Urgently needed: an encyclical on global economic justice
By Pat Marrin, editor of Celebration
A new pontificate occasions the opportunity for all Catholics to communicate their concerns to Rome. I submit this very rough draft for Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical. The global economy is addressed as the root cause of most other woes, and the church's liturgy is proposed as the model for a just economy.
Tempus Agere (A Time to Act):
To my brothers and sisters in the universal church, and to all who by office or by conscience are responsible for the welfare of the human family.
We regard it our highest duty before God and before the councils of human discernment to express our deepest concern over the grave suffering and hopelessness visited on so many of our brothers and sisters for causes that could be alleviated by ordinary means with available resources. That such suffering occurs unabated exposes the failure of global systems that determine how common goods are shared among the children of this world. The prophetic voices within the world's great religions rise in a chorus of anguish and alarm, that the failure to secure the most basic rights for all threatens not just the survival of the poor man Lazarus, but also the rich man at whose gate he lies. We join our voice to that chorus because we believe that the failure of global economic justice is at the root of other moral failures, especially the scourge of war in all its forms, hunger and disease, the plight of millions of refugees and the scandalous disparity that divides the world into the fortunate few and the desperate many.
Liturgy as a model economy
The Church Portable
In these critical days when the world again is poised at the brink of ideological and religious divisions that threaten human survival, it is fitting that the Church, in imitation of her divine exemplar, position herself among those poor and dispossessed peoples God has promised to be with.
Therefore, in our role as the Servant of the Servants of God, we have directed that the essential administrative functions of the papal office be reconfigured for relocation to the Darfur region of the Sudan. In cooperation with civil and religious officials of that stricken nation, the Church will convene the human and material resources needed to address effectively and immediately the vast human suffering inflicted on that region by civil war, religious strife and weather-related disasters. We come primarily as a spiritual voice appealing to the conscience of the world. We come as a community that worships the absolute authority of God, who commands us all to be just and compassionate. We come as servants of our brothers and sisters in need, among whom God waits to be fed, clothed and cared for (Matt. 25:31-46).
In our office as chief shepherd, we have directed the Vatican's diplomatic office to draw up a list of the world's most desperate and neglected regions as the successive location for our pastoral presence. The Church is defined not by place but by its mission. We are summoned by Christ, who goes before us into the world as Good News to the poor.
To multiply this effort in every part of the world, we have also directed each bishop as Christ's vicar to adopt this same pattern of relocating to where there is greatest need in his diocese. We seek this as a worldwide sign of God's preferential love for the poor and the Church's sincerity in practicing what she preaches.
By modeling this first in Africa, then in other locations, it is our intent to witness to the power of God joined to selfless human effort to promote right relationships among the myriad interests that come together in every human economy.
Groundwork efforts are underway to restore civil authority through disarmament and reconciliation. We call on international bodies to support this effort with debt relief, aid and investment. At the same time, regional autonomy and subsidiarity must guide our efforts to assemble African resources to diagnose, plan and implement the rebuilding infrastructures for housing, healthcare, transportation, food production, communication, and education. Our goal is to revive local markets, self-sustainable agriculture and industry to provide jobs that restore dignity and build community.
We call to this work the African church's greatest treasures, her mature members, religious and lay, especially married couples as seasoned models of collaboration and self sacrifice, and the young, whose energies and idealism are needed to give a future to the efforts of their elders.
An urgent appeal
The judgment of history will surely fall on powerful nations whose domestic appetites and strategic interests have long constituted a virtual war upon the poor of the world. The voices of prophets multiply in our troubled times to challenge those to whom much has been given and from whom much is expected.
To our beloved brothers and sisters in the developing world who have long borne the burdens of economic exploitation and exclusion from the councils of power, we offer the Church's presence and partnership on the path of human development. The Church is committed to nonviolence and will work tirelessly for negotiated resolution of conflict. We urge bold initiatives and generous collaboration among neighbors in overcoming nationalist impulses that block development. Development is the key to peace. Where stability and security hold, all other goals become possible and hope rises in every human heart.
It is this vision of a just economy as the basis for a peaceful world that now moves the Church to speak. But, more than that, to act. With trust in God and in the innate goodness of the human family, we invite others to act with us.
Pat Marrin's e-mail address is email@example.com. Celebration, NCR's sister publication, is an ecumenical worship resource. For a preview, follow this link: Celebration.
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