Catholic Social Teaching informs us that of the economic systems currently available, free market economies have the best potential for promoting human development. Catholic Social Teaching says the free market economy:
"is a source of wealth in today's society" (CA, 32)
"This process, which throws practical light on a truth about the person which Christianity has constantly affirmed, should be viewed carefully and favourably." (CA, 32)
However, John XXIII was emphatic that
"...all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity."(MEM, 39)
"Economic progress must be accompanied by a corresponding social progress, so that all classes of citizens can participate in the increased productivity. The utmost vigilance and effort is needed to ensure that social inequalities, so far from increasing, are reduced to a minimum."(MEM, 79)
In response to the tumultuous state of Europe's powers during his pontificate, Pope Pius XI warned of the dangers of surrendering the morality, human dignity, and the powers of the State to an unbridled free economy, that acts only for the sake of advancing itself, and those few - nations or individuals - that profit from it:
"The ultimate consequences of the individualist spirit in economic life are those which you yourselves... see and deplore: Free competition has destroyed itself; economic dictatorship has supplanted the free market; unbridled ambition for power has likewise succeeded greed for gain; all economic life has become tragically hard, inexorable, and cruel. To these are to be added the grave evils that have resulted from an intermingling and shameful confusion of the functions and duties of public authority with those of the economic sphere - such as, one of the worst, the virtual degradation of the majesty of the State, which although it ought to sit on high... free from all partiality and intent upon the one common good and justice, is become a slave, surrendered and delivered to the passions and greed of men. And as to international relations, two different streams have issued from the one fountain-head: On the one hand, economic nationalism or even economic imperialism; on the other, a no less deadly and accursed internationalism of finance or international imperialism whose country is where profit is." (QA, 109)
Why Does the Church support “Free Markets”?
The Church supports Free Markets for two main reasons:
Does the Church “recommend” any Economic System for the Developing World?
The free market economy is a model that should be proposed to the third world – as long as it is
"circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality" [e:CA,42]
Is the Church’s Support of a Free Economy unequivocal?
Absolutely not. For example, Pope Benedict has said, today "we see how the world of finance can dominate mankind. Possession and appearance dominate and enslave the world. ... Finance is no longer a tool to promote well being and to support the life of man, but a force that oppresses him, one which almost has to be worshipped". (Visit to the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary on the Feast of Our Lady of the Trust, February 15, 2012, reported by the VIS)
Are the ‘problems’ we experience the fault of the Free Market system?
The economic sphere “is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner. (CIV, 36)
What does the Church say about "Human Development”?
True development must be Integral -- not focusing only on the material: “Progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient. Development needs above all to be true and integral.” (CIV, 23) “Only in charity, illuminated by the light of reason and faith, is it possible to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value.” (CIV, 9)
So, what is the “Bottom Line” of CST regarding the Economy? (It’s way more than about Economics)
The Church has much to inform mankind of on the ‘realities’ of economics.
What are the responsibilities of the State regarding the Economy?
The State must:
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