Friday, August 19, 2011

Governed by the blind and the irresponsible

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Tweaking the many analyses done on the set of crises that plague us, we come to something we think is central and about which to reflect seriously: societies, globalization, the production process, the economic-financial system, the predominant dreams and the explicit object of desire of the majority, which is to consume and consume without limits. A culture of consumerism, propagated by all means, has been created. You need to consume the latest model of cellphone, athletic shoes, computer. Sixty-six percent of the United States' GDP comes not from production but from widespread consumption. The English authorities were surprised to find that among those promoting unrest in several cities, were not only the usual foreigners in conflict with each other, but many university students, unemployed Englishmen, teachers and even recruits. They were angry people because they didn't have access to such bandied consumption. They didn't question the paradigm of consumption, but the forms of exclusion from it.

In the United Kingdom, after M. Thatcher, and the USA after R. Reagan, as in the world at large, a great social inequality is growing. In that country, the income of the richest in recent years increased 273 times more than that of the poorest, according to Carta Maior on 8/12/2011. So the disappointment of those frustrated with a "social software" that denies them access to consumption and with cuts in social budgets, on the order of 70%, which punished them severely, is no wonder. Seventy percent of the recreational facilities for young people were simply closed.

What is alarming is that neither Prime Minister David Cameron nor the members of the House of Commons bothered to ask why the looting in the various cities. They responded with the worst choice: more institutional violence. Conservative Cameron spelled it out: "We will arrest the suspects and post their faces in the media without any phony concerns about human rights." Here is a solution of ruthless neo-liberal capitalism: if the order that is unequal and unjust demands it, democracy is made void and human rights are passed over. And this is happening in the country where the first declarations of the rights of citizens were born.

If you look closely, we are entangled in a vicious cycle that can destroy us: we need to produce to allow such comsumption. Without consumption, the companies will go bankrupt. To produce, they need the resources of nature. These are increasingly scarce and we have spent 30% more than the earth can replenish. If we stop extracting, producing, selling and consuming, there is no economic growth. Without annual growth, countries enter a recession, causing high unemployment. With unemployment, explosive social chaos, depredations and all kinds of conflicts erupt. How do we get out of this trap we have prepared for ourselves?

The opposite of consumption is not non-consumption but a new "social software" in the felicitous expression of political scientist Luiz Gonzaga de Souza Lima. That is, a new agreement between a supportive and frugal consumption, accessible to all, and the impassable limits of nature, is urgent. How can this be done? There are several suggestions: the "sustainable way of life" of the Earth Charter, the "right livelihood" of the Andean cultures, based on the man/Earth balance, the solidarity economy, the bio-socio-economy, "natural capitalism" (an unfortunate expression) that attempts to integrate biological cycles in economic and social life, and others.

But when the heads of affluent states meet, they don't talk about these things. There it's about saving the system that is leaking everywhere. They know that nature can no longer afford the high price charged by the consumerist model. It's already about to jeopardize the survival of life and the future of coming generations. We are governed by the blind and the irresponsible, unable to realize the consequences of the political-economic-cultural system they are advocating.
A new global course is imperative, if we want to ensure our lives and those of other living beings. The scientific-technical civilization, that has allowed us exaggerated levels of consumption, can end itself, destroy life and degrade the Earth. Surely it isn't for this that we have come to this point in the evolutionary process. It's urgent to have courage, daring to make radical changes, if we still have any love for ourselves.

José María Castillo: "Religion should solve problems, not create them"

by Pedro Ingelmo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Diario de Sevilla

This theologian (photo), a critic of the Vatican, lost his professorship at the University of Granada at the urging of the present Pontiff. He advocates for ending celibacy and for women's ordination.

Lay people facing off against papists, being arrested, injured...what is happening to us?

It's an indicator of the tension generated by the pope's visit, the gap that exists between religion and society. But it also speaks of the violence and intransigence that surround us, wherever it comes from.

Introduce yourself: Are you Catholic, Apostolic and Roman?

Yes, without qualification.

Roman too? Rome expelled you.

It didn't expel me. It told me in 1988, without a prior trial, that I was forbidden to teach in the chair at the Theology School at Granada that I held in those days.

What did you do? What did you say?

Would you believe that, after all this time, I still don't know?

Maybe very similar things to what a young theologian named Ratzinger said in the early 60s.

Ratzinger published two hugely influential books in the 60s. Perhaps they would seem to us to have been surpassed today, but the truth is that Introduction to Christianity and Das neue Volk Gottes ["The new people of God"] said things and contributed documents that today's Vatican would not allow.

Benedict XVI would censor Ratzinger the theologian?


Tell me something about those books and what would provoke such a scandal.

Ratzinger the theologian was a firm supporter of putting the powers of the Pope in their place. It wasn't scandalous. The Second Vatican Council, which will turn 50, said it too. Paul VI tried to carry it out, but the Curia didn't allow it. In fact, the Papacy has more power than it did then.

There are those in Rome who are more papist than the Pope?

Many. Let's not be naive. The Pope is an aged man, with very limited health. Who's in charge there? The Vatican is a very complex and secret organization. Little is known about it.

