Pope Benedict on Economic Justice

THIS CATHOLIC’S VIEW By Thomas J. Reese, S.J. Pope Benedict’s long awaited encyclical calls for a radical rethinking of economics … Continued


By Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

Pope Benedict’s long awaited encyclical calls for a radical rethinking of economics so that it is guided not simply by profits but by “an ethics which is people-centered.”

“Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end,” he writes in Caritas in veritate (Charity in Truth), but “once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.”

He decries that “Corruption and illegality are unfortunately evident in the conduct of the economic and political class in rich countries…as well as in poor ones.” He also says that “Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity, so as not to abuse the sophisticated instruments which can serve to betray the interests of savers.”

Benedict, like Paul VI, whose encyclical Populorum Progressio (Development of Peoples) he is commemorating, is concerned about the “The scandal of glaring inequalities.” Both Benedict and Paul hoped that economic development would “produce real growth, of benefit to everyone and genuinely sustainable.” Benedict disappointedly acknowledges that “The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase” [italics in text].

“The dignity of the individual and the demands of justice require,” he affirms, “that economic choices do not cause disparities in wealth to increase in an excessive and morally unacceptable manner, and that we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.”

In his encyclical, Benedict calls for charity guided by truth. “Charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples,” he says. “Justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity, because this is always concerned with man and his needs,” he writes. “Locating resources, financing, production, consumption and all the other phases in the economic cycle inevitably have moral implications. Thus every economic decision has a moral consequence.”

The encyclical notes the globalization that has taken place since Paul’s encyclical was issued over 40 years ago. Alas, “as society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but does not make us brothers.” True “development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side.” The goal of such development is “rescuing peoples, first and foremost, from hunger, deprivation, endemic diseases and illiteracy.”

Sounding like a union organizer, Benedict argues that “Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the country’s international competitiveness, hinder the achievement of lasting development.”

Rather the goal should be decent employment for everyone, which “means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labor; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.”

The pope disagrees with those who believe that the economy should be free of government regulation. “The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way,” he writes. “In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.”

Benedict even supports “a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, as my predecessor Blessed John XXIII indicated some years ago.”

While Benedict acknowledges the role of the market, he emphasizes that “the social doctrine of the Church has unceasingly highlighted the importance of distributive justice and social justice for the market economy.” He unflinchingly supports the “redistribution of wealth” when he talks about the role of government. “Grave imbalances are produced,” he writes, “when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.”

Although Benedict’s emphasis in the encyclical is on the theological foundations of Catholic social teaching, amid the dense prose there are indications, as shown above, that he is to the left of almost every politician in America. What politician would casually refer to “redistribution of wealth” or talk of international governing bodies to regulate the economy? Who would call for increasing the percentage of GDP devoted to foreign aid? Who would call for the adoption of “new life-styles ‘in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments'”?

Benedict believes that if people understood God’s love for every single human person and his divine plan for us, then believers would recognize their duty “to unite their efforts with those of all men and women of good will, with the followers of other religions and with non-believers, so that this world of ours may effectively correspond to the divine plan: living as a family under the Creator’s watchful eye.”

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., is Senior Fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

By Thomas J. Reese | 
July 7, 2009; 1:14 AM ET

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  • whocares666

    Show by example and deeds, not by gospels according to Benny.

  • TwoEvils

    “He unflinchingly supports the “redistribution of wealth” when he talks about the role of government.”Would the Church be willing to forego its tax-free status? Would the Church be willing to give back to the people the massive amounts of wealth it has accumulated over the centuries? Would the Pope and Cardinals be willing to live the simple life?I didn’t think so.

  • bcamarda2

    As conservative as Benedict is, he is indeed economically to the left of nearly every American politician. Which ought to give Americans pause as to just how conservative and out of the mainstream their country has become. Those, too, who complain about “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose the teachings they wish to follow should step back, pause, read this encyclical, and take it seriously. Then, if they still choose to oppose its teachings, they should know that there is at least a credible case that the teachings of Christ lead to a different conclusion than theirs. Those who choose after reflection to disagree with Benedict on these matters might also find a little more humility in the way they treat those who disagree with certain of the Church’s *other* teachings.

