Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Introduction of Pontifical Academy Meeting

Introduction of Pontifical Academy Meeting
"A Lack of Charity and Justice in the World"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).

The plenary session will be held in Vatican City from April 27 to May 1.

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The next plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences will be devoted to the study of Charity and Justice in the Relations Among Peoples and Nations. In the recent past, the academy has devoted sessions to the study of globalization and these have enabled us to see that there is a lack of charity and justice in the world we live in.

This may be summarized in a general way as: disproportionate reallocations, promises not honored, and unequal divisions. In addition, we are faced with new signs of the times that are very worrying. All of this has been met by the renewed appeal to charity and justice made by the Pope, Benedict XVI, in particular in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est." These facts and this appeal form an important part of the background to our meeting.

The subject of the session will be the relations among peoples and nations: the developed, the developing, the emerging and the poor. We will ask ourselves whether these relations, in the light of the social magisterium of the Church, can become more just, fairer, and more peaceful, and what the route should be to achieve such ends. In other words, is a partnership for charity and justice possible in the globalized world?

1. Worrying recent signs of the times

Although it is at times a common conviction that the pursuit of charity and justice at the international level is of key importance for contemporary society, at the same time we encounter signs that are working in the opposite direction:

The re-emergence of nationalism. In developing and developed countries there are signs of crisis as regards two key features of the process of globalization: one is a human problem and relates to increased legal and illegal international migration and the political resistance to it; the second is economic and relates to the tensions between protectionism and free trade.

Weak convergence. In spite of continuing rapid economic growth in many developing countries, signals of economic and social convergence between developed and developing countries are still confined to only to a few of this last category. This is not only the case at the economic level but is also true in the field of education.

Pervasive poverty. At the same time, even in countries that have a fast-growing economy, the incidence of poverty and extreme poverty is still very high.

The weakness of multilateralism. Bilateralism is growing stronger and most multilateral institutions, such as the UN, the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, and even some of their regional counterparts, are demonstrating signs of weakness and tiredness. However, no institutions are presently emerging to replace them.

Millennium Goals. These were based on a broad international consensus but there are now well-grounded doubts about the possibility of really implementing them within the time envisaged. The previous consensus on the Millennium Goals is thus beginning to crumble. As a result, there is a need for further reflection on the mechanisms by which these goals can be achieved, together with the formulation of new proposals.

Insufficient and inefficient aid. The aid that has been given has fallen far short of the goal of allocating 0.7% of the GDP of developed countries to foreign aid. In addition, the aid that has been given has often been inefficiently distributed and utilized both by international organizations and by local governments and agencies.

Terrorism and war. As the events of Sept. 11, 2001, indicate, the beginning of the new century has been characterized by a notable increase in the social and moral scourge of terrorism. At the same time, the world is still afflicted on a large scale by wars between countries and wars within countries.

2. The Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" of Pope Benedict XVI

Our meeting wants to draw inspiration from the Pope's first encyclical and its important implications. In particular this document reminds us that the theological and human virtue of charity must preside over all of the social teaching and all of the social works of the Church and her members. First of all, this encyclical leads us to the center of our faith, to the truth that "God is love."

Thus the Pope declares that "Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbor." The Pope draws our attention to the fact that this teaching is both timely and significant "in a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence."

This is why "Deus Caritas Est" has been correctly described as being in part a social encyclical. It is love (caritas) that animates the Church's care for the needy, the work of laywomen and men for justice and peace in the secular sphere, and is the leavening force of the Church in society. And without love, as Paul told the Corinthians, our words and works will come to nothing.

Indeed, "Deus Caritas Est" places itself in the long lineage of other social encyclicals (cf. No. 27), not only because it addresses the virtue of charity but also because it attributes primary importance to the virtue of justice. Indeed, it has a highly significant reference to a famous statement on this virtue by one of the great figures of Tradition: "As Augustine once said, a state which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves: 'Remota itaque iustitia quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia?"'

Taking into consideration traditional philosophical-political doctrines and also (in a critical way) the Marxist demand for a fair distribution of goods by public powers, Benedict XVI declares: "In today's complex situation, not least because of the growth of a globalized economy, the social doctrine of the Church has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are even beyond the confines of the Church: in the face of ongoing development these guidelines need to be addressed in the context of dialogue with all those seriously concerned for humanity and for the world in which we live" (No. 27).

When discussing the relationship between the Church, a "Community of Love," and politics, the Pope's approach to justice is particularly relevant to the social sciences and to the role of the magisterium of the Church.

First of all, the Pope offers the strongest vision that has ever been formulated in the contemporary age on the relationship between politics and justice: "The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics." Indeed, "Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics."

For the Pope justice (and politics) is not a mere utilitarian or contractual technique but "by its very nature has to do with ethics" (No. 28). In contrast to the solely descriptive and value-free understanding of human action proposed by many within the human and social sciences, the Pope upholds the importance of practical reason by renewing the question of the most just political order.

However, he perceives the modern danger of detaching reason from faith: "If reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests." Indeed, we cannot but engage in an assessment of our sense of justice in the light of faith: "From God's standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself."

This critical work of faith frees reason from its limits: "Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly." Not only the historical dimension of the meaning of justice, founded on both the Jewish and Christian traditions and the Roman and Greek inheritance, but also its contemporary meaning, derive from the constant purification that faith brings to reason: "This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith."

To conclude, here, too, the Pope attributes to the Christian a fundamental task and stresses that the aim of the social doctrine of the Church "is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgement and attainment of what is just" (No. 28a).

The Holy Father, in conformity with this teaching on charity and justice, thus calls for the structures of charitable service in the social context of the present day to promote the wellbeing of individuals, of peoples and of humanity: "Our times call for a new readiness to assist our neighbors in need. … Concern for our neighbor transcends the confines of national communities and has increasingly broadened its horizon to the whole world" (No. 30).

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