Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 31, 2009
Put ethics back into business
Vatican economist says capitalism, doesn't agree with Gospel
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - The current global economic crisis shows that capitalism without ethical grounding doesn't work, a top Vatican economist said.
Christians, said Thomas Han Hong-soon, ought to keep in mind the need for ethical economics whether they are business people, policymakers or simply consumers.
"The root of this crisis is a moral deficit" and when it comes to business Christians have not always followed the principles of charity and justice found in the Gospel, Han told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano Aug. 22.
COMPETITION VS. LOVE
"Let's start by honestly recognizing that the spirit of capitalism doesn't agree with that of the Gospel. The heart of Christianity is love for others. The nucleus of capitalism, rather, is competition, which is the opposite of love."
Han is controller of the Vatican Prefecture for Economic Affairs and is a professor of economics at the College of Business and Economics of Hankuk University in Seoul, Korea.
A radical overhaul of the capitalistic system is not realistic, he said, considering that alternatives, such as communism, have not worked out historically. But better rules for governing the free market are needed.
"It's clear that as Christians we can't only pursue the notion of the highest profit at the lowest possible cost," he said. "What is sometimes lacking is the awareness of a 'social responsibility' of their business. No business is an island."
"Those who don't remember that are destined to fail," Han said.
He pointed to Pope Benedict's recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), that called for justice and equality in the world economy.
This is true not only for single businesses, but for a whole system that involves shareholders, banks, workers and consumers, he said.
Catholics can do much to contribute to a better system simply by the choices they make in their lifestyles and what they buy.
"The simple act of purchasing something can have important economic consequences. No choice is neutral," Han said. "It's up to us to start, and everyone in their small part can change the world."
The Catholic Church in its many activities, he said, should set an example of ethical behaviour in doing business and raising and spending money for its mission "above all with thoughtfulness and solidarity."