Economic development and growth have never automatically meant a greater gap between the rich and poor, so there is no reason today for people to throw up their hands and simply accept increasing inequality, Pope Francis said.
Greater inequality and a more rapid destruction of the environment “are not destiny nor even a historic constancy,” the Pope told members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. “There have been periods in which, in some countries, inequalities diminished and the environment was better protected.”
Francis addressed academy members during a three-day meeting devoted to the study of “changing relations among market, state and civil society”. The meeting topic was inspired particularly by retired pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), which upheld the right and obligation of governments and groups to intervene with policies to ensure the market economy leads not only to the creation of goods and services, but that it benefits all members of society.
The discussion was particularly timely, Francis said, given “the widespread and systemic increase of inequality and of exploitation of the planet, which is greater than the increase in income and wealth.”
The process is not automatic, the Pope said. It depends on individual actions and also on the economic regulations that states impose.
Individuals and governments make all sorts of interventions in the economy through choices about energy, labour policies, the banking system, taxes, social welfare programmes and education, he said. “Depending on how these sectors are programmed, there are different consequences in the way income and wealth are distributed among those who helped produce them.”
In societies where profit is allowed to be the only concern, he said, “democracy tends to become a plutocracy, where inequality and the exploitation of the planet grows.
“The development of clean energy to resolve the challenge of climate change” is one area where both workers and the planet would benefit, the Pope said. But that cannot happen unless governments “liberate” themselves from lobbies that continue to promote the fossil-fuels industry.
“Political action must be placed truly at the service of the human person, the common good and respect for nature,” he said. “Basically, we must aim at civilising the market, working for an ethic that is friendly toward the person and his environment.”
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund