New Vatican Document Evaluates the World of Finance
National Catholic Register, 31 May 2018
Greater observation of Thou shalt not steal and Thou shalt not bear false witness would have gone a long way toward preventing the scale of the financial crisis.
A new Vatican document, issued May 17 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, examines the world of finance through the lens of Catholic social teaching.
The world of finance is part of the economy — an essential part — but also is distinct from it. Saving and borrowing, access to capital for new businesses, mortgage provision for housing and retirement savings — all of this is the ordinary workaday world of finance.
In recent decades, though, the world of finance itself has become a vast industry in which the tether has grown ever longer between the creation and trading of financial instruments and the “real economy,” where goods and services are made, traded and consumed.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, financial services constituted a significant and increasing part of all economic growth. This was generally celebrated, until the great financial crash of 2008 did grievous damage to the world economy.
The title of the new Vatican document itself suggests that the world of finance (money) is to be looked at distinctly from the traditional economy as a whole. Entitled Oeconomicae et Pecuniariae Quaestiones (Questions About the Economy and Money), it carries the subtitle, “Considerations for an Ethical Discernment on Certain Aspects of the Current Economic-Financial System.”
The document was officially dated on the feast of the Epiphany — Jan. 6, 2018 — perhaps a playful reference to the riches of the Magi and an indication that riches do not exclude piety and can be put to good use.
The joint authorship of the document is important. Financial considerations are not just a matter of practical policy, but rooted in Catholic teaching about the social order of culture, politics and economics. That, in turn, is a branch of theology — moral theology, to be specific — and so there is doctrinal content (hence the authorship of the CDF).
That moral principles in economics and finance must be applied to particular circumstances — there is no specifically Catholic tax policy or monetary policy — does not mean that there are no objective ethics. Greater observation of Thou shalt not steal and Thou shalt not bear false witness would have gone a long way toward preventing the scale of the financial crisis.
Continue reading at the National Catholic Register: