U.S. Catholic CEO responds to Benedict’s economic encyclical

July 8, 2009

charity-in-truthPope Benedict’s encyclical “Charity in Truth” proposed a sweeping reform of the world economic system from one based on the profit motive to one based on solidarity and concern for the common good. Like other such documents in the Roman Catholic Church’s social teaching tradition, the encyclical delivers a strong critique of unbridled capitalism. This can be uncomfortable for Catholics who champion free enterprise and some conservative Catholic writers reacted quickly and critically. One of them, George Weigel, wrote the encyclical “resembles a duck-billed platypus.”

(Image: Charity in Truth/Ignatius Press)

We wanted to hear the views of a Catholic executive, one who’s involved in business rather than reacting from the sidelines. So I called Frank Keating, president and chief executive officer of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). The former Republican governor of Oklahoma (1995-2003) is a former chairman of the National Catholic Review Board, which he said “sought to identify and correct the horror of sexual abuse on the part of the clergy.” He is a Knight of Malta and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

DB: What’s your overall reaction to the encyclical?

keatingFK:“I haven’t read the 30,000 words but I think what the pope is proposing is not inconsistent with other papal messages. The common denominator to all of them is the worth of the individual, the dignity of every human person. So Benedict XVI focuses on the right to life, he speaks against euthanasia, he speaks against the evil of abortion, he speaks against cloning. But at the same time he talks about duties and responsibilities to the vulnerable because the vulnerable are dignified human beings as well as those who are rich and powerful.

(Photo: Frank Keating, 11 Feb 2002/Adrees Latif)

“So to exploit someone in a capitalist society is, according to Benedict, inapropriate and contrary to Catholic moral teaching. But for me as a free market capitalist, I see in this statement also the right for me to determine my destiny. In other words, if I wish to work for the state I should be able to do so. If I wish to found a small business, I should be able to do so. A dignified, independent mortal soul, a caring individual should be able to determine their own destiny.

“There is a little bit for the left, support for unions, support for protection of the globe against waste, but there is also something I think for the free market advocates in the Church, because if you are an independent creature with a unique personality based upon, obviously, the immortality of your soul, you should be able to work or not work as your decision. I think there is a little bit for everyone.”

DB: What do you think about Benedict’s call for a “world political authority” to manage the global economy?

FK: “I think it is impractical to suggest that sovereign nations will surrender on the one hand a free market economy or on the other hand a socialist economy or completely managed or disintigrating economy as you would have for example in a place like Zimbabwe, or places like that which are utterly dysfunctional. I don’t think he would suggest that those economies that work surrender what works to those that don’t work and be managed by some supernational group that would impoverish everybody. I think what he’s talking about.

bis“As a result of the impoverishment of reckless lending, the impoverishment of a number of individuals throughout the globe, you are going to have far more coordination, and that is good. There is a difference between coordination and mandate. Look at Solvency II or (the Bank for International Settlements in) Basel. All that stuff, coordinating banks, coordinating insurance companies and the practices, lending standards and the like. I think you’ll see more coordination and, to the extent that that can be done, it will be healthy for everyone. A reckless loan in the United States can and did impoverish people in Latvia. So obviously coordination is important as long as it is not mandated.

(Photo: Bank for International Settlements, 8 July 1997/stringer)

“I see ‘world political authority’ … (and) ‘manage the global economy’ (in the Reuters report). If it said to coordinate decision making in the global economy, I think there would be less concern. But again it was probably written in Latin.

“Here’s a quote: ‘The conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way.” Well, some men certainly have done that. I don’t think there is any question about that. I think his comments are not inappropriate.

“I think this is also for any of us, whether we are Catholics or not, to have the pope say ‘Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.’ Well, I don’t disagree with that. I think to raise this crisis to an international debate and emphasise the moral issues involved, and the ethical issues involved, is totally appropriate.”

DB: Will this encyclical change the way you run the ACLI?

madoffFK: “Our products are protection products against calamity. Whether your house burns down and you have inadequate resources to rebuild it, property/casualty insurance saves you. Or your business partner dies or your spouse dies, life insurance provides the money to get back on your feet. I would argue there is a moral purpose there in pooling risk to help other people.

“But in the pope’s case, to talk about moral responsibility, duties to others, I think Bernard Madoff is the poster boy for that. Because here is a man, as you know, who betrayed and destroyed his own faith community, those within his own faith community. So I think for men and women in business and finance and government for that matter, I think the Pope’s message is one to listen to and to listen to carefully.”

