PopeWatch: Profit



Pope Francis comments on a German company in Italy that has announced plans to lay off 20% of its employees:

“I express my profound concern over the grave situation being experience by many of the families in Terni due to the proposals of ThyssenKrupp,” Pope Francis said.

“Once again, I make a heartfelt appeal, that a logic of profit does not prevail, but one of solidarity and justice,” he continued. “At the center of every question, even those dealing with work, we should put the human person and his dignity.”

Pope Francis then strayed from his prepared text.

“With work, it’s not a game!” Pope Francis said.  “And who – for the sake of money, or business, or to earn even more – takes away work, know he takes away the dignity of the person.”

Go here to read the rest.  With respect, PopeWatch wonders if the Pope truly understands that a business must earn a profit before it can employ anyone.  Solidarity and Justice do not meet payrolls at the end of a week, but profit does. A successful business can, and should, do a lot to reward its workers for good service, but without profit none of that is possible.


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  1. The article doesn’t tell us the rationale – or if in fact there is any too for leeway in decision. – moving jobs to different location? – decline in demand for product? Regs in Italy?

  2. What does “justice” even mean in this context?

    This proves the adage that for many people, economics is just plain magic. If the money’s not there, no amount of screaming about “justice” or “fairness” will cause it to rain from the sky.

    Heck, one might point out that if the pope is so concerned, why not have the Vatican bank loan out the money the business needs (and not charge any interest since… well you know).

  3. Our Pope is from a socialist country, that’s why he can’t figure out this idea that a company has to make a profit.

  4. I would point out that Pope Francis sees things and responds accordingly ‘from the heart’. He sees a tragic layoff and thinks of all those tragically effected. Not to see this aspect of this tragic event would be what he calls ‘the logic of profit’.

    However, that being said, I would reiterate what I have stated before in other posts. There is one ‘tradition’ within papal social teaching that takes up what I would call the “franciscan critique’ of capitalism. It is not socialist or marxist but Franciscan and rooted within the Catholic Tradition going back to the Covenant-Torah and the Prophets. This ‘tradition’ is very critical of ‘profit’ etc, especially as it impacts people [workers, families, societies etc]
    There is on the other hand another ‘tradition’ within Catholic social teaching which looks at capitalism more positively. It sees its weakness etc but also sees its rootedness in human freedom etc. We see that in St John Paul II’s economic encyclicals

    I am afraid we are going to have to wait some time for these two Catholic traditions to mingle, mesh together and become one Catholic tradition on economic issues.

  5. I get my hopes up after reading a writer like Mr. Zmirak, who worries that “the explosion of irrational and false political statements that carry some vague imprimatur of Church authority will undermine people’s faith: ‘If I have to believe that nonsense to really be Catholic….'” And then the Bishop of Rome makes a heartfelt appeal “that a logic of profit does not prevail, but one of solidarity and justice.” A false choice, and nothing vague about the imprimatur.

    The logic of profit is for the human person organizing production to have a nonzero amount of money left over after expenses are subtracted from revenue. It’s his or her pay, after paying everyone else. Would it make the Pope feel better if this pay was hidden by calling it an expense? Okay. But if the profit goes to zero because demand falls or expenses rise, should the organizer work for free?

    We are definitely in a socialist moment. Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be organizers of production.

  6. “I am afraid we are going to have to wait some time for these two Catholic traditions to mingle, mesh together and become one Catholic tradition on economic issues.”
    Botolph, as far as I can see, most Catholics who understand and support (more or less) the pro-capitalist view also understand and support (less or more) the Franciscan view. It is the Franciscan-only adherents who are holding up the “meshing”.

    As far as meshing goes, it is likely that there is no possible way that a philosophical basis for meshing can be developed. The reason why is that the specific facts of each case vary, and so in practice it is hard to determine which view should prevail and to what degree without knowing the facts. Is management being greedy, or is it looking out for the best interests of the remaining stakeholders (including employees)? Or are some of the affected employees greedy, refusing better efficiencies and retraining? Could be any of these things. Could even be all of them.

    Consider a parallel dilemma: one model of parenting insists that children need to be supported, while another insists that children need to be pushed toward independence. Both are in the abstract valid. The meshing of each, however, is valid only for each individual child’s age and mental capacity. No ‘teaching’ can ever be 100% valid for each minute detail in a child’s upbringing, in the sense that multiple adults can step in and out of a child’s life and each would follow the ‘teaching’ to exactly the same conclusion and action. It would seem that economic teachings have the same uncertainties.

