Thursday, April 2, 2009

President Obama Helps Deliver Pope Benedict's G20 Wish List

Here is what the Pope was hoping to have happen at the G20 Summit.


Ahead of the G20 gathering in London, Pope Benedict XVI has written to Prime Minister Gordon Brown to insist that any solution to the financial crisis involves the inclusion of ethics and be founded upon a "positive faith in the human person," especially those in extreme poverty.'

Gordon Brown, who currently chairs the Group of 20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors from industrialized and emerging nations, received a letter from Pope Benedict as the leaders prepare for their April 2-3 meeting.

The Pope praised the "noble objectives" they have set themselves, saying that they arise from the conviction "that the way out of the current global crisis can only be reached together, avoiding solutions marked by any nationalistic selfishness or protectionism."

The upcoming G20 summit, the Pope noted, is intended to "coordinate, with urgency, measures necessary to stabilize financial markets and to enable companies and families to weather this period of deep recession, as well as to restore sustainable growth in the world economy and to reform and substantially strengthen systems of global governance, in order to ensure that such a crisis is not repeated in the future."

Examining what led to the current global recession, the Holy Father said that "a key element of the crisis is a deficit of ethics in economic structures." This same crisis, he insisted, "teaches us that ethics is not 'external' to the economy but 'internal' and that the economy cannot function if it does not bear within it an ethical component."

The Holy Father also drew upon his recently concluded trip to Africa to impress upon the G20 leaders the gravity of their decisions. While in Africa, the Pope wrote, he was able to "see first hand the reality of severe poverty and marginalization, which the crisis risks aggravating dramatically."

And although the poor would be the most affected population, Pope Benedict pointed out that their voice has little chance of being heard by the G20, where "sub-Saharan Africa is represented by just one State and some regional organizations."

This, he writes, "must prompt a profound reflection among the summit participants, since those whose voice has least force in the political scene are precisely the ones who suffer most from the harmful effects of a crisis for which they do not bear responsibility."

The solutions arrived at by the G20 must involve "a courageous and generous strengthening of international co-operation, capable of promoting a truly humane and integral development. Positive faith in the human person, and above all faith in the poorest men and women - of Africa and other regions of the world affected by extreme poverty - is what is needed if we are truly to come through the crisis once and for all, without turning our back on any region, and if we are definitively to prevent any recurrence of a situation similar to that in which we find ourselves today," he wrote.

The Pope concluded his letter by expressing the wish to add his voice "to those of the adherents of various religions and cultures who share the conviction that the elimination of extreme poverty by 2015, to which leaders at the UN Millennium Summit committed themselves, remains one of the most important tasks of our time."

Gordon Brown replied to the Pope's letter by saying that he agreed with the Holy Father's ideas and that "...we stand ready to support the most vulnerable in society. It is vital that rich countries keep their promises on aid, even in these tough times."


Here is what came out of the first day:

LONDON – G-20 leaders pledged an additional $1 trillion to restore credit, growth and jobs in the world economy on Thursday, announcing a broad raft of measures designed to hasten the end of the global financial crisis.

The leaders also declared a crackdown on tax havens, regulation of hedge funds and a new supervisory body to flag problems in the world financial system.

"Today the largest countries of the world have agreed on a global plan for economic recovery and reform," said the host, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
A sweeping G-20 communique appeared to bridge the gap between the United States and major European countries over how far to push changes on regulation to curb the market excesses that led to the current crisis.

The result of the dramatic one-day gathering was swiftly praised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy praised President Barack Obama and Brown at the end of the meeting, despite having threatened earlier to walk out if unsatisfied with the outcome. The French leader said Obama helped in creating consensus and in persuading China to agree to publish lists of tax havens.

Sarkozy said Obama was a "very open man" and "completely in line with what we wanted: that politicians take their responsibilities."

European and U.S. markets surged ahead Thursday as the outcome of the summit came into view. (In fact, the last I looked the US Dow was over 8000 for the first time in over two months,)

While they did not announce any new stimulus measures — as some in the United States had hoped — Brown said the $1 trillion deal to boost funds for the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other global institutions was unprecedented.

