Statement from the Commission on the Status of Women
General Assembly Hall
On March 14, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave a statement during the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women dedicated to the theme of “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.”
In his intervention, Archbishop Auza said that women, through their feminine genius, are at the forefront of the “revolution of tenderness” that Pope Francis has said the world needs. Rural women in particular nurture lives, relationships and whole rural societies, showing that we are at our best when we serve one another. The revolution of tenderness begins with ensuring the conditions necessary for women and girls to flourish and fulfill their potential in society. Economically, that involves ensuring that women have equal rights and access to land, water, seeds, legal contracts, markets, and financing. Their health and nutritional needs must be met and their irreplaceable contribution to society through motherhood must be supported and praised. They must have access to quality and equitable education and training. The international community must collaborate to help women carry out the revolution of tenderness and unleash the power of women to serve others for the common good.
The statement can be found here.
Experts Focus on Eradicating Human Trafficking among Rural Women and Girls
The best way to eradicate human trafficking is to prevent people from being vulnerable to being lured into it in the first place, experts and advocates testified at a March 13 conference, stating that economic exclusion is one of the largest push and pull factors, especially among rural women.
The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN hosted the side event during the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62). The conference was entitled “Preventing Human Trafficking among Rural Women and Girls: Integrating Inherent Dignity into a Human Rights Model.” It was co-sponsored by Mercy International Association, Mercy Global Action, Society of the Sacred Heart, The Arise Foundation, Women@TheWell, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, UNANIMA and the National Board of Catholic Women (UK). It was the first of five conferences the during CSW62.
Nearly 600 people jammed Conference Room 1 of the United Nations to participate.
Monsignor Tomasz Grysa, Deputy Permanent Observer of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN, who moderated the event on behalf of Archbishop Auza, said in his opening remarks that human trafficking happens everywhere, but attention is normally focused on cities where the demand is highest and media outlets, governments and NGOs are most concentrated.
“But cities are normally not where most trafficking victims come from,” Monsignor Grysa clarified, noting that victims of trafficking come disproportionately from rural areas. “Rural girls and women are especially vulnerable to the lies of traffickers who promise them good work, good food and education in the big cities.”
While everyone is called to take part in the worldwide mobilization necessary to eradicate the evil of trafficking, he said, some of the most impactful work comes from women’s religious communities comprised of sisters whom he called “heroines,” for their work on the front lines in remote areas assisting vulnerable and violated women.
The common narrative of rural women lured into big cities by the false promises of traffickers and forced into sex slavery was described at the keynote speech of the conference by survivor Mely Lenario from the Philippines.
As a child, after witnessing her stepfather raping her sister, her mother sent her away from her rural village to live in an orphanage. As an teen, she and her friends were approached by a “friendly and elegant” woman who invited them to work and receive a free education in the Cebu City. She was instead brought to a small house in the city's red-light district where she was offered drugs and forced into prostitution.
“I even knelt in front of [the Madame] begging her to have pity on me because I was still young, but she insisted that I needed to pay for all the expenses in coming to Cebu,” she said. “My handlers were very strict. If we didn’t have any customers, they wouldn’t allow us to eat.”
Lenario finally escaped with the help of missionary priests and moved into a safehouse run by the Good Shepherd sisters.
She is now studying social work and serves other trafficking survivors as an outreach worker and “survivor-advocate” for the Sisters who helped her in the Philippines.
Sr. Annie Jesus Mary Louis, a social worker and Franciscan Missionary of Mary has worked for a decade with women in Chhattisgarh, India, to rescue them from situations like Lenario’s and prevent their first being ensnared, through providing education and work opportunities in their rural areas so that they are not forced to migrate to urban cities where they are exposed to new vulnerabilities and exposed to traffickers.
“These women and girls [who were caught in sexual slavery] did not wake up one day and decide to move to the city to enter prostitution; they were manipulated from their homes,” Sr. Louis said, describing the lack of access to adequate employment, education, healthcare and sanitation they face.
“Traffickers know all of this. They know that the parents of children in my area are easily deceived and sometimes so desperate that they willingly sell their own children," she said. “Sexual exploitation is big business; Someone buys, someone sells. In this case, the product is sexual access to another human being.”
