Speaking the Gospel

Article excerpt

John Allen ("Think Again: The Catholic Church," November/December 2008) makes a number of provocative arguments in addressing popular myths about Catholicism. Three of his observations, in particular, warrant more attention from international policymakers.

First, that far from "shrinking," the Catholic Church is actually in a period of enormous growth, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Second, the "official positions of the church" are not simply "conservative"; the church consistently defends human life and dignity. Third, the church serves poor people throughout the developing world through its "vast network of schools, hospitals, and social service centers."

What lesson should foreign-policy practitioners and policymakers draw from these observations? They should view the Catholic Church as a potential ally and resource. Catholic social teaching provides a moral framework for addressing the toughest global challenges, and the on-the-ground experience of the church can contribute to finding policies that work more effectively.

The recent reauthorization of the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is a good example. The church worked on a bipartisan effort to expand the plan's funding and expand its reach through a "conscience clause" that permits religious institutions to participate in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment without violating their moral principles. The church also supported provisions that promote monogamy and other behaviors that research shows are highly effective in reducing HIV infection rates.

Hopefully, world leaders will see past the caricature and view the Catholic Church as a powerful ally in building a world of greater justice and peace. …