Pope 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?
FK:"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?