Be sure to check out the CWR homepage, currently featuring Italian journalist Alessandra Nucci’s interview with Vatican Bank chief Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, “The Church and Capitalism,” from our August/September issue.
Tedeschi touches on several issues very pertinent to the world’s current financial crises, including the role of capitalism has played in those crises, and what role, if any, it can play in an economic recovery:
As to capitalism, you are quoted as saying, “If there were a real, ethical economic development, not a ‘turbo-capitalist’ one, we would see the collapse of poverty.” Are you sure you’re not making up excuses for the world’s crisis?
Tedeschi: I don’t recall ever using the expression “turbo-capitalism,” which I don’t like. It makes capitalism sound like a bad word, while, again, capitalism of itself, like money, is neither good nor bad. Just as free markets are neither good nor bad of themselves. It depends on what you do with them.
If by turbo-capitalism one means the system set in place in the past 25 years to sustain a debtor gross national product, [moving away from] an economic system that used to produce savings to one that produces only consumption, I agree: down with turbo-capitalism! But only because it’s the wrong type of capitalism.
The capitalism that works is the system that makes the most of human industriousness and creativity, which are the building-blocks of capital.
Tedeschi also discusses the Gospel’s “camel and needle’s eye” analogy, and insists that it does not constitute a condemnation of wealth, per se:
How can a rich man get to heaven, if it is as impossible as a camel’s attempting to get through the eye of a needle? To answer this we should first of all ask ourselves what it means to create wealth. Man, who was born to work, but also to think, if successful in thinking and working, produces results, which are called wealth and progress. People have different kinds of aptitudes, some more obvious and some less.
We are not all alike.… Just think of artists, musicians…it’s a matter of natural gifts. Among the possible talents there are those of the businessman who knows how to manage an idea, formulating it in a product and translating it into the ability to produce wealth, to create jobs, to advance well-being and innovation. I say that this gentleman has in himself something of the saint, something grand, which not only should not be discouraged, but ought to be actively supported. This is why I think that many businessmen are worthy of beatification! They have created wealth, which is also of service to those who do not have this talent, helping them to better their lives.
A reminder that Jesus’ teaching on the camel passing through the eye of a needle, in the Gospel according to Mark [10:23-27], ends with the words, “By human resources it is impossible, but not for God: because for God everything is possible.”
Tedeschi: Yes, the Gospels must be read in their entirety. Christ relied on the rich, from the well-to-do women who supported him, to the Apostle Matthew, who was a tax collector, to Zacchaeus, who gave up half of his property to the poor. Notice also that the rich man of the parable in the Gospel according to Luke did not go to hell because of his money, but because he would not even let Lazarus in to fill himself with what fell from his banquet table.
In short, wealth should not be looked upon simply as a means to satisfy one’s desires, but above all as something that allows you to turn to your neighbors and say, “What can I do for them?”