En passant

The prophetic journey of Development and Peace by Michel Beaudin

 The prophetic journey of Development and Peace:

A flower blossoms in the fertile ground of the Church’s social teaching

“Would you believe that today in 1934 we would only say that which we wrote in 1931, already three years ago? […] As for you, your task in this area is to work to prepare the next encyclical on social issues.” (Pope Pius XI to the president of the Catholic Action movement for French youth (A.C.F.J.)[1]

 

Beyond rejecting outright the manifestly vicious and unconstructive allegations of LifeSiteNews (LSN) against the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (OCCDP or D&P), it would seem entirely fruitless to venture into the quicksand of a maliciously oriented and in any event unhealthy debate it started, and particularly to do so on the terms imposed by LSN, an organization with nebulous contours and which seems to confuse evangelization and inquisition[2]. Because Development and Peace has consistently espoused democracy, exercised constant vigilance over its orientations and activities, and respected the sensus fidei in relation to the accuracy of its own vision and practice of the faith, it has no need to fall into an overly defensive position and to allow itself to be re-fashioned[3] by any opiniated person who comes along. This is said without prejudice against other more credible spokespersons. Let us simply use these circumstances and especially the recent publication of the social Encyclical Caritas in Veritate in order to take stock of the splendid achievement of the trajectory of the OCCDP within the Catholic Church over the last forty years and to consider it in its historical perspective.

 

1. Development and Peace: fruit, bearer, and actor of the social teaching of the Church in the current globalization of the “social question”

 

The history of D&P has been characterized mostly by a creative fidelity to the social message of the Gospel that the Church has attempted to translate contextually into the realities of the time. This innovative and prophetic trajectory is also the source of great pride, a fact that is regularly confirmed on the ground, particularly in the Global South. In this time of neo-liberal globalization that sows the seeds of exclusion, death and despair, D&P is seen as a rare beacon of light emerging from the North. This contribution is also highly recognized in Canada where the Organization has played a determining role in mobilizing Canadian civil society around solidarity with the people in the South, in generating concern around this theme in government policies and in the business world, as well as sowing this idea in the consciences of Church communities, by inviting them to a renewed practice of Share Lent and to political involvement for the promotion of justice.

 

Fidelity yes, but there is more. The origin of D&P and its mandate have coincided with an era and a new development in the social teaching of the Church, which saw the “social question” becoming global, at the precise moment where the river was becoming sea. At the same time, in accordance with the wishes of the Church[4], the organization turned out to be an exceptional agent in the construction of this new phase of the Church’s social teaching.  Indeed, as the Church itself defines it , “far from constituting a closed system” and before being “a set of principles for reflection and criteria for judgment and also directives for action”, the Church’s social teaching has been given the character of a living process. For the Church is always in the midst of reformulating “the encounter of the Gospel message […] with the problems emanating from the life of society”, and requiring “the contribution of all charisma, experiences and skills”. This was precisely the results of this ongoing exercise that ended up taking the form of a doctrine or social “teaching” and by giving the Church its “expertise in humanity” (Paul VI)[5]. Through its analysis, reflection and action, Development and Peace has never ceased to undertake this dialogue with the Gospel and, in so doing, to contribute to the drafting of the social teaching itself.

 

In order to better measure the relevance of Development and Peace’s trajectory as an attempt to formulate an adequate ecclesial response to the “signs of the time”, we will retrace the context that gave rise to and helped this flower to grow in the garden of the Church here in this country. First of all, we will recall the overall contours and background for the period between 1891 until the end of the 1950s, where the “social question” came to dominate internally in each of the countries in the North. Then we will examine the subsequent social teaching of the Church from the sixties to our time, when the social question took on global proportions firstly by virtue of the emergence of the Global South, and then cresting with the onslaught of neo-liberal globalization with its unprecedented environmental and anthropological threats.

 

The similarity of the two moments pointing to a qualitative process in the evolution of the social teaching of the Church is striking. Six features will retain our attention: (1) the prophetic role of the laity at the local level as the trigger for this teaching, (2) the role of the signs of the times as the theological locus or the locus of the discernment of God’s call, supported by social analysis and not only by a philosophical system, (3) the Church’s progressive turning outward from itself in order to prophetically turn towards the world and worldly issues from the perspective of the poor and the losers, (4) the permanency of the two anthropological poles of the dignity of the person and of the need of living together which leads to universal brotherhood (with its corollary of the common good), (5) the change in the status of victims who go from being object of welfare to becoming subjects (or actors) and partners, and (6) the search for structural alternatives to what exists, as opposed to allowing welfare or the status quo to remain. These six facets do not structure as such this presentation. They are simply presented as points of reference that allow one to discern the indicators or the turning points of an evolution.

 

2. The social teachings of the Church from the end of the 19th century through until 1960: the “social question”

 

a)      The beginnings of the “social question”

 

With the end of the Ancien Régime, or the organic but very hierarchical society of the middle ages, where workers found protection in their trade associations, capitalism began to swallow up the economy. It brought on the brutality of the industrial revolution, which relegated the workers to a proletariat lacking protection and beholding to the generosity and brutality of their bosses. All this under the complicit and “laissez-faire” gaze of the State, with a Church shielded from public life and inclined towards maintaining the status quo. However, from the first half of the 19th century, Christian workers and Catholic social thinkers would bring to the very head of the Church a new consciousness of “misery […] pressing so injustly on the majority of the working class” [6], and of the abused dignity of the workers. The world system then was clearly anti-evangelical in nature and flew in the face of the common good.

 

This would result in the absolutely unexpected thunderbolt of the Encyclical Rerum novarum, which reminded everyone that work must have precedence over capital. And with it, social justice started to move from the periphery to the centre of faith. A new space was created for analyzing situations, but the precepts for doing so were still derived from the principles of a natural law philosophy, as opposed to being directly inspired by the Gospel. Having condemned socialism, the Church had no solution to propose other than that of giving into paternalism and the good will of the bosses. However the Church opened the door to a more active role for workers by declaring its approval of trade unionism, and by inviting the faithful to get involved in catholic trade unions.

 

b)      The 1930s: the proposal of a corporatist alternative to unfettered capitalism

 

In 1931, the Encyclical Quadragesimo anno reiterated the positions of Rerum novarum by denouncing a capitalism in crisis due to unfettered competition which had transformed itself into an “economic dictatorship”, and to “the virtual degradation of the majesty of the State”, which “has become a slave, surrendered and delivered to the passions and greed of men.”[7] However, the encyclical went much further by proposing a project for social restoration, an alternative to the corporatist model, under which workers unions and managerial unions, regrouped in corporations by sector of the economy, were expected to harmonize their views and interests, and to coordinate themselves under the watchful legislative eye of the State, a perspective which saw justice and social charity as “superior principles”, “informing all of economic life” with the keystone being Christ’s presence.

 

Here, the workers become full-fledged subjects and partners in a structurally reformed system. In addition, the proposal reflected a consciousness of the key role that structures play in society. Still the Church reserved for itself the control of social charity (social and educational services), which it saw as the “soul of this order” focused on the common good[8]. The Church would put action to its words by creating the Catholic action movements (the YCW, YCS, then the Catholic Workers League, etc.) all designed to provide a framework for and to bring the Christian spirit to the masses. Here, the laity played a central and primary role in becoming the subjects of evangelization. Their dignity, as workers or as young people, was promoted in the Church. Catholic Action’s “see-judge-act” method, by its attention to reality (observation and inquiry) and its direct reading of the Gospel, would serve as fertile ground for some of the strategies to grow out of the second Vatican Council and act as a forerunner for contextual theologies.

 

c)      The 1940s: the proposal to «reform the enterprise»

 

Unfortunately, the State version of corporatism – and Fascism being its derivative in Europe – quickly led to the model’s discredit [9]. The upheavals surrounding the war and the resurgence of industrialization buttressed the capitalist empire. Between roughly 1945 and 1951, the social teaching of the Church witnessed new developments in the form of the movement to reform the enterprise. This movement, which was promoted in many Catholic countries (and in Québec), saw the participation of workers in ownership, management and benefits of the enterprise, because of their personal dignity, but also to make sure that the workers had enough to satisfy the needs of their family and to give them access to property. It was not only necessary for the system to distribute the fruits of people’s labour more justly, but businesses themselves should “cease to be the exclusive preserve of the market, in order to become an authentic community of work over time[10].” In opting for a more focused analysis of the economy, as opposed to basing itself mostly on abstract principles, the social thinking of the Church managed to lay some further points of reference down the road.

 

d)      The 1950s until the Council: the retreat of the Church and the decline of its social teaching

 

Unfortunately, once again Rome came under pressure from conservatives, the bulk of these being Catholic employers who obtained the abandonment or even the condemnation of the movement for the reform of the corporate business. In the following years, there occurred a steady decline of the reference to the official social teaching, due in part to secularization and to the vulnerability of a way of thinking that was still too exclusively identified to arguments of authority. The Church rallied to the side of the Keynesian solution (the New Deal) and social policies with the State taking greater responsibility for the social services. This was a new era, where the Church ceased to play a structural role in social organization and focused itself on its internal life. The “terrestrial realities” took their «own dimension» for the moment and would need to be addressed on a different basis after the second Vatican Council, which was going to take a new direction on all theses questions.

