Friday, January 27, 2006

The Word on the Encyclical...

John Allen's Word from Rome, i.e. Lots of neat background stuff. Also a fascinating account of the conference held just prior to the release of the Encyclical by the Pontifical council, Cor Unum. An interesting repartee between James Wolfensoh, former president of the World Bank and the Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, on the role of bodies like the IMF and the Bank. But the most fascinating thing was this neat exchange between the Archbishop of Tehran and the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago.
Archbishop Ramzi Garmou, the Archbishop of Tehran in Iran, said during the question and answer period that he felt the conference "has not tried sufficiently to define the causes underlying inhuman situations of poverty." One such cause, he said, "is the policies of countries with economic, military, and scientific power, seeking to impose their priorities on others to protect their selfish and illegal interests."

Though Garmou was not specific, the reference to the United States seemed clear.

"What kind of appeal," he asked, "can we launch?"

In response, George said the question "from my brother in Iran" was "profoundly important for me as a citizen of the United States," and vowed that he would take it home.

"I will try to tell my fellow Americans how the world resents us, not because we are rich and free, but because too often we're deaf and blind," George said. "We find it difficult to break out of our own world, to place ourselves in the position of another, and to be available in such a way that we can be changed," he said.

"Many Americans recognize the truth of this, and we are working," he said. "It's not enough, it's not even a majority, but the possibility of redemption is there."

Yet George went on to nuance his response.

"An adequate analysis is also necessary about the sources of injustice in the world," he said. "We are all agents in some sense. No one is simply a victim, and no one is simply an actor."

George cited the growing conversations between bishops of the United States and Latin America as an example of fruitful exchange.

"The bishops of Latin America recognize that corruption and a history of authoritarian government in their own culture is also responsible in part for poverty and injustice," he said.

"All of us are called beyond resentment, some of it justified, towards the love that the pope speaks of in his new encyclical," he said.

Speaking directly to Garmou, George said, "I have to hear you, and I will say it in the United States. But if the United States ceased to exist tomorrow, there would still be poverty and injustice in Iran. We need a more ample conversation born in mutual trust and mutual love."
You go George! Called beyond resentment. I really don't know all the remarks that Archbishop Garmou said, but I've heard similar sentiments all the time in India, this claiming of victimhood because of colonialism, which justifies every current mess, and condones the status quo, which, of course, tends to benefit only those with access to power.

Not that there isn't some substance to such a critique of the United States. Yet, maybe the good Archbishop should also tell the president of his country to stop denying the Holocaust, wishing for the disappearance of Israel, and destabilizing the whole region by pursuing the bomb?

[A complete aside, that these remarks brought to mind: an essay in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, "David's Friend Goliath"
The rest of the world complains that American hegemony is reckless, arrogant, and insensitive. Just don’t expect them to do anything about it. The world’s guilty secret is that it enjoys the security and stability the United States provides. The world won’t admit it, but they will miss the American empire when it’s gone.
Haven't read the whole thing, so don't know which direction its going. But it should be interesting.]

[Cardinal George is indeed among the most brilliant figures in the US hierarchy. He's in hospital right now -- not a stroke, but they're monitoring him. Prayers will help!]

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