Monday, February 16, 2009

Cardinal: Britain needs the recession

The Cardinal recently caused a stir when he spoke at a fundraising lunch for Britains wealthiest Catholics by talking about the "death of Capitalism". In an interview in Saturday's Times entitled "Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor: recession may be jolt that selfish Britain needs" he put a little more flesh on these words. Here are a couple of extracts but read the whole interview.

According to the Archbishop of Westminster, the economic downturn could be the very thing that brings us to our senses. “It's the end of a certain kind of selfish capitalism,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said. “This particular recession is a moment - a kairos - when we have to reflect as a country on what are the things that nourish the values, the virtues, we want to have ... Capitalism needs to be underpinned with regulation and a moral purpose.”


Anonymous said...

So does His Eminence support young men and women being unemployed?

Hanging around with nothing to do, except to succum to one temptation or another.

Because a recession means unemployment, and because it will especially hit the young.

Anonymous said...

I hope now that the Cardinal will move to the next stage and explain what values the banking system should have been based on.

I can think of a few points he could address.

(1) Usury: taking any interest at all on a consumer loan, or any gain from a business loan in excess of what equity (risk capital) would have earned in the same circumstances.

(2) Fractional reserve banking: another way of referring to legalised fraud which enables banks to lend up to eight times the money they actually have on deposit and available to lend.

(3) The idea that the nation's money should be lent into existence by bankers, repayable with interest, and not paid into circulation by the State as a public service - like King Henry I's tally sticks.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I don't think so, he is trying to see something positive in something bad and speaking about the evils that have caused the recession.

Physiocrat said...

What a stupid remark. My opinion of the Cardinal was beginning to go up just a little, following an inane correspondence with him over liturgical changes at my local parish when he was bishop of A&B, and the fiasco of his Renew initiative.

Little good is likely to come out of this recession. It is a once-in-60 years catastrophic event, will continue for at least another five years and things will not be the same afterwards. More likely it will end in a period of chaos and civil unrest followed by authoritarian xenophobic government. Possibly wars too. The Cardinal should look at the history of past economic disruptions for example in the run-up to World War 2.

The Cardinal would have done more good if he had encouraged the laity to get to grips with the body of Catholic Social Teaching, which, despite its shortcomings, has much to say about the running of economies. Catholics would then have been in a position to contribute knowledgably to public discourse in matters of economics.

As a Catholic I find it embarrassing when Church leaders come out with piffle like this. He has not distinguished himself over the years and for his final few months in office he would do better to keep quiet and encourage his clergy to implement the Benedictine liturgical reforms, which have the power to undo the damage done to the church in the past 40 years.

The Bones said...

Well said Henry! Also, I agree with Michael about Usury and fractional reserve banking.

Just saying, "Well, this could be a leveller," is not very helpful, even if we think it privately. Yes, it may be that people having less money will draw their minds towards the things of the next World. But as Henry says, it is more likely that people will look for a 'saviour' who will help them in this world.

God help us when that person arrives.

Anonymous said...

The depression certainly means the end of Ninja (No job, no income, no assets) mortgages and of self-certification of income for mortgage purposes which brought about the crisis. Unfortunately the victims of the recession will not include the politicians who inadequately regulated the financial system and the financiers and bankers who inflated the money supply and encouraged debt.

Thrift and honesty would have meant we had no problems. Let us hope that they can be recovered. As Mrs Thatcher put it "a free market mitigated by Christianity" is what we need but the latter needs to bear strongly on the former.

Good may come out of evil.

GOR said...

Actually Father, I found myself in agreement with much of what the Cardinal said. While he was addressing Britain specifically, a lot of his points could be made about the US, Ireland and, I suspect, many other developed countries.

Much of our present condition can be attributed to greed – on the part of unscrupulous bankers and brokers making loans to people who didn’t qualify; on the part of people taking on obligations they couldn’t afford, to fund things they didn’t need; on the part of investment houses re-packaging loans to sell them and make commissions and on the part of investors looking for a quick return.

The media have been complicit in this also – promoting the ‘good life’ of the supposedly rich and dubiously famous as the goal for everyone. Business, too, played its part pushing all the ‘must-haves’ on people to boost profits. And many people bought into the ‘dream’ which appeared to be never-ending.

Now reality is setting in and we don’t like it. We’re like the Israelites in the desert complaining against Moses that at least their stomachs were full when in Egypt. But at least they were concerned about the basics of living. We lament the loss of the ‘extras’. As in all things many innocent people suffer, but also many not so innocent. So it becomes a time to take stock and reflect on what is really important in life.

Sometimes we have to be hit over the head before we wake up and pay attention. We have had warnings about the fragility of this life – 9/11, the Tsunami, Katrina, among others. This life is not an end in itself, but a journey to the real end – heaven. We forget that at our peril.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should say that, Henry, but I've sent out some feelers to a moral/social theologian or two to get their opinions n a remarkable teaching of Pope John Paul II which seems to depart from the general rule that misuse or non-use or misuse of property does not extinguish title.

