Posts Tagged ‘dignity’

Prostitution: Legal Work or Slavery?

A Failed Attempt at Defending Women’s Dignity

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, OCT. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Legalizing prostitution is under debate in a number of countries.

Hungary recently decided to legalize it, apparently in part due to the government’s desires to exact revenue from an activity they calculate could generate around $1 billion a year, reported the Associated Press, Sept. 24.

Bulgaria, however, took a step in the opposite direction, reversing a plan to legalize prostitution, according to the New York Times, Oct. 6.

“We should be very definite in saying that selling flesh is a crime,” Rumen Petkov, the interior minister, said during a recent forum on human trafficking, the article reported. The New York Times also commented that last year, Finland made it illegal to buy sex from women brought in by traffickers, while Norway is reportedly planning on imposing a complete ban on purchasing sex.

Italy, meanwhile, is considering how to deal with the widespread practice of street prostitution. Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said the government was thinking about measures such as fining clients, reported the Italian daily Avvenire, Sept. 26.

Prostitution is also under debate in Britain, where a new television series, “Belle de Jour,” presents a glamorized view of the sex industry — a portrayal strongly criticized by Emine Saner in an article published Sept. 20 in the Guardian newspaper.

“Of the estimated 80,000 women who are sex workers in the U.K., the vast majority do it because they have drug problems or families to support and have no other viable way of making money,” Saner commented.

Moreover, she argued that two-thirds of sex workers have experienced violence, including rape. Government data also reveal that at least 60 sex workers have been murdered in the past 10 years.

Guardian commentator Madelaine Bunting returned to the debate with an article published Oct. 8. Around 90% of prostitutes want to leave their activity, she said. At a time when sex trafficking is booming as one of the most lucrative forms of organized crime, we don’t need a fairytale story about prostitution, argued Bunting.

Victorian failure

Countries debating whether or not to legalize prostitution could learn from what occurred in the Australian state of Victoria. The state government legalized prostitution in 1984 and since then, the sex industry has flourished. With over 20 years of experience, many of the promised benefits of legalizing prostitution have not, however, materialized, according to a book published earlier this year.

A detailed examination of the situation in Victoria was authored by self-declared “feminist activist” Mary Lucille Sullivan, in her book “Making Sex Work: A Failed Experiment With Legalised Prostitution,” (Spinifex Press).

“Victoria’s legalized prostitution system assists in maintaining male dominance, the sexual objectification of women, and the cultural approval of violence against women,” is her thesis.

Normalizing prostitution, as if it were merely some kind of employment, has also undermined women’s workplace equality and contradicts other government policies aimed at protecting women’s rights, accused Sullivan.

Too often, she added, the pressures today to treat prostitution as just another job stem from a neo-liberal vision of the free market, which sees women and girls as a commodity. Some feminists who supported the legalization of prostitution, Sullivan continues, were also influenced by a libertarian outlook and a misplaced desire to establish the “rights” of prostitutes. For its part, the state saw economic advantages in legalization, since it could tax a heretofore underground and illegal activity.

Legalization in Victoria, Sullivan explained, was also defended under the guise of minimizing the harm to the women involved, by bringing about formal regulation and legal protections in the sex industry.

Intrinsic violence

This has not occurred, she affirmed, because attempting to portray prostitution as an occupation to be put under the control of health and safety norms ignores the intrinsic violence of prostitution and the fact that sexual harassment and rape are indistinguishable from the product clients buy.

Moreover, legalization itself has introduced a new series of damaging consequences for women, Sullivan argues. Among these is, ironically, a further expansion of the illegal side of prostitution. In fact, the phenomenon of curbside prostitution, far from disappearing with legalization, has continued to grow in Victoria.

Likewise, legalization, far from removing the influence of organized crime, has instead fueled the role of illegality by introducing greater economic incentives for trafficking in women and girls for both legal and illegal brothels. Sullivan also quoted experts in organized crime who allege that the legalized prostitution industry in Victoria still has strong links to underground criminality.

With regard to this human trafficking, Sullivan draws attention to international studies that put at billions the profits made from this modern form slavery. Estimates of the numbers of women and girls who are trafficked range from 700,000 to 2 million each year.

The legalization of prostitution in Victoria has not done anything to reduce illegal sex trafficking, Sullivan argues. In addition, since legalization, child prostitution continues to be a problem.

