A “Hors-d’Œuvre” to Benedict XVI’s Upcoming Social Encyclical

Source: FSSPX News

Document sans nom On December 11, Benedict XVI released his message for the 42nd World Day of Peace, celebrated on January 1, 2009. The message is entitled “Fighting Poverty To Build Peace.” During the Press Conference presenting the document, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, announced the release of the first social encyclical of Benedict XVI for the beginning of 2009. 

The document, written in part by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, seems to have been revised several times by the pope. To the question as to whether the content of the Pope’s Message for the World Day of Peace was not already a “mini-encyclical,” the cardinal answered that it was only the “hors-d’œuvre.” This encyclical should thus amply deal with issues linked to globalization, the economical crisis, and environment. While awaiting its publication, we give here a synthesis of the Message for World Day Peace which gives us, as it were, a foretaste of it, we are told. We will comment upon the matter only once the encyclical has been released.

In his Message, the pope invites us to reflect upon the negative repercussions of poverty for peace, a theme already tackled by John Paul II in 1993. “Poverty is often a contributory factor or a compounding element in conflicts, including armed ones. In turn, these conflicts fuel further tragic situations of poverty.” In this context, the pope explains, fight against poverty “requires attentive consideration of the complex phenomenon of globalization.” “Yet the reference to globalization should also alert us to the spiritual and moral implications of the question, urging us, in our dealings with the poor, to set out from the clear recognition that we all share in a single divine plan.” Now, besides material poverty, there exist “non-material forms of poverty”: marginalization, affective, moral and spiritual poverty. “It remains true, however, that every form of externally imposed poverty has at its root a lack of respect for the transcendent dignity of the human person.”

The pope goes on to describe poverty and its moral implications. He denounces the fact that it is linked to demographic growth as if this were its direct cause. This leads to the setting afoot of international campaigns to reduce birth-rates,” that “respect neither the dignity of the woman, nor the right of parents,” nor the right to life of the unborn children, while it is an admitted fact that population is a source of riches and not a factor of poverty.”

Next, mentioning pandemic diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, Benedict XVI also denounces that: “It also happens that countries afflicted by some of these pandemics find themselves held hostage, when they try to address them, by those who make economic aid conditional upon the implementation of anti-life policies. It is especially hard to combat AIDS, a major cause of poverty, unless the moral issues connected with the spread of the virus are also addressed. First and foremost, educational campaigns are needed, aimed especially at the young, to promote a sexual ethic that fully corresponds to the dignity of the person.” Lastly, the pope reminds us that when poverty strikes a family, the children prove to be the most vulnerable victims.”

Next, the Holy Father draws attention to the “relationship between disarmament and development.” The pope more specifically deplores that “immense military expenditure, involving material and human resources and arms, is in fact diverted from development projects for peoples.” In his eyes, “an excessive increase in military expenditure risks accelerating the arms race, producing pockets of underdevelopment and desperation, so that it can paradoxically become a cause of instability, tension and conflict.” Benedict XVI invites States to “to reflect seriously on the underlying reasons for conflicts, often provoked by injustice, and to practice courageous self-criticism.”

Lastly, he says that the current food crisis “is characterized not so much by a shortage of food, as by difficulty in gaining access to it and by different forms of speculation: in other words, by a structural lack of political and economic institutions capable of addressing needs and emergencies. Malnutrition can also cause grave mental and physical damage to the population, depriving many people of the energy necessary to escape from poverty unaided. This contributes to the widening gap of inequality, and can provoke violent reactions.”

In the second part, means of fighting against poverty and of establishing global solidarity are proposed. For Benedict XVI, “one of the most important ways of building peace is through a form of globalization directed towards the interests of the whole human family. In order to govern globalization, however, there needs to be a strong sense of global solidarity between rich and poor countries, as well as within individual countries, including affluent ones. A “common code of ethics” is also needed, consisting of norms based not upon mere consensus, but rooted in the natural law inscribed by the Creator on the conscience of every human being.” Against poverty, there is no valid remedy in globalization unless “people everywhere feel personally outraged by the injustices in the world and by the concomitant violations of human rights.” In the spirit of Vatican II, Benedict XVI, quoting Lumen Gentium, declared that: “The Church, which is the ‘sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race’ will continue to offer her contribution so that injustices and misunderstandings may be resolved, leading to a world of greater peace and solidarity.”

“In the field of international commerce and finance, (…) I should like to renew an appeal for all countries to be given equal opportunities of access to the world market, without exclusion or marginalization.” In the area of finance, he underlined, “the recent crisis demonstrates how financial activity can at times be completely turned in on itself, lacking any long-term consideration of the common good.” Benedict XVI also warns that “finance limited in this way to the short and very short term becomes dangerous for everyone, even for those who benefit when the markets perform well.”

In order that globalization be managed with “great prudence”, the Holy Father invites “to give priority to the needs of the world’s poor, and overcoming the scandal of the imbalance between the problems of poverty and the measures which have been adopted in order to address them.” For the pope, this imbalance if it lies in the cultural and political order is first and foremost of the spiritual and moral order. The pope deplores that: “we often consider only the superficial and instrumental causes of poverty without attending to those harboured within the human heart, like greed and narrow vision.” According to the pope, “What the fight against poverty really needs are men and women who live in a profoundly fraternal way and are able to accompany individuals, families and communities on journeys of authentic human development.”

By way of conclusion, Benedict XVI emphasizes that “globalization on its own is incapable of building peace, and in many cases, it actually creates divisions and conflicts. If anything it points to a need: to be oriented towards a goal of profound solidarity that seeks the good of each and all.” Concerning this issue, the pope recalls “the “preferential love for the poor” (Centesimus annus, John Paul II), in the light of the primacy of charity, which is attested throughout Christian tradition, beginning with that of the early Church.” Benedict XVI “extends to every disciple of Christ and to every person of good will a warm invitation to expand their hearts to meet the needs of the poor and to take whatever practical steps are possible in order to help them. The truth of the axiom cannot be refuted: “to fight poverty is to build peace.”