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The Consistent Ethic of Pope Francis

Pope Francis met this morning with members of the Italian Movement for Life. In his remarks to the group he said:

Thank you for the testimony you give by promoting and defending human life from the moment of conception! We know it, human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the recognition of the first and fundamental right, that of life, which is not subordinated to any condition, be it quantitative, economic or, least of all, ideological. “Just as the commandment 'Thou shall not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shall not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills .... Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 53). And in this way life, too, ends up being thrown away.

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Thanks for this contribution, Fr. Imbelli, and a line in the paragraph that follows the quote you posted also captures the essence of the issue: "the unborn in a mother’s womb is the paragon of innocence." And the story the Pope relates about the abortionist doctor who surrendered his tools of the trade to the Pope long ago and who begged forgiveness reminded me of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who co-founded NARAL and who estimated that he had participated in tens of thousands of abortions, including one involving a woman he had impregnated, but who became a leading pro-life proponent. His book "The Hand of God" makes for compelling reading about his change of heart and about the abortion industry.   

Thank you from me too.

I confess, Pope Francis's framing of the sanctity of human life has changed my heart also, and continues to challenge my way of thinking about reproductive rights, free will and freedom of choice. 

 

Here are other quotes from Evangelii Gaudium that expand Francis' thoughts about life:

In the refectory at St. John’s Abbey, we’re reading Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium these days. And the monks are not doing so well with St. Benedict’s directions to keep silent. It’s rather hard to restrain oneself when the reading is explosive as Pope Francis’s words.

Words like this, for example, from dinner last night:

“Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed… [T]he message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.”

 

“[I]n preaching the Gospel a fitting sense of proportion has to be maintained… [A]n imbalance results… when we speak more about law than about grace, more about the Church than about Christ, more about the Pope than about God’s word.”

 

“Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us… If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.”

 

“Within the Church countless issues are being studied and reflected upon with great freedom. Differing currents of thought in philosophy, theology and pastoral practice, if open to being reconciled by the Spirit in respect and love, can enable the Church to grow, since all of them help to express more clearly the immense riches of God’s word. For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel.”

 

“With the holy intent of communicating the truth about God and humanity, we sometimes give [the faithful] a false god or a human ideal which is not really Christian. In this way, we hold fast to a formulation while failing to convey its substance. This is the greatest danger. Let us never forget that ‘the expression of truth can take different forms’.”

 

“In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives. Saint Thomas Aquinas pointed out that the precepts which Christ and the apostles gave to the people of God ‘are very few’.”

Note - too often find that a pro-life comment is picked out and highlighted which makes the discussion simplistic.  Too often, what happens is that folks are *pro-birth* but not necessarily *pro-life*. 

Francis spent years in a country and in the barrios - he knows the people, that birth control is a responsiblity, etc.   Would suggest (like divorce, remarriage, and reception of the eucharist or his *who am I to judge* reply to a question about gays) that he may see HV, etc. as a custom (not necessarily the heart of the Gospel) that is no longer effective in our time; is no longer useful in the same way in shaping/directing peoples' lives.

Hi Bill,

Just a quick addendum: I recognized the opening of your quote above is from a post by Anthony Ruff on Pray Tell (Fr. Anthony is a monk of St. John's Abbey), but other readers may not know this, so here is the link.

http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2014/04/06/explosive-table-reading/

The indented paragraphs are, of course, by Pope Francis. Explosive reading indeed!

Thanks, Rita - that failed to copy/paste when I posted.  But, also, like Fr. Anthony's final riposte on the reading....an old monk was walking past as the final paragraph was being read and was heard to mutter:  *Heresy, heresy*

Bill deHaas,

I have no difficulty with any of the "explosive" citations from Evangelii Gaudium that you (or Father Anthony) give -- though their relevance to the particular theme of the post is not immediately apparent. Presumably Pope Francis does not see any conflict between what he said in EG and what he said to the Italian Movement for Life.

Rita Ferrone's supplying of the source of the material is most helpful, for I had presumed, from your comment, that you had dined at St. John's Abbey last night. And in their original context they obviously were not intended as commentary or supplement to the Pope's recent address.

Now, with regard to explosive thoughts from Francis, one can hardly better the opening lines of EG"

"The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness.With Christ joy is constantly born anew."

