Vatican City, May 17, 2018 / 13:09 pm
The notion of "proximate immorality" is the most remarkable news in the just released text by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for the Promotion of the Integral Human Development, titled Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones.
According to the document, proximate immorality occurs in "occasions in which misuse and fraud can be easily produced, especially damaging the less advantageous counterparts."
In the document, the reasoning is particularly applied to banks. In fact, the document reads that "to commercialize certain financial instruments is in itself licit, yet in a situation of inequality it profits from a lack of knowledge or weaknesses on the side of either of the counterparts", because this is "a violation of due relational propriety, which is already a grave violation from an ethical point of view."
This is the issue: there are structures that are not per se evil, and that they do not work as evil as long as they care for the closest ones. However, in the moment when their goals are set farther afield, and lose sight of the human being, they can become evil.
Applied as it is to banks, this theological notion might also be applied to a series of other issues, because anytime proximity is lost there is the possibility of not doing things for the sake of the common good.
Beyond this theological notion, which is in a certain way the evolution of the notion of the "structures of sin" denounced by St. John Paul II, the just-released Vatican document on the ethical discernment of financial activity does not come out of the blue. It is, in fact, the latest outcome of a series of documents, lectures and texts that, since the 1980s, have characterized the Church's reflection on economic issues.
In the end, the document provides a moral-theological framework for the economic sphere. It does not criticize free enterprise and the free market, but it emphasizes that moral economic activity, in the end, depends on the way man uses economic tools.
The document states that the integral development of every person, of every human community, and of all people, is the ultimate objective of the common good that the Church, as the universal sacrament of salvation proposes."
The document stresses that "this ethical order, rooted in the wisdom of God, the Creator, is therefore the indispensable foundation for building a worthy community of persons, regulated by laws, and imprinted with a true justice"
And the document claims that the Church recognizes among its primary duties the duty to beckon everyone, with humble certainty, to some clear ethical principles," because "human rationality searches, in truth and justice, for that solid foundation upon which to support its work with the awareness that without it, its orientation would be weakened."