Benedict: Carefully Directed Globalization Can Benefit Human Development

Center of Concern | Wed, Jul 15, 2009

By Justin Bartkus
Pope Benedict is calls a positive harnessing of the potential within globalization and a globalization with a human face, in which the human dignity of each individual retains primacy of place in any ethical, political or economic deliberation on globalization.

Until the release of Caritas in Veritate (CV), a robust Catholic treatment of globalization had been sorely lacking.  Recognizing this, the Pope assigned the phenomenon of globalization a place of great thematic importance in the encyclical, calling it the “principal new feature” affecting human development in our time.  His comprehensive treatment of the various consequences of globalization, however, is built on his predecessor, John Paul II’s, claim that globalization is a morally ambiguous phenomenon, in itself neither good nor bad, but which carries instrumental potential for both good and evil.  As John Paul II noted, “Globalization will be what people make of it.”

On the positive side, the dynamics of globalization hold great possibilities for cultural exchange, mutually enriching relationships, and an increased awareness of the human dignity bestowed upon all humanity by its Creator.  But on the negative side, we have witnessed several of the destructive effects of globalization: an increasing disparity between rich and poor, the violence done to cultures, the threat to the environment, and the proliferation and distribution of nuclear weapons.  Just as humanity has the limitless ability to develop harmony and cooperation, so has it demonstrated its willingness to take steps towards its own destruction.  Globalization has created an opportunity and provided a stage for this drama to be played out before us all.  In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict recognizes the opportunities within certain aspects of globalization and states:

Globalization has been the principal driving force behind the emergence from underdevelopment of whole regions, and in itself it represents a great opportunity.  Nevertheless, without the guidance of charity in truth, this global force could cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family.  Hence charity and truth confront us with an altogether new and creative challenge, one that is certainly vast and complex.  It is about broadening the scope of reason and making it capable of knowing and directing these powerful new forces, animating them within the perspective of that “civilization of love” whose seed God has planted in every people, in every culture. (CV #33)

What Pope Benedict is calling for is a positive harnessing of the potential within globalization and a globalization with a human face, in which the human dignity of each individual retains primacy of place in any ethical, political or economic deliberation on globalization.  Benedict notes:

Sometimes globalization is viewed in fatalistic terms, as if the dynamics involved were the product of anonymous impersonal forces or structures independent of the human will.  In this regard it is useful to remember that while globalization should certainly be understood as a socio-economic process, this is not its only dimension. Underneath the more visible process, humanity itself is becoming increasingly interconnected; it is made up of individuals and peoples to whom this process should offer benefits and development, as they assume their respective responsibilities, singly and collectively. (CV #42)

Benedict stresses that the process of globalization should benefit, not harm, human persons and promote the common good through integral human development.  The importance of each individual’s acceptance of his or her responsibility (and indeed, vocation) and each society’s responsibility to promote human development is stressed by Benedict.  Personal repentance and conversion, the deepening of one’s spiritual life, and the opening up in our consciousness of the transcendent horizon which reveals the destiny of the human race are the first steps toward development.  If these spiritual aspects of our own development are neglected, how can we be open to the caritas which Benedict calls “an extraordinary force” and the heart of all the Church’s social doctrine?  Charity demands and requires striving towards the common good.  It is the animating principle of all relationships of solidarity – especially those in the economic sphere where mutual trust and credibility are indispensible.  Caritas guided by veritas is the sine qua non of all efforts towards justice, and the powerful force which must guide the dynamics of globalization.