human rights, widespread ownership of the means of production or democratic global law. New structures and new values will work only if we work at it. Education is a key. Being intelligent, thoughtful citizens is key.

Working out a global ethic through consensus of the world religions has already happened and could be developed and codified into global positive law. Each nation and the United Nations should have a Council of Conscience. Without a global ethic, global positive law will not be able to be enforced. Likewise a global ethic cannot function unless it is codified into a global positive law.

Each person needs to deepen the spirituality of each one's tradition. We need time for reflection, meditation, prayer. We need to discern God's action and presence in our personal and communal lives.

If enough people really want global democracy, it will happen. There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. If we are lazy or fatalists, our attitude will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we will slide toward selfishness and indifference. We need a revolution of consciousness!

I think each element of an internal revolution of values and an external revolution of structures is necessary. Promoting one without the other won't work. If we put the elements of a radical change together, we can have global democracy. If there's any defect in my vision, I feel it is too conservative and minimal. I think we expect too little of ourselves and certainly too little of God.

Global democracy is an intellectual problem. It's also a spiritual problem. Although the forces of evil outside us and within us are enormous, nothing is impossible if we are open to God's grace. Where sin abounds, there grace does more abound. We need a vision. We also need a way to the vision. Communities of faith and action can lend support, moderation, analysis and prayer. Ignatian spirituality can help small groups to assimilate our past, be more genuinely present, and see better toward the future. Spiritual freedom leaves us open to think new thoughts and dream dreams. These small groups can then communicate their vision to the larger community.

"Despite the opportunities offered by an ever more serviceable technology, we are simply not willing to pay the price of a more just and more humane society. . . Injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion of each one's heart and a cultural conversion of our global society so that humankind, with all the powerful means at its disposal, might exercise the will to change the sinful structures afflicting our world. . . We need a sustained interdisciplinary dialogue of research and reflection, a continuous pooling of expertise. The purpose is to assimilate experiences and insights according to their different disciplines in a 'vision of knowledge which, well aware of its limitations, is not satisfied with fragments but tries to integrate them into a true and wise synthesis'" Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., former spiritual leader of the Society of Jesus, Address at Santa Clara University, October, 2000. to the twenty-eight Jesuit universities in the US .

What is your own present vision of what it would take to have the minimum essentials of a global democracy? Do you have a way of proceeding toward that goal? Are you willing to pay the price of a more just and more humane global society?

Globalization of Hope

Dorothy Day lobbied the bishops for a document of the Second Vatican Council called Gaudium et Spes "Joy and Hope" usually translated The Church in the Modern World. I like the Latin myself. No. 31 ends "We can justly consider that the future of humanity lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping." I think it does require strength, the strength of the Holy Spirit, to hope against hope despite the meagre signs of hope.

Fr. Peter J. Henriot, S.J. once at the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection ( in Lusaka, Zambia believes we need a globalisation of hope. On the 21st of June, 2001, Lusaka was one of the best viewing places in Africa for a fantastic celestial phenomenon, three hours of partial darkening of the sun and over three minutes of total darkness. "I must tell you that for the three minutes of total darkness, I prayed strongly that what the scientists had told us would truly be true, that the sun would reappear in all its shining glory. And it did. . .with a new dawn that gave rise to shouts of relief and joy among the people with whom I stood on that memorable afternoon." As Fr. Peter Henriot reads the signs of the times for Africa, he sees three signs of hope: 1) the Church as family in the service of life 2) a vital civil society with many non-governmental organizations 3) the development of women who provide nearly 80% of Africa's farm labor and over 75% of its food and who are active in the politics of the new African democracies.

The Commons and the Common Good

We owe all to the Creator of all, the Source of all gifts. Yet a small part of the human family want to privatize our common gift.

In old English law, the commons was a parcel of land that was shared by village residents for grazing and other purposes. This term "commons" can be extended to include the wealth and essential resources of this Earth that are to be of use for the betterment of all people. The commons cannot belong to individuals or a privileged few. In Roman law there is a res nullius (something belonging to no one) such as light, lakes, or seas. Today an ocean can be polluted or a tall building can block another's access to solar light. In Roman law the res communis was held by the state and res nullius was the property of no one. Actually the air waves should belong to all of us. Yet wealthy people are appropriating the air wave channels of radio and TV.

