A French traditionalist abbot has resorted to fearmongering on the universal basic income (UBI), saying it would lead to an “apocalypse”.

– UBI proponents “utopians”, “parasites”

Dom Louis-Marie de Geyer d’Orth, the abbot of the Abbey of Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux in Provence, made the remarks in a May 1 sermon on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

Referring to the Pope’s Easter proposal of a “universal basic wage”, de Geyer d’Orth criticised the “utopians” who “have bounced back on the question, on this subject, raving about a ‘universal income'”, which he warned “would… consist of paying a sum of money to everyone, with no counterpart”.

“This would be good news for us because I believe that even monks and priests could have this income!”, the abbot said sarcastically.

The Benedictine’s facetiousness continued:

“Ideally, it would be a good basic security, and it would allow every individual to receive a certain amount of autonomy from the State. And that would mean not to depend on a boss, or a husband, or even on work. It would be the dawn of greater freedom – that would be much less tiring!”

But he cautioned that a universal basic income “would also constitute the first sparks of a human and social apocalypse, because it is almost against nature”.

A universal basic income, according to the monk, would disincentivise people from working, when human work, he said, is “a vocation to collaborate with the work of the Creator”, an opportunity to “acquire true independence, true freedom, and even freedom from the State”, and a way of providing for one’s family and for those in need.

That argument brought de Geyer d’Orth to what he said was his “real point”: “by a basic universal income, society would sink terribly into individualism”.

“Everyone would have his or her own nest egg, a meager one, of course: the father, the mother, why not the children… Independence? No. Selfishness, yes”, he insisted.

“The Catechism says that no Christian, because he belongs to a community of solidarity and brotherhood, should feel entitled not to work and live at the expense of others.

“May Saint Joseph give us the grace to resist the temptation of the parasite!”, the monk concluded.

– UN: UBI realistic “if top 1,000 corporations in the world are fairly taxed”

Even if Pope Francis was careful to distinguish between a “universal basic wage” and a “universal basic income” – arguing for the former just for informal workers, but not for the latter, for citizens at large – numerous other voices in the world economy, including UN Secretary General António Guterres, have come out strongly in favour of a basic income.

On April 17, too, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum published an article by UN Assistant Secretary-General Kanni Wignaraja and UN Development Program Asia-Pacific Chief Economist Balazs Horvath explaining not only that 68% of Europeans are in favour of a basic income, but also that “if the top 1,000 corporations in the world were fairly taxed, it would allow for a modest UBI to be tightly and reasonably dispensed in countries across the world”.

– Latest results from UBI trial in Finland: recipients work more, happier

Perhaps the most convincing argument for a basic income, however, comes from the latest results of one of the largest trials of an UBI yet undertaken in the world, in Finland in 2017-18, which coincidentally were released May 6.

In the Finnish trial, 2,000 randomly-chosen people who had their €560 unemployment benefit each month made unconditional, and were thereby free to search for work and even start businesses.

Researchers found that during the second year of the experiment UBI recipients worked an average six days more than individuals in a control group, with larger increases being recorded by individuals with families and children, and by people whose mother tongue was not Finnish.

The jump in employment among UBI recipients in Finland likely would have been greater had the then-government not introduced changes to the social security system penalising people not engaged in work or training.

Effects on employment aside, the UBI trial also concluded that recipients felt less mental strain, depression, sadness, and loneliness than members of the control group for the duration of the experiment, and overall were healthier and less stressed.

More on Novena on the debate over the universal basic income:

Prophetic: Pope rages against “economic power”, “idolatry” of money; proposes universal basic wage

Madrid auxiliary bishop backs Pope’s call for universal basic wage, says workers “cornerstone” for Church exit from coronavirus

Caritas Europa calls for guaranteed minimum income “to ensure dignity for all”

“Betrayal of the gospel”: Spanish Catholics slam Bishops’ opposition to minimum subsistence income

Spanish Bishops sabotage government plan for minimum living wage

Cardinal clarifies Pope’s ‘universal basic wage’ not ‘universal basic income’

Austrian Catholics argue from Church teaching for Unconditional Basic Income during coronavirus, beyond

“Time to support the people”: 127,000 Europeans ask Brussels for urgent coronavirus relief in form of Unconditional Basic Income


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.