At first glance there would appear to be no connection between a Pope and the people of Ukraine rising up against corruption.
In his first major "apostolic exhortation" Pope Francis has focussed on the need for the economy to evolve to serve people.
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Before examining the work, it's perhaps worth looking back to see how this theme has evolved within the Catholic Church
With Caritas in Veritate, his papal encyclical of 2009, it was Pope Benedict who made the call for ethics in our economy, saying:
"Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred."
"This is not merely a matter of a “third sector”, but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society. "
"The strengthening of different types of businesses, especially those capable of viewing profit as a means for achieving the goal of a more humane market and society, must also be pursued in those countries that are excluded or marginalized from the influential circles of the global economy. In these countries it is very important to move ahead with projects based on subsidiarity, suitably planned and managed, aimed at affirming rights yet also providing for the assumption of corresponding responsibilities. In development programmes, the principle of the centrality of the human person, as the subject primarily responsible for development, must be preserved. The principal concern must be to improve the actual living conditions of the people in a given region, thus enabling them to carry out those duties which their poverty does not presently allow them to fulfil. "
It would follow a call from a Catholic priest, Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, the President of the United Nations General Assembly:
“The anti-values of greed, individualism and exclusion should be replaced by solidarity, common good and inclusion. The objective of our economic and social activity should not be the limitless, endless, mindless accumulation of wealth in a profit-centred economy but rather a people-centred economy that guarantees human needs, human rights, and human security, as well as conserves life on earth. These should be universal values that underpin our ethical and moral responsibility.”
Both aligned well with the white paper on people-centered economic development which had said
"We are at the very beginning of a new type of society and civilization, the Information Age. Historically, this is only the third distinct age of civilization. We lived in an agricultural age for thousands of years, which gave way to the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Age during the last three hundred years. The Industrial Age is now giving way to the Information Revolution, which is giving rise to the Information Age. Understanding this, it is appropriate to be concerned with the impact this transition is having and will continue to have on the lives of all of us. In that it is a fundamental predicate of "people-centered" economic development that no person is disposable, it follows that close attention be paid to those in the waning Industrial Age who are not equipped and prepared to take active and productive roles in an Information Age. Many, in fact, are scared, angry, and deeply resentful that they are being left out, ignored, effectively disenfranchised, discarded, thrown away as human flotsam in the name of human and social progress. We have only to ask ourselves individually whether or not this is the sort of progress we want, where we accept consciously and intentionally that human progress allows for disposing of other human beings."
This fundamental predicate of non disposability derives from the core argument from the paper which reasoned that the practice of imagining debt into existence allowed wealth to accumulate in the hands of a minorirty leaving a large number disenfranchised. It would warn that those whose lives were threatened would fight back and do.
One may observe such a struggle today on the streets of Ukraine's capital.
16. Capitalism nevertheless remains the most powerful economic system ever devised. The problem is not with the construct. The problem is with the output of the construct, wherein imaginary constructs – numbers, and currencies represented symbolically by numbers – are left to control real human beings to the material benefit of relatively few people and to the exclusion of many others. Classical capitalism has reached equilibrium in this regard. However, and consequently, many and growing numbers of human beings are excluded in the realm of finite resources hoarded by those most adept with manipulating numbers/currencies.
In 2006, in the strategy paper described as a 'Marshall Plan for Ukraine, this statement will be found in the summmary and conclusions calling on support from US government:
“This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for “people-centered” economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine’s poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a “top-down” approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first — not secondarily, along the way or by the way. “
The children who 'cannot wait' were those disenfranchised and discarded as economic orphans in what had been described as 'Death Camps, For Children'
With his Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis renews the call to acknowledge the primacy of the person, drawing our attention to current challenges:
Drawing attention to exclusion, he writes:
'Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.'
It reflects both the P-CED white paper and what was presented to the international Economics For Ecology conference at Sumy:
"Overall, capitalism was able to produce a much larger middle class of people between rich and poor, and has gained precedence due to making safe and secure life possible for more people. But, it's various methods over the past 100 years left millions of people to suffer and die more indirectly than outright murder. Those people were dismissed as relatively unimportant, mostly left to die from deprivation rather than outright execution. In all systems, some rationale was created to either dismiss people and leave them to die, or, kill people outright. In the end, for the victims, the result was identical.
