Zahra: The economic system must be based on the principles of freedom, dignity


The United Nations – Democracy and market economies go hand in hand, but are risky and can be abused if they do not support human dignity and support the common good, according to a Vatican economics official.

Joseph FX Zahra, a Maltese economist who is deputy coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy, spoke at a UN side event Feb. 8 on “Market Economies: Insights and Warnings from the Catholic social teaching”.

“An economic system is theoretical work unless we put people in it,” Zahra said. Its results depend on the people and whether they use or abuse the system.

Economic systems are run by people and must be based on principles of freedom and dignity, he said. The people administering the systems need to focus on the long-term impacts of their decisions rather than the short-term rewards.

Contemporary financial and economic systems, challenged by globalization, inequality, social liberalism and the financial collapse of the past decade, need to be reformed to be more virtuous and to enhance human dignity and human rights in the world. freedom service, Zahra said.

The event was sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation USA, the American branch of a Vatican foundation that promotes the implementation of the principles of the teaching Catholic social.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, Pope Francis called the world’s attention to the “vast ranks of the excluded,” those “rejected by society” due to disability, lack of education, technical expertise or political clout. . The pope said the world demands concrete action and immediate action to end social and economic exclusion and recognize the humanity of those struggling in poverty.

Zahra said Catholic social teaching over the past 125 years has responded to the challenges and economies of the times by emphasizing that “good governments and good economic systems promote human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity”.

He traced Catholic social doctrine beginning with Rerum NovarumPope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical on capital and labor, through Centesime Annusthe 1991 encyclical of Saint John Paul II on social and economic justice, and Caritas in Truththe 2009 encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, to the 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis on the environment, Laudato Si’.

Zahra said, “What is Rerum Novarum provided 125 years ago must be reapplied to a changing environment. Centesime Annus provided a reflection on the failure of another economic system; Caritas in Truth stressed the importance of the human person in the system and in Laudato Si’Pope Francis speaks to the world today and urges that people be given a chance to develop what has been given to them.”

Centesime Annus affirmed the value of the market economy and established the need to maintain a dynamic and critical interaction between economy, culture and politics, he said. Culture, and especially family and life issues, are important social concerns.

One of the objectives of Catholic social teaching is the common good, which includes respect for the person, social well-being and the development of the individual and the person within society, and the achievement of peace and security by morally acceptable means, he said.

Zahra said that today’s society is faced with globalization, technological developments in the workplace, the disintegration of the barrier between personal and professional life, inequalities, social media, economic growth slow and to social liberalism. He stated that social liberalism is “the victory of vice over virtue – selfishness, greed, suspicion and coercion over the common good, generosity and trust”.

Furthermore, Zahra said that the modern world faces consumerism, environmental degradation, alienation, indifference and relativism. “The problem is the people and the culture, not the economic system,” he said.

“The pathologies that plague our society and environment are the fault of ethical and cultural systems, not economics,” Zahra said.

He quoted Pope Benedict in Caritas in Truth“the belief that the economy should be self-sustaining, that it should be free from influences of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in an utterly destructive way”.

Zahra said there is no practical distinction between a man or woman at home and the same person at work. “The human person is a single person” active in the economy.

“The monstrosity of social decay, poverty, marginalization is the result of human abuse of the economy,” Zahra said.

Catholic social teaching calls for inclusion and equality, as well as structures that respect the human person and human dignity. The preferential option for the poor described in Centesime Annus struggle against material, moral and spiritual poverty.

Zahra said Pope Francis is urging people to rethink and reform the economic system to address the social problems caused by its misuse and abuse. This involves “solidarity, which allows people to become the architects of their destiny”, and includes ethical decision-making by companies and consumers, as well as long-term investment to achieve the common good, a- he declared.

Msgr. Joseph Grech, first secretary of the Vatican’s mission to the UN, said the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “Transforming our world,” is an important sign of hope. It responds to the needs of those who suffer, advocates equal rights to economic resources, promotes policies aimed at development and full employment, calls for the eradication of child labor and the protection of all workers, including including migrants, he said.


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