The common good is the general welfare of all, a concept found in Greek and Roman writings and developed in Christian social teaching.

Our planet needs the rain forest "lungs" to take in carbon dioxide for plant growth and give out oxygen for humans and animals.

Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism states that Reaganomics, privatization of the commons or state property, deregulation, and cutbacks in social protective networks is really a disastrous usurpation of the commons.

Indigenous American populations had as commons village settlements, meeting places, and hunting grounds.

The English philosopher John Locke seemed to think the land in America was infinite. His method of appropriation was enclosure of common land by human labor which gave value to land by clearing the forest and securing agricultural productivity.

Commonwealth has been used to describe The British Commonwealth, the Commonwealth of Poland, etc. Commonwealth (common weal) has also been used by states of the US: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, etc.

Outer space, the air waves, the oceans, sources of potable water, arable land, energy, etc. should be part of the commons. Likewise communication through computers, radio, TV; transportation should be part of the commons. All of the latter need to be used in a sustainable way. A large part of our food production and delivery system contributes greatly to global climate change. Arable land is often wasted by excessive military bases, prisons, lack of trees, pesticides, bioengineered seed. Potable water sources are misappropriated by soft-drink corporations for bottled water. Militarization of space are already begun.

Air must be kept healthy for all breathing creatures. No one has the right to contaminate this life-giving commons.

Intellectual and technological advances should be part of the commons. (See Unjust Deserts, How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take it Back. Drawing on a lively and fascinating synthesis of cutting-edge research, acclaimed author Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly demonstrate that up to 90 percent--and perhaps even more--of private earnings derive not from individual ingenuity, effort, or investment, but from what they describe as the unjust appropriation of our collective inheritance: namely, the scientific and technological knowledge that makes the economy work.) Copyright extensions are an infringement on our common intellectual stock.

Education is essential for access to the intellectual commons. Meaningful work gives each person the opportunity to express themselves, using their unique gifts to contribute to the well-being of the community. Our social capital adds to our cultural commons.

Rest, relaxation, prayer, meditation, public assembly and worship, should be available to all.

Ordinary medical care and basic medicines (often derived from the rainforests) should be essential to the commons.

Abraham Lincoln said we cannot have one nation, half slave and half free. Nor can we have a stable world divided into haves and have-nots, a world of the super rich and the destitute who lack the basics of life. Are those who want to privatize our commons the greatest and first terrorists?

(For ways to preserve our commons see this web-site under Economic Democracy)


In the Hebrew Covenant Israelites were not permitted to take interest in goods or money from fellow Israelites. Full remission of debts were given every seven years in Deuteronomy 15 and every fifty years in Leviticus 25.

Jesus had no words of praise for the official who put a fellow servant in jail rather than allow the servant to defer payment on a loan. (Matthew 18.35) In the spirit of Leviticus Jesus urges in the Our Father that we forgive monetary debts. (Matthew 6.5 Greek is opheilema. For a fuller discussion see Fr. Michael H. Crosby, OFMCap. Thy Will Be Done, Praying the Our Father as Subversive Activity, pp. 138 ff )

The church fathers, Tertullian, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Augustine, The Councils of Nicea, Carthage, Third Lateran, Lyons all condemned usury. Following Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas condemned usury as unnatural. Money was made for exchange. To get money on an investment or loan is to get wealth without creating anything of value. Interest leads to inequality. In 1524 Martin Luther said usury is "grossly contrary to God's word, contrary to reason and every sense of justice, and springs from sheer wantonness and greed." Pope Benedict XIV reiterated warnings against usury in 1745. Paper wealth is created without working, without producing anything of real value. (See Dictionary of Ethics, Theology, and Society, pp. 861,2) "The evil has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different form but with the same guilt, still practiced by avaricious and grasping men." (Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII, No. 2.)

