The international controller for the Vatican’s Prefecture of Economic Affairs, Thomas Hong-Soon Han, said last week that Christians must go beyond the logic of “the greatest benefit at the lowest cost possible” and that the demands of justice and charity must not be sacrificed in economic activity, as the Pope has explained in his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the Korean expert explained what a Christian perspective should be in the case of a building project, for example, noting that economic convenience must not be the sole factor in determining which company to contract. “The proposals of a given company need to be considered as well as the working conditions, the salary levels, in sum, how justice is concretely carried out in the organization.”
If a company engages in worker exploitation, the Church must reject this behavior because it would otherwise be indirectly complicit in the evil, Han said.
He went on to warn that it is easy to give in to the temptation to place a priority on achieving favorable conditions from an economic point of view, and that this is sometimes justified in the name of the demands of charity. “The alleviating of one sector—it is said—can mean greater availability for other social and humanitarian activities. But in any case what is forgotten is that ‘charity demands justice,’ as the Pope writes in 'Caritas in Veritate.'”
Current Economic Crisis
Referring to the current global economic crisis, Han said its origins stem from a “moral deficit.” “Capitalism does not work without an ethical foundation. Things fall apart when their foundation is not based on moral principles. On the dollar bill it says, ‘In God We Trust.’ For this reason if the market is based solely on selfish interest and not on ‘trusting in God’ it fails.”
While the Church does not condemn capitalism as such, he noted, she also asserts that the market economy must have at its center the human person and his dignity. “'Caritas in Veritate' is very clear about this,” he said.
After underscoring that ultimately individual persons are responsible for economic structures, Han called for “a formation of consciences in the gospel values. This is the principle task of the Church’s social teaching and this is pointed out in the new encyclical by Benedict XVI.”
Han stressed that the Church “is not an NGO or a charitable entity. The action of Christians is based on charity, but stems from the truth: Caritas in veritate. We cannot overlook the incarnation of a God who became man for love of men. This is perfect charity. The truth of our faith acquires more credibility if it bears witness to love.”