Consistent with the perspective of Third World leaders and governments, the Pope affirmed the importance of the United Nations as an organization that has the potential to create just limits to power, preventing powerful nations from placing their interests above the rights of other nations. However, this potential has not been realized. The global decision-making process, he observed, is not characterized by equality, which has had the consequence that the natural environment and the socially excluded have become fragile parts of our reality. He called for a democratic reform of the United Nations, especially the Security Council. Such a call for reform of the United Nations, seeking to give the less powerful nations greater voice in the decision-making process, has been a persistent demand of the Third World, formulated, for example, by the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77 plus China, and BRICS.
In a similar vein, Pope Francis called for a democratic reform of international finance agencies, and he criticized them for imposing crediting schemes that stifle development.
The international finance agencies must ensure sustainable development of countries in development and not the asphyxiating submission of these countries to crediting systems that, far from promoting progress, submit the populations to greater poverty, exclusion and dependency.
Our world demands of all governmental leaders an effective, practical and constant will and concrete steps and immediate measures to preserve and improve the natural environment and to overcome as soon as possible the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its sad consequences of human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, including prostitution, the trafficking in drugs and arms, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of this situation and its toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism that would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.
As we saw with respect to the Pope’s address to the US Congress (see “Pope Francis: A progressive discourse”), Francis expresses a moral and religious perspective that complements, but is different from, the Third World perspective that has emerged from the national liberation movements. The Third World movements see the colonialist, neocolonialist, imperialist and neoliberal policies of the global powers as reflecting the particular interests of the elite classes in the colonial and neocolonial nations, whereas the pope sees the scourges of our time as reflections of immoral behavior that casts aside moral law and that violates “the ideal of human fraternity.”
In accordance with his moral and religious perspective, Pope Francis sees nature and the excluded as “victims of the immoral exercise of power.” He views social exclusion as caused by an “unrestricted and egoistic eagerness for power and material goods.” He believes that misgovernment of the world-economy has occurred because morally irresponsible leaders have been guided “only by ambition for profit and power.” He believes that the contemporary world is experiencing an increasing social fragmentation that is generating conflicts of interest.
Standing against the immorality and amorality of the world order, Pope Francis maintains that the defense of the environment and the struggle against social and economic exclusion demand recognition of a “moral law written in human nature itself,” a moral law that “renounces the construction of an omnipotent elite” and that demands that governments leave aside interests and “sincerely seek the service of the common good.” Without recognition of a fundamental moral law, the hopes of the UN Charter are an illusion, or worse, they are words that are manipulated to justify abuse or corruption or to generate a life style of consumerism that is alien to the cultures of the peoples.
The moral perspective of the Pope is valid, but it is incomplete. It differs form the perspectives that have been emerging in the popular movements from below during the last 200 years. From the Pope’s moral perspective, the casting aside of the moral law has created conflicts of interest; in contrast, Marx saw conflicts of interest as intrinsic to societies with class divisions. From his sincerely held moral perspective, the Pope appeals to governmental authorities to adopt policies that respond to the needs of suffering humanity. In contrast, the perspective of Third World movements of national liberation, which have appropriated key insights of Marxism-Leninism, discern the need for movements by the people that take power and that begin to implement policies in accordance with popular interests.
Nevertheless, in spite of this difference in perspective between the progressive Christian perspective of the Pope and Third World socialism, the two are allies in a common struggle against exclusion and violence and for a more just and democratic world-system. I will discuss further this potential alliance between progressive Christianity and Socialism for the Twenty-First Century in a subsequent post.