  7. Tom D

    I believe you and I are closer than might first appear. While I would state that the Church’s social doctrine cannot remain in the abstract or merely promote foundational principles such as ‘dignity of the human person’, ‘common good’, ‘subsidiarity’ but apply them to more specific issues, I would maintain

    1) that specific pieces of legislation, do not fall in the perview of the Magisterium and can indeed be disagreed with by Catholics in good conscience [For example I disagree that Paul Ryan’s proposed budget was ‘not informed’ by his Catholic faith. Bishop Blair’s statement concerning the budget and Paul Ryan was way over his (Blair’s) competency as a bishop and teacher of the faith]

    2) without losing out ‘prophetic edge’ I believe that the Church needs to really tackle the issue of ‘capitalism’ because I believe that it represents a much closer bond with the truly human dimensions of human dignity and freedom than socialism and marxism which while offering a counter ‘criticism’ of capitalism do so at denigrating the dignity of the human person and his/her freedom to do good

    Make sense?

  8. Yes, makes sense. I just think, and my previous example on parenting was meant to illustrate, that no social teaching of whatever direction (pro-capitalist or not) can become a ‘theory of everything’ that can properly regulate how many breaths a minute are ‘best’. We live in a world where most people hate uncertainty, want a lifetime sinecure for employment, and expect the Church to back them up. The funny thing is we are well on our way to that kind of world, and it is simply increasing the divisions between the haves and have-nots.

  9. I don’t know how much of PF’s jargon reflects a “Franciscan critique”: It would be hard to find a Bonaventurean system—Bonaventure being arguably the most systematic of the Franciscan school–at all in PF’s ‘thinking’: what little of his pre-pontifical ‘writing” is known is that at Frankfurt’s Sahnkt Georgen theologate, he ‘wanted to write’ his dissertation on Romano Guardini — but he never finished it (please note)—and now he’s running the Church.
    So given this lack of training and background, this says it all for PF: ” And who – for the sake of money, or business, or to earn even more – takes away work, know he takes away the dignity of the person.” How about honestly calling this kind of ‘analysis’ putatively and shockingly shallow?

  10. Steve Phoenix,

    You of course can have your own opinion of Pope Francis, he is not, never will be nor is he supposed to be Jesus Christ. He is simply, the successor of Peter in all that that means, given the Gospel witness [Peter was by no means perfect etc either :-)]

    Just one clarification. It is not at all unheard of for a academic not to go further in studies or the process of writing the dissertation etc for a doctorate. I also have it on good authority that Jesuits often times begin a doctoral program then the Order in the person of the provincial pulls the doctoral candidate out and puts him in a new program, a new mission or even a completely different area of ministry. I think I am correct in saying that Fr. Jorge Bergolio was taken from his doctoral program when he was elected at a young age to be the Jesuit Provincial.

    That does not mean, and I am not attempting to say that he has/had the academic credentials of Karol Wojtyla or Josef Ratzinger but then again the vast majority of popes down through the two millenia did not as well. While the Church could not ‘afford’ a complete incompetente in the seat of Peter, he does not have to be an Augustine or Aquinas either.

  11. Tom D,

    I believe we basically agree. I would not be quite as agnostic concerning the ability to make some moral teaching/judgment in matters of an economic nature. Economics is a human ‘science’ and therefore can be seen (best) within the light of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. That does not mean it is the Church’s competence or mission to enter into economic schools of thought, stock markets etc as if entering the Sistine Chapel 😉 It simply means that man needs to be at the center of economics. To translate it into Scriptural terms, “Economics was made for man not man for economics”, thus while many issues must remain in play in a creative tension, ‘man’ not profit as such must remain at the center of concern, and thus there is indeed a moral dimension to any and all human ecology [newer theological term for natural law]

  12. Points granted, Botolph, about Bergoglio not on the academic level of the prior two pontiffs. However, the Jesuit authorities you have been talking to have been giving out the same talking points on the Left Coast here, namely the [misleading] mantra that “Jesuits often times begin a doctoral program, then …the provincial pulls the doctoral candidate out and puts him in a new program, a new mission.” They also know that is an extreme rarity. In fact, Bergoglio’s service as the Argentine provincial superior was in a previous era, from 1973-1980; He then was rector of the San Miguel Faculty from 1980-1986. It was in 1986 that he requested and was assigned to doctoral studies, and then he failed to complete his doctoral dissertation. He had no official assignments within the order from 1986 until he was elevated to the episcopacy in 1992, so this confabulation that they are telling both of us doesnt work.

