Cardinal Turkson: Pope Criticizes Problems of Market Economy, Not Capitalism

Justice and Peace Council President Speaks to ZENIT About Government Aid, Curial Reform, Possible Papal Trip to Africa and Pope’s Views on Economy

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Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson has suggested that a papal visit to Africa is not far-fetched.

In a wide-ranging interview with ZENIT, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace discusses whether his dicastery could be reformed, whether the Pope will visit Africa, and what the Pope really means when he criticizes the “system.” He also shares his thoughts on how his council is helping to promote business ventures in developing nations, as well as his views on government aid.

He was speaking at the conclusion of a closed-door Vatican seminar on “The Global Common Good: Towards a More Inclusive Economy,” organized by his dicastery, in collaboration with the Secretariat of State, July 11-12, in the Casina Pio IV of the Vatican Gardens.


ZENIT: When the Pope criticizes the system, is he criticizing capitalism? Or does he mean a system lacking Christian values/ethics?

Cardinal Turkson: He’s not really criticizing capitalism. Our examination of this really came out in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Now, in that exhortation, he makes it clear that [he is not writing]a social doctrine, like Caritas In Veritate or Centesimus Annus or Popolorum Progressio, or anything like that. He makes it clear that that is not his focus.

We had just had a synod on the New Evangelization and after every synod normally that the Pope comes up with an exhortation. For example, the synod of evangelization brings the joy of Christ to people. The Pope is saying that this joy is not really found everywhere, and there are problems and obstacles in the experience of this joy. So, the Pope lists and identifies some of these obstacles to the preaching of the Gospel, about bringing the joy that is necessary for people to experience. That is how he comes at these issues.

So, it is not and cannot be an attack against capitalism because that word never appears once in this document. So, no one can say the Holy Father cites capitalism and says negative things about capitalism. He does not.

What he talks about is the market. Although economists will recognize or probably say that the market is the agent of capitalism, it is rather the market he addresses. What the Pope is talking about is not that the market should add Christian values to its ideology; what he is talking about is in a basic anthropological sense, in the sense of a human person who in Creation, right from the book of Genesis, was created to be the center of Creation. Now when something else replaces, or displaces, or moves us from the center, then we are bound to become a servant or serve whatever has replaced it, in this center state. And if, in this case, it is the market or finance then something has gone awry; something has gone wrong. That is the Pope’s basic theme.

So, the biggest statement the Pope makes is that markets should serve the human person. Not that the human person serves the markets. What the Pope means is that the human person should not be reduced to a state of servitude, forced to uphold the serving of market forces to ultimately make money, to make profit, exclusively.

So when that happens, the Pope says something is wrong. The basic sense of anthropology from Creation is that man—humanity—is at the center. It is the glory of everything that God has created. If this glory then should be supplanted or replaced as something else, which claims His glory, which should be that of man, then something has gone wrong.

Let me explain this further. Often the person the Pope finds in this place is the very, very marginalized, excluded, or poor. That is where this person is replaced from the center of everything. It is the poor, the excluded, the abandoned, those who suffer, and those made victims of whatever market or economic systems we have. That is the person replaced from the center by market forces. So that is what the Pope is talking about.

Several other people seem to agree with this. For example, you may have noticed that last fall when Evangelii Gaudium came out President Obama was one of those who referred to it, in his speech to the Congress. In 2009, in his inauguration speech, President Obama had made observations similar to this–about a market which needs to serve the person, and his last words to congress were (paraphrasing) that if the U.S. with all its endowments cannot help the poor get out of poverty, then it is failing a lot of people. So, it is a concept that is not only shared by the Popealthough the Pope was able to formulate it in such a way that everybody is waking up to it again. It is not really even because of a lack of Christian values or principles that the Pope is speaking of, and rather the lack of basic human requirements–what we call human anthropology.

In our meeting regarding our seminar on the Global Common Good and a more inclusive economy, we referred to this as a reductionist view of the human person. These words form what the reductionist view of the human person is: the human person is reduced in character, in status, and in nature, and in other ways, to something else.

ZENIT: What is the council doing to try to promote social entrepreneurship and business ventures in the developing world?

Cardinal Turkson: That is a tough one. This is the second seminar on economics that we have done this year. The first one we held in the middle of June, which we coordinated with CRS (Catholic Relief Services) in the US, and the Mendoza Business School at Notre Dame University, and it was on something we call “Impact Investing.”

Impact Investing is an increasingly larger form of financial industry that’s been introduced to more and more people.  What it is, for example in the context of the Church, is when capital of religious congregations or pension funds can be put to some use to produce some decent, palpable, observable effect or result or consequence for humanity and also comes back with a fair economic return. So, it is not money lost or given out to grants. Rather, it is money placed as capital to realize both social and economic returns in a balanced way, providing for basic needs for our population and yet with the ability to come back and be reinvested.

This type of seminar, for us, leads us to wanting to package these ideas together and offer it to local church communities.

At the end of the day, what we will probably be suggesting to them is that with everything happening in the world these days, the more traditional form of local churches financing their projects is likely to be increasingly a thing of the past. In this sense, I mean that taking help from governments or other parts of the Church is fast dwindling. Now, several bishops these days, that go, travel, do mission appeals in the US or to some parishes in Europe, and then receive collections, want to put it to work in the best way. Often, though, with those moneys, you can’t really use these funds to undertake just any capital venture. So it means that we need to change our way of sustaining and keeping our local churches alive. It means that we need to think about how we can reconsider the capital available to invest and devote some of the income generated from it to keep it sustaining the local churches, towards some sort of self-reliance. When that is the case, what local churches will need is probably easy, cheap, accessible capital that they can work with. That is type of thing we are talking about, at least in the context of the local churches.

So, with this in mind, what can we at the council do? We are packaging the fruit of “Impact Investments” in this way, and then, ultimately, we will have to do another seminar, or use other means, to get the information out again. We can invite presidents from business and their financial administrators and see how we can help to make this a reality. I have even talked w
ith some of the people from the World Bank to see what packages they have that can be of help for people, even if through local churches, and we are exploring all possibilities. Overall, our efforts will need to be packaged and then offered to local churches.

ZENIT: Does Pope Francis have any plans to visit Africa?

Cardinal Turkson: I mean like every Pope his thing would be to visit every part of the local Church. He’s not announced that yet now. I think he’s got a visit to Korea and the Philippines coming up. Who knows the next one may be Africa. But just because he hasn’t talked about it, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.

ZENIT: Let’s turn now to reform of the Roman Curia – will your dicastery be changed?

Cardinal Turkson: … I don’t know. With our own dicastery, its history shows it has gone through some processes of change. Right after the Second Vatican Council, it was set up as a simple commission, even with the commission of the laity so that the president of the laity also took care of our office. This was under Paul VI. With John Paul II, it evolved and become a council. No longer a commission, it became a council. And from that point the council stood on its own, had its own president and the other requirements of a council.

In the course of history, there have been moments when the president for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was also taking care of the migrants. [Cardinal] Etchegaray was the president for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and also of Cor Unum. [Cardinal] Martino, my immediate predecessor, at one point was the president of both migrants and justice and peace.  Granted, these things all happened in the past. Today, all of these now have their own presidents.

Now all of this has to do with the document that regulates the operations of all of these offices, of these councils, and congregations of the Roman Curia. In the case of John Paul II, now Saint John Paul II, it was Pastor Bonus. Pastor Bonus was the document that became the apostolic constitution that directed the existence of these offices. So if Pope Francis wants to revise that document, and so wants to reconfigure the Curia, or find a new way of putting these things together, then he has the freedom to do that.

But I have no way of saying what will happen, including to our office; I really do not have any basis for even getting into any conjecture about what could happen.

But, since you have asked, if that apostolic constitution gets revised in any way, then that may affect the structure of some of the offices, or councils, in the Curia. It depends on how Pope Francis, or any future Pope, wants to configure the apparatus with which he governs the Church. As for us, we remain here to help and to serve.

ZENIT: What are his views on government aid? Does it work, or should it be changed?

Cardinal Turkson: Government aid can be seen two ways. First, government aid could be aid between governments, or second can be aid coming elsewhere to governments. For some of the international bodies (or organizations), local and national governments are their natural partners.

Whether you are talking about the World Bank, or the IMF, or others, they deal with governments, and certain others may also deal with local governments. Rarely do we see them deal with an institution that is not governmental. This is one set of scenarios that happens, and when this is the case, we ask ‘Do these sorts of things help out?’

It depends seems to be the answer. Aid comes not only from the World Bank or the IMF, it comes from the British government through DFID, from the US Congress through USAID, and Canada equally has their own aid programs. So there are many different agencies and types of global foreign aid, which help some of the things impacting various parts of the world.

I know, for example, being from Ghana myself that at one point the minister of education in Ghana required foreigners to be able to finance their own educational budget or educational process, something which I find saddening. Sad if, for government, you need somebody’s help to be able to figure out how you form and educate your population. I thought that to be very … Well, I thought that was kind of unfortunate.

But do these aid programs or packages work? It depends on the terms that accompany these aid programs, or the grants that come from these agencies. Sometimes the donors, or those who make the grant, appear to flex their muscles. For instance, if they are not happy with some local or national policy, they flex their muscles–or position–as part of the program funding conditions.

Like right now, Uganda, because of its stand on anti-gay legislation. Aid is being threatened with the reduction or removal of certain monies promised for health programs that would otherwise go to Uganda. So when aid is there and it is not neutral, but rather bound by conditions, then it may be in a position to move away from the goal of serving the common good.

As to the question, ‘Does aid help local governments?’ It can be useful in the sense of providing certain freedoms to local governments to take action. It can be useful also because if, for example, it is in its granting that the conditions are such that there is transparency, it does not lead to corruption, it does not lead to diversion of funds, or other things like that. The money or aid gets used for good and what it is meant to do. It can also be useful if the figures, stated as aid, do not get dissipated in their movement from one account to their recipient country.

Here is an example of something that happens. If someone were to declare 90 million in aid and it were to include the salary of expats, consultants, and wherever else, with these costs coming in, then at the end of this, they are just mere trickle-down programs.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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