Acton Institute Powerblog

Benedict XVI on Markets and Morality

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Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in his former role as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was more focused on the theological implications of political heresies such as liberation theology than he was on questions of economics. Yet Benedict has written eloquently on the subject of markets and morality, as this 1985 presentation at a Rome conference amply shows. In a paper titled Market Economy and Ethics, he affirms that “market rules function only when a moral consensus exists and sustains them.”

Benedict rejects a capitalism that advances a radically deterministic view of economic life guided purely by market forces. Yet, he reserves his harshest condemnation for the equally deterministic Marxist economic philosophy that makes the “fundamental error to suppose that a centralized economic system is a moral system in contrast to the mechanistic system of the market economy.”

Benedict concludes by calling for a “self-criticism of the Christian confessions” on political and economic ethics:

A morality that believes itself able to dispense with the technical knowledge of economic laws is not morality but moralism. As such, it is the antithesis of morality. A scientific approach that believes itself capable of managing without an ethos misunderstands the reality of man. Therefore, it is not scientific. Today, we need a maximum of specialized economic understanding, but also a maximum of ethos so that specialized understanding may enter the service of the right goals.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for marketing and advertising, media relations, and print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.

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