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Cardinal Marx urges Europe to move ‘beyond capitalism’

By on Friday, 1 June 2012

Cardinal Marx speaking at the Berkley Centre in Washington (CNS photo)

Cardinal Marx speaking at the Berkley Centre in Washington (CNS photo)

Cardinal Reinhard Marx has called for a “social market economy” in the wake of the fiscal crisis that has gripped much of Europe over the past year.

In a talk delivered at Georgetown University in Washington, Cardinal Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, said the economy needed to move “beyond capitalism” in order to be more fair.

He added that he was not calling for the abolition of capitalism, saying that capitalism was “an element” in the social market economy he has in mind. But Cardinal Marx suggested that it was the practice of “financial capitalism” in the era since the tearing down of the Iron Curtain that had brought Europe to its crisis point today.

The cardinal’s talk, “Economic Crisis as an Opportunity for Change”, was delivered at Georgetown’s Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

“The revolution of 1989 is one of the prepositions of this crisis,” Cardinal Marx said. “The world became free from Communism. As a consequence, it became free for financial capitalism.” One of the ills this form of capitalism wrought, he added, was that it “separated the virtual from the real economy,” giving people “the dream of permanent easy money” without acknowledging “the problem of debts, particularly in Europe”.

Cardinal Marx said: “We cannot step outside the history, but we can learn from it.” Lessons from the current crisis, he noted, are “not yet learned”.

The cardinal, who wrote Das Kapital: A Plea for Man in 2008, is head of the Committee for Social Issues for the German bishops’ conference and is president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. He is member of both the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Christianity has its part to play in formulating lessons to be learned, Cardinal Marx said. “Christianity is the mother tongue of Europe. If you don’t know the mother tongue, you can’t understand.”

Cardinal Marx added: “The Bible is not, in fact, the last word” in coming to terms with the eurozone crisis. “We can make it better. This is very important.”

On the day of judgment, “we will have a new heaven, a new earth,” Cardinal Marx said. “Jesus will ask, ‘Did you make the world a better place while you were on earth, or did you not?’”

In response to a question from the audience, Cardinal Marx said he approved of the idea of “eurobonds,” an instrument that could help manage the debt of eurozone nations more equitably. “In the long term, it’s something like a transfer,” he said. “Subsidiarity works on many levels. But we will have transfers from rich countries to poorer countries.”

He added that rich eurozone nations cannot tell struggling ones, “Oh, you can go out,” or tell themselves that poorer nations’ crises are “not my problem. That’s not how it should work.”

Berkley Centre director Thomas Banchoff noted that some in the United States interpret the Catholic social teaching principle of subsidiarity – which holds that decisions or actions should not be made on a higher level when a lower level of competence would suffice – as meaning “keep the government out of it”.

Cardinal Marx replied: “The state is not a bad thing, as Aristotle told his disciples”, nor is the state “unfriendly”. Without the state, he said, “man does not come to the fullest possible life”, adding: “You cannot navigate the common good only with the assistance of families. It is not possible.”

The cardinal travelled from Washington to Chicago, where he was to lead a May 31-June 1 symposium called “Toward a Moral Economy”.

  • Scyptical Chymist

    So the anti-capitalist is a cardinal now? Sorry – the headline rather invited it! 

  • Balds50

    what is wrong with the communal way of living detached from all finance like the onks and the kibbutizm?

  • Jeannine

    Cardinal Marx is a great example of a bishop who doesn’t understand the delicate balance of free markets & government. A reading from 1 of Milton Friedman’s books are in order or even Friedrich Hayek’s. The cardinal uses the term, financial capitalism, which I have never heard of but may be similar if not the same as crony capitalism. That said, crony capitalism seems to be in vogue currently which perverts the free markets. 

    Nor does the cardinal seem to fully understand the concept of subsidiarity. He needs to talk to his boss for a complete explanation.

  • Benedict Carter

    He calls for justiz ‘n peas, like all these nu-Churchers, but makes no reference whatever to the Social Reign of Christ the King. 

    On that basis, feel entirely free to ignore his EU ravings. 

  • Zaren Bonello

    When western europe was more social democratic our people were doing far better.Capitalism 
    ruins the world such as communism do.For better stability for our people the state should keep
    under its hands  Energy Health and Education only.By that the state can control cost of living 
    and the wages can be under control to. The unions can work better for their members.

  • Benedict Carter

    It’s “Social democratic” NOW for goodness sake, and the result is bankruptcy!

