Social Issues

Technology and Privacy – Are they Mutually Exclusive?

The Kodak Fiend:

When the Kodak Camera was first invented in the late 19th century a public outcry erupted with the emergence of the ‘Kodak Fiend’ – the handheld camera so convenient that many individuals patrolled beaches snapping amateur photographs of unsuspecting sunbathers. The camera’s slogan “you push the button, we do the rest” resonated with the public and although the camera cost a huge amount of money then, shop owners struggled to keep up with the demand. A technological revolution had occurred much similar to the technological trends of today.

While technological advancement must be welcomed and utilised there are greater concerns which must first be addressed, that is, that the right to privacy must override the need for greater technological freedom. While the freedom to develop, own and use technology, especially cameras must not be conceded, a guide of social conventions must be established and adhered to.

A poster from 1984 - a story from George Orwell where the original term 'Big Brother is watching you' came from. Is this our society now?

The size and quality of cameras is both good and alarming:

Cameras are in all nearly all devices now where the quality and size of the camera is now so advanced that the stand alone camera is almost exclusively revered by professional photographers. You’ll now find a camera in most appliances and devices – televisions, fridges and every smartphone, tablet and laptop. Cameras are increasingly becoming used as dash-cams in cars, police wear cameras as a part of their uniform, cameras are used by blind people to read labels and street signs, surgeons use cameras every day during surgery and cat-lovers dress their pets with a collar-cam to track their wandering cat’s movements.

Most technology will have a positive benefit and a negative consequence. Police-cams will discourage criminals from making false complaints against officers and will also prevent police from abusing detainees. Dash-cams help resolve insurance claims and catch drivers committing driving offences. Surgeons are able to perform key-hole surgery using endoscopy cameras without completely opening patients.

Cameras are ubiquitous:

On the other hand, however, there are serious privacy concerns that accompany the advancement of technology and the implantation of cameras into many areas of our lives. Just like the Kodak Fiend concern of the 1890s, today the ubiquitous nature of cameras in smartphone means photos can be snapped and shared to millions in matter of seconds. School bullies take photos from their phones and upload them to social media to embarrass their victims while women are being secretively snapped in order to be shared with a wider audience.

On an even deeper and more concerning level are the cameras operated by computer networks for large businesses and corporations which, with facial recognition, are able to extract information about individuals by tracking their every movement. With the added element of us sharing our information on social media the sophistication of computer algorithms means we may not be far from a society where we can be walking down the street and know everything about everyone we encounter.

Google Glass:

The newest threat to the eroding privacy that technology has created is the Google Glass, a pair of spectacles with a built in camera and glass screen which projects into the wearer’s eye line. Google Glass is essentially a smartphone that is worn right before your eyes where information is directly available to you at every moment. While there is no doubt that Google Glass is an amazing example of the endless frontier that is technology and an example of the benefits to economic productivity that technology continues to provide, there are some ethical questions that must be confronted first. Google has tread lightly with civil libertarians thus far. Facial recognition has been left out of their product and video can only be taken in limited intervals – but for how long? Without appropriate laws and regulations in place to ensure individual privacy these companies will continue to push the boundaries and eventually change our perception towards the technology until we grow to disregard the privacy concerns.

Life Logging:

The idea of ‘life logging’ which the technology of Google Glass opens is both an inspiring and confronting one. Wearing a camera that takes a photo every 30 seconds means every moment of your life is captured. The idea came about after a man lost both is parents to cancer and wished he had memories of the more candid moments he enjoyed with them. Many people often take photos at special events but the intimate moments shared with family and friends are often the ones most worth capturing. Creating an electronic memory in theory sounds great but other concerns arise. While capturing the most cherished moments, you also capture the unhappy moments you would wish to forget. Furthermore, the privacy of everyone you encountered is compromised. Most people wouldn’t even realised they had just been photographed and if they did would they approve of it.

