People Before Profits

During the week now concluded, the Holy See – specifically the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – released a teaching document on the international financial system. Entitled Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones: Considerations for an ethical discernment on certain aspects of the current economic-financial system, one might be tempted to put it aside as a document that would be turgid in its reading and construction and uninteresting except for certain specialists.

As Massimo Faggioli points out, however, this is a document that every man and woman ‘of good will’ should read and take note of, particularly in a society where the only imperative appears to be is to make money, lots of money, in a context that is devoid of any ethical context. Faggioli sums it up this way

The document recognizes that the current system has produced a great deal of wealth, while pointing out how poorly distributed this wealth is, most of it going to a small minority of investors. It treats the financial crisis of ten years ago as a wasted opportunity “to rethink the obsolete criteria that continue to govern the world” (par. 5). The economy needs freedom of initiative, but that freedom “creates centers of power that incline today toward oligarchy” (par. 12). There is no way to correct this tendency without more regulation: “it is clear that markets, as powerful propellers of the economy, are not capable of governing themselves” (par. 13). That leaves politics, but political leaders cannot regulate the economy without a long-term vision of the common good: “political and economic-financial powers must remain distant and autonomous and at the same time directed, beyond all proximate harms, towards the realization of a good that is basically common, and not reserved only for a few privileged persons” (par. 21). The document criticizes openly the “massive deregulation” of the financial markets, and calls for a “supranational co-ordination among diverse structures of local financial systems” (par. 19) and “a stable, clear and effective coordination among various national regulatory authorities” (par. 21).

The document is relatively short – my copy from the Vatican website runs to only 14 A4 pages – and is easily accessible to anyone who wants to read it. And everyone should read it, read it and listen to it, and having listened to it, demand that the economic-financial system that currently exists in our world be changed in order to promote human flourishing rather than only the accumulation of wealth with a small number of people.


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