Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What is Religion

Discussions in this post are not in the official stand of the Church. They are still part of the on-going reflections theologians are doing. So there is no need to accept all that is said here. Some ideas here can raise eyebrows. The theolgians consulted are Jacques Dupuis S.J., Bernard Sesboue S.J. and, to a very large extent, Claude Geffre O.P.

Defining Religion

For the Social Scientists

1. It is not easy to define "religion". Etymology on line will say that "religion" refers to "state of life bound by monastic vows," also "conduct indicating a belief in a divine power." It can mean "piety, devotion; religious community," and "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods; conscientiousness, sense of right, moral obligation; fear of the gods; divine service, religious observance; a religion, a faith, a mode of worship, cult; sanctity, holiness". In European languages that have Latin in them, the word "religion" is found. But in many other languages of the world there is no word for "religion". 

2. In the Roman times, during the first century AD, a Roman philosopher named Cicero saw "religion" as RITUALS FOR THE GODS. Of course he was referring to the Roman gods. A little later, a Church Father named Tertullian said that "religion" meant a way of RELYING ON GOD. Both Ciceo and Tertullian were living after the Biblical times. If we look at the Bible, and the New Testament, we will NOT see the word "religion". The early Christians at the time of St. Paul and the Apostles did not see themselves as belonging to a "religion". They were followers of "the Way". The early Christians saw Christianity as following "the Way" and not as a religion. The early Christians simply followed God, they relied on God in Christ. They were more interested in following the footsteps of Jesus.

3. But then somewhere along the way, Christians developed a more sophisticated was of living the faith. So they started having rituals, cult practices, different sacrifices, liturgies, etc. More and more there were EXTERNAL signs and manifestations directed to God. More and more Christianity became marked by many EXTERNAL practices and became thus identified as "religion".

4. Today we can see what "religion" is according to social scientists, notably the sociologists and anthropologists. Two major identifications are made regarding "religion". 

    i. Religion is functional. In the functional view religion is a system of practices, symbols, rituals, norms that relate to what people consider as sacred. People then oppose the sacred from the profane. So we see temples, pagodas, mosques, Churches which are special places set apart from the rest. There are objects specially used for rituals and they cannot just be mixed with ordinary objects. There are priests, shamans, holy persons, ect., who function differently from ordinary work. etc. The major FUNCTION of religion is to GIVE SOCIAL COHESION to members. The different ritual and practices give a sense of "membership" and "belonging".

    ii.Religion is substantive. Here the assumption is that human nature is designed to SEEK FOR THE LINK BETWEEN LIFE HERE AND THE BEYOND. This is why the human is believed to be by nature "religious"--the human is HOMO RELIGIOSUS. The human is always interested in looking for what is beyond; the human looks out to the transcendence and there sees the help and hope for addressing life here.

5. Let us keep both in mind. Religion is functional because it serves unity of members. Religion is substantive because the human is by nature oriented to what is transcendent. In a way we can see Christianity as "religion"in both senses. We have our practices, symbols, rituals, priests, etc. We feel we are together, we identify ourselves as "Christians" and we have a group TO BELONG TO. Then of course we have our sense of Absolute and Transcendence; we have our Trinity who answers for the basic questions we have in life and who orients our life to salvation. 

6. Some sociologists try to refine the meaning of religion. Today it can be said that, in general, all religions are systems with moral-ethical norms; there are rules of behaviour and practices that members SHOULD DO. It can be said also that, in general, all religions have communities; there are adepts and faithful ones who identify themselves together as "belonging" to one another. Finally it can be said that, in general, all religions talk of "paths" that point to realities BEYOND THE HUMAN CONDITION here and now. Again we might want to apply this to Christianity. We have our NORMS, like do not steal, do not kill, go to mass on Sundays, etc. We have our COMMUNITY which we call as "Church". We say we belong to it and we adhere to it. We differentiate ourselves from people of other religions through our belonging to our Church. Finally we say that we have the path--which we call as salvation brought to us by Christ. So the ingredients of being "religion"may be in Christianity too.

7. Yet, we need to go deeper. There is, perhaps, something in Christianity that may still be "outside" the usual features of religion. But to see this we need to go slowly through other matters first.

8. One of the questions we raise today is about the truths of religions. Because of religious PLURALISM we might, sometimes, wonder which is the "true religion". "Which religion has the truth?" There are ways of answering this. There is a kind of pluralism, we can call it as "relativism", that will say that ANY RELIGION IS TRUE. Truth is RELATIVE TO WHERE YOU ARE. So it does not matter where you are. It does not matter what religion you go to. This can be very attractive but we need to think twice about this. The danger of relativism is that "anything goes", or "anything is ok". Why is this a danger? It leads to INTOLERANCE. It says that any truth is ok so you should not try to be true. If you try to be true, then you will violate the others to be true. Others have the right to their own truth, so you should not hold to your truth. So when someone else wants to be true, that person should not. Why, because that person should consider the truths of others. That person should not insist on his/her truth because others can still be true. In the end, nobody is allowed to be true for the sake of others. Let us take an example of relativism.

9. I am Christian and I believe that Jesus Christ is Savior. This is true for me. But relativism will NOT TOLERATE this. It will say that other religions have their truths, so I should not hold on to the truth of my faith. I must respect other religions and the truth they have. But then when a Buddhist says that salvation is through the dhamma, that Buddhist should not also hold to that truth. Relativism will NOT TOLERATE the truth of the Buddhist. The Buddhist should respect the Christian or the Muslim. So where will we all go? In the end nothing is true and nobody among us is in the truth. But the funny thing is this: the relativist will say that relativism is true. So all of us should accept the truth of the relativist. This is BAD PLURALISM. We allow for plurality of truths but we do not tolerate any truth. We go nowhere with this. 

10. We need to be healthy in pluralism. We admit that HUMANITY IS PLURAL in cultures, religions, beliefs, etc. But WE CANNOT ACCEPT NOBODY IS TRUE. Even if humanity is plural, THERE IS STILL SOMETHING TRUE TO ALL OF US HUMANS. With this type of thinking DIALOGUE IS POSSIBLE. Also it is here where we need to situate our own Christianity.

What then is "truth" among religions?

What is "true religion"?

1. The questions raised often today are these: what is "true religion"? Is my religion true or are other religions true? Which is the true one and which is the false one? First of all, we must be careful about our position. Today pluralism is so attractive but we need a "good pluralism", a "healthy pluralism" that is open to the possibility of TRUTH THAT BELONGS TO ALL. Without this, we can not have dialogue. If we accept "bad pluralism" or "relativism" we will not go very far; each will stay locked up in a box. Good pluralism admits that humanity is plural--there are many cultures, religions, practices, beliefs, etc. All of us can move and work together to discern what is true and common to all of us IN OUR PLURALITY. 
2. Today we can note many types of religions. There are the emerging new religions--like the "New Age"--that are characterized by the search for spiritual-physical-psychological well-being. But then of course we also see the "usual" traditions of the world that have been existing for so many centuries, such as Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, etc. Let us not forget the Traditional religions of indigenous communities. 
3. Although the world is becoming more and more pluralist, there is also a growing tendency towards fundamentalism in some sectors. The news report about them now and then. Fundamentalism is an extreme position that hardens the parameters of a religion and refuses any form of dialogue and openness to plurality. Yes, people have the right to be fundamentalist but we cannot accept a fundamentalism that opts for violence.

A bit of historical review

4. Let us review what we know about history. We cannot deny that in history many have engaged in violence and even war for the sake of religious beliefs. Many have fought wars IN THE NAME OF THEIR GODS AND RELIGIONS, thinking that their religions are so true while others are not true and are opposed to them. Our own Church history is not exempted from this fact. In the name of Christ many Christians have done so much bloodshed against people of other religions. We have a wounded history with Muslims and Jews, for example. Still, let us be careful in our interpretation of history.
     a. We cannot say that religions alone have been sources of violence and wars. Other social "non-religious" sectors have been very violent too. Just think of the Nazism of Germany or the Pol Pot regime of Cambodia. They were not in the domain of religion but they were heavily violent. So religion does not monopolize violence.
     b. We should not be very quick in condemning religion, especially Christianity-Judaism-Islam, as basically sources of violence. History will show that most of the time violence emerged because of politics. Religions were then used to sharpen the political positions. Violence did not start because of religious beliefs but because of political differences. Religions became instrumental. If we remember our history of the Indian continent during the time of Gandhi-ji for example we will see that Hinduism, a very peaceful religion, was used by politics and consequently became aggressive against Muslims and Christians. The violence was not originally from the religion.

5. We need to be calm, today, and try to be more lucid about history. What we think is "clash" of religions in the past may have been triggered NOT BY RELIGIOUS BELIEFS BUT BY POLITICS. But of course we never close our eyes to the history of violence too and how intolerant a religious group went against people of other religions. For us, Catholics, we have said sorry. We have had Popes who apologized. We hope and pray that, today and tomorrow, we will NEVER engage in any violence and war for the sake of our Christianity. 

6. It is, however, not enough to say we are sorry for past history. We need to look into ourselves and discern, regularly, our possible propensity for violence, intolerance, rejection. We need to be vigilant with our biases and prejudices against people of other faiths. We need to constantly uproot any weed of violence that sprouts in our hearts.

7. Because of this history of past violence and wars, many of us are hesitant to go into mission. Many of us say that we do not want to repeat the harm we have done to other cultures in the past. Our Christianity, many say, has become so "elite" and arrogant and with a superiority complex (like during the time of Colonizing), that should not be repeated. So mission itself is affected. Proclamation is affected. But really, if we go back to Jesus himself we can say that JESUS NEVER WANTED THAT WE GO FOR VIOLENCE AND ARROGANCE. History has wounded mission and Jesus himself would agree that we should not go do violence and arrogance. But the command of Jesus remains: GO TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. Go PROCLAIM. Mission continues to be our Christian vocation. But we need to do it in a more healthy and human way.

8. Vatican II itself has come out with a document DENOUNCING acts of violence and violation of others. We have no right to force others against their own religions. Let us read two passages.

    From Dignitates humanae #2: "This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits". 

    From Dignitates humanae #10: "It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man's response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will". 

9. If the aim of mission is to impose upon others, then IT IS NOT MISSION anymore. Jesus did not command us to go and force others, Jesus did not command us to impose on others. We do not anymore opt for intolerance, fanaticism, proselytizing, etc. We do not anymore take the stand that others have no rights to their beliefs. We do not anymore see them as children of the devil. Times have changed and Vatican II has affirmed the changes. Religious freedom is the right of all so we cannot and should not pull others out of their religions. "The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person" (Dignitati humanae #2). 

10. So then we need to fact the fact today: there is pluralism in religions. There are many religions and they all have to be respected. This poses as a challenge not just for us for for every religion: HOW DO WE DIALOGUE WITH OTHERS WHILE WE CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THAT OUR FAITH-RELIGION IS TRUE? How do we engage in dialogue within a pluralistic world?

Truth in pluralism today

11. We say that our faith is true. We say that our religion is true. BUT THAT DOES NOT FALSIFY OTHER RELIGIONS. The truth of my faith does not make other faiths necessarily false. We do not opt for "exclusivism". We do not say that we are in the truth and others are rejected to be in the error. We have stopped thinking like this already. We might add that, following the tradition of the Church Fathers, other religions contain elements of our religion. We might want to say that the "Seeds of the Word" are already there. Ok, we hold on to this. But we need to admit also that even non-Christian elements can be true. There are aspects in other religions that are really VERY DIFFERENT FROM OUR CHRISTIANITY. And we add that THOSE ELEMENTS CAN BE TRUE TOO.

12. Truth is a manifestation. It is an "unveiling". For us God has revealed--in history, in Christ, in the Trinity. This is true. It has been manifested and unveiled to us. But there is more to what has been revealed to us. God in his own mysterious ways MAY BE REVEALING TOO TO OTHER RELIGIONS. God may be sharing himself with other religions in his own mysterious ways. His revelation to us does not sop him from revealing to others. 

Truth in dialogue

13. Notice then that we do not abandon out faith. We remain TRUE TO OUR FAITH  In front of people of other religions we can still hold on to the Church tradition of "Seeds of the Word" present in other religions. But we can add that God can reveal in them, God can speak in them and communicate with them IN WAYS THAT GO BEYOND OUR OWN KNOWING. We cannot stop God from relating with people of other religions. 

14. God is sharing truths to other people. To us he has shared and revealed, this is the "profile" of his revelation and it is presented to us. God may be showing OTHER PROFILES TO OTHER PEOPLE AND WE RESPECT THAT. This can explain what Pope John Paul II said in his Redemptoris missio: that as we enter into dialogue with people of other religions we go DEEPER ITO OUR OWN RELIGION because we discover more and more the OTHER PROFILES OF GOD'S REVELATION IN OTHER RELIGIONS.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Fundamental Option for the Poor (and State Ruled by Law)

1. The universal destination of goods requires that the poor and marginalized be the focus of concern. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine # 182 tells us that “the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force”. Today we can say that, in general, the whole Church agrees on the importance of opting for the poor. But who are "the poor"?

