From the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
In his latest encyclical, Charity in Truth, Pope Benedict XVI expresses concern about the global economy and its overemphasis on profit at the expense of human and community needs. “Without doubt, one of the greatest risks for businesses is that they are almost exclusively answerable to their investors, thereby limiting their social value.” (40) The pope’s solution to this situation is not only government regulation of businesses, but the creation of new business models where human and community effects are considered a fundamental part of the bottom line. In many ways, he describes alternative businesses that are part of the rapidly expanding solidarity economy.
Pope Benedict writes, “Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end … 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.” (21) It is clear that “[e]conomic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good” (36 – emphasis in original)
He also points out how merely relying on governments to make the economy more equitable is no longer enough:
“Perhaps at one time it was conceivable that first the creation of wealth could be entrusted to the economy, and then the task of distributing it could be assigned to politics. Today that would be more difficult, given that economic activity is no longer circumscribed within territorial limits, while the authority of governments continues to be principally local. Hence the canons of justice must be respected from the outset, as the economic process unfolds, and not just afterwards or incidentally.” (37)
One thought on “ECONOMIC JUSTICE: Pope Benedict and the solidarity economy”
Pope Benedict falls short. He fails to see the idolatry of the profit motive itself; the goal of human work and ‘economic activity’ is not material gain, but service of human needs and to a lesser extent desires. Ideally, profit is the result of economic activity that effectively and efficiently meets human needs. Meeting human needs must come first. Anything else is greed- even if in the service of other ends. Further, we cannot divorce economic production from creation, the web of life that sustains us. We as biological beings are one with the environment- the air, water, and food that sustains us comes from the environment. We must not separate human economic activity from its effect on the whole of creation.