 

Up to this point, the social question had essentially been limited to Northern nations. The conquest and colonization of Southern nations, with their corollary of exploitation had generally remained outside the parameters of the social teaching of the Church. But things were soon to change.

 

3. The social teaching of the Church from the 1960s until the 1980s: the globalization of the “social question” and Development and Peace’s contribution

 

a)      The emergence of the Global South and “underdevelopment”

 

Beginning in the 1950s, the colonies of European nations were in turmoil and starting to build relationships between themselves (Bandung, 1955). At that point, the term “Third World” entered the vernacular. These nations also wanted to exist and to be recognized. Once again, it would be the historical victims of the structures of injustice that would sound the prophetic call for a single humanity with equality and dignity for all.

 

The world discovered underdevelopment, essentially understood as a simple problem of “lagging behind”, and fashioned a solution based on the notion of development assistance, i.e. the transfer of money, technology, and/or expertise. The world’s attitudes remained essentially paternalistic vis-à-vis these peoples, yet optimism reigned. The UN declared its first development decade and everyone thought that the Third World would “takeoff”, and would soon be on “the road to development”.

 

b)      Buds from the field: a shift in the social teaching of the Church

 

In the early 1960s, it was recognized that underdevelopment had actually gotten worse despite the assistance being provided. The diagnosis had been wrong. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) offered another hypothesis: we are not living in separate worlds, underdevelopment is the result of the structured and lopsided relationships between the periphery (Third World) and the Center (the North). Increaded poverty is now seen as a part of this dialectical relationship of dependence/domination; development is being blocked from outside.  From this grew the notion that the solution laid in liberation and not in assistance. In Latin America, pastors and laity began to reflect on their faith and to reread the Gospel from the point of view of the poor as structural victims. In doing so, they discovered that, with respect to God, the Bible offered a similar perspective. These people began to move towards the slums and rural areas. New initiatives began to spring up, a Church of liberation and later on, in its bosom, a theology of liberation. Here again the prophetic dimension came out from those that lived poverty, out of an articulated analysis of social reality, both of which were internalised by grass-root Christians who listened to this new reading of the Gospel found in the «signs of the times».

 

 

 

c)      The contribution of the Council

 

As for the Church, John XXIII convoked all the world’s bishops to the Council.  In a world where international relations were dominated by the threat of nuclear war, the Pope had published the Encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963). But the growing awareness of other problems, in particular economic problems, and mostly the situation in the recently decolonized Global South, ultimately made its way to Northern bishops and shook up their ideas and habits. The Council set the stage for what was to come: God wanted the salvation of all of humanity, seen in its unity. God was calling us through the signs of the times and this demand needed to be placed at the top of the Church’s agenda. This task could not be accomplished without the Church redefining itself as a “servant” of the Kingdom of God in constant becoming[11]; the Church is a people, with responsibilities vested in all the baptized, hence including all the the laity.

 

d)      Populorum Progressio in the debate on development 

 

In 1965, the Bishops returned home to undertake the transformations decided on by the Council. At the same time, an economic crisis was gathering on the horizon with developing countries trying to find a way out. Under the pretext of development assistance, Northern governments had equipped themselves with official agencies that through loans (the debt trap) and tied aid (linked to business interests) were in the process of re-colonizing the South. CIDA was born from that current in 1968. In 1967, Pope Paul VI promulgated his famous Encyclical Populorum Progressio (P.P. ) which applied the perspectives of the Council to the economy and to the problem of development all the while making the link between it and the political problem of war. He proposed “development as the new name for peace” and formally noted that the social question had become global.

 

The encyclical was to prove prophetic[12] at a number of levels. P.P. adopted the point of view of the people of the South; it identified underdevelopment as a “provoked” and structural phenomenon; it criticized the inhumanity of economic liberalism left to its own devices without limits or social responsibilities; it took away the legitimacy and exclusivity of the notion of free competition. Rather, the solutions were to be found in more just relationships. The encyclical expanded the notion of “development” well beyond solely that of growth and proposed a more integrated or complete vision of its purpose: the development of the whole person and of all the persons (solidarity). In the process, the people of the Global South moved from being objects to being subjects of their own development. P.P. called for programs negotiated multilaterally, and for the expansion of social justice measures adapted to national realities in the Global South, etc. This message sparked an enthusiastic support or at least challenged its contemporary audience.

 

Populorum Progressio also changed the Church’s understanding of itself and of its mission. It was no longer simply a question of opening the Church to the modern world, as per the yet unformulated comment of John Paul II: “Man is the way of the Church”[13]. In the context of the internal conflicts in the world and its systematic creation of exclusion, if one were to remain faithful to the Gospel, one also had to target the “poorer classes” and their “wretched lot” to challenge the view of all of society from their perspective.[14] Did not Jesus “cite the preaching of the Gospel to the poor as a sign of His mission”?[15] The door was wide open and the Latin American bishops in Medellin in 1968 adopted the preferential option for the poor as an answer to the «state of sin» of their continent. Other churches and Christian groups will borrow heavily from this perspective. The implication of the general openness of the Council becomes more specific here: “The poor are the way of the Church”. In other words, there is no future for society without their reintegration, and without the abolition of the “structures of sin”[16], as Pope John Paul II will write later on.

 

And finally, the encyclical established a new way of elaborating the social teaching of the Church. No longer would social doctrine be developed from on high, based on abstract principles and as a solely authoritarian message, but in “the light of the Gospel and of human experience [17], the latter implying direct observation (to hear the cries of anguish of the “people who hunger”) and social and theological analysis of the “facts”, and all this integrated in a daring message that called upon all of humanity.

 

e)      The foundation and initial journey of Development and Peace

 

It was on this foundation that the Canadian Bishops established Development and Peace (D&P) in 1967. From the very beginning it was a democratic organization and relied on the participation of lay people. Its first managers were above all the product of the Catholic Action movement, which had pioneered this type of approach. The mission involved two original and avant-garde components, support for self-reliance in the Global South (no overseas staff, but the development of a network based on mutual trust with responsible partners), and a program of education in Canada, a clear indication that the founders understood that the causes of underdevelopment could also be found here at home.

 

With this and a slight tinge of assistantialism, as evidenced by a poster with the head of an African child crying, capped off with the slogan “You give them something to eat”, D&P launched its first Share Lent campaign in 1968. But the next decade would be marked by rapid evolution, either by developing the intuitions of Populorum Progressio, or through innovation in the same spirit and rhythm as new signs of the times emerged. These last would confirm the diagnosis of P.P., that underdevelopment is getting worse. An unbridled debt system will act as a “Trojan horse” to impose on the countries of the Global South through international financial institutions (I.F.I.), “Structural Adjustment Programs” (S.A.P.) that will place these countries at the mercy of foreign companies and investors. Their economic frontiers will be broken into without any Northern market being opened up in exchange. It was a one-way liberalization or globalization with the rules being established unilaterally by the rich countries. This period indicates the “end” of any so-called will to bring about the autonomous development of the Global South.

 

In spite of its short experience, yet strongly supported by P.P. and its mandate, and enlightened by the practices and analyses of its partners, Development and Peace stands in the counter-current of this collapse. Clearly, the decision-makers did not listen to the warnings of P.P. Development and Peace fleshes out and communicates an analysis of underdevelopment as a provoked phenomenon linked to an unacceptable development model and of North-South relationships. This perspective calls for projects that liberate the beneficiaries from unequal structures as a condition for true development and as a means of overcoming the deplorable living conditions of people in the South. Development and Peace also embarked upon the intensive task of information and action in the North calling for a New International Economic Order asked for by the Global South nations, and began to criticize the practices of businesses, as well as aspects of Canada’s foreign policy. Regional animation teams were established to support the work of Diocesan Councils and Local Groups in implementing the organization’s education programs. This period also saw the invention of fall campaigns with guests from the Global South dealing with specific themes and countries, which through their pedagogy made a great contribution to the awareness of Canadians, as well as contributing to political changes: Canadian policy towards Apartheid (1977-1978), international mobilization in solidarity with the «missing » [desaparecidos] in Argentina (1979), etc.

 

In the process, Development and Peace worked in both the North and the South with Catholic organizations,[18] with other Churches, and with other religious and secular organizations. For development was not a pretext for proselytization. Only the relevance of the projects it received and the causes they were intended to address became determining factors in its choices because, faithful to Vatican II’s view of Church, D&P thought that the whole issue of salvation resides in the transformation of the world in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel and not in fostering the “prosperity” of the Church. At the same time, the 1971 Synod on Justice in the World recognized that « action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation” [19].  In short, there is no authentic evangelization without a commitment to the struggle for justice!

 

The perspective is one of partnership built around shared objectives. Populorum Progressio still speaks of the people of the Global South as being a “they” without seeing them as direct interlocutors, the “you”. Above all it still implicitly appealed to decision-makers and to people in the North. D&P went further. Southern partners were recognized as the first subjects of their own development. In addition, partners brought here the clarity of their own analysis in terms of our own responsibilities here in Canada[20]. Through education campaigns, Global South visitors were put in direct contact with the Canadian public. We are working together, in solidarity, to change both the North and the South.