  • ToughChoices



    Christianity by it’s very nature and teachings is socialistic. It decries wealth, saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. It advocates some for all, in lieu of all for some. Anyone that believes that it is alright for some to be obscenely wealthy, while millions have to do without, cannot be a true christian. Talking about being a christian is easy. BEING a christian is hard.

  • TomfromNJ1

    Re amt4321It is not financial advice, it is moral advice just as if he opposed pornographic movies would mot be entertainment advice, but moral advice. Two of the 10 commandments refer to material things, but more importantly, we have the words of Jesus saying the rich should sell what they have and GIVE to the poor. And he did so frequently. It is interesting to hear how many so-called Christians like to define one’s Christianity with regard to abortion and homosexuality. As a straight male, those are easy for me to obey. But what Jesus spoke most about was a redistribution of income from the rich to the poor (which by the way helps the rich — remember the camel and the eye of the needle), hypocrisy, etc.What the pope is preaching against here is GREED and, I believe that is indeed the cause of the world’s financial troubles. Look at what those who just wanted more and more did to the banking industry. Look at how they try to get around regulations. Look at how they oppose limiting the obscene salaries for those at the top while crying the the union workers in the auto industry and making too much (even though it is a small percentage of the what the leaders are making). They want them to work for the same salaries that the workers for the foreign owned companies in the south get. I wonder what would happen if we asked that American CEO’s worked for the same salaries that their foreign counterparts get. This is a known conservative pope. Imagine what we would expect from a liberal one. I can only dream that such will happen in my lifetime. Can you imagine Christ opposing universal health care?

  • julianmalcolm

    Radical rethinking? Not really, at least not within the Church. Pope Benedict is building on the work of not only JPII but also Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, (now over 100 years old but just as relevant). In warning about the dangers of Capitalism he is not giving a blanket endorsment of Socialism. In fact, over the last 100 years Catholic thinkers who have applied the teachings of the Church on economics have developed what might be called a third alternative, sometimes refered to, (fortunately or unfortunately), as Distributism. It is neither Capitalism nor Socialsim. As GK Chesterton describes it, Capitalism’s responce to the issue of private property is that it is acceptable and natural that the majority of wealth should be held by a minority of individuals while Socialsim holds that it is unacceptable for wealth to go to any private individuals at all but ought rather to remain solely the domain of the state. Neither of these is just. Distributism holds that what the Church is saying is that private property is a good thing for every one, not just some people. The state has a responsibility to prevent economic injustice but this does not mean that the state should over reach and impose unnessecary burdens or restrictions on individuals ability to exercise freedoms in the management of their private property. Its a balance of course, and a tricky one at that sometimes. However, I think it would be wrong to misunderstand this encyclical as a propaganda piece for socialism, or anything else really. It is a call for justice and responsibility.

  • Bluefish2012

    TRACIETHEDOLPHIN–NO. It is not wealth that Christianity decries wealth, but the misuse of wealth and the unjust accumulation of wealth. Your dichotomy is a false one–some for all yes, but it does not limit the wealth that comes about through talent or by inheritance. Certainly those with wealth have a greater obligation to share their excess, but they are not obligated to dissipate their wealth, and indeed are encouraged not to bury their talents but to make them productive.

  • maurban

    Capitalism and Christianity are completely incompatible. The Bible and the teachings of Jesus make it clear: the pursuit of wealth and the accumulation of wealth is a sin in the eyes of God. You cannot be rich and go to heaven, Jesus said so directly.Christians in this country fool themselves into thinking that they can please God while becoming wealthy. You cannot have it both ways.Can anyone seriously argue that Jesus would be against universal health care, against high taxes (give onto Caesar what is Caesar’s) in order to support the poor (through welfare no less!) and totally against all wars.Jesus is no American

  • ravitchn

    In the early 20th century the church sought an alternative to socialism and capitalism and came up with versions of fascism. I have little confidence it will do better today.