Sr. Angela Reed, RSM, Ph.D., Coordinator Mercy Global Action at the UN who has extensively researched preventative measures to end trafficking, especially through work with trafficking survivors, challenged the idea that prosecuting traffickers to cease demand is sufficient to end trafficking and argued that it is only a short-sighted, partial solution.
“There is no doubt that trafficking is demand driven, and we must work to end demand. We must also stop supply,” Sister Reed said, noting that while it is crass to talk about human beings in terms of supply and demand, the act of trafficking violates human dignity and commodifies human beings.
Preventing and ending the exploitation of rural women who make up the supply involves reducing the root causes and structures that make a woman vulnerable to trafficking throughout her entire life, by providing access to services that correspond to her human dignity, such as eradicating poverty and hunger and ensuring healthcare, quality education, and decent employment.
“Formerly trafficked women challenge the view that being trafficked for sexual exploitation is a single isolated event in their lives. Instead they draw attention to human rights violations and systemic oppression that occur throughout their entire lives,” Sister Reed said.
While rural women are largely impacted through the preventive work of small-scale organizations like Sr. Louis’ religious order and other community based projects that are in the best positions to serve their own needs, they are limited to small-scale budgets that pale in comparison to the multi-billion dollar trafficking industry.
Sister Sheila Smith, UN Representative for the Society of the Sacred Heart, spent years serving rural and indigenous women and girls in Canada who are disproportionately victims of trafficking and said that their human dignity is violated not only in the act of trafficking, but also in the exclusion they regularly face.
“There are a lot of obstacles: transportation, technology,” she said. ““The particular women I work with, they know what is needed in their communities, but it is such a struggle to get the funds to do the work.”
Most funding goes to large NGO instutions, and rarely funnels into the hands of advocates on the frontlines who make the greatest impact, according to Sister Lynda Dearlove, founder of Women@theWell and Arise Foundation Trustee.
“There are already, in countless rural areas worldwide, men and women working to combat the horrific impact of traffickers in their community,” Sister Dearlove said. “They have long-term enduring relationships with those living in rural areas. They are trusted voices speaking into communities, often people of those communities, walking alongside them in their daily battle for survival.”
“The global community simply isn’t very good at supporting this kind of work,” Sister Dearlove said, since the eradicating trafficking in rural communities “cannot be done by simply pouring more funding into the large NGO institutions, or flying more experts and external workers into remote regions.
Monsignor Grysa finished the event by calling the event “very moving” and reiterated the speakers “impassioned appeals to listen more attentively to those from rural areas, to support those groups on the ground who have credibility and are helping them, and to create the conditions better to prevent others’ being vulnerable to trafficking in the future.”
Experts at Holy See Event Discuss the Integral Education of Rural Women and Girls
While women and girls are filling classrooms in urban cities, rural women and girls, as well as those situations of conflict and natural disaster, are often left behind, according to experts at a Holy See event.
On March 15, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN sponsored an event entitled “Integral Education of Rural Girls and Women,” together with the Catholic Women’s Forum of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Universal Peace Federation and the initiative Education Cannot Wait to highlight best methods for enabling women and girls to access quality education that doesn’t stop at teaching her valuable skills, but also her inherent value.
The event was held in a standing and floor-sitting-room-only Conference Room 11 at the United Nations.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See Mission to the UN, highlighted the impact the Catholic Church has made in educating children, especially girls from from poor families.
“Thousands of Catholic women’s religious orders were founded with the explicit purpose of educating girls at a time when none but the richest girls with private tutors received any formal education at all,” he said. “Many of these women religious left their homes and traveled to far away countries in order to found schools in remote, rural villages where schools had never before existed.”
Archbishop Auza highlighted the vast number of men, women and children the Catholic Church educates, regardless of their faith or socio-economic background: 68 million students –with more than 30 million girls– worldwide are currently receiving an education through Catholic institutions.
Quality education for the Church does not end at teaching mathematical and writing skills to the future work force, but is aimed at building students who flourish, out of respect for each students’ inherent dignity. This “integral education” strives to create not only “intelligent adults but genuinely good persons,” he said.
