30-November-2012 -- Catholic News Agency |

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Fixing Economic Crisis Requires Financial And Moral Truth, Priest Says

ROME, ITALY, November 29 (CNA) .- The solution to the ongoing economic troubles is to adopt a worldview that combines both economic and moral truths, Father Robert Sirico said as he presented his new book.

Father Robert Sirico, co-founder of the Acton Institute think tank, introduced his book titled "Defending the Free Market: the Moral Case for a Free Economy" on Nov. 28 in Rome.

"I wrote the book because I was concerned that there's such a false set of assumptions of what a market economy is and that it's completely disconnected from the moral life," he explained.

"I'm also using the book to give a sort of autobiography," said Fr. Sirico, who wrote the book using parables of his life to ''tell a moral.'' "I tell of an encounter I had when I was five years old my neighbor, an old lady."

"She handed me warm, delicious, scrumptious cookies, and I saw she had tattooed numbers running up her arm. My mom later told me how refugees had come to the United States for safety," said Fr. Sirico.

"The whole seed of human dignity was then implanted in my mind and it's been a preoccupation from that day to this."

Fr. Sirico, originally from Brooklyn, said that his approach to economics is anthropological and combines economic truths with moral ones.

When it comes to the current economic crisis, Fr. Sirico faults regulations that were based only on good intentions.

"The intentions were that people would have access to credit to buy homes, but the problem is that good intentions aren't always the sound basis for sound economics," he said.

He noted that "it's going to be difficult for young Italians to reach adulthood with their dignity intact for quite a while, because they presume that the State will provide for them, cradle to grave."

"Also they don't have much access to work, which incentivizes them to stay at home, which delays them from getting married and having children," he said. "You then have fewer and fewer Italians supporting the elderly and this becomes a vicious cycle."

Fr. Sirico believes that Italians need to rethink how they and their government handle the economy.

The priest, who disagrees with the notion that the way for a business to succeed is to take advantage of others, said the solution is to apply subsidiarity, which means that needs are best met at a local level.

"We need to stop presuming that the government is the provider and find creative and innovative ways which can serve people and which will build a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious cycle," said Fr. Sirico.

"You get clients by offering them a better service and product quality, which is unique to them and meets their needs," he stated. "It's service that people need to prioritize, not taking advantage."

Looking to the future, Fr. Sirico thinks there are "bumpy years ahead of us."

"The root of all our political and civic thinking in the U.S. and in Europe is that the government has the dominant role in our lives," he argued.

Instead of this model, he thinks that the role of government needs to shrink and the ''civic voluntary dimension of society'' needs to increase.

"Unless we correct ideas, nothing else is going to work because politics isn't the solution to this problem," he said.

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