And when did Ratzinger stop being a liberal?

We have to put ourselves in the 60s. Back then they talked about anti-science, the counterculture, the theologians of the death of God, post Christianity. In Germany, where Ratzinger was working, these theories were strong. We are talking about a man with a studious disposition, pious, psychologically timid. May '68 exploded. Many things happened that changed the thinking of the young theologian Ratzinger.

Let's come back to the present. What do you think of this gathering of Catholic youth in Madrid?

John Paul II raised up a very interesting project that consisted of a global gathering to regain the new generations in their habits and beliefs, bringing them together and helping them in their beliefs and behavior. It was undoubtedly an excellent initiative.

Any "but"s?

Gathering young people from five continents costs a lot of money. Checkbook evangelization is not defensible. Jesus forbade the apostles from even carrying loose change in their travels!

Times were different.

For these things, there is neither time nor circumstance. Money is a fetish of power. It has a seductiveness that the Gospel deplores. You can't serve God and money. Money is the enemy of God.

OK, but evangelization has a cost. It's inevitable.

What can be avoided is pomp and ostentation. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ and I can't see Jesus being received by powers and authorities. It was the powers and authorities who ordered His martyrdom.

Place Jesus for me in today's world, in 15-M, in the Arab spring...

Jesus saw faith as a set of convictions that translate into ethics and the engine of change in society. In that sense, He could be seen as a politician, but Jesus was not a politician. He was a prophet. 15-M and the Arab spring are political demonstrations in which religion plays either a secondary or a nonexistent role. We are talking about any religion. In a world like the Arab one, which is very pious, religion has not been instrumental in the revolts. Mubarak's defenders were as religious as his detractors. How God is present in all religions currently is that He's not home.

What do you mean?

Thinking that the divine is in conflict with the human. They prohibit things that limit human beings' happiness. It makes no sense. It's necessary to humanize religion, to humanize God. God's not at the service of the interests of a few.

Is this at the root of the demonstrations against the Pope in Madrid?

I'm not talking about this specific case, but in Madrid everything started because they made people's lives difficult, closing streets, inconveniencing the merchants. Religion is not to complicate people's lives. It's not to create problems, but to solve them.

You wrote in an article that the Pope should have held these days in Somalia. Your idea has been very successful but, in reality, Mogadishu is is full of religious people.

It's a faith I believe in and fight for. Consider that Jesus' activity was healing the sick and feeding the hungry. Health and food -- the two big immediate problems -- and, from there, He talked about God and salvation, but first things first. In this world, enough food is produced for 10 billion people and one billion people go hungry. That's the big problem in this world, and no other.

What would you confess in a portable confessional?

Those images surprise me. It's confession as a spectacle...I think it's a sign of a Church that's in crisis and knows it is. Look, there are 60,000 university students at the University of Granada. How many go to Mass? Very, very few. Taking the confessionals out into the street is a publicity stunt.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Manifesto: "Out of my taxes, zero to the Pope"

Redes Cristianas

This is the manifesto of the main organizations that convened the demonstrations on August 17, 2011 in connection with World Youth Day in Madrid.

Within a few months of visits to Santiago and Barcelona, Mr. Ratzinger -- Benedict XVI to Catholics--, stubborn in his idea of "reconquering" a country that is distancing itself from his moral and religious proposals, now returns to Madrid.

From the viewpoint of secularism and democracy, there is nothing objectionable about a meeting between a spiritual shepherd and his followers. Clearly, despite the calculated ambiguity of the gathering, "World Youth Day" in August in Madrid aims to bring together thousands of young Catholics around the teachings of the pope -- an act which, whatever its size, is still private, as are beliefs and their manifestations.

What is contrary to a democratic state that declares itself non-denominational is to mix the affairs of state and religious affairs, general interests with private interests, the institutions that represent all citizens with events that concern only some of them, in this case those who share certain religious beliefs.

Therefore, it is scandalous that the government has contributed 25 million euros, that is, from everyone's tax dollars, to the visit of the pope and the celebration of a religious act, while granting tax breaks to big companies that have committed another 25 million. In addition, we have to add the many more that both the central government and the Madrid City Council have contributed by defraying other expenses through the free conveyance of many public services (civil servants, visas, transportation, security forces, use of public spaces such as sports centers, schools and colleges, etc.)..

This diversion of public resources for private ends is particularly serious at a time when so much generosity to the Catholic hierarchy (which already receives around 10 billion euros a year in various ways) is in contradiction with the harsh restrictions on public spending and social services that we are all suffering under, under the pretext of the economic crisis.

Similarly, it is unacceptable that authorities and officials are involved and participating in this event of a private nature, which they would be within their rights to do personally, but never as representatives of the public functions they perform on behalf of all citizens.

In this case, the subterfuge that these are expenses and honors due a head of state, is worthless. Pope Benedict XVI is not representing the poor inhabitants of the Vatican which, in any case, has nothing to do either by origin or by configuration with a true and legal democratic State. Even though he is coming to meet with his followers in terms of spiritual leadership that they exclusively recognize, the official and privileged treatment dispensed by the public entities proceeds in some way -- treatment that obviously they don't give to gatherings promoted by citizens of other faiths or ideological convictions.

