Making Papal Recommendations Concrete

Social Science Academy Concludes Plenary Session

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2010 ( Benedict XVI is calling for «public intervention» and «moral standards» to regulate the economy. The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences has considered what those interventions and standards might be.

This was explained today by Mary Ann Glendon, president of that academy, when she gave a summary of their five-day plenary assembly concluded Tuesday.

She cautioned that «many hours of discussion and dozens of papers» could not be effectively summarized in a few minutes, but she highlighted one of the statements made by Benedict XVI when he addressed the group Friday.

«One might suggest that in 1991 Pope John Paul II emphasized the energies of the free economy. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the moral and juridical framework,» she said. «In the audience the Holy Father granted to us last Friday, he made this point explicitly: ‘[The economic crisis] has also shown the error of the assumption that the market is capable of regulating itself, apart from public intervention and the support of internalized moral standards. This assumption is based on an impoverished notion of economic life as a sort of self-calibrating mechanism driven by self-interest and profit-seeking. As such, it overlooks the essentially ethical nature of economics as an activity of and for human beings.'»

«Our deliberations were largely occupied with what that ‘public intervention’ and those ‘internalized moral standards’ might be,» Glendon stated.

3 points

She then went on to address three points: financialization of the economy and of common life; the consequence of the economic crisis on the poor; and the governance of economic activity.

About the first point, she noted one contributor who «spoke of a shift from an economy based in the real production of goods to an economy dominated by speculative activities driven by greed.» Two speakers cautioned against the «danger of the ‘financialization’ of human relations, in which human activities, even in the family, are reduced to a merely commercial dimension.»

«Such a ‘financialized’ approach to the social order not only narrows the vision of the human person, but creates instability in the economy,» Glendon affirmed.

She also spoke of the «serious toll on the poor» from the economic crisis.

«If one compares the relative cost of the financial bailouts to the amounts needed for basic nutrition, for example, one cannot avoid the conclusion that this crisis has distracted greatly from urgent questions of development,» Glendon observed.

Finally, regarding the governance of economic activity, she said a «highlight» of the meeting was a session featuring «a discussion at the highest level of the economic challenges facing us.» Participants included Lucas Papademos of the European Central Bank; Mario Draghi, governor of the Bank of Italy; and Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Istituto per le Opere di Religione; as well as Academy members Hans Tietmeyer, former president of the Deutsche Bundesbank; and Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista, former Minister of Economics in Mexico.

«The principles laid out in ‘Caritas in Veritate’ about the need for stronger regulation of international finance were discussed with various concrete measures suggested in order to ensure greater transparency in financial instruments and to avoid the moral hazard problems arising from bailouts,» she recounted.

Glendon also assured that the papers from the plenary sessions of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences are customarily published.

«The forthcoming proceedings,» she said, «should assist students of Catholic social doctrine to better understand the issues raised by the global economic crisis in view of the guidance offered by ‘Caritas in Veritate.'»

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