The last article the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain wrote was "A Society Without Money" first printed in Review of Social Economy, 43 (April, 1985) 75-83 and reprinted in The Catholic Worker, June-July, 1989. "The Church, in its pure doctrinal teaching, condemned money lending as forcefully as did Aristotle. And during a long period civil legislation was in accord with the Church in considering a loan as something that should be essentially gratuitous. After all, this is the teaching of the Gospel. . . It has always been the work of man, and work alone, which has been productive and fruitful. To think once its fruit has been borne, that an additional sum, the fruit of the fecundity of money furnished by the investor, is due to the latter by the right of interest paid on capital, is a fundamental illusion. Money is not fecund."

The Quran insists that every human person has rights that must be respected and protected. Islam teaches strongly that one must do Jihad against her/his bad deeds. The Prophet of Islam calls this type of Jihad, Jihad Akbar, the greatest Jihad, a struggle against lack of respect of others, not forgiving others. God calls people who use usury as people in war with God and his Prophet. (bagh. 279)

Even if one allows a modest amount of interest to compensate for risk of losing earnings saved, our present system of enslaving the two-thirds world and lower-income wage-earners is highly suspect.

William Grieder's Secrets of the Temple, How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country argues that although capital deserves a just return, it cannot produce a toll that guarantees failure for the borrower. If interest rates are too high, economic stagnation is produced and there is further concentration of wealth as debtors fail and forfeit their property to the usurious lender. Usury ruins the borrower. (pp. 173, 707) Real interest rates exceed real economic growth. The share for the creditor is compounding faster than new wealth can be generated.

In economic democracy, we are equal. Each person has dignity, value, and worth. Although Adam Smith saw value in a mutually beneficial exchange, free enterprize supposes relative equality. Our economic system should not be an abstract mental construct by which we justify domination of many by a few. As sinners, we all need checks and balances. As persons, we deserve equal respect and dignity. There needs to be some way to reward extra labor, frugality, and saving. But I don't think that way now exists. We need to rethink what is currently happening, and creatively devise a new system that works, a plan more in accord with God's Word.

Dr. David C. Korten, Chapter 12 of When Corporations Rule the World, 2001 up-dated edition, says the present World Bank created customers for its loans rather than thinking of the needs of the two-thirds world. The US Marshall Plan provided rapidly dispersing grants or concessional loans to Europe. This is what the poorer nations needed. "From 1970 to 1980, the long-term external debt of low-income countries increased from $21 billion to $110 billion."

Usury and Globalization

In Jubilee Year 2000 we took a critical look at loans that never should have been made which today are multiplying at a dizzy rate while the children of the Two-thirds World suffer greater and greater malnutrition and death.

Although Zambia is being granted its HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) relief, it is finding cold comfort from the US congress providing $435 million to debt relief. Its debt payments are scheduled to increase from $136 million to $220 million a year following its HIPC deal. Fr. Peter Henriot, S.J. is calling for outright cancellation.
(See Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection)

These were bad loans. The banks should pay for their mistakes, not taxpayers and certainly not the poor!

Perfect Crime

"The problem is a process of integration carried out since at least 1980 under circumstances of unsustainable finance, in which wealth has flowed upwards from the poor countries to the rich, and mainly to the upper financial strata of the richest countries. In the course of these events, progress toward tolerable levels of inequality and sustainable development virtually stopped. Neocolonial patterns of center-periphery dependence, and of debt peonage, were reestablished but without the slightest assumption of responsibility by the rich countries for the fate of the poor. It has been, it would appear, a perfect crime." (Daedalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Winter 2002, James K. Galbraith, "A Perfect Crime: Global Inequality" p. 25)

Common Economic Security

One approach to economic democracy is through greater distribution of wealth and ownership. If national governments have the will, fairness for all can also be helped by national social legislation. On the international level, structures to achieve a fair economy simply are not there. As citizens of the world, we have the moral responsibility to serve the common good of the entire planet. "In global economic relations no international institution provides social coordination and regulation of economic actors and institutions." Economic Justice for All, Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy, No.'s 322-325. I think international financial institutions should be held accountable to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
(See Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II, No's 35 and 52. "Just as there is a collective responsibility for avoiding war, so too there is a collective responsibility for promoting development. Just as within individual societies it is possible and right to organize a solid economy which will direct the functioning of the market to the common good, so too there is a similar need for adequate interventions on the international level."

