Summary: Just as the action of Herod and of abortionists shows the divorce of economics and ethics, so we must reintegrate ethics into economic activity, if we are to reclaim society for Christ

December 28, 2009

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Caritas in Veritate

The timeliness of the Pope’s encyclical, Charity in Truth, and its match to our Monday Scriptures is truly remarkable. Aristotle, himself an unbeliever, used mere reason to arrive at some remarkable truths. One of them is that politics is the application of ethics to society. That means that natural moral law applies to everyone, especially political leaders. Herod, the usurper tyrant, learned neither from Aristotle nor Moses and is thus known more as a bloodthirsty murderer than as the rebuilder of the Jerusalem Temple. This unnatural act of mass murder, which our political leaders today imitate in the form of abortion, is an example of a politician doing the opposite of what the Pope calls for.

Economic activity itself tends to be amoral. It is not directed toward the solution of all social problems. But the political community, following Aristotle’s logic, must take responsibility for directing such economic activity toward the good. “Grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution. The Church has always held that economic action is not to be regarded as something opposed to society. In and of itself, the market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak.” Society is not threatened by the economic markets. The development of markets doesn’t necessarily bring about the death of human relations and the society that is made up of those relationships. But certain ideologies can make the market into a negative force. A culture of death can corrupt the marketplace, can turn economy and finance into means toward selfish and destructive ends. “it is man’s darkened reason that produces these consequences, not the instrument per se. Therefore it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility.” On this day we pray for women who are being pressured into having their babies butchered, and for those who facilitate that atrocity, this is an important point to remember. We have allowed abortion to become a force in the marketplace, to corrupt the political process. It’s easy to find pro-abortion legislators and bureaucrats who have taken millions of total dollars from people who make their living murdering the innocent. Contrast that with folks who work to save babies and their moms. I don’t know of any who have a selfish reason for doing so. They certainly don’t run crisis pregnancy centers for the money.

So we must concur with the Holy Father when he concludes paragraph 36 by saying:

The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman

and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and

precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an

ethical manner.

The great challenge before us, accentuated by the problems of development

in this global era and made even more urgent by the economic and financial

crisis, is to demonstrate, in thinking and behaviour, not only that

traditional principles of social ethics like transparency, honesty and

responsibility cannot be ignored or attenuated, but also that in

commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of

gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within

normal economic activity. This is a human demand at the present time, but

it is also demanded by economic logic. It is a demand both of charity and

of truth.

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