USCCB News Release
December 12, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Globalization Works Only When All Can Grow,
Says Cardinal George Greeting World Day of Peace Message
WASHINGTON—Globalization works only when all can grow, said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop, December 12. "The moral dimension of world poverty must be addressed if we are to have world peace."
Cardinal George made his comments in response to Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 World Day of Peace message, released at the Vatican, Dec. 11. The message is titled "Fighting Poverty To Build Peace," and highlights the dangers of massive inequality among peoples of the world. World Day of Peace is January 1.
"In today's globalized world, it is increasingly evident that peace can be built only if everyone is assured the possibility of reasonable growth: sooner or later, the distortions produced by unjust systems have to be paid for by everyone," Pope Benedict said. "It is utterly foolish to build a luxury home in the midst of desert or decay. 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. In this sense, globalization should be seen as a good opportunity to achieve something important in the fight against poverty, and to place at the disposal of justice and peace resources which were scarcely conceivable previously."
Pope Benedict listed several areas of concern and noted that "fighting poverty requires attentive consideration of the complex phenomenon of globalization." He cited moral implications of poverty and campaigns to reduce birth rates "sometimes using methods that respect neither the dignity of the woman, nor the right of parents to choose responsibly how many children to have; graver still, these methods often fail to respect even the right to life. The extermination of millions of unborn children, in the name of the fight against poverty, actually constitutes the destruction of the poorest of all human beings."
He said that "since the end of the Second World War, the world's population has grown by four billion, largely because of certain countries that have recently emerged on the international scene as new economic powers, and have experienced rapid development specifically because of the large number of their inhabitants. Moreover, among the most developed nations, those with higher birth-rates enjoy better opportunities for development. In other words, population is proving to be an asset, not a factor that contributes to poverty."
The Holy Father cited concern for pandemic diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. "Efforts to rein in the consequences of these diseases on the population do not always achieve significant results," he said. "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," he said also. 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; initiatives of this kind have already borne important fruits, causing a reduction in the spread of AIDS. Then, too, the necessary medicines and treatment must be made available to poorer peoples as well. This presupposes a determined effort to promote medical research and innovative forms of treatment, as well as flexible application, when required, of the international rules protecting intellectual property, so as to guarantee necessary basic healthcare to all people."
Pope Benedict highlighted child poverty especially.
"When poverty strikes a family, the children prove to be the most vulnerable victims: almost half of those living in absolute poverty today are children," he said. "To take the side of children when considering poverty means giving priority to those objectives which concern them most directly, such as caring for mothers, commitment to education, access to vaccines, medical care and drinking water, safeguarding the environment, and above all, commitment to defence of the family and the stability of relations within it. When the family is weakened, it is inevitably children who suffer. If the dignity of women and mothers is not protected, it is the children who are affected most."
The pontiff stressed the "relationship between disarmament and development."
"The current level of world military expenditure gives cause for concern. As I have pointed out before, it can happen that 'immense military expenditure, involving material and human resources and arms, is in fact diverted from development projects for peoples, especially the poorest who are most in need of aid.'"
"This state of affairs does nothing to promote, and indeed seriously impedes, attainment of the ambitious development targets of the international community," he added. "What is more, 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."
The pope cited "the current food crisis, which places in jeopardy the fulfillment of basic needs."
"This 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," he said. "All the indicators of relative poverty in recent years point to an increased disparity between rich and poor. No doubt the principal reasons for this are, on the one hand, advances in technology, which mainly benefit the more affluent, and on the other hand, changes in the prices of industrial products, which rise much faster than those of agricultural products and raw materials in the possession of poorer countries. In this way, the majority of the population in the poorest countries suffers a double marginalization, through the adverse effects of lower incomes and higher prices."
He stressed the need for global solidarity and the fight against poverty.
"One of the most important ways of building peace is through a form of globalization directed towards the interests of the whole human family," he said, noting "there needs to be a strong sense of global solidarity between rich and poor countries, as well as within individual countries, including affluent ones."
He cited natural law as calling us to global solidarity.
"Effective means to redress the marginalization of the world's poor through globalization will only be found if people everywhere feel personally outraged by the injustices in the world and by the concomitant violations of human rights," he said.
He spoke of international commerce and finance and voiced concern for processes "dividing and marginalizing peoples, and creating dangerous situations that can erupt into wars and conflicts."
"Since the Second World War, international trade in goods and services has grown extraordinarily fast, with a momentum unprecedented in history," he said. "Much of this global trade has involved countries that were industrialized early, with the significant addition of many newly- emerging countries which have now entered onto the world stage. Yet there are other low-income countries which are still seriously marginalized in terms of trade. Their growth has been negatively influenced by the rapid decline, seen in recent decades, in the prices of commodities, which constitute practically the whole of their exports. In these countries, which are mostly in Africa, dependence on the exportation of commodities continues to constitute a potent risk factor. Here 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."
The Holy Father voiced similar concern in the area of finance.
"Today this appears extremely fragile: it is experiencing the negative repercussions of a system of financial dealings — both national and global — based upon very short-term thinking, which aims at increasing the value of financial operations and concentrates on the technical management of various forms of risk," he said. "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. This lowering of the objectives of global finance to the very short term reduces its capacity to function as a bridge between the present and the future, and as a stimulus to the creation of new opportunities for production and for work in the long term. 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."
Pope Benedict called for "an ethical approach to economics on the part of those active in the international market, an ethical approach to politics on the part of those in public office, and an ethical approach to participation capable of harnessing the contributions of civil society at local and international levels."