 

In terms of relationship with the social teaching of the Church, added to the mix of P.P, of Octogesima Adveniens and the Synodal document on Justice in the World, support and inspiration for Development and Peace’s work will also be given by the positions taken by the Canadian bishops, either through the Letter on the 10th Anniversary of the Organization (1977) or other messages of national or international scope[21]. Without undue flattery, these public statements made many groups abroad envious of us, according to their own assertions. The major social encyclicals will come again into the forefront only in the 1980s.

 

4. From the 1980s to our days: threats provoked by regressive neo-liberalism pushes the Church’s social teaching and Development and Peace to become more “radical”

 

The elections of Margaret Thatcher (1979) and Ronald Reagan (1980) determined a new direction for the world: the political and economical implementation of the neo-liberal ideology fostering the unlimited «liberation» of capital and the rapid extension of this model to the whole planet. We will rapidly present a portrait of this contextual turn-around as well as the alternative that it generated by looking at the work of Development and Peace in respect to these new signs of the times. We will then consider the pathway of the Church’s contemporary social teaching in the light of the road taken by Development and Peace. A greater attention will be given to Caritas in Veritate not only because of its newness, but also because of its impact on the updating of P.P. and of its will to glean the best of the preceding encyclicals.

 

 

 

 

 

a)      The slow build-up of an alternative under the heavy burden of neo-liberal globalization

By the early 1980s, the globalization[22] of a capitalist system left to self-regulation had completed its task of putting the Global South in a position of tutelage, achieving the process of neo-colonialism begun by the international financial institutions and by private investors. The market and the State had openly betrayed the common good. The abolition of national economic boundaries radically changed the context; from now on we are but one world, subjected to the same pressures everywhere. The frontiers of exclusion now cut across every society, and divide them in two. Neo-liberalism has very little to offer the losers, or those that are “useless” to it. Wherever the social security system is wanting, or nonexistent, exclusion and death await. Today’s excluded have come to envy yesterday’s exploited.

 

In the face of the economic, political, social, ecological, cultural and ideological “tsunami” of neo-liberalism, thousands of new organizations and support groups have sprung up to defend the life of those that do not count, and to resist this new form of totalitarianism that amasses record profits and is responsible for the degradation of the living conditions of so many people around the world. Development and Peace has made this cause its own as well as the seeking and building of alternatives at the grass roots level, in view  of the existing order. This is why, since the beginning of the millennium, Development and Peace is eagerly engaged in increased world networking of the movement for “another possible world”. In a so-highly interrelated world, such a project calls out to the logic of “inter-ness” (inter-cultural, inter-faith, etc.), or cooperation which is not immediately driven by specific interests, but by a sense of the common good. As evidenced by the recent food crisis, for example, a new global arrangement is necessary. Once again, working with others, Development and Peace is at the forefront in calling for food sovereignty policies for all people, as opposed to dependence on a world market that is first and foremost obsessed with the hunger for profit! Through its projects in countries around the world and by its action at home, Development and Peace has been a laboratory for a world of a new kind, in building direct links between peoples and through its support of civil society rising up to meet the demand for new more friendly social structures on this planet.

 

Initially, the current economic crisis (since 2008) gave rise to some vague proposals for a “new foundation of capitalism”. However, in view of the current manoeuvres by the business and political communities to be almost unconditionally financed by the public sector, we cannot abandon the fear of a return to “business as usual”! Development and Peace remains one of the rare national standard-bearers with enough credibility to express the aspirations of people and groups who are working for a world transformation whose characteristics could remind us of God’s dream for humanity.

 

b)      Intertwining between the Church’s social teaching and Development and Peace’s work in the neo-liberal turmoil.

 

Development and Peace has been entrusted to intervene in a very specific sector and the Church’s social teaching concern it under this angle. But because of the ever closer links between the local, the national and the international questions, Development and Peace also feels concerned by the totality of the Church’ teaching with its basic orientations. This being said, let us now consider a few of the links between the work of the Organization and the scope of the Church’s social teaching since the 1980s. We will observe the primacy of the inspiration of these messages as well as the prophetic nature of Development and Peace’s involvement in the field, and the capacity of this “orthopraxis”, always of course based on arguments consistent with the vision of the Organization, to anticipate and contribute to elaborate some key future Church social teaching. Finally, as we will see, the Church’s recent social teaching takes into account not only “the global horizon of the social question” but the fact that, due to the excesses of capitalism that threaten the conditions of life itself, or at least because of the worrisome manipulation of life itself, the “social question has become a radically anthropological question”.[23] There is now a new accent on the theological and anthropological “roots” of development, in support of the ethical principles and norms as such.

 

i)                    The Encyclical Laborem Exercens on Work (1981)

 

Let us start with Laborem Exercens (1981) which celebrates the 80th anniversary of Rerum Novarum by reflecting more deeply on work and its new context. A crisis is festering around work in the North since the increased moving of the industrial production toward the South for profit reasons. It so happens that all of society is in crisis, because work is “probably the essential key of the whole social question” (#3). It’s through this angle that Pope John Paul introduces anthropological issues [and even theological ones] involved in the distinction between the “objective sense” of work [technique, production…] (#5) and the “subjective sense” of work where each person, as the subject of work becomes more human by accomplishing it (#6). Human work cannot be reduced to a “special kind of merchandise” (#7) or even only to some “economic goal”: this would be the “error of economism”(#13). It is through this thread that he critically examines the complexity of the mechanisms involved and develops the concept of “indirect employer” (#17) in order to make the system itself, as a totality of factors that condition work, morally responsible in respect to the dignity and the rights of the workers. He also denounces the quest for  “maximum profit” (#17) since that apparent sacralization entails of itself sacrificing full employment.

 

The Pope, who has intimately known the ravages caused by deep anthropological alienation under the Soviet regime, concentrates immediately on this dimension. But, contrary to the initia Church’s modern social teaching, his vision of man here does not remain an abstract presentation, but integrates a deep analysis of the concerned reality within its context, which allows a more convincing demonstration of the faults discovered and of their possible resolution. The tone, if not the program, was set for the future. The Canadian bishops would pick up the question during the economic crisis and the discussions around free trade.[24]

 

These perspectives would constantly interest Development and Peace due to the social net-lessness unemployment that burdened so many in the South, especially after the imposition of the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) that would generate growth but without local development. The theme of work would be more explicitly put forth especially when the neo-liberal globalization impacting the population in the North would make people more sensitive to the fate of the people in the South. These questions would be examined in the Share Lent campaigns on “Democratization: the Economy at the service of people” with its slogan of “People First!”, which represented quite well the concerns of the encyclical.

 

ii)                  Helpful clarifications from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

 

In 1986, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith presented two positions that confirmed the basic thrust of the work done by Development and Peace. First of all it is stated that the “special option for the poor, far from being a sign of particularism or sectarianism, manifests the universality of the Church’s being and mission”[25]. This is a pertinent recognition of the option born out of the commitment of the Latin American Church and then adopted by different Church sectors and groups throughout the world. The Pope will confirm later on that “the whole tradition of the Church bears witness” to this option[26]. In fact, by direct testimonies in favour of those most vulnerable, we can also say that this option flows from the transcendental quality of the dignity of each person, a dignity based on a constant given within tradition, that of being created by God. And this to the point that refusing this option would mean setting aside that which was CST’s keystone.

 

The Instruction also puts an end to the competition or even the opposition between spirituality and a political form of Christian commitment, by highlighting the continuum between the two : “It is therefore necessary to work simultaneously for the conversion of hearts and for the improvement of structures.”[27] There is a long road to travel at the grass-roots level in order to go beyond a purely privatized and interiorized concept of faith and of Christian identity! Faith without “exteriority” claims so easily its link with orthodoxy. This remains a wall for Development and Peace’s work.

 

iii)                The Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (S.R.S.) (1988) on the state of the world twenty years after Populorum progressio

 

Another important moment has been the publishing of the Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (S.R.S.) on the 20th anniversary of Populorum Progressio. In its presentation of the state of the world, S.R.S. denounces the increase of inequalities since P.P. and its presence even in the North, due to the omissions of those responsible (#16). The encyclical notes in particular “the existence of economic, financial and social mechanisms which, although they are manipulated by people, often function almost automatically, thus accentuating the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest.” (Ibid.) The complexity of the mecanisms of interest and profit makes social analysis – as undertaken by Development and Peace – even more necessary, in order to allow for a greater understanding of the real context of the evils affecting the South and the responsibility of our own institutions. The Pope also submits these mechanisms to “a careful analysis under the ethical-moral aspect” (Ibid.) since integral development is part of the “human vocation”.

