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Theme: The Church and Globalization

March 25, 2007

“Peace on earth to those whom God loves!” The Gospel greeting prompts a heart-felt question: will the new century be one of peace and a renewed sense of brotherhood between individuals and peoples? We cannot of course foresee the future. But we can set forth one certain principle: there will be peace only to the extent that humanity as a whole rediscovers its fundamental calling to be one family, a family in which the dignity and rights of individuals – whatever their status, race or religion – are accepted as prior and superior to any kind of difference or distinction.

This recognition can give the world as it is today – marked by the process of globalization – a soul, a meaning and a direction. Globalization, for all its risks, also offers exceptional and promising opportunities, precisely with a view to enabling humanity to become a single family, built on the values of justice, equity and solidarity.

For this to happen, a complete change of perspective will be needed: it is no longer the well-being of any one political, racial or cultural community that must prevail, but rather the good of humanity as a whole. The pursuit of the common good of a single political community cannot be in conflict with the common good of humanity, expressed in the recognition of and respect for human rights sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. It is necessary, then, to abandon ideas and practices – often determined by powerful economic interests – which subordinate every other value to the absolute claims of the nation and the State. In this new perspective, the political, cultural and institutional divisions and distinctions by which humanity is ordered and organized are legitimate in so far as they are compatible with membership in the one human family, and with the ethical and legal requirements which stem from this.

– From Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, Section 5-6, World Day of Peace, Jan. 1, 2000

Pope Benedict said that there are, “new possibilities and new risks” arising from globalization, which must be faced “with the broadest possible agreement among nations.”

Globalization, he said, “is an opportunity to create a network of understanding and solidarity among peoples, without reducing everything to merely commercial or pragmatic exchanges.” In this network there should be room “for the human problems of each place and, in particular, of emigrants forced to leave their own land in search of better living conditions; something which at times has grave consequences on the individual, family and social spheres.”

The Pope said that there is a, “huge problem of poverty and marginalization,” which represents “an urgent challenge for leaders and those in charge of public institutions.”

The Church, which considers charity to be, “an essential dimension of her being and her mission, selflessly demonstrates her … concern for the needy of all conditions and origins. In this task, she collaborates with various entities and public institutions so that no one seeking support may be lacking a friendly hand to help them overcome their difficulties.

“To this end,” the Pope concluded, “she offers personal and material resources, but, above all, human closeness which seeks to alleviate the deepest poverty, solitude and abandonment, in the knowledge that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in Whom we believe and by Whom we are driven to love.”

– From “Pope considers benefits and challenges of globalization”, Catholic News Agency, June 30, 2006

“There is a pressing need for unity of intent among leaders to ensure they face the challenges of a globalized world … with true solidarity.”

Benedict XVI said that this virtue “must inspire the action of individuals, of rulers, of international organizations and institutions and of all members of civil society, committing them to work for the just growth of peoples and nations, having as the objective the good of each and all.”

– From “Globalize Solidarity, Urges Benedict XVI”, Zenit, March 16, 2007

* * *

Mary Ann Glendon: Globalization and the Church’s New Challenges

For those of us who believe that the social teaching of the Catholic Church offers important ethical perspectives on economic globalization — and even the hope of helping to humanize and optimize the benefits of that process — the cultural effects of globalization are of great concern. Globalization seems to be spreading a thin transnational culture that is not only resistant to ethical perspectives, but inimical to respect for the dignity of all members of the human family.

The values of productivity and efficiency, so prized by the market, are not so fine when they seep into the intermediate institutions of civil society or when they become normative in family relations. A transnational popular culture seems to foster a popular ethos charged with materialism, hedonism and hyper-individualism. And these new values, combined with increased geographic mobility, seem to be having a destructive effect on the particular cultures where virtues and habits of solidarity are rooted and transmitted.


Needless to say, the Catholic faithful are not exempt from these influences. All too many Catholics resist the teaching that living the whole Christian faith means living the preferential option for the poor. All too many others embrace a secular understanding of solidarity, which leads them to trivialize the problem of sin, to ignore the moral teachings that make a commitment to solidarity sustainable, and to look to government bureaucracies for “social justice.”

