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.


  • Roger McKinney

    “It seems to me that the Holy Father is saying that trust is essential for our economy to work…”

    Is this supposed to be a theory of business cycles? If so, it falls far short of the state of the art in economics.

    “…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.”

    So the way out of the crisis is generosity and fraternity? How will that cause businesses to begin investing in new production again?

    I’m sorry, but the level of economics in the encyclical and the interpreters is on about the 5th grade level.

  • Matt Cavedon

    The Pope is not an economist and he is not a politician. Caritas in Veritate is also an encyclical, not an economics textbook or a blueprint for society. The Church is interested in affirming the moral imperatives for society and calling attention to ethical considerations, not in being a theocracy and telling governments how to get back on track.

  • Neal Lang

    What is the sole purpose of government? The Founders of America tell us it is to secure Life, Liberty, and Property for the people. How does a national government protect its people’s property in a multi-national economy? Currency is fungible, and be moved in a micro-second from New York to London.

    There must inter-government agreements, policed on a multi-national basis in order for a government to secure its people’s property. Please tell us how such can be accomplished on a non-multinational basis? Embargoes and tariffs are hardly the best way to secure someones property.

    The National and State governments can not even protect their people from domestic fraud and greed. Bernard Madoff comes immediately to mind. The question then is what structure must the “international policeman” look like? I think that Interpol could possibly be a model. I know of no major shortcoming of this organization, save their need to backoff do to national governmental corruption protecting international criminal.

    Liberty is a wonderful thing, however, as our Founders knew so well, it is not possible for a people that is not both virtuous and moral. If everyone was virtuous and moral, there would be little need for policemen, either national or international, either criminal or financial.

  • Neal Lang

    P.S. If there was an international financial crisis we probably would not be having this conversation.

  • Neal Lang

    If not greed, avarice, and fraud, what exactly is the underlying cause of the present international financial crisis? Who will forced to pay for this corrupt mess? The banks who knew the dirivities they were passing were next to worthless, and are merely forced to cut back on the number of corporate jets they own for penance? The politicians who permitted this pyramid scheme, but will still get their pay and other perks? Or the guy who loses the job he has held for 30 years and is forced into bankruptcy because the housing market went South after he just purchased the home he and his family always wanted, and he now on the wrong side of the equity/value scale, and his 401K has lost 50% of its market value?

    In a truly free market everyone who were at the trough would participate in the lost commensurate with their share of the spoils. Unfortunately in this “real World” it don’t work out that way. Perhaps the Pope is on to something – let’s make the market truly free. Unfortunately it is only truly “free” for the rich and powerful, everyone else gets to “pay.”