Vatican Denounces Unfair Global Financial System: In New Document, Two Vatican Offices Decry How Markets Favor Wealthiest Few, Stress Profit above All Else

By McElwee, Joshua J. | National Catholic Reporter, June 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Vatican Denounces Unfair Global Financial System: In New Document, Two Vatican Offices Decry How Markets Favor Wealthiest Few, Stress Profit above All Else


McElwee, Joshua J., National Catholic Reporter


VATICAN CITY * Two Vatican offices have taken the global financial system to task, decrying in a new document the way markets primarily serve the world's wealthiest minority and stress profit to an extent that creates "a profoundly amoral culture."

In a joint venture giving theological weight to Pope Francis' frequent criticism that "this economy kills," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development also warn that global markets are returning to past heights of "myopic egoism" 10 years after the financial crisis of 2008.

"Markets, the powerful propeller of the economy, are not capable of governing themselves," the Vatican offices state in the document, titled Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones and released May 17.

"It is time to initiate the recovery of what is authentically human, to expand the horizons of minds and hearts," they say. "It is... the duty of the competent agents and of those responsible to develop new forms of the economy and of finance, with rules and regulations that are directed towards the progress of the common good."

The new document, given the subtitle "Considerations for an Ethical Discernment Regarding Some Aspects of the Present Economic-Financial System," fleshes out some of the critiques Francis has made of the capitalist system throughout his five-year papacy.

Over 16 pages, the two Vatican offices address both the overall vision of the world's market system and some of the technical aspects of finance that they say are worsening global inequality.

The dicasteries also place Francis' teachings firmly in the wider tradition of Catholic social doctrine. It cites extensively from dozens of prior papal documents addressing economic issues, such as Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno, Paul VI's Populorum Progressio, John Paul II's Sollicitudo Rei Socialis and Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate.

The central argument of the document is that the economic system should "aim above all to promote the global quality of life that, before the indiscriminate expansion of profits, leads the way toward the integral well-being of the entire person and of every person."

"No profit is in fact legitimate when it falls short of the objective of the integral promotion of the human person, the universal destination of goods, and the preferential option for the poor," it states.

While the document acknowledges that many financiers and stock traders are "animated by good and right intentions," it says global markets have become "a place where selfishness and the abuse of power have the potential to harm the community beyond match."

It says that although some modern wealth creation techniques are not "directly unacceptable from an ethical point of view," they can be "instances of proximate immorality, that is, occasions that readily generate the kind of abuse and deception that can damage less advantaged counterparts."

"Money in itself is a good instrument... and is a means to order one's freedom and to expand one's possibilities," it continues. "Nevertheless, the means can easily turn against the person."

"Likewise, the financial dimension of the business world, focusing business on the access of money through the gateway of the world of stock exchange, is as such something positive," it states. …

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