2. Many texts say that the poor are those who suffer inhuman conditions in terms of

--access to health care
--basic liberties like the freedom to feel secured

3. There are the dimensions of economics, politics, culture. Poverty can mean precarious living. The dictionary will say that to be precarious is to be in a dangerous situation of falling and collapsing. The poor is "precarious" materially or "precarious" in property or "precarious" in health care or "precarious" in inter-human relationship or "precarious" in discrimination, etc. There is a deprivation of resources that are needed for "common good", there is deprivation of respecting human dignity. Pope John Paul II gave a statement on this. "Taking up the Lord's mission as her own, the Church proclaims the Gospel to every man and woman, committing herself to their integral salvation. But with special attention, in a true "preferential option", she turns to those who are in situations of greater weakness, and therefore in greater need. "The poor", in varied states of affliction, are the oppressed, those on the margin of society, the elderly, the sick, the young, any and all who are considered and treated as "the least" (Vita Consecrata #82). 

4. Notice that poverty is not limited to material poverty. The poor are the "least" in society; they are the marginalized. They can include people victimized by discrimination, infants, propertyless, homeless, migrants, refugees, ethnic minorities, etc. Pope John Paul II wrote that the option for the poor "is not limited to material poverty, since it is well known that there are many other forms of poverty, especially in modern society--not only economic but cultural and spiritual poverty as well" (Centesimus annus #57).

5. Opting for the poor is in the center of our faith. The option for the poor "affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ" (Pope John Paul II, Solicitudo rei socialis # 42). Remember that the Lord Jesus identified himself with the least: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least, you did for me" (Mt 25/40). In the poor is the presence of Christ.

6. The inspiration here is Jesus himself. He identified himself with the “least”. The Church's love for the poor is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, by the poverty of Jesus and by his attention to the poor (Compendium of the Social Doctrine #184). What we do to the poor we do the Christ. The poor is sign of Christ's presence (Compendium #182).

7. Jesus came to announce--proclaim--the Good News TO THE POOR (SEE Mt 11/5 ; LK 7/22). The Church therefore follows this line by going to the poor and showing to the poor the Good News. The option for the poor is rooted in faith in God who became poor. It "is never exclusive or discriminatory towards other groups" (Centesimus annus #57) but it emphasizes that the poor have the FIRST PLACE in the preoccupation of the disciples of Christ.

8. The option for the poor IS NOT OPTIONAL. It is not something we can set aside. It is a choice we are all called to accept. Pope John Paul II would call the option as primacy of Christian love it is "an option which I defined as a 'special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity.'" (Centesimus annus #11). This means that we put to work the command of love of Christ.

9. The option for the poor demands work that includes changing economic and political structures--structures that produce poverty. Pope John Paul II wrote (in Centesimus annus # 58) that the option for the poor is not just about giving "extra" resources, or what the Pope calls as "the surplus". Option for the poor involves

--helping people  who are "presently excluded or marginalized to enter into the sphere of economic and human development"
--"a change of lifestyles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies"
--orienting social organization "according to an adequate notion of the common good".

10. Today we do not forget the ecological problem. The option for the poor includes the defense of the environment. Remember that the environment is "common home" for Pope Francis. The question is about the future too with the link between ecology and struggle against poverty.

11. In case we think that we can remove all poverty, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine says no. This will happen only “upon Christ's return” (#183). So for now we have the poor with us and we will be judged according to how we treat the poor.

Pope Francis: on the doctrine "option for the poor"

1. Pope Francis spoke to the PARTICIPANTS IN THE WORLD MEETING OF POPULAR MOVEMENTS in 2014. Let us look at some points in that discourse. 
He reminds his audience that the option for the poor is in the center of the Gospel. The poor, he says, suffer injustice and struggle for it. The struggle is a blessing to humanity. The Pope is courageous. Remember that he is talking to "popular movements" of the landless, the unemployed, those who have no decent homes. 
2. To his audience he says: "You have your feet in the mud, you are up to your elbows in flesh-and-blood reality. Your carry the smell of your neighbourhood, your people, your struggle! We want your voices to be heard – voices that are rarely heard". 
The Pope raises certain issues regarding LAND, HOUSING AND WORK.

     a. RELATED TO LAND IS HUNGER. The Pope mentions the global manipulation of the prices of food. Millions of people suffer and die from hunger while at the same time so much food is thrown away. It is a scandal, says the Pope. "Hunger is criminal, food is an inalienable right". The Pope emphasizes AGRARIAN REFORM to address the question of hunger. “Agrarian reform is", says the Pope, "besides a political necessity, a moral obligation.”
     b. RELATED TO HOUSING is the presence of poor settlements of marginalized people. The Pope then asks that this issue be addressed so that families have housing, so that neighbourhoods have adequate sewage, light, gas, asphalted roads etc.. He calls for working for neighborhoods that they may have schools, hospitals (or clinics). The Pope even adds "sports clubs and all those things that create bonds and unite".
     c. RELATED TO WORK is the problem of unemployment. "There is no worse material poverty than the poverty which does not allow people to earn their bread, which deprives them of the dignity of work". The Pope sees the obession for profit as a root cause of unemployment, "the result of an underlying social choice in favour of an economic system that puts profit above man". In economic profit things are thrown away, workers too. It has become a "throw away culture": "those who cannot be integrated, the excluded, are discarded, the 'leftovers'. This is the throw-away culture".

3. The Pope, after denouncing issues, congratulates his audience for being creative: "so many of you who are excluded workers, the discards of this system, have been INVENTING YOUR OWN WORK with materials that seemed to be devoid of further productive value…" Among his audience are garbage collectos, recyclers, peddlers, dressmakers, tailors, artisans, fishermen, farmworkers, builders, miners, workers excluded from labour rights. The Pope encourages unions...that these people join together and form unions. 
4. The Pope also takes the opportunity to mention the ecological problem. There cannot be land, housing, work if eventually we destroy the planet. "Creation is a gift, it is a present, it is a marvellous gift given to us by God so that we might care for it and use it, always gratefully and always respectfully, for the benefit of everyone". 
5. Human dignity must be re-instated. We cannot continue like this, idolizing money and profits all the time. We cannot stay indifferent always; and this  indifference has been globalized: “Why should I care what happens to others as long as I can defend what’s mine?” The Christian has the basic fundamental option for the poor. 
6. The Pope states: "We Christians have something very lovely, a guide to action, a programme we could call revolutionary. I earnestly recommend that you read it: the Beatitudes in Saint Matthew chapter 5 (cf. Mt 5:3) and in Saint Luke chapter 6 ("And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours' Lk 6/20); and the Last Judgment passage in Saint Matthew chapter 25".  

7. The Pope then suggests that we create "NEW FORMS OF PARTICIPATION" like popular movements marked by moral energy "that springs from including the excluded in the building of a common destiny". Here we see the Pope following the doctrine of option for the poor: make the poor part of our destiny. 

