John Paul II´s Proposals for Life in Global
ROME, 16 JUNE 2001 (ZENIT).
Are anti-globalization protests, violent or otherwise, sufficient to
make the new phenomenon more just?
"To rebel against the present international imbalance is
sacrosanct," said Jacques Delors, Catholic, Socialist and former
president of the European Commission, as quoted in ZENIT's June 9
analysis. "But an alternative is not offered by breaking shop
windows. It is time for proposals."
John Paul II has spent time and energy over the last few years doing
just that: offering proposals, based on Christian social doctrine, to
confront the problems of globalization. Here are some of the points he
"Human event" and "sign of our times"
Globalization is, first of all, a human event. Therefore,
"globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad," the Holy
Father said. "It will be what the people make of it" (John
Paul II, April 27, address at Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences).
Globalization has not only an economic, but also a cultural and
political dimension. It is a reality that stems from those factors that
have altered what philosopher Karl Popper called "paradigms"
or "eras" of humanity, which are fundamentally of a
technological character: in this case, the new means of communication.
In this connection, it is important to distinguish between globalization
and neo-liberalism. This economic system, based on the freedom of
enterprise which, impelled by the desire for profit and regulated by
free competition, determines production and prices, at times becomes a
genuine ideology and moves like a fish in water in the context of
globalization. However, this is not globalization.
The Christian view of reality gives John Paul II an added element of
analysis: If we are faced with a human phenomenon, this means that it is
a "sign of our times" in which one must discover "the
positive aspects" and avoid "the dangers" (John Paul II's
address to participants in UNIV 2001 University Congress, April 9,
Keys to humanize globalization
If globalization is a "human event," the principles that will
guide the ethics in the era of the global village must be sought,
therefore, in the person himself and in the principles that regulate
John Paul II offers three fundamental principles on which the social
doctrine of the Church pivots:
1) Globalization of human rights
For John Paul II, the first principle that must govern globalization is
"the inalienable value of the human person, source of all human
rights and every social order. The human being must always be an end and
not a means, a subject and not an object, nor a commodity of trade"
(John Paul II, address at Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, April
The question regarding human dignity can be expressed in concrete terms:
What roles do the weakest, the handicapped, the elderly and the unborn
have in society?
This is the "culture of life" proposed by John Paul II.
"This is a particularly pressing need at the present time, when the
'culture of death' so forcefully opposes the 'culture of life' and often
seems to have the upper hand" ("Evangelium Vitae," No.
Hence, the globalization of the economy must be followed by the
globalization of genuine human rights.
2) Solidarity: preferential option for the poor
The need to globalize solidarity stems, necessarily, from the
fundamental principle of respect for the dignity of the person. The
principle of solidarity, exactly as enunciated by Christian social
doctrine, is a wager on the preferential option for the poor. It affirms
that "the more that individuals are defenseless within a given
society, the more they require the care and concern of others, and in
particular the intervention of governmental authority" ("Centesimus
Annus," No. 10).
When he met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on April 7, 2000,
the Holy Father said that "the increase of interdependence in the
world has given these challenges (wars, persecutions, disasters,
epidemics) a global dimension that requires new ways of thinking and new
types of international cooperation to address them effectively."
"This means making solidarity an integral part of the network of
economic, political and social interdependence which the current process
of globalization is tending to consolidate" (John Paul II, Message
for World Day of Peace, Jan. 1, 2000, No. 17).
John Paul II responds to the globalization of the economy with the
globalization of solidarity. This was also the conclusion reached by the
continental Synod of Bishops, which served to prepare for the Jubilee
Subsidiarity is the revolutionary ethical principle of Christian social
doctrine for the era of globalization.
The Pope warned that in this global village the "smaller social
units -- whether nations themselves, communities, ethnic or religious
groups, families or individuals -- must not be namelessly absorbed into
a greater conglomeration, thus losing their identity and having their
prerogatives usurped. Rather, the proper autonomy of each social class
and organization, each in its own sphere, must be defended and
upheld" (address at Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, Feb.
In this connection, John Paul II stresses the "value of human
"Globalization must not be a new version of colonialism," he
says. "It must respect the diversity of cultures which, within the
universal harmony of peoples, are life's interpretive keys. In
particular, it must not deprive the poor of what remains most precious
to them, including their religious beliefs and practices, since genuine
religious convictions are the clearest manifestation of human
freedom" (address at Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, April
According to the Pontiff, the integration that impels globalization to
be useful for progress in the dignity and rights of man, including his
own consolidation and permanence, cannot do without the constant quest
for "social, legal and cultural safeguards -- the result of
people's efforts to defend the common good -- [which] are vitally
necessary if individuals and intermediary groups are to maintain their
centrality. But globalization often risks destroying these carefully
built structures, by exacting the adoption of new styles of working,
living and organizing communities."
The importance of this principle is such, and ignorance of it so grave,
that John Paul II has requested that public opinion be "educated in
the importance of the principle of subsidiarity for the survival of a
truly democratic society (address at the Pontifical Academy for Social
Sciences, Feb. 24, 2000).
Holiness: the Christian's commitment
With these three fundamental principles of Church social doctrine which
are the basis of others, John Paul II has offered nonnegotiable elements
to humanize globalization.
To those who think that this is an overwhelming task, the Pope gives a
concrete response. "To promote a global culture of those moral
absolutes that are the rights of the person," he told participants
in the UNIV 2001 University Congress, April 9, 2001, "it is
necessary that each Christian begin with himself, making the effort to
reflect in each of his own thoughts and actions the image of Christ,
because the world is changed by holiness." ZEA0106161