Posts tagged with: Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani postponed his much-anticipated four-day European visit after the attacks in Paris over the weekend. According to a Voice of America report, the Iranian leader described the Islamist terror attacks, which have pushed the death toll to 132 and wounded more than 300 in Paris, as “crimes against humanity.”

Rouhani had planned to visit Italy, the Vatican and France “in a trip aimed at boosting business and diplomatic ties after years of crippling international sanctions because of Iran’s controversial nuclear program.” At Catholic World Report, John Paul Shimak looked at the “unique challenges” facing Pope Francis in advance of his meeting with Rouhani (no announcement on when the trip will be rescheduled). One of those challenges is anti-Semitism. He interviewed Kishore Jayabalan, Acton’s Rome office director:

In an e-mail dated October 30, Kishore Jayabalan of the Istituto Acton told me that the Pope “should tell Rouhani what he recently told a meeting of Jewish leaders, that to be anti-Israel is to be anti-Semitic and therefore unacceptable.” However, Jayabalan says he doubts “it would have much effect.” (more…)

Blog author: bwalker
Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cardinal Turkson: together for stewardship of creation
Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, Vatican Radio

Despite the generation of great wealth, we find starkly rising disparities – vast numbers of people excluded and discarded, their dignity trampled upon. As global society increasingly defines itself by consumerist and monetary values, the privileged in turn become increasingly numb to the cries of the poor.

Pope Francis endorses climate action petition
Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

“He was very supportive,” Tomás Insua, a Buenos Aires, Argentina, native and co-founder of the group, said in an email. “[Pope Francis] even joked that we were competing against his encyclical before it was published.”

Martin Weitzman on Climate Change
Russ Roberts, Library of Economics and Liberty

Is climate change the ultimate Black Swan? Martin Weitzman of Harvard University and co-author of Climate Shock talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the risks of climate change.

Rick Santorum On Pope Francis’ Letter On Climate Change: ‘Leave The Science To The Scientists’
Dom Giordano, CBS Philly

“The Church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we’re probably better off leaving science to the scientists and focus on what we’re really good on, which is theology and morality.”

online predatorReligious believer or not, most of us agree that we should take care of the downtrodden. We have to feed and care for the homeless, the hurting, those who’ve temporarily hit hard times or those who, for whatever reason, cannot take care of themselves. These are the people who gather at the entrances of soup kitchens, who live atop garbage heaps, who salvage whatever they can for a shelter to call home.

What about those who live in the “cyberslums?” How do we minister to them? (more…)

Last week was a busy news week for the Vatican: the release of Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, and the announcement that two former popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, will be canonized. Almost overshadowed is the story of another remarkable leader, Cardinal Văn Thuận and the cause for his beatification. (Beatification is the first step in declaring a person a saint, and allows for public veneration.)

Cardinal Văn Thuận spent 13 years in prison as a political prisoner in Vietnam, shortly after being named coadjutor archbishop of Saigon. The North Vietnamese army invaded Saigon, and the archbishop was sent to a “re-education camp”, where he endured 9 years of solitary confinement. It would seem to be a situation where one would lose hope. (more…)

The Detroit News editorial page today features Kishore Jayabalan’s commentary regarding the pro-business statement made by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP). Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, says this:

It may be easier to describe the contents of the PCJP statement by saying what it is explicitly not. It is not a policy statement on the merits of financial regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley or the Tobin Tax. It is not a call-to-action to storm the barricades and “expropriate the expropriators,” the old Marxist term for an overthrow of the capitalists. And it is not a statement intended to discourage faithful Christians from engaging in the buying and selling of goods and services, as if these are grubby, disreputable but sometimes necessary ways to make a living.

It’s not quite a how-to manual for busy executives and managers who are struggling to live their faith in the workplace either, yet The Vocation of the Business Leader wants to encourage and inspire us to “see, judge, and act” wisely and prudently.

Read more….


On National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg reviews a new document from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace titled, “The Vocation of the Christian Business Leader.” This follows the PCJP’s controversial “note” on the global financial system issued in October. Gregg says the “Business Leader” document:

Though it doesn’t shy away from making pointed criticisms of much contemporary business activity — and there is much to criticize — the Note articulates, perhaps for the first time in the Catholic Church’s history, a lengthy and thoroughly positive reflection from a body of the Roman Curia about the nature and ends of business.

Unlike the October 2011 Note, this new document avoids grand theorizing about the nature of economic development throughout the 20th century. Nor does the Note lend itself to absurd claims that the Church is to “the left of Nancy Pelosi” on economic issues. Instead, this text’s analysis of life as a business leader is rooted in a sophisticated appreciation and application of the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching. It also reflects a background of solid natural law reasoning about what Benedict XVI has called “integral human development,” and recognizes the sheer diversity of forms assumed by business in the modern economy. To that extent, the Note reflects a very welcome (and much over-due) “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” method of analysis of life in business.

So what are some of the document’s key themes?

Read “In Praise of Business: A New ‘Note’ from Justice and Peace” by Samuel Gregg on National Review Online.