Work for Pope Francis

1. On May 1, 2013, Pope Francis had his "general audience". As we know, the first of May celebrates Work. It is worker's day. So on that May 1, Pope Francis mentioned his insights about work. It was a very short text but it gave a condense idea of the social doctrine of the Church. Let us note some parts of the Pope's text. 
2. First, he spoke about the book of Genesis. He said that God created the human to "subdue" the earth. It did not mean that the human was to exploit blindly the earth. Rather it meant nurturing and protecting earth, caring for it through WORK. The Pope then said: "Work is part of God’s loving plan, we are called to cultivate and care for all the goods of creation and in this way share in the work of creation!" 
3. Then the Pope spoke about the DIGNITY OF WORK. He was thinking especially of many people--young and old--who were unemployed because economics was centered too much on making profits. Work, said the Pope, "is fundamental to the dignity of a person". Work "anoints" the human and makes the human "similar to God, who has worked and still works, who always acts". Thanks to work, the human maintains himself/herself, maintains the family. Work helps contribute to the society. Unfortunately, today, said the Pope, this notion of work is not respected. 
4. If work makes us "similar to God", what do we say about the work conditions of so many laborers in sweat shops and in exploitative conditions? The Pope was seriously worried about “slave labour”. So many are victims of "slave labour". 
5. Pope Francis was optimist, however. He ended his talk by encouraging the youth. He called the youth to be committed to daily duties, to studies, to work. There is no work without effort and engagement of the person. The Pope encouraged the youth to be committed to relationships of friendship, to helping others. To the youth he said: "your future also depends on how you live these precious years of your life. Do not be afraid of commitment, of sacrifice and do not view the future with fear. Keep your hope alive: there is always a light on the horizon".  

What is State Ruled by Law?

1. We read the notion “The ‘State ruled by the Law’” in chapter 8 of the Compendium to the Church Social Doctrine: “In a State ruled by law the power to inflict punishment is correctly entrusted to the Courts” (Com.#402). Notice the importance given to the “courts”—or the judiciary branch of the government. The “state ruled by the law” has something to do with laws of the country. It implies the independence of the judiciary.

2. The document mentions the idea of democracy. The Compendium (#406) cites the encyclical of Pope John Paul II—the Centesimus annus. In the encyclical Pope John II says that the Church values democracy which "ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices". Social members participate by "electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate This discourages". This helps avoid the formation of small groups in society that will rule and take over power FOR THEIR OWN INTERESTS. Thus the interest of the people of the society are not given respect. True democracy rejects this rule of limited narrow groups. "Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person…..’” (#406).

3. Notice that for Pope John Paul II “state ruled by the law” is linked with a “correct conception of the human person”. The “correct conception of the human person” is opposite to the private interests of narrow groups. The “state ruled by law” is opposed to control of power by narrow groups. So “state ruled by law” means taking care of the interests of everyone. This is a safeguard for the fundamental option for the poor. If we have a society that is ruled by a small group that focuses on its own interests, the poor will really have a very precarious life. 

4. Again we see the term “state ruled by law” in another citation. It also mentions Centesimus annus: “The Magisterium recognizes the validity of the principle concerning the division of powers in a State". In the division of powers one power of the government is balanced by other powers. Why? "The law is sovereign, and not the arbitrary will of individuals” (Com.#408). If there are interests dominating society, other areas can come to correct that and "balance" the legal exercise. The division of powers (executive, legislative and judiciary). It is interesting to note that the document mentions also the “other spheres of responsibility”. In other words, there is not just the presence of the three branches, executive, legislative and judiciary. There is also the presence of many other areas—like opinions of jurists, teachings of moral authorities, voice of academicians, groups of farmers, groups of workers, groups of urban poor etc. The law, says the document, is sovereign. Narrow interests do not--should not--dominate society. Everyone should "toe the line" of the law. Again this assures that the voiceless, the marginalized, the poor are given their due places. 

5. Let us take one more part of the document mentioning “state ruled by law”. The document mentions the right to defend against terrorism. The struggle against terrorists includes "respect for human rights and for the principles of a State ruled by law (#514). Nobody in society is to be submitted to terror. Those in power should not just do what they want, they have to consider legal and moral laws.

6. A central idea is that there is a limit to power. Power does not just act arbitrarily. For example, in punishing criminals or in combating terrorists, consideration must be given to legal principles and human rights. In recognizing religion, there should be no favoritism. Power does not exercise all powers. A limit must be assigned to power. Power does not have in itself all the reasons of its actions. There is limit that must impose: the good of everyone and the right of each member. None in society must be submitted to the TYRANNY OF THE ARBITRARY.

7. Our countries have constitutions with the different branches of government, legal rules on crime and penalties, the independence of courts, the sovereignty of the law, international agreements, human rights, moral principles, etc. Constitutions tell us how powers are to be used. The three powers are defined—executive, legislative and judiciary. The executive decides while respecting the regulations issued by the legislative. The courts are given the independence to make decisions on litigations. None of the three is the absolute source of the law. All of them have to “toe the line” of the law. Certain rights of citizens must be respected by public servants. These rights are protected by the constitutions. Power must be guided and limited. Power is not absolute. This is how we can understand “state ruled by law”. 

Church stand

8. So the Social doctrine of the Church is really in line with the whole idea of “state ruled by law”. Yet, there is something “ecclesial” in the stand of the Church. It is not enough to say that people have rights and that they should be protected from the tyranny of the arbitrary. The Church also looks at “the Word”. This is clear. The Church has a particular stand on the relationship between power and rights of people. Let us see what this is.

9. Ok, so we say that the essence of governance is to place power under limits. There are rules and norms that tell power how far it should go. But the norms and rules are themselves derived from a certain power. Let us say that a group of persons write the constitutions and in the constitutions there are limits given to power. But what about the people who write the constitutions? What norms do they obey?

10. In a society there are powers that limit powers. There are powers that say how far rules will go. But these “higher” powers—from where do they get their own powers? If our constitutions tell us the limits of powers, from where do the constitutions get their power to say this?

11. Do we rely on “international laws”? But this begs the question too: from where will international laws get their power. What is the basis of all powers?

12. There is a deeper problem here. When we look at a law, it obeys a higher law. Laws of the country, for example, must refer themselves to the constitutions. If the city council says “put Mr. X to jail”, the constitutions will still have to say whether the decision is correct or not—and whether the rights of the accused are respected. The constitutions are higher than the other laws of the land. A rule justifies itself through a higher law. (If this looks abstract, just think of the computer. The software has “commands” inside. But the commands come from the authors of the software. So the commands of who made the programs for the software are “higher” than the commands in the software.)

13. In our countries, normally the courts are given the work of checking if the laws we make are “constitutional”. If the lawmakers, for example, prohibit certain cyber posting, the courts have the work of checking if the prohibition is constitutional or not. The constitutions are “higher”. If a country makes rules regarding trade and commerce in export-import, international laws have to be considered too. A country does not just make its own regulations on trade without verifying if the regulations conform to international agreements.

14. So what is the “highest” power to say that the laws we make are just or unjust? What is the highest power that can define the limits of all powers? Surely constitutions have to obey something higher. Surely international laws have to obey something higher.