 

If one was to retain an important contribution made by S.R.S. it would be the integration of the analysis of the forces at play in theological terms, in two parts. First of all, John Paul II qualifies as “idolatry” and “sinful” the absolutizing (“at any price”) of the “all-consuming desire for profit” and of the “thirst for power” that produce “structures of sin” (#37) and that sacrifice not only individuals but also nations (Ibid.) Underdevelopment is also a “religious” problem. The following campaigns of Development and Peace stating the priority of life, of persons and of the common good are to be seen in this counter-sacrificial struggle against the previously-named idols.[28]

 

On the other hand, for John Paul II, the increasing interdependence between peoples “must be transformed into solidarity” (#39). Solidarity is set up as a paradigm and as a moral “virtue”. It acts as a counter-weight to the erosion or the “weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations” [29] which is the root cause of underdevelopment. Solidarity is also recognized as a “Christian virtue” and even a theological virtue, because it relates to “the intimate life of God” (#40). It fits our status of being “images of God”. For the Pope, the “ ‘evil mechanisms’ and the ‘structures of sin’[…] can be overcome only through exercise of the human and Christian solidarity” (Ibid.) “in which the process of development and liberation takes concrete shape” (# 46). This paradigm has always permeated Development and Peace which usually qualifies its work as international “solidarity”. [30]

 

This solidarity is expressed in a certain “partnership” with the peoples of the South that excludes any domineering position, and entrusts the choice of priorities to a common deliberation in respect to a recognized common challenge. This is done in the respect for the identity and values of each. The Campaign slogans of 1998 to 2000 translated well this “conversion”: “Same problems, one solution: solidarity”. Or again, another picking up a central idea from S.R.S. (# 39): “Solidarity …the road to peace.” (1989).

 

In the case of the use of ‘idolatry’ concerning certain attitudes and practices of the neo-liberal process as well as in the public theological approach to solidarity, Development and Peace remains lagging in relation to S.R.S., as well as do many of the social messages of the Canadian Bishops, probably for pedagogical reasons due to the strong secularization of society here. So, the question concerning which of these two approaches is more relevant remains an open one…

 

iv)                The Encyclical Centesimus Annus (C.A.) (1991)

 

In 1991, on the 100th Anniversary of R.N. , the Encyclical Centesimus Annus appears. It is a document that presents the balance sheet of the end of an era – that of the Cold War – and of the preparation of the 3rd Millennium. In a very understandable way, maybe John Paul II gives too much importance to the East-West division by comparison with the North-South rift, for the evils of communism described here have not much to envy in regards to the shantytowns or open-sky gulags that Western capitalism has created in the South. The encyclical deals with a whole series of questions, but is very brief on each one. Many entities are analysed in isolation, outside of the true dynamic. No attention is given to the dead-end facing the Third-World whose solution to underdevelopment continues to be seen with a connotation of “catching-up”: aid, economic growth and integration into the world market. In fact, that type of solution is hardly distinguishable from the causes of underdevelopment. Third World initiatives and non-governmental international cooperation are hardly recognized. Rather, the new road chosen by the East seems to be proposed as a model. Development and Peace’s experience brings it to understand somehow differently the situation in the South.

 

Besides repeating some previously important ideas, three new elements are retained. Firstly, with the fall of communism, the alibi to refrain from criticizing an unregulated form of capitalism subject to triumphalism disappears. If the Pope does not question up head-on the principles of capitalism, at least he finds fault with its accomplishments (increasing inequalities, destruction of the environment, alienation, over-consumerism, existential void, etc.) and calls upon necessary reforms according to directions given by the CST. On the other hand, influenced by his Eastern experience where religious, ethical and cultural factors were decisive in reversing an enslaving regime, the Pope concentrates the source of all totalitarianism and alienation in the negation of God and considers faith as the constitutive factor of human dignity. This explains the primordial importance of religious freedomrequired in order to have true development (#47). This reflection justly questions the religious freedom that we enjoy here, but which seems lacking in order to truly inspire us to justice-making. Finally after the failure of the all-powerful Eastern State and considering the severe deficiencies of the free market left to itself, John Paul II opens up some space for an alternative approach by introducing civil society as a third subject of development. He makes it the main carrier of solidarity as the “soul” of institutions and the ideals of freedom and equality.

 

Has Development and Peace not intentionally worked for a long time to bring about such a dimension? Born of civil society, it builds up through its development programs and its solidarity education activities a social Subject who can, beyond his or her own initiatives, apply pressure on the State and on the Market in order to bring these last back to their raison d’être: the common good. As in the case of the Church, Development and Peace does not have any preconceived model to propose (# 43), but, inspired and enlightened by the Gospel, by the major parameters of the CST, and through its experience and dialogue with its partners, it seeks to implement a more integral form of humanity for our world in given historical situations.

 

v) The inspiring letter of John Paul II for Jubilee Year 2000: Tertio Millenio Adveniente (1994)

 

We need to mention here the extraordinary inspiration that John Paul II offered Development and Peace with his Apostolic Letter in 1994, Tertio millenio adveniente. The Pope invited Catholics to celebrate the approaching year 2000 according to the triple prescriptions of the biblical Jubilee: liberation from all enslavement due to debts, distribution of wealth and rest for the earth and humans. Development and Peace participated in the Canadian Ecumenical Initiative and helped to set up the Quebec Coalition for the Jubilee which was made up of some 20 organizations. For three years, these bodies deepened theologically the understanding of the biblical Jubilee and undertook campaigns to sensitize people and to take actions according to each Jubilee decree. One was around the elimination of the debt of the poorest countries and was part of a world movement. It gathered 650,000 signatures in Canada, 476,000 of these coming from Development and Peace alone. In Quebec the enthusiasm was such that the Coalition decided to continue under the name of Réseau œcuménique Justice et Paix (ROJeP) [Ecumenical Network for Justice and Peace]. It is made up of some 40 members and is still supported by Development and Peace which is also a member of it. Within that network as elsewhere, D&P is recognized for its capacity to mobilize people. It has become an engine within many partnerships as well as for Christian groups and other NGOs.

 

c) The Encyclical Caritas in Veritate (C.inV.) written for the 40th anniversary and the updating of Populorum Progressio within a world on the brink of environmental and anthropological disaster

 

Finally, there is the publication of Caritas in Veritate, the first social encyclical written by Pope Benedict XVI, eighteen years after Centesimus Annus. The Pope, who was the previous president of the Congregation for Faith and Doctrine, was not known for his social or especially for his economic stance. Thus this encyclical, which required more time to think about than expected and which brought him back to the time where he was in the forefront of these issues, presents itself as a happy and welcome surprise.

 

The density of the document, the abundance and the variety of the topics covered and especially the limits of this present paper and of its main purpose, does not allow us to give here an appreciation that would entirely do justice to the encyclical. In fact, one would have to set up a specific study of the orientations and work done by Development and Peace not only in the light of Caritas in Veritate but also of the whole corpus of the CST since Vatican II, including the messages of the Canadian Bishops’ Conference, for this last encyclical on its own cannot represent the synthesis of the Church’s ‘expertise’ within this time-frame. One would also have to consider a direct reading of the ‘signs of the times’ to which Vatican II gave the status of “theological source” ─ which means that it is a place where God intervenes and challenges us ─ as well as confronting these signs directly with the Gospel message; for it is only when it is “re-read” that the Gospel can find all its flavour as Good News for today[31]. Finally such a task would also require, in conformity with the Church’s social teaching, that one highlights how the journey of Development and Peace was able to nourish and illuminate this teaching, defined as requiring “the contribution of all charisma, experiences and skills”[32]. It is only within such a constellation that Caritas in Veritate could act as a reference point to evaluate the road travelled by the Organization, but never considered as an object upon itself or as something completely exterior to the contemporary effort of building up the Church’s social teaching.

 

We will therefore limit ourselves here to a few probes on the encyclical to point out some major accents in as much as they impact Development and Peace, and to highlight here and there that which may appear insufficient or debatable in view of the Organization’s experience. We will therefore, for example, look at the angle and vision that Caritas in Veritate adopts, the way it updates Populorum Progressio, its analysis of the present world, especially the question of globalization and the situation of the countries of the South, its vision of development, as well as the proposed orientations and solutions suggested by the encyclical.

 

i) The approach used by Caritas in Veritate

 

Possibly daunted by the scope and the increasing acceptance of the prevailing inhumanity in our world, source of urgent threats for the survival of the human family itself, Benedict XVI chose an approach that he felt would touch both Christians and non-Christians alike: “love in truth” as “the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity”, a force that would have started with creation and which would “lead people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace” (#1). For the Pope, “these two fundamental realities are not found outside humans or even imposed on them in the name of some ideological vision, but are deeply rooted in each human being. [33] They are requirements of “natural law” understood as “the original moral guide… present in diverse cultures and civilizations[34].” The reference to natural law, found everywhere in the CST until Mater et Magistra (1961), reappears here powerfully, helped by the present situation which requires some form of universal mobilisation. It is on this backdrop that Benedict XVI inscribes the Christian uniqueness of placing the source of this force in God, “Eternal Love and Absolute Truth” (# 1) and therefore as “received” (# 5).

 

The encyclical reaches out to the place where Development and Peace works, that of a universal struggle in favour of “integral development” or of a “sustainable progress” for humanity. It is in this context, necessarily pluralistic, which excludes because of the acuity of the issue any confessional weighing in or coercion, that Development and Peace engages all the possibilities of its Christian identity.

