LONDON, United Kingdom – England’s most senior Catholic clergyman has said that Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment will cause “disquiet” for big business in Britain and abroad with its critique of global capitalism.
Speaking against a backdrop of the skyscrapers of the Canary Wharf business district, Cardinal Vincent Nichols told reporters that one of the key messages of the document Laudato Si’ is to challenge capitalist individualism and call for “sobriety and self-denial” instead of consumerism.
Referring to the financial centre directly behind him, Cardinal Nichols said: “There is an interesting section in the encyclical which certainly will disquiet some people [in Canary Wharf]. For example, the Pope continues the very well-established Catholic practice of speaking for the labour contribution to every economy.
“He says, for example: ‘To stop investing in people in order to gain greater short term financial gain is bad for business for society.’ He suggests for example that financial balance sheets account for only part of the cost.
“On the other hand, he says towards these people: ‘Business is a noble vocation,’ and he gives a condition. Especially it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”
The cardinal, who as Archbishop of Westminster is de facto leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, added that the message of the encyclical ran counter to individualist capitalism. Instead, he said, the Church should aim to encourage a new model where demand is moderated by ethical considerations.
“Economic development is necessary to relieve poverty, but has to be properly understood and designed and it’s possible to do so in a way that saves creation,” Cardinal Nichols said.
In the encyclical Pope Francis calls for a strong resolution international resolution to combat climate change, saying that the lessons of the financial crisis have not yet been learned and that markets alone cannot protect the environment.
Cardinal Nichols said he was “very proud” of the Pope’s stance on the issue, adding: “Given our definition of progress has seen the poor excluded and the Earth degraded, we need to redesign our global economic system, businesses need to change the way they operate and we have to redefine our relationships with people and the Earth.
“Our response to the Pope’s message can’t simply be short-term tinkering at the edges of our current system but to take the bold decisions now which the poorest people around the world are crying out for.”
The cardinal also addressed the issue of climate change sceptics, saying that the Pope “leaves a bit of space” for dissent, but added that for the most part the Pope sees ecological problems as man-made and that “there is no doubt that the weight of the scientific evidence is absolutely behind the Pope.”
U.S. presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, who is a convert to Catholicism, said earlier this week that Pope Francis should stay out of the climate change debate, adding: “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”