John Sniegocki’s Catholic Social Teaching and Economic Globalization is a welcome and valuable addition to the corpus of writings on Catholic Social Teaching (CST). The book’s power is evident from the earliest pages when, as part of the Introduction, Sniegocki, in order to give the reader a context for the inevitable statistics that will appear in such a text, tells us the personal stories of several individuals. We meet Kali, sold into slavery in India when she was six, and Jun, a fisherman in the Philippines who lost both arms in an explosion after he was forced to fish with dynamite to try and compete with large corporate-owned trawlers. These are the faces behind the statistics. (16-17)
Sniegocki’s thesis is that “the widespread existence of poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation throughout the world demonstrates the need for fundamental changes in both global and domestic policies.” (27)The seven chapters take on the complex issues of development, globalization, and economic justice in a way that seems to move organically and logically. All sides in the many debates about these issues are given respectful and clear explanation. Eventually, CST is used to critique the various approaches to any given issue.
The third chapter, “Catholic Social Teaching and Development,” would be useful in any setting where people are seeking a concise overview of the most important papal and episcopal documents. The summary at the end of the chapter extracts principles from the documents in clear and urgent language.
Having laid out the major documents and principles of CST, Sniegocki continues in the fourth chapter to explain and then to critique the neoconservative negative evaluation of them. While defending CST on such issues as the key role of structural injustice in the creation of abject poverty, Sniegocki also acknowledges that this concept could be more fully developed. He then uses an exploration of CST’s treatment of Third World debt to demonstrate the need for “deeper and more systemic analysis” in CST. (180)
In the fifth chapter, Sniegocki introduces the reader to Indian social activist and author Vandana Shiva, in whose writings Sniegocki finds important insights into the strengthening of CST. Throughout the chapter, the reader is introduced to various grassroots approaches to global problems, and is presented with information about such topics as sustainable development, free trade, sweatshops, and the World Bank. The following chapter outlines some of the concrete initiatives of grassroots organizations.
Finally, in Chapter Seven, “Re-Visioning Catholic Social Teaching,” Sniegocki revisits the ethical and theological themes of CST, suggesting a need deeper structural analysis of the problems, issues, and conditions considered in the earlier chapters. The concluding section of the chapter, “Social Criticism and Pioneering Creativity: How Christians Can Constructively Address Issues of Development and Globalization,” answers the question that will invariably come from the lips of anyone who reads this comprehensive and accessible book: How can I help?