But I hope that the lectio of EG, at St. John's and elsewhere, will be continua and will reach paragraph 79 where we find:

"At times our media culture and some intellectual circles convey a marked skepticism with regard to the Church's message, along with a certain cynicism. As a consequence, many pastoral workers, though they pray, develop a sort of inferiority complex which leads them to relativize or conceal their Christian identity...They end up stifling the joy of mission with a kind of obsession about being like everyone else and possessing what everyone else possesses. Their work of evangelization thus becomes forced, and they devote little energy and very limited time to it."

The beauty of "explosions" is that they consistently and indiscriminately unsettle.

Nice blending by Francis of life in all stages. Hopefully, the decibel level will even out so that all the children will be included. 

Thanks, Fr. Imbelli - we can go back and forth but merely wanted to indicate that the church is on a journey of faith and it does best when it listens rather than tries to act as if it has all the answers.

Thus - IMO, can take the final words of Francis - "They end up stifling the joy of mission with a kind of obsession about being like everyone else and possessing what everyone else possesses. Their work of evangelization thus becomes forced, and they devote little energy and very limited time to it." and apply that to certain pro-life folks.  In fact, their *mission* is closer to a *cult* as Prof. C. Kaveny has nicely postulated frequently at dotCommonweal.

Here you go:  http://americamagazine.org/issue/100/humanae-vitae-25-years-later

Note:

"This raises the interesting question of the relation of a conclusion to the analyses available to support it. Paul VI was aware of this problem, for in No. 28 of the encyclical he exhorted priests to obedience "not only because of the reasons adduced, but rather because of the light of the Holy Spirit, which is given in a particular way to the pastors of the Church." It is certainly true that a teaching can be correct even when the reasons are faulty. But it is quite a different thing to propose a teaching of natural law as certain when, after many years, most theologians can find no persuasive reasoning to support its absoluteness.

Several bishops at the 1980 Synod asserted that Humanae Vitae was "certainly correct" but that "better reasons" had to be found to validate its conclusions. But what if after many years "better reasons" have not been found, at least as most theologians view the matter? To continue to maintain the conclusion as certainly correct is perilously close to saying that the formulation is correct regardless of the reasons. Catholic theological tradition will not, in my judgment, support this. And that brings us to the second point."

Undoubtedly, there are those who would say that there would be no impasse and all would be well if theologians would fall in line and support the teaching of Humanae Vitae, or at least remain silent. Yet many would--and correctly, I believe--regard this as an abrogation of theo­logical responsibility and an act of disloyalty to the church and the Holy Father. As the late and eminent Karl Rahner put it: "What are contemporary moral theologians to make of Roman declarations on sexual morality that they regard as too unnuanced? Are they to remain silent, or is it their task to dissent, to give a more nuanced inter­pretation?" Rahners response is unhesitating: "I believe that the theologian, after mature reflection, has the right, and many times the duty, to speak out against (widersprechen) a teaching of the magisterium and to support his dissent" (Stimmen der Zeit, Vol. 198, 1980).

And ends with:

"I view the matter of the churchs teaching on birth reg­ulation as dominantly an authority problem. By that I mean that any analysis, conclusion or process that chal­lenges or threatens previous authoritative statements is by that very fact rejected. Any modification of past authority is viewed as an attack on present authority. Behind such an attitude is an unacknowledged and historically unsup­portable triumphalism, the idea that the official teaching authority of the church is always right, never errs, is always totally adequate in its formulations. Vatican II rad­ically axed this idea in many ways, but nowhere more explicitly than in its November 1964 "Decree on Ecumenism": "Therefore, if the influence of events or of the times has led to deficiencies in conduct, in Church discipline, or even in the formulation of doctrine (which must be carefully distinguished from the deposit of faith itself), these should be appropriately rectified at the prop­er moment" (my emphasis, No.6)."

It seems like there might be someone who, upon reading what Pope Francis said to the Italian Movement for Life, is muttering, "Heresy! Heresy!"

