Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 44° Partly Cloudy
News >  Business

Pope urges new financial order, assistance for poor nations

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI signs his third encyclical of his pontificate as his Archbishop James Harvey looks on at the Vatican on Monday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI signs his third encyclical of his pontificate as his Archbishop James Harvey looks on at the Vatican on Monday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Nicole Winfield Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI called Tuesday for a new world financial order guided by ethics and the search for the common good, denouncing the profit-at-all-cost mentality blamed for bringing about the global financial meltdown.

In the third encyclical of his pontificate, Benedict pressed for reform of the United Nations and international economic and financial institutions to give poorer countries more of a say in international policy.

“There is urgent need (for) a true world political authority” that can manage the global economy, guarantee the environment is protected, ensure world peace and bring about food security for the poor, he wrote.

The document “Charity in Truth,” was in the works for two years, and its publication was repeatedly delayed to incorporate the fallout from the crisis. It was released a day before leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations meet to coordinate efforts to deal with the global meltdown, signaling a clear Vatican bid to prod leaders for a financially responsible future and what it considers a more socially just society.

“The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly – not any ethics, but an ethics which is people centered,” Benedict wrote.

The German-born Benedict, 82, has spoken out frequently about the impact of the crisis on the poor, particularly in Africa, which he visited earlier this year. But the 144-page encyclical, one of the most authoritative documents a pope can issue, marked a new level of church teaching by linking the Vatican’s long-standing social doctrine on caring for the poor with current events.

While acknowledging that the globalized economy has “lifted billions of people out of misery,” Benedict accused the unbridled growth of recent years of causing unprecedented problems as well, citing mass migration flows, environmental degradation and a complete loss of trust in the world market.

He urged wealthier countries to increase development aid to poor countries to help eliminate world hunger, saying peace and security depended on it. He specified that aid should go to agricultural development to improve infrastructure, irrigation systems, transport and sharing of agricultural technology.

At the same time, he demanded that industrialized nations reduce their energy consumption, both to better care for the environment and to let the poorer have access to energy resources.

Benedict said that the drive to outsource work to the cheapest bidder had endangered the rights of workers, and he demanded that workers be allowed to organize in unions to protect their rights and guarantee steady, decent employment.

Benedict called for a whole new financial order – “a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise” – that respects the dignity of workers and looks out for the common good by prioritizing ethics and social responsibility over dividend returns.

The Rev. Drew Christiansen, editor of the Jesuit monthly America and a leading social ethicist, said he was most intrigued by the pope’s call for a new sector of society to work alongside government, market and civil society: for-profit entities that work for the common good, which Christiansen suggested could include “fair trade” product makers and micro-finance institutions.

“I am not sure these enterprises yet constitute a sector of economic life,” Christiansen wrote on his blog. “But they are harbingers of a different, conscientious kind of economics that would not repeat the mistakes of the last 30 years.”

Kirk Hanson, a business ethics professor at Santa Clara University, said that while the encyclical went into some detail about the rights of workers and the duties of the state in protecting those rights, there was precious little about how an actual CEO leader should go about business.

“It’s almost as if the church has so little trust in business leaders that it speaks to the political leaders urging regulation and the consumers urging voting with their buying power,” said Hanson, who chaired hearings leading up to a similar U.S. Catholic bishops’ statement on capitalism and social justice in the 1980s.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.