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 economic official.

Joseph FX Zahra, a Maltese economist who is the Vatican Council’s deputy coordinator for the economy, spoke at a UN side event on February 8 on “Market Economies: Insights and Warnings from Education Catholic social ”.

“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 should be based on principles of freedom and dignity, he said. The people who administer the systems should focus on the long-term impacts of their decisions rather than the short-term rewards.

Contemporary financial and economic systems, challenged by globalization, inequalities, social liberalism and the financial crisis of the last decade, should be reformed to be more virtuous and strengthen human dignity and human rights in the service of freedom. , 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 USA Foundation, the American branch of a Vatican foundation that promotes the implementation of the principles of social education Catholic.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, Pope Francis drew the world’s attention to the “great ranks of the excluded”, those “rejected by society” because of a disability, ‘a 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 education 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 starting with Rerum Novarum, the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII of 1891 on capital and labor, through Centesimus annus, the 1991 Encyclical of Saint John Paul II on Social and Economic Justice, and Caritas in Veritate, the encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI of 2009, to the encyclical of Pope Francis of 2015 on the environment, Laudato Si ‘.

Zahra said: “What Rerum Novarum provided that 125 years ago must be reapplied to a changing environment. Centesimus annus provided a reflection on the failure of another economic system; Caritas in Veritate emphasized the importance of the human person in the system and in Laudato Si ‘, Pope Francis is addressing the world today and urging people to have the opportunity to develop what has been given to them. “

Centesimus 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.

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

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

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

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

He quoted Pope Benedict in Caritas in Veritate, “the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be free from moral influences, has led man to abuse the economic process in a completely destructive way.”

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

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

Catholic social education calls for inclusion and equality, and for structures that respect the human person and human dignity. The preferential option for the poor described in Centesimus annus addresses material, moral and spiritual poverty.

Zahra said Pope Francis is urging people to rethink and reform the economic system to address social problems caused by its misuse and abuse. This is accomplished through “solidarity, which enables people to become the artisans of their own destiny”, and includes ethical decision-making by businesses and consumers, as well as long-term investment to achieve the common good, did he declare.

Mgr. Joseph Grech, first secretary of the Vatican’s mission to the United Nations, said the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “Transforming Our World”, is an important sign of hope. It responds to the needs of the suffering, defends equal rights to economic resources, promotes policies geared towards development and full employment, calls for the eradication of child labor and the protection of all workers, including migrants, he said.

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