Economic Issues

Pope St. John Paul II, Encyclical Centesimus Annus 33

In spite of the great changes which have taken place in the more advanced societies, the human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing.

Centesimus Annus 35

In this sense, it is right to speak of a struggle against an economic system, if the latter is understood as a method of upholding the absolute predominance of capital, the possession of the means of production and of the land, in contrast to the free and personal nature of human work. In the struggle against such a system, what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be State capitalism, but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation. Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied. . . . We have seen that it is unacceptable to say that the defeat of so-called Real Socialism leaves capitalism as the only model of economic organization.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 89

In response to the first great social question, Pope Leo XIII promulgated the first social Encyclical, Rerum Novarum. This Encyclical examines the condition of salaried workers, which was particularly distressing for industrial labourers who languished in inhumane misery. The labour question is dealt with according to its true dimensions. It is explored in all its social and political expressions so that a proper evaluation may be made in the light of the doctrinal principles founded on Revelation and on natural law and morality.

Rerum Novarum became the document inspiring Christian activity in the social sphere and the point of reference for this activity. The Encyclical's central theme is the just ordering of society, in view of which there is the obligation to identify criteria of judgment that will help to evaluate existing socio-political systems and to suggest lines of action for their appropriate transformation.

Rerum Novarum lists errors that give rise to social ills, excludes socialism as a remedy and expounds with precision and in contemporary terms "the Catholic doctrine on work, the right to property, the principle of collaboration instead of class struggle as the fundamental means for social change, the rights of the weak, the dignity of the poor and the obligations of the rich, the perfecting of justice through charity, on the right to form professional associations".

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2431

The responsibility of the state. "Economic activity, especially the activity of a market economy, cannot be conducted in an institutional, juridical, or political vacuum. On the contrary, it presupposes sure guarantees of individual freedom and private property, as well as a stable currency and efficient public services. Hence the principal task of the state is to guarantee this security, so that those who work and produce can enjoy the fruits of their labors and thus feel encouraged to work efficiently and honestly. . . . Another task of the state is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society." (citing Pope St. John Paul II, Encyclical Centesimus Annus 48)

USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 73

Economic decisions and institutions should be assessed according to whether they protect or undermine the dignity of the human person. Social and economic policies should foster the creation of jobs for all who can work with decent working conditions and just wages. Barriers to equal pay and employment for women and those facing unjust discrimination must be overcome. Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal. It also affirms economic freedom, initiative, and the right to private property. Workers, owners, employers, and unions have a corresponding responsibility to work together to create decent jobs, build a more just economy, and advance the common good. We also note with growing concern the increase in "excessive social and economic inequalities," as the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to it, and the shrinking middle class.

Forming Consciences 74

We support legislation that protects consumers from the excessive and exploitative rates of interest charged by many payday lenders. "Although the quest for equitable profits is acceptable in economic and financial activity, recourse to usury is to be morally condemned" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 341).

Forming Consciences 75

Welfare policy should reduce poverty and dependency, strengthen family life, and help families leave poverty through work, training, and assistance with child care, health care, housing, and transportation. Given the link between family stability and economic success, welfare policy should address both the economic and cultural factors that contribute to family breakdown. It should also provide a safety net for those who cannot work. Improving the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits, available as refunds to families in greatest need, will help lift low-income families out of poverty.

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