Friday, 31 December 2010

Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture 2010 (2): more analysis

I promised some time ago that I would post a more analytical commment on the 2010 Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture, when a full text was  available. The text has been published on the Tablet website, and I have been prompted to keep my promise by the reference to Haiti in Pope Benedict XVI's Urbi et Orbi address:
May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic.
The first point that can be made about Claudette Werleigh's lecture is what one might call a methodological point. She presents an account of the situation in Haiti, and then applies to that account by way of comment the thought of the magisterium of the Church through citation, for example, of Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio or Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

A second key point in the lecture is the idea of "human flourishing", and the application of this idea in evaluating engagement with the disasters of earthquake and cholera in Haiti. Claudette Werleigh refers in particular to a paper by Celia Deane-Drummond to express this idea, but I have not been able to find the text of this paper. I believe that it was one of a number of background papers written to support the publication of the Theos/CAFOD/Tearfund document Wholly Living: a new perspective on international development. Chapter 3 of this publication develops something of the idea of "human flourishing", recognising its religious roots in an idea of man being made in the "image and likeness of God" but also indicating that it is an idea that is not restricted to Christians. I find the philosophical development of this idea in Wholly Living rather weak, though it can I believe be developed much more strongly within the context of a philosophy of the human person. In the context of Wholly Living and of the Paul VI Lecture, it is the application of this idea in the context of international development that is the primary interest, but I think it is nevertheless useful, even in this context, to develop the concept more fully. The application of the idea to just climate change and economic matters, whilst it might be politically attractive to an agency like CAFOD, is a restricted application. A fuller development of the idea of "human flourishing" would allow its application to a much wider range of questions, less directly relevant politically, but nevertheless relevant to international development in its full sense.

The third point of interest in the lecture lies in what Claudette Werleigh has to say about the part played by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's) in the response to events in Haiti. Her remarks about the way in which NGO's have become almost an alternative to national sovereignty in Haiti are of interest. In one sense this represents an argument in favour of the partnership working - ie the idea that international development activity should be undertaken by supporting the work of local people in situ rather than by the bringing in of outside agencies - that has become an accepted practice in the work of aid agencies. In another way, it suggests a way of working for an international ecclesial organisation such as the Catholic Church, which of its nature is already in place in a country like Haiti. It also represents a critique of the way of operating of organisations such as the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund in their relation to NGO activity.

It is interesting to see, if the suggestions of Claudette Werleigh's citations of Paul VI and Benedict XVI are anything to go by, how prophetic Catholic social teaching is in its application to situations such as that in Haiti.

A final thought. At the beginning of her lecture, Claudette Werleigh recalled the founding charisms of both CAFOD and the organisation which she now leads, Pax Christi:
Today’s event is part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Cafod. I was very pleased to learn that CAFOD holds its roots in Family Fast Day, an event organised by women in support of a mother and child clinic in a far away country in another continent. Coincidentally, it was also a woman, Marthe Dortel-Claudot, who together with Pierre-Marie Théas, Bishop of Montauban, took the initiative to work for reconciliation between France and Germany. This initiative for peace is still being honoured and carried forward by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world as the Pax Christi movement.

Cafod and the organisation that I represent today, Pax Christi International, are determined to keep alive the legacy of Pope Paul VI. There is no doubt that we would be living now in a much better world if the recommendations given in the Encyclical letter, Populorum Progressio, had been put into practice!

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