Editorial: immorality in financial crash

‘…unfettered greed destroys the conditions under which the market itself can function and under which the greedy can reward themselves.’

As I was writing this editorial last month the London Tablet appeared in my inbox with the news that the Holy See’s total assets amounted to 1.4 billion euros ($NZ2.98b) at the end of 2007.

This means, Tablet writer Robert Mickens suggests, that the Vatican is insulated from the real impact of the global financial crisis on many of the church’s most loyal adherents, those on the margins of society.

This issue of Wel-com focuses on the ways in which we respect life, and the unborn takes centre stage in a number of articles. But Andrew Hamilton SJ, writing in Eureka Street, says that the churches have had little to say about the financial crisis and its causes and claims it is at least as threatening to human life and to the common good as abortion, euthanasia or gambling.

The root of the financial crisis was greed which Fr Hamilton defines as ‘seeking individual financial gain in ways that did not respect the common good’. Greed symbols were ‘monstrous salaries of CEOs’ and demands that companies produce short-term profits leading to ‘spectacular superannuation growth’.

‘The way in which greed saps the humanity of the greedy and injures the welfare of ordinary human beings and of societies is evident enough. It is less recognised that unfettered greed destroys the conditions under which the market itself can function and under which the greedy can reward themselves,’ Fr Hamilton says.

Financial markets rely on confidence and trust but these are undermined when greed leads to evasion of responsibility.
Therefore the market needs to be carefully structured so that greed, which will always be there, does not lead to a crisis of confidence and possible collapse. (Andrew Hamilton’s article ‘The wage of sin is the death of the market’ is available on www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=9176.)

Last month also, we learnt from Luke 8:1-3 that Jesus included women among his disciples, a countercultural and risky practice especially when the women included Mary Magdalene who had been possessed by demons. The gospel tells us these women ‘provided for them (Jesus and his disciples) out of their resources’.

The financial crisis has been felt in rising fuel, food and housing costs and, as usual, the poorest in society, often women and children, feel the pinch first.

Perhaps, because the Vatican is so well protected from the credit squeeze, it fails to see how this market crisis might affect the poor and marginalised such as those who followed Jesus and who populate the church today.

In the same way the leaders of the church may also be shielded from the reality that women are among the majority of its workers and supporters.

This must be why it is taking so long to recognise that the women in the church need role models of their own sex among the church’s leaders—women like those who nurtured and supported Jesus.

At present women are among the marginalised because of this lack of representation in church leadership. Solidarity, a principle of Catholic social teaching, would demand that the church recognise women’s equality in leadership as Jesus saw their talents.