 

One might want to criticize the introduction of Caritas in Veritate for being very long, for appearing to be a type of mind game dealing in abstract intellectual concepts, of not always adequately showing the priority of love over truth[35], and especially – a critique applicable to the whole document – of presenting the encyclical as a doctrinal academic exercise rather than as a prophetic and pastoral call required by the urgency and the magnitude of the challenges presented in it. The encyclical is addressed also to the faithful. We may hope that they will not feel too much put off by first appearances. For one has to read through this message which touches so many primary questions and yet presents an inspiring overall vision that carries some daring proposals.

 

Happily, the document’s opening also contains the recognition of some essential characteristics of Development and Peace: thus (1) the reintegration of political involvement as a strong expression of a charity that seeks to enflesh itself not only in “micro-relationships” (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also in social life by taking into account relations of a “public nature” or “macro-relationships (social, economic and political)” (#2-3); (2) a charity concerned with truth which prevents love from “degenerating into sentimentality”, or “emotionalism” or “fideism” (#30), a concern which is translated into calls made upon human knowledge[36] and which makes one labour “skillfully to discover the causes of misery”, through social analysis, we would add, in order “to find the means to combat it, to overcome it resolutely” (#30). The spirituality[37], and expertise acquired by Development and Peace, as well as its action to transform structures find here their foundation and their confirmation.

 

ii) Recalling the message of Populorum Progressio and a diagnosis of the present world.

 

Benedict XVI starts out (chapter 1) by calling to mind the message of P.P. and its organic link with the Church’s social teaching, especially the truth around development, seen in its integrality, i.e. for the whole person and for all humans (#18), and around the deeper cause of underdevelopment: “the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples” and therefore of “charity” (# 19). He then sets out a diversified report on the evolution of the last fourty years, with some steps forward and some steps back, by insisting on the deficiencies of the development model which had been adopted at a time when Pope Paul VI’s warnings had not been heard. He also highlights the new realities, including the “explosion of worldwide interdependence” or “globalization” (# 33) as well as the worsening of certain problems such as the breaking point of the environment, the wide-scale economic exclusion (# 32), the attacks on life and even on “human nature itself” (# 48), over-consumerism, spiritual emptiness and loss of hope, etc.

 

One could regret that, contrary to P.P., the encyclical does not root itself explicitly in the questioning that would arise from the “cry” of the poor or from some form of option on their behalf. The dominant perspective, though generous, remains nevertheless from on high. It expressly seeks to “change the international order from within” by counting on “the human and spiritual qualities”[38], making it more difficult to structurally criticize conflicts and the contradictions of the development model, something which would have given more weight and relevancy to the arguments presented.

 

Thus Paul VI, who never confused industrialization with its capitalistic expression already was objecting to the “dictatorship” of capitalism taking in our days the form of “unbridled liberalism”[39]. This has now become reality through the presence of neo-liberal capitalism. Yet Benedict XVI never mentions this last fact, but blends it into the “market economy”, the “institution of the market” which would require simply “to correct (its) malfunctions” (#42), a better “control” of its “dramatic problems”(#21). It is not noted that the essence or characteristic of neo-liberalism consists exactly in these “excesses” and that its principle resides in the actual absence of any control. Consequently, there is only talk of “correction” or reform, and not of conversion. Also globalization is observed with a certain conciliatory tone, if not naïveté and complacency, as if its main modus operandi was not specifically neo-liberal instead of consisting in some form of simply ideologicaly neutral “interdependence” or “interconnection” (#7, 9, 42). This type of globalization can be seen, in contrast to a now well documented analysis, as being somehow “the principal driving force behind the emergence from underdevelopment of whole regions”! (#33) In addition, excellent observations on the Third World are written side by side with the concept of underdevelopment as economic “backwardness” (#23, 51 and 60) rather than being the bitter fruit of globalization itself. Yet, when the Pope leaves the socio-economic arena to examine the same realities from an anthropological perspective, his analysis is quite pointed, even very severe!

 

Finally, we are amazed to see that the encyclical, except in rare cases, deals only with the darker side of the “signs of the times”. One has trouble finding a strong expression of the main aspirations of today. There is, for example, never any validation nor even any mention of the practices or alternative achievements that anticipate the “new heavens” an the “new earth”, such as the “another-world-is-possible” [World Social Forum] movement, the experiences around the solidarity forms of social economy, or the work of the NGOs, who present great affinities with the Church view of “integral development”. Does the Church only wish to promote some form of ‘corrected’ capitalism? Can the only needed light and inspiration come only from the CST, unfortunately reduced here to the “Papal social teachings” (#12)? Should a Pastor not only guide but also validate and encourage “love and truth” at work?

 

iii) A daring vision about what it means to be the human, about life in society and about development[40]

 

If it is right to state that “every form of social action involves some doctrine” [41], one can say that Benedict XVI, guided by the conviction of a necessary convergence between faith and reason is unique in the way he clarifies this and that his analysis knows how to present its coherence by showing its very concrete implications. In opposition to reductionistic ideas leading to relativism, the Pope presents a grandiose vision of the human being and of the unity of the universal family which take on a transcendental quality by plunging their roots into the mystery of God itself and by being fulfilled only by recognizing their total indebtedness on the One who guarantees the true development of humans, who has created them, who establishes their transcendental dignity and who “feeds their innate yearning to ‘be more’ ” (#29), all of which presupposes an openness to natural law wherein is found the truth of things and which can act as a common reference point (#59). The vision of proposed integral development follows the contours of this integral humanism. It must be proportionate to the human vocation of which it is an integral part (#17). And yet the issue is expressed in our will and desire to transform our interdependence into solidarity. It goes without saying that the theological dimension that cuts across development is understood more as a humanism than as a technical affair or even an economic one closed in on itself (#34). This presupposes a corresponding relationship between the means and the ends[42]. Caritas in Veritate proposes this vision as the “guiding synthesis” (#31) that animates, transcends and includes the various dimensions of development.

 

A few questions remain however. How can Benedict XVI both propose and ask for a universal participation based on natural law and consider “that adhering to the values of Christianity” is “not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development” (#4)? Further on, the Pope writes that “such development requires a transcendent vision of the person”, that “it needs God”, without whom humans “end up promoting a dehumanized form of development” (#11). Many thinkers, even non-believers, such as Dany-Robert Dufour[43], recognize more and more the futileness of trying to base human existence on human reality alone. Development and Peace can witness that this perspective of absolute “autonomy” characterizes more the people of the West than the people of the South. The convictions found in the Church around the transcendental dimension of our humanity and of our development, which needs to be “an intrinsic part of a plan that is prior to us” and constitutes for all of us a duty “to be freely accepted” (#52), is not negotiable. But why does the Encyclical disqualify the efforts of other religions and cultures who share, often in their own way, this understanding of transcendence, after having invited them to some form of common effort, if they do not accept the specific tenets of Christianity?

 

On the other hand, one is surprised by the inconsistencies of certain statements in comparison with the humanistic vision presented above when the encyclical presents humans as “the primary capital” (#25) or the poor as a “resource” (as opposed to a ‘burden’) (#35) and therefore as a means and not the final purpose of development. Or again when the Church insists on the economic “usefulness” of its proposals, as when it proposes growth in the Third World in order to “sustain the productive capacities of rich countries”! (#27). Undoubtedly, the Pope wished to convince the political decision-makers, who inevitably are seen as the privileged interlocutors of this encyclical!

 

Finally, if Caritas in Veritate openly integrates a theological dimension when it presents its vision of development, it must be observed that, contrary to the writings of John-Paul II, the encyclical does not dare name theologically the perverseness of the dominant model and its consequences: “social sin” and even its sacrificial idolatry. Was it necessary to protect the present capitalistic system to this extent?

 

iv) Other contributions of the encyclical

 

Let us highlight again a few other intuitions that flow from a vision that we cannot detail here. We might think of the basic premises, the movement of love from the God of grace offering this caritas which brings people to “bear witness” in God’s project “in life” and to find in it their own truth (#1). It is this fundamental thrust (#52) that finds its social expression in the logic of solidarity. Taking John Paul II’s idea (C.A.) of the three desirable subjects of the economy, Benedict XVI insists this time on the fact that the respective logics of the market, of the State and of civil society are interrelated. The logic of gratuity, of fraternity or of gift has to penetrate all the activities of the market and of the State in the form of solidarity[44], of vision around the common good, etc. (#34ss) These are the pillars of development and of “economic democracy” required by the encyclical, as well as forms of governance of globalization in a “subsidiary and stratified”[45] manner (#57). Thus all will be able to participate in development, as “artisans of their own destiny” and enter into a relationship of “reciprocal duties” (#43).

 

These perspectives make one think. Development and Peace feels completely at home in them. Firstly, our organization has always been an actor within civil society, undertaking initiatives characterized by gratuity or by “given back grace”, and challenging, from this perspective and along with other interveners, the Market and the State in order to bring them back to their main purpose: the well-being of all on the planet. Thus, its campaigns have for a long time been demanding the inclusion of democracy within the economy. Partnership in the South already puts into practice an insistence on the quality of ‘subject’ of development that the encyclical presents as a utopia to reach. This is not done without uncertainties, but otherwise one would have to refuse this call of the Church’s teachings on development. The movement for “another possible world” [World Social Forum] is itself pulled forward by a logic of converging networks promoting horizontality, a kind of equalitarian and pluralistic participation, and conviviality as well as a non-centralized nor hierarchical form of governance. At the theological level, the presentation of Share Lent in 2009 – and therefore before the publication of C.V. – specifically placed the requested actions of sharing as an extension of the movement of the God of gratuity, i.e., where receiving or being the beneficiary of the grace implies the commitment to share[46], in contrast to the movement wherein the economic idols demand endlessly their own self-satisfaction by pushing people to greed.

