The Jesuits and Globalization

It is widely assumed in Jesuit circles that, when the Jesuit electors meet in Rome for their thirty-fifth general congregation, they will issue a document treating globalization and environmental issues. The major first focus of GC35 will be, of course, to elect a new superior general of the Jesuits, to replace Peter Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., who is retiring. Religious groups discussing globalization have not always avoided pitfalls. The British sociologist, Roland Robertson, a specialist on issues of globalization, faults the Christian churches for focusing too uniquely on economic globalization and not enough on its concomitant cultural, religious, political and social faces. In an essay, widely read by sociologists of religion, Robertson accuses the churches of being one-sidedly anti-globalizers. By any account, globalization is a complex, even often paradoxical, There is, at present, no one full ranging Catholic overview document on globalization. Some rumors suggest that Pope Benedict may issue a social encyclical on the topic. His predecessor, John Paul II, addressed globalization on a number of occasions during his World Day of Peace addresses and mandated the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences to hold two plenary sessions on the topic. In famous throw away lines, John Paul II said : "Globalization, in itself, is neither good nor bad. It will be what people make of it"; "For all its risks, it offers exceptional and promising opportunities precisely with a view to enabling humanity to become a single human family but on the values of justice, equality and solidarity", John Paul II also averred: "We need a globalization of solidarity, too." Those who fear a one-sided, even caricature, view of globalization could do worse than read a 2006 document of the World Council of Churches, Agape: Alternative Globalization Addressing Peoples and Earth. The World Council document equates all economic globalization with the Neo-Liberal project (how the World Council would reckon with the support for globalization of people such as Amatyr Sen and Joseph Stiglitz, two Nobel laureates in economics yet critics of the present incomplete phase of globalization, eludes me). It also takes highly controversial stands (opposing all genetically modified food; calling for the Tobin Tax on international currency flows) without presenting ethical or theological arguments for them. Economists might easily scoff at such easy moralizing. As it turns out, the Jesuits have already produced an excellent and balanced interpretation of globalization, Globalization and Marginalization: Our Global Apostolic Response. An international task force drawn up by the Social Justice Secretariat of the Jesuits, issued a 55 page booklet, Globalization and Marginalization, in February 2006. Alas, it strikes me that way too few Jesuits or their apostolic partners have paid much attention to it. The task force which included social scientists, economists and theologians found it difficult to come to any easy agreement on globalization. For some, its risks and shadow side predominate. For others, the opportunities ingredient in globalization (to become truly a global community; to raise large numbers of people from poverty; to further information and democratic flows) became paramount. Clearly, people see globalization differently from where they stand. Globalization and Marginalization notes that "inter-connectedness today embraces the areas of economic, cultural, political, social, legal and religious life. All these aspects are affected, interact with each other and exhibit various feedback loops, provoking unexpected and contradictory effects." It wisely rejects " a common but limited understanding of globalization which interprets the phenomenon in purely economic terms and links it to the development of neo-liberal capitalism". Nor, it asserts, is "the relationship between the ’global’ and the ’local’ unidirectional." Naturally enough, the document does strongly raise up the concern for those who have been marginalized from the globalizing process (the digital divide, the most highly indebted poor nations) but even here, refuses to make globalization the unique culprit for the poor nations’ enduring poverty. Globalization and Marginalization presents a sophisticated view of the market as an efficient allocation of resources but fears a ’logic of the market’ gone astray from its appropriate economic sphere and the failure to recognize enough the institutional contexts which alone guarantee that the market provides just distributions. I hope and trust that the delegates to GC35 will take their lead in writing a document on globalization from this previous task force’s excellent work. They might also especially focus on two acute, but undeveloped, observations in Globalization and Marginalization: ( 1) "The need for Jesuits to develop a critical global outlook in the people we educate and in our educational institutions". Despite some success stories, few would argue that Jesuit education, as a whole, is conspicuous, at present, in developing such a critical global outlook and ( 2) " The lack of synergy among our educational institutions renders them unable to respond to the issues raised by inter-connectedness" Successful non-governmental organizations in global civil society ( such as, for example, Greenpeace), know how to network in a global world and engage in the building of globalization from below in global civil society. The paradox is that the Jesuits sit on a stunning global network of schools, parishes, retreat centers, social institutes but seem unable to connect them together or parlay their resources into effective global initiatives. They need to reflect much more on the global organizational logic of networking ( how it is done and what it can achieve). Perhaps, the delegates at GC 35 might focus strongly on this issue and, as well, on something already noted by General Congregation 34: " The relationship between the global and the local within the Society of Jesus may be biased in favor of the local and demand, in order to achieve balance, greater attention to the global". In the end, as Globalization and Marginalization puts it: " Only justice for all, including the marginalized, can assure peace and security for all who depend on a sustainable universe and social stability for life in the John A. Coleman S.J.
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10 years 4 months ago
I am so glad to see this being discussed in this magazine. To me the "shadow side" of globalization is already so conspicuous in the economic crisis of the world that I cannot support it as it is currently being defined. Granted, there are benefits of better communication between nations--but what it is serving when we are all "going under"? For us all to be able to sustain our own economies in individual nation states is essential, in some way. ""Absolute power corrupts absolutely"--we are inching toward world government, I fear.
10 years 4 months ago
Great article. I also hope GC35 writes a document of the sort John suggests. There are some words missing at the end of his contribution; could we have them? Thanks!
10 years 4 months ago
Good stuff. An amazing new[ish] book that deals with this subject is Daniel Groody's Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice: Navigating the Path to Peace.
10 years 4 months ago
of course they are leading the pack of Globalists. the Vatican is the NWO. Revelations 17


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