Article on Pope's position 'misleading'
December 17, 2008I AM writing in response to the article by Clare O'Connor entitled "Pope Hits Out at Off-Shore Centers" that appeared in the
Mid-Ocean News on Friday, December 12. I found the article to be misleading, to say the least.The author refers to a "policy paper released by the Vatican in which Pope Benedict XVI has called for the effective closure of off-shore centers such as Bermuda, the Channel Islands and the Cayman Islands, which he blames for worsening the global economic crisis."I have not been able to find any policy paper issued by the Pope. What I have found is a discussion paper or series of talking points distributed in Italian, French and Spanish by the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace in preparation for the United Nations Conference on "Financing for Development" that was to be held in Doha, Qatar from November 29-December 2, 2008. One of the five points of the discussion paper deals with "Off-Shore Financial Centers" and their impact on financing development in poor countries. In my reading of the two paragraphs dealing with the question, I believe that the argument proceeds with reference to principles of ethics and social justice. No countries are named in the document.At the Qatar Conference itself in late November, the Papal Nuncio and Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, made a short presentation in the name of the Vatican. (The text is available in English.) His paper also deals with the present world financial crisis on the level of ethical principles. There is no mention of specific countries nor is there any emphasis on "Off-Shore Financial Centres" as responsible for robbing the poor.In conclusion, I repeat that it is misleading to imply that the Pope has hit out at Bermuda. A "Discussion Paper" prepared by a Pontifical Commission for consideration by people attending a United Nations Conference or other interested parties cannot be considered a "Policy Paper" from the Pope.However, we do have an authentic and authoritative statement of Pope Benedict's position on the present world financial crisis in his Message for the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2009) which was released on December 8, 2008. The message is entitled: "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace." Pope Benedict puts the world's present financial crisis in a much larger context by referring to the words of Jesus to Peter: "Give them something to eat yourselves" (Luke 9:13) and concludes the message saying: "…the Christian community will never fail, then, to assure the entire human family of her support through gestures of creative solidarity, not only by "giving from one's surplus," but above all by a "change of life-styles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which govern societies."The present financial crisis is showing us that the entire question must be considered not only on the level of economics but also on the level of ethics, justice and religious belief.
BISHOP ROBERT J. KURTZ, CR