I discussed the point with Father Peter Bristow (Opus Dei) on Saturday, though he stated that the new rule would most readily apply in places like Latin America where land ownership is egregiously unequal. I think his jury's still out on it.

I'm still waiting for a reply to my e-mail from Father Rodger Charles SJ, who is a specialist in Cathoilic social teaching.

It seems that, in the special case of the means of production, misuse does extinguish title:

"Ownership of the means of production, whether in industry or agriculture, is just and legitimate if it serves useful work. It becomes illegitimate, however, when it is not utilized or when it serves to impede the work of others, in an effort to gain a profit which is not the result of the overall expansion of work and the wealth of society, but rather is the result of curbing them or of illicit exploitation, speculation or the breaking of solidarity among working people. Ownership of this kind has no justification, and represents an abuse in the sight of God and man."

(Centesimus Annus #43)

George said...

Laurence England says, "people will look for a 'saviour' who will help them in this world".

But Laurence haven't you heard? Messiah Obama is already here!!!!!

He will save us all from everything that is just 'terribly awful' including the economic recession, overpopulation, CO2 and global warming, aliens and the 'boogey' man!

Thank goodness that at least this guy isn't going around proclaiming that he is a Catholic!

Perhaps there's a US cardinal waiting in the side-lines.......?

Oh yes. Our good Cardinal has left all this rather late, so late in fact that it really probably doesn't matter too much what comes out of Westminster. I agree with Henry when he says "The Cardinal would have done more good if he had encouraged the laity to get to grips with the body of Catholic Social Teaching".

Let's hope that the new Cardinal of E&W shakes this Country of ours to its foundations and breathes new life into Mary's Dowry.

Michael Clifton said...

My view is that the world wide recession is the result of widespread evil and corruption and can be regarded in a way as a Divine Punishment for the misdeeds of mankind. (I hold that not very PC view about Hurricane Katrina too and regret that Fr Wagner has now withdrawn his candidature for the Bishopric as a result of all the scoffers who have got at him.)

Physiocrat said...

To blame the recession on "greed" is to avoid thinking about the issues. Everyone picks the low-hanging fruit first. If there is a lot of it about, then some stupid people will gorge themselves. Likewise if you leave a lot of food outside, the foxes and seagulls will scoff the lot. But if it is put in a bin with a lid, it won't be taken.

Under the present economic structure, usually though sloppily termed "Capitalist", there are two choices. The first is to become a wage slave and always be poor. The second is to accumulate land titles and speculate in them. If you follow the second path and get your timing right, you will make lots of money. But the effect of many people trying to play the land speculation game is to make the economic system unstable and liable to periodic booms followed by busts.

The solution at one level is to change the rules of the game so that no profit can be gained from land speculation, which is simple from a technical point of view. The solution at another level is to convince politicians and their constituents that this is worth doing and should be done. That is not at all simple because people, especially the Anglo-Saxons, are obsessed with the idea of "my land", even though most of them don't own more than a few square metres of little worth.

Anonymous said...

Father Clifton's remark isn't specific enough.

The recession has its source in the financial system which is dominated - as Pope Pius XI said - by the people who control money and credit, determining its allotment, so that none dare breathe against their will.

Their sins are usury, greed, the fraud of fractional reserve banking, and - in not a few cases - Freemasonry.

Our sins - and by "us" I also mean the politicians - are that we've been sitting in awe of these people when we should have given them the Spanish Inquisition long before the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee slapped them on the wrist last week.

That's not to mention the sins of public authorities against the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ.

alban said...

Michael Clifton: Mr Clifton, if you truly hold the view that God has punished the people of New Orleans with a hurricane because of their sinfulness, would you please answer the following questions:

(1) Why did God also punish the good people who lived in New Orleans?
(2) What did the people of Indonesia do to justify 'divine punishment' via the tsunami just over 2 years ago?
(3) What have the poor and starving children of Africa done to deserve the 'divine punishment' of HIV/AIDS?
(4) If God wants to make a point by punishing sinful cities, why has He not done so with the likes of Los Angeles, London or New York? Why has He not punished the 'atheistic' cities of Moscow or Beijing? What of Rome where the vast majority of people no longer attend Holy Mass? (God could certainly make a point by levelling Rome to the ground)
(5) If God deals with sinfulness by physical punishment, why are so many children born with horrendous physical infirmities or diseases? What have these babies done?
(6) If God punishes in the manner you describe, why are there so many greedy, lustful, vengeful people who are not being castigated by God?

No, Mr Clifton, God does not punish in the manner you state. In fact, no less a person than Christ demolishes your argument in John ch.9 and Luke ch.13.

You certainly cannot find what you espouse in official Catholic teaching; it is more akin to what fundamentalist Protestantism preaches. Sadly, this has infiltrated the Church albeit it would seem solely amongst the ranks of those who claim to be orthodox. It has nothing to do with being politically correct and everything to do with being authentically Catholic.

