“Economic Morality and Catholic Teaching: A Reliance on Faith and Reason”

Story by Eamon Brennan, The Saint Reporter
Photo courtesy of

As a recent revert to the Catholic faith, I have found it immensely helpful, and even enjoyable, to research the position the Church takes on various issues we grapple with as a nation; for if you share my religious belief and made it past Sunday school, you know that the Church has the final say in all things faith and morals.

While we may have the idea in our heads that “morals” refer to how we should act with regards to any number of popular moral quandaries, such as abortion, we oftentimes do not consider the morality that is inherent to other topics, such as economics. To elucidate these matters then requires people to not only analyze the situation for themselves, but to be open and accepting to what others have to say.

For the faithful, this is especially true of what the Church decrees. This, I imagine, was the mindset of most people in attendance of Father Albino Barrera’s talk on Economic Morality. And for those who did attend, it was certainly a learning experience. Emphasizing the importance of using reason in all moral matters. Fr. Barrera emphasized in his presentation by noting that many of our current systems of economics are lacking in moral direction. Capitalism in its purest form lacks a care for the poor that we are called to have as human beings, and socialism (not even mentioning its theological problems) creates a system of dependence on the State to provide, which is both unhealthy and contrary to our dignity and freedom. No matter what your belief system is, the problems with both systems should be sufficient to declare them contrary to what we understand to be morally good; that is to say, behavior that encourages and that which is distinctly human: our dignity and rational faculties.

In proposing a nuanced answer to these problems, perhaps the most informative advice that Father Barrera gave in dealing with this question came when he said that along with the role of the State being to encourage the use of right reason in accordance with moral maxims, the State is to not do for its citizens what they are capable of doing themselves.

Summarizing his views quite nicely, he maintains that we should view both economics and government in the same manner: the best system is that which encourages people to use their moral and rational natures, which in turn means that the economic system we seek is a middle ground between the two ideologies that we are familiar with: a cooperative economy that aids only where it must and encourages personal, spiritual, and moral growth.

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