A BRIEF COMMENTARY
Some people are disturbed by Pope’s Benedict’s use of the term “redistribution of wealth” in his latest Message for World Day of Peace. Every year in December the Pope issues a message, not an Encyclical, not an Allocution, not a papal document that carries any degree of infallibility; it is simply a message to the whole world for the World Day of Peace that is celebrated on January 1st every year. Here is a list of the titles of the Pope’s last six messages for the World Day of Peace:
45th World Day of Peace 2012, Educating Young People in Justice and Peace
44th World Day of Peace 2011, Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace
43rd World Day of Peace 2010, If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation
42nd World Day of Peace 2009, Fighting Poverty to Build Peace
41st World Day of Peace 2008, The Human Family, a Community of Peace
40th World Day of Peace 2007, The Human Person, the Heart of Peace
It is important to note that this year’s Message is devoted to educating young people in justice and peace. It is about education, not primarily economics or world finance although those subjects are considered by the Pope to be important for the education of young people.
Also it is important to note that the Pope’s reference to “redistribution of wealth” occurs, not in the section of justice, but in the section on peace. We here in the United States have been polarized by Barack Hussein Obama’s blatant response to Joe the Plumber in 2008 that one of Obama’s goals is the redistribution of wealth through taxation. He has lived up to his promise and has never ceased to push for taxing the wealthy (including the middle class) in order to pay for his ever expanding entitlement programs. I am sure that he considers it one of his accomplishments that there are now 46,000,000 Americans living on food stamps. That and similar entitlement programs are only possible if he taxes those who have money in order to give more to those who have less money.
Pope Benedict is not writing in the context of taxing more those who have money; he is writing in the context of the Church’s teaching as set forth in all of the great social encyclicals beginning with Pope Leo XIII and continuing down through Blessed Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict is not writing about taxing the rich to help the poor but rather he and the other Popes call for the construction of “mechanisms” in our global economy that help bring about a better distribution of wealth between the nations of the First World and the nations of the Second and Third Worlds.
The Pope is very conscious of the fact that in nations of the First World (America and Europe) annual family income for a poor family is measured in tens of thousands of dollars while the annual family income for a poor family in the Third World is frequently measured in hundreds of dollars.
So, Pope Benedict is calling for the youth of the world to be educated in justice so that there may be a greater degree of insurance for peace in the future. Otherwise, revolutions and wars will be inevitable.
Here are the pertinent sections of Pope Benedict’s Message for the World Day of Peace, 2112:
Educating in justice
4. In this world of ours, in which, despite the profession of good intentions, the value of the person, of human dignity and human rights is seriously threatened by the widespread tendency to have recourse exclusively to the criteria of utility, profit and material possessions, it is important not to detach the concept of justice from its transcendent roots. Justice, indeed, is not simply a human convention, since what is just is ultimately determined not by positive law, but by the profound identity of the human being. It is the integral vision of man that saves us from falling into a contractual conception of justice and enables us to locate justice within the horizon of solidarity and love(6).
We cannot ignore the fact that some currents of modern culture, built upon rationalist and individualist economic principles, have cut off the concept of justice from its transcendent roots, detaching it from charity and solidarity: “The ‘earthly city’ is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God’s love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world”(7).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:6). They shall be satisfied because they hunger and thirst for right relations with God, with themselves, with their brothers and sisters, and with the whole of creation.
Educating in peace
5. “Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity.”8 We Christians believe that Christ is our true peace: in him, by his Cross, God has reconciled the world to himself and has broken down the walls of division that separated us from one another (cf. Eph 2:14-18); in him, there is but one family, reconciled in love.
Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”, as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:9). (emphasis added)
Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice, according to one’s particular areas of competence and responsibility. To the young, who have such a strong attachment to ideals, I extend a particular invitation to be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide.
Do not say that human life begins at “fertilization”, or at “implantation”.
Here is a simple and more accurate definition of when human life begins:
Human life normally begins at conception, that is, when a cell with 46 chromosomes
begins to divide, begins to become a zygote.