Mary Rice Hasson, from the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., also emphasized that the right to quality education should not reduce the worth of women and girls to her ability to contribute economically, while failing to recognize her worth.
“Equal dignity is what gives a girl the right to an education,” Hasson said. “Not because she is useful or can make money for the family. Those are good things, but that is not why she deserves an education.”
While progress has been made for many women around the world, evident by data from various reports like the Global Education Monitoring Report, which reveals increases in women and girls’ access to education globally, including instances in which they outnumber their male counterparts, there are still many gaps, especially among those in rural areas and living in poverty.
“There are many women many girls who are receiving education who had no hope of one even a decade ago,” she said. She suggested that practices that hinder a woman’s access to education fail to recognize her dignity and are harmful for women and society as a whole.
To keep girls in school there must be trust between families, governments, and non-governmental organizations, she said, citing an example of broken trust when an NGO that was brought into Kenya privately taught girls counter-cultural practices that the girls, their families and the government found offensive. She suggested that families are wary to send their girls to school if they are skeptical that the curriculum will comprise their values.
Amritpal Sandhu, Education and Gender Advisor at Education Cannot Wait, said the one in four children who live in crisis-affected situations, such as conflict or climate disasters, are drastically left behind. This happens especially with girls, who are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than girls in more stable situations. This gap increases to 90 percent when girls reach adolescence.
“The ideal way to solve the problem of girls and boys who have been deprived of education in emergencies would be to stop conflict and stop the climate issues,” Sandhu said. Noting that not all of these are controllable, she advocated for increasing education funding in humanitarian crises areas. “We must view education as a life-saving intervention.”
Twenty-five years ago, Sakeena Yacoobi, CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning, had the same thought while conducting research at a refugee camp. Yacoobi encountered devastated women who did not recognize their worth and she realized the only difference between herself and her “sisters” was that she had received a quality education in the United States.
“Education was the key. It gave me self-power,” she said. She began to set up community schools by first training trusted members of the community.
“In the first three months we had 7 kids set up in school,” she said. “But in a year we had 15,000 students.” Since 1995, she has helped educate 10 million Afghans, including during the Taliban’s reign when many of her schools were forced to go underground.
“I’m glad we had those kids in school because right now they are the ones running the country,” she said.
After seeing an alarming trend among her students and their families who thought a sixth-grade education was sufficient, she also set up learning centers for women of all ages to acquire the skills they need for employment through an accelerated curriculum.
“I knew these girls are going to be mothers of the nation, providing stability,” she said. “Is reading and writing enough? They need quality education. It will be moral, it will be family-respective; an education that really gives them a skill so they will really be able to provide for themselves.
Dr. Timothy Rarick, Professor in the Department of Home and Family at BYU Idaho, said that an integral part of a girl's education comes not merely from classroom instruction, but from their family relationships and particularly the one a girl has with her father.
There are external ways to empower women and girls like clearing barriers to education and employment, Dr. Rarick said, but it is equally important to empower them internally by strengthening their confidence to make choices; the role of fathers in this area is key, and often missing from mainstream dialogue on empowering women and girls.
A father of three girls and a son, he anecdotally demonstrated this point through his own experiences with his daughters, even tearfully reading a thank you letter he received from his pre-teen after a father-daughter dance. But he also sought to demonstrate it through data.
His research shows that daughters who have loving, respectful and active relationships with their fathers while growing up have advantages in other areas. Studies found that they are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, be imprisoned, develop an eating disorder or be overly dependent on men, and are more likely to find success in work and school.
“We need to broaden our lens of girl’s empowerment to include the family,” he said. “If an idea minimizes fathers it minimizes girls.”
To watch the event in its entirety, click here.
To read Archbishop Auza's Remarks, click here.
Archbishop Auza Addresses
Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Conference
on Ethics in International Business and
Finance at Fordham University
On March 15, Archbishop Bernardito Auza gave the keynote address at a three-day Conference held at Fordham University on Ethics in International Business and Finance. The Conference was sponsored by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation and featured professors and experts from across the Globe.
