A SHEPHERD SPEAKS

Bishop Fred Henry

February 4, 2013

The Year of Faith, declared by Pope Benedict is a "summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Saviour of the world" (Porta Fidei 6).

Throughout the Year of Faith, Catholics are being urged to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that they may deepen their knowledge of the faith.

One of the great documents of Vatican II was the 1965 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts."(GS 1)

OPPOSITION TO LIFE

As the constitution unfolds, the council fathers go on to point out that: "Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed.

A woman and young man walk among tents at the makeshift camp on the Petionville Club golf course still needed after the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

CNS PHOTO | BOB ROLLER

A woman and young man walk among tents at the makeshift camp on the Petionville Club golf course still needed after the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

"They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator." (GS27)

Following the council, and responding to Pope Paul VI's encyclical letter Populorum Progressio, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace in 1967. "Development" is the new word for "peace." It must be built daily, and it must strive towards a more perfect justice among human beings.

Extreme poverty is an enemy of authentic human development. Pope Benedict has pointed out: "The risk for our time is that the de facto interdependence of people and nations is not matched by ethical interaction of consciences and minds that would give rise to truly human development." (Caritas in Veritate 9)

It was regrettable, but not particularly surprising, that last month Don Cherry, of CBC's Coach's Corner would tweet: "Maybe it's just me. But Canada gave Haiti $49.5 million last year. Are we nuts?'"

RETHINKING HAITIAN AID

Even International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino mused about freezing aid to Haiti. But subsequently, he had to clarify his remarks: "While the results of specific projects have largely met expectations, progress towards a self-sustaining Haitian society has been limited. . . . However, we remain concerned with the slow progress of development in Haiti, in large part due to weakness in their governing institutions."

Despite the prophets of gloom and doom, things have changed in Haiti, especially in Port-au-Prince, even if it is as simple as the absence of the tons of rubble and debris in the streets left behind by the earthquake. Nevertheless, many people are still living in tents in appalling poverty and very precarious conditions.

Further, many international organizations that went to Haiti with large sums have already left. They were mainly present during the emergency phase, and have been absent during the reconstruction phase.

Nevertheless, it is enlightening to juxtapose certain texts from Pope Benedict's Caritas in Veritate with the interview answers assessing the situation given by Jean-Claude Jean, manager of the Development and Peace office in Haiti. (The interview is posted on the CCODP website.)

FEED THEM FOR A LIFETIME

Pope Benedict: "Feeding the hungry is an ethical imperative . . . and a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet." (CV27) And that doesn't just mean food aid, but also a long-term perspective for dealing with food security, "respectful of the environment and attentive to the needs of the most deprived peoples."(CV 26).

Haitians work on a test garden for growing hot peppers in Haiti, a project aided by Catholic Relief Services as part of a multiyear program of soil conservation, agricultural improvements.

CNS PHOTO | DEN DEPP COURTESY OF CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES

Haitians work on a test garden for growing hot peppers in Haiti, a project aided by Catholic Relief Services as part of a multiyear program of soil conservation, agricultural improvements.

Jean-Claude Jean: Haiti is a poor country and we think it is important to support the most vulnerable with initiatives aimed at promoting food sovereignty. For example, we are working in partnership with the Papaye Peasants' Movement, one of our partners for more than 25 years, on farming techniques, diversifying crops for consumption and sale, and the distribution of ingredients, such as fertilizers, to improve the productivity of the soil.

Pope Benedict: "I would like to remind everyone, especially governments, . . . that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity. The human person is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life." (25)

Jean-Claude Jean: We are emphasizing justice and human rights during this reconstruction phase, because to strengthen these would constitute a fundamental change for Haitian democracy. The reconstruction projects were designed based on the model of housing cooperatives found in Montreal, which enables families to manage their own environment.

The idea is to build permanent homes in the Gressier area (a commune neighbouring Léogane that was at the earthquake's epicentre) and especially in places where families lived before the earthquake, so as not to uproot them in artificial villages. The projects have been planned by local organizations directly representing the people.

Moreover, the people involved do not want to be called "beneficiaries" of this project, but rather "partners!" We apply Canadian building codes and, in particular, earthquake-resistant regulations because there are no public standards imposed by the Haitian government.

People tend to say there is no hope in Haiti, that everyone is discouraged, but when you consider the will of the Haitian people and some of the reconstruction results and long-term perspective of CCODP, there is ample reason for hope.