Technology will continue to improve, new technologies will always be discovered and technology will continue to improve our quality of life. Technology must be embraced – there’s no alternative. Technology must aid humanity – not reduce the rights of humanity. As technology becomes integrated into mainstream society many questions must be asked of its social progression. Law makers must act to protect privacy while ensuring society embraces the many improvements technology provides. With the greatly increased power that technology provides, comes an even greater responsibility.

Now where do I buy a pair of Google Glasses?


Privatization – A neccessary agenda to cut debt

Consider the following scenario: you are heavily indebted and you’ve reduced your spending as low are reasonably possible, however, you have a number of unneeded or under-used assets. Just like the majority of Western governments, would you not think it appropriate to sell off a number of assets or property in order to straighten your financial situation? This is exactly what governments should be attempting to achieve in order to eliminate debt.

There are obvious things a government would never sell. National icons with diverse historical importance or heritage listed properties such as the Louvre in Paris, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming or Australia’s Uluru would and should never be sold off. However, there are many other assets governments should look to privatize. A 2011 audit found that of the one million buildings the US government owned, at least 45,000 were deemed unneeded or under-used. Furthermore, one-fifth of the country’s land, which beneath it lies vast quantities of gas, oil and minerals, is unable to be explored due to government ownership. Throughout Europe these examples of unneeded or under-used assets and property are plentiful. Italy, for example, with debt equaling 132% of GDP, an extensive privatization plan would help to stabilize their debt burden. While Italy has a vast amount of government owned assets (more than many richer countries) its privatization agenda is non-existent. In OECD countries alone, the sale of such assets would tally almost US$9 trillion – that’s 20% of these countries’ combined debt.

Not all Privatizations are appropriate:

There is a reluctance from governments, however, to attempt to privatise assets as it is generally met by fierce opposition, just as Reagan experienced as he tried to sell land in America’s West and was met by a vehement coalition of left-wing activists and ranchers. The ranchers had a legitimate reason for concern of losing their grazing rights, however, many may well have been better off under more stable economic conditions. It is a political gamble for many governments and, if not considered and implemented appropriately can in fact cause greater problems, both financially and politically.

It is important to note that not all privatizations are appropriate. There are many services which should never be privatized to ensure all of society has access to them including healthcare, education and law enforcement. This is the widely held view from those of the center-right of politics. Left-wing activists have this fundamentally wrong where the failings of extreme instances such as the Soviet Union’s communist agenda exemplify. Even modern China, which was built upon communist principles has now moved into the realm of capitalism and operates as the world’s second biggest economy.


The privatization of a range of government assets and property is important to create more competitive markets which in turn offers the best possibility of increased productivity. When the private sector is able to build capital there is more incentive for performance improvement and when performance increases productivity inevitably follows. Privatization is not merely stripping assets away from the public sector but a comprehensive strategy for restructuring welfare systems and public services.

Australia’s example of Privatization:

Many people will argue at this point that increased profits will lead to greater disparity between the rich and the poor. It may be true that the gap becomes wider, however, in most circumstances the standard of living for the poorest citizens dramatically increases as real wages will rise. Where there is incentive and opportunity to do well it is imperative of the human condition to work harder. With greater opportunities employment rates will drop, consequently lowering the welfare burden on governments.

An example of effective privatization occurred in Australia over the turn of the millennium. The center-right Government led by John Howard in 1996 inherited $96b debt (>$138b today) during the worst recession the country had seen since the Great Depression. With his liberal economic policies, Howard moved to privatize government assets, including the government-owned telecommunications provider, Telstra. Along with deregulating the market and implementing tax cuts Howard and his Treasurer paid off the $96b debt and within 2 years delivered a budget surplus which they would continue to do for the 12 years they held government. John Howard showed the political courage and determination to do what was right for his country even in the face of public dissent and disapproval.

History has shown exactly what systems work in order to create robust and productive economies – that is the free market economy. Privatization complements free markets by introducing competition and supplementing productivity. At a time when markets are showing improvement governments must be looking to privatize inefficient, unneeded or under-used assets and property. Leaders of the world today must look beyond personal politics and implement the appropriate economic reforms – its time to privatize!


