Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Social Ministry Gathering Considers Ethics of Economics

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Social Ministry Gathering Considers Ethics of Economics

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON--Economic choices should be subjected to ethical standards and moral reasoning that take into consideration more than self-interest, said an economist addressing the 2013 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering here.

Charles Clark of St. John's University in New York said, "Economics started out as a branch of moral philosophy." When a nation's economic structures or institutions are inclusive, they create wealth, he said, but when they are exclusive, they promote scarcity and "wealth capture" for those who already have wealth.

Against the argument that all economic choices are based on self-interest, he quoted St. Thomas Aquinas: "The idea that man need only seek his own private good contradicts both charity and reason."

Clark argued for a "people-centered" economic model that asks the basic questions raised in the U.S. bishops' 1986 pastoral, "Economic Justice for All":

* "What does the economy do for people?"

* "What does the economy do to people?"

* "How do people participate in the economy?"

Catholic social teaching is "moral theology applied to economic, social and political issues." It is not a new economic theory or "a third way between capitalism and socialism," he said. Rather, it is based on universal principles found in Catholic social thought, such as the dignity of the human person, the right of participation, the common good, and the universal destination of goods, he said.

He called argument over the size of government "a fake issue." The principle of subsidiarity, he said, is two-pronged: It means that any level of government should be as small as possible, but as big as necessary.

Commenting on efforts to cut education and health care funding to balance the budget, he said, "Stupid and sick is not good economic strategy."

The biggest problem in the current U.S. economic structure, Clark said, is that "economic growth is not filtering down to the poor" but is being captured increasingly by those who are already very well-off.

The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, co-sponsored by about 20 national Catholic organizations, including several agencies of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is an annual meeting in Washington that draws leaders of diocesan social action offices, national and local volunteer agencies, and a variety of other Catholic leaders involved in advocating or carrying cut the church's Catholic social

About 450 social ministry leaders from across the Unites States, including some 150 first-time participants, attended this year's Feb. …

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