His keynote address is found below.
Keynote Address by Archbishop Bernardito Auza,
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the
at the Fifth Consultation Meeting of the “Dublin Process” on
Ethics in International Business and Finance,
promoted by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation
Fordham University, New York, NY
15 March 2018
Dr. Sugranyes Bickel,
Prime Minister Gonzi,
Fellow Participants, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am pleased to be with you this afternoon as we reflect together on the themes involved in finding, following and helping economies, cultures, businesses and individuals to follow an ethical compass as we head further and further into the digital age “at a time of global turmoil.”
The March 6 edition of Forbes Magazine just brought us The 2018 List of the Three-Comma Club. In 2017, the world’s billionaires were 2,208, with an average net worth of 4.1 billion dollars. In just one year, their total net worth grew 18 percent. But even in this elite club, there is concern that the wealth gap among them tends to increase, that economic inequality among the wealthiest has been growing. The richest with his 112 billion dollars clearly distances the second who has “only” 90 billion, and the third richest with “only” 84 billion. In just one year, 2017, the richest person accumulated 39 billion dollars!
You would think that Mr. Rupert Murdoch is fabulously rich, yet he is “only” number 94 in this elite club and is worth “only” 15 billion dollars. President Trump is “only” number 766 in the list with his 3.1 billion. The poorest of the top 500 wealthiest persons in the world is worth 4.3 billion dollars, and the poorest of the top 1,000 has “merely” 2.4 billion dollars.
How about in the level of countries? In 2017, the poorest country in the world had an annual per capita income of $700 — that’s like as if an entire country lives in extreme poverty, below $ 1.93 per capita/day — while the wealthiest was 200 times richer at almost $140,000 annually, like a country in which every one of its citizens owns luxury homes with garages full of luxury cars.
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have been asked to address the theme of “Catholic Social Thought at a Time of Global Turmoil.” Are we really in “a time of global turmoil?” There could be various answers to that question. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to join a small group of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in a dialogue on “Multilateralism under fire.” I noted that some of the Ambassadors present did not think that multilateralism is currently under fire, because, in spite of failures and inaction, much has also been achieved lately through multilateral bodies like the United Nations. They cited the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Accord, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and other significant documents. At the end of our discussions, however, most of those present were of the opinion, or supposed, that “multilateralism is under fire.”
The title given to me to address clearly presupposes that we see “a global turmoil” in our time. A reading of the papers of our speakers and main respondents in this conference has given me further inkling to shape my reflection against a backdrop of a world and time “in turmoil.”
The small sampling of data on economic inequalities I just mentioned is just one of those indicators and factors that indicate “a time of global turmoil,” with its “signs of the times” on which we are called to shed the light of the Catholic Social Teaching.
Moreover, in my service as Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, I feel constrained, as it were, to widen and raise my gaze beyond the economic aspect of this global turmoil. Indeed, at the United Nations, we come into contact almost every day with the upheavals persons and peoples across the world are facing, upheavals that are either consequences or causes and, oftentimes, both, of “economic turmoil.” I would just mention some of these upheavals:
- There’s the refugee and migration situation, with 258 million people crossing international borders, either as refugees seeking safety elsewhere or migrants of every category, from economic migrants to “forced migrants” who do not fall under the legal definition of refugees. Another 40 million people are internally displaced within their own countries. So many on the move encounter closed doors and hearts, and an estimated 41 million persons have fallen victim to something worse: human trafficking and other contemporary forms of slavery.
- There are more known violent conflicts happening today than at any time in recorded history, or at least since the Second World War. As former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lamented toward the end of second mandate in 2016, there were thirteen open conflicts when he took office in 2016; ten years later there were 39 open conflicts and 11 situations that could explode into open conflicts. Coupled with this rise in the number of conflicts have been the increased barbarity of the crimes committed and the failure of those with the responsibility to protect people from atrocities to do so. A little less than 20 years ago, the Security Council, entrusted with sparing humanity from the scourge of armed conflict, met 52 times; in 2017, it met 292 times, thus indicating a “a world in turmoil.”
