Manila Bulletin - 17/07/2009

More to the Point

The new Encyclical

by Florangel Rosario Braid

published in Manila Bulletin, on July 17, 2009

In the new Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, he singled out the Economy of Communion (EoC) as a means by which we are able to achieve the objectives of a new economic order. Development, he states, is a necessary condition for peace, but what is needed today is a communion of goods, and solidarity among peoples. He cites the recent wars and terrorism as examples of the unsustainability of the capitalistic system which continues to produce growing inequality. The “Economy of Communion”, an economic philosophy of the Focolare Movement (which was introduced in the Philippines in 1966), responds to a need for an alternative to excessive capitalism and reliance on the market. According to the encyclical, because of the emphasis on the market and its instruments such as competition, incentives and schemed contracts, “life has become less good since other principles of communal life such as gift and reciprocity become marginalized.”

Those seeking for the Church’s insights and answers to the questions facing the developed and the developing world as a consequence of globalization would find them in the recent encyclical. Here, the Pope also points out the challenges and dangers  posed by current development practices such as -  distortions of development where financial dealing is largely speculative; the migration of peoples “often provoked and insufficiently attended to”; the unregulated exploitation of the earth’s resources, profit as an exclusive goal without the common good as its ultimate end’ the increasing inequalities amidst the growth in wealth; presence of corruption in both rich and poor countries; lack of respect for rights of workers especially by the multinationals; diversion of international aid from its intended purpose; excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in health care, among others.

The first concern draws from the lesson learned during the recent economic crisis brought about by an unregulated market. The last issue is particularly relevant in the light of the exponential explosion in the growth of information, and the need to democratize new knowledge for the benefit of the poor.

The encyclical notes positive developments such as a re-evaluation of the role of the State and recognition of civil society as a partner and giving it greater participation. It further notes that during this crisis, there is need to re-focus on traditional principles such as transparency, honesty, and responsibility. It calls for a new way of looking at the poor – that they must be considered as a resource rather than a burden to the State.

Love, the encyclical notes, inspires reciprocity and solidarity which is fundamental in the spiritual and the communitarian life, as well as in all economic and political endeavors.

Two organizations in the country which practice the Economy of Communion are the “Bukas Palad” (Open Hands) Foundation which works with the poor in the areas of livelihood, health education, housing and community development; and the Asia Pacific Circulation Exponents (APCE) which distributes international business magazine and newspapers. A number of Filipino businesses are part of over 800 companies worldwide which are guided by the Economy of Communion.

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