The International Monetary Fund was originally conceived by the economist John Maynard Keynes "to be a lender of first resort to countries needing to borrow foreign currencies to purchase goods abroad. Had the IMF developed as Keynes intended, poorer countries would have more control of the terms under which they borrow. Rich countries would have been stripped of the economic power to force poorer nations into debt." Democratic control over the global economy can only be had if the IMF is no longer intensely secretive and top-heavy with US and European representatives whose allegiance to corporate interests is generally unquestioned. (See Dollars and Sense No. 224, August, 1999, pp. 13 ff) (Web International financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are not democratic. They need to be accountable to those who have to live with their abstract dogmas. (See 50 Years Is Enough: US Network for Global Economic Justice

In When Corporations Rule the World (Chapter 20, up-dated 2001 edition) Dr. David Korten proposed that the organizations agreed on in July, 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which today are known as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization be brought back under open and democratic control of the United Nations. The Bretton Woods institutions need to be decommissioned, and three new UN agencies be created with roles nearly opposite of the present structures.

An International Insolvency Court hears cases brought by debtor nations to grant a stay of its debt repayments agreeing at the same time to incur no new debt. Bad debts which were not legitimately contracted or used for purposes that yielded no public benefits would be rescinded. Rescheduling, reduction, and cancellation of the remaining debt would be made on terms which would allow governments to provide essential social services. "Such plans would ideally take into account the implicit debt owed to the debtor country by creditor countries in the North for wealth previously extracted without proper compensation." Mechanisms would be put in place to keep the international accounts of nations in balance.

An International Finance Organization which would replace the International Monetary Fund will promote productive domestic investment and domestic ownership of productive resources. This new UN agency would maintain a central data base on international accounts and facilitate negotiations among trading partners to correct imbalances. It would help prevent the use of offshore banks and tax havens for money laundering and tax evasion.

An Organization for Corporate Accountability which would replace the World Trade Organization will assure "public accountability of international corporations and finance; break up concentrations of corporate power in banking, media, and agribusiness; prevent unfair competitive practices; decharter corporations with a history of regulatory violations; enable persons harmed by a corporate subsidiary in one country to sue the parent company for damages in another; set rules and standards for businesses; prohibit the patenting of genetic materials, life forms and processes, and indigenous knowledge; and access beneficial information and technologies from other countries on reasonable terms."

Globalization of Solidarity

Very Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., a spiritual leader of the Society of Jesus, recorded comments for the 25th anniversary of my radio show Faith and Justice Forum: "Since 1975 it has been an apostolic priority for the Society of Jesus to work towards a world where Faith generates Justice and all human beings live in fraternal solidarity. Based on this aspiration, Xavier University's radio station has been broadcasting for 25 years a Forum of Faith and Justice under the able direction of Father Benjamin J. Urmston, S.J. During those 25 years, the technology of radio broadcast has undergone great change, and the competition from other communications media has shaped the radio audiences. In the midst of the rapid sociological and technical changes, Xavier University has continued to deliver the message of a religious faith which cannot be separated from the promotion of justice. The process of globalization has benefited from communication technologies, and we have to assure that these communication techniques help to proclaim that globalization is not merely an extension of markets and economic activities, but also an expansion of solidarity: the globalization of solidarity. While congratulating and thanking Father Urmston, Dr. James King, and the many others who have contributed to the Forum of Faith and Justice over the years, I pray that their mission will continue well into the future."


Christian Scripture speaks of the principalities and powers, the world as opposed to the values of Jesus. Those who are making the decisions today have an ideology. To recognize and analyse the dominant culture today we need to have the spiritual freedom to acknowledge our own immediate vested interests. To change our attitude isn't easy. To have a complete change of attitude is a spiritual challenge. I think a long-term vision more in accord with God's Word is in everyone's interest. But to even consider such a change requires spiritual discernment.