Ideas of Religion and Peace within Christianity

What is peace?

The concept of peace may be superficially characterised as the absence of violence, conflict or war. However, the definition of peace can be more complex than this. It encompasses not only world peace where nations hold amicable relationships but also peace on a personal level – inner peace or a state of calmness and tranquility with oneself. Many ideas of peace have been formed through religious ideologies. Both Christianity and Islam have developed deeper ideas about peace through their teachings attempt to instil peace in the adherent, and consequently strive for peace throughout the world.

CHRISTIANITY: How is the understanding of peace informed through significant writings in the New Testament?

The New Testament follows the life and ministry of Jesus where peace is a frequent and ubiquitous theme. Notions concerning peace are expressed:

  • in the announcement of the birth of Jesus “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on Earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:14)
  • in the teachings of Jesus “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9)
  • in the life of the early church community “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22)
  • and is most commonly used as a form of greeting “Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7)

Since the New Testament is the story of the life and ministry of Jesus, and themes of peace are frequent, it can be said that at the heart of Jesus’ teachings is peace. Jesus himself is called the Prince of Peace “For us a child is born…and he will be called… [the] Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Christians are taught to model themselves on Jesus’ teaching which therefore means Christians are encouraged to emphasise peace in their everyday lives.

However, this peace is not explicitly emphasised as to not war against others, rather the New Testament explores how peace can be achieved on a personal level:

  • modelling Jesus’ life and ministry
  • placing trust and faith in God “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding , will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7)
  • forgiveness of others’ sins “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18)

New Testament on Violence and War:

While the New Testament offers obvious themes of peace, the majority are concerned with finding inner peace, rather than providing unequivocal prohibition of warfare. The strongest statements against warfare come from the preaching of Jesus:

  • “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other check” (Matthew 5:39)
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9)
  • “love your enemies and prays for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

Although the New Testament does not explicitly prohibit war, reading of the New Testament would conclude that Jesus was a strong advocate of peace and thus opposed to violence. Therefore, drawing upon their reading of the New Testament, Christians, for many centuries refused to undertake military service and engage in warfare.

In summary, the New Testament informs Christians of peace through presenting Jesus as the model for which they should live their life. Christians should draw upon the teachings of Jesus within scripture and follow the messages of peace he preaches.

What are the principle teachings about peace in Christianity?

Ministry of Jesus: As mentioned Jesus’ ministry forms a principle teaching about peace. Jesus preached peace, not only in opposition to war and violence, but through faith to God, an overall sense of wellbeing and inner peace is achieved.

Pacifism: was the Christian position adopted during the early church and stated that all war was unjustifiable. With this Christians refer to Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek and thus refuse to engage in warfare or military service. However, during the fourth century, philosophical changes were made to the Christian pacifist stance in order to protect their religious freedom and property from theft or destruction. From this the Just War Theory developed.

Just War Theory: originated during the time of Constantine in the fourth century where it was said that to forbid ‘the state the right to go to war was to condemn it to extinction’. It sought to establish guidelines under which it was morally accepted to engage in warfare.

The Just War Theory maintained that nations are morally justified to wage war providing certain circumstances are met. Augustine proposed his theory to reconcile three things:

  • Taking human life is seriously wrong
  • States have a duty to defend their citizens and defend justice
  • Protecting innocent human life sometimes requires willingness to use force and violence

The Just War Theory is based on the premise that sometimes war is necessary to prevent a greater evil. In order for a just war to be waged:

  • It must have a just cause and not be for retribution
  • It must be used as a last resort
  • It must be waged by a legitimate authority
  • It must use proportionate means, target only combatants and avoid innocent loss of life
  • It must have a reasonable chance of success


Australia’s HealthCare System (Indigenous Australians and Native Americans)

Inequalities exist due to social determinants:

Within the Australian Health Care System inequalities exist due to the consequences of social determinants. In an attempt to reduce such inequalities, especially amongst indigenous populations, the importance of addressing these social determinants is emphasized. When specifically focusing on diabetes as an issue in both Indigenous Australian and American Indian communities, the determinants of geography, employment and education highly influence health levels. Within Indigenous Australian communities there are various initiatives, dependent on nurses that attempt to bridge inequalities existent between these communities and the general population. Similarly, when comparing the health issues of Indigenous Australians to the Native Indians of America, great insight can be obtained to highlight the successes and failures of the Australian Health Care System.

