Free enterprise and sustainable development, economic profits and progress and environmental protection are not goals in conflict, but ones hand in hand, a U.S. cardinal said Wednesday in Rome.
Fr. Martin Schlag is a trained economist as well as a Catholic moral theologian, and when he first read some of Pope Francis’ powerful critiques of the current free market system, he had the same thought a lot of Americans did: “Just horrible.”
But at a meeting Monday at the Harvard Club, Schlag, an Austrian-born priest who teaches economics at an Opus Dei-run university in Rome, reassured a group of Catholics, many from the world of business and finance, that Francis’ views on capitalism aren’t actually as bad as he feared.
The gap between the rich and the rest of us continues to grow. But just as American wages have stagnated, so too has the public’s interest in combating income inequality.
Profit must never be a Christian's god, although it is one of the tools for measuring the effectiveness of business choices and the ability of a company to help workers feed their families, Pope Francis said.
"Money is the devil's dung," the pope said Saturday, quoting St. Francis of Assisi. "When money becomes an idol, it dictates people's choices."
We can gain some important direction by considering what Francis has said about the economy.
Dozens of faith leaders and consumer advocates are pressing Congress to create a national interest rate cap for payday lenders instead of the exorbitant three-digit rates currently charged to people in several states.
Eighty activists from 22 states came to Washington in hopes of shaping new regulations that are expected from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Many of their congregations are surrounded by payday loan businesses that they say prey on poor residents by charging high interest rates and creating a cycle of debt.
Charles Kenny at Businessweek has written an important essay that debunks Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's and his fellow Republicans' notion that private charity, especially churches, need to bear the brunt of financing the care of the poor. Like Ryan's budget, the math doesn't add up. Private charity cannot supplant federal and state programs that create the safety net for the poor. It's that simple.
The facts are pretty clear, and Rana Foroohar of Time magazine does an excellent job of laying them out for us.
The recession ended some time ago, and real growth is now back. Even unemployment is down significantly. Job growth has been relatively strong. There has also been something of a real estate recovery.
New stats from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the American poverty rate declined for the first time since 2006 -- 14.5 percent of the total population, down from 15 percent in 2012 -- and that the number of American children living in poverty fell by 1.4 million.
Good news, right?
Well, not necessarily. The Census Bureau data also shows that the overall number of American poor didn't budge, and that income inequality hasn't improved.
Pope's quotes: Some of our favorite quotes from Pope Francis