  • msh41

    “I have a pastor. I like him a lot. I would never ask him for financial advice.”Of course not. He would have to consider the moral and ethical implications of your financial decisions, which might not be to your benefit.

  • dc9man

    Jesus told the wealthy young man “Go sell all you have and give it to the poor then come follow me”, it is also an indictment of the Vatican and it’s extraordinary wealth in the midst of world suffering and poverty.

  • thebink

    Isn’t the Catholic church the richest in existence? Corruption and illegality are also evident in the conduct of rich churches.

  • pwspirn

    After the Catholic Church, has, for millennia, aligned itself or, at least, cooperated with the economic and political power structures in Europe and North America for their mutual benefit, it is refreshing to hear the Pope call for world-wide economic and social justice, including measures to redistribute wealth. Unfortunately moral suasion from Rome, even among devout Catholics, is unlikely to produce results along these lines. If the Pope is serious, let us see the Church redirect its resources into the programs he recommends, particularly the education of girls and women. The Pope should terminate immediately the ongoing Vatican investigations of American nuns inspired primarily by conservative’s fears of the social activism promoted by many orders. And the Church must recognize and respond to the greatest threat to civilization, overpopulation. It is entirely consistent with Catholic theology–though not recent Catholic dogma–to promote birth control in order to protect the quality and sanctity of all human life.

  • DOps

    This is more utopian than socialist. The Pope should recognize, within the rubric of his faith, that people succeed because they try harder, are driven by different motives, and have different natural acumen. Wouldn’t this all be part of God’s plan? Wouldn’t eliminating diversity of motive and means be trying to go against the grand design?

  • lovinliberty

    He’s right the modern economy is an absolute failure given how much its given to so many. PLEASE!! Its certainly true that people need to be protected from abuse. But to indict the whole system based on “profit” underscores that the Pope should stick with religion

  • chrojo01

    I agree, we should all do more research into our own economic activities and see to it that they are not harmful to any other party to a transaction down the line. Clarifications and revampting the laws of the financial markets would be a positive and useful step. Leading up to the financial crisis, some transactions and financial instruments were so complex and innovative that many did not really understand them. Legal clarifications will protect those who may get hurt and force those thinking they can make a quick buck by exploiting someone else’s lack of knowledge about a complex transaction think twice before doing so.I do think though that Benedict’s encyclical is mistargeted and definitely has the signs of being written by a person who means very well, but who is making the mistake of believing that the only way to stop the excesses of exploitive capitalism is to embrace the excesses of the coercive government power. Yes, more laws need to be put in place to protect direct and indirect players in the derivatives markets and yes, perhaps a stronger IMF is needed. Benedict should have mentioned the limitations of such institutions in his encyclical.I know many and know of many more individuals in business [mostly smaller to mid-cap businesses] who are people of good conscience and who consistently make ethical choices. The Pope is mistakenly embracing a system, much like Obama, that will punish all actors in the private economy, will stifle innovation and creativity, and will end up impoverishing everyone in the end with the crushing debt that will result.Instead of advocating such worldly things as increasing the coercive power of Government, the Pope ought to speak to us as a spiritual leader, not a political leader, and tell us of God’s reward for everyone who has faith and uses their faith and their charity for others to ensure that they do no injustice to any other person. This includes economic activities. The Pope is not a political leader, except of the Vatican. When Popes were political leaders, people bought or killed for the Papacy, and people were burned at the stake for attempting to read the Bible. By putting himself in this political debate with a purely political, not personal or spiritual proposal, the Pope is de-legitimizing his legitimate link to the establishment of the Church by Christ himself.The Catholic Church needs to take a stronger moral stance against real evils; it cannot do that if it protects pedophiles, hides our symbols when Abortionists speak at our Catholic institutions, or embraces evil and Anti-Christian perversions such as “Liberation” “Theology” — which does not liberate and is not about God, it’s about man making himself or an institution of power, such as Government, into an idol.