    At least they have stopped the glorious confabulation (oft-repeated in the American media) that PF obtained his Ph.D from Sahnkt Georgen, so that only local German newspapers documented at the time of his 2013 election (Die Tauber Zietung, for one) he had left studies incomplete, and hadnt taken his comprehensives even. One must remember that a year ago, the confabulators attempted to wow everyone with PF’s grand theological expertise: until I asked for a reference to a copy of his dissertation (it should be available everywhere, like Wotyla’s (2 Ph.D disserts) and Ratzinger’s (2 Ph.D disserts)] . Uhh, ummm. No tiene. I just dont like dishonesty.

  13. Re. Bergoglio, I should have said “he had no official major assignments (equivalent to rectorship or provincialate) from approx. 1986-1992.” Just trying to be precise in communicating.

  14. Steve Phoenix,

    Actually, Steve, thank you for correcting my timeline on Fr Jorgio Bergoglio SJ. WHat I had communicated was an accurate timeline, apparently I was mistaken. As to Jesuits not finishing doctorates etc I think we can agree to disagree about that 🙂 I believe it is more common than some might expect-however, I am not speaking of failure etc due to lack of ability or slothfulness. Various issues arise within the individual Jesuit’s life as well as the Order which could prevent the completion.

    This does not take away your contributing to correcting my good faith but incorrect timeline on Pope Francis’ academic career.

  15. Nor, Botolph, do I mean to demean PF as being, at heart,any less than a very good-hearted man of God: I understand when he decided to shelve his Ph.D studies, he returned to Argentina and served exceptionally as a confessor and spiritual director to many Jesuits and secular priests, for a time in Cordoba Argentina (this according to the official vatican.va bio of his life), and it was starting here that eventually he came to the notice of the cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires.

    Pardon me, therefore, for just wishing that someone able to much more effectively counter-dialogue with the secular world and also with the likes of Cardinal Kasper, were pope instead of PF. Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Card. Peter Erdo of Hungary, Card. Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka,—all well-educated scholars with a wealth of experience— but especially Cardinal Francis Arinze of NIgeria would have been an outstanding choice. But, here we are…

  16. Another thing in defense of Bergoglio: I think he was in a very fragile state when he ended his leadership term as provincial about 1986, in part due to his being blamed, falsely, for issues arising out of the infamous “Dirty War”. The man in the middle gets it from both sides, usually. I think his succeeding superiors wanted to get him out of Buenos Aires for his personal well-being and no doubt for his safety. I dont think he has had an easy life, not at all.

    Probably the worse thing in the world was for him to go to the pressure-cooker of Ph.D. studies, and esp at Frankfurt in German; as a result of which he probably did the right thing to junk it and eventually return to S.A., but instead was sent back to Cordoba, Argentina, about 700 km from Buenos Aires, where he could work in relative peace as spiritual director. The rest is history.

  17. Steve Phoenix
    Innocent X, like most popes, was not a theologian (and he knew it). He was a canon lawyer, an auditor of the Rota and a diplomat who had served as nuncio in both France and Spain. He was also a remarkably astute politician.
    Nevertheless, he dealt with the Jansenist crisis in a masterly fashion. Having taken expert advice, he issued the bull, “Cum Occasione.” Shorn of its formal parts, it is as follow, the quotations being based on the Augstinus of Jansen:
    1.” Some of God’s precepts are impossible to the just, who wish and strive to keep them, according to the present powers which they have; the grace, by which they are made possible, is also wanting” – Declared and condemned as rash, impious, blasphemous, condemned by anathema, and heretical.
    2. “In the state of fallen nature one never resists interior grace” – Declared and condemned as heretical.
    3. “In order to merit or demerit in the state of fallen nature, freedom from necessity is not required in man, but freedom from external compulsion is sufficient” – Declared and condemned as heretical.
    4. “The Semi-Pelagians admitted the necessity of a prevenient interior grace for each act, even for the beginning of faith; and in this they were heretics, because they wished this grace to be such that the human will could either resist or obey” – Declared and condemned as false and heretical.
    5. “It is Semi- Pelagian to say that Christ died or shed His blood for all men without exception” – Declared and condemned as false, rash, scandalous, and understood in this sense, that Christ died for the salvation of the predestined, impious, blasphemous, contumelious, dishonouring to divine kindness [divinae pietati derogantem], and heretical.
    There is not a word of argument in the whole document and no attempt to present a counter-thesis or a positive teaching of any kind. Providing they kept clear of the condemned propositions, theologians were free to advance their rival theories and the Dominicans and the Jesuits did just that.

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