Papal Economics: High Stakes Battle Looms for Catholic Policy on Wealth and Poverty


Contact:
John Couretas
Phone: (616) 454-3080
Cell: (616) 813-8941
jcouretas@acton.org

 
 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (April 15, 2005) - Analysts,academics and religious leaders are already attempting to revise Pope John PaulII's strong defense of the market economy. At stake is not only the teachingthat the Catholic Church offers 1.1 billion adherents, but also itsfar-reaching influence into the global interfaith and social policy spheres.

For example, Cardinal Roger Mahony, the archbishop of LosAngeles, in a recent interview on National Public Radio, described African concernsabout globalization this way: “International corporations headquartered in theUnited States purchase enormous billions of dollars worth of goods frombasically slave markets.”

During the past 40 years, American religious leaders of allfaiths have displayed a generally negative view of the marketplace. John Pauldecisively reversed this trend in 1991 when he released a groundbreaking studyof economics, politics and culture titled Centesimus Annus (The Hundredth Year). In it, he noted that economicglobalization “can create unusual opportunities for greater prosperity.”

“You can't spin John Paul's economic views into somethingthey are not,” said Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute. “Anyeffort to enlist him as a champion of the modern welfare state is not onlyfalse but incredibly destructive to those who are most in need of help -the poor.”

John Paul did not advocate a return to the unregulatedmarket of 19 th century laissez-faire capitalism. Nor was he uncriticalof consumerism and materialism. But the late pope was harshly critical of both socialismand the modern welfare or “social assistance” state, which assigned unwarrantedpowers to the political sphere and denied people the freedom of economicinitiative.

To the extent that human needs can be satisfied in economicterms, John Paul affirmed that “the free market is the most efficientinstrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.” He wasalso an advocate of expanded international trade as a means of liftingdeveloping countries out of poverty and saw the necessity of offering them “fairaccess to the international market.”

Internationally recognized experts on the Catholic Church'steaching on economics and business are available for the media at the ActonInstitute, which since its founding in 1990 has focused on the impact of faith onpublic policy.

  • Rev. Robert Sirico, president, author of Entrepreneurial Vocation and co-editor of The Social Agenda , a compendium of Catholic teaching on social issues.
  • Dr. Samuel Gregg, director of research, author of Challenging the Modern World: Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II and the Development of Catholic Social Teaching .
  • Dr. Kevin Schmiesing, research fellow, author of Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II.
  • Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton's Rome office, and a former Vatican analyst on arms control and sustainable development.
  • Dr. Flavio Felice, vice president of the Rome office, is a lecturer at the Pontifical Lateran University.

Sirico, Gregg, Jayabalan and Felice will be located in Romeduring the papal conclave. Schmiesing is based in Acton's Grand Rapids, Mich.,office.

About the Acton Institute
With its commitment to pursue a society that is free and virtuous, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a leading voice in the national environmental and social policy debate. The Acton Institute is uniquely positioned to comment on the sound economic and moral foundations necessary to sustain humane environmental and social policies.

The Acton Institute is a nonprofit, ecumenical think tank located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Institute works internationally to "promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles." For more on the Acton Institute, please visit www.acton.org.

Interviews with Institute staff may be arranged by contacting John Couretas at (616) 454-3080 or at jcouretas@acton.org.