by Phil Kingston
I invite you to consider some questions about the global Neoliberal economy. How does it:
- recognise the limits of the Earth, and demonstrate its humility to live within them?
- appreciate the wonder and beauty of all forms of life, and care for them?
- embrace God’s special love for those who are poor and excluded?
- share the goods of the Earth between everyone?
- include all future generations in that sharing?
- provide regular work which gives dignity and meaning and livelihood for all?
If you cannot answer in the affirmative, it seems reasonable to conclude that this economy excludes essential attributes of the God of creation, love and justice.
This economy is a human construct. The excluding of God is organised primarily by those who have the most power to develop it and to promote the consumerist society in which we each live.
I call it an idol because its proponents claim it as the primary basis for human security, a security which I imagine most Christians would regard as being fulfilled by God and people who seek God’s will. As with all idols, its false claim must not be questioned. It seems that nothing must be allowed to suggest that economic growth has problematic consequences for the Earth and future generations. Even while the World Wildlife Fund’s research shows that consumption by the current human population is exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth by 50%, the mantra of more growth drowns out calls for debate about this overuse.
Of the few states-persons who voice concern about this economy’s fitness for purpose, Pope Frances is the most significant. The following are from Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) and Laudato si’ (Care for our Common Home):
‘The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.’ EG 55
‘…. the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.’ Ls 106
‘In this (economic) system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.’ EG 56
‘How many words prove irksome to this system! It is irksome when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked, when the distribution of goods is mentioned, when reference is made to protecting labour and defending the dignity of the powerless, when allusion is made to a God who demands a commitment to justice.’ EG 203
‘’.. the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.’’ (Ls 193).
With regard to Pope Francis’ courageous exposure of structural sin, I often think of him as a rather lonely man within many of the Churches of the materially rich countries, where I see his pastoral care and simple living acclaimed but his economic critique made almost invisible by silence.
A very different economic model is promoted by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy http://steadystate.org/ I invite everyone who wants the world which Pope Francis points toward to study it; and then to link it to our faith by considering Green Christian’s Joy in Enough project http://www.greenchristian.org.uk/joy-in-enough .
(Published in The Universe, a Catholic weekly, on 30/06/2017)
by Phil Kingston (Published with permission of the author. It also appeared in The Universe in August 2017)
About 35 years ago I became a supporter of Cafod. Whilst my heart was clearly being stirred, my faith then was more from my head than my heart. I later joined a parish Charismatic Prayer Group and was introduced to a new understanding of the Holy Spirit. Through an Alpha course I came to appreciate more this prayer of the heart. However, in both the parish group and the Alpha course, I didn’t experience much interest in work for peace and justice, especially the social-structural approach of Catholic Social Teaching.
Since then I have tried always to link prayer and activism. I have come to recognise the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, just as Jesus promised. This has been accompanied by puzzlement because both in homilies and talking with Catholics, including JPCC activists, I have heard little about the actions of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Assuming that this is a general aspect of British Catholic culture, it is extraordinarily different from that described in the Acts of the Apostles where the Holy Spirit’s presence shines throughout. A practical fruit of this was an amazing sharing where ‘those who had acquired land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of the sale to be distributed by the apostles according to each one’s need’.
Pope Francis, in his clear and homely way, often speaks about the Holy Spirit. E.g. as: ‘’our travelling companion…. the sweet guest of the heart’’; One who gives strength ‘’to speak the truth without compromise’’. ‘’For anyone who is born of the Spirit, he or she follows without knowing where it will end.’’ And ‘’The cross cannot be taken away from the life of a Christian, (so) ask God for the grace of not being afraid because the Lord said: the Spirit will tell us what to answer.’’
I was a shy person for much of my early life. I now do things which I wouldn’t previously have considered, and I give thanks to God and the support of many people for that. I have become more willing to follow Jesus, both in his speaking truth to power and his non-violent actions in the Temple forecourt. My experience of the Spirit’s prompting is that when it arrives it usually feels exactly right; but that this is often quickly followed by thoughts like ‘people will think I’m nuts if I do that’’. I check this out with others who I believe are Spirit-filled, and usually recognise that my fear of consequences and of not being accepted are impeding the prompt. I have come to trust that if I follow it, then, according to the discernment of others, an aspect of God’s reign generally results. I ask if readers of this will consider writing about their own experiences of the Holy Spirit, via Readers’ Letters?
Pope Francis has called the entire Church to respond to the 19th November first World Day of the Poor. In a statement in which he twice refers to the Holy Spirit, he also says ‘’Let us never forget that, for Christ’s disciples, poverty is above all a call to follow Jesus in his own poverty’’ and adds ‘’St. John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: If you want to honour the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honour the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness’’.
on 2 July 2015 by Dave Szollosy to Toronto York Region Labour Council
Laudato Si’ was addressed to the whole world, rather than senior leaders of the Church, because of the enormity of the ecological crisis which looms. The last time this happened was in 1963 when Pope John XXIII wrote “Pacem in Terris”.
Laudato Si’, in which Pope Francis talks about the “Gospel of Creation” (Chapter II) is authoritative teaching added to the body of the Church’s Social Teaching.
Dave's slides speak better than mere words.