Ignace Berten o.p.
Solidarity in Europe?
The European Union has failed in any real sense to produce a social commonality through solidarity; it has opened itself to a globalisation that is ruled by blind financial capitalism that has trodden on an industrial and productive capitalism. By a political decision, Europe has been handed over to the market to the detriment of its citizens and above all the most vulnerable.
“You have deprived the poor of dignity”, says St James (2.6). Pope Francis is very clear about the urgency need for political reform: “The necessity of resolving the structural causes of poverty cannot be put off, not only because there is a practical demand to get results and to put society in order, but to heal it of a sickness that renders it fragile and unworthy, and which will only lead to new crises…. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by renouncing the absolute autonomy of markets and speculation, and by attacking the structural causes of social inequality, the problems of the world will not be resolved, nor any particular problem. Social inequality is the root of the evils of society. The dignity of each human person and the common good are issues that must be structured as political and economic questions” (Evangelii gaudium, nn. 202 & 203).
The social teaching of the church recognises the value but also the limits of a market economy. It is effective but has to be regulated, for by itself the market does not allow: (1) assurance of the protection of common goods such as the environment and water; (2) a response to basic needs, so that those who are not able to pay for essential goods – food, housing, health care – are not deprived of them; and (3) assurance of the equitable redistribution of profits and revenues. This is why the church’s teaching looks for (1) a restriction and a regulation of the market with regard to social needs; (2) a recognition of the responsibility of public institutions in this regard, especially nation states; and (3) the regulation of international financial institutions.
At the European level, this demands (1) that the process of decision-making be re-adjusted between the economic, on the one hand, and the social and fiscal on the other; and that (2) the process of community decision-making be privileged so that it alone guarantees effective solidarity.
Ignace Berten o.p.
founder of ESPACES-Spiritualities, Cultures and Society in Europe, Brussels
Translated from the original text in French.
"...the riches that economic-social developments constantly increase ought to be so distributed among individual persons and classes so that the common advantage of all... will be safeguarded; in other words that the common good of all society will be kept inviolate". Pope Pius XI. (Quadragesimo anno, 57-58)
"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills“ Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium, 202)