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Maike Hickson

Opinion, ,

Vatican counselors: What is the Church thinking?

Maike Hickson

August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- What protocols is the Vatican using to choose its counselors? Two such people of influence, far as they are from traditional Catholic morals and teachings, have provided cause for the question to be asked.

In her newest book, This Changes Everything (2014), the author, Naomi Klein – a famed critic of imperious neo-liberalism and of its economic effects upon the poor – tackles climate change. She detects most of the resistance against the current claims about the purported emergency concerning the climate to be among certain "conservative" circles, the same circles – as it turns out, that resist abortion.

The pro-abortion Klein shows in this work her own bias against conservative groups and media who fear that the purported threat of dramatic, and largely human-caused, climate change will be used to implement worldwide anti-life and population-control measures that are unmistakably contrary to the Catholic Church's doctrine and morals. This fact makes Klein's recent participation at a Vatican press conference, and at its main conference, so troubling. Why was she there?

Klein is also a harsh critic of an economist who these days is a frequent guest and counselor at the Vatican: Jeffrey Sachs.

For example, in her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Klein allots many pages to describing Sachs's influence in the promotion of several dramatic economic reforms in different countries, which have had terrible effects – namely, an increase of political suppression of any effectively organized political-economic opposition and the impoverishment of many people. Klein describes, for instance, how Jeffrey Sachs became the leading counselor of the Bolivian government in the mid-1980s, leading that regime to undertake austere measures against hyper-inflation by raising prices, cutting budgets, eliminating food subsidies, canceling almost all price controls, no longer restricting an influx of imports, and downsizing state companies (a precursor to privatization), among other things. Klein calls this reform "Sachs' Shock Therapy" (p. 182). As Klein shows, these radical changes within a short period of time led to the impoverishment of many Bolivians and finally turned Bolivia into a large cocaine-producing country, since the farmers, in their desperation, could easily start producing cocaine as a seemingly profitable and life-saving solution for their families. She also shows how leaders of the opposition against these drastic reforms were simply put into camps.

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In a similar way, Klein describes Sachs's inordinate and harmful influence within and over Poland and Russia at the time of their vulnerable transitions from Communism to a more ostensibly liberal form of government. In both cases, Sachs was central, having been especially promoted by the formidable financier, George Soros. In Poland, according to Klein, Sachs counseled Solidarity (the politicized Polish Labor Union) to make a similar reform as in Bolivia, and in such a fashion that there arose so great an opposition in Poland that the hoped for rapid privatization and other streamlining measures had to be minimized and, at times, even halted.

In Russia, Sachs was in support of, and supported by, Boris Yeltsin, whom Sachs counseled to undertake "shock therapy" as in Poland.  Sachs still supported Yeltsin even after Yeltsin performed a coup in order to suppress the growing opposition against his more austere and oligarchic measures.

In Klein's eyes, Sachs thereby contributed, in many countries, both to the impoverishment of many people and to the enrichment of an oligarchic elite that was able to profit from the sudden privatizations. She also points out that Sachs showed little concern over the anti-democratic measures used to implement these new reforms. As Klein says about Poland:

In Poland, Shock Therapy may have been imposed after elections, but it made a mockery of the democratic process since it directly conflicted with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of voters who had cast their ballots for Solidarity. As late as 1992, 60 percent of Poles still opposed privatization for heavy industry. Defending his unpopular actions, Sachs claimed he had no choice, likening his role to that of a surgeon in an emergency room. (p. 241)

Klein concludes:

Shock Therapy in Poland "caused a full-blown depression: a 30 percent reduction in industrial production in the two years after the first round of reforms. With government cutbacks and cheap imports flooding in, unemployment skyrocketed, and in 1993 it reached 25 percent in some areas[.]" (p. 241)

Russia had to undergo a similar "emergency" treatment. According to Klein, the majority of the population was against these kinds of neo-liberal reforms. which handed state companies over to a few dozen wealthy, often corrupt oligarchs. Klein says:

After only one year, shock therapy had taken a devastating toll: millions of middle-class Russians had lost their life savings when money lost its value, and abrupt cuts to subsidies meant millions of workers had not been paid in months. The average Russian consumed 40 percent less in 1992 than in 1991, and a third of the population fell below the poverty line. (p. 283)

Klein does not halt there. She also shows how Sachs in his actions in Russia (as well as in Poland) was heavily funded by George Soros (who still today funds some very influential think-tanks in the former Soviet Union):

George Soros' philanthropic work in Eastern Europe – including his funding of Sachs's travels through the region – has not been immune to controversy. There is no doubt that Soros was committed to the cause of democratization in the Eastern Bloc but he also had clear economic interests in the kind of economic reform accompanying that democratization. As the world's most powerful currency trader, he stood to benefit greatly when countries implemented convertible currencies and lifted capital controls, and when state companies were put on the auction block, he was one of the potential buyers. (p. 297)

And so, according to Klein, Soros also greatly profited, in his own way, from Sachs's "emergency" work and "shock therapy":

In the early days of the fall of Communism, Soros, through Sachs' work, had been one of the prime movers behind the push for the shock approach to economic transformation. (p. 298)

After this short introduction into Naomi Klein's 2007 critique of Jeffrey Sachs, one wonders whether she would now object to working with him at the Vatican, so as, putatively, to help the world save itself from a global climate disaster primarily caused by human agency. Does she now trust this man who, in her eyes, is the cause of so much debt bondage and human suffering?

Another question remains: what do the Catholics of these countries (such as Poland, Russia, and Bolivia) say when they now see this man who has caused them so much suffering – Sachs was often called "Dr. Shock" – now attending Vatican conferences and even counseling the pope? How can a man like this reliably help the Catholic Church in her concern to help the poor and all of Christ's "little ones"?

There is one final question that Catholics should raise: is the Vatican well-advised in retaining as counselors two parties who are not only in deep opposition to each other, but also both still offering their own false alternatives – one being "leftist democratic socialism" (Klein), the other being "neo-liberal shock-induced capitalism" (Sachs) – neither of which orientations supports the Church's moral teaching on abortion and on the rescue of the little children, nor her specific teaching on the fuller principles of social justice?

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