Billion-dollar industry

We are now in a situation, Sullivan pointed out, where the media, airlines, hotels, the tourist industry and banks all seek to promote and expand the industry of prostitution. In addition, legalization has brought an encroachment of prostitution in public life.

According to data cited in the book, by 1999, annual turnover in Victoria’s prostitution industry reached $360 million (Australian), which at the current exchange rate would be US $323.3 million . Overall in Australia, 3 states and one territory have legalized prostitution. A business information service cited by Sullivan put at $1.780 million (Australian) the turnover in the financial year 2004-05.

Instead of legalization, Sullivan recommended following the example of Sweden, where the law criminalizes the buying of sexual services and does not penalize the women and children. Sweden also helps women who have suffered violence as a result of prostitution.

Legalization of prostitution, Sullivian concluded, makes a fundamental mistake as it enshrines as a man’s “right” the ability to buy women and girls for sexual gratification. Once this is done, it becomes much more difficult to control the industry or prevent the exploitation of women.

Slavery

“Prostitution is a form of modern slavery,” commented a recent document of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, issued June 16. The publication, “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road,” attracted media attention due to its ten commandments for drivers, but its content also includes a section on street prostitution. (Nos. 85-115)

“The sexual exploitation of women is clearly a consequence of various unjust systems,” commented the Pontifical Council. Causes such as a need for money, the use of violence, and human trafficking contribute to trap women into prostitution.

“The victims of prostitution are human beings, who in many cases cry out for help, to be freed from slavery, because selling one’s own body on the street is usually not what they would voluntarily choose to do,” the document added.

The council called for greater efforts to help free women from the abuses against human dignity that result from prostitution. Catholic institutions, the declaration added, have often helped women to escape from this situation. Women need to be aided so that they can regain their esteem and self-respect, and to be reintegrated into family and community life.

“Customers,” on the other hand, “need enlightenment regarding the respect and dignity of women, interpersonal values and the whole sphere of relationships and sexuality,” the document said. The exploiters also need to be enlightened regarding the hierarchy of the values of life and human rights, it recommended.

“Committing oneself at various levels — local, national and international — for the liberation of prostitutes is therefore a true act of a disciple of Jesus Christ, an expression of authentic Christian love,” the council concluded. Surely a far better answer than legalizing what is nothing more than sexual slavery.



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The Influence of Religion on American Politics

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, OCT. 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The volatile mix of religion and politics is heating up as the 2008 presidential election in the United States draws closer. Candidates are being quizzed about what will be the consequences of their beliefs, while the media and pressure groups are anxiously scrutinizing politicians and voters alike.

A book published earlier this year gives a useful background study of the relationship between faith and politics. “The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections” (Praeger), was written by John C. Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Religion had a big impact in the 2004 presidential elections, argues Green. Members of conservative religious groups voted strongly for President George Bush. He adds, however, that the pejorative labeling of these groups as “fundamentalist” by some in the media is an unjustified oversimplification.

A 2004 survey showed that just 10.8% of the American adult population identified themselves as Protestant fundamentalists. Moreover, Green adds that a good number of these do not exhibit fundamentalist characteristics such as biblical literalism. Therefore, he puts at only 4.5% of the adult population those who could accurately be termed as fundamentalists.

Media attention tended to focus on just a few conservative Christian groups, without taking into account the full range of voters for whom religion and moral values played a part in determining how they voted.

Religion, in fact, has a long history of influencing politics in the United States. In the past, it was often linked to ethnic groups, such as the Irish Catholic involvement in big-city politics. In more recent times, many of the ethnic groups have assimilated into society, but membership of a religious denomination continues to play an important role in determining beliefs, values and voting patterns.

Active or passive?

There are also, however, divisions within religious groups, so they should not be regarded as monolithic blocs when it comes to voting, Green explained. One important factor in determining to what extent religion will influence voting patterns is the degree to which an individual is an active member of a religious group.

Thus, in terms of electoral behavior, a Catholic who is a regular Mass attendee has more in common with regular worship attendees in other religions than with less observant Catholics.

Another factor that has a strong influence in determining the extent to which religion will influence political behavior is the degree to which someone actively supports, by donating either money or time, a religious group. Whether an individual has an active prayer life is another important consideration.

Nonetheless, Green notes that religion is only one of many factors that help explain how someone votes. In reply to exit polls in the 2004 presidential elections, just under a quarter of voters did indicate that moral values were a priority for them in deciding which candidate to support. This category, however, comes only in third place, after foreign and economic policy, which people identified as priorities.