The present principalities and powers use "globalization" as an ideology. To them, the operation of the market has an absolute value. The market is not for people, but people are subordinated to the market. The unrestricted "free" market assumes a religious character, as greed becomes a virtue, competition a commandment, and profit a sign of salvation. Dissenters are dismissed as non-believers at best, and heretics at worst. Economic fundamentalism is as bad as religious fundamentalism.

In the present structures capital flow across borders is rapid and uncontrolled. Trade relationships may be "free" but whether they are fair depends on factors of power, size, experience, skills, etc. If capital can cross borders at the touch of a computer, labor should also be able to cross borders in an orderly and legal way.

(See Africa in the Age of Globalisation: What is Our Future? Presentation by Fr. Peter J. Henriot, S.J., Arrupe College, Harare, Zimbabwe, 31 March 2001)

The ideology of conspicuous consumption has moved to conspicuous equity. If a few have enough capital, they can retire and follow whatever pursuits they wish. Why not find a way to extend equity to all? (See America Beyond Capitalism, Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy, Gar Alperovitz.)

Do we take our values from the dominant culture? Or do we taking our values from God, the churches, common decency? Do we have enough spiritual freedom to see alternatives to the present structures?

A Sustainable Global Economy

I recommend a small book by Hazel Henderson for the New Economics Foundation: Beyond Globalization, Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy: "Ever more problems and issues have become global--beyond the reach of national governments. . .Money itself has morphed into information, as debit cards, credit cards, and trillions of digitized bits flow between millions of computers. Money and information are now equivalent--we are already off the money and gold standard and on the information standard worldwide. If money-based transactions and credit-availability are not overhauled drastically, consumers, businesses, employees, and investors will simply go around banks and money-based transacting to pure information-based transactions such as high-tech barter, local scrip currencies and LETS systems, electronic commerce via e-cash, credit and debit cards, virtual banking, etc. (p. 51)

Many citizens' groups are challenging the practice of creating money as debt to banks who can lend money out at interest while only retaining a fraction (usually 8%) in reserves. There needs to be local credit-union, micro-credit, small banks devoted to local lending. (p. 52)

Cincinnati's Time Store was a bring and buy, local skills and labor exchange.

The most prominent example of sovereignty-sharing is the European Union. Power-sharing has not come easily, but operates effectively within the principle of subsidiarity: control retained at local or provincial levels where appropriate." (p. 3)

The light graced story of globalization includes the advance of citizen organizations and movements. More access to information has helped empower citizens, employees, socially responsible investors, and consumers.

The dark graced story of globalization includes the secrecy of corporations and banks. Corporations hide what they're doing by unreal accounting. It is not hard to make globalization look good if your accounting disenfranchises a significant minority, ignores the running down of natural resources (about 30% of Nature's productive capacity has been lost), and discounts future risks.

"Unpaid work (parenting, caring for old and sick family members, growing food for family and community needs, maintaining households, volunteering in community service, do-it-yourself home and community construction, and repair projects) is some 50% of all production in developed countries and 60 to 65% in developing countries." (p. 10)

The GNP "private" sector rests on the GNP "public" sector (roads, schools, etc) which rests on the Social cooperative Caring Economy (unpaid work) which rests on Nature's Layer (which absorbs costs of pollution, recycles wastes if tolerances are not exceeded, etc)

"Addressing the tasks of restructuring the global economy requires a multitude of disciplines and metrics beyond money--that is a systems approach. . . Systems theorists have shown that many of our social and environmental problems experienced at one level are generated at another level. The reductionist paradigm of solving problems, one at a time, in isolation, without an overview of the whole system is precisely what generates impacts elsewhere) Our global networked economy is composed of millions of daily actions and interactions at all levels--between governments, banks, investors, corporations, employees, and consumers--all nested in ecosystems. Sadly, many millions are increasingly left out of these networks. . . Almost the entire continent of Africa (except for South Africa) has been bypassed by the flows of the global economy as have inner cities and rural areas in many developed countries." p. 15.

