US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Papal encyclical: People over profit

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Pope Benedict's new encyclical, Caritas en verite, scores a win for appearing just as the G8 are meeting in Italy and just before the pope meets with President Obama, the leader of the nation that precipitated the current economic crisis. (Finally, the papal communications office gets one right!) The pope's message: The church has been right all along--the pursuit of profit as an end in itself is inimical and destructive to the common good.

Benedict makes his point by reviewing the 40-odd-year-old social encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Populorum progressio, which had at its heart the idea that the goal of economic activity is the integral development of the human person--physical, moral, spiritual. Benedict updates that insight, arguing more or less that technology and markets alone cannot direct the economic order to this end. The economy, in other words, needs regulation, and Benedict opts for international structures with binding authority. In the end, B16 opts more for the European model of heavily regulated "social capitalism" over the Anglo-Saxon laissez-faire approach that has just recently tanked the world economy.

Right on, Holy Father. Prepare for an onslaught from the economic right telling you to stick to sexual ethics!

Indeed, we already have George Weigel's ridiculously self-serving interpretation: a tale of two encyclicals, complete with intrigue; luckily we also have a parody of Weigel's red versus gold reading of B16 at Vox Nova. Enjoy!