Catholic Church Provides Moral Gravitas to Occupy Wall Street


Catholic Church Provides Moral Gravitas to Occupy Wall Street | Robert Parham, Occupy Wall Street, Vatican

"[T]he world's peoples ought to adopt an ethic of solidarity as the animating core of their action," a Vatican document says. (Photo: Tom Giebel/Flickr)
The Vatican issued a moral statement favoring regulation of the financial markets for the sake of the common good, while right-wing leaders besmirched the character of those protesting for the reform of Wall Street.

The former provides moral substance to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. The latter favors the status quo by questioning the character of the reformers.

In a shameful smear, the Emergency Committee for Israel launched a TV ad accusing OWS of being anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

"Why are our leaders turning a blind eye to anti-Semitic, anti-Israel attacks?" asks the advertisement. "Tell President Obama and Leader Pelosi to stand up to the mob."

Behind the ad is Fox News contributor Bill Kristol, who heads the Emergency Committee for Israel.

In a rebuttal to Kristol's accusation, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote about visiting the OWS camp in New York City.

"Reckless Jew that I am, I muscled my way into the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Lower Manhattan ... Projecting an unvarnished Semitism, I circled the place, encountering nothing and no one to suggest bigotry – not a sign, not a book and not even the guy who some weeks ago held up a placard with the instruction to Google the phrase 'Zionists control Wall St,'" wrote Cohen.

"This was my second visit to the Occupy Wall Street site and the second time my keen reporter's eye has failed to detect even a hint of the anti-Semitism," he said.

Kristol isn't the only one attempting to discredit OWS and defend the unacceptable and failed status quo by besmirching the protesters.

Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson referred to OWS protesters as "nuts" and "clowns."

Speaking on "The 700 Club," Robertson accused President Obama of having "corrosive effects" on society.

"The president's supposed to be the leader to all of us," said the televangelist. "But he has chosen to attack a segment of our population, those who have been successful. He is attacking those who own capital, those who use jet aircraft as a business tool. He's attacking all the people who have any kind of luxury or wealth."

In a morally substantive critique of capitalism, the Vatican released a document titled, "Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority."

Prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the document said that the current financial and economic crisis was "an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future."

Citing the social encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, the statement noted that the roots of this grave crisis are moral. The economy needs a "people-centered" ethics.

"[T]he world's peoples ought to adopt an ethic of solidarity as the animating core of their action," said the statement. "This implies abandoning all forms of petty selfishness and embracing the logic of the global common good which transcends merely contingent, particular interests. In a word, they ought to have a keen sense of belonging to the human family which means sharing the common dignity of all human beings."

Achieving a people-centered ethic requires an international governing authority for the global economy and financial markets that will "steer" institutions "towards achieving the common good."

Anticipating the release of the Vatican document, Thomas Reese, a priest and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said the document would underscore the moral idea that economics is not simply about profits.

"Profit is not an end in itself but a means toward the common good," he wrote.

Reese predicted that the statement "will be to the left of every politician in the United States. It will be closer to the views of the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement than anyone in the U.S. Congress. It will call for the redistribution of wealth and the regulation of the world economy by international agencies. Not only will it be to the left of Barack Obama, it will be to the left of Nancy Pelosi."

Those who favor unfettered private enterprise, oppose regulation and think the only measure of value is profit will seek to discredit the Vatican document as they have sought to discredit OWS.

Those who favor the common good envision a new economic and financial future that transcends the partisanship in Washington, where both camps are too entangled with Wall Street.

Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.

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