"On an annual budget of less than New York City's municipal fire department, the UN has cajoled, networked and convened its member states to agree on a wide range of major global concerns. . .The UN is the most inclusive, open and democratic of the global institutions, the General Assembly of all member-states, as well as its International Court of Justice and universal Declaration of Human Rights. Partly due to this democratic structure, the rich, powerful countries and financial interests which dominate the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group (including the International Development Association and the International Finance Corporation) have pulled these Bretton Woods-created agencies away from UN control. Thus today the World Bank and IMF often act secretively and autonomously. These agencies need to return to the UN fold. . the independent World Trade Organization, largely dominated by corporate and "free market" agendas need to be reformed and democratized." (p. 26)

There needs to be a properly trained standing force of UN peace-keepers, a rapid-deployment humanitarian force, a reformed and expanded Security Council with restricted use of the veto, an end to global arms trafficking, an emphasis on a credible deterrent before conflicts break out. (p. 27)

International criminal trials should be televised before the ultimate court of world opinion.

We need public goods, knowledge, health, infrastructure, national parks, defense, police and justice systems, peace, equity, financial stability, and environmental sustainability. The Internet and cyberspace are global public goods. Nobel economist Amartya Sen treats global justice as a public good. A well-regulated, transparent, well-functioning system of financial markets is a global public good. "Financial instability is an international public bad."

People or companies who use these public goods need to pay their fair share of the costs. There needs to be equitable international taxation. Simple derivative instruments such as forward contracts would be easy to tax. The Canadian Parliament passed a resolution in April 1999 to study the international financial transaction tax proposed by economist James Tobin, a tax that would affect only wealthy institutions.

There needs to be a global version of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, a new Bretton Woods conference convened by the UN, a new accounting system that can better monitor ecological assets, human and social capital, and unpaid work in the caring sectors of all economies.

There needs to be an international central bank which could stabilize foreign exchange markets by maintaining its own currency as an international unit of account.

Prevention costs much less than coping with problems after they occur.

In 1998 violent weather (a well-documented effect of climate change) cost the world's insurance industry a record US $89 billion--more than all weather related catastrophes in all of the 1980's. (p. 30)

A World Financial Authority to oversee both private financial conglomerates such as hedge funds and global financial institutions needs to be democratically established and accountable to the United Nations. (p. 39)

Corporate charters need redrafting to reflect new realities, where knowledge is recognized as a key factor of production and social/environmental performance are bench marked and audited. All stakeholders affected by the means of production, workers, the community, the earth, need to be recognized. (p. 46)

New Quality of Life scorecards would also measure toxic wastes, resource depletion, shrinking safe-water supplies, polluted air, unsafe streets, drugs, money-laundering, poverty, and global epidemics. (p. 56)

In developed nations the limiting factor now is time rather than money. The Attention Economy is turning off information overload and costly mass consumption and moving to more caring, attention-based health services geared to self-knowledge and prevention, eco-labeling and social seals of approval.

Cultural diversity is as important as bio-diversity.

We must abolish nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and turn technology to positive good and to building our common future.

We need to accept compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Committee; increase the Courts' powers of enforcement. Establish an International Environmental Court to enforce international treaties on the environment and protect the global commons.

Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.: "When we truly discover the power of love, it will prove more important than the harnessing of fire."

Cincinnati Archdiocesan Global Solidarity

History: A number of related developments came together in the Fall of 1998 to create the impetus for the Global Solidarity: Focus Central America project (GS:FCA). In the Spring of 1998, a series of articles in the Cincinnati Enquirer called into question the integrity of business practices of Chiquita Brands International, one of many multinational corporations operating in Central America. Subsequent to these articles, the integrity of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati was questioned for its acceptance of a large financial contribution from Carl Lindner, Chairman of the Board of Chiquita Brands International. In the light of the Catholic Church's social teachings and the above two scenarios, the Social Action and World Peace (SAWP) Commission and the Priests' Council determined that some fact-finding would be appropriate concerning the operations of Cincinnati multinational companies in Central America.