15. Now, let us look at the word “vows”. People in consecrated life do “vows”. The religious brother or sister makes an “oath” witnessed by God. Well, even in secular life, we see people making “vows”. In court a witness is asked to make an oath. In fact, we do see our leaders—in all branches of the government—make oaths. It is through the “vows” and “oaths” that persons agree to respect the laws—especially the higher laws. When a person makes a vow or an oath, the person is obliged to be true to his/her word. The respect given to the vow or oath is crucial—respect for the constitutions, for example, depend on the respect in the oaths. This is important: being true to one’s word. Within each and every member of society is the “requirement” to respect the word. And this is not something that is derived from another law. There is not law telling us to be honest and faithful with our word.

16. In us—humans—is a norm or a rule or a law that serves as foundation for social order. This may not even be written and formulated officially. But it is here, present. The heart of the “state ruled by law” is actually here—it is in the CONSCIENCE of everyone.

17. Well, we can say this easily. But can we agree? In philosophy there are people called “positivists”. “Positivists” say that power is simply “formal”. So a “state ruled by law” is just a formal statement. Positivists would simply accept that a law or rule makes sense only in reference to a hierarchy of laws. Positivists prefer to say that laws simply have a hierarchy. For the positivist, there should be no “morality” or “ethics” that say what is ultimate power. In a state, laws just have to adjust in hierarchy—one law links to another law. This is enough. There is no need to look for the “highest”. So the positivist will say to stop worrying about “the highest”, just follow the existing laws of the country.

18. So, if we accept the positivist's stand, it is enough that a country has constitutions. Ok, but what if there are conflicts with other countries—one set of constitutions do not agree with another set. So the positivist will say: look at international law. In the summit is a kind of international agreement among all countries.

19. Yet, can we really be satisfied with this? Do we just seek for what is effectively global. There are philosophers—let us call them the “naturalists”—who say that the human has a RATIONAL nature which is ultimate. Power takes its ultimate right to exercise itself from the human capacity to reason. There is this idea of the “subject”. The human is a “subject”, source of thinking and deciding and acting. So each and every human is not “better” than others. Each one is “subject” and can think and decide for oneself. So a “state ruled by law” is a state that makes sure that everyone is respected as “subject” and that nobody is discriminated. This looks ok. The Church is more inclined to follow this. But the Church still has something more to say.

20. When power recognizes the equal liberty of each member of society, the Church agrees. Power is not meant to stay as power. Power is for the sake of people. Power should recognize that it has its limits—that it will have to stop somewhere. Power applied must always give in to power in law. In other words, if power is to be applied to people, it must always consider people as “subjects” (and not “objects”). The law demands respect of dignity. So applying power must stop if it is against the respect of people as “subjects”. So the philosophy of "naturalists" look ok. The Church is happy about it. 

21. But do not forget the “vow” or “oath”. There is always the risk of the tyranny of the arbitrary. At any given moment, leaders can go arbitrary and snap into doing what they want in any way they want. They will justify themselves and their regimes. They can always frame laws IN FAVOR OF A NARROW GROUP INTEREST. Also, if they rely on Reason and Rationality, the human is not absolute and cannot see all. Reason, no matter how lucid it tries, cannot be master. There is always the need for “vows” or “oaths”.

22. The Church is not satisfied with simply saying that the human is “subject” and can think and decide for oneself rationally. There is still the fact that the human is IMAGE OF GOD. A state can make its decisions and apply its laws—but never in contradiction with the human as image of God. If the leaders of a country reject this fact, the Church will have to denounce the injustice. In other words, the state has no right. It is not a “state ruled by laws” as envisioned by the Church. The State, if it is to be authentic in its call, must take the "vow" of working for the promotion of the human as sacred and as IMAGE OF GOD. The laws can make mistakes but they are submitted to the vows. Hence whenever the mistakes are recognized they need re-formulation to adjust to the fact of IMAGE OF GOD. 

23. Consider an example. Public politics rest on the famous "trickle down" which means that resources come from above and slowly trickle down--flow--into the bottom. First those on those below. Those on top get the priority of resources. They have better access to resources. The "least" are often ignored in employment, and access to basic needs for the "common good". A small number of persons, however, those on the top, have better chances for work and access to basic needs. This can be legal. So there is an urgent need to move in a different direction. This is what "option for the poor" invites us to do. But to move towards the option for the poor requires a "vow": that we really opt for the poor. It is not a legal vow. It is not a vow for the constitution. It is "higher". 

From Pope Francis

24. Look at what Pope Francis says. He says that the option for the poor is primarily a theological category. It is not just a legal, philosophical or political-economic category. The option for the poor is a DIVINE PREFERENCE. The option for the poor is a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity". God became poor to enrich us. (Evangelii gaudium #198). 

25. We can then agree that the state must be rulled by the law. But this rule must "take a vow": that all laws and rules and norms should promote human dignity and the fundamental option for the poor of the society. All laws must be guided by this vow. ""Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care" (Evangelii gaudium #200). We care for the poor. 

26. Let us end with a citation from Pope Francis:

"....none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice: “Spiritual conversion, the intensity of the love of God and neighbour, zeal for justice and peace, the Gospel meaning of the poor and of poverty, are required of everyone”. I fear that these words too may give rise to commentary or discussion with no real practical effect. That being said, I trust in the openness and readiness of all Christians, and I ask you to seek, as a community, creative ways of accepting this renewed call" (Evangelii gaudium #201).

What is "neoliberalism"? An overly simple presentation...but hopefully helpful

1. Neoliberalism is an economic theory that emphasizes that the market is in-charge of all our problems. The market can take care of us. To put it in ways we can understand, neoliberalism says that "business" is what can take care of all our needs and can answer all our problems. Businesses can do this IF NOBODY GETS IN THE WAY, businesses have to be free. Free from what? FREE FROM ANY STATE--OR GOVERNMENT--INTERVENTION. So there should be NO PUBLIC SECTOR, everything should be in the hands of the private sector. It is said that neoliberalism has stimulated what we now call as "globalisation".

2. Neoliberals do not like government intervention. Let businesses free to do what they want to do. Well, a minimum of government help can come is, like the police. Neoliberals want FREE EXCHANGE in businesses on an international level. Rich and poor countries alike can interact with each other freely.

3. Neoliberals do not want labor unions because, they say, labor unions only complicate situations. Businesses are not free if workers make demands. Neoloiberals do not like social protections--like the security social system, or hospital assurance, or calamity welfare. The government is giving these things and the government can serve the public BY TAXATION. Helping the public is too costly and the government should avoid it. Neoliberals want to be free from the burden of taxes. Businesses need to be free from this imposition. The less tax possible...the better. Taxes only put a brake on development. Let the business take care of development. If businesses are doing alright then there is real development.