According to a past article at America magazine, the dissent to Humanae Vitae was profound - more tnan 600 theologians/academics and many bishop's conferences dissented.  The article states that  ... "Paul VI himself, in a letter to the Congress of German Catholics (Aug. 30, 1968), stated: "May the lively debate aroused by our encyclical lead to a better knowledge of God’s will."

http://americamagazine.org/node/148840

And as you are wont to say, Fr. K:  The Pope is not the Church; the Church is not the Pope.

Someone once said that the operative theory of authority for many Catholics can be stated in a line from the Panis angelicus: Duc nos quo tendimus--Lead us where we're already heading.  

OTOH, as the good Jesuits taught me, an argument from *authority* is the weakest argument.

Bill:   I guess that's why you gave us those long quotes from Evangelii gaudium...

I suspect that your Jesuit professors were talking about arguments from authority in philosophy; they would have recognized that arguments from authority are part and parcel of Christian theological discourse as, for example, when we must believe, without much warrant, that "God is love" or that "all things work together unto good for them that love God" (Rom 8:28) and many other dimensions of the Christian vision of things that are not empirically demonstrable.

I read your initial contribution to this thread as an effort to divert attention from the point Fr. Imbelli was making. It struck me as another example of someone's trying to hi-jack a thread away from the point the initiator of the thread intended. It's not, after all, as if this web-blog has paid much attention to what Pope Francis has had to say about our throw-away culture and its instantiation in abortion. Your post seemed to me designed to make sure that it would not occasion much comment this time.

Fr. Komonchak,

I cannot remember such a response on this blog as you have given to Bill DeHaas.  I think you owe him an apology.  Your own considered opinion notwithstanding such a characterization of another's considered opinion seems to be beyond the pale and totally inappropriate.  Disagreement is welcome here, but mean spiritedness is out of place.

Alan Mitchell,

perhaps you have a better take on how and why we moved from a post on the evil of abortion and the spread of a throw away culture to a series of unrelated citations from Evangelli Gaudium (that it turns out were transcribed unacknowledged from a different website) to a long and unrelated reflection on Humanae Vitae -- never mentioned by Pope Francis in the talk which was the object of my post.

Fr. Imbelli,

I am in full agreement with you on the evil of abortion, so in respondinghere I want to be clear that that is not the issue.  You now as well as I do that the internet is not the best way to engge in conversation since rhe medium is so imperfect.   What strikes someone posting  as relevant and germaine may be more fluid than what that person originally intended.  Conversations on the internet move in a variety of directions. It is the nature of the beast  But it is one thing to try in a polite way to re-direct the thread and quite another to assume that one knows every intention of someone posting a response.  Charity demands that we offer the benefit of the doubt.  The integrity of your oriinal post stands regardless of the responses to it, so why the defensiveness?  We are all in a conversation here trying to figure things out.  Bill deHass has been a valuable contributor to this blog.  Should not that have earned him some basic respect and an engaging response about what he thinks?  

Alan Mitchell,

Thank you for your response. It might be more accurate to say that you are in full agreement with Pope Francis on the evil of abortion.

But note that the post suggested that Pope Francis was making an interesting connection between abortion and the social inequities that this blog tends to highlight. Hence his "consistent ethic."

However, I fail to see any "defensiveness" in pointing out the irrelevance of the detour into Humanae Vitae. Indeed, it would have been easier (and perhaps more suitable) simply to delete the comment as being completely ungermane.

Father Imbellii,

I grant your qualification and I do not doubt that Pope Francis has a consistent ethic on this point.  In fact, I welcome his consistent ethic.  You will not grant my point about defensiveness, and so I will not pursue it.   You have won your argument and I hope you have the satisfaction you have sought, but I still think that Bill deHass has been treated unfairly on this post.  That is a conversation for you and Fr. Komonchak to have with him.  

Prof. Mitchell:  

In my comments I used the following phrases: "I read"; "It struck me"; "seemed to me".  If my impressions were mistaken, I would be glad to be corrected.

Father Imbelli:

The passage you quoted,

"At times our media culture and some intellectual circles convey a marked skepticism with regard to the Church's message, along with a certain cynicism. As a consequence, many pastoral workers, though they pray, develop a sort of inferiority complex which leads them to relativize or conceal their Christian identity...They end up stifling the joy of mission with a kind of obsession about being like everyone else and possessing what everyone else possesses. Their work of evangelization thus becomes forced, and they devote little energy and very limited time to it."

made me think, "Why hasn't anyone said this before?".  An entire book could be spent elucidating that paragraph.  Thank you for sharing it.

