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Pope to Bankers: Promote Life, Solidarity, Subsidiarity and the Common Good

By Deacon Keith Fournier
December 14th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the midst of challenging economic times, Catholics have a vital role to play in bringing the values which humanize banking to the forefront. When a society fails to recognize that persons are more important than things it can devolve into a form of practical materialism, worshipping a new golden calf.  Freedom is a good of the person.  At the heart of a "free market" are free persons. Human persons and the families which they form must be the primary concern of economic theory and practice.

VATICAN CITY, (Catholic Online) - On Wednesday, December 10, 2012 Pope Benedict XVI received Catholics involved in the banking industry in Italy in an audience. They were leaders from the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives and the Italian Federation of Cooperative Credit Banks. He affirmed the important insights contained in one of the Social Encyclicals, Leo XIII's Encyclical "Rerum novarum", written 120 years ago.

The Pope reminded the bankers that the letter "favored the fruitful presence of Catholics in Italian society through the promotion of cooperative and mutual societies, the development of social enterprises and many other public works characterized by various forms of participation and self-management. The purpose of such activity has always been to provide material support for people and constant attention to families, drawing inspiration from the Magisterium of the Church.".

He told them "the heart of cooperative efforts has always lain in the search for harmony between the individual and community dimensions. This is a concrete expression of the complementarity and subsidiarity which Church social doctrine has always sought to promote between citizens and the State, a balance between safeguarding the rights of the individual and promoting the common good."

He urged them to develop "a local economy capable of responding to community needs. Cooperative activities are likewise characterized by their great concern for solidarity, while still respecting the due autonomy of the individual.In a period of great change, of persistent economic uncertainty, and of difficulties in the world of work, the Church feels the need to announce Christ's message with renewed vigor. ... And you, dear friends, must be aware that Catholic cooperatives have an important role to play in this field".

The Pope asked Catholics in Banking "to ensure that the economy and the market never neglect solidarity, to promote a culture of life and the family, and to favor the creation of new families with access to dignified work which respects the creation that God has entrusted to our responsibility and care". He urged them "to value man in his entirety, irrespective of any difference in race, language or religion".

He praised Catholic cooperatives, affirming their "Christian inspiration, which must constantly guide them." He noted that "for Christians loving others is not mere philanthropy but an expression of the love of God." He urged them to "Never forget the importance of developing this spiritual dimension as you seek to respond to contemporary challenges and social emergencies, in order to continue to work in the logic of gratuitousness and responsibility, promoting wise and sober consumption".

How I wish that Catholics involved in the banking industry in the United States were in that audience.. In the midst of our challenging economic times, Catholics have a vital role to play in bringing the values which humanize banking to the forefront. When a society fails to recognize that persons are more important than things it can devolve into a form of practical materialism, worshipping a new golden calf.

It is politically incorrect in some circles to suggest a connection between our financial struggles and the moral collapse of our culture. Yet that is precisely my claim. When a culture has allowed the human person to become a commodity, a thing to be disposed of or used, we have lost our moral compass. 

When the promotion of authentic human rights, human freedom, increased participation, the well being of the family  and human flourishing are no longer the foundational concerns of economic policy we have lost our way. Freedom is a good of the person.  At the heart of a "free market" are free persons. Human persons and the families which they form must be the primary concern of economic theory and practice.

A counterfeit approach to 'supply and demand' can end up commoditizing even babies. The consumer is told they have a "right" to select them, design them, and reject them, at will. The "medical professional", who knows that the one being killed is a human person, responds to this consumer driven approach to birth with killing. There is no "Right" to take innocent human life. It is always wrong no matter what the positive law declares. It violates the Natural Law and we all know it.

When a society fails to recognize that persons are more important than things - it may still use the language of human rights but it has emptied the words of moral content. When there is no recognition of the preeminent right to life what follows is an erosion of the entire structure of human rights. Failing to recognize our first neighbors in the womb as having a right to be born and to live a full life in our community is a failure of our obligation in solidarity.

Mother Teresa put it clearly: "America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.

"It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts -- a child -- as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.

"And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign."

We need a Moral recovery if we hope to have a lasting economic recovery. The Pope's words to the Italian bankers are timely and bear serious reflection by all Catholics involved in banking.

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