  • maurban

    You are not free to interpret the word of God. When Jesus says you must give away your wealth and that you cannot eneter heaven if you have wealth, he is not kidding or making “suggestions”. Those of you here you say that “surely God must have wanted us to succeed” and “people need to try harder, driven by personal ambition, in order progress humanity”, and other such things are making excuses for greed and our current system, which are evils.Why is it so hard for you to fathom people working hard for the benefit of humanity as opposed to just making themselves rich? I for one find it a lot more rewarding to help others than to buy stocks with large dividends.The problem is priests, preachers, evangelical leaders, etc. have brainwashed Americans into thinking God wants them to be successful. Because, in their words, why wouldn’t God want you to be? Because the success of which you speak came at the expense of others, that’s why. God’s version of being a success if devoting your life to your fellow man, and doing everything capable to help THEM before YOURSELF. “Striving to be the best” and “successful” are nowhere near that goal.

  • jdwagner

    The Pope wants justice… Ok, how about some justice for the boys abused priests, which the Vatican has fought and fought for decades. Why doesn’t the Pope take the first step by selling the church’s art and gold holdings, and then its land holdings, and then return the land it took from native peoples, and distribute some of the money to the poor. That’s what Jesus would do, so if it’s good enough for Jesus, why isn’t it good enough of the Pope? Why, because he and his silly priests and nuns are drunk on luxury and ease and…hypocrisy. Bill Gates is far more Christlike than the Pope.

  • pwspirn

    After the Catholic Church, has, for millennia, aligned itself or, at least, cooperated with the economic and political power structures in Europe and North America for their mutual benefit, it is refreshing to hear the Pope call for world-wide economic and social justice, including measures to redistribute wealth. Unfortunately moral suasion from Rome, even among devout Catholics, is unlikely to produce results along these lines. If the Pope is serious, let us see the Church redirect its resources into the programs he recommends, particularly the education of girls and women. The Pope should terminate immediately the ongoing Vatican investigations of American nuns inspired primarily by conservative’s fears of the social activism promoted by many orders. And the Church must recognize and respond to the greatest threat to civilization, overpopulation. It is entirely consistent with Catholic theology–though not recent Catholic dogma–to promote birth control in order to protect the quality and sanctity of all human life.

  • arosscpa

    Maurban wrote: Jesus said time and again that you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven if you are wealthy. And he repeatedly told those that he came into contact with to dissipate their wealth,Reading the remainder of the conversation indicates the point Jesus was making. The disciples asked if a rich man cannot enter heaven, then who can? Jesus responded that for man it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.The point is not that the rich are barred from the Heavenly Kingdom, but that no one can enter Heaven except by cooperating with the the grace provided by God.It is true that Jesus said to the rich young man and others that the final step on the way to perfection includes giving away our material goods to the poor. For most of us, unfortunately, we never progress to the point that the issue becomes relevant.

  • bruce18

    I have not read the encyclical yet I recognize Benedict’s obligation and authority to speak about economics and morality. His comments about profit strike me inherently obvious: I’ve seen both the good and bad of the profit motive in my daily life. And some economic activities such as prostitution and pornography seem clearly immoral. Yet, I am less troubled by economic inequalities since I believe there is an inherent randomness in all activity which produces unequal outcomes. I believe the critical issue is how individuals respond to those inequalities, not the fact that they exist. Governments may be part of the solution but they are not the entire solution. In the US, the government policy of steeply progressive income taxes to more fairly redistribute income, results in problems of its own when incomes fall dramatically as in the current recession.

  • probashi

    Words, words, words. Are Catholic priests all over the world going to follow through and do something about the inequities supported by the church for centuries?There are a few instances of priests who spoke out against corruption,injustice…and war. They were branded as mavericks. This encyclical is perhaps a gesture of atonement. Too little, if not too late.

