Ethical Discernment and Economic-Financial Questions

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GianPaolo Salvini, SJ

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On May 17, 2018, in the Holy See Press Office, a Vatican document was presented titled Considerations for an ethical discernment regarding some aspects of the present economicfinancial system. It was prepared jointly by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. It was approved by the pope.[1]

As the title indicates, two of the most important dicasteries of the Holy See engaged in a sector that touches on very technical mechanisms of the financial and monetary spheres of the modern economy, convinced that the Church has the duty to express its voice on these issues and highlight the ethical dimensions involved.

Naturally, it is not the Holy See’s job to go into the specific technical issues of these problems, which at times are arduous even for those directly involved and for the people responsible for economic policy. But “economic and financial issues draw our attention today as never before because of the growing influence of financial markets on the material well-being of most of humankind” (No. 1).

The aim of the document is to clearly identify the ethical dimension that must underlie economic and financial dynamics, in order to ensure their adequate regulation as those sectors have proven incapable of considering that dimension on their own. Indeed there are many who call for the creation of a necessary balance between technical knowledge and human wisdom, which could help guide humanity toward true well-being.

The document’s language is simple and accessible to people without technical expertise, and it is important to note that it never demonizes the modern economy and its basic mechanisms.

The Church, as the “universal sacrament of salvation,” is called on to favor the full promotion of every human community as the ultimate goal of the common good, which it seeks to advance. This common good is an anticipation of the Kingdom of God that the Church aims to proclaim and establish in every sphere of human enterprise. It is expressed also in social, civil and political realms, and regards not only relationships between individuals but also “macro-relationships, and social, economic and political relationships.”[2]

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