Vatican economy expert Alessandra Smerilli

War, poverty, climate change… you could be complicit, warns Vatican economy expert

“If we’re not interested in how our bank is managing our money we can be complicit in wars, poverty or climate change”, Vatican City State economy councillor Alessandra Smerilli has said.

Driving the news

Smerilli was in Madrid this week for a talk on “The civil economy: an economy for people”.

In her lecture, the Italian Salesian Sister of Don Bosco and Professor of Political Economy at the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences Auxilium, in Rome, said the world has urgent need of a “civil economy” based on the principles of responsibility and solidarity.

“Ours is a time when the differences between rich and poor are as great as those between elephants and ants. It’s not enough to talk about inequality”, Smerilli warned.

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Go deeper

“When wealth is in the hands of a few, they are in a position to change the course of a nation”, the nun academic continued.

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“Oligopolies and the concentration of power in a small few is one of the great problems of today”, she further explained.

These inequalities in wealth and power are the reason why we need to move towards a more balanced, just and sustainable economy, Smerilli said, more respectful of the environment and of the human dignity of all.

It’s not about demonising capitalism but of finding a middle way between a “savage” and a “collaborative” economy, she added.

“The problem today is not the market, but oligopolies, power, that there are winners and losers, exploiters and the exploited”, Smerilli lamented.

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For the record

As for what an alternative “civil economy” could look like, Smerilli was careful to point out that it’s not at all “a do-good, holier-than-thou or charity economy”.

Instead, it’s an economy based on reciprocity.

“A business just by being a business can be a generator of the common good, if it contributes to the development of its place in the world, and others, and if it advances the democratisation of the market”, Smerilli said.

The civil economy is “a new style of economy which is not based on the individual without the community, which is socially related, and is Catholic, universal, for all… An economy that sees the market with the eyes of cooperation”, the academic explained.

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Why it matters

As to why a paradigm shift is essential today, Smerilli was clear: we only have to look at the consequences – already clear – of climate change.

“The cry of the earth is also the cry of the poor: we can’t listen to one and not the other”, she warned.

“If there is environmental deterioration, it is the poor who pay the consequences”, Smerilli denounced, adding that “it is the poor who always pay the highest price”.

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.
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