- There is the scourge of terrorism happening in areas where peace used to reign, and the rise of non-State terrorist groups has led to asymmetric wars and made peace more difficult to restore and maintain.
- Human rights are being trampled upon all across the board, from the unborn and frail seniors, to the poor and the excluded, to religious and ethnic minorities, to those ensnared by human traffickers for sex, labor or organ harvesting.
- There’s the breakdown of the family and its consequences on children raised without fathers, on single parents working multiple jobs just to survive, and on a culture in which, as Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed, the young fear lifetime commitments.
- There’s the growing polarization in political discourse across the globe, leading to deepening social disharmony and distrust between the citizens and their political leaders, and resulting in the fall of long-established political parties and the rise of new ones many of which are undergirded by extreme ideas.
- There’s what Pope Francis calls an “ideological colonization” in which lifestyles and “values” are imposed upon developing regions in exchange for development aid.
- There’s the “groaning” of our planet, as Pope Francis affirms in the Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si’,” as our common home is harmed by environmental pollution and a culture of waste.
On the mainly economic dimension:
- There’s the economic situation in which still more than one billion live in extreme poverty under $1.93 a day, in which the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, in which so many people, especially the young, cannot find jobs or have lost jobs due to ever-increasing automation, and in which women are still fighting for equality of opportunity and pay for the same work.
- There’s the technological revolution that is altering how we relate to each other, how we get information and how hackers and unscrupulous marketers steal private information, how we form community, even how kids are bullied and how people are manipulated or exploited without them knowing it, with new technologies arising so quickly that norms and strategies become obsolete even before they are implemented.
Confronted by this “global turmoil,” I believe that some among the biggest questions before us are: What does Catholic Social Teaching offer in the midst of these deep agitations? Is it still relevant? Does it help diagnose and remedy the personal, social, economic, environmental, cultural and spiritual malaise and challenges at play? In what way can it enlighten the way toward a recalibration of the ethical compass for today’s “world in turmoil?”
In the economic sphere, who or what could stop this ever-accelerating gap between the fabulously wealthy and the extremely poor? Who must regulate the forces underpinning this negative development? Has Catholic Social Teaching something to say and to what extent it can influence a new ethical compass to temper the forces that drive it? What can centers of learning like Fordham University and think tanks or organizations like the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation do about it? What can Catholic Social Teaching suggest to educators, to business people, to political leaders? And what can it propose to students and the young, to consumers and chain suppliers, to citizens and civic leaders in such a context?
While our distinguished and expert Speakers will attempt to give us answers to these questions, I will focus my reflection on affirming that Catholic Social Teaching can indeed offer principles and pathways to finding a fresh and effective ethical compass in a time of turmoil like ours.
I would thus affirm that the traditional categories and fundamental principles of Catholic Social Teaching remain relevant in responding to new phenomena, because so much of the turmoil comes from a disregard of fundamental principles of human relationships and the human person’s relationship to things around him. New dominant forms or systems instrumentalize rather than respect the person. Individualism defeats solidarity. Selfishness destroys the common good. The here-and-immediately blurs intergenerational solidarity. Relativism knows no objective truth. I believe that Catholic Social Teaching has something relevant to say about these dominant realities of our time.
In order not to disperse my reflection too much, I would limit myself to a few points of reflection primarily applicable in the economic aspect of the “world in turmoil” I just described.
First, Catholic Social Teaching urges us to practice solidarity to fight an economic situation in which so few have so much and so many have so little or nothing.
Central in and to Catholic Social Teaching is solidarity with those in need. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of "friendship" or ‘social charity,’ is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood” (CCC 1939).
Solidarity, as we all know, is not an invention of the Church: It is a central teaching of the Gospel. Jesus teaches us that everything we have is gift: it does not belong to us; we are only stewards of God’s gifts, to use them responsibly in the light of the needs of others and not just for our own enjoyment. To the religiously observant rich young man who wanted to be his disciple, Jesus said: "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Come, follow me" (Luke 18:22). But perhaps there is nothing more explicit when it comes to underlining solidarity as an essential mark of a disciple of Christ than the Parable of the Last Judgment, in which Christ himself identifies with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned (Mt. 25:31-46).
