Letting our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have the last word.
In the earlier parts of this series we’ve tried to get at Catholic Social Teaching using broad strokes: First, we examined the distorted lens through which we tend to view economic history. Next, we tried to overcome that historical prejudice by taking a look at the economic arrangements of the Middle Ages. Then we moved through several foundational concepts like rights, property, and the lost distinction between justice and charity.
In this final piece, we’ll proceed through a few reflections from the 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate. This will allow us to mention a variety of principles with brevity, even though they each deserve a study all their own. Also, because Caritas in Veritate is the most recent addition to that body of Catholic Social Teaching, it represents a timely and comprehensive synthesis. Emphasis in all quotes is original. And so, in numbered fashion…
1) There is such a thing as the “common good,” and it is not okay to ignore it:
common good and strive towards it
is a requirement of justice and charity…The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the
pólis. (p. 7)
2) Vast inequality is bad, not just for the poor, not just for the aforementioned common good, but even for the economy itself. It is bad for everyone:
3) Usury is still a thing. We might be wise to have more conversations about what this means for us. Also, there is a connection here with the so-called “preferential option for the poor”:
4) The notion that “the threat of unemployment is necessary because it motivates men to work who would otherwise remain unproductive” is a piece of stultifying propaganda. Don’t get played:
Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs. (p. 32)
5) There is no invisible hand. In order to guide its progress, ensuring that its goals remain healthy and its means appropriate, political authority plays a necessary role in the economy:
commercial logic. This needs to be
directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced 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. (p. 36)
6) On that note, it is also important to re-emphasize that purposeful “redistribution” is a valid pursuit, although, just like any other valid pursuit, it can be pursued improperly. See also paragraphs 36, 37, 39, 42, and 49.