Third World problems caused by greed, not the Catholic church

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The Independent Online
Sir: Paul Vallely's article "Standing firm in his time warp" (31 March), about Pope John Paul II and the "throwing back" of the Roman Catholic church to a "pre-Vatican II epoch", suggests that the church failed to find the philosophical framework to adapt to capitalism. We have just written to the Pope urging him to mark the 250th anniversary of the most recent anti-usury encyclical (Vix Pervenit, Pope Benedict XIV, 1 November 1745) by making a declaration in support of the traditional Christian doctrines of commerce. How can the Church of Jesus adapt to the interest- and dividend-based capitalist money system when Jesus himself said "Lend expecting no return"? (Luke 6:35).

When money superseded cowry shells, it had the clear meaning of a token of exchange that denoted a claim on goods or productive capacities. Its use to get more money "without labour, cost or risk" (Pope Leo X, 1515) blurred its meaning, and put humanity on to a slippery slope so that public opinion came to tolerate the unearned incomes of some, which were the undeserved deprivations of others. The big money of the global market is an abstraction whose general acceptance simply enables the rich peoples to prey on the poor (especially in the Third World).

This is the outcome of the replacement, in and around the 16th century, of "following God's perceived will" by "individualised human power and go-getting" as the accepted motivation of mainstream human life. Whatever one may think about Humanae Vitae and related issues of genetics, Christians need to join with Jews, Muslims and people of goodwill generally in querying the concept of investment and in looking at the "alternative economics" expounded by Ruskin in Fors Clavigera, letters 68 and 80.

Yours sincerely,


Chairman, Christian Council

for Monetary Justice

Todmorden, Lancashire

2 April