Religion will continue to be an important factor in coming years, Green predicts. Divisions over abortion, marriage and other moral values show no sign of diminishing. Moreover, political operators in both major parties are well aware of the need to mobilize religiously-oriented voters and will continue in their efforts to activate the faith vote.

Communion controversy

Within the Catholic world, a divisive issue in the religion and politics debate is how to treat Catholic politicians who are manifestly pro-abortion. A recent contribution to the question came from Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, in an essay published in Volume 96 of the canon-law journal Periodica de Re Canonica.

The article, titled “The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin,” noted the differences in opinion, including among bishops themselves, over whether support for anti-life legislation should disqualify a politician from receiving Communion.

After a detailed analysis of Church teaching on the question of Communion and those in grave sin, Archbishop Burke concludes that “a person who obstinately remains in public and grievous sin is appropriately presumed by the Church to lack the interior bond of communion, the state of grace, required to approach worthily the reception of the Holy Eucharist.”

A consistent public support of policies that are in grave violation of moral law, he pointed out, can indeed be classified as “gravely sinful.”

The archbishop clarified, however, that denying Communion in these circumstances should not be interpreted as a penal sanction against the person, but rather it is concerned with respect for the Eucharist.

The United States, Archbishop Burke commented, is a society that “canonizes” radical individualism and relativism, thus making it very difficult to apply sanctions such as denying Communion.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, if a bishop or priest preaches Church teaching on life matters, but does nothing when a Catholic who publicly supports anti-life legislation comes to receive Communion, “then his teaching rings hollow,” Archbishop Burke judged.

Too many Christians

Conflicts over religion and politics occur in many other countries, of course. In Australia, where national elections will shortly take place, Prime Minister John Howard and opposition leader Kevin Rudd recently addressed, via an Internet hookup, 770 churches across the country.

After their debate, Senator Lyn Allison, the leader of the Democrats, complained that there were too many Christians active in politics, reported The Australian newspaper on Aug. 10.

On Aug. 7, the Australian bishops published a brief statement to help guide Catholics in the national elections. The document focused on a number of issues that the bishops argued are of vital concern. Subjects such as respect for life, support for the family, education, health and the environment were among those raised.

“We encourage Catholics to look beyond their own individual needs and apply a different test at the ballot box — the test of the common good,” the bishops urged.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, another country preparing for national elections, on Aug. 23 the bishops reaffirmed the validity of a statement they had issued in April. Our Catholic faith, they stated, calls us to grow in our commitments as citizens. Christians should discover their vocation in favor of the common good, they recommended.

The document called for human life and the family to be protected. Poverty and inequality, along with a need to avoid excessive divisions within society, were other points mentioned.

Our faith in the risen Christ, the bishops stated, should motivate us to renew our lives and live them according to the principles of truth, liberty, justice and solidarity.

True justice

Benedict XVI also recently addressed these matters in a speech made Sept. 21 to participants of a meeting of Centrist Democrat International.

Justice is truly human, the Pontiff affirmed, “only when the ethical and moral vision grounding it is centered on the human person and his inalienable dignity.”

After referring to issues of the economy, safeguarding life and the family, the Pope warned that when truth or the family is undermined, then “peace itself is threatened and the rule of law is compromised, leading inevitably to forms of injustice and violence.”

Religious liberty is another vital issue to defend, he continued. “Openness to transcendence is an indispensable guarantee of human dignity since within every human heart there are needs and desires which find their fulfillment in God alone,” said the Pope.

The Church’s social teaching, Benedict XVI explained, is motivated by love for humanity and a desire to contribute to a world which respects the dignity and rights of all people. An objective all can share, even though they may not agree about the best way to achieve it.



Interview With Mark Miravalle

ROME, SEPT. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Violations of human rights and religious freedom continue to be widespread in China, says the author of a book on the Asian country.

Mark Miravalle, a professor of theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, traveled to China last summer and saw firsthand the daily struggles of the people and the faithful in the country.

In this interview with ZENIT, he talks about his book “The Seven Sorrows of China” (Queenship Publications), and some of the testimonies from underground Church clergy, religious and laity, as well as a confidential interview with an underground bishop.

Q: What led you to visit China and write this book on the situation there?