  • Burt

    If I agree with him, will that make me a Marxist? ;)

  • GFFM

    This is Utopianism pure and simple. The key to solving the corruption within markets and the financial sectors of any culture is personal morality and more specifically a Christian ethos. Marx still does not get it. The development of individual freedom informed by responsibility working in concert with the society is what makes possible prosperity–which by the way cannot ever be perfect. The imposition of a Utopian ideology cannot work because it discounts individual choice and individual freedom. People chaff at being socially engineered or told what they should or should not do to take care of their families with regard to livelihood. Often the best politics are at the local level because those making the decisions know the people, know the community and know the community’s needs.This very very basic principle makes America work. Experience and history have proven this time and again. Witness the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The governor working with small municipalities knew how to respond; the government–because of its massive and inflated bureaucracy responded badly to the basic needs of the people and the urgency of the situation.

  • Parasum

    There is a recent  article in “Inside the Vatican” about an earlier priest-economist,  a Father H. Pesch, also a Jesuit, which may be of interest:

    (Old, but still informative, though not as full as the more recent article in the same magazine)

    The “New Oxford Review” has this article on him:

  • Parasum

    “Without the state, he said, “man does not come to the fullest possible life”…”
    ## Aristotle was a pre-Christian thinker – he reckoned without Christ, inevitably. This relativises everything Aristotle says. To talk about the state & not mention the Unversal Kingdom of Christ, is unforgivable; rank humanism (& not humanism in a good sense). Is the Good News of the Kingdom so unimportant to how society lives as to be unworthy of mention ? Jesus Christ is not an add-on, FCOL :(

  • Robin L

    The Nation-State was the successor to Christendom and the imperial sway of the Catholic Church.
    At the Reformation the schism in the Catholic Church facilitated the irruption of  monarchies and States populated by preferments and unelected lackeys of one sort or another. After the French Revolution the State emerged as a secular instrument for representing and propagating humanist values which in their early stages of development owed their origins and roots to Christian teaching. For example the value of  democracy, which originally meant ‘the equal worth of each and all human
    beings in the sight of God’. Over time however and with the increasing separation of Church and State,
    the increasing occupation of the public sphere by the State and the privatisation of the Church, the State began to serve ends and means that were increasingly inhuman and anti-Christian. Under the cover of new gods and the new idolatries of power, technology(technique) and money a new dictatorship arose climaxing in globalised market Capitalism.
    Thje consequences of this new Plutocratic tyranny have rendered the State supine to Corporate
    Capitalist interests making for a dictatorship of money that has collapsed into the ruins of  mass poverty and mass inhumanity.
    Until the 1980s the British State pursued the Common Good through a benign Welfare (well-being)
    State based on common and reciprocal sets of obligations predicated on the aspirations for the gradual and cumulative progress towards the Common Good.
    We need to recover some of the New deal postwar Welfare state framework with its mandatory moral imperatives and to regulate commercial interests so that they serve the good of all, and to ensure compliance we need a tough enforcement regime.

  • liulan991

  • JabbaPapa

    All very well, but the current model of capitalism is ALSO a Utopianism !!!

    This is Utopianism pure and simple. The key to solving the corruption
    within markets and the financial sectors of any culture is personal
    morality and more specifically a Christian ethos. Marx still does not
    get it.

    Clearly, he *does* “get it”, given that personal morality and Christian ethos are the core elements of his statements on the subject.

    What’s currently being imposed at a Utopian level is precisely the financial capitalism that Marx is denouncing.

    Take note — it’s just that *variety* of capitalism he’s denouncing, not capitalism itself.

  • LocutusOP

    Yes, it’s hard to take seriously someone who conclues that without the state “man does not come to the fullest possible life”.

    But then again, he failed to define what state means, so I guess he has some wiggle room.

    From the Catechism we find:
    ‘ Excessive intervention by the state can threaten
    personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has
    elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a
    community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of
    a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions,
    but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate
    its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a
    view to the common good.”‘

    It’s difficult to argue that the principle of subsidiarity is anything other than “keep the state out of it”…But if I am to meet him half-way, then I would have to intepret the meaning as “keep out of it, unless you are invited to help, but step back as soon as your role is finished”.

  • Burt

    From this article, I don’t know whether Cardinal Marx thinks that the “tearing down of the iron curtain” was a good or bad thing, but unfortunately he seems quite at ease with the new ‘soviet’ European Union. Which is an undemocratic, sinister,imposed system, and an enemy of true organic private enterprise.
    Worse still, Just like the Kremlin the EU is in all it’s manifestations hostile to Christianity. I am uncomfortable in the way (judging from this article, I admit. I have not heard of him before.) Cardinal Marx seems so comfortable with an organisation that displays such blatant enmity to Christ and His Church. 