As for the comments by Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, Fr Burke is spot on in his brief response to Felix. The term 'kairos' used by the Cardinal is particularly appropriate when one considers its biblical meaning.

PS My apologies if my post comes across as being harsh or personal; it is not intended to be so.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Brilliant - he sounded like a grumpy old man! Loved it!!

The Bones said...


Obama already looks quite inept as a 'saviour' figure and already appears like a poor man's fake 'teflon' frying pan. The razzmataz is wearing thin and he and the US administration know it. Whatever democracy was, this recession, I'm becoming more and more convinced, is going to bring an end to it. As to whether someone much worse is waiting in the wings, who knows? But as I said, God help us cleave to the Holy Faith, the Holy Father and the Magisterium if that person appears.

Physiocrat said...

If there is divine retribution coming in the form of a natural catastrophe as a result of sins of the flesh, surely it would have hit Brighton long ago?

When the Canary Islands volcano blows, a mountain-sized lump of rock is expected to fall into the sea which will make a big splash. This will send a tsunami up the English Channel, but it will wipe out a lot more than the Revenge Club. And the same event will send an even bigger tsunami heading towards the east coast of the USA, which as we all know is God's own country.

Sorry, the notion that dramatic natural disasters are God's punishment for sins of the flesh does not hold up. Those kind of sins are punished in more subtle though immediate ways.

The present economic disaster is indeed a punishment for accepting what John Paul II described as "sinful structures", but these need painstaking analysis as to their nature and it takes intellectual effort to understand what needs to be done at a practical level. One might say that what has happened is a punishment for intellectual sloth - accepting what one hears and not bothering to question.

The Catholic laity have a particular guilt in the matter for not bothering to study and develop the Social Teaching of the Church.

nickbris said...

I agree with the Cardinal,somebody has to say something.

Greed & selfishness have brought about what is bad at the moment.

The "nouveau riche" wouldn't give you the drippings of their nose,they've stopped going to church in case they have to contribute something and then they say it's because they have just found out that there is no God,take their ill gotten gains away and they will start thinking otherwise.

When I was at sea in the 50s 60s & 70s I travelled around the world to the poorest of places and I have found that the poorest people,some who have nothing are the kindest.

During the Depression in the 30s,neighbours helped each other,when somebody in the street got a job then everybody got something to eat.

The type of war that Henry mentioned are not likely again but when half of the people in the World are starving perhaps we should have a WAR ON HUNGER not the xenophobic war on terrorism.

Anonymous said...

Alban's long list of questions deserves an answer.

All God's punishments in this life are medicinal, designed to bring sinners - and sometimes entire nations - to repentance. He will not punish unnecessarily.

Neither will He do so if He foresees that sinners are so obstinate that to do so would be futile.

I hope that the Cardinal will develop his points by announcing that God did not directly cause the recession. He has allowed human sin to take its course and unleash its consequences.

His purpose in doing this is to induce us to question the values on which our society is based.

Therefore, Christians should be ready with some answers. Otherwise we run the risk of the reversal of the Magnificat which usually happens in a recession: the rich get filled with good things, the poor sent empty away.

I have already given some answers in my earlier postings: usury, fractional reserve banking and an unhealthy adulation of bankers by politicians.

I could add the general refusal of businesses to pay a family wage to every employee, thereby making it necessary for people to get into debt.

Anonymous said...

Henry's right. If that volcano, La Palma blows, Brighton is screwed as well as the US coastline.

If it were to catastrophically slide into the ocean, it could generate a wave with an initial height of about 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) at the island, and a likely height of around 580 metres (1,903 ft) at the Caribbean and the Eastern North American seaboard when it runs ashore eight or more hours later.

In other words, us Brightonians wouldn't get much warning, less warning than was given to New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

Well I hope the Cardinal is going to reduce the stipends of his clergy so that they too can join in this Kairos moment. No doubt the diocesan investment portfoliio has decreased forcing the Cardinal to revist his retirement plans. Maybe he will decide to delay his retirement for a couple of years, or find some part time work to make ends meet?

Physiocrat said...

Las Palmas will blow. It is called Cumbre Veija and in the worst case scenario up to 500 cubic kilometres could go. The only question is when and how. In this worst case view, by the time they reach the south, a couple of hours later coast the waves are about 7 metres high, which would make a mess on the sea front. And there would not be much warning. The main impact would be on the US east coast. But other authorites are sceptical of such predictions.

Physiocrat said...

I was looking at the news this morning. This wretched unravelling of the economy has a long way to go yet. There is increasing discussion of a possible collapse of the currency, Zimbabwe style. The government is doing everything possible to make it happen.

What has that to do with us? First, expect more demands on the soup run. We may need to set up a soup kitchen. Second, there are going to be lots of empty shops in Western Road. If we could manage a bookshop and place where people could come in and talk, this might be the opportunity to get premises at little cost - provided there are enough of us to keep it going. Third, we need to have a better understanding of what is going on, and the Social Teaching of the Church is not a bad starting point.

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