 

Other perspectives also illuminate the text, for example the narrow correlation between human ecology and environmental ecology, showing the interaction between measures taken affecting both and proposing to make of environmental protection the top moral challenge of multilateralism (#51). Or again, the necessary link between the respect for life and the development of peoples (#28). The work of Development and Peace against bio-patenting[47] shows very clearly this interrelationship. Caritas in Veritate retains its harshest criticisms for a technological rationalism that has deviated from its “solid humanistic principles” (#71) and is operating beyond spiritual and moral considerations. The Pope insists on the necessary human control, free and responsible, of the use of technology especially around the issues of biotechnological manipulations, but without showing sufficiently its organic link to the economic world (#68ss). This question, more than any other, clearly shows how “the social question has become a radically anthropological question”(#75).

 

The encyclical attempts to offer possible solutions, often quite appropriate, on different aspects of development that would be too numerous to take up here. Considering the countries in the Third World, the experience of Development and Peace makes us more than reticent to subscribe to the proposal, presented without argumentation, of a greater integration into the world market (#58), which in fact is the source that aggravates their problem[48] and is in contradiction with the definition of development as found in the encyclical. There is also a negative argument — which leaves a bad after-taste – that seeks to eliminate hunger in order to “safeguard the peace and stability of the planet” (#27), rather than because of the dignity of each person. Happily, Caritas in Veritate also promotes financial plans that are inspired by solidarity for a more autonomous growth (#27), a policy strongly supported by Development and Peace especially in the food sector.

 

Some approximations or inaccuracies should not stop the readers from appreciating this encyclical due to its desire to enlighten and to serve, a desire that guides this statement of the Magisterium at a time when the world seems rudderless. The challenge was worth this risk. From the Instruction of 1986, already quoted, the encyclical retained the importance of changing both hearts and structures[49]. This time, the Pope has insisted on the first dimension, one that he was more familiar with, without neglecting the second. From this flows a certain volontarism which, in respect to globalization for example, make him say that it “will be what people make of it”. One may wonder whether such a statement, moreover quoted from Pope John Paul II[50], relativizes too much or even virtually negates what the preceding Pope himself called the “mechanisms” that function “almost automatically” [51], and which Benedict XVI righly calls here “anonymous impersonal forces” and “structures that are independent of any human will”! (#42) Development and Peace and the people of the Global South and all the poor constantly come up against these institutional and very tangible mediations or expressions of human selfishness. The limits of Caritas in Veritate require some form of complementarity in the context of a truly ecclesial discernment, according to the roles and charism of each. Development and Peace feels called upon to contribute to this challenge.

 

On the other hand, in spite of the use of somewhat difficult thought categories or language, the central place given to the person and his/her role in this vision as presented allows one to feel individually concerned and questioned even when dealing with macro-social analysis. One can find the following statement where “development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirements of the common good. Both professional competence and moral consistency are necessary”(#71). The struggle for humanity and for its authentic development also includes this intimate requirement, but it might be naïve to think that those who are privileged will massively “convert” and that it would not be necessary simultaneously to transform the “structures of sin” which, in turn, seek to corrupt the hearts of people. Finally we cannot but strongly underline in Caritas in Veritate a last correlation between “making life on this earth ‘divine’”, a rebuff of the capitalistic saying that pretended that the effort of creating a ‘paradise’ on earth would transform it into a ‘hell’.

 

d) The journey of the Church’s social teaching as a reference for Development and Peace since the globalization of the“ social question”

 

Having considered above the journey of the CST up until P.P., we retained six (6) characteristics that influenced its evolution. Using the same points of reference, what can be said about the CST after P.P. that Caritas in Veritate considers as the “Rerum Novarum of the modern world?” (#8)

 

Concerning the prophetic role of the laity as the element that triggered and contributed to the CST, one may assess that it reached a summit in the 1970s when Paul VI systematically validated it (Octogesima Adveniens) as well as the Canadian Episcopacy in a more earnest way up until the middle of the 1980’s. The upsurge of liberation theology, essentially supported by base communities and through socially involved practices, also strongly promoted this role. Such a role has since been toned down through the “pastoralization” of lay involvement and with the centralization both of the Church and of the CST but this change remains challenged at a distance by the rising up of civil society and of the Christian elements in its midst.

 

On the other hand, the role of the signs of the times has remained constant, winning over more hesitant sectors as demonstrated by Caritas in Veritate. The texts alternate between the contextual deepening of specific issues (for example ‘work’ in Laborem Exercens) and well documented broad “state of the world” messages. A new more inductive method has been created helping to change the social vision used as a basic point of reference, but without truly going as far as re-reading the Gospel on the basis of the results of the analysis.

 

In the afterglow of the ecclesiology of Vatican II, the CST, due to its own vocation, concentrated its efforts on world issues rather than on the Church itself. And it did this in a prophetic way by giving an important place to the point of view of the poor, according to an option first of all promoted by liberation theology and progressively integrated in the CST to the point of giving it a theological status. One may now wonder if the present leadership of the Church, being more centralized, is not seeking a new modus vivendi more accommodating of the present powers, less critical of their actions in return for a greater moral influence given to the Church on decisions affecting the direction of the world.

 

On the other hand one can only be struck by the remarkable permanency of the Church vision on development as expressed by the two anthropological poles of the dignity of the human person and of life in society right throught to global community (with its corollary of the common good). John Paul II as well as Benedict XVI have not only wonderfully developed this vision, but have also managed to refocus the CST and contextual analysis in an anthropological perspective, brilliantly dislodging those “defective” anthropologies which are at the source of the multiple drifts denounced above.

 

The CST has also helped to change mindsets by allowing the victims of the social dynamic to pass from the status of object of assistance to that of protagonists, subjects or partners of development, a way that has been for a long time now practiced by Development and Peace. The anthropology of the subject worked out by John Paul II gave new foundations to this mutation and Benedict XVI went as far as translating this status in terms of the capacity that the poor have of “taking up duties of their own” (#43) These two popes also insisted on the participation of workers in all the dimensions of the life of various businesses and on the human purpose of all this, as had done the “enterprise reform” movement in the 1940s.

 

Finally, maybe in spite of some heavy pressure put on Church leaders, the Church has maintained the quest for structural alternatives in those cases that seemed gridlocked in contrast to offering simple assistance or keeping the option of the status quo. If the previous period was marked by the interplay of the market and the State, as main actors on the national stage, and by the East-West confrontation on the international one, the present period has seen the rising of civil society as a third actor, as well as a displacement towards North-South relations and then towards a greater globalization under the main governance of the market. The fall of the communist block opened the door to a more radical critique of capitalism and to the search, maybe not of a complete alternative in the short-term, but at least to a humanization of capitalism through structural changes or reforms according to a larger spectrum than usual, especially in the cultural and social fields.

 

To these major accents have been added new avenues, already presented above and which will simply be indicated here: (1) the introduction of the theological dimension, which allows to qualify from that perspective the anthropological vision being promoted,  the structural situations (“structures of sin”, idolatry) as well as alternative ways (development as a human vocation, solidarity as a societal paradigm but also as a Christian virtue and even a Trinitarian reality[52] …); (2)  the strong link between respect for life and the development of people; (3) the inclusion of environmental considerations in all questions dealing with society; (4) the suggestion of a new humanistic synthesis integrating all the dimensions of development.

 

It is in this vast horizon of the CST that Development and Peace pursues its work, guided by the Gospel, by the signs of the times and by its own sensus fidei at the level of its practices. The Organization was launched at a time marked by the enthusiasm and the liberating thrust of Vatican II and of P.P. Appreciating the recent developments of the CST, it will need mostly to find in the Church the support and the oxygen of honest freedom that are necessary to creatively pursue its commitment.

 

e)      Development and Peace and the working-out of an anthropological, spiritual and theological vision of development and of its commitment to solidarity.

 

Our last reflection concerns an ultimate aspect in the reception of the CST by Development and Peace. The organization fulfils only at the time and partially the theorization or a theoritical discourse on the vision of development as one could find in the messages of the Magisterium. Much work remains to be done. However it is not exaggerated to state that these conceptions and notions inhabit its culture, a culture that it shares with many other NGOs. The explicit clarification of the foundations or the formal theology that supports the practical activities of the organization is expressed rarely though a corresponding spirituality that animates the commitment of members from the grass-roots all the way up to the National Council. How could one explain otherwise the Christian creativity behind its work of solidarity? The teaching of the Magisterium fulfil an essential role in this respect.