The Acts of the Apostles demonstrates how strongly this teaching was felt in the nascent Christian community, telling us that “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common (Acts 4:32-36). It was interpreted and implemented to the extreme that wretched Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, failed in the solidarity test, despite having laid most of the proceeds of the property they sold at the feet of the apostles, by retaining a part for themselves! (Acts 5:1-4).
Across two millennia, from the Fathers of the Church to the medieval theologians to Pope Francis, solidarity with those in need has remained a primary solicitude for the Church. The fourth century Father of the Church Saint John Chrysostom taught that not sharing your resources with others “is robbery and greediness and theft.” For Saint Thomas Aquinas, to whom we owe so much the idea of the common good, solidarity is ultimately a preparation and foundation for man’s eternal beatitude and the communion that exists among the saints.
Then comes along Pope Francis with some new vocabulary, some fresh formulation and imaginative ways of re-elaborating the Gospel and the Catholic teaching of solidarity. In the Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, the Holy Father exhorts us that “just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills… (50). This economy that “kills” and the “throwaway culture” that it begets are “no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new.… The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’” (Idem.).
Asked to comment on his critique of trickle-down economy, the Pope’s response has relevance to the theme under consideration. He said in an interview: “The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger and nothing ever comes out for the poor.”
In a similar vein, we hear it often said that the tide lifts all boats. Concrete cases of poverty, especially extreme poverty, tell us, however, that the rising tide does not always lift all boats; often it only lifts the yachts, keeps a few other boats afloat, rocks and sweeps away many, and sinks the rest. The alarmingly increasing gap between the rich and the poor, between the haves and the have-nots, demonstrates this. Findings show that in 2017, 82 percent of the wealth created went to the one percent richest, while zero percent — nothing, nada, nulla, rien de rien, or walang-wala as we say in Pilipino— went to the world’s poorest 50 percent. In other words, in 2017 the tide lifted the yachts of one percent of the world’s population, and sank the little lifeboats of the world’s poorest 50 percent.
Second, Catholic Social Teaching affirms that to prevent this growing economic inequality, the production and distribution of wealth cannot be left to unregulated market forces.
We have to question economic models that heighten exclusion and inequality, in particular those that cause an exponentially growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, those that exclude and marginalize masses of people without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape from poverty (see Evangelii Gaudium 53).
Pure market principles would determine the distribution of wealth in proportion to capital invested in the production of that wealth. Catholic Social Thought does not condemn that, but it insists that it should be exercised within a framework of other principles and values, such as solidarity, the common good and participation. Public authorities continue to have a determinant role in making sure that market forces are not totally left to their own logic, and must exercise it responsibly, in spite of the emergence of tremendously powerful non-State or non-public forces, like the huge high-tech companies that control much of the digital world and the sheer volume of private financial investments that dwarf the GDPs of so many countries.
Participation of as many as possible, if not all, in the economic activity is the antidote to economic exclusion, which too often begets social, political, cultural and other forms of marginalization. Structures and practices that exclude and leave behind large portions of the human family will always be barriers to full human development. Moreover, poverty is not mere exclusion from economic development; it is as multifaceted and multidimensional as the human person himself or herself. While economic exclusion underpins in a large measure these other forms of exclusion and poverty, we cannot equate poverty with economic poverty alone, lest we fail to grasp the complexity of the realities of poverty and human development.
Third, Catholic Social Teaching does not explicitly recommend a specific economic system; it rather considers how elements of economic models are more or less in consonance with the Church’s vision of the human person and of work.
Pope Francis has been seen by some as anti-business and anti-capitalist, in particular for his critique of the prevailing economic system that “kills,” as well as a pauperist and apologist of poverty, because of his constant advocacy for the poor. These are certainly caricatures of what the Holy Father has been saying and continually affirms. For one, in the same document in which he criticizes an economy that “kills,” he also praises business, saying, “Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all” (EG 203). He followed this up in his Message to the 2014 edition of the Davos World Economic Forum, in which he stated “Business is – in fact – a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life.”