Indigenous Australians have a larger disparity to non-indigenous Australia:

The social determinants into which Indigenous Australians are born are directly linked to their health status. For Indigenous communities the isolation caused by their geography forms the first significant social determinant influencing their health levels. Because of their remote isolation, there is a substantial disparity in access to health services, compared to the non-indigenous population. Due to the unequal spread of funding across the entire population at Federal and State government levels, these remote communities are excluded from receiving basic access to nurses and general practitioners. In 2002, the Australian Government acknowledged the shortage of medical practitioners with 281 per 100,000 people in rural and remote communities compared to 312 per 100,000 people in more populated areas. Furthermore, as of 2001 78% of Indigenous communities were more than 50km from the nearest hospital and 50% of communities were also more than 25km from the nearest community health center. This clearly shows the inequality that exists due to the social determinant of geography and the disparity in access to basic health services.

Social determinants are the greatest deciding factor in health quality:

The societal conditions, or social determinants of health in which people live directly affect the levels of healthcare they receive. The many factors which essentially decide such social conditions include the environment into which people are born, events of early life, stresses of work and unemployment, social exclusion and support, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and substance addiction, food, transport and the healthcare system (World Health Organisation, 2013). While these factors directly determine social conditions, the dispersal of wealth, power and resources at global, national and local levels are indirectly critical in establishing the aforementioned social conditions (World Health Organisation, 2013). For Indigenous Australians the seventeen year gap in life expectancy compared to non-Indigenous Australians dramatically emphasizes the social inequalities that lead to disparity in healthcare levels. In his August 2011 article, Michael Marmot emphasized the idea of the social gradient of health, that is, “the lower the social position [of someone] the worse their health [is].” Marmot also provided several key areas which directly apply to Indigenous Australians which determine their position on the social gradient: early childhood development; education and skills development; employment and working conditions; minimum income for healthy living and sustainability of communities (Marmot, 2011). At the 2001 National Census the average household income for Indigenous Australians was just 62% that of the average non-Indigenous household. Furthermore, the unemployment rate of Indigenous Australians at 20% in 2001 was three times higher than non-Indigenous Australians (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002). As Marmot outlined such factors determine one’s position on the social gradient and consequently their level of healthcare. Therefore, it is because of the social conditions, or social determinants in which people live that directly affect their level of healthcare.

Rural and remote Australians experience greater disparity in healthcare:

Within the Australian Indigenous population, and especially amongst rural and remote communities, education forms an integral way forward when addressing the health inequalities. Education is fundamental in terms of social determinants and is highly responsible in determining one’s position on the social gradient. Statistics show great disparity in levels of secondary education between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. In 2008, 59% of Indigenous Australians who had year 12 education reported excellent health, compared to just 49% of those without this level of education. A greater disparity emerged within this group of indigenous Australians aged 35 and older; 43% reported excellent health compared to just 25% of those who never completed year 12. This shows that the social determinants of education is directly linked to health outcomes. Education is also critical within the health care system and amongst health care professionals. An increase in nursing education to respond to Indigenous history and culture is fundamental in reducing health inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This idea addresses cultural determinants and attempts to lessen racial barriers. It is thought that indigenous Australians consider Western health care culturally inapt and as a result are reluctant to access this form of healthcare. In the year 2000 only 30% of nursing schools had implemented studies of indigenous history, health and culture. This consequently affected indigenous Australians in a way that the majority of nurses have limited insight into the unique needs of indigenous Australians. Obviously, by providing this extra education to health care professionals, such cultural and historical appreciation can be afforded in the practice of health which consequently makes progress in reducing inequalities. According to 2007 report only 0.5% of the total number of nurses were indigenous. By promoting education of indigenous nurses to have a holistic understanding of indigenous health needs, the barriers between indigenous culture and western health care can be bridged. Education is therefore critical within both the indigenous population and amongst health care professionals in reducing health inequalities.

