Globalization and Catholicity

My office is supporting a three-year project called “Globalization and Catholicity.” Participants include The Episcopal Church, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philipine Independent Church). We were joined this year by observers from the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden with whom we have a long relationship as well. The goal of the consultation is to explore together what it means to be (non-Roman) catholic churches, in full communion, spread across the globe in various places, but all in the context of an increasingly globalized world.

Defining “catholicity” has been less of a challenge than defining “globalization!” The three full communion partners (TEC, the Old Catholics, and the IFI) all trace our histories back to the undivided Church, consider the diocese (with its bishop as president of the eucharistic community) as the basic theological unity of the Church, and treasure our “communio” ecclesiologies. “Globalization” is another matter!

The Filipinos, coming from a troubled part of the 2/3 world, rife with extra-judicial killings, the threat of marshall law ever present, and suspicious of their President, Gloria Arroyo, and her cooperation with the United States’ “war on terror” complete with its violation of human rights at home and abroad can only (understandably) see the down side of globalization. The phenomenon is, for them, almost wholly negative.

For us, and to a somewhat less degree, for the Old Catholics of Europe, globalization has an upside as well as the obvious downside. We point to the relative ease of travel (allowing them even to be with us for this meeting…and for us to join them next year in Manila), to rapid communications like the internet, and even to a sense of being a “global village” impossible a century ago.

One paper made distinction between globalization as a “process” which has been going on at least since the 16th century and globalization as a “strategy” or tool of a neo-liberal economic policy which is often experienced as oppression and marginalization by peoples around the world. How can catholic churches, particularly catholic churches which have found their identity partly in opposition to the “imperium Romanum,” stand together to speak out against the negative affects of globalization while yet welcoming the positive results it can bring to the world?

This is the burden of our consultation. An “interim report” will soon be released, but the work will continue next year in the Philippines!

7 Responses to “Globalization and Catholicity”

  1. rwk Says:

    I find this article odd. For example, the discussion of the Philipines and the Pres. Arroyo. The Islamic extremists that occupy the southern Philipines have time and again demonstrated themselves as ruthless. They have been at their activities for a very long time. Far longer than the Philipine democracy, which is just twenty years old and is trying to shake off a terrible legacy. History has shown the difficulty of trying raise up a democracy in such a conflict laden environment. The Abu Sayaaf Group is not really one that is amenable to coming around the table.

    I do like the point that globalization has been going on for quite some time. Personally, I think it started when the first group of humans walked over to the next watering hole. The only thing that has changed is the pace of globalization. Now changes occur in months, not decades and centuries. Archeology tells us that the Neandertals were an early victim of globalization. So were the Aztecs and Inca when smallpox made its way West with the Europeans, as were the Europeans when the Black Death came West. We are often poorly adapted to receive this change.

    On the other hand, globalization has finally given a voice in what were primarily white, European/American dominated institutions, like the Anglican Communion. It seems to me the Episcopal Church is now getting a sense of what globalization feels like when you’re the one being “globalized”. I, on the other hand, have found the opportunity to meet with and worship with my Nigerian, Kenyan, Ugandan and Rwandan brothers and sisters in Christ a marvelous benefit of globalization.

    As always, an interesting piece.

  2. ecubishop Says:

    Yes, odd indeed.

    Because privileged white folks like you and me experience “meeting and worship(ing) with…Nigerian, Kenyan, Ugandan and Rwandan [and Filipino] brothers and sisters in Christ a marvelous benefit of globalization.”

    Most of them experience such things as “free” trade, farm subsidies for American farmers which drive theirs out of business, MacDonald’s on every corner, and “cultural genocide” as oppressive rather than “a marvelous benefit.”

  3. rwk Says:

    I fully agree with your assessment of the economic impact. Being a laissez-faire economist, I abhor the farm subsidies. Of course the whole situation is wildly complex. Many of the developing world countries placed their hopes in the utterly failed socialist command economies model. Many of the regimes could be fairly described as “kleptocracies”. There is no economic reason why Congo should be as poor as it is…except the sinfulness of human beings. I think the cultural impact is not quite as clear. Because culture is more easily transferrable there is much of the developing world that has influenced us. We could go on and on…

  4. ecubishop Says:

    “Wildly complex” describes it pretty well!

    I understand about ‘klepocracies’ but if you are suggesting that “the sinfulness of human beings” keeping Congo poor does not include us, I would have to disagree.

    And, yes, we have certainly been influenced (mostly for good) by the cultures of the developing world. I wish I could say the same about the reverse.

    (Sorry to go “on and on” about this…It’s been a pretty depressing week, in may ways!)

  5. rwk Says:

    Not a problem…I’ll add your “pretty depressing week” to my prayer list.

    I did not mean to say that there wasn’t a “Developed World” role to play in Congo’s distress, but more that there was plenty of blame to go around. I know many businessmen who try to do “the right thing” in the developing world, but in many of the systems there is no real “rule of law” and if you don’t bribe, you don’t get in. Some have chosen not to play the game, which puts them behind the ball against their competitors who do. The greed of the human heart in those who demand bribes and those who pay them in the hopes of greater profits is what I was driving at. Zimbabwe, however, is largely a Zimbabwean made disaster.

    Some, I think positive, influences of globalization in developing countries is the dollarization effort. Ecuador, El Salvador and Panama have remarkably stable economies because they have finally chosen to not allow themselves to print money. In these countries the poor will not have to fear hyperinflation and wake up one morning with their meager savings wiped out. The wealthy in many countries would manipulate the system, keeping their money in dollars and then pillaging the country once the currency collapsed.

    In Kenya, there is a small group of police officers who have tried to change the system by pledging “clean hands”. It is very difficult for them as their regular salaries are barely adequate. It is men like these that need to be supported.

  6. ecubishop Says:

    Could not agree more. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful responses.

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