4. Remember that business have to compete. This competition makes the situation look like a "war". Businesses strive very hard to "conquer" the market and hold a solid position in the market. The government becomes a system IN THE SERVICE OF THE WAR. 

5. The government need not be interested in the service of the public. its work should be to create favorable conditions for the competition of the businesses. Notice how many of our governments are so interested in giant businesses. Of course our governments say that by favoring giants the economy will grow and somewhere along the way the resources from the giants will "trickle down". But this means that our governments allow for businesses that contractualize labor and damage the ecology. Also we see, slowly, the disappearance of public services. In many countries the services that the governments do are taken over by the private businesses. So the poor can only have services if they pay.   

6. Business is focused on one objective alone: maximize profit. Let all businesses maximize their profits and society will benefit. Well, this is the idea. For neoliberals what is most important is to make profit...profit...profit. Maximize profit. Of course, there are "costs" in business. Salaries must be paid, for example. Education can be a cost because it will mean preparing minds AND SPENDING MONEY in preparation for the business world. So as much as possible COSTS MUST BE MINIMIZED. This explains what we see today as "contractualization". Workers are costs, they have to be paid. So neoliberals have thought of a system of reducing the burden of this cost by limiting labor to contracts. In contractualization, a business is liberated from the burden of caring further for workers. Use workers for, say, six months, and dispose of them afterwards. If they get sick or if mothers get pregnant, it is not the worry of the business, six months are finished, goodbye.  

7. Just think about it. First, there will be no more help to the public sector. Government services must be privitized. Impose little taxes. What happens? The private businesses make a lot of money--profits--and people who can pay enjy the services of the businesses. Meanwhile those who are poor have nowhere to go. They have no more government supporting them--all is privatized.

8. Second, businesses require efficiency. It is a competitive world. So all those involved with businesses must be performing efficiently. There is no room for "taking it easy", no room for inefficiency. The poor never have much opportunity to be trained and formed. They cannot even go to higher stages of education. So only the efficient people can participate in business. The poor are marginalized. 

9. Here is another aspect of neoliberalism. Up until the 1970's, much of economies were industrial. If someone wanted to invest money, the money would go to very identifiable enterprises: factories, machineries, and other very concrete services. Profits were re-invested in the same industries. But slowly the world changed and economics took a new turn.

10. Today many business transactions are done BEYOND JUST INVESTMENTS IN INDUSTRIES. Today, as neoliberalism wants it, EVERYTHING MUST BE PUT TO BUSINESS. Now, in this "everything" are things included like: water, food, health, even intellectual properties. So we do not just do business by starting a car making factory, we also do business by MAKING MONEY OUT OF WATER AND FOOD AND HEALTH, ETC. To put it in terms of the Social Doctrine of the Church, today WE CAN DO BUSINESS BY MAKING MONEY OUT OF THE COMMON GOOD. The things that allow people to "bloom" become sources of profit.

11.Remember what we say in the Social Doctrine. Water and food form our common good, they are basic for our "common home". The principle of the "universal destination of goods" tells us that water and food SHOULD BE ACCESSIBLE TO ALL BECAUSE THEY ARE GOD-GIVEN TO ALL. Well, imagine making business out of these! 

12. Neoliberals want that EVERYTHING SHOULD BE SOURCE OF PROFIT. Everything should be "privatized"...they are not "common". So businesses must have ACCESS TO THINGS THAT WILL BE PRIVATIZED, PROFITABLE AND CONSEQUENTLY SOLD AND BOUGHT. Access to water and food will now have to pass through businesses. 

13. We might ask: what about the future? Should we not worry about it? Neoloiberalism focuses on IMMEDIATE PROFIT. So the idea of future is not attractive for neoliberals. Make as much money now. This is why we also see consumerism very strong in our societies today. Maximize profit now, maximize production now, maximize the promotion of the product now, stimulate the consumption of people. 

14. Remember the problem we saw regading the link between economics and ecology. Ecology requies future thinking. Neoliberalism has no time for that. The economic system stands on continuous consumption, buy buy buy OUR PRODUCTS as we produce produce and produce. The planet is limited. Resources are limited. But this is not a concern of neoliberalism. 

15. We read from Pope Francis the invitation to go ecological in economics. This means solid planning. Our future will be the present of the coming generations. But this will mean knowing how to manage well the use of resources, imposing rules in their use...requiring government intervention. But remember neoliberalism does not want this. Neoliberalism states that ONLY THE INDIVIDUAL EXISTS. The social is to be avoided. The social is an obstacle to the development of the individual. (Of course this means "the individual business").

16. Now, businesses can really make a lot of money. To have lots of money is appetizing. Those who hold a lot of money would certainly like to let their fortunes grow and grow IN A CONTINUOUS AND REPEATED WAY. So it is important to look for ways that will make money grow. Here we see the emergence of the "financial system". This is a system in which money is made to grow INDEPENDENTLY OF CONCRETE BUSINESSES. In other words, WE CAN MAKE MONEY OUT OF MONEY. If we before we can make money out of making cars, now we can make money not just out of buying and selling the common good but also BUYING AND SELLING MONEY. Maybe today you have heard of "mutual funds" and "stock investments". Money then is not used for servicing people. Even government central banks enjoy the game of the "money market". What could really be used for public spending becomes an investment to make more money. 

17. What is the human being in neoliberalism? The human being is a "cost". The human being is an obstacle to making profit. Why? The human being asks for salaries. The human being asks for raising the family. The human being asks for health care. The less humans the better the profit. The less we take care of humans the better profits move. This is why neoliberalism wants to remove as much as possible all government services to people. The human must be TRANSFORMED from the living human to the CONSUMERIST. If we can consume, buy, if we make demands BUT WE PAY, then we can be "humans" in terms of "consumerists". 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Universal Destination of Goods (and some thoughts on "business")

The universal destination of goods means that all earth belongs to all humanity.