I can't speak for Bill, but perhaps the mention of Humanae Vitae and the dissent it aroused among so many was meant to speak to this bit you quote in the post ...

"At times our media culture and some intellectual circles convey a marked skepticism with regard to the Church's message, along with a certain cynicism .... they end up stifling the joy of mission with a kind of obsession about being like everyone else ..."

The point of my own comment avout dissent and Himanae Vitae was that not all dissent to church teaching is cyncal not does it spring from a desire to be like everyone else. 

Sad - on Passion Sunday to experience this at a remarkable site such as dotCommonweal in terms of openness, discussion, listening to each other.  To use the metaphor of Passion Sunday, guess the blogoshpere can be like the journey of Jesus and the people towards Jerusalem.  Some cried out in joy; others were apprehensive; some cheered; other jeered. Some stayed silent and plodded behind closed doors.  Blogs are like journeys (verbal) and as Prof. Mitchell described well, comments can have a life of their own; tangents; etc.  Probably not  unlike the reaction of many in the crowds that welcomed Christ to Jerusalem.  So, wondered at the tone, assumptions, and judgments (hijacked, really?)....how unfortunate.

Appears to be some confusion.....my initial comment was only meant to broaden the focus......pro-life groups (in general and around the world) was my point of reference).  Yes, Francis' full pronouncement referenced abortion specifically  but, again, was trying to respond to my experience of some pro-life groups and also what I have heard the bishop of Rome state in the first year of his papacy.

Have spent my life in jobs, volunteer positions, boards, organizing events to support the consistent ethic of life.  That being said, was attempting to interject that, in my experience, too many folks in pro-life groups are quick to judge; quick to push anti-abortion but when real situations and events rise up (single parents; unwanted pregnancies; poor folks who lack medical insurance or even the money necessary to raise families; etc.) there is little to no reach out; no focus on going out to the peripheries; to go on mission - rather, what I experience is an ideology rather than a consistent ethic of life which starts with the dignity of the person; starts with listening and supporting (before judging). 

And, yes, inserting birth control and HV was beyond what Francis stated but most pro-life groups also tout birth control in much the same manner - judgmental; ideological; closed to the reality of the poor, the disadvantaged, those who need the church's support.  And like the bishop of Rome - to always talk about abortion can often get in the way of our encounter with Christ and Christ in others. 

The line *from conception to death* is consistent - but to those of us who work in direct service to the needy, the economically disadvantaged; those with little income or family support, *conception* is not black and white. And many bishops and catholic hospitals have implemented policies that recognize this reality.  So, guess the reaction was a surprise.

Suggest this article that highlights the words of Francis on Passion Sunday:  http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-francisco-francis-33462/

Highlights (another Jesuit method from Ignatius of Loyola himself, finding yourself as a character in a gospel story):

- “It would do us good to ask ourselves one question: Who am I before the Lord, who am I before Jesus who enters a Jerusalem during a time of celebration? Am I able to express my joy and shout it to the world or do I take my distance? Who am I before the suffering Jesus? We have heard so many names. The group of leaders, the Pharisees, experts in the law who decided to kill him and were waiting for the opportune moment to get him. Am I one of them?” the Pope asked. 

“Am I like Pontius Pilate who walks away from his responsibilities when the situation gets tough, allowing others to be sentenced or sentencing people?” Francis went on to ask. “Or am I like the crowd of people who weren’t quite sure whether they were at a religious gathering, a trial or a circus and chose Barabas because to them it was the same; it was all the more fun because they could humiliate Jesus. Am I like the soldiers who beat Jesus, spit at him, insult him and enjoy humiliating the Lord?” 

 

Mr. de Haas:   You have described what I thought and said I thought you were doing. The only word in my comment that I apologize for is the verb "high-jack"; I should have been content with "divert."

I am usually interested in both Bill and Joe's comments, and I don't understand this quarrel. 

“Just as the commandment 'Thou shall not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shall not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills .... Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 53). And in this way life, too, ends up being thrown away.