  • arosscpa

    PRSPWN:Your reference to the visitation of American women religious is wholly irrelevant, but since you brought it up, let me address your point.In every case the orders subject to canonical visitation are those of pontifical right, i.e., no local bishop may exert authority over them because the orders placed themselves under the direct administration of Rome.These orders talk of being post-Christian; they speak of moving beyond Jesus; they endorse homosexual/lesbian relationships within and without the community. These orders refuse to open themselves to new members that might breathe a new spirit onto dying embers. The conduct liturgies consistently at variance with norms established for the universal Church. I mention only anomalies that I have personally seen and have knowledge of.What else can Rome do but step in? The orders place themselves under the governance and protection of the Vatican. They have rules of life and constitutions that haven’t been observed in decades. These women are constantly infecting the larger Church with scandalous behavior and heretical teaching. They will not voluntarily separate themselves from the Church.What do you expect Rome to do? It cannot do other than exercise the authority given it when these women religious originally placed themselves under the authority of Rome.

  • wehutson

    It’s interesting how a hasty synopsis of an encyclical can lead the discussion in a fairly limited direction. In my view, Fr Reese has done the encyclical a disservice. He is attempting to hijack and pre-emptively characterize (in a largely secular manner) the encyclical.My evidence? As hastily as Fr Reese must have read and reflected on the encyclical, my evidence is just as hasty. And I am open to better interpretations. Fr Reese uses the word God exactly one time (Creator used once as well) in his write-up. Whereas, the Pope uses God something like 77 times.Fr Reese uses the world Love once, Charity one or two times, Truth but once. But justice is used 8 times. The Pope referred to truth more than 100 times. A key part of this encyclical is the role that truth must have in how we order society and prioritize our lives. Without strong, direct, and constant reference to Truth, all economic prescriptions become influenced by fickle emotions and prone to sway by articulate surrogate decision makers (at the expense of the effects of subsidiarity, which the Pope mentions at least 3 times, but not once by Father Reese). Truth here, of course, carries deep and consequential theological meaning.Fr skips over this key point, choosing instead to focus on a very limited and stilted 1960s interpretation of encyclical. This is a profound and beautiful encyclical; it deserves far more analysis and consideration than Fr Reese has given it. He obviously was under a tough deadline, but we shouldn’t let the profit-driven deadlines (not his, but of this paper) stunt our reflection on it.

  • RPW3

    Can’t disagree with anything Pope Benedict believes here.The application of his world view demands the redistribution of money during the current market collapse, through mass bankruptcy of consumers.Both the distribution of goods and services and the creation of goods and services are now subsiding because the money system is dysfunctional. That is creating poverty and war. Too much concentration of money ownership has led to too many loans to the poor that the money owners cannot now collect — 5% rich have a lien on the future income of the 95% poor, and will not provide them jobs until they pay it back because hiring them is not profitable. Capitalism has failed because the money system was mismanaged by those who wanted to accumulate large sums of money, which has resulted in the freezing of economic activity.Mass personal bankruptcies by individuals are the only way currently to right the system by redistributing the money. Would that it were not so, but it seems the primary dynamic of those who have it is to keep it and not to share it, which is preserving the economic depression worldwide.Personal bankruptcy, if you are under water in your house mortgage and owe significant credt card debt is the Christian thing to do. It creates the redistribution of money necessary to restart the economy that Pope Benedict is talking about.Capitalism has failed because greedy individuals within subsectors of the economy have not acted morally in cooperation with other subsectors to maintain a holistically functioning economy — Benedict is right again!

  • chrojo01

    Thanks wehutson, you may be right. Most of my earlier comment probably ought to be directed to the author’s cherry-picking interpretation of Benedict, not Benedict himself.

  • djmolter

    Divest yourself, then put yer money where yer mouth is.

  • DoTheRightThing

    “Corruption and illegality are unfortunately evident in the conduct of the economic and political class” in ALL countries. No news here – we’re all fallen. But I don’t see B16 declaring that GOVERNMENTS, to be moral, MUST redistribute the wealth of their rich citizens to the poor citizens. Rather, it’s the onus of the rich to voluntarily do so, as their consciences dictate, and this is fundamental Catholic moral teaching, and has been for 2,000 years!