Miravalle: I went to China with the sole intention of helping friends there who were taking in terminally ill abandoned orphans and caring for them in a Mother Teresa-type manner.

Each day instead brought with it an encounter with the horrific violations of human dignity and religious freedom that have been significantly neglected in the secular media’s recent portrayal of a “new democratic and open” China. I found the opposite to be the case.

Women are being forced to have abortions by the population police in every province. Bishops and priests who refuse to cooperate with the government-run Chinese patriotic church are oftentimes hounded down, arrested, imprisoned and sometimes tortured.

Underground seminaries are at times no more than an abandoned building without electricity or heat. Religious and human-rights violations are ubiquitous.

Q: What are the seven sorrows of China that you refer to in the title of your book?

Miravalle: The seven sorrows represent seven categories or concrete cases of oppression presently being experienced by the Chinese people. For example, one sorrow conveys the account of a woman I met in a secret refugee house for pregnant women who wanted to have their babies in spite of government prohibitions. She had to flee the house in her hospital gown and rush into a taxi held by a Catholic religious sister in order to save her baby from abortion.

Another sorrow refers to an underground bishop who risked his life to give an interview so that the West could know the real story about religious persecution in China. Still another sorrow tells of a small Catholic village that, through Catholic solidarity Chinese-style, are having large families and public Catholic liturgies in spite of the one-child policy and government opposition to unsanctioned public religious gatherings.

Love of our Blessed Mother was so frequently referred to by members of the underground Church. I could not help but think of how her heart, pierced seven times historically because of the innocent suffering of her divine Son, continues to be pierced mystically as she observes the unjust suffering of the noble Chinese people. She sees Jesus in each innocent Chinese person tortured, abused, aborted. So should we.

Q: What about the fact that Beijing has been awarded the 2008 Olympics? Isn’t the Chinese government trying to convince the West that it is more open and democratic?

Miravalle: This is precisely the question I asked the underground bishop I was able to interview.

We met secretly in an impoverished family dwelling near his cathedral, as he had numerous police watching the cathedral. His answer was, “The Chinese government is like the fox that goes up to the chicken and says, ‘Happy New Year,’ and then devours the chicken. We are not free to practice our Catholic faith. I have been imprisoned for a total of 20 years, where I have experienced hard labor, and witnessed the torture and killing of priests and laity.”

When I suggested that perhaps it would be imprudent to include the reference to 20 years in prison for fear that it would break his anonymity, he said there would be no problem including this fact since all underground bishops have spent approximately 20 years in prison for refusing to compromise their Catholic faith and their loyalty to the Holy Father.

Q: Did the underground bishop have any comment on Benedict XVI’s recent letter to the Church in China?

Miravalle: Yes, the bishop had received a copy of the letter just a few days before our interview. The Chinese government blocked all Web sites, including the Vatican Web site, that posted the Holy Father’s letter, but the underground Church has its information networks.

The bishop praised Benedict XVI’s letter for its wisdom and prudence. In fact, my interview with the bishop was interrupted 10 minutes after it began, because regional police came to the cathedral searching for the bishop. The people at the house were afraid they were taking the bishop back to prison.

A half-hour later, the bishop returned to our clandestine meeting place, and told me the police had come to warn him not to say anything publicly about the Pope’s letter. The bishop then smiled and commented how the inevitable could not be stopped.

Q: What about the government’s one-child policy? How is this being enforced?

Miravalle: I received testimonies from women who had gone to the hospital nine months pregnant and in labor, but without the government’s certificate allowing for birth. After consultation with the population police, a doctor or nurse would re-enter the room with a needle and inject a substance into the abdomen of the woman, which would instantaneously kill the unborn child.

Other married couples would return home from the hospital with their second child and find their home burned to the ground. Still others would be forced to pay high fines or return to homes where everything was removed, including windows and doors, except for the kitchen table.

Does this sound like a new, democratic, religion-respecting government? What if any of our Western families received this type of treatment for trying to bring a beautiful new baby into the world?

Just last week, another underground bishop died in prison and his body was cremated six hours later in the middle of the night. Was there something to hide? What if this happened to one of our bishops in the West?

Q: Did you see any signs of hope for the Church in China during your visit?

Miravalle: Yes. In a few remarkable villages within provinces known for their heroic stands of faith and martyrdom for our Catholic faith under untold persecution, many families had multiple children and public Masses and Marian processions.

