Hedonistic Culture and the Global Market

Address by Father Gary Devery

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SYDNEY, Australia, NOV. 11, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address given by Capuchin Father Gary Devery as part of an international videoconference of theologians.



The Oct. 31 videoconference was organized by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

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"Hedonistic Culture and the New Empire of the Global Market"
Capuchin Father Gary Devery

In April 2001 Pope John Paul II addressed the seventh plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the subject of globalization: "Globalization, a priori, is neither good nor bad. It will be what people make of it. No system is an end in itself, and it is necessary to insist that globalization, like any other system, must be at the service of the human person; it must serve solidarity and the common good."[1]

The economic dimension of globalization is a morally neutral but powerful reality. It has power to contribute on a global level to the construction of a civilization of love or to establishing a global culture of death on a level humanity has not previously experienced. The global market has the potential to enfranchise or disenfranchise groups, peoples, and nations on a massive scale.

The overall positive or negative effect of globalization towards the common good of humanity will depend on what is the underlying anthropology giving rise to its moral component; it at this level that the Church has the most to offer.

The present Pope, while still a cardinal, addressing the College of Cardinals before they went into conclave highlighted the urgency of this matter. He noted that today "relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of 'doctrine,' seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the 'I' and its whims as the ultimate measure."[2]

The culture of hedonism is a consequence of relativism. The measure of the human person is the "I"; all values become relative and subjective. Forecasting this into a global market driven by an anthropology based solely on a "What is in it for me?" attitude could result in a tyrannical empire divided between the "haves" and the "have nots." The latter would be the necessary slaves to feed the hedonistic culture of the "haves."

Some would be sacrificed on the altar of hedonism for the medical or eugenic benefits they could provide to the "haves." The most economically vulnerable of society (the genetically impaired, the sick and crippled, the old and so forth) would be measured according to their productive worth and if their market value was deemed negative there would be no appeal to objective and universal values to cry out against their being "environmentally neutralized."

The steady contemplative gaze of the Church on the crucified Christ invites us to hope. The Church does not seek to be an alternative empire to a hedonistic-based empire of the global market. Rather, knowing and living the truth that Jesus Christ is the true measure of humanity, the Church seeks to be a moral leaven in the process of globalization. An aspect of the mission of the Church is to give substance and direction to globalization so that it can serve humanity and the progress of all peoples and nations based on an authentic anthropology.

In 1991 Pope John Paul II in "Centesimus Annus" noted that for the global market to serve the whole of the human family it requires dialogue on different levels that cannot be achieved by an individual state. It "ought to be accompanied by effective international agencies which will oversee and direct the economy to the common good. … In order to achieve this result, it is necessary that there be increased coordination among the more powerful countries, and that in international agencies the interests of the whole human family be equally represented."[3]

For the dialogue and coordination to be authentic it needs to take seriously the invitation recently made by Pope Benedict XVI in his lecture in the Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg, Germany, that in this process there needs to be a place for religion. Biblical faith turns the person away from the self-absorption of hedonism towards an authentic life of transcendence. The contribution of the Church is that our measure of humanity is the Son of God.

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[1] John Paul II, "Address to the Seventh Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences," 27 April 2001. Published in Globalization: Ethical and Institutional Concerns (Proceedings of the Seventh Plenary Session of he Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 25-28 April 2001), Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Vatican City: 2001.

[2] Homily delivered Monday, April 18, 2005, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during the Mass "for the election of the Roman Pontiff" in St. Peter's Basilica, before the conclave.

[3] No. 58.