The Vatican’s recent economic assessment reveals a vibrant, engaging, and relevant Catholic Church.
This reflects a Catholic Church that sees the pain in our financial system as the Church brings relief to hurricane victims, refugees and the homeless. The document is linked to a church working with other faiths, in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, calling for transparency, relief and an end to poverty. It enlightens the church, which in 1999 helped collect 27 million petitions for the G-8 summit in Cologne, the forum of the world’s major industrial nations, calling for the cancellation of Africa’s debt burden and in the developing world.
Not only do we see the continued application of Catholic teaching to understand our economy, but the publication is the culmination of decades of Holy See efforts to reduce poverty through the United Nations, the World Organization trade and decision-making forums around the world.
“Considerations for an ethical discernment on certain aspects of the current economic and financial system” (Economic and pecuniary questions) shows a church spreading the gospel outside our church buildings and in the marketplace. The 15-page statement from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development shows that a church is relevant in today’s economic policy debates.
Although sometimes a reader wishes there was a glossary of terms, it would be a mistake to think of it as a theoretical document. The technical language of finance may sound complicated, but its use demonstrates that this paper seeks to engage with real-world policies – the policies debated in the US Congress, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and summits. These economic policies impact our lives almost as much as the oxygen we breathe, and yet too often, because of the jargon, we leave these conversations to lawyers, economists and investors.
The Vatican document raises the reality that God has given us a rich and abundant world so that each of us can reach our full potential and that we are closer to the Creator when we share these resources with each other.
The “Considerations” paper is not limited by conservative or progressive economic theories – although we do see a clear conservative emphasis on its freedom goals, the rights of the individual and calls for greater financial transparency, stewardship and a responsability.
Most surprising in the statement are the serious warnings from the Holy See about the global financial crisis. Recent reports from the IMF and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) echo the Vatican document, which says:
The recent financial crisis could have been an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and a new regulation of financial activities that would neutralize predatory and speculative tendencies and recognize the value of the real economy… the answer sometimes seems a return to the heights of myopic selfishness, limited by an inadequate framework which, excluding the common good, also excludes from its horizons the concern to create and spread wealth, and to eliminate the inequalities so pronounced today.
From there, the paper explores technical policies related to preventing financial crises and tackling inequality. The paper explores the need to limit speculative, risky and predatory behavior. The debate over this behavior in Congress revolves around the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.
When risky behavior combined with the debt crisis, we had the recipe for a financial crisis that plunged more than 100 million people, mostly women and children, into extreme poverty. The communiqué urges us to stop “shadow banking” and provide processes that “bring each country before its inevitable responsibility to allow and promote reasonable exit routes from the spiral of debt, without placing it on the shoulders of…millions of families”. unsustainable financial burden.”
In terms of financing the development of every human person and combating global inequalities, the Vatican targets ethical considerations regarding taxation, tax havens, tax evasion and corruption. The document affirms the need for states to collect adequate taxes to meet the needs of their population. The Holy See is stepping up and exploring more deeply its concerns about tax havens or “offshoring.” Every year the developing world loses a trillion dollars to tax evasion and corruption. The church highlights these concerns as the G-7, G-20, UN and IMF consider solutions for these revenue drains on the developing world. These questions are being raised as Europe advances tougher guidelines to prevent tax evasion and corruption and as Congress reviews the Corporate Transparency Act.
Ultimately, this teaching is a challenge to us collectively and an invitation to each of us personally.
The global economy should help every individual realize their full potential, and every individual must rise up to actively shape the economy to that end. The Vatican’s economics document affirms our responsibility to understand that “what is morally wrong is not simply profiting, but rather taking advantage of inequality for one’s own benefit, in order to create enormous profits that harm to others”.
In conclusion, the document launches an invitation to everyone: “Faced with the massiveness and omnipresence of today’s economic and financial systems, we could be tempted to abandon ourselves to cynicism, and to think that with our poor we can’t do much. In reality, each of us can do a lot, especially if we are not left alone.”
[Eric LeCompte is the executive director of Jubilee USA Network.]