  • jkoch2

    US conservatives, especially the ones with Christian lapel pins, staunchly defend the principle of “separation of church and market.” Poverty is the result of sin. “Unemployment” is a cover-up for idleness and sloth, pure and simple. Charity must be voluntary and scant, lest else sin go unpunished and therefore multiply. Wealth is a reward for virtue and can be a sign of “election” to the flocks of the saved. If not, it is a nice reward in its own regard. Furthermore, nothing confers greater satisfaction than to have more than your neighbor. To “make it” and “state of grace” are pretty synonymous. “Peace of mind” without a “piece of mine” is a pretty unbalanced equation. Solomon didn’t settle for lilies of the field; fine arraignments provided greater public splendor.Those who insist on a strict Booblical foundation have ample Scroopture at their service: “Charity begins at home” Book of Mamon 3:22″The Lord helps those that help themselves” Dinarius I 3:2″A poor man shall no more enter the Kingdom of Heaven than shall a camel pass through the eye of a needle” Mutyou 4:xx”Those who are first shall be first, and those who are last, may the devil take.” Book of Scrooge, passim.”Our telemarketers are ready to receive your call, so that you can join our flock of paying “saved” members, and will offer you a free gift.” Televangelism 101.Any pastor who fails to uphold these precepts will find himself preaching to church mice and ne’er do wells looking for a handout.

  • Grandblvd03

    I don’t know how many people commenting here are catholic, and how many consider themselves “conservative” catholic. But you can’t support the pope on the issues of abortion or homosexuality, yet reject this latest message because it doesn’t fit your world view about capitalism and prosperity. If you do that, then you are a “cafeteria” catholic, picking and choosing what you like — the same criticism you wage against “liberal” catholics.

  • theobserver4

    The pope actually knocks this one out of the park. The grim truth is that in the grand scheme of things that the super rich actually lose wealth when stepping on the necks of the poor and middle class because it hampers real growth. Instead what they’ll get is a bubble and a pop in which even the majority of the rich end up losing out. It’s in everyone’s interest to have a strong citizenry from the ground up and not just for the few elites. The televangelists are dead wrong when they say that wealth is it’s own reward on earth as it is in heaven. The down and out are much more likely to enjoy everlasting life than a rich man according to the bible. One more reason why I’m sickened by organized religion.

  • DrWho2

    Advice from the same source that says thay can’t afford to pay retribution to all the victims of their child abuse. And yet they hold enormous wealth. First remove the plank from your own eye.

  • NO-bama

    The Pope should stay the hell out of the economy and politics. He is basically suggesting a government run, world economic order. He’s insane.

  • NO-bama

    Here is the crux of Socialism/Communism which is what the Pope is endorsing in his comments below: Who defines “a decent standard of living” or “effective”, “needs” ? The government or a world economic governing body? God forbid if this should ever happen in America. Imagine, the government telling you what kind of house you can live in, car you can drive (oops, this is coming), clothes to wear, school you go to, HealthCare you receive (oops, this is coming too unless you do something about it), entertainment you can have, where you can go on vacation, etc, etc. The Pope is insane yet similar to the anti-american Obama.The Pope said “means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for their children, without the children themselves being forced into labor; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for rediscovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living.”

  • maurban

    Hey No-Bama, the Pope is just pointing out the obvious, that capitalism and Christianity are incompatible. Now the U.S. can be a Christian nation or a capitalist one, but not both. It has chosen the latter, which is fine by me personally, it just gets a little tired having to hear conservative “real America” telling everyone how Christian we are. We are not. It is a joke.

  • maurban

    And another thing No-Bama, in case you haven’t realized, the government already tells us what kind of house we can live in (do you know how many regulations and codes there are?), what kind of car we drive (ditto for cars, remember the death trap Corvair and Pintos?), what clothes we wear (or else they’d be filled with chemicals that would kill us, if corporations had their way), what school we go to (ever try to have your kid go to a school in a different district?), what health care we receive – it has been rationing care through Medicare for decades, and what we can see on tv (FCC?). The government already has a hand in protecting its citizens in all these areas of our lives, yet you seem to like it here so far.