 

Other approaches open up in response to this challenge. The CST presents itself, first, as a “process” of constant questioning between situations that are always changing and the Gospel, and then as a “doctrine” or set of principles for reflection and criteria for judgment and also directives for action»[53]. But the encyclicals never or very rarely initiate the first step ─ which they probably presuppose to already exist ─ but concentrate on the dialogue between the ‘social doctrine’ and the new situations and issues in their context. There are many references to biblical passages, but they simply are there to adorn an analysis and an updated reformulation of the traditional doctrine. There is no true attempt to “re-read” tradition based on an analysis of the new context, in spite of the status of “theological locus” confered to the “signs of the times” highlighted by Vatican II. Is this process not the privileged road for a group like Development and Peace? This is what the Canadian bishops were proposing to Christian groups and communities in 1984, a methodology in five phases moving from a presence among the marginalized to action in solidarity, passing through social analysis and the enlightenment offered by the Gospel and the Church’s social teaching as well as by the imagining of alternative perspectives[54].

 

The interpretation of God’s project in our world and through our experiences should be conducted in three complimentary Church spaces or spheres: by the Magisterium, by academic theology and by ‘theology’ constructed within the community, supported by its sensus fidei, by the processes and appropriate resources, and by the two first instances. All these voices are necessary as Paul VI[55] reminded us or again as Pius XI was quoted in saying in the epigraph in the introduction. The argument of authority is not sufficient any more as has proven the decline of the “social doctrine of the Church” since the end of the 1950s especially in Quebec. If the Church authorities cannot recognize the plurality of expressions of the understanding of faith and of its practices within the Church herself, how will they ever be able to start any form of dialogue with other religions and secular forms of humanism in order to establish necessary common points of reference in response to the common challenges facing all of humanity? The Church must cherish and cultivate those precious frontier-experiences, such as those practiced in Development and Peace, there precisely where a veritas is trying to blossom and to express itself within its own rootedness, there where caritas plays itself out in shared involvement, thus in a sort of “trans-theology”.

 

It is remarkable that Development and Peace carries these three approaches constitutively, in its bosom: (1) bishops sit in on the National Council and have organic links with the CCCB and the local bishops; (2) the Organization has a theology committee made up for a large part of professional theologians; (3) finally its broad base is made up of lay persons as well as pastors and religious. We find there a substantial community exercising a constant regulation of the Catholic exactness as well as of the creativity of its vision and practice of faith. Development and Peace is an active builder of the Church, according to an identity that can never be separated from the implementation of its mission.

 

In order to illustrate the concerns that the Organization has in respect to the clarification of its faith references, we would like to mention three initiatives taken recently. (1) During the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec in 2008, the Theology Committee had launched a short-term invitation to the membership in order to share their reflections on their particular experience of faith, on the Church and on the Eucharist in the light of their commitment to solidarity. The answers revealed a real depth and balance concerning the personal and social facets of the “following of Christ” to the point that the Organization decided to launch the operation once more during the Lenten Campaign of 2010. The Theology Committee will compile and analyse the results and then send them back to the membership so as to offer a common understanding of the specific Church experience lived by Development and Peace. (2) On the other hand, members of the staff have asked the Theology Committee to set up some CST training sessions for them. These sessions will eventually be broadened to include the whole prophetic biblical and Church tradition within which fits the CST. The project will be finalized at the end of November 2009, and then progressively implemented. (3) Finally, pedagogical tools on the theology and spirituality of gift will soon be produced on the basis of texts now being drafted by the Theology Committee.

 

f)       Development and Peace: a flower battered by the present conservative biting wind but that nevertheless resists and grows

 

Development and Peace is a magnificent flower growing in the field of our Church, but recent events have undermined it. First of all, there is the social historic context, or the current neo-liberal focus on the freedom and greed of the powerful that for 30 years have tried to reduce the global village to a marketplace, to wipe out social advances that have been gained, and to normalize the process of abandoning the marginalized to their fate. Within the Church, also, there are conservative pressures[56] to return to a pre-Vatican II Catholicism of a fundamentalist type in the name of a veritas that is trafficked, perverted and absolutized. This tendency uses a decontextualised approach that is inclined to judge humanity’s evils on the sole basis of private values, attitudes and actions, and manifests viewpoints that are strikingly similar to those who espouse neo-liberal goals at the economic and political levels, or if not, then they at least are in tacit sympathy with them.

 

In both cases, D&P stands for the opposite, a stance that hardly preserves it from the kind of attacks that face all progressive organizations that have taken an option for another kind of world, or for a way of being Church that represents “good news” for the poor. The forces of the status quo will never give up. They will not hesitate to recruit and even to finance religious organizations to make them instruments at the service of a conservative political agenda[57], even by placing them in contradiction with the Gospel itself. For example, their agenda offers only philanthropy as the solution to the problems of the poor. And in this, their solution simply papers over those factors that cause poverty and leave in place the structures that produce exclusion. It is “charity chasing justice”, as St. Paul suggests (Rm. 1, 18), an effort to give injustice a good name by reconciling it with efforts to alleviate its consequences, a diversion so massive as to be fraudulent. Theirs is an outdated invitation which bases itself on regression, if we compare with the 1970s, for example, a time where there existed a greater awareness of institutional, social and structural injustices which were seen for what they are. Development and Peace knows that it abides by another teaching, one where fidelity to the Gospel and to the dynamics of the social teaching of the Church converge with the transformation of the world through solidarity with the excluded in an effort to improve the lives of all. As Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges, each human being is social by nature and the need for living together can only be fulfilled through an honest institutionalization of collective relationships.

 

5. In conclusion: discerning idols on the basis of a grace-giving God who refuses and forbids sacrifices

 

We will conclude with a few theological reflections on the meaning of vision and practice of Development and Peace in the current context. Conservative trends, as much religious as socio-political, are attempting to pull us back to a vision that the Gospel wanted to overcome. These trends summarily pass judgment, decide who is “pure” and who is “impure”, who is right and who is wrong, all on the basis of sometimes unclear or questionable norms often established as absolutes. In the situations mentioned in the Gospel, such categories served to exclude as “sinners” or the “damned” by God, the sick, the poor, the publicans, etc. They were the instruments of those that would take onto themselves the right to control access to the sacred, or the divine, while all the while guaranteeing themselves a politically advantageous social position. Jesus transcended these false categories by reintegrating the socially excluded in the very name of His God: “Blessed are you…” he said. For example, in today’s society the inflexible rules (applying to everyone but the powerful) of the market appropriated for themselves the role of decreeing the criteria of good and evil. In this context, the victims of the market or the economic losers are in this manner portrayed as guilty parties that have deserved their fate. In effect, they justify human sacrifice on a massive scale.

 

It was the same for the deviations to the Law in the Gospel context. Rather than promoting life and social solidarity, the Law was used to enslave. Rather than being used to mediate Divine Love, the powerful used it to manipulate God in their legitimization of injustice. It was in the name of this very Law that Jesus was condemned to death. “We have a Law, and according to this Law, he must die” (John 19, 7). Jesus surpassed the Law by declaring that his Spirit inhabits everyone’s heart. This same Jesus universalized the notion of salvation that was reserved to the Jewish people. Everyone would have access to the God of the Gospel. God could no longer be the private property of anyone. Is not the same God at work today opening up the future beyond the many barriers with which false “pastors” seek to lock up humanity? Is not Development and Peace called to follow the Lord’s new direction and to collaborate with all those that this same Spirit appears to be animating?

 

The use of the Law, or other norms, to exclude and to sacrifice betrays an erroneous understanding of God. The biblical experience bears witnesses once again to a God who “gives”, and not to one to whom we must give or sacrifice, some sort of Moloch who is never satisfied. The God who gives expect us to give back the grace He has given. His concern is not what we would do to Him directly but to others and above all “to the least among you”. It is in the very relationship with those around us that we can assess the accuracy of our relationship with this God. More than this, He, the divine and absolute Reference, went so far as to identify himself with the excluded and to bestow His own status upon them, “this you do unto me…” (Matthew 25). The option for the poor shows itself here as an option of God and an option before God.

 

In such a context, sacrificing the most vulnerable is theologically impossible to justify. We need to measure properly the implications of this reversal. All ‘authority’ that sets itself up as an absolute, and which by virtue of this, sacrifice life and the dignity of people (“images of God”) falls into idolatry. This includes the market and the laws of competition in economic life, political power or the norms when they prevail over people and over their access to the community even at the religious level. The sacrificial character of these realities becomes a signal of the idols they conceal. They become simple masks or falsely sacralized justification of a self-worshipping power, or parodies of the true God.

 

Conversely, it is the practices of solidarity with the most vulnerable, which reveal themselves to be “sacramental” or bearers of God’s love for life[58]. The work of Development and Peace is one of constant discernment, in real life, of false gods that seek to camouflage their work of death. Standing by those who are sacrificed to these idols, Development and Peace witnesses to the God of Abraham and of Jesus; it seeks to make the Lord become visible again in history. This is the only love worthy of faith. It is in this way that D&P “announces” the Gospel in our time. And this announcement is life-giving; it is salvific for our world, a world that is more than ever heavily burdened by the idols that seek its loss. These last 40 years of collaboration in the work of the Spirit who “renews the face of the earth” are not only a reason to be proud but above all a source of self-confidence, of “confirmation” and of hope in the new paths that remain to be opened.