I don't think this is self-evident to many Americans.  If I stood up at the ambo on Friday (which is when I am scheduled to preach next) and read this passage, I expect that I'd get a lot of puzzled looks, as to say: what does this have to do with us?  And probably some angry looks, as all of us participate in the economy to one extent or another, and in my community, we're more accustomed to think of it, not only a necessary thing but also a vehicle for doing good and a source of many blessings in our lives.

To put it as plainly as possible: I don't think most Americans perceive that the American economy kills.  Is this "throw away culture" language in reference to the substandard wages and dangerous working conditions that are more prevalent in the developing world than in a place like the US?

 

It seems to me that the issue is diversion or changing the topic in some way, if you will.  I find that in the most interesting  conversations the original topic is 1) illuminated by looking more closely at its parts, and analysing them and their inter-relationships, and 2) relating the original topic to wider topics, say to  analogous subjects or to historical events.  Both seem to be natural movements in blogs.  I think that Bill's post made the second sort of movement.

@Jim Pauwels:

Your post reminds me of another gem from Pope Francis, from his homily at Lampedusa mass:

"The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business."

I hope you're wrong about your parishioners, although I suspect you may be right, especially if your parish is located in one of the more affluent areas of the country...

JP - here is an excellent example that underlines what Francis said:

http://ncronline.org/news/politics/health-care-must-protect-everyone-born-and-unborn-say-bishops

For those of us who were on the frontlines of implementing the PPACA so that the right to insurance for all could be assured and also for those of us who have had to push governors who have refused to expand Medicaid.....this is a welcome episcopal example of what the Pope said.

Jim Pauweis,

there is no need to tell you that some subjects lend themselves to homilies and others require a different context to be done justice to.

Has your parish had sessions devoted to Evangelii Gaudium in which space is provided for some in- depth discussion? A chapter a week for five weeks would work nicely for post Easter reflection.

Re:  Bill deHass, 2:34 pm

“ … too many folks in pro-life groups are quick to judge; quick to push anti-abortion but when real situations and events rise up (single parents; unwanted pregnancies; poor folks who lack medical insurance or even the money necessary to raise families; etc.) there is little to no reach out; no focus on going out to the peripheries; to go on mission - rather, what I experience is an ideology rather than a consistent ethic of life which starts with the dignity of the person; starts with listening and supporting (before judging).

“ … most pro-life groups also tout birth control in much the same manner - judgmental; ideological; closed to the reality of the poor, the disadvantaged, those who need the church's support.  …”

 

See  “The Lazy Slander of the Pro-Life Cause”  by  Helen Alvaré, Greg Pfundstein, Matthew Schmitz and Ryan T. Anderson, 1/17/11,  The Public Discourse 

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/01/2380/

I wonder if Pope Francis had human trafficking and prostitution in mind. These are instances when a human being is a consumer good, bought and sold, and these evils are made easier because of desperate poverty.

In an extended sense, the economy treats human persons as expendable commodities when it does not allow them to earn a living wage or to work in reasonably safe conditions. I am thinking of the sub-human conditions that some workers endure, such as some of our undocumented migrant workers and also the sweatshops in India and China, not to mention the reports we read of workers lured to jobs in faraway lands, like Dubai, and then not paid at all. These are surely instances of economic exploitation which treat the human person as an expendable commodity. It doesn't quite fit the "throwaway culture" tag, but it is another instance of holding life cheap in order to make a profit. 

Responding to Michael Kelly's commnet and the article he linked to ...

Crisis Pregnancy Clinics run by conservative Christian pro-life groups are not exactly what I think of as examples of helping women.  Here's a bit from the  wikipedia article, with a relevant link below (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crisis_pregnancy_center)  ...

"CPCs that qualify as medical clinics may also provide pregnancy testing, sonograms, and other services; however, the vast majority are not licensed and provide no medical services.[1] CPCs have been reported to disseminate false medical information, usually but not exclusively about the supposed physical and mental health risks of abortion"

[1] "False And Misleading Health Information Provided By Federally Funded Pregnancy Resource Centers" ... US House of Representatives ...  http://www.chsourcebook.com/articles/waxman2.pdf 

@Rita Ferrone,

And all the instances you cite are related -- either directly or indirectly thanks to globalization --  to the American economy.

Which is to say those evils happen and exist not just in faraway lands, but also, here and now, just the same.

