Associate professor of government Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J., and former visiting assistant professor of the School of Foreign Service Rev. François Kabore, S.J., participated in the final meeting of the Jesuit Task Force on Global Justice in the Economy last week in Rome to examine the role of justice in the global economy and environment.
Carnes and Kabore were two of seven Jesuits worldwide, along with two non-Jesuit professors from Jesuit universities, selected by the Society of Jesus for the task force over a year ago to draft a document on economic and environmental justice from a Jesuit perspective.
Since then, the group has met twice — first in Paris last year and later in Pueblo, Mexico this March — before its final meeting from Oct. 1 to 3 in the Curia Generalizia, the international headquarters of the Society of Jesus in Rome. Other members include an economist from France, a professor from the Atenao University in Manila and a coordinator of the Jesuits’ social ministries in Spain.
Over the course of its meetings, the commission produced a document of around 45 pages under the working title “Building Sustainable and Inclusive Communities: Justice in the Global Economy.” The work will be published in four languages and distributed globally through the Jesuit Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat’s journal Promotio Iustitiae in January or February of next year.
Carnes said that Pope Francis’ statements about inequality and environmental concerns were a major inspiration for the creation of the task force.
“It was born out of the early statements of Pope Francis … his concerns about poverty and inequality and especially his concern about the environment,” Carnes said. “[The Society of Jesus] convoked a group of us social scientists to reflect on the ideas that the pope had been saying in a somewhat theological framework [and asked], ‘Could we think about them in a social science framework and have these two speak to each other?’”
Carnes, who was the only political scientist on the commission, said that he was selected to the commission because of his knowledge of economic inequality and policy. He has previously written several papers and taught courses on inequality at Georgetown.
“I think that they wanted someone who understood economics at a pretty deep level, and especially my work on inequality lately is something that attracted attention,” Carnes said.
In addition, Carnes said that he was able to offer his insights on Latin-American policy and culture in the group.
“I think that they wanted someone that had a perspective that was more than just the United States,” Carnes said. “My work in Latin America … is something that may have attracted the eye of the planners.”
According to Carnes, although there has been significant progress made in global human development over the past decades, this progress has not been totally inclusive.
“That level of improvement, everybody should know about that,” Carnes said. “But at the same time, I think everybody should be profoundly worried that it hasn’t been as inclusive as we would like across different countries, across different classes within countries, and this growing apart, this division, this social separation that I think is profoundly concerning.”
Kabore, who now serves as director of the Jesuit University Institute of West Africa in Côte d’Ivoire, said that he hopes that the commission’s document will encourage the Catholic Church to be hopeful in the face of environmental and economic injustice.
“I hope this document will shed light on the potential for the church and all the people of good will to be a beacon of hope in pretty troubled times,” Kabore wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Carnes also said that the paper challenges individual Jesuit institutions to address issues of economic and environmental justice on a small scale.
“I think that one of our hopes is that, much like Pope Francis has done, we will make ourselves a little bit uncomfortable …” Carnes said. “We need to be here at the microlevel on our own campuses dealing with this, and I think that’s going to be interesting for reflection on our campuses.”
Kabore said he believes Georgetown students are in a good position to address issues of global economic and environmental justice.
“I believe Georgetown students have more responsibility than others … to be global players that could make the difference not only in their own lives but also in the lives of others, in order to foster global economic justice,” Kabore wrote.
Elizabeth McCurdy (COL ’17), a Program on Justice and Peace coordinator and justice and peace studies major, said that the creation of the document is well timed.
“I think that a lot of our Jesuit values … go a little bit too micro in making sure that individuals can take care of themselves. When we’re on a planet that can no longer take care of [itself], it becomes hard for anyone to do that,” McCurdy said.
Elena Itameri (COL ’18), a JUPS major who is involved in the Georgetown Sustainable Oceans Alliance, said that this document provides a useful perspective in inspiring the current generation to act on economic and environmental issues.
“I think that the Jesuit perspective will actually have some sort of fresh idea in terms of what … our generation can do [and] in terms of going out and actually having an influence on these issues, rather than simply acknowledging the existence of them,” Itameri said.
Correction: An earlier version of the article said that the meeting took place two weeks ago.
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