  • thomasmc1957

    This will have no effect on America. Our “Christianity” is based on greed, and greed alone.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Fr. Reese,A good essay, as usual. Speaking from a secular Jewish perspective, I confess I’ve never fully grasped the Christian/Catholic notion of “charity,” which presupposes a kind of hierarchy with which Judaism does not hold. One does what one can to eradicate poverty because it is INJUSTICE, and it is our job as humans to make this world just.I also don’t understand the failure of Christians/Catholics to grasp the richness of Christian communism (not Leninist!) as it is amply illustrated in the Christian Testament. Truthfully, I don’t agree with B16 on most things, nor do I believe that any institutionalized religions should intrude upon political affairs. However, as you represent his thinking on economic decency, I see nothing with which to disagree.I would suggest, per another blogger, that he remove the plank from his own eye, from the eyes of Vatican Bank, etc. Let the Pope lead his flock by example, let him make his words “flesh.”

  • DarylAtamanyk

    It’s not just Capitalism which creates a class system of rich and poor. Communism does the same. Dictatorial regimes do the same. Crime-ocracies like Italy and present-day Russia do the same. Theocracies like Iran… do the same. Systems of serfdom and slavery did the same. It’s “same old, same old.” No system of “a political, juridical and economic order…” is going to change the reality one iota. The Pope indicates: “Financiers must rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity…” Unfortunately a financier cannot “rediscover” something that the financier has never in the first place had; i.e., consciousness of the role he/she plays in the larger picture of humankind’s evolution: but as Dale Carnegie suggests, perhaps it’s a good idea to “give the dog a good name,” meaning, give the financiers a good image to live up to. Fact is, only a change in individuals’ hearts can change their behavior in relation to their fellow human beings, and that only comes from suffering together the greatest of pain that people can feel: namely, that which arises directly from humankind’s inhumanity to humankind. Like nailing an innocent, loving man to a cross and letting him die there murdered… by us… by me… by you. [That is why God allows suffering, by the way: it’s only through suffering, we learn. Is that so hard to understand??? So many of you out there keep asking the question: “Why me…why me: if there is a God, why is there suffering in the world?” Well, perhaps it’s time to use your head now, instead of wallowing in self-pity.] Another “system”: some kind of “new world order,” governing body of finance will never be the answer. Systems are same old, same old: all of them produce the same result. You are missing the root cause: stick to the root cause, please. Every night think of the suffering that you have caused other people: then try to repent (that is: feel sorry for the wrong you have done to others [unless you are a psychopath unable to feel: I don’t know the answer for our psychopaths]): then use that energy of sorrow, not to wallow in self-pity in relation to what a horrible person you might be; but use that energy of sorrow to effect beneficial change in your behavior, so that you are no longer a force of Evil, but rather become a force for common Good. May God please bless us all. Yours sincerely, Daryl Atamanyk

  • bhornback1

    The Pope in his Gold Shoes is a hypocrite. Let Rome start sharing its wealth, to show the rest of the world how to do it. The biggest capitalist organization on earth is the Roman Catholic Church. There is nobody who can out-greed the Catholic Church. And this Pope is the most insensitive, offensive, most hypocritical Pope in my lifetime.Sell your gold shoes, Benedict. Give Rome’s wealth to the third world. Then you can talk. Until then, shut up.


    What about moreJUSTICE DEMANDING TRUTH?And haven’t some bishops right here in the United States already begun “Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers,” in that they have denied the rights of Catholic school teachers to organize and have union representation?Just some thoughts.Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

  • mn8123

    Ok, if you want economic justice then EVERYONE is poor, including the ruling elite! “Without the common good as its ultimate end” is Hegelian-Dialectic semantics. There is a sovereign God who has his OWN “world” order to everything and when we are not as a people admonishing ourselves and keeping one another in check to his ways, we open the door to allow these marxist schmucks to enslave us!

  • usapdx

    After just reviewing ” IT ” on CWN web site,I must say he has some good points yet the CHURCH leadership does not always comply with what they say. The time is now to have the CHURCH be only a church with a total openess for the world from the top to the bottom with true CHRIST LIKE leadership as HE whould do and say. The church is in great need for another POPE JOHN XXIII to ROCK THE BOAT.

