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The ethic of fraternity
Report of Michel Camdessus to the plenary of the European bishops
The economic and financial crisis is also an “ethical crisis” that places in discussion “the values on which European integration is founded”, since it undermines the model of the social market economy and even the foundations of participative democracy, said Michel Camdessus intervening during a session of the plenary assembly of COMECE (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community) on 21 March. He presented a report with the title “Solidarity as principle of the European Union”.
Crisis that comes from afar. Former Director of the International Monetary Fund and Honorary President of the Semaines Sociales de France, Camdessus offered a wide-ranging analysis of the current economic crisis. He then examined the relation of attempts to respond to the recession with the duty to “rediscover the spirit of solidarity” and the “fraternity” that characterized the construction of the European Community, posing these same values as parameters for relations between Europe and the rest of the world. “This crisis comes from afar”, said Camdessus: “our social model was surreptitiously destabilized by the spread of individualism and neoliberal utilitarianism, and our basic principles were corroded by them”. “Today we can gauge the devastation caused by the stifling, if not the abandonment, of our values. So we must rediscover them in this phase of crisis” and the first of these values that we need to rediscover, “if we are to start out afresh, is undoubtedly solidarity”.
Responsibility towards the world. “Solidarity means first of all that everyone should feel responsible for everyone else”: citing Benedict XVI and “Caritas in Veritate”, Camdessus then developed a reflection focused on three main points: first, the need to “identify the nature of the crisis” that Europe and the whole world are going through: a crisis that “involves an ethical crisis in relation to the crisis of values that Christians cannot ignore”; second, the common commitment to identify and spell out the “responsibilities of Europeans towards the rest of the planet”, with special attention to the poorest regions and the populations most deprived of material resources; and third, the consequent duty to make “gestures of solidarity that we could, or rather should, resolutely perform at the service of the global common good”. Camdessus recalled, in this regard, key passages of the COMECE document on the European social model (“A European Community of solidarity and responsibility”, January 2012) and expressed the hope that it would be widely distributed.
Global phenomena. Michel Camdessus then reaffirmed our duty to share the problems generated by the crisis with the developing countries, according to the principle of solidarity placed as the foundation of European integration, as indicated by Robert Schuman in his “Declaration” of 9 May 1950 that gave the go-ahead to the process of building the “common home”. According to Camdessus – who also referred to documents of John XXIII and John Paul II – Europe must avoid becoming self-enclosed; it must not succumb once again to the temptations of nationalism. Rather it should adopt “an ethic of fraternity towards the rest of the world”. He then tackled some specific aspects of the economic and social situation in the light of unequal development, phenomena of global impact such as migrations, the deprivation of drinking water for such a large part of the Earth’s population, and the consequences linked to lack of education, jobs, healthcare… The former President of the IMF insisted on the need to develop shared governance, with adequate supranational political and institutional levels. Nor did he fail to emphasize that, to achieve all this, well-prepared, generous and creative Christians are needed, “to be placed at the service of the common good”.
Praise for Van Luyn. “The experience and dedication lavished by Mgr. Adrianus Van Luyn within COMECE made him a focal point” for the Church in Europe, said Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Vice-President of COMECE, in introducing the lecture of Michel Camdessus. The Cardinal underlined in particular the pro-European commitment of the Dutch bishop, member of the ecclesial organization for 18 years and its President for the last 6 years. In the course of the same evening session another Vice-President of COMECE, Mgr. Piotr Jarecki, traced a profile of Bishop Van Luyn – who leaves his post to his successor to be chosen by the COMECE plenary of 21-23 March – and called him an “extraordinary priest”, “a man of dialogue” and a “Christian dedicated to the construction of a united Europe”. “Monsignor Van Luyn – continued Jarecki – has always been attentive to dialogue with the young and may be considered a source of inspiration for the new generations”. The outgoing COMECE President was also praised for his “ability to foster ecumenical dialogue” and “establish an open and structured dialogue with the European institutions”, as called for in the Lisbon Treaty.