Many projects have been put in place to try and bridge disparities:

In an attempt lessen the health disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in terms of cultural differences, the Yapunyah Project educates nurses in Indigenous history and culture. The Yapunyah Project, designed by the Queensland University of Technology attempts to educate nursing students with emphasis on cultural beliefs and highlights traditional life ways of Indigenous Australians and integrates this knowledge with the practice of health care. A pre-project questionnaire found that just 51% of nursing students understood the concept of culture and its inextricable link to indigenous identity. The project found significant changes in nursing students’ attitudes and understanding of indigenous history and culture. As a result this led to a significant degradation in health inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians when in the care of these nursing students. The Yapunyah project provides a clear example of the benefits of addressing the social determinants of race and education on cultural awareness which consequently reduces the inequalities of health.

Similarly to Indigenous Australians, the Native American Indian population suffers similar health inequalities when compared to the non-indigenous American population. Education within this ethnic group highlights the inequality compared to the non-indigenous populace. In 1992 just 6% of American Indians had a university degree compared to 23% of the white population. According to Marmot (YEAR!) who argues that one’s position on the social gradient, is directly linked to their level of health, American Indians have substantially poorer health than the white population.

The inequalities that exist within the Australian Health Care System are the consequences of the social determinants of health which are incredibly important when attempting to reduce these inequalities. Education is an integral determinant in healthcare in both the Indigenous Australian and American Indian communities. In an attempt to reduce inequalities, the Yapunyah Project provides education to both nurses and indigenous peoples, improving their position on the social gradient and consequently their level of healthcare.

Inequalities of Modern Healthcare

Modern medicine is increasingly influenced by economic interests:

Originally providing a social critique on the capitalist economic structure of the mid-nineteenth century, today Marxist critique mirrors developing trends within modern medicine and the healthcare system.The Marxist model explains an evolving definition of health, as medicine becomes shaped by corporate interests in a highly capitalist society. The movement of healthcare from a local public service to being driven by the intentions of large corporations encourages a social division and inequality between classes.

According to basic Marxist philosophy, healthcare originally facilitated profit-making of other industries by reducing illness that affected productivity. In this capacity the motivations for providing healthcare become blurred with economic prosperity. Originally, as 19th century Harvard University president Charles Elliot wrote, “the objective of research in medicine is to prevent industrial losses due to sickness and untimely death”. The impact that capitalism had on medicine was profound in transforming a profession based on caring for the ill to one driven by economic interests. This significantly altered the definition of health to reflect the motivations of healthcare to support other industries to sustain their profits.

Work Environments are closely linked to health status:

The Marxist perspective furthermore claims that health is closely related to work environments such that unequal social structure should be considered more important to health issues than individual frailty or weakness. While this was largely evident during the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution, such models reflect modern trends and the impact on health due to class division that modern capitalism causes. In the United Kingdom between 1991 and 1993 the incidence rate of lung cancer was almost five times greater in the unskilled population compared to the professional workforce. As the Marxist perspective explains, capitalism blurred the lines between providing healthcare and maintaining profit so that healthcare becomes related to one’s work environment and therefore social class.

Technology has increased medical capital and with that economic interests dominate:

The rapid evolution of medical knowledge and technology has led to a significant increase in medical capital, obscuring the motivations of administrators in providing healthcare to make profit. From the earliest days of healthcare, physicians could do little more than provide comfort for suffering patients. With little medical infrastructure, small public hospitals which serviced the poor, and charity supported private hospitals provided relatively indiscriminative medical care. Marxist theory explains that with insignificant amounts of money being spent on healthcare at the turn of the century, the business of medicine was not economically lucrative. Because of the lack of infrastructure and investment in medicine, healthcare, although relatively poor at this stage was not socially divisive.

