Vat­i­can de­nounces off­shore tax havens as harm­ing the poor

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - RELIGION - By Ni­cole Win­field

VAT­I­CAN CITY » The Vat­i­can is de­nounc­ing off­shore tax havens and fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments such as de­riv­a­tives and credit de­fault swaps as gravely im­moral and un­just, call­ing them “tick­ing time bombs” that hurt the world’s poor the most.

In a new doc­u­ment re­leased Thurs­day, the Vat­i­can’s doc­trine of­fice teamed up with its so­cial justice depart­ment to give a more solid moral foun­da­tion to the Holy See’s oft-re­peated call for a more eth­i­cal global fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

The doc­u­ment, ap­proved by Pope Fran­cis, calls for banks to cre­ate in­ter­nal eth­i­cal com­mit­tees to en­sure de­ci­sions work for the com­mon good and not just the “my­opic ego­ism” of in­di­vid­ual cor­po­rate bot­tom lines. It urged bet­ter reg­u­la­tion of fi­nan­cial prod­ucts and for uni­ver­si­ties to ed­u­cate the next gen­er­a­tion of busi­ness lead­ers about ethics, not just prof­its.

“The re­cent fi­nan­cial cri­sis could have been the oc­ca­sion to de­velop a new econ­omy, more at­ten­tive to eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples, and a new reg­u­la­tion of fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­i­ties neu­tral­iz­ing the preda­tory and spec­u­la­tive di­men­sions,” it said.

In­stead, the global fi­nan­cial play­ers have re­turned to the “heights of my­opic ego­ism” that ex­cludes any con­sid­er­a­tion of the com­mon good or the need to spread wealth and heal eco­nomic inequal­ity, it said.

No­tably miss­ing from the doc­u­ment was a call for a global po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity to reg­u­late mar­kets and tax fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions. The Vat­i­can’s so­cial justice of­fice, which co-au­thored the new doc­u­ment, had rec­om­mended such an au­thor­ity in a 2011 doc­u­ment that was widely dis­missed even within the Vat­i­can.

Fran­cis and popes be­fore him have fre­quently de­nounced the grow­ing in­come inequal­ity and profit-at-all-cost men­tal­ity that drives global cap­i­tal­ism, in­clud­ing in en­cycli­cals and other au­thor­i­ta­tive teach­ing doc­u­ments.

Of­fi­cials told a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day that they thought it was worth ar­tic­u­lat­ing con­sid­er­a­tions about spe­cific as­pects of the cur­rent eco­nomic-fi­nan­cial sys­tem for of­fi­cials who work in the field.

The ef­fort marks some­thing of a shift in at­ten­tion for the Vat­i­can’s Con­gre­ga­tion for the Doc­trine of the Faith, which un­der the past two popes has fo­cused on is­sues of doc­tri­nal or­tho­doxy and sex­ual moral­ity, not so­cial justice and the poor.

His­tory’s first Latin Amer­i­can pope, how­ever, has made those is­sues the pri­or­ity of his pon­tif­i­cate, and the doc­u­ment’s pub­li­ca­tion sug­gests the Vat­i­can bu­reau­cracy is get­ting the mes­sage.

ALESSANDRA TARANTINO — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pope Fran­cis leaves St. Peter’s Square af­ter his weekly gen­eral au­di­ence at the Vat­i­can, Wed­nes­day.

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