  • Dmaes62

    With due respect to the learned Cardinal, a secular state which rejects the influence of God at every opportunity (which includes pretty much all of our current governments) can NEVER lead Man to God.

    If, on the other hand, states where to follow the lead of the US Constitution which requires a moral people to uphold it, there could be possibility for the state to facilitate the elevation of all people.

  • Dmaes62

    While an individual may detach him/herself from finances by being part of a commune, ultimately somebody has to deal with the reality of balancing to accounts.

  • Burt

    I am afraid you all got it wrong!. What’s going on is not just economics…wake up and smell the coffee..oh sorry, the coffee is too stale for you all to smell. Father John O’Conner smelt it way back in 1986 ..that’s when the coffee pot was making dirty noises..and that’s when he told us what’s going on. though he was put aside by the agencies within. We live in dark times, and we are under a massive supernatural attack from all sides. The worlds economies are currently being manipulated by the darkest enemies of the Church.

  • maideqi

  • Vitto

    “This Money is Not Ours” By Dorothy Day The Catholic Worker, September 1960, 1.Summary: (DOC #768) Explains their position on usury and derides the profit system. Says they try to withdraw from “THE SYSTEM” by following Matthew 25. Keywords: workCity Treasurer: 
    Dear Sir,We are returning to you a check for $3,579.39 which represents interest on the $68,700 which we were awarded by the city as payment for the property at 223 Chrystie Street, which we owned and lived in for almost ten years, and used as a community for the poor. We did not voluntarily give up the property—it was taken from us by right of eminent domain for the extension of the subway which the city deemed necessary. We had to wait almost a year and a half for the money owed us, although the city permitted us to receive 2/3 of the assessed valuation of the property in advance so that we could re-locate. Property owning having been made impossible for us by city regulations, we are now renting and continuing our work.We are returning the interest on the money we have recently received because we do not believe in “money-lending at interest.” As Catholics we are acquainted with the early teaching of the Church. All the early Councils forbade it, declaring it reprehensible to make money by lending it out at interest. Canon law of the Middle Ages forbade it and in various decrees ordered that profit so obtained was to be restored. In the Christian emphasis on the duty of charity, we are commanded to lend gratuitously, to give freely, even in the case of confiscation, as in our own case—not to resist but to accept cheerfully.We do not believe in the profit system, and so we cannot take profit or interest on our money. People who take a materialistic view of human service which to make a profit but we are trying to do our duty by our service without wages to our brothers as Jesus commanded in the Gospel (Matthew 25). Loaning money at interest is deemed by one Franciscan as the principal scourge of civilization. Eric Gill, the English artist and writer, calls usury and war the two great problems of our time.Since we deal with these problems in every issue of THE CATHOLIC WORKER since 1933—man’s freedom, war and peace, man and the state, man and his work, and since Scripture says that the love of money is the root of all evil, we are taking this opportunity to live in practice of this belief, and make a gesture of overcoming that love of money by returning to you the interest.Insofar as our money paid for services for the common good, and aid to the poor, we should be very happy to allow you to use not only our money without interest, but also our work, the works of mercy which we all perform here at the headquarters of THE CATHOLIC WORKER without other salary or recompense than our daily food and lodging, clothes, and incidental expenses.Insofar as the use of our money paid for the time being for salaries for judges who have condemned us and others to jail, and for the politicians who appointed them, and for prisons, and the execution chamber at Sing Sing, and for the executioner’s salary—we can only protest the use of our money and turn with utter horror from taking interest on it.Please also be assured that we are not judging individuals, but we are trying to make a judgment on THE SYSTEM under which we live and in which we admit that we ourselves compromise daily in many small ways, but which we try and wish to withdraw from as much as possible.

  • HapHarris

    Free Market, Fair Market, Monopolistic Market…The Market Place no less than in any other field of human action is entirely subject to the requirements of Moral Law.  You are your brother’s keeper, but, if he healthy and refuses to work…let him go hungry.  It’s all about loving your God and your neighbor as you love yourself… It’s about sharing fairly in the world’s abundance.  It’s also about recognizing and sharing the different talents of others and utilizing all talents for the welfare of ourselves and others. It is not about GREED-!  It’s about Love, Love-!!  If we had taken all the money we have spent on war in just the last 40 years and put it into peaceful projects this planet could now have become a virtual paradise…given our love for God and Neighbor.  No…its not a perfect world…but…its our job to make it one.  Remember…how you treat your neighbor is tantamount how you treat your God.

  • renming328