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Blessed John Paul II: achieving social justice

(Vatican Radio) Veronica Scarisbrick brings you an interview with Professor of Catholic social teaching at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas here in Rome, Dominican Alejandro Crosthwaite focusing on the social encyclicals of Blessed John Paul II.

These documents updated the body of papal documents on Catholic social teaching which goes back to the first groundbreaking social encyclical 'Rerum Novarum' issued by Leo XIII in 1891.

Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's interview with Professor of Catholic social teaching Alejandro Crosthwaite: RealAudioMP3

Blessed John Paul II's first social encyclical focused on the right to work and dates back to 1981. Its Latin title is 'Laborem Exercens' and was followed six years later by another document 'Sollicitudo Rei Socialis' in which he expressed the concern of the Catholic Church regarding social issues.

In this second document the Polish Pontiff highlighted the changing reality both within the debtor nations and in the international financial market. As Professor Crosthwaite puts it :"...the instrument chosen to make a contribution to development has turned into a counterproductive mechanism. This is because the debtor nations, in order to service their debt, find themselves obliged to export the capital needed for improving or at least maintaining their standard of living. It is also because, for the same reason, they are unable to obtain new and equally essential financing. Through this mechanism, the means intended for the development of peoples has turned into a brake upon development instead, and indeed in some cases has even aggravated underdevelopment..."

By the time John Paul II published his third social encyclical "Centesimus Annus " it was 1991. As the title indicates it was issued to mark a century since Leo XIII's milestone "Rerum Novarum". In this document he highlights once again how the positive efforts which have been made along those lines are being affected by the still largely unsolved problem of the foreign debt of the poorer countries.

As Professor Crosthwaite explains: ".. The principle that debts must be paid is certainly just. However, it is not right to demand or expect payment when the effect would be the imposition of political choices leading to hunger and despair for entire peoples. It cannot be expected that the debts which have been contracted should be paid at the price of unbearable sacrifices. In such cases it is necessary to find, as in fact is partly happening, ways to lighten, defer or even cancel the debt, compatible with the fundamental right of peoples to subsistence and progress...".

This programme is presented and produced by Veronica Scarisbrick as part of a series focusing on the figure of Blessed John Paul II, soon to be canonised by Pope Francis.


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