Theological Analysis

A main component of Catholic Social Thought is the Universal Destination of Goods. This theme is rooted in the belief that God created the Earth and gave it to the “whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone” (15). This idea of using God-given goods for the betterment of all members originates in Matthew. He writes, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (16). This admonition to store up treasures in heaven and not on earth reiterates the idea of the Universal Destination of Goods.

The goal of the G20 is to provide informal negotiations between developed countries on policies and procedures to reform and eradicate poverty in emerging markets and developing countries (17). Their attempts of reform are done with the best interests in mind yet from a Catholic Social Thought perspective; those interests are not the most effective way to disseminate poverty.

Many theologians disagree with these policies due to different ideas on the definition of wealth. The main distinction between the two points of view is that the economic view of wealth is the acquisition of materials for the betterment of the individual self and catholic wealth is the acquisition of materials for the betterment of society via the common good and a means to an end. Catholic wealth is meant to “promote human flourishing” and when this is done in accordance with the common good, it will “be a means to a legitimate end” (18). This idea of catholic wealth is one which strives to achieve the best result for all involved while respecting the human dignity of every person and their inalienable rights associated within.africa16.jpg

Another difference between economic and Catholic approaches to wealth is the social definition of wealth by scarcity. When viewed in terms of scarcity, “wealth cannot help but harm the common good. Ultimately, wealth is beneficial or harmful mostly as the result of how it is created, how it is distributed, and how it is used” (19). This idea is that wealth as a scarce material inhibits the path towards the common good. A common example of this scarce viewpoint is the benchmark of GDP to measure wealth. China’s emergence over the past decade as a world power with their explosive increase in GDP and their reduction in poverty is seen as a sign of great progress for the G20’s plans and developing nations. Yet Catholic Social Thought views this in a much more negative light. The use of GDP as a yardstick for progress goes against the view of catholic wealth because it does not consider the full human person’s goal for flourishing. Catholic wealth is much more than living wages and income. It is an all-encompassing approach that spans all aspects of human life with respect for human dignity and the common good whereas scarce wealth merely seeks to justify the allocation of limited resources with no regard for well being.

The Universal Destination of Goods views humans as “owners only in the sense that they may possess property, but they possess it contingently and temporarily” (20). It states that humans have a “duty to dispose of it not as they wish personally, but as God wishes” (21). The idea that humans only own the goods to do with them as God demands is contradicted in the economic plans in place by the G20. The G20’s infusion of $750 Billion in funding to the IMF and allowing them to allocate in accordance with their regulations is not rooted in Universal Destination. The dispersion of these resources through the plans put forth by the G20 and IMF creates a “disorder in the relationship between persons and their true nature, between persons and the community in which they live, and between persons and creation” (22). This disorder spurs from the logic of a true gift. In Catholic Social Thought, a true gift is “one that preserves the freedom of the other partner” and “sustains relations over time” (23). Only God can give true gifts and therefore any gift that humans bestow on others is not true, but “poisoned”. These poison gifts create the disorder as humans attempt to bestow upon others gifts of resources according to rules set forth by humans and not given by God. The ability of these organizations to act and provide to the countries of need upon their own set of guidelines is an alienation from catholic teaching.
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The G20 is a vehicle for communication between world powers with the goal of aiding developing nations in their struggle to come to power and climb out of poverty. Public policy and lending procedures are created to best alleviate these developing countries from their respective financial dilemmas. The Debt Sustainability Framework (DSF) is an example of policy created to relieve countries’ financial distress with its attempt to create lending options while maintaining individual decision-making. From a catholic perspective, this is a move in the right direction but is still not enough. The DSF tries to maintain national sovereignty and the independence of nations, but is restricted by its funding regulations. The aim for catholic economic thinking is not “income support” but it is to promote “full social participation” (24). The promotion of this full citizenship transcends benchmarks to evaluate progress and realigns the aim on the development of the human person instead of only their economic well-being.

There is a schism in viewpoints between economic theorists in the G20 and Catholic Social Thought. Differences in the definitions of wealth, the terms associated with wealth, and the true aim of poverty reduction contribute to the lively debate between scholars and theologians on how to provide for the developing world. The G20 believes that its policies and procedures best provide for all “hard working families”, yet Catholic Social thought argues that they are only interested in providing income support and not promoting full social participation. With these considerations in mind, it is imperative that effective strategies be made to best alleviate the poverty of Emerging-Market Economies.

Strategies for Social Change

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