Not surprisingly, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP)’s latest document on water has garnered scant media attention. Why, after all, would journalists, already notorious for their professional Attention Deficit Disorder and dislike of abstract disputation, report on something named “Water: An Essential Element of Life,” especially when it is nothing more than an update of a document originally released in 2003, and then updated in 2006 and 2009, with the exact same titles?

Back then, First Things editor-in-chief Fr. Richard John Neuhaus mischievously remarked, “There is an unconfirmed report that under discussion at the UN is an International Year of Air. If that ambitious step is taken, informed observers say, the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace will be ready with a major statement, ‘Air, An Essential Element of Life.’” If nothing else, the PCJP, where I worked from 1999 to 2004, needs to hire a marketing specialist to come up with snazzier titles for their publications.

So you could be forgiven for thinking that reading such a document would make a spiritually-beneficial type of intellectual mortification during this Lenten period. But skipping it altogether would also mean neglecting the serious questions contained therein on how the Holy See thinks about important matters such as human rights and economics. In fact, one may wonder if those responsible for the document have taken them as seriously as they should have.

Thanks to the invaluable Real Clear Religion website, I came across this analysis by George McGraw of DigDeep Water. It’s a mainly positive appraisal of the Holy See’s call for an internationally-recognized “right to water” but it also draws attention to some problem areas:

[T]here is one aspect of the Vatican’s position on water that makes its international intervention decidedly controversial. In this year’s “Water, an Essential Element” the Holy See will defend water access as an essential human right, one still hotly debated in international law.

When legal human rights were first introduced in 1948, the right to water wasn’t included in either the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or in the treaties derived from it. Many scholars believe that water was considered so basic, that it was quite simply overlooked. Since then, other water-related obligations have found protection in international law, but the closest thing we have to formal recognition of a human right to water is a (non-binding) 2010 UN resolution.

It seems states have generally failed to acknowledge the right to water for two reasons: either due to a concern that it would make them liable for water provision (a costly endeavor), or because such a right might challenge traditional property rights.

The Vatican’s position is doubly controversial because it’s couched in a criticism of “an excessively commercial conception of water” which the Holy See insists isn’t just another “for-profit commodity dependent on market logic.” This language was used to announce the new position paper at last week’s World Water Forum in Marseille — a gathering that suffered criticism for allowing corporate interests and dissenting states to weaken consensus on the human right to water.

So, assuming the importance of water and sanitation has not been simply neglected, there are at least two reasons why the “right to water” doesn’t exist: 1) States are neither able nor willing to pay for “free” water, and 2) it would interfere with the property rights of those who, for example, own land with abundant supplies of water. These would seem to be quite understandable, but not insurmountable, concerns for those who care about the common good. There are many ways for necessary goods to be produced, distributed and consumed through a novelty called commerce, the supposed “excess” of which is criticized by the Holy See. In fact, the Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen has argued that calamities such as droughts and famines are most devastating where local markets and effective protections of private property do not exist.

One has to ask: Does the Holy See really believe that water is any less of a commodity, or any less necessary to human life, than food, normally considered the most common form of commodity? If markets don’t exist for important things like food and water, why should they exist at all? Wouldn’t markets be truly useless if they only traded “non-goods”?

If States are reluctant to recognize the “right to water,” why does the Holy See insist on it so regularly? One likely explanation is that most States and the Holy See have very different understandings of human rights. Does a right fundamentally entail freedom from state coercion or entitlement to a government-provided benefit? Should all human goods and needs, which obviously go beyond basic rights such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” be considered human rights? If so, who will protect and provide them, i.e., the State, civil society or individuals? Is accommodation or synthesis possible among these divergent understandings of rights, some of which would limit the scope and reach of governmental (and ecclesiastical) power while others would expand them? More basically, aren’t these notions of rights and government based on fundamentally different understandings of human nature, on which we are unlikely to agree at anything approaching a universal level?

It ought to be clear that such questions are central to our understanding of the liberal human rights project, much larger than that of providing “free” water for all. But I wonder if the idea of limited government that allows individuals and voluntary associations to provide for needs beyond those ensured by certain enumerated rights is adequately understood by those who promote previously-unrecognized human rights. Some will say that these new rights are proof of an increasing awareness of human dignity, but I am not convinced. Many of these “rights,” in fact, are not based on a fixed idea of human dignity or human nature, but a denial of it; man is nothing more than a historical, “progressive” being whose wants and needs are constantly evolving. And it is, of course, these “progressives” who are constantly calling for new “rights” to be delivered by the state, rather than the private sector (exhibit A: Obamacare).

In my opinion, the continual expansion and discovery of new “rights” to cover all human needs have a particular appeal to religious believers because it institutionalizes and universalizes our social obligations to care for our fellow human beings. But we must also realize the particular, albeit partial, truths of liberalism and economics, especially with regard to the distribution of resources such as water. (The socialist paradise of Cuba, after all, recognizes the “right to water” as well as those to “health”, “religious freedom,” etc.) God did indeed create the world with enough goods for all. He also gave us the freedom and responsibility to cultivate and share these goods with each other, though we all too often fail at doing so. But let’s not assume He commands us to toss international law, private property, and economic good sense out the window as well.