Towards the middle part of the twentieth century an acceleration in medical knowledge and technology saw a rapid increase in medical capital:

By the early 1980s 6.3% of GDP was being spent on healthcare at a cost of $10.8 billion. In Australia today, this has grown to over 9% with over $120 billion being injected into healthcare. With an increasing amount of finance within the medical industry Marxist theory explains that a once charitable and service orientated profession is now shaped by an entrepreneurial mentality. Medical administrators and corporate directors gain unchallenged power which they use to exploit the medical market for further profit. In this situation healthcare becomes a socially divisive service, even in an Australian setting where the public system is not discriminative to who is provided with healthcare, however, healthcare quality still varies amongst social classes. Wealthier citizens who can afford private healthcare have greater control of hospital and doctor choice and have minimal waiting times for elective surgeries. Furthermore, however, there is an argument that with massive amounts of profit flowing to medical practitioners and hospitals, a growing patient distrust has emerged since doctors are now tainted by capitalism and money. While the quality of healthcare may be related to social class, the significant increase in medical capital has seen the definition of health, change universally among social classes to reflect the emerging capitalistic motivations for providing healthcare.

A Medical-Industrial Complex exists between the state and medical industry:

The Marxist model contributes significantly to the explanation of a developing Medical-Industrial Complex where an intricate interplay between governments and the medical industry has a profound effect on the distribution of healthcare. In Australia and similarly in all capitalist countries, both the private and public systems contribute to establishing an entrepreneurial approach to providing healthcare since the state funds in part both systems. All medical equipment and pharmaceuticals are bought by the state from large medical supply and pharmaceutical corporations, therefore contributing to the super profits of these companies. With ever growing profits brings greater power to such corporations who in turn use such to exploit the medical system to gain monopolistic control over this market sector and thus minimizing competition.

Taking patents on all newly developed technologies or drugs eliminates competition and establishes a market monopoly for that product:

This currently occurs through the research and production of drugs to the point that pharmaceutical companies have abandoned the manufacture of certain essential drugs on the basis that they’re not profitable. The American Society of Health Pharmacists (ASHP) reports a critical shortage of a drug called Fluorouracil which treats a variety of cancers.The ASHP attributes this to the fact that manufacturers have simply ceased its production due to its lack of profitability. Drug companies would rather focus their investment on, for example blood pressure drugs which a patient would need to take on a daily basis.

Political motives become increasingly self-interested with a growing medical economy:

With patients forced to spend substantial amounts of money on additional treatments a socially divisive element is introduced where their ability to afford such is determined by their social position. In Australia both state and federal governments have politicized medicine and the healthcare system in return for short term political gain, subsequently altering the medical landscape. With overwhelming and increasing investment in treatment, rather than prevention of illness, governments are able to maintain short term satisfaction with voters. Governments are hardly prepared to make sizable investment in preventative programs which the effects, if even noticed at all, would arise well after their term in government. Since lower social classes experience the greatest susceptibility to disease and illness the lack of preventative measures furthermore makes this a socially divisive issue. A medical – industrial complex contributes significantly to the degradation of the idea of health, as motivations alter.

Consequently, the idea of a medical-industrial complex where the state contributes to the monopolistic tendencies of medical companies exemplifies the Marxist claim that just because medicine is organized as a national system of healthcare it is not necessarily free from capitalist influence.

The effects of capitalism are profound on how we define health and contributes significantly to the evolving motivations for practicing medicine:

In our highly commercialized society medicine has become yet another commodity exploited by large corporations for profit. Because of the economically lucrative nature of medicine, providing healthcare has become a socially divisive yet fundamental need. With increasing medical capital and a developing Medical-Industrial Complex, Marxist theory provides a critique on the exploitative nature of capitalism and its effects on the evolving motivations for providing healthcare for profit.