In that context of disposing of people, by all economic systems, and with capitalism having become predominant, financial profit came to rule the day. Profit, the bottom line, was master of all else. People and the environment we live in were secondary considerations. The vehicle of Western capitalism was, and is, corporations."
Rejecting "a financial system that "rules more than it serves" Pope Francis writes:
'Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.'
With 'Death Camps, For Children' our deceased founder was more direct
"Excuses won't work, particularly in light of a handful of oligarchs in Ukraine having been allowed to loot Ukraine's economy for tens of billions of dollars. I point specifically to Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, and Kuchma, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. These people can single-handedly finance 100% of all that will ever be needed to save Ukraine's orphans. None of them evidently bother to think past their bank accounts, and seem to have at least tacit blessings at this point from the new regime to keep their loot while no one wants to consider Ukraine's death camps, and the widespread poverty that produced them.. "
Some of this looted wealth would pass from Pinchuk to fund Tony Blair's Faith Foundation
In the 'Marshall Plan' we go on to suggest how business could contribute to a social innovation fund.
Pope Francis draws our attention to the connection between poverty and violence:
'Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.'
I quote from a proposal on economic development for Crimea's Tatars, a Muslim community at risk of provocation.
"Once a nation or government puts people in the position of defending their own lives, or that of family and friends, and they all will die if they do nothing about it, at that point all laws, social contracts and covenants end. Laws, social contracts and covenants define civilization. Without them, there is no civilization at all, there is only the law of the jungle: kill, or be killed. This is where we started, tens of thousands of years ago.
By leaving people in poverty, at risk of their lives due to lack of basic living essentials, we have stepped across the boundary of civilization. We have conceded that these people do not matter, are not important. Allowing them to starve to death, freeze to death, die from deprivation, or simply shooting them, is in the end exactly the same thing. Inflicting or allowing poverty on a group of people or an entire country is a formula for disaster.
These points were made to the President of the United States near the end of 1996. They were heard, appreciated and acted upon, but unfortunately, were not able to be addressed fully and quickly due primarily to political inertia. By way of September 11, 2001 attacks on the US out of Afghanistan – on which the US and the former Soviet Union both inflicted havoc, destruction, and certainly poverty – I rest my case. The tragedy was proof of all I warned about, but, was no more tragedy than that left behind to a people in an far corner of the world whom we thought did not matter and whom we thought were less important than ourselves.
We were wrong."
In his final days, founder Terry Hallman told me of how he'd lost his Christian faith when nothing on earth and perhaps not even in heaven could be moved to help these unfortunate children. He observed:
Opening up the reality of that situation resulted in threats against me and anyone else interfering with that system. I came under direct assault by tax police, government’s primary enforcement arm if anyone steps out of line. This is not a research activity where many, if any, other people dared to participate. UNICEF was willfully blind to the matter because it was just too dangerous to bother to intercede Powerful interests remained entrenched with enforcers to make it dangerous. Jurists were correct, in my view. It was more a mafia operation than anything else, aimed at misappropriation and laundering of large money. That was perfectly congruent with how Ukraine operated before the revolution. USAID wanted nothing to do with it, nor would they fund any organizations or activists who might try. Some things could be done and some things could not be done. Helping these children was something that could not be done. So, I exposed it and made it the central focus and metric of Ukraine’s microeconomic development blueprint. In that context, it was far more difficult to ignore, dismiss, or argue about. For about six months, I really did not expect to survive. Nevertheless, Ukraine’s government finally conceded the point and announced the opening of more than four hundred new treatment centers for children who were theretofore invisible under tight and deadly enforcement.”
It was one of the flock, Joe Biden, who headed the Council on Foreign Relations when they were told:
"At least one mass grave was located and disinterred, showing babies chopped to pieces with brains, internal organs, and apparently bone marrow having been removed. This was exposed by way of extraordinary bravery on the part of one young lady affiliated with Kharkiv Human Rights Group (KHPG). Why there is no criminal case about this, I do not know. Ask Kyiv, and observe what happens. BBC and PACE have all evidence."
The letter ended:
"Welcome to our brave new world. Except it’s not so new: learn to love and respect each other first, especially the weakest, most defenseless, most voiceless among us, then figure out the rest. There aren’t other more important things to do first. This message has been around for at least two thousand years. How difficult is it for us to understand?"
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”