October 11, 2021
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican hosted a conference this week that brought together a number of politicians, business leaders and economists, many of whose views are diametrically opposed to Church teaching, to propose “integral solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis.”
The organizers of the “Healing Patient Europe” Oct. 7-8 conference aimed to discuss how denying the “very existence” of the COVID-19 virus and the “disastrous consequences” that followed could set a similar precedent for an “exacerbated climate breakdown, the migration crisis, the lack of intergenerational solidarity and intensified competitiveness over shrinking resources.”
The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, “Europe, a Patient,” a pan-European youth initiative promoting a sustainable future, and the Polish Centre for the Thought of John Paul II, a think tank promoting the late pope’s work on dialogue, solidarity and the common good, were the organizers of the two-day conference at the Casina Pio IV in the Vatican Gardens.
The conference, which wasn’t advertised and unusually not covered live on social media, centered on promoting a more equitable distribution of resources, rejecting policies that give priority to the economy over people, especially during the COVID-19 emergency — what Pope Francis has called a “viral genocide.”
Along those lines, one central idea discussed and backed by the “Europe, A Patient” Association, was universal basic income (UBI). The proposal, which Pope Francis is sympathetic to, would amount, in his words, to an “unconditional lump sum payment to all citizens, which could be paid through the tax system.”
Proponents of UBI, who include socialist and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the U.N. Development Program and the World Economic Forum (notably through its Great Reset project), argue that, especially in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the opportunity should be seized to put it into practice.
At this week’s meeting, UBI was put forward “as an alternative to the growing bank deposits of big business,” possibly contributing to a renewing of the “social contract between European institutions and European citizens.”
The conference’s organizers also proposed a raft of other, often regarded as socialist policies that they see as helping Europe’s economy to “create sustainable conditions” for the planet “endangered by climate breakdown.” One question posed was whether the European Green Deal, a set of European Union policy initiatives aimed at making Europe climate neutral in 2050, went far enough.
Other discussion points included accessible healthcare and a push for universal distribution of vaccines to achieve “Zero-COVID” — a proposal that critics say will result in a “lifetime of booster shots” aimed at achieving the goal of fully eradicating COVID-19.
Some of the speakers were close to the thought of Pope St. John Paul II, such as the Italian philosopher and politician Rocco Buttiglione, and Michał Senk, president of the Center for the Thought of John Paul II.
But the majority were, if not fully supportive of the policies discussed, at least sympathetic to them, and opposed to core moral doctrines of the Church. Many could be considered part of what has become known as the “globalist elite” — a group of policy makers and economists who favor centrally planned economies and foreign policy over free-market capitalism and national sovereignty.
They included the co-chairman of the European Greens in the European Parliament, Philippe Lamberts, who backed the legalization of abortion in Ireland in its 2018 referendum and in 2017 opposed a European summit that challenged same-sex “marriage.”
Others, speaking on a panel to discuss the “dignity of work, participation in community, care for creation: a real Green Deal,” were socialist Hungarian economist Laszlo Andor, and Joe Guinan, executive director of Next System Project. Guinan is a committed socialist who has contributed in the past to George Soros’ Open Democracy activist media organization. He is a proponent of “community wealth building,” a new people-centered approach to local economic development.
Speaking on the same panel was the American economist and population control advocate Jeffrey Sachs. A frequent guest at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Sachs is a Sanders supporter, a China apologist, and the architect of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at achieving a sustainable future by 2030 but with objectives that include more accessible contraception and abortion under the term “reproductive health.”
Addressing the theme “Rebuilding trust by helping citizens directly? Healing the European legitimation crisis,” were the president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, a member of Italy’s center-left Democratic Party; and Enrico Giovannini, an Italian minister in Mario Draghi’s government who is a fervent advocate of sustainable development and the green economy, and chairman of the Global Council on “Benchmarking of Societal Progress” established by the World Economic Forum.
Also discussing the same topic was French Archbishop Roland Minnerath of Dijon, a member of Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences who drew headlines earlier this year when he expelled the traditional Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter after they refused to concelebrate Masses in his diocese; and Johannes Hahn, the EU Commissioner for budget and administration. A pro-European member of Austria’s center-right People’s Party, Hahn does not have a pro-life record and in August allowed EU funding of abortion provider Marie Stopes International, now known as MSI Reproductive Choices.
Healing ‘Patient Europe’
Delivering a talk on “What responsibility do political leaders have for healing ‘patient’ Europe?” was Italian-American economist Mariana Mazzucato, chairwoman of the World Health Organization’s Council on the Economics of Health for All and a former member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Economics of Innovation.
Between 2015 and 2016, she was a member of the British Labour Party’s Economic Advisory Committee, convened by Labour’s hard-left leaders at the time, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Mazzucato is author of The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, in which she championed the role of state funding in biotech, pharmaceuticals and clean technology.
One of the chief organizers of the event was Mateusz Piotrowski, the young president of the Europe, a Patient association. An ecological activist, Piotrowski’s vision for Europe is to put people rather than infrastructure first. He advocates a temporary universal basic income, a “right not to work” during a pandemic, guaranteed employment provided by the EU, help for small businesses and adequate pay for health workers.
Another prominent speaker at the event was Laurence Tubiana, known as the “framer” of the 2015 intergovernmental Paris Agreement on combatting climate change, and Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet. Sachs is a lead member of The Lancet’s COVID-19 Commission.
Europe’s ‘Silent Apostasy’ Recalled
It’s not clear how much the Catholic faith was discussed during the conference, but in a press release before the event Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s observation that Europe’s disease is the “silent apostasy” of the Christian faith that built it.
“It is clear that, for the best European thinkers, the value of the human person in its transcendent dimension and solidarity, justice, fraternal love and freedom are a consequence of the message of freedom brought by Jesus Christ into the soul of Europe,” Bishop Sanchez wrote, adding that without that transcendent dimension, “common justice, common fate and common home will collapse.”
“In short, the virus we have to combat is not only COVID in our bodies but mass atheism in our souls, which is present in the powers that be,” he said.
The organizers will sign official conclusions and recommendations of this week’s conference and give them to world leaders at the next G20 meeting, taking place in Rome Oct. 30-31. The meeting will hosted by the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who is also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
This week’s conference was one of five major initiatives showing how close the Vatican is aligning itself to policies aimed at combatting climate change and government plans associated with it.
On Monday, the Pope hosted a large gathering of interfaith leaders who signed an appeal to world leaders to step up their efforts to protect the environment ahead of COP26, a large intergovernmental conference on climate change.
On Thursday, the Pope addressed the 35th International Meeting, promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio, entitled: “Peoples, Brothers, Future Earth. Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.” Also speaking were the outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Jeffrey Sachs, and the chairman of COVID-19 vaccine producer Moderna.
Also on Thursday, the Pope issued a letter to the Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University on the establishment of a curriculum on the “Care of our Common Home and Protection of Creation” as well as the creation of the UNESCO Chair “On Futures of Education for Sustainability.”
This week also saw the beginning of a 40-day prayer campaign, promoted by the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, based on the goals of Laudato Si, Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical.