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4 Responses to “The Vatican Note on Financial Reform”
  1. Kate Ward says:

    Bob, thanks for your comments. I share your sense of moment and promise–I think OWS has brought that to so many of us who hope for a more just world. The Vatican document’s coming out just now only increases my hope that the “moment” will continue to strengthen and be taken seriously.
    Kevin, that’s a good question. I agree with you that most of us grow up with American exceptionalism among the many other cultural biases we inherit, and we need to be careful about how that affects our activism. One of the positives about OWS’s refusal, so far, to adopt specific policy prescriptions is that they’re not calling for things that obviously benefit one nation over another, like “bring back American jobs” or whatever. I also tend to think that, as Americans, we do well when we work on our own house in terms of justice because becoming involved in the struggles of other communities can so easily become hegemonic, even with the best intentions. (Subsidiarity!) And there’s something undeniably powerful about the members of one community shaming their own, saying “You do not live out the standards that our community has promised to each other.” The media has worked very hard to “other” the OWS protestors (“dirty hippies” etc) for just that reason.
    One more perhaps related thought. I think many global justice-minded Americans (and probably other citizens of prosperous nations with colonialist histories) feel that any sort of nationalist feeling is somehow inappropriate for them, even though it might be admirable in other nations whose citizens are struggling together to increase their prosperity. Is it “American exceptionalism” to say “Hey Wall Street, the U.S. promises a fair shot at prosperity to all, and you’ve taken that away from so many. You are not just bad global citizens but bad Americans?” There’s definitely a valorization of American imagery and values in there, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily a valorization over something else.
    I may have moved VERY far from your original intent, but it shows how thought provoking your question is. Thanks to both of you for your comments!

  2. Bob Bowers says:

    I have been reflecting on this Vatican document and reading commentary and really appreciate your comments, Kate. I am struck by a few cords running through the document, most notably two: the first is the acknowledgment that the global human family is at a transformational precipice, and second is the concepts of power and authority. To the latter, there is a theological and ecclesiastical aspect that needs to be examined, given the the power structure of the Roman Catholic Church and a governance that simply would not allow any of the reforms suggested in the documents to happen. The credibility of the document is in question for me until that kind of engagement and dialogue takes place, and so your caution, Kate, about quickly embracing this document, toward the end of your thoughts, is well said.

    But to the second point, I do think the document has “touchstoned” the evolutionary moment Occupy has illuminated, especially when paired with the “Arab Spring.” Part of me wonders if the Vatican speed in creating this document is its own global perspective on the human vista, the human perspective, something the world human family is beginning to grasp in real time through technological socialization. An emerging world culture through a plurality of shared norms, customs, values, traditions, social roles, symbols and languages being realized – and, in my opinion, being celebrated through the Occupy movement. There is something about this truly global institution – the Roman Catholic Church – connecting on these levels, that causes me to wonder about the “yes we can” and “hope” and “change” yearning Americans dreamed for about three years ago as signs and symbols of a global, human awakening. It seems we are at a moment that is beyond politics and governments. Aspirational thinking of this kind happens in human development throughout human history, but as the Vatican document notes, without appropriate reflection, dialogue, measure, evaluation, compassion, understanding … love … the results can be opposite to those hopes, and tend toward violence. A dear friend of mine, a physician living in the totalitarian society of Belarus, often says to me that most revolutions are “begun by visionaries, finished by fools.” The urgency of theological and philosophical critical thinking brought to this moment cannot be stressed enough.

  3. Great post on the relationship between the Note and OWS. While I believe the Note reflects the Catholic Cosmopolitan vision and includes the critique from the “south,” I would not make the claim that Allen does here. While it is “written” by an African, the note does not mention specific concerns of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

    But this raises a provocative question. Kate (and others), how do you think that the OWS would relate to a “greater respect for the perspectives of the Global South?” My experience is that most Americans, even the most “progressive” still share the vision of American exceptionalism. While there are messages of global solidarity in the OWS and there are occupy movements in other places in the world, the voices are still largely American.

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  1. [...] College, is a model of someone taking the lead to put God’s Word to work. She contributes to a blog that deals with theology and social, political, and economic life in the United States. In her [...]



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