Are we finally getting through? - Catholic Courier

Are we finally getting through?

Are we finally getting through?

The church has been saying, most recently for 120 years (that’s really recent in church time) that unequal distribution of wealth and unbridled liberal capitalism is harmful to the civic health.

Now it appears the world may finally be catching on, finding what the church says to be true.

There is a widening divide between the rich and poor in the United States, according to census reports. It results in a growing conflict between wealthy and others, according to the Pew Research Center.

Richard Morin, a research analyst, called this "a growing public awareness of underlying shifts in the distribution of wealth in American society." Census data show the share of overall wealth held by the top 10 percent of the population increased from 49 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2009. People are unhappy about it.

The number who told Pew that there are "very strong" conflicts between rich and poor doubled from 2009, the largest proportion holding that view in the quarter-century that the question was asked.

In addition to the unhappiness over inequitable wealth distribution, capitalism, too, has come under scrutiny — not from the church but from the financial community.

For those who contend the church has nothing to offer, think again.

Making profit the ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable, the church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

"The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects," it says. "It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order."

Blessed Pope John Paul II was forthright in Centesimus Annus, his encyclical that came out 20 years ago. That encyclical reflected upon the 100 years since the publication of Rerum Novarum, the church’s modern foundational document on social teaching.

In Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul wrote: "The human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing."

Now, this is recognized by the financial world as shown by "Capitalism in Crisis," a series of articles published in the Financial Times.

"America worships the idea of capitalism, but there have been many fundamental paradoxes and contradictions in terms of how it is actually practiced," said Gillian Tett, managing editor of the Financial Times.

Economic crisis "has forced us to rethink a lot of our assumptions, not just about Wall Street, but much more broadly about how we run the economies," she wrote.

This comes as no surprise to those concerned for decades about the inequitable distribution of wealth negatively impacting solidarity and leading to a loss of the sense of community.

Addressing the mayor of Rome and provincial presidents in January, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the need to "recover values that are at the basis of a true renewal of society and that not only favor economic recovery, but also aim at promoting the integral good of the human person."

"Many people support the American dream in terms of meritocracy if there’s a feeling that everyone can buy into it," Tett said. "What’s happened to Wall Street in the past decade has really left people questioning whether it is a meritocracy."

If it took the economic crisis, not a faith-based reflection, to think more broadly about how to run the economy as Tett says, so be it.

Papal encyclicals traditionally are titled with their opening words in Latin.

Recent events may mean it won’t be long before we see this encyclical: "Ita Tibi Dixi."

Kent, now retired, was editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle.

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