I flew to one particular village and interviewed the parish priest, asking how this was possible in light of Beijing’s one-child policy. He answered, “Here, we are united. The priests would die for the bishop, and people would die and have died for their bishop and priests, and the bishop is completely loyal to the Holy Father. We are so united that they would have to wipe us all out, and they will not do that now.”

I asked the parish priest and religious sister translating for us, what makes this village different. They responded: “We rely on the Eucharist, Our Lady, and the blood and prayers of the martyrs before us. Here we are Catholic. If you do not follow the Holy Father, then you are not Catholic.”

Q: What can the Church in the West do to help the Church in China?

Miravalle: Our hearts should feel pierced as we hear of the daily plight of our Chinese Catholic brothers and sisters. This should lead to committed daily prayer for the Church and the people of China.

I also asked the underground bishop this question. He said, “Pray, pray for the Chinese Church. Finances can help, but most of all, pray.”

The bishop added that Communism is not the only evil facing his people.

He shared: “In the last few years, my people are being affected with a secular, worldly idea of happiness, that they can find their ultimate happiness in this life. They have lost their desire for prayer and sacrifice. This is an even greater danger than the Communist government.”

The bishop then exhorted, “Pray to Our Lady, Maria! She is the remedy for the situation in China. It is like the battle in the Book of Revelation, between the woman and the dragon. It is first a spiritual, cosmic battle. Pray to Our Lady for China.”



Debate Continues Over Euthanasia

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, SEPT. 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The issue of euthanasia came to the forefront of news again recently, with the publication of a note Sept. 14 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The statement, written in reply to questions sent to the Vatican by U. S. bishops, stipulated that providing nutrition and liquids to people who are in what is often termed the vegetative state is, with rare exceptions, morally obligatory.

 

After the fierce debate over the 2005 Terri Schiavo case in Florida, news came from Arizona a few months ago about a man who unexpectedly woke up from a coma. Jesse Ramirez suffered brain injuries in a May 30 car crash, reported the Arizona Republic newspaper June 27.

On June 8 his wife, Rebecca, had asked his doctors to remove the tubes providing him with food and water. Jesse’s parents objected and obtained a court order to reconnect the tubes. Subsequently, Jesse suddenly woke up from his coma.

Earlier this year another case was reported, from Denver, Colorado. Christa Lilly had been in coma since the mid-’80s in the wake of a heart attack and stroke. In the past, Lilly had woken up for brief periods, but until this year the last time was on Nov. 4, 2000, reported the Denver Post newspaper March 8.

According to the article, a neurologist from the University of Colorado Hospital, James Kelly, thinks that Lilly might have been in a “minimally conscious state” during these years, as opposed to a persistent vegetative state.

Killing machines

Euthanasia came up for debate in Germany recently, after the announcement by Roger Kusch, ex-justice minister in Hamburg, that he has designed a machine to help people commit suicide.

According to a report in the Sept. 9 edition of the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, a simple push of a button injects a lethal solution into the terminally ill patient. German federal law prohibits helping someone commit suicide, but does not make illegal the actual act of suicide by the person involved. So with his machine Kusch hopes to avoid any legal difficulties in helping people die.

News of the invention drew immediate criticism, both from politicians and Archbishop Werner Thissen of Hamburg. Kusch is a candidate in Hamburg’s October elections.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, protests by residents in a Zurich suburb have forced the assisted-suicide group Dignitas out of its premises, according to a July 13 report on the Web site of the German magazine Spiegel Online.

Since 1998, around 700 people have come to the Dignitas center to put an end to their lives. According to the article, the largest group of clients is from Germany, with Britain in second place.

Earlier, in June, the Swiss Senate called on the government to draft a law aimed at improving controls of organizations offering assisted suicide. The National Commission on Biomedical Ethics, a government advisory panel, has also recommended increased state supervision of organizations such as Dignitas.

July also saw a court in the Swiss city of Basel sentence Peter Baumann to three years in prison for having helped three people with psychological problems commit suicide, the agency Swissinfo reported July 6.

Baumann, a retired psychologist, helped the people die between January 2001 and January 2003. According to the court, Baumann acted out of egoistic motives, hoping to obtain public recognition of his methods. The judges, however, defined his conduct as “inhuman,” and criticized his behavior as negligent.

Care, not death

During his trip to Austria, Benedict XVI raised the issue of euthanasia in his Sept. 7 speech to members of government and the diplomatic corps. Saying that the issue was of “great concern” to him, the Pope added that he feared tacit or explicit pressures on the elderly and ill to put an end to their lives.

“The proper response to end-of-life suffering is loving care and accompaniment on the journey toward death — especially with the help of palliative care — and not ‘actively assisted death,'” the Pontiff stated. He also called for reforms in the social welfare and health systems in order to assist people who are terminally ill.

Some of Canada’s bishops also addressed euthanasia earlier this year. In April the Ontario episcopal conference published a brochure titled “Going to the House of the Father: A Statement on the Dignity and Destiny of Human Life.”

“It seems a cruel twist of history that societies with such great medical capabilities are turning against the disabled and sick — with lethal results,” the introduction stated.

The bishops insisted that protecting life is not just a Christian or religious argument, but a basic human right. “To permit the killing of the disabled, frail, sick or suffering, even if motivated by a misplaced compassion, requires a prior judgment that such lives are not worth living,” they said. “No one forfeits the right to life because of illness or disability.”

“Unless the right to life is secure, there can be no sure foundation for any human rights,” they added.

The statement also explained that there is a difference between deliberately causing death and unduly prolonging life. We are not morally obliged, the bishops said, to prolong life if the means used are unduly burdensome or cause additional suffering and when there is little hope of recovery.

The bishops also recommended that Christians not neglect the soul and that they should draw comfort from the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. Suffering and death for Christians, they continued, is not only a matter for medicine.

Disabled concerns

Another source of opposition to euthanasia comes from groups representing disabled people, as the Los Angeles Times reported Aug. 6. According to the article, one of the reasons why legislative proposals to allow medically assisted suicide have failed in California in the past few years is the hostility of the disabled’s rights movement.

A combination of legalized euthanasia and pressure to cut increasing costs in the health care system could lead to the withdrawal of treatment for the disabled. The Los Angeles Times quoted a number of disabled people, active in groups who have fought against assisted-suicide proposals.

“The conditions I have are expensive to treat, and it would be a lot cheaper for the health care system to just let my health go to the point where I would want to die,” said Los Angeles activist Laura Remson Mitchell, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, kidney disease and diabetes.

Legal leniency

Other concerns arise from the increasing reluctance by some courts to punish family members who help a sick relative commit suicide. The application of the law in Britain in recent years has been eroded to the point where courts are reluctant to punish those who say they help kill someone out of love, commented Robert Verkaik, law editor for the British newspaper the Independent in an article published May 8.

Among other examples, Verkaik noted a case from October 2006, when a man who helped his terminally ill wife to die was set free with just a nine-month suspended sentence.

Earlier, in March, a French court convicted a doctor for poisoning a terminally ill cancer patient, reported the Associated Press on March 15. In spite of his guilt, the tribunal in southwestern Perigueux sentenced Laurence Tramois to just a one-year suspended prison sentence for his role in the Aug. 25, 2003, death of Paulette Druais in the nearby town of Saint-Astier.

Misguided compassion seems destined to lead to the deaths of still more people as pressures to ease restrictions on assisted suicide continue.



Pope Offers Guidelines

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JUNE 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Confrontations over globalization no longer make headlines, but many concerns remain over the future of the world economy. In past months the question of growing economic inequality has come under increasing attention.

Globalization has delivered many benefits, argued a front-page article published May 24 by the Wall Street Journal. The article did concede, however: “As trade, foreign investment and technology have spread, the gap between economic haves and have-nots has frequently widened, not only in wealthy countries like the United States, but in poorer ones like Mexico, Argentina, India and China as well.”

The experience of the last few years is showing that those with education and skills benefit from globalization. Others, without these advantages, are not so fortunate. While not forgetting the benefits of globalization for many millions of people, the Wall Street Journal also expressed concern that the growing inequalities could provoke a backlash that would damage trade and investment.

Earlier this year, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also warned of problems stemming from economic inequality. In a speech given Feb. 6 to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in Nebraska, Bernanke defended the idea that the free market does not guarantee an equality of economic outcomes, allowing as it does the possibility for unequal rewards due to differences in effort and skill.

Slipping down the ladder

“That said, we also believe that no one should be allowed to slip too far down the economic ladder, especially for reasons beyond his or her control,” he added in the text posted on the Federal Reserve Board site.

Outlining evidence from a variety of sources, the Federal Reserve chairman pointed out that over the last few decades economic well-being in the United States has increased considerably. At the same time, he observed that “the degree of inequality in economic outcomes has increased as well.”

Bernanke admitted the difficulty of resolving the question of how to maintain a balance between a market system that uses economic incentives and stimulates growth, and the need to protect individuals against adverse economic outcomes.

Proposing solutions to this problem involves value judgments beyond the realm of economic theory, Bernanke concluded. He did, however, suggest a range of possible measures, ranging from education and job training, to helping individuals and families bear the cost of economic change, as ways to affront the problem of inequality.

A similar position was expressed in an opinion article by Danny Leipziger and Michael Spence, published in the Financial Times on May 15. The authors, respectively a vice president at the World Bank and a 2001 Nobel laureate in economics, argued that in the globalization debate the most important issue is “who benefits and who loses.”

“Globalization is a positive sum game in the aggregate but one that produces both winners and losers,” they also observed.

Leipziger and Spence supported improvements in education to help workers affront the current situation. In addition, they called for better safety nets, more investment in infrastructure and assured access to services such as health care.

Dignity of the person

Amid the ongoing debate over issues of economics and ethics, Benedict XVI has addressed these issues on several occasions in recent months. On May 26 he spoke to a group of young people from Confindustria, the General Confederation of Italian Industry.

Every business, the Pope noted, should be considered first and foremost as a group of people, whose rights and dignity should be respected. Human life and its values, the Pontiff continued, should always be the guiding principle and end of the economy.

In this context, Benedict XVI acknowledged that for business, making a profit is a value that they can rightly put as an objective of their activity. At the same time the social teaching of the Church insists that businesses must also safeguard the dignity of the human person, and that even in moments of economic difficulties, business decisions must not be guided exclusively by considerations of profit.

The Pope also dealt briefly with the theme of globalization. This is a phenomenon, he commented, that gives hope of a wider participation in economic development and riches. It is a process not without its risks, however, leading in some cases to worsening economic inequality. Echoing the words of Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI called for a globalization characterized by solidarity and without marginalization of people.

Other principles that need to guide the economy are justice and charity, Benedict XVI explained in a message, dated April 28, to the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Mary Ann Glendon. The letter was sent on the occasion of the plenary session of the academy, held April 27-May 1.

The pursuit of justice and the promotion of the civilization of love, the message stated, are essential aspects of the Church’s mission in its proclamation of the Gospel. Justice and love cannot be separated, the Pope observed, because of the Church’s experience of how the two were united in “the revelation of God’s infinite justice and mercy in Jesus Christ.”

Justice, he continued, must be “corrected” by love, a love which inspires justice and purifies our efforts to build a better society. “Only charity can encourage us to place the human person once more at the center of life in society and at the center of a globalized world governed by justice,” the Pope stated.

Labor market

The Pope took a closer look at some of the problems facing workers in a couple of speeches earlier this year. In a message dated March 28, sent to participants in the 9th International Youth Forum organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Benedict XVI commented that in recent years economic and technological changes have radically changed the labor market.

This has given hope to young people, the Pontiff conceded, but it also brings with it the need for greater skills and education, and the demand that workers be prepared to travel, even to other countries, in searching for jobs.

Work, he explained, is part of God’s plan for humanity and through it we participate in the work of creation and redemption. We will live this better, the Pope urged, if we remain united to Christ through prayer and sacramental life.

Then, on March 31, Benedict XVI spoke to a gathering of Confartigianato, an association of Italian artisans. Work is part of God’s plan for man, even if because of original sin it has become more of a burden, the Pope explained.

It is important, he exhorted, to proclaim the primacy of the human person and the common good over capital, science, technology and even private ownership. As Christians, we can testify to the “Gospel of work,” in our daily lives, the Pope reminded them.

The Pontiff also had words for those directing workers, in an address to a group from the Italian group, the Christian Union of Business Executives on March 4. Justice and charity, the Pope said, are inseparable elements in the social commitment of Christians.

“It is incumbent on lay faithful in particular to work for a just order in society, taking part in public life in the first person, cooperating with other citizens and fulfilling their own responsibility,” said the Pope.

“Unfortunately, partly because of current economic difficulties, these values often run the risk of not being followed by those business persons who lack a sound moral inspiration,” he also noted. Values which, together with sound economic policies, could go a long way in finding solutions to the ethical challenges in a globalized world.