Cardinal Cupich: Why does our economy leave so many behind?

Cardinal Blase Cupich responds to a Chicago Tribune editorial that “attempted to provide a counterpoint to Pope Francis’ call for economic justice”:

The Vatican recognizes that the Great Recession was not simply a financial crisis, but a moral one. A handful of financial institutions and traders began selling exotic securities that were largely unknown, poorly understood and enormously profitable. Greed and lack of accountability triggered a global economic collapse that devastated families in Chicago and around the globe — impacting the poorest most of all.

A more substantive response would offer a welcome opportunity to explore how we might structure our economy to protect the weak and promote the common good, or to serve a middle class ground down by wage stagnation….

For as long as there have been market economies, the Catholic Church has maintained that every economic system must ensure that markets serve the common good. As the Vatican document states: “Well-being must therefore be measured by criteria far more comprehensive than the gross domestic product of a nation and must take into account instead other standards, for example safety and security, the growth of human capital, the quality of human relationships, and of work.”

The Tribune’s response to this call for renewed moral scrutiny is that “the nature of capitalism … makes it imperfect: Opportunity doesn’t guarantee success. Competition creates winners and losers.” The Vatican calls us to move beyond the stale ideological rhetoric of “winners” and “losers,” a blithe, if not callous term for those whose very lives are threatened by an economy of exclusion.

Market mechanisms have lifted many out of poverty. They have also left millions behind as a result of unrestrained greed, excessive materialism and massive inequality. The Tribune editorial has nothing to say about that. The Catholic Church does. It is unswerving in its conviction that we must make sure our markets build an economy for all and do not accelerate injustice and grave inequity. In this time of globalization and dominant and often unaccountable financial institutions, we need to bring together technical knowledge and human wisdom. In Catholic thought, moral principles must guide the market. Protecting human life and dignity comes before the unlimited pursuit of profit. This is a vital and timely message for a divided world — and Chicago.