A Narrow Definition of Development
Blogged by James Preece on 24th January 2012
What is development? If you follow the activities of Cafod (the Catholic agency for overseas development) you would be forgiven for thinking that development consists entirely of finding poor people and giving them, you know... things.
Now I'm no despiser of things. Especially things like food and water and shelter. Much of the work Cafod does in developing countries is vitally important and to be commended. Yet things can only get you so far. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish...
Ah, now we get closer. The handing over of things is a start, but authentic development means developing people so they can sustain themselves. I'm pretty sure Cafod do a bit of that too.
So we have to ask ourselves: Is it development to take millions of dollars in foreign aid and spend them promoting a culture which it anti-family and anti-life? Is it development to distribute condoms and tell young people that they don't need to build stable relationships before having sex? Is it development to encourage people to see children as a problem to be avoided?
Is it development to encourage the current generation to view the next as a threat? As something to be minimised? Give a man a condom and he can keep his fish all to himself, but who will look after him in his old age?
What does Pope Benedict XVI have to say about all this?
The truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man,[e.g. including the unborn child] it is not true development.
Some non-governmental Organizations work actively to spread abortion, at times promoting the practice of sterilization in poor countries, in some cases not even informing the women concerned. Moreover, there is reason to suspect that development aid is sometimes linked to specific health-care policies which de facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures. Further grounds for concern are laws permitting euthanasia as well as pressure from lobby groups, nationally and internationally, in favour of its juridical recognition.
Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good.
Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource. Populous nations have been able to emerge from poverty thanks not least to the size of their population and the talents of their people. On the other hand, formerly prosperous nations are presently passing through a phase of uncertainty and in some cases decline, precisely because of their falling birth rates; this has become a crucial problem for highly affluent societies. The decline in births, falling at times beneath the so-called “replacement level”, also puts a strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into savings and hence the financial resources needed for investment, reduces the availability of qualified labourers, and narrows the “brain pool” upon which nations can draw for their needs. Furthermore, smaller and at times miniscule families run the risk of impoverishing social relations, and failing to ensure effective forms of solidarity. These situations are symptomatic of scant confidence in the future and moral weariness. It is thus becoming a social and even economic necessity once more to hold up to future generations the beauty of marriage and the family, and the fact that these institutions correspond to the deepest needs and dignity of the person. In view of this, States are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the primary vital cell of society, and to assume responsibility for its economic and fiscal needs, while respecting its essentially relational character.
If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development. Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society.
It is clear from Pope Benedict's encyclical that for Catholics "Openness to life is at the centre of true development" and that states should be called upon to "enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family".
Who is supposed to do the calling exactly - if not Catholic development agencies?
I read on Fr Ray Blake's blog that Cafod have got themselves involved campaigning against the building of an airport in London. They have done so on the grounds that the emissions from aviation may lead to floods and other natural disasters in the developing world.
Yet I cannot help noticing that they are curiously silent about the toxic culture of death. They do not speak out when money is spent on condoms instead of hospitals. They are silent about coerced abortions and promotion of anti-family policies.
So Thirsty Gargoyle is right when he says that Cafod have a remit to care about the environment, but he is wrong when he says that campaigning on abortion would "be stretching things". He says that "The UK doesn't claim to give a moral lead on abortion or artificial contraception" but he is wrong - in fact the UK has such moral confidence on these issues that the UK spends many millions of pounds of your taxes promoting abortion and contraception in the third world.
Cafod are very keen when it comes to promoting trendy lefty issues like Fair Trade and Climate Change (both by the way are political issues that Catholics are allowed to disagree with) but they are completely silent on unfashionable issues like promoting marriage and fighting abortion and the culture of death.
Still... What could be more LiveSimply than no children?
h/t Ben Trovato
Update: Thirsty Gargoyle would like it to be made clear that his comments about campaigning on abortion referred specifically to domestic abortion (e.g. abortions in this country). Personally, I think the legalisation of abortion in Britain directly impacts our funding of overseas abortion and therefore is at least as important as the construction of an airport.