A Great Reformer – Pope John XXIII

Social reform has accelerated throughout the past decades and the Catholic Church has seemingly been left behind. The greatest threats to the endurance of the Catholic Church were not addressed throughout Pope Benedict’s papal residency and have hurt the church’s reputation across many affairs. With the appointment of Pope Francis the Church must find a way to reform much of their social agenda in order to make themselves relevant to today’s society. There was a similarly conservative agenda before Pope John XXIII was elected Pope in 1958. He was elected a caretaker pope, however, this did not stop him from implementing the greatest reforms in the church’s history through his calling of the Second Vatican Council. Today, Pope Francis must enact even greater social reforms and revive the church’s position amongst society in a world dominated by science and technology.

John XXIII implemented the largest reforms in the church's history in an attempt update it to the 20th C.What was happening at the time of his John XXIII’s election as pope?

The Catholic Church was entrenched in conservative theological beliefs where priests were ordered to vow against modernism, that is, reject technology that questioned the church’s teachings and threatened the church’s unquestioned power and authority. This was a result of increased knowledge about life and the universe where Christians were beginning to question the church and thus threatened the uniformity of the Vatican. Much of the Church’s central administration consisted of aging, Italian ultra-conservatives who, distanced from the modern world, had a vast influence and strong control on the church, and on the Pope. They were generally satisfied with the church the way it was and looked upon efforts to change it with deep hostility.

Furthermore, at the height of the Cold War, nuclear war threatened peace in the world. John XXIII was strongly opposed to Communism which is evident through his papal residency.

John XXIII was named man of the year 1962 in the midst of bitter conflict between the USA and Soviet Union where his influence was far wielding in averting armed conflict.

What were his contributions to the development and expression of Christianity?

John was committed to adapting the church’s stance and ideologies concerning revolutionary changes in science, economics, morals and politics that had encompassed much of the twentieth century. In doing this John’s overarching objectives as pope was to achieve aggiornamento or updating of the church to make it appropriate for the modern day. This was the main idea which is associated with Vatican II (1962-1965). He attempted to move the Catholic Church away from century old teachings and work together with science and politics. John sought to bring the church into closer touch with the modern world where there was a need for science and society to be intertwined with Catholicism. Although this challenged conservatives within the church, John believed that by embracing scientific advancements, Catholics could better understand and marvel in the Creator’s greatness.

Although only a caretaker pope, John XXIII made an undeniably important contribution to the church's modern relevance.Vatican II:

Through Vatican II, John XXIII is credited with many of the reforms that made Catholicism more accessible and attractive to believers in the modern time. In achieving aggiornamento the church would become the ‘people’s church’ – more Catholic and less Roman. “Everyone said they wanted peace and harmony, unfortunately conflicts grew…What should the Church do?… Shouldn’t she stand out as a beacon of light?”

In inviting the many bishops to deliberate, John diverted authority from the conservatives and showed that the real power was held not in Rome, but rather the bishops constituted the leadership of the church. Furthermore, through Vatican II John also established a greater role for the laity within the church where it was recognized the laity formed an essential component of the church. In transforming entrenched ideas of clericalism (rigid power structure) and allowing greater lay participation in much of the mass and other rituals, including communion, the church became much more appealing for adherents and moved from century old traditions, achieving John’s aims of aggiornamento. As well as the usual translation of aggiornamento, a ‘bringing-up-to-date’, it has been said that when asked about the purpose of the proposed Council, he replied, “to let some fresh air into the Church”.

The Mass:

The first session of Vatican II saw significant changes in the ritual of the mass. These included: the priest having the ability to give mass facing his congregation, rather than having to them his back. Furthermore, the mass was to be celebrated in the local vernacular, rather than Latin. This meant that people of all races and ethnicities could actively participate in the mass and be able to understand the word of the lord, thus understanding the teachings of the church. In establishing Vatican II, John XXIII ensured these significant changes would effectively increase the appeal of Catholicism to adherents.