I don't think it would be unreasonable to say the American economy "kills," both by design and benign (or pernaps not so benign) neglect, and who knows what else. 

There were some nice quotes from 60 minutes the other day by Robert Mickens(@The Tablet) that said: Any Christian... whatever you are, right, left, center... if you're not challenged by Pope Francis... you're not listening.

Kind of like what Father Imbelli said earlier: The beauty of "explosions" is that they consistently and indiscriminately unsettle.

With both, I agree wholeheartedly.

Maria - thanks for that quote from the Pope's Lampedusa homily.  I have to say I agree with his diagnosis of a "globalization of indifference".  I've commented here in the past: whereas, in earlier centuries, people became wealthy via the labor of the poor, nowadays it is possible to become wealthy with the poor in this country being pretty much irrelevant to the process.  When the poor have become extraneous, that is a fundamental problem. 

As for my parishioners: by the measure of this part of the country, we are largely middle-class, with some richer and some poorer.  By the measure of the developing world, we probably seem exceedingly well-off.  Our parishioners are not blind and deaf to the needs of those in our community.  We have a food pantry, and we serve meals to those in need, we have a prison ministry, and help those in need in a number of other ways.  Our parish community strives to live the Gospel.  It's humbling to be part of it.

Even so, as I say, I think it's not self-evident to us that *the economy* is killing.  I rather think the attitude and approach of those in our community is more likely to be that the economy can be a source of sustenance, and we would like to have as many people as possible partake of its blessings.

 

Rita Ferrone, and all the instances you cite are related -- either directly or indirectly thanks to globalization --  to the American economy.  Which is to say those evils happen and exist not just in faraway lands, but also, here and now, just the same.

I am not ready to conclude that yet.

Rita cited three types of exploitation:

  • Prostitution and sex trafficking
  • Exploitation of undocumented workers in the US
  • Exploitation of workers in the developing world

I would argue that prostitution and sex trafficking are not integral to the American economy, and in fact have existed in all cultures, all economies, all geographies and all historical eras.  It is, famously, the "world's oldest profession".  Certainly, prostitution and sex trafficking is a terrible problem.  But I have to say that it's not evident to me that it is a primarily *economic* problem.  In the US, many prostitutes are teens who are on the streets because they have run away from home.  Why do teens become severed from their families?  That, I think, is a very complex topic, in which the economy might be one contributing, indirect cause, but far from the only one and possibly not the most important one.

If we look at root causes of the exploitation of undocumented workers in the US, we would need to agree that part of it surely is economic: when easily exploitable workers are available in large numbers, it is inevitable that they will be exploited.  Yet if we ask, "why are so many undocumented workers present in the US?" we are once again in the midst of a very complex discussion, in which the US economy is only one of many contributing factors.  The bishops have argued, persuasively, that ultimately what is necessary is that conditions of justice, equity and prosperity need to become rooted in the homelands of our undocumented immigrants.  Perhaps there are some things the US can contribute to bringing that about.  But to claim, 'it's the US economy's fault' seems less than convincing.

Regarding sweatshop conditions in Asia and elsewhere in the developing world: I agree that the US economy is among those that benefit from them.  The solution, it seems to me, is not for US economic entities to disengage, but rather for more just and equitable working conditions to be brought about in those places.  India and China have become astonishingly more prosperous by providing a large pool of inexpensive, reliable and skilled labor to the world economy.  Let's augment those blessings by making that work better-paid, safer and more fair.

 

Bill - I agree that Medicaid gaps are fruits of an 'economy of exclusion', and even that it kills. 

Rita - to the examples you cited, I might add the manufacture of weapons in the US.  That is something in which all of us are implicated to one degree or another via our military spending, and when those weapons end up in the hands of war lords, terrorists and despots, it's difficult to argue that our economy isn't, quite literally, killing.

Thanks to all for your contributions to this conversation - it's been thought-provoking for me.

Thanks, Rita, JP, and Crystal.  Am a big proponent of CCHD but find too many dioceses/bishops who question its spending (based upon a narrow understanding of the consistent ethic of life and then you have the reality that almost every parish in a diocese has some form of a pro-life committee that may or may not do what you outline above.

