Kammer outlines challenges to Catholic Social Teaching

By Gregory Smith
February 20, 2013

The Rev. Fred Kammer making his Founder’s Day speech at the Mansion on Tuesday Feb. 19.
The Rev. Fred Kammer making his Founder’s Day speech at the Mansion on Tuesday Feb. 19.

“The primary subject to be safeguarded is man…”

The quote resonated through the mansion as the Rev. Fred Kammer discussed social justice and the seven topics that must be addressed in order to achieve it.

As the former president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA,  the nation’s largest voluntary human services network, Kammer is very familiar with being an advocate for the mistreated and neglected.

His seven topics varied, but the common denominator was the inherent rights of individuals as human beings, with three in particular.

Solidarity with Creation

Kammer said that solidarity with creation includes grass roots programs, increased attention to the environment, as well as the covenant between people and the environment.  Kammer was also adamant about responsible stewardship and the responsibility that developed countries have to aid developing countries as a means of responsible stewardship towards our fellow human beings. Kammer also discussed how solidarity is corrupted and resources are squandered by wars. He said, “There is a connection over time between war and violence on one hand, and economic injustice on the other.” These wars squander resources that can be used to help poor countries develop, bridging the gap between rich and poor.


In his second point, Kammer discussed the impact of globalization on humans and how that affects them.  He said that there is a need for a juridical framework of trade agreements and movements that stand up to trans-national corporate power so that workers receive fair pay and benefits. He also stated how Pope Benedict called for a reform of the United Nations to make them a stronger influence in world affairs, specifically with business interactions. Part of this reform would also include the protection of vulnerable people in countries with unstable or negligent governments.  Pope Benedict called for a, “one true world political authority,” Kammer said. “But many cried out against a one world government.” In his second point, Kammer also discusses the rights of migrants. He explained that the average migrant is seen as solely a worker, and that is the wrong way of viewing them. They should not be seen as commodities there for someone’s convenience, but as individuals with human rights that cannot be stripped.

Economy, Wealth and Power

The effect of money on global economies and how countries go about doing business was also a point raised by Kammer.  He says that “with some corporations now wielding more economic power than entire nation states, we can question the effects of unbridles capitalism on democracy itself.” He went on to say that, to a certain extent, there should be a constraint on free market capitalism, and a new outlook on the idea of winner take all economics.  He also went on to say that the changes in income distribution have been drastic. One example he gave was if you were to take 5 families of varying incomes, the poorest family would take home seven dollars of 100 dollars and the richest family would take home 43 dollars of every 100 dollars in 1979. In 2010, the richest family took home 50 dollars of every 100 dollars, and the poorest family took home only three dollars of every 100 dollars. This was a clear example of how capitalism affects people of lesser means and migrants seen as commodities.

Kammer summed up his speech bluntly by saying how we must find ways to empower people so that they can take part in the life they deserve on this earth and that we as stewards must help them as best we can.

“The primary subject to be safeguarded is man…”

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Gregory Smith

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