Before Vatican II the mass was said facing away from the congregation. Vatican II changed this and today the mass is said facing the audience and also spoken in local vernacular.


The church’s teachings influenced through scripture were redefined at Vatican II. Pope John spoke of the need for this ‘It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better… the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.’ John acknowledged that the scripture teachings must also be updated (‘aggiornamento’) to appropriately appeal to the modern day, thus fitting more appropriately with science. This was a significant contribution John made, and although at first many were confused and frightened by the changes, today there is an emphasis placed back on bible as the central part of liturgical celebrations. This ensured the church’s teachings were not lost amongst modern day interpretations.

Vatican II brought bishops together from all over the world which made a statement that the church's authority was held by them and not by ultra-conservative Italian cardinals in the Vatican


Influencing not just relations between Catholicism and Protestantism, but rather all religious traditions, John’s contribution to ecumenism heavily impacted much of the later part of the twentieth century. Everywhere he went John made a point of meeting with people of other religious traditions. While in Turkey he rescued and provided for Jews displaced by Nazi authority, and more than any other Pope, welcomed more non-Catholic rulers to the Vatican. John initiated many historic visits to the Vatican, including the first Archbishop of Canterbury since the 14th century. Through Vatican II, John influenced a change in Catholic mentality that the Church alone held the truth. In removing this idea of triumphalism, Christian variants would focus on common grounds, rather than the differences which demonstrated that the walls that divide Christianity do not reach as high as heaven. In calling the Orthodox and Protestant churches “brothers and sisters”, and encouraging dialogue between Eastern and Western Orthodox churches there are many positive relationships maintained between varying denominations through the Christian faith, creating a more loving, supportive and secure atmosphere for all Christian adherents. At Vatican II, John invited members of other faiths as ‘honoured guests’, including leading figures of Islam.

Papal Encyclicals: Pacem in Terris and Mater et Magistra are examples of how John intended to intertwine the church with politics and society:

Pacem in Terris – Pope for Peace:

John contributed not only to peace within Christianity but to peace within the world. This was significant at the height of the Cold War with the Cuban Missile Crisis threatening the world with nuclear war. John issued ‘Pacem in Terris’ (Peace on Earth), a papal encyclical where he promoted world peace “not by recourse to arms, but rather by negotiation.” Such actions of John’s were significant as saw the beginning of the church questioning governments on social issues concerning human, political, economic and religious rights. ‘Today more than ever, we are called to serve mankind as such, and not merely Catholics; to defend above all and everywhere, the rights of the human person and not merely those of the Catholic Church…’

Mater et Magistra – Christianity and Social Progress:

Written in 1961 this papal encyclical translated to English (mother and teacher) refers to the role of the church to promote human dignity. In the thirty years prior the world had changed quite considerably, both politically and economically.

– Scientific advances included atomic energy, new means of communication (radio and television), faster transportation and the beginnings of the space race.

– Social systems had changed with the breakdown of class barriers

– Lack of economic balance among countries

– Breakdown of colonialism with independence

While the church’s main goal is to care for its souls and lead them to heaven, it is also concerned with the livelihood, education and wellbeing. This is shown through Jesus’ ministry where his primary mission is to guide humankind to salvation; however, he fed the hungry and cared for worldly needs.

John saw this as a call for governments to care for the social needs of their citizens. Although John outlines the need economic progress, Mater et Magistra calls for this economic development without sacrifice to the welfare of citizens. Furthermore, in his encyclical, John outlined the need for more developed and wealthier nations to aid struggling nations in the pursuit of justice and human dignity.

“Whatever the progress in technology and economic life, there can be neither justice nor peace in the world, so long as men fail to realize how great is their dignity, for they have been created by God and are his children”

“Rather, it is necessary that economic undertaking be governed by justice and charity as the principle laws of social life”

John XXIII wrote a number of influential encyclicals which had far reaching influences