The Vincentian Center for Church and Society held the Sixth Biennial Poverty Conference on Saturday, examining the global financial crisis from an ethical and economic perspective in efforts to promote globalization.
“This event is an opportunity to learn about the extremes of poverty in the world,” said Rev. Patrick Griffin, the executive vice president for Mission and Branch Campuses.
The conference commemorated the 350th anniversary St. Vincent de Paul’s and St. Louis de Marillac’s deaths, in addition to celebrating the values of their movement.
“All of the parts of the Vincentian family are celebrating their anniversary and recognizing the global issue,” said Griffin, one of the opening speakers at the event.
The concept of the word “enough” was emphasized throughout the conference to recognize the current state of unmerited wealth distribution.
Griffin said, the word expresses the desire for the government to recognize the needs of the impoverished by limiting the wealthy’s unnecessary expenditures.
Rev. Drew Christensen, editor-in-chief of America Magazine, lectured at the event, discussing the shifting cultural values of our society and how the concept behind “enough” has been lost within the popularity of economic solidarity.
“God will supply enough for ourselves and for sharing,” he said. “When our needs are satisfied, it becomes our obligation to help others.”
Christensen also said “possessive individualism has led us to our current state.”
“It becomes impossible to have justice in our society if we only focus on ourselves,” he said.
The movement proposed at the conference also centered on the lack of government intervention and the need for federal organizations to limit the power of institutions that corrupt the economy.
“Man has the same nature and sin that he has always had, and if we don’t legislate and cultivate the theory of ‘enough’ the possibility of a bad future is likely,” said Oscar de Rojas, former director of the United Nations’ Financing for Development.
“The world of 2009 is also undergoing a very regrettable regression: a decline in the aspect of cultural values and ethical morals,” he said. “If this continues to happen, we could go back to living like a civilization that we once looked down upon.”
Both speakers were oriented toward addressing the crisis of ethics and economics, and how it affects development, poverty and the future of globalization.
“Socially just taxation is one of the most effective means that society has to distribute wealth,” said De Rojas. “This is not socialism. This is rationality and virtue.”
Following two lectures, a panel of UN ambassadors discussed the topic “Global Awareness, The Financial Crisis, MDG’s (Millennium Development Goals) and People Who Are Poor.”
The mood of the conference lightened as national performing artists Elizabeth and Joseph Mahowald concluded the day’s activities with their Broadway music and lyrics.
“My boldest hope is that the participants in the conference find a renewed sense of duty and drive for their passion for justice,” said Mahowald.
“The event has given voice to something we as Americans have to face,” said Beatriz Diaz Taveras, New York archdiocese’s executive director of Catholic charities.
“We have a lot of possessive individualism in this country that has slowed us down significantly,” she said. “We need to start fostering a sense of giving and generosity.”
Statistics conducted by the Catholic Truth Society were distributed at the conference and showed that the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of the global income, while the richest 20 percent accounts for 75 percent of world income.
“In these hard times, it is more necessary to foster this virtue of enough more than anything else,” said de Rojas. “The hope of interdevelopment depends on this movement.”