  • michaelbindner

    Good stuff. The bottom line is, no Catholic can, with a straight face, compare progressive income taxation to theft – or even call it socialistic – unless you are willing to call the Pope a Socialist.He and the President should have a very interesting meeting on Friday. I can’t wait to read the Communique.

  • PSolus

    I haven’t had time to read the encyclical, so can someone tell me where he thinks that CD rates are going in the short term?And what does he think about AAPL – buy or sell (Jobs is looking a little gaunt to me)?

  • ats0j8

    The Vatican should clean up its own house first: its history is full of corruption and crimes against humanity, and that continues to this very day. The Vatican’s social and economic policies themselves perpetuate and multiply poverty and human suffering. All this talk about “charity” and “morality” by the Vatican is like oil companies pretending to be pro-environment.

  • Bcamp55

    A bit ironic that the Catholic Church, owner of the single wealthiest collection of artifacts in the world, has the unmitigated gall to cast aspersions upon anyone for greed.I really got a chuckle from “Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end,”. So exactly what is the end served by the wealth of the church; to have available funds to payoff sexual abuse victims?

  • esm55350

    To all the hypocrites who think the Vatican should give all of its wealth to the poor: Why don’t you offer to sell everything YOU have and give it to the poor! Not so keen on the idea all of a sudden are you?! Hypocrites. You people are actually more greedy! At least Benedict is trying to shed some light on what it means to care for your fellow man! And all you losers can do is criticize. The Catholic Church always has and continues to offer more resources to the poor and oppresed than any of you clowns have ever made the effort to think about.

  • ccnl1

    esm55350,Good point but the US taxpayers supply significantly more aid to the poor and disadvantaged than the RCC could ever hope to do.

  • edbyronadams

    While I would never argue that the goal of human activity, including economic activity should be the generation of happiness, I wonder whether massive redistribution schemes would achieve that goal.Cultures are different and produce different degrees of wealth. Cultures developed in areas with harsh winters have a greater capacity for planning and delayed gratification than those in milder climes because if you did not store food for winter, you died.Cultures that oppress women and take away their reproductive choices, including those influenced by the Catholic church, tend to produce offspring up to the carrying capacity of the environment, one that is not very wealthy. It used to be called the “Irish problem”. Perhaps now we could call it the “Islamic problem”.It has yet to be demonstrated that economic aid from one culture to another can do much to improve the material condition of the poorer one. For that, they need a mirror and the will to undergo a behavioral revolution. Often that requires breaking down their culture and often the same people who advocate vastly increased overseas aid find a deplorable cultural imperialism in such a prescription.

  • mmm1110

    The Pope should start first. Let those inside the Vatican spread the wealth of the Vatican, almost all of which was stolen. The Pope can start living a downscale life. Words mean nothing. Action does. Former Catholic.

  • LeshemShamayim

    I do wish Reese would respond more to the Holy Father’s thoughts rather than site selected quotes… it is an interesting amalgamation… what Reese grasped from the social/economic teachings were not the things that struck me most… I saw the relational componenets of our world most glaringly recognized by the urgency of the Pope’s message to love in truth… and that right relationship on personal levels would lead to right relationship on corporate level… and yet we cannot trust governing institutions to do what is right for each individual… what are the responsibilities of political governance vs. spiritual governance? that’s a question that about halfway into a more indepth reading of the encyclical I haven’t seen yet. Ok, I missed reading the full 2nd encyclical by our Pope and the I hear there is a lot of connection between them (catching up and making up for lost time)… but I was really puzzled to hear the politics Holy Father Benedict expressed… they are indeed ideals…and I think Reese is right to ask so many questions in his critique. If we’re talking about political economics… those instituted and protected by our civil authorities… then the Holy Father is most definitely “to the left of almost every politician in America.” But I am unclear as to the boundaries between spiritual and civil authority. The governing officials must consider the individuals under their guardianship as persons, but in their administrative roles, what sorts of public social ethic should be propounded, and which need to happen at a different sort of level? I don’t think the Pope is making a political appeal… but politics would most definitely be affected if the ethic of fraternity was central to the persons engaged in politics.Of course I have a lot more digesting to do than what I’ve done so far: