The process of discerning the signs of the times begins in paragraph 33 and continues to the end of this section, paragraph 97.
In paragraph 33, the bishops specifically note that their work of the meeting is a response to the call of Vatican II to discern the “signs of the times” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, ¶4):
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we feel challenged to discern the “signs of the times” in the light of the Holy Spirit, to place ourselves at the service of the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus who came so that all might have life and “and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
As the bishops take up their analysis of the reality of Latin America and the Caribbean, they note in paragraph 34 that there have been great changes whose novelty is “their global reach.” This globalization reaches throughout the world, “to every corner of the planet.”
They especially note changes in science and technology, referring to “their ability to manipulate genetically the very life of living beings” and “their capacity to create a worldwide communications network.”
Though they don’t specify these changes, one see this globalization in the ongoing controversy about GMOs, including genetically modified crops. Cell phone technology has come to remote villages where before one had to rely on messages carried by hand or transmitted over radio stations.
The changes are “dizzying” as the bishops noted. I would agree.
The consequences of globalization, especially of technology, are also wide reaching:
This new worldwide scale of the human phenomenon entails consequences in every sphere of social life, impacting culture, economics, politics, the sciences, education, sports, the arts, and of course religion as well. (35)
The consequences of globalization will be treated in the rest of this section (2.1 The Reality that Confronts us as Disciples and Missionaries)
In the 31 January 2008 issue of America, the Mexican American priest and theologian Virgilio Elizondo noted that:
“Globalization became a prism for the deliberations at Aparecida. The conference recognized the advantages of globalization-the benefit of new technologies, the paths they open toward greater human unity and prosperity, etc.-but it also noted that the process “promotes inequalities and multiple injustices.” How can the church help create new forms of globalization based on solidarity, justice, and respect for human rights and the environment? Aparecida begins by looking at the disfigured lives of the victims of globalization, particularly those excluded from its benefits.”
Yet, among other Latin Americans, the liberation theologian Father José Comblin, who worked in Latin America from 1958 till his death in 2011, noted that the strong critique of globalization does not include an analysis of the causes.
As he wrote (my translation):
What does not appear clearly is that globalization also includes the colonizing of poor countries by the rich countries…. The expansion of globalization is the conquest of the world by the dominant powers. By means of the transnational [companies/institutions] and various financial media, as well as by the direct political, diplomatic or military intervention of powerful states, the rich world subordinates [makes subservient] the rest of the world. The transnational [companies/institutions] conquer the markets, impose planning on the weakest states, and enrich themselves by the exploitation of the poorest countries.
As we read the rest of the document we might keep this critique in mind to see if there is an analysis of causes sufficiently adequate to help deal practically with the problematic aspects of globalization.