1. The Vatican II council gave a very clear statement about this principle. “God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should be in abundance for all in like manner. Whatever the forms of property may be...attention must always be paid to this universal destination of earthly goods” (Gaudium et spes #69). Note here the importance of faith in God who created the world and placed this world in the hands of humanity so that each one can live with dignity. 
2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also mentions this. “The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the ‘image of the invisible God’, is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the ‘image of God’ and called to a personal relationship with God….for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him. ” (CCC# 299). 
3. All of creation is destined for all humanity and must therefore be made accessible to all. It will be a violation of justice and charity if this is not respected. Faith in the Creator cannot be set apart from  the responsibility to make the effort to bring the goods of the created world in the hands of all.
4. Popes showed the importance of this principle. So Pope Leo XIII, for example, wrote that “God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race” (Rerum novarum #8). He continued to say that since God gave the earth for use of all, then private ownership should not be prohibited. “For God has granted the earth to mankind in general…” (RN#8).  Private ownership is a right of each human.
5. Pope Pius XII spoke about the use of material goods in his 1941 (June) Radio message. He said that “Material goods have been created by God to meet the needs of all men, and must be at the disposal of all of them, as justice and charity require. Every man indeed, as a reason ­gifted being, has, from nature, the fundamental right to make use of the material goods of the earth.” (#12).
6. Pope John Paul II, after the Vatican Council, in his different encyclicals repeated the notion that the goods of the earth are destined for all. Let us cite from one text: “It is necessary to state once more the characteristic principle of Christian social doctrine: the goods of this world are originally meant for all” (Solicitudo rei socialis #42). 
7. What are the Popes and the Vatican council trying to say? God gave the earth to humanity for sustenance. The resources are for all without excluding or favoring anyone. God gave the whole earth to the human. All that the earth contains is for all so that all would be shared fairly by all.
8. Earth is God’s gift to us. Earth takes care of our basic needs—our “primary needs” allowing us to feed ourselves, grow, communicate, associate and attain our vocation—our highest purposes. The right to use resources of the earth is a right of all. The goods of the earth are for all—universally. They are destined for all. Access to resources must be granted to all members of society.

Private ownership is a right but should not prohibit others from having their own private ownership of goods.

9. Now the principle of the Universal Destination of Goods does not mean that we can do whatever we want. The principle does not mean that everything is at the disposal of everyone. This is the position of Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes. The goods of the world are destined for humanity “and people“. Let us quote the document: “God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples” (GS#69).  This may look strange but it is an emphasis on the political aspect of sharing. 
10. Pope Leo XIII mentioned that “the limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by… the laws of individual races” (RN#8). Note what the Pope is saying here. Politics and the legal systems of each country must assure social members of the right to private ownership. Vatican II picked this up and saw that it had to be applied in the social, economic and political fields. Pope John Paul II also made it clear. Christian tradition, he said, does not consider private ownership as absolute. This right is understood “within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone” (Laborem exercens # 14). 
11. The Pope is emphasizing that even if everyone has the common right to private ownership even the things owned are meant for everyone. Each one has the right to own something—to have private property. But this ownership must be regulated. Why must it be regulated? The problem with owning something can happen when my ownership does not allow others to own. The universal destination of goods is violated--it is limited to the hands of a few. 
12. As each person has ownership, the goods owned cannot be simply exclusive of the owner. Earth is from God. Resources are, in the final analysis, from God. God wanted all earth resources shared to all. It is a violation of justice and charity if my ownership cannot allow others to own. The earth is not mine, it is not from me, it is from God. So my ownership needs some regulation so that it does not stop the universal destination of goods. The earth is given to all—not just to the wealthy people. Pope Paul VI wrote: “The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich." (Populorum progressio #23). 
13. Private property is not an absolute. It is only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods. Private property is the right of everyone. Therefore a private ownership should not stop others from having their own private ownership. It is necessary that the goods of the earth flow to all.

Private ownership has a social role.

14. Private ownership is still oriented to something social—what we own should be able to benefit not only us but also others. ” So ownership of goods must be equally accessible to all. The Church is saying that my private ownership must allow others their right to private ownership too. I cannot exercise my right to private ownership by prohibiting others to exercise their right to private ownership. So, the Church would emphasize that private ownership has an obligation. The obligation is to consider the effects of private ownership. Private ownership is still oriented to the common good. Owners have the obligation “not to let the goods in their possession go idle”. Goods privately owned must be channeled “to productive activity, even entrusting them to others who are desirous and capable of putting them to use in production”. (See Compendium #178).
15. So it is still to remove monopolies that marginalize people and countries. We must still provide all with the basic conditions that allow all to “bloom”.
16. What is the possible result of allowing private ownership for all? There is “better living conditions, security for the future, and a greater number of options from which to choose” (See Compendium # 181). Just make sure that private ownership is not made absolute. Recognize that whatever it is that we own “are dependent on God the Creator” and we must direct them for the common good. Private ownership is for the common good (See Compendium # 181).

The Universal destination of goods is for all humanity not just now but for the future too. 

17. Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole” (Caritas in veritate # 48). 
18. This is why the notion of development must be durable. This means to leave something for future generations so that they can meet their needs to live with dignity.  The Pope wrote that “we must recognize our grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it” (Caritas in veritate # 50). 

Take the case of Business in the light of this principle


1. Let us talk about business. It may be awkward to discuss this among religious people with vows. Is it not true that you, religious, do not run after money and profit? Yet you hold schools and hospitals and clinics and other enterprises. In them there is money involved. There is a certain amount of profit. You still do business. If you are purely "non-profit" in your enterprises you will not be able to continue with them. How can you maintain a school or clinic without some profit? What will financially sustain your business? Let us see how doing business can be "in a Christian way". 
2. Pope John Paul II, in his Solicitudo rei socialis, emphasized that we have to consider, in any business enterprise, human dignity and development. Yes, there will always be tension. A business will surely be thinking of profit. Profit has to be maximized. But what about personal development of workers? What about justice and charity for customers? What about respect for the ecology? When we start thinking of these and put them along maximization of profit, we really see tension. (Already you see the tension between your schools or hospitals making money while you try your best to be faithful to poverty. Surely a tension can be felt.)

What is a business enterprise for the Social Doctrine of the Church? 

3 Pope Leo XIII wrote his encyclical Rerum novarum in favor of improving the lives of workers. The Pope John XXIII in his encyclical Mater et magistra wrote that the business enterprise must be a community of persons. Pope John Paul II in his Centesimus annus said that the business enterprise is more than a society of capital. It is a society of persons--a community of persons. "A business cannot be considered only as a "society of capital goods"; it is also a "society of persons" in which people participate in different ways and with specific responsibilities, whether they supply the necessary capital for the company's activities or take part in such activities through their labor" (Centesimus annus #43). It is not just a company out to make profit. It is a community of persons satisfying their basic needs and servicing society. Let us quote the Pope: "the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society" (Centesimus annus #35).
4. Of course what the Social Doctrine says and what really happens are very often in contradiction. A business is interested in profit, returns to investments, and at times paying debts. It is not easy to find a business enterprise where everyone--including the small workers--have a role in decision making. This was what Pope Pius XI proposed this: "Let, then, both workers and employers strive with united strength and counsel to overcome the difficulties and obstacles...." (Quadragesimo anno #73). Note that the strive to overcome difficulties is a shared task between employers and workers. Do not side-line the workers and other shareholders. 

Is the business "universally destined" for all stakeholders?

5. Let us face it, there is a big gap between the actual business practice today with the ideal of a "democratic" doing of business. Small workers do not have real power. The "big shots" in the business have the power. Do we then say that this idea of a business as a "community of persons" a dream and is opposed to the real practices of business? Pope Benedict XVI saw this problem and noted that even if business ethics do not stand in line with the Church's social doctrine, "there is nevertheless a growing conviction that business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference" (Caritas in veritate #40). 
6. The Social Doctrine of the Church invites everyone to think about this. Never forget human dignity, especially the dignity of workers. Pope Benedict XVI gave this his thought. He believed that "human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity can also be conducted within economic activity.... The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner" (Caritas in veritate #36). 