Michael Kelly - with no desire to *divert* this post any further, here is another slant on what you cite:

http://medschool.wustl.edu/news/patient_care/Contraceptive_Choice

In addition, what you cite is US focused only.....when you move to the third world, your findings fall apart.  You might want to review the recent reproduction law passed by the Filipino government and the response of their catholic episcopal conference.

Thanks Jim P. Just to clarify one point...

Human trafficking includes not only the sex trade but also forced labor, debt bondage, extraction of organs, and a whole raft of atrocious violations of human dignity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking

I totally agree that arms sales are causes of death linked to profit.

If I may add to the litany one more way that economic systems can kill: by accelerating the destruction of the environment. Yes, indeed, the cheap consumer goods that Americans buy because companies locate their factories where environmental standards are low, blow back, literally, waves of pollution. I don't need to catalogue the respiratory illnesses and water safety disasters and all the rest. And what of the mafia burying toxic wastes around Naples, for money? This sort of thing is already killing people or hastening their deaths. 

Maria,

I think it's terribly important to take responsibility for the sins of our own, close-to-home, American economic system. I also believe that globalization means we do influence the world, greatly. 

However, I don't believe we have cornered the market on killing by economic exploitation by any means. China or North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and so on, have different systems from ours but still fall under the Pope's critique that an economy can kill. 

Jim P. ==

Yes, too often we forget that there are perhaps billions of people  in India and China who now survive and even survive rather well because of globalization.  Yes, the inequities of the current capitalist system are huge, but the system, faulty as it is, has produced extraordinary gains in many, many third-worldd countries.  Bill Gates said recently that it is possible now to eliminate poverty in the whole world by 2050 if we have the will.

But as I see it we lack the economic theory to guide us to a fair system.  Economists of the conservative stripe do not know what to make of what h happened in 2008 -- or rather, what has NOt happened since 2008.  According to current conservative economic theory (Adam Smith's kind) when a market doesn't work correctly it will automatically correct itself because of internal pressures.  But that has not happened since 2008, and many economists even seem unable to face the facts.  Why?  Because their old economic theory doesn't tell them what we should do when the market fails.  Because businessmen are usually economic conservatives they too are at a loss to know what to do, and so they do  nothing, and the economy stagnates, with only a small increase in activity each year.  

Marx said that there is nothing so practical as a good theory, and he was right that time.  It seems that there are now some younger economists trying to figure out how to correct the 2008 problems, and some of them are studying the inequality of the current system as a possible cause of our economic dysfunction with all its associated pain.  Let's pray that the new Adam Smith emerges soon.  He/she's needed desperately.  

Jim P. wrote above: "Certainly, prostitution and sex trafficking is a terrible problem.  But I have to say that it's not evident to me that it is a primarily *economic* problem."

I just googled "Sold into Prostitution" and it got 5,100,000 hits. A quick look at the first dozen stories, from all over the globe, show that girls and women are being bought and sold, quite literally, into slavery, to make money for other people through the sex trade. The money is primary. 

Rita - you're right; it's a corrosively moneymaking scheme.  I don't wish to dismiss the severity of the problem nor the economic aspects of it.   

I think it's terribly important to take responsibility for the sins of our own, close-to-home, American economic system. 

 

I completely agree and on the sex trade, I confess to being shocked to learn that sex trafficking has been occurring in my own community, It is an international issue involving a port in Minnesota as well. The root cause, is again, economic.

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/native-canadian-women-sold-on-...

However, Picard said some of the reasons First Nations women are vulnerable to sex trafficking are all too familiar in indigenous communites.

"The reason that indigenous women and girls are sometimes trafficked has to do with all of these ongoing issues like poverty," she said. "Another one of the large risk factors for indigenous women and girls is the lack of housing ... women will sometimes engage in survival sex, not of their choice, in order to have somewhere to live."

Picard said the ONWA hopes to work with organizations in Minnesota and Manitoba to learn more about the cross-border sex trade, and explore ways of keeping indigenous women and their children safe.

Rita Ferrone @11:45 am

"I don't believe we have cornered the market on killing by economic exploitation by any means." 

I believe we are in agreement, for I don't think that either. What I meant -- and I read your post as saying the same thing, generally speaking -- was that we are neither blameless nor much better than the other countries named in this thread.