 

 

Michel Beaudin

in collaboration with the Theology Committee of Development and Peace

November 26th , 2009

 

 

 


[1] Comment made by the Pope to the Catholic Action leader who was showing how his movement was making Quadragesimo Anno known. Quoted in Paul Christophe, Les pauvres et la pauvreté, 2nd Part, Du XVIe siècle à nos jours, Paris, Desclée, 1987, p. 161.

[2] The present document was written in November 2009, a few months after the first attacks by LifeSiteNews which brought about this reflection by the Theology Committee of Development and Peace.

[3] If one were to abide by the criticism on LifeSiteNews, one might even come to believe that Development and Peace should modify its mandate in order to solely deal with promoting the Church and the family as such!.

[4] For example, in 1971 Paul VI refused to act as the sole spokesperson for the Church’s thinking on the diversified and always changing situations in the world by inviting the entire Church, and particularly Christian communities in dialogue with “other Christian brethren and all men of goodwill” to share in this task .  (Octogesima adveniens, an apostolic letter on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Rerum novarum, 1971, # 4).

[5] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, 1986, # 72.

 

[6] Rerum novarum, # 3.

[7] Quadragesimo anno, # 109.

[8] Ibid., 88.

[9] The European Christian Democratic parties will continue to find inspiration in this aspect of the social teaching of the Church, in promoting a more social capitalism based on collaboration between businesses, unions and the State.

[10] G. Dion, P.-É. Bolté, M. Clément, Réformes de structures dans l’entreprise (Reforming the Structures in the Corporate Business),  Industrial Relations Department, Laval University, 1947, p. 62.

[11] This Church vision was opposed to two other models or normative representations in the minds of the believer about the requirements of faith and mission around societal issues: (1) the “Christendom” model, which fostered a harmonious coincidence or at least combination (with collusions) between the ecclesial and political structures, as well as a type of Church insertion into society through the “door” or the mediation of political power; (2) the “modernity” model, which limits the mission of the Church to the “enclosure” or the private domain, having as a corollary an individualization of faith and morality and a decontextualizing spiritualization of salvation. The conciliar understanding refuses the pathway of power as well as the withdrawal from society, in order to inhabit public space (res publica) and turn it into a field of evangelization.

[12] For a more detailed analysis of the prophetic character and of the present-day importance of  Populorum Progressio, see Michel Beaudin, «La nouveauté prophétique de Populorum Progressio (the new « prophetism » of Populorum Progressio) in 1967 and in 2007», a presentation to Development and Peace’s national Council on June 1, 2007. See also Michel Beaudin, «Populorum progressio : fécondité et actualité toujours prophétique d’une parole d’Église risquée dans un tournant de l’histoire», dans Istituto Paolo VI in collaboration with La Faculté de théologie et de sciences religieuses de l’Université Laval, coordinated by Gilles Routhier, Paul VI et Maurice Roy : un itinéraire pour la justice et la paix [Pubblicazioni dell’Istituto Paolo VI, 26], Journées d’études, Québec, 1-3 avril 2004, Brescia, Éditions Studium Roma, 2005, pp. 75-94.

[13] Centesimo Annus, # 53.

[14] P.P., # 8-9.

[15] P.P., # 12.

[16] Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, # 36. This expression is borrowed from Liberation Theology as well as the expression “social sin” as the result of personal sins. (ibid.).

[17] Gaudium et spes, # 46, 1. Italic ours.

 

[18] Associations like CIDSE (International Cooperation for Socio-Economic Development)  – an international body bringing all the Catholic international development agencies of the world together – allow not only for joint programs in the field but also for joint interventions in international fora.

[19] # 7. Italics ours.

[20] During the 1985 campaign, Development and Peace did not ask: “You give them something to eat” as in 1968, but rather “Who is feeding whom?” . The Organization had then been made aware of the opposite flow of food from the South to the North, both in quantity as well as in market value!

[21] Thus documents like Sharing Daily Bread (1974), Justice Requires Action (1976), From Words to Action (1976), A Society to be transformed (1977) and later Ethical Reflections on the Economic Crisis (1983), etc.

[22] The concept of “globalisation” does not only imply capitalistic relations across the planet, but also: (1) the tendency to integrate all economic activities on a  world scale, and (2) the “colonization” of sectors not included in the market logic up until then, such as public services, culture, access to vital goods such as drinking water, etc., and even submitting the genetic patrimony (vegetable, animal, human) of humanity to ownership and commerce. Development and Peace fought on all these interlinked fronts. On the concept of “globalisation”  itself, see J. Gélinas, «Comment définir la globalisation?», dans La globalisation du monde. Laisser faire ou faire?, Montréal, Écosociété, 2000, pp. 41-51.

[23] Caritas in Veritate, # 75

[24] Ethical Reflections on the Economic Crisis (1983), Ethical Choices and Political Challenges (1984) and Free Trade At What Cost? (1987)

[25] Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, # 68.

[26] Sollicitudo rei socialis, # 42.

[27] Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, # 75.

 

[28] Just as a reminder, the slogans of some campaigns were: “People First!” (1994) “Life is not for sale.” (2001) “The world is not for sale” (2002” “Water and life before Profit.” (2003-2004), etc.

[29] P.P., # 66.

[30] Father Lebret, the ghost-writer of P.P., had already talked in 1959 about development as a “revolutionary form of solidarity”.

[31] The Synod on Justice in the World [1971, §35] forcefully reminded Catholics about the fruitfulness of this inductive approach: “The present situation of the world, seen in the light of faith, calls us back to the very essence of the Christian message, creating in us a deep awareness of its true meaning and of its urgent demands.” [italics ours].

[32] Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation , #72. (Supra, p. 4)

[33] Cardinal Bertone, “Caritas in veritate is meant both for believers and non-believers”, presentation made to the Italian Senate and reported in Zenit, 28 July 2009.

[34] Ibid.

[35] The very first encyclical of Benedict XVI was entitled Deus caritas ( and not veritas) est. In the Semitic tradition, truth conveys the meaning of fidelity, solidarity; whereas in the Greek tradition, it conveys the idea of correspondence or conformity with a referred-to reality. Both meanings seem to be overlapping here.

[36] # 30. Would it not have seemed desirable in this vein to produce also some references in the encyclical that would have come from sources other than pontifical or conciliar, such as from episcopal conferences maybe or even from lay sources, Christian and otherwise? These groups of persons are never mentioned in the text.

[37] The members of Development and Peace will particularly appreciate the new accent from the faith/justice dyad to that of charity/justice.

[38] Monsignor Celestino Migliore, “The Holy See calls for a New International Order” intervention in the debate during the 64th session of the UN General Assembly as quoted in Zenit, October 5th, 2009. Italic ours.

[39] P.P., # 26.

[40] A future section, presented after the analysis of Veritas in Caritate, will deal with the reception of this theological and spiritual dimension of this vision in Development and Peace.

[41] P.P., #39.

[42] In this respect, the 1994 slogan from the Development and Peace campaign “People first” could be considered as representative of the whole journey of the Organization and going against the pretension of capitalism of assuring the well-being of people but only as a consequence, a “fall-out” of the primary search for profit!

[43] See, for exemple, L’Art de réduire les têtes. Sur la nouvelle servitude de l’homme libéré à l’ère du capitalisme total, Paris, Denoël, 2003, and On achève bien les hommes. De quelques conséquences actuelles et futures de la mort de Dieu, Paris, Denoël, 2005.

[44] Would it not have been desirable that C.V. presents some of the achievements of the Social or Solidarity Economy?

[45] In French: “subsidiaire et polyarchique”

[46] Michael Casey, «Sharing in times of crisis: a divine counter-cultural stance», in D&P, I believe, I give, Share Lent 2009, p. 2.

[47] See the ethical and theological reflection on this in the pamphlet entitled Bio-patenting, a threat to the common good, (4 p.) published in 2001 for the campaign on “Life is not for sale”.

[48] Simply consider the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), or neo-liberalism before its time, imposed on these countries as soon as the 1970s by the IMF and the World Bank, policies that proved a failure and that prevented any worthwhile development.

[49] # 75.

[50] John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 27 April 2001.

[51] S.R.S., # 16.

[52] S.R.S., # 40.

[53] This is how CST defines itself in the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, already quoted, # 72.

[54] See Ethical Choices and Political Challenges, p. 2.

[55] See above, footnote # 4.

[56] There is no quarrel here with those ‘conservatives’ who seek to ‘conserve’ the best of a tradition; there is however with those who systematically want to backtrack, who are stifled and without creativity, locked in an dogmatism that is impervious to the existential dimension of those situations that cry out to heaven, as well as those positions that blindly support the powerful to the detriment of the fate of the majority or at least the most vulnerable.

[57] See more on this subject in the recent and clarifying work of Susan George, Highjacking America. How the Secular and Religious Right Changed What Americans Think, Wiley and Sons, 2008, 240 p.

[58] In the same vein, see, «Sharing in the time of crisis: a divine and countervailing gesture », a text written by the Theology Committee and signed by Michael Casey in D&P, I believe, I give, Share Lent 2009, p. 2.

 

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