Wednesday, June 15, 2005

globalization and the Church's response (5th and last part)

So what does the Church say about globalization? Well, the Rev. John Coleman, S.J.--professor of social values at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles--addressed this in his speech at the University of San Francisco on Oct. 12, 2004 by pointing out the three blind spots or lacunae in Catholic social teaching concerning globalization. The three that he identified are: global governance, multinational corporations (MNC's), and the environment.

With regards to global governance, he says that there is a "democratic deficit at the global level"--there is nothing like a world democratic government akin to what is found in the national level, that helps to regulate and oversee all of the globalizing trends and forces currently out there. Also, the issue of financing global organizations is not being addressed.

As for multinational corporations, Coleman identifies this as another lacunae in Catholic social thought. For Coleman, MNC's are big players in the global theater, and therefore getting their cooperation in securing justice and in addressing some of the social concerns in developing countries are indispensable. "To be sure, there will be no humane globalization without the cooperation of multinationals. And many multinationals, prodded by consumer boycotts and consumer education, have moved toward good global citizenship behaviors….We cannot simply demonize them. They provide jobs and create wealth" (Coleman, John. "Globalization's Challenge." Origins).

And with regards to the third lacunae in Catholic social teachings, the environment, he says that there ought to be a dual shift in the way Catholics view the environment. First is a shift from an anthropocentric view of life on Earth to a sense of the universe as mirror of God's wisdom and glory. And the other shift he mentions is making economy subject to ecology or the environment and not the other way around. He says that "Catholic social thought needs to avoid tacking its environmental thought on as a kind of humane afterthought and integrate it from the outset and fully into its thought about the economy."

I thought that a recent article from the Economist recently highlighted this kind of paradigm shift, though not with the involvement of the Church. It concerns the rainforest in Brazil and the road project there that would connect the port city of Santaren in Brazil to Cuiaba. The road (called BR-16) would join the "world's breadbasket" to the "world's lungs." It could spell much growth for the country; and yet also an ecological disaster for the world, as the road project cuts through the Brazilian rainforest.

However, a concerted effort is being made to balance the ecological concern with the economic. "Getting it right has now become a global project, involving non-governmental organizations (NGO's), multinationals and grass-roots groups, as well as all different levels of Brazil's government. There are plenty of disagreements, but this throng is forming unlikely alliances, overturning assumptions about how to police the forest and proposing novel ideas for reconciling growth and conservation" ("Asphalt and the jungle," The Economist. July 24, 2004, page 33).

If the road project on BR-163 turns out well, it will have been a good example of Coleman's point of putting the ecology first, subordinating economic concerns to the concern of the Earth.

There may be lacunae in Catholic social teaching concerning globalization. But actually this is one subject that never left Pope John Paul II's attention. In his address to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Science on May 2, 2003, the pope stated that globalization of itself isn't wrong. But rather, "Globalization needs to be inserted into the larger context of a political and economic programme that seeks the authentic progress of all mankind. In this way, it will serve the whole human family, no longer bringing benefit merely to a privileged few but advancing the common good of all."

The Church may not have a detailed position on all aspects of globalization, but as the Pope's words show, the Church lays out the ground work and the blueprint for any sphere in which globalization finds itself.

In addition to this, the pope on March 2004 talked about the cultural aspect of globalization at a conference in Rome entitled "The Business Executive: Social Responsibility and Globalization." The pope said that "sound globalization, carried out in respect for the values of different nations and ethnic groupings, can contribute significantly to the unity of the human family and enable forms of cooperation which are not only economic but also social and cultural"

These two relatively recent words by the Pope John Paul on globalization supplement the thoughts he previously expressed in his encyclical Centesimus Annus promulgated in May 1991. In this encyclical, the Pope wrote that globalization, in particular globalization of the economy, is not something to be dismissed as it can create tremendous opportunities for growth and prosperity. However he cautions that there is "a growing feeling…that this increasing internationalization of the economy ought to be accompanied by effective international agencies which will oversee and direct the economy to the common good."

He calls on individual nation-states to cooperate with each other, especially the most powerful ones, so that "the whole human family is equally represented," that no one is left out of the table. He also called on international organizations to give sufficient consideration to those nations that have little weight in the international marketplace. Much of what the pope has addressed are prudent ways of addressing some of the problems articulated by Held on globalization. In particular, capitalism at times tends to concentrate wealth to a few people, widening the gap between rich and poor.

Translate that globally, we find a situation wherein entire countries, and sometimes an entire continent (e.g., Africa) are excluded. Held presented statistics showing that the richest 20% of the world population in 2001 have 82.7% of the world's wealth, while the 40% of the world population considered as poor hold a mere 3.3% of the world's wealth. The pope's appeal is to remind the powerful and the wealthy nations not to forget and neglect those that are struggling economically.

The deal that was struck last weekend by the countries that form the G8 is a good step in this direction. As a consequence, the decision by these rich nations gathered almost universal approval and praise.

The message from John Paul indicates that though the position of the Church on every aspect of globalization is not as detailed or exact as Coleman would have liked, nonetheless the principles are clearly presented. A kind of globalization that respects the dignity of all persons, that does not harm the economic well-being of anyone in the global community, that honors the environment, and that does not destroy the cultural heritage of others is what the Church stands for. It is up to the main participants in each of the sectors in which globalization is keenly felt to implement these principles and to put them into action.

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