(Photo: Bernard Madoff, 17 Dec 2008/Shannon Stapleton)

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I think Mr. Keating is kidding himself. The property/casualty business is and always has been based upon the premise of settling claims for the lowest amount/not fairly. In-surance companies have a business model of “make me pay”. If you think they don’t, be a third party in a claim-meaning the passenger in your friend’s car with a severe injury.You had better get a really good attorney and then you will have to pay the attorney about 1/3 of the settlement, if you get one. The insurance companies have their staff attorneys and they can keep the lawsuit going for a long time.Mr. Keating should get honest first and one cannot be honest in the present insurance model. Ask Mr. Buffet about this. He owns GEICO.

Posted by Nancy Sullivan | Report as abusive

www.bishop-accountability.org/abusetrack er for DAILY verified & vetted reporting on the Roman “La Cosa Nostra” Pedo Curia, & Beppe “Red Shoes” Ratzinger.Ratzinger as a moral compasss? Give us a break, the man has spent 24+ years as CDF Prelate, and the last 5 years as Pope, globally enabling, aid & abetting, hiding, stalling, and racketeering for the tens of thousands of “credibly accuse” Curch pedophiles, in his own curia and clergy, costing Roman Catholic laity tens of billions of documented stolen offetory plate monies and squandered laity paid for assets.The Holy See has a long standing record of obstructing justice globally.The Holy See is the third real parntner in the global “Access Of Evil” on this planet, along with North Korea and Iran.THE SOLUTION? “STOP DONATING LAITY”, as St. Peter Damien correctly asserted, and hit the cross-dressing pedo curia where it hurts, the only thing they care about, tax free revenue.There is no middle ground here laity, you are either a financial supporter of the largest and most pervasive criminal pedophile ring on the planet, or you are not.HOW WILL YOU ANSWER YOU MAKER?!Fiat Lux & Veritas!Albino Luciani,MURDERED POPE

Posted by Albino Luciani | Report as abusive

Fantastic equivocation on the part of the ‘Catholic’ Mr. Keating!Seeing how this ‘Catholic’ can read into a Papal Encyclical his own interpretation of morality should again allay any problems members of other religions might have with ‘Catholic’ members of the U.S. Govt.[Such as the many Catholic Supreme Court Justices].MFD

Posted by MFD | Report as abusive

Visit: www.americancatholiccouncil.orgAmerican Catholic Council is a coalition of organizations, communities and individuals (many involved in American Catholic Church reform) calling for discussion at every level of the Catholic Church in the United States to consider the state and future of our Church. We believe our Church is at another turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance through a radically inclusive understanding of the role and responsibilities of all the Baptized and an engaged relationship between the Church and the World reflecting the true meaning of the Incarnation for our times. This promise is eroding. We will reinvigorate the Spirit of Vatican II and bring all the Baptized together to demonstrate our re-commitment. We seek nothing short of a personal conversion of all to create a new Church, fully in tune with the authentic Gospel message, the teachings of our Church, and the American context in which we live. Our reading of the Signs of the Times, our strategic plan, and our agenda are set out in the Declaration set out on this site. We will educate; we will listen; we will facilitate discussions and encounters; and, we will build toward an American Catholic Council at Pentecost 2011.

Posted by C. M. Henry – Archdiocese of Philadelphia | Report as abusive

The free market depends on what a few globalist free traders say it is. Globalization and free trade have ransacked the free enterprise system with small business locked out of the so called free market.The global economy has been converted to economies based on making money on money instead of making things. They have burned out and big government bails out big money while jumping over the value of workers and labor.Workers have had no voice in the process of globalization and now find tariffs were taken off products and put on human beings as workers. At the same time, the bail outs of big money act as tariffs on future generations and the value of workers now.The common good has been fractured the same way with powerful elite groupings controlling events outside the will of the people.U.S. Federal Government programs sponsored the moving of factories outside the USA starting in 1956. It was supposed to be a temporary program but it never ended. It evolved into the maquiladora factory program in Mexico using impoverished workers. This led to so called free trade that betrayed workers dignity across the globe.Ray Tapajna Chronicals cover the events behind the global economic crisis and forecasted the economic storms more than ten years ago based on several experts in the field including Manuel Castells and Sir James Goldsmith. See Bewildered New World at http://www.bizarrepolitics and the latent response of philosophy and religion to the global economic arena at http://www.therationale.com/ A cluster of sites and articles under one url address is at http://linkbun.ch/aztb and http://tapsearch.com/bizarre-politics-to p-blogs

Posted by Ray Tapajna | Report as abusive

As governor of Oklahoma, Keating was notoriously anti-union. He was the head cheerleader for ‘right to work’ which passed in 2001.for the New Mexico Conference of Churches statement on why RTW is wrong see: http://www.nmchurches.org/node/47also to read Guthrie’s thesis: ‘Labor Unions – Champions of Social Justice, seehttp://www.guthriefamilyfoundation.or g

Posted by GGG | Report as abusive