What is this “greater meaning of life?” It means that one who engages in business does not only think of the profit he or she can accumulate through his or her business activity. It means that his or her business serves a bigger purpose other than his or her own aggrandizement. It means that the generation of wealth serves more effectively the common good and makes that good more equitably enjoyed by all, in particular among those who cooperate directly in the process. Expressed in more explicitly spiritual language, those who engage in business should see themselves as God’s co-creators, whose co-creation is “very good” and destined for a greater good beyond themselves.
I believe that it is in this sense that business leadership is indeed a calling, a vocation, a very noble role. Because of their role in the economic life of individuals, families and entire nations, business leaders who see their activity as a “vocation” would be guided and inspired by the “call “ to make their business respond to a “greater meaning of life.” That’s the business, I would even venture to say, that’s the “virtuous capitalism” that the Church takes joy in supporting.
Pope Francis’s new vocabulary and sometimes picturesque – indeed, provocative, perhaps sometimes intentionally so! — expressions, while consistent with the rich deposit of Catholic Social Teaching that has come before, inspire us in ways that could help us recalibrate the ethical compass suited for our “world in turmoil.” He has given us fresh terminologies that, I believe, more easily capture the attention and imagination of our contemporaries.
I think of the tremendous impact, just to cite one example, of Laudato Sì, which definitely helped to create a real entente cordiale conducive to negotiations that led to the adoption of the Paris Accord. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis elaborates on the term “integral human ecology,” a thought that first originated in Pope Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate. The term provokes new ideas and emphases on the interconnectedness between nature and ourselves that clearly illustrates that a healthy environment means healthy human beings, and that a “groaning” earth means a sick society with “suicidal tendencies.”
The principle of interconnectedness makes us more aware, too, of the intimate relationship between our lifestyles and modes of consumption and the fragility of our planet, of the value proper to each creature and its place in the scale of creation, of the anthropological and environmental consequences of a throwaway culture, of the need for intergenerational solidarity, et cetera.
This principle of interconnectedness inspires us to search for other ways to understand the economy and progress, to temper the ever-present temptation of wealth accumulation with fairness, generosity, gratuity, and, ultimately and over everything, love.
In the end, this principle of interconnectedness prods us on to the practice of the culture of encounter, of conversation, of conversion, of caminar juntos, of walking together, in response to the metastasizing isolation of the age despite all our digital super interconnectivity, in patiently and perseveringly recalibrating the ethical compass to make it fit for “a time of global turmoil” that is ours.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Holy See Events during the
Commission on the Status of Women
Monday begins the second and final week of the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) that seeks to promote the advancement of women around the world. This year marks the 62nd Session, which is focused on the theme of opportunities and challenges for rural women and girls.
During the second week, the Holy See Mission will be hosting 3 events. Unfortunately registration is closed for those who do not already have a UN grounds pass. If you have already registered or have a UN pass, please arrive early to ensure your seat.
Each of the events will be webcast live on webtv.un.org for those who would like to participate but cannot attend in person.
Promoting the Integral Development of Rural Women and Girls in Africa under the Threat of Ideological Colonization
11:30 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. | March 19 | UNHQ Conference Room 4
Registration is closed, but there is still room for those who already have a UN Pass.
No Room in Rural Villages, Cities or Homes for the Disabled?
Are Boys and Girls with Down Syndrome Being Left Behind?
1:15 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. | March 20 | UNHQ Conference Room 12
Registration is now closed.
Affirming the Human Dignity of Rural Women and Girls
through Healthcare and Education
3:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. | March 22 | UNHQ Conference Room 11
Registration is now closed.
Save the Date for Future Events
Upholding Human Dignity for Migrants and Refugees, From Principles to Practice: Faith Based Organizations and the Global Compacts
1:15-2:30 | May 3, 2018 | UNHQ Conference Room 4
RSVP by April 30 at holyseemission.org/rsvp3May2018
The Santa Marta Group: Police and Religious Leaders
United to Eradicate Human Trafficking
1:15-2:30 | May 22, 2018 | UNHQ Conference Room 7
Registration coming soon.