03 December 2013

Evangelii gaudium, or the morality of money

I've been contemplating the swirl of controversial issues raised by the Holy Father's exhortation, Evangelii gaudium, esp. the economic issues.

Setting aside problems with the Spanish-to-English translation and the hermeneutical lens of Francis' experience with Argentinian crony-capitalism (Peronism), the bottom-line for me is this: there is no such thing as an economic system that doesn't need a moral foundation to guarantee the dignity of the human person.  

The role of the Church is to evangelize the culture so that the economy respects human dignity, both the dignity of the individual and human dignity in general.

Dr. Jeff Mirus puts it well:

The Church has very little interest in questions of economic theory per se. She does not seek to explain how money works, but how morality works.

For example, insofar as socialism carries within it a denial of the freedom and dignity of the person, by completely subjecting ownership and economic activity to the control of the State, socialism comes in for criticism and even condemnation. And insofar as the theory of capitalism is used to render personal moral economic decisions irrelevant in the face of allegedly inexorable economic laws, then capitalism also comes in for criticism and even condemnation. In broader and far less purely theoretical strokes, we can paint socialism to include all systems of exploitative government intervention, and capitalism to include all exploitation of the mechanisms of markets and finance. Moreover, when the rich miraculously develop political power and the politicians miraculously grow rich (as seems to happen within all systems), then a predictable and self-serving theoretical posturing becomes even more poisonous.

Crony-capitalism or Wall Street socialism is perhaps the most insidious combination of our two most popular economic systems.

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  1. Anonymous3:41 PM

    "She does not seek to explain how money works, but how morality works." Gratia non tollit naturam sed perficit. How can you offer moral guidance about a complex natural phenomenon if you don't understand how it actually works? Mustn't a rational "ought" be based in a natural "is"? Would anyone pay attention to Catholic sexual morality if it were based on ignorance of or disinterest in how sex works? Most Catholic "social teaching" appears to be a "moral house of cards", to quote the current Bishop of Rome...whatever he meant.

    1. Anon., get the morality right and the economy comes naturally; that is, an economy -- of whatever sort -- is a human invention, so if the humans doing the inventing are morally good, then the economy will be as well. Now, I know that's idealistic, but ideals don't change just b/c we can't achieve them.

      Same goes for sex.