The effects of globalization upon culture thus pose a special challenge to a Church that seeks to spread Christianity through “inculturation.” Globalization, coming in the wake of industrialization and urbanization, tends to accelerate the decline of the mediating structures of civil society (families, parishes, neighborhoods) where the virtues that might serve to humanize globalization are instilled, reinforced, and transmitted from one generation to the next.


So how can the Church mediate her teachings, “ever ancient and ever new,” through the turbulence and fragmentation that characterize what theologian Frederick Lawrence calls “the contemporary diaspora situation”? That is an enormous challenge both for the Holy See as an actor in international settings and for all Catholics. In both cases, there are two essentials: understanding the world and personal formation of the actors. And of the two, formation must have priority.

As the Holy Father strikingly put it in his recent address to university professors and students: “It is part of Christian realism to understand that great social changes are the result of small and courageous daily options. You often ask yourselves: When will our world be configured to the Gospel message? The answer is simple: When you, in the first place, act and think permanently like Christ, at least part of that world will be given to him in you.” Regarding globalization, and perhaps thinking of our conference, he went on to say that “to promote a global culture of those moral absolutes that are a person’s rights, it is necessary that each Christian begin with himself.”

The Church’s work in the ever-changing world is thus perhaps best regarded as an ongoing crusade to shift probabilities in favor of what John Paul II calls the civilization of life and love. Globalization undoubtedly poses formidable challenges to that never-ending task. But the resources that the Church brings to meet those challenges are formidable as well.

Zenit: Christianity and Globalization: Vatican Offical Offers Guidelines (Sept. 16, 2006)

Discernment is needed in order to avoid accepting a vision of globalization that sees itself as part of a postmodern process in which liberty is given an absolute value and a place for tradition and religion is denied. For its part the Church proposes a culture based on a Christian anthropological vision that has as its objective the construction of a new humanity.


The Church also proposes the concept of moral authority in dealing with globalization. The changes at a global level have brought to the forefront questions regarding progress and goods on a universal scale that need to be somehow reconciled according to a hierarchy of values. This in turn requires a correct understanding of human dignity and rights that is not possible, however, if we accept a system based on ethical relativism.


Another essential aspect of the Church’s teaching on globalization is the promotion of solidarity. A global solidarity that will ensure all peoples can benefit from the economic changes taking place. Christian solidarity consists in making ourselves responsible for the welfare of others. It is more than compassion or sentiments, as it calls for a full reciprocity in human relationships.


Along with solidarity the Church also teaches the importance of subsidiarity. This means avoiding an excessive concentration of power at higher levels, allowing institutions such as the family, local communities and ethnic groups sufficient autonomy to carry out their functions.

Father John McCloskey: Univeral Church, Global Village

It is clear that there are many people of power interested in greatly increasing the global powers of the United Nations to the detriment of religious freedom, the principle of subsidiarity and the central role of the family. The Catholic Church would stand, perhaps, alone in opposing this concentration of power in a world government that hints at totalitarianism.

Perhaps for that reason, the Church continues its work in the United Nations, above all to give a Catholic voice, as well as to keep an eye on possible attempts at global hegemony via world government, rather than any real hope that, as currently constituted, the United Nations can be effective.


Our Lord taught the apostles and us at the end of his earthly life to go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel. Some sort of a healthy globalization helps the spreading of the Good News while protecting the things the Pope insists on: solidarity, the common good, the dignity of the human person. At least it affords the opportunity for all men and women and their families to hear and respond to the Gospel preached to them. A greater interdependence should promote the Christian solidarity of which the Holy Father speaks.

See also:
TCR News: Globalization, the Catholic Response
Catholic Online: Vatican official: Globalization’s wealth does not help enough people

Acton Institute: The Challenge of Globalization to the Church, Lord Brian Griffiths
Catholic Online: Interview with Lord Brian Griffiths of Goldman Sachs on Globalization
Zenit: Don´t Blame Globalization for Moral Problems, Says Father Sirico
Theologia: Interview with Robert Schreiter

America:Church Social Teaching and Globalization, Michel Camdessus, former director International Monetary Fund
Acton Institute: Globalization and the Insights of Catholic Social Teaching, Sam Gregg,
Foreign Policy Research Institute: Religion and Globalization, James Kurth

Small Is Still Beautiful: Counting the cost of Globalization


From → Themes

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