Business in the common good: society and workers

7. Business and economics should be oriented for the common good--that is, oriented for the "blooming" of social members. Businesses have a role to play here. We can ask if the service or product of a business is socially useful. Does it help make people really "bloom"? Pope John Paul II saw that today business should not just supply people with things but also with QUALITY. In other words, business should serve the quality of life. It is not enough to just sell anything to people. It is not enough to just think of making profits. "Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business" (Centesimus annus #35). Businesses need to see how their services and goods help people live life with quality; with dignity. Pope John Paul II questions "life style" marked by having things, owning things such as what happens in consumerist societies. 
8. So a business might have to consider its investments. He says that "even the decision to invest in one place rather than another... is always a moral and cultural choice". So the decision to invest--to do business--must see how it can "offer people an opportunity to make good use of their own labor, is also determined by an attitude of human sympathy and trust in Providence, which reveal the human quality of the person making such decisions" (Centesimus annus #36). Of course this includes the respect given to workers too; to those who participate in the production and supply of goods and services. Workers also have to be respected in their quality of life. They are not things or tools of production. They too must develop their humanity--their capacities and competences and talents. They are not just useful for production. 
9. This is why the Social Doctrine emphasizes "integral development" as part of business. Business is oriented to development of society and its workers. Workers' rights and interests must be defended. They have a cultural role too. Through their labor they participate in the life of society.  their nation and to assist them along the path of development. 


10. Let us return to this discussion about profit. As we cited above, "profit is regulator of the life of a business" (CA # 35). But there are many other indicators too: "other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business" (CA #35). Indeed, it is not just about making profit. It is a kind of "community life" too. It is alright to look for profit but that should not remove the "communal" aspect of business and its societal role of servicing the needs of society too. Pope John Paul II note that when profit is the main goal of business, conflict arises. Workers, for example, are placed at the disposal of employers and capitalists who try to "establish the lowest possible wages" for the workers. Then there is "exploitation connected with the lack of safety at work and of safeguards regarding the health and living conditions of the workers and their families" (Laborem exercens #11). Profit then is criticized when it reduces and limits focuses human energies, making everyone just think of profit. 
11. There is also one important point to consider. The ecological problem we have today tells us that profit at the expense of the environment is not a healthy business option. When the motivation is so focused on profit maximization, the risk is to allow even for a dis-respect of the environment. Again it is alright to go for profit, but know the price; know the consequences. Pope John Paul II saw the problem when he noted the "rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed" by those who disrespect it. 
12. Let us not forget Pope Francis in his Laudato si. There he writes about "economic ecology". Economics can involve maximizing profits and reducing costs. The Pope suggests that this be ecological too. "This suggests the need for an 'economic ecology' capable of appealing to a broader vision of reality. The protection of the environment is in fact 'an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it' (LS#141). 
13. The world of the ecology cannot be separated, today, from the other domains of society including economics and business. There is an interrelation between ecosystems and between the various spheres of social interaction, demonstrating yet again that “the whole is greater than the

part” (LS #142).

A word to conclude: Ethics in Economics

14. We might think that the Social Doctrine of the Church is too "corny". Business can be exciting and challenging so why start making issues out of things like profit? What the Social Doctrine simply wants to put ethics in economics and business. Economy and finances should still be marked by ethics. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The notion of "Seeds of the Word"....from where?

     From where did Pope JPII--and other Church theologians--take the notion of "seeds of the Word"? This notion came from the "Patristic times"--from the times of the Church Father. Among the Church Fathers was St. Justin the Martyr who really reflected on "seeds of the Word". 
     St. Justine was a philosopher who wrote in Greek. He was a convert to Christianity. He was born in Samaria and went to Rome sometime 150 AD. There in Rome he started a school in philosophy marked by Christianity. In 167 he was martyred. This is why the Church calls him "Justin the Martyr". 
     He said that before the coming of Christ all humanity had access to partial truths, all humanity received "seeds of the Word". Humanity still participated in the divine mind of God. The human mind had imperfect and partial knowledge of truths about Revelation. 
     When Christ came the summit of Revelation happened. Christ was the ultimate and full Revelation of God. "The Word became flesh" (Jn1/14). Now the truth is full and out in the open. While Christ was not yet received by others, the truths that others knew were partial--just "seeds of the Word". 
     Let us cite some of what he wrote:

Passage #1: "Our doctrines, then, appear to be greater than all human teaching; because Christ, who appeared for our sake, became the whole rational being.... For whatever either lawgivers or philosophers uttered well, they elaborated by finding and contemplating some part of the Word. But since they I did not know the whole of the Word, which is Christ, they often contradicted themselves" (2Apology 10).

Passage #2: "...I confess that I both boast and with all my strength strive to be found a Christian; not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but because they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of the others, Stoics, and poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the SPERMATIC WORD, seeing what was related to it. [.... ] ... we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the SOWING of the implanted word that was in them. For the SEED and imitation impacted according to capacity is one thing, and quite another is the thing itself, of which there is the participation and imitation according to the grace which is from Him" (2Apology 13).

     Let us try to explain these passages. 
     In #1 St. Justin says that Christ is fullness of knowledge. Those who do not know Christ "elaborate" and "contemplate" partially the Word. They do not see and understand completely. They understand partially. Because of partial knowledge, they tend to contradict each other. 
     In #2 we really see the words used by St. Justine in relationship to "seeds" of the Word. St. Justin is proud that he is Christian. Other persons--like Plato--who do not know Christ have teaching similar to the teachings of Christ. Those who do not know Christ see parts of the truth of Christ--they have a proportion of the "spermatic Word". Those other people see things in a darker way, not fully bright. Why? They have the word implanted in them, somehow. It is already "sowed" in them, somehow. Of course, says St. Justin, have seeds is not as full as the person of Christ himself. 
     Later, in our era, the Vatican II council picked up this notion of "seeds of the Word" taking mainly from St. Justin (and Clement of Alexandria). The document Gaudium et spes (#3) mentions that the council proclaims the destiny of humanity and "champions the Godlike seed" that has been sown in humanity. Another council document, Ad gentes, mentions this too. Other people belonging to other religious traditions "may be able to bear more fruitful witness to Christ" so "let them gladly and reverently lay bare the seeds of the Word which lie hidden among their fellows". (Ad gentes #11). So the Vatican II council acknowledge that others--even if they are not Christians--can bear witness to Christ because the "seeds"have been sown in them.
     Now as we read Pope John Paul II's Redemptoris missio we can have an idea of where the notion "seeds of the Word" come.