Andrew Abela, 2009 Novak Award recipient from the Acton Institute, offered a business perspective on Pope Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, to the Catholic news service Zenit. In the interview, Abela talked about ways the encyclical could point the way out of the global financial crisis:
ZENIT: Does the Holy Father give any concrete means for digging ourselves out of the economic crisis?
Abela: Yes. It seems to me that the Holy Father is saying that trust is essential for our economy to work, and we have lost this trust because we have viewed the market as a place for narrow exchange only, where there is no need for generosity or fraternity, but only the adherence to contract.
Unfortunately, in many cases even that adherence to contract couldn’t be counted on, and therefore trust was lost.
In order to recover from the economic crisis, in addition to the proper role of government in orienting the market to the common good, the Pope is saying that it would help if we realized that generosity and fraternity are not foreign to market relationships, and in fact they are necessary to build the trust that the market requires if it is to operate well.
The Pope refers to the Economy of Communion project as an example of this happening. This project is a group of over 700 companies worldwide who are working within the marketplace for higher goals than solely profit. It sprung out of the Focolare movement as a direct response to the previous social encyclical, “Centesimus Annus.”
Abela also addresses a heated and what is becoming a much debated question on whether Pope Benedict the XVI condemns capitalism:
ZENIT: Has the Holy Father condemned capitalism?
Abela: No. In fact the word “capitalism” does not appear even once in the encyclical, probably because the word is subject to so many different interpretations.
Instead he speaks of the market economy, which is a more open term and avoids the ambiguity of differing opinions about what capitalism really is. A market economy is based on a free market and is not harmful in itself, but it can be made so as a result of ideology.
The Pope states that it “is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility” (No. 36).
The entire interview can be found on Zenit’s website.