"For the first time we have a common approach to cleaning up banks around the world to restructuring of the world financial system. We have maintained our commitment to help the world's poorest," Brown said. "This is a collective action of people around the world working at their best."
The G-20 leaders also said that developing nations — hard-hit and long complaining of marginalization — a greater say in world economic affairs. They said they would renounce protectionism and pledged $250 billion in trade finance over the next two years — a key measure to help struggling developing countries.

(Protectionism has been hugely detrimental to developing countries, especially those whose primary exports are agricultural.)
The leaders also agreed to new rules on linking executive pay to performance, Brown said.


In an earlier speech Pope Benedict listed tax havens, executive compensation, and protectionism as issues which sorely needed to be addressed. I would imagine he is somewhat pleased with the outcome of the G20 summit as these leaders seem to have genuinely decided the same ole, same ole, was not going to work.

Our President has done himself proud this week, and I'm not writing this as some sort of Obamamaniac. First he and President Medvedev of Russia agreed to joint reduction of nuclear weapons, committing themselves to a new START treaty, and they agreed to work together on terrorism, joint economic issues, and the Middle East. Both of them admitted to a cooling of the relationship between the United States and Russia and both were excited that a new era of relationship was now possible. This is wonderfully positive news.

Secondly, President Obama seems to have convinced China they have obligations to the world economic community. Releasing information on Chinese tax havens is a biggy, as I'm sure these havens had a lot to do with Western investment in the Chinese economy. Pope Benedict was right on target about the evils of tax havens. Now if only the Caribbean would follow China's lead.

If Africans saw a voice for them in President Obama, he, along with President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Brown and Chancellor Merkel seemed truly concerned that Africa not be left out, and indeed it wasn't. It may just be that this global economic crisis has indeed woken up politicians to "take their responsibilities". As far as Presidents Medvedev and Obama, it looks as if those 'taken up responsibilities' go far beyond the economic ones. This is all almost too much to take in, given the US position in global affairs for the last eight years.

I'm sure though, and it makes me sad, that none of this will matter in the Notre Dame debate. That President Obama was a major player in bringing to fruition so much of what Pope Benedict hoped and prayed for at this summit, will count for naught. Obama will continue to be called a baby killer and an agent of death over the one single issue of abortion. That what he has helped to accomplish at the G20 Summit may save incalculable number of lives, both born and pre born, won't matter a diddly squat.

I'm sure our provincial bishops will continue to call for the condemnation of both Notre Dame and President Obama, and Governor Sebelius and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and on and on and on, because abortion trumps all other evil. This in spite of the fact the Pope takes a more nuanced position. But then again, maybe it isn't about Catholicism at all. Maybe it's about the Republican culture war.

The only thing I can say at this point is thank God the world's political leaders aren't paying any attention and don't buy into the bs, and that this includes our current President.


  1. Great blog and great news here all around, except for the Pro-Lifers who are mistaken about abortion being the only issue.

    There are thousands of children, babies, and people of all ages dying in the world everyday due to starvation or the lack of basic medicine. To say abortion is the big problem is to never want to address this ugly and obscene problem of deaths by starvation and lack of medicine that has been going on for way too long! These deaths are PREVENTABLE!!!


  2. You hit the nail on the head Colleen! Perhaps when the President meets the Holy Father for the first time, rumored to be around June when a NATO or some international summit will be held in Italy, the Bishops here will be surprised to see how optomistic and pragmatic His Holiness could be of President Obama...

    This would leave all the Bishops running back to their cathedrals with their tails between their legs, which I would just LOVE to see! =p

  3. Phillip Clark, I would just LOVE to see the day when certain Bishops are found "running back to their cathedrals with their tails between their legs."

    The only thing I might add is, with their pitchforks on fire too!!!

  4. I am personally so jacked about what happened today, and it's not that I don't understand that nothing was really signed and this is all verbal agreement. Except that it's even been verbally agreed upon has never ever happened before with this number of countries with such disparate motivation.

    I know that sometimes I write that human consciousness is changing and the truth is, sometimes I think I'm full of shit, but this time is different.

    All the major players seem to be on the same page, and I don't think I've ever seen that before. Actually I know I haven't. Wow, how great is this?

  5. Thanks for reading Taru and feel free to comment at any time. Commenters make excellent points which frequently lead me to do serious research and that helps my own Spiritual growth.