Pope calls for 'God-centered' global economy

Pope Benedict XVI today called for reforming the United Nations and establishing a "true world political authority" with "real teeth" to manage the global economy with God-centered ethics.

In his third encyclical, a major teaching, released as the G-8 summit begins in Italy, the pope says such an authority is urgently needed to end the current worldwide financial crisis. It should "revive" damaged economies, reach toward "disarmament, food security and peace," protect the environment and "regulate migration."

Benedict writes, "The market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak."

The encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) is a theologically dense explication of Catholic social teaching that draws heavily from earlier popes, particularly PaulVI's critique of capitalism 42 years ago. And echoing his predecessor John Paul II, Benedict says, "every economic decision has a moral consequence."

Issued days before his Friday meeting with President Obama, the pope's views here are "to the left of Obama in terms of economic policy," particularly in calls for redistribution of wealth, says political scientist Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The encyclical also echoes Benedict's many speeches, saying that to reach sound a global economy every responsibility and commitment must be rooted in the values of Christian truth.

Without that, he says, "there is no social conscience and responsibility." Neither, he says, are mere "good sentiments" enough. Human progress requires God, and today's choices concern "nothing less than the destiny of man."

Although Benedict says the church has no "technical solutions to offer," he asserts that religion has a role in the public square. His very specific suggestions on the economy, ecology and justice are addressed not just to Catholics, but to everyone, from heads of state to household shoppers.

According to the encyclical:

•Labor must be safeguarded after years of rampant market forces leaving citizens powerless in the face of "new and old risks" and without effective trade union protections.

•Elimination of world hunger is essential for "safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet," and the problem is not resources but their inequitable distribution.

•"Demographic control" through an "anti-birth mentality" that promotes abortion and birth control "cannot lead to morally sound development." He blasts those who support abortion "as if it were a form of cultural progress."

•The environment is "God's gift to everyone" and we have a "grave duty to hand the earth on to future generations" in good condition, says Benedict. He laments, "how many natural resources are squandered by wars!"

•"Financiers must rediscover" ethics and not use "sophisticated instruments" to "betray the interests of savers."

•Consumers, must "realize that purchasing is always a moral — and not simple economic — act." In this context, the ecological crisis is seen as a crisis in human ecology.

"The pope is saying you need just structures and people who act justly," says Steve Colecchi, director of the office of international justice and peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "He's calling on every level of society to be rooted in an ethical vision of the human person."

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