Archive for May 17th, 2013

Pope  Francis comes out swinging, in his first major address concerning economics; from Vatican Insider:


In his first major speech on the global financial crisis, Pope Francis strongly denounced “the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal”.  He called on the world’s financial experts and political leaders to promote “disinterested solidarity” and “a return to a person-centered ethics in the world of finance and economics.”

His opportunity to critique the present financial and economic disorder and call for an ethically based global financial reform came on May 15 when he welcomed new ambassadors to the Holy See from Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Botswana.

While addressed in the first place to the governments represented by the new ambassadors, his message was clearly targeted at the world’s financial and political leaders.  And it was clearly rooted in his experience in Latin America, and especially in Argentina where over the past decades he had witnessed the country’s economic meltdown, an increase in poverty, the growing gap between rich and poor, and widespread corruption.

“The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them”, he told the ambassadors.  He made clear that he sees this as one of his duties as Successor of Peter.

He began his speech by noting that “the human family” has reached a “turning point in its history” if one considers the advances made.  He praised the “positive achievements”, particularly in the fields of health, education and communications, but he then moved quickly to highlight the disastrous situation that most people are living in.

“The majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences”, he stated. “Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences”, he added; “fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way.”

One cause of this dramatic situation, he said, is to be found in “our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society”, Indeed, the root cause of the present financial crisis in the world is to be found in “a profound human crisis”, namely, in “the denial of the primacy of human beings!”  This has happened, he said, because “we have created new idols”.

He recalled how in the Bible, the Book of Exodus tells how people worshiped “the golden calf” thousands of years ago and said that today this worship “has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal”.

All this has resulted in the current distortion of the world’s economy and finances and has created the present global financial and economic crisis, in which man is reduced to mere consumption, he said.

Still worse, he said, “human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started a throw-away culture.”

“This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted!” he stated; and in these circumstances “solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy.”

Pope Francis highlighted the fact that “while the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling”.  He attributed this “imbalance” to the ideologies that “uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.”

In this way, he said, “A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules.”  Furthermore, “indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power.”

On top of all this, Pope Francis said there is “widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless.”

He drew attention to the fact that “concealed behind this attitude is a rejection of ethics, a rejection of God”.  Indeed,  “Ethics, like solidarity, is a nuisance! It is regarded as counterproductive: as something too human, because it relativizes money and power”.

Today, he said, ethics is regarded as “a threat” because “it rejects manipulation and subjection of people” and because it “leads to God, who is situated outside the categories of the market.”

Pope Francis said that “God is thought to be unmanageable by these financiers, economists and politicians”.  God is considered “unmanageable, even dangerous, because he calls man to his full realization and to independence from any kind of slavery”, he said

“Ethics – naturally, not the ethics of ideology – makes it possible, in my view, to create a balanced social order that is more humane”, he said.

He encouraged “the financial experts and the political leaders” to consider the words of Saint John Chrysostom, who once said: “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs.”

Pope Francis insisted that “there is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone.”

While acknowledging that such a reform requires “a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders”, he urged them “to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations.” “Money has to serve, not to rule!” he stated.

Read the unabridged text here.

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Fr Robert Taft, SJ


From First Things:

Earlier this month, Christopher Warner at the Catholic World Report interviewed Archimandrite Robert Taft, S.J., a Byzantine Catholic priest and professor emeritus of Oriental Liturgy at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, about Catholic-Orthodox relations and the prospects for future unity:

CWR: Most Catholics probably envision future unity between the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church as a re-installment of one world Church organization with the pope of Rome at the top of the governing pyramid. A look at history shows that such a model never existed, so what could Orthodox-Catholic communion actually look like if it were achieved? A renewal of Eucharistic communion? The possibility of an eighth ecumenical council? A resolution for the dating of Pascha/Easter?

Taft: What it would look like is not a “reunion” with them “returning to Rome,” to which they never belonged anyway; nor us being incorporated by them, since we are all ancient apostolic “Sister Churches” with a valid episcopate and priesthood and the full panoply of sacraments needed to minister salvation to our respective faithful, as is proclaimed in the renewed Catholic ecclesiology since Vatican II and enshrined in numerous papal documents from Paul VI on, as well as in the wonderful Catechism of the Catholic Church. So we just need to restore our broken communion and the rest of the problems you mention can be addressed one by one and resolved by common accord.

. . .

CWR: How could the papal claims of Rome be modified in a way that would be both acceptable to the Orthodox Churches and faithful to the tradition of the Catholic Church? Do you think the jurisdiction issue really is a hang-up for the Orthodox since they also practice cross-jurisdiction throughout Western Europe, the Americas, Australia, and East Asia?

Taft: The new Catholic “Sister Churches” ecclesiology describes not only how the Catholic Church views the Orthodox Churches. It also represents a startling revolution in how the Catholic Church views itself: we are no longer the only kid on the block, the whole Church of Christ, but one Sister Church among others. Previously, the Catholic Church saw itself as the original one and only true Church of Christ from which all other Christians had separated for one reason or another in the course of history, and Catholics held, simplistically, that the solution to divided Christendom consisted in all other Christians returning to Rome’s maternal bosom.

Vatican II, with an assist from those Council Fathers with a less naïve Disney-World view of their own Church’s past, managed to put aside this historically ludicrous, self-centered, self-congratulatory perception of reality. In doing so they had a strong assist from the Council Fathers of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church whose concrete experience of the realities of the Christian East made them spokesmen and defenders of that reality.

In this context I would recommend the excellent new book by Robert Louis Wilken, The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press 2012). Professor Wilken, a convert to Catholicism who is a recognized expert on Early Christianity and its history and literature, shows that Early Christianity developed not out of some Roman cradle but as a federation of local Churches, Western and Eastern, each one under the authority of a chief hierarch who would come to be called Archbishop, Pope, Patriarch, or Catholicos, each with its own independent governing synod and polity, all of them initially in communion with one another until the vicissitudes of history led to lasting divisions.

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