Nor would any head of state be allowed the interference, endlessly repeated by the Pope and the Catholic hierarchy, in domestic political affairs such as the laws themselves that a country enacts in a democratic manner (public secular education, right to one's own sexuality and control of reproduction, patterns of marriage and family, right to a dignified death, etc.) since they don't limit themselves to giving moral advice to their faithful, which is legitimate, but intend to make their particular views of morality and society mandatory standards for all.

Therefore we, the undersigned individuals and organizations, express our rejection of the confusion and collusion of public institutions with an eminently private and denominational activity. We call on all citizens who, regardless of their personal convictions, support a goal of coexistence with equal rights, to organize actions in defense of democracy and secularism of the state and address the various public entities to demand that they act accordingly and stop granting privileges that belong to past eras and an antidemocratic legacy.


Acción Educativa (MRPS de Madrid)
ACSUR - Las Segovias - Madrid
Agrupación Ateneísta Juan Negrín de Madrid
Albacete Laico-Europa Laica
Alicante Laico-Europa Laica
Alternativa Laica de Toledo
AMAL (Asociación Madrileña de ateos y librepensadores)
AMESDE (Asociación para la Memoria Social y Democrática)
Andalucía Laica-Europa Laica
Área de juventud de Izquierda Unida
Asamblea de Movimientos Sociales del FSM de Madrid
Asamblea de mujeres de Bizkaia
Asamblea Feminista de Madrid
Asamblea Popular de Moratalaz del Movimiento 15 M. Madrid
Asamblea Popular de Prosperidad (Madrid)
Asociación “No nos resignamos”
Asociación Ateos y Republicanos
Asociación Colectivo Infancia
Asociación Cultural La Casa de Zitas de Zaragoza
Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales
Asociación de Descendientes del Exilio español
Asociación de Redondela polos Dereitos Humáns
Asociación de Transexuales de Andalucía (A.T.A.)
Asociación Diversitat LGTBI, de Alicante
Asociación Laica de Rivas-Vaciamadrid
Asociación Laica y Republicana del Condado de Jaén
Asturias Laica-Europa Laica
Ateneo de Izquierdas de Arajuez
Ateos de Albacete
Ateos en acción
Ateus de Catalunya
Attac Catalunya- Galicia-Aragón
AVALL (Asociación Valenciana de ateos y librepensadores)
Católicas por el derecho a decidir
CAUM (Club de Amigos de la Unesco de Madrid)
Círculo Poético Republicano de Burgos
Ciudad de Mujeres
Ciudadanos por la República de Cuenca
COGAM – (Colectivo LGTB de Madrid)
Col·lectiu Republicà del Baix Llobregat
Colectivo Harimaguada de Canarias
Colectivo Republicano Antonio Machado de Segovia
Colectivo Republicano de Redondela
Colectivo San Blas - Madrid
Comité Oscar Romero de Madrid
Confederación Intersindical (STES-i)
Córdoba Laica-Andalucía Laica
Cristianos por el socialismo
Cuenca Laica
Cullera Laica
Democracia, Ciudadanía y República (Asturias)
Ecologistas en Acción - Madrid
En Lucha
Escuela laica de Valladolid
Europa Laica
Extremadura Entiende
Extremadura Laica-Europa Laica
FELGTB (Fed Estatal de lesbianas, gays, trans y bisexuales)
Foro Social de Madrid
Fundación Ferrer i Guardia- Catalunya
Fundación María Deraismes
Girasol (Fed. Coordinadora de Asociaciones LGTB del Sur)
Granada Laica-Andalucía Laica
Grupo de Estudios Comp. Euroafricanos y Eurolatinoamericanos
Grupo Fediversa- Asociación LGBTI Algarabía
IAC (Intersindical Alternativa de Catalunya)
Iglesia de Base de Madrid
Iniciativa Atea
Izquierda Anticapitalista
Izquierda Republicana
Izquierda Unida Federal
Jaén Laico-Andalucía laica
Libre Pensée (Francia)
Lliga per la Laïcitat, Catalunya
Logia Mozart del Gran Oriente de Francia
Madrid Laico-Europa Laica
Málaga Laica-Andalucía Laica
MHUEL-Aragón (Movimiento hacia un estado laico)
Movimiento Laico y Progresista
Observatorio de la laicidad
Partido comunista de España
Partido Comunista de España (marxista-leninista)
Partido de los Trabajadores de España (PTE-ORT)
Partido Obrero Socialista Internacional. (POSI)
Plataforma Aranjuez Laica
Plataforma de Ciudadanos por la República
Red de Red-Otro mundo es posible
Red Laica por la Igualdad y la Diversidad
Red Roja
Redes Cristianas
RQTR. Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Sevilla Laica-Andalucía Laica
Unidad Cívica por la Republica
Unión de ateos y librepensadores de España
Unión de Juventudes Comunistas de España
Unión Republicana Federalista-Madrid
USTEC·STEs – Catalunya