Reflecting on Catholic Social Teaching to take responsibility for each other has inspired Justice and Peace Groups in Scotland to supply fairtrade products to parishes, in the knowledge of the fairer deal it brings for farmers in the developing world.

“We had been promoting Fairtrade for a while and it took us about three months to tick all the boxes required to become a Fairtrade Church,” says a parishioner at St. Joseph’s Parish, Whitburn.  “It is amazing how, given goodwill on all sides, things just seem to happen” she adds.  Located near Bathgate in Scotland, the parish has a Justice and Peace Group which supplies it with tea and coffee from Traidcraft. Worshippers enjoy the smell and taste of Fairtrade coffee at Sunday breakfasts, and, for special events, such as Christmas, Fairtrade products are made available.

This parish belongs to St Andrews and Edinburgh which was the first Catholic Fairtrade Archdiocese in Scotland. Motivated by the knowledge that fair trade makes a huge difference to farmers and their families in the developing world, by paying a just price for their products, parishioners from across the archdiocese took action. There was 15 months of campaigning, phone calls, and letters to spread the word about the benefits of using Fairtrade products. Large and small parishes, from both the city and the countryside, got involved, even smaller parishes which didn’t have facilities to offer tea and coffee. Some had articles in their church newsletters during February’s Fairtrade fortnight. Support was given by SCIAF, Justice and Peace Groups, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the One World and Third World groups.

Only when 51 parishes were involved out of a total of 102, the 50 percent tipping point required by the Fairtrade Foundation, was reached and the Archdiocese received Fairtrade status. There is a Fairtrade webpage on the archdiocesan website and a guide to the Fairtrade churches. It is felt that every Fairtrade parish helps to guarantee a better deal for communities in the developing world, and the causes of poverty are being addressed.

Sinful inequalities

Catholic Social Teaching suggests that all of us have duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families and to the larger society. In the 1967 document Populorum Progressio – “The Progress of Peoples” (1967), Pope Paul VI identified unjust trade agreements between rich and poor nations as one reason for lack of progress in many countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.  He warned that inequality in the sharing of our wealth is “a scandal crying out for justice” and said the church could not fail to criticise the fact that a minority “enjoy a civilised existence, while the rest stay poor”. In 1975, Evangelii Nuntiandi -”Evangelisation in the Modern World” (1975), stated that a part of the mission of the church is to promote the common good in social, economic and political decision-making. The Catholic Catechism gives urgency to the elimination of sinful inequalities for the promotion of human dignity and well-being (paragraph 1947).

Vatican denouncement of unjust trade rules, power imbalances, famine, investment in arms rather than basic services, racism and inequality is relevant today, and we are urged to read the signs of our times and respond to them. Catholic Social Teaching gives hope that the church – internationally and locally – plays a significant role in tackling a culture of death which promotes greed, endless consumerism, and violence.

In Fairtrade parishes and Catholic schools, people are taking responsibility for their own life choices, understanding their interdependence with other communities. They, and all who are active in the Church’s Justice and Peace networks, are also interested in ethical investment of their money and living less exploitative and energy guzzling lifestyles.



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