READING beyond the headlines of the scandals in the banking Royal Commission won’t necessarily improve your water-cooler conversation, but it might bring you to a common ground with an uncomfortable ally.
Headline after headline has been printed about Aussie Battlers down on their luck, QCs ripping in to them and fat cats wiping away crocodile tears on their golden parachutes.
It’s an easy target for collective scoffing.
But, beyond the headlines there has been an important realisation from all sides – the banks need to get back to basics, fair and square.
On that, Catholics can agree.
This was independently affirmed in a document produced by the Holy See on ethical considerations about economic and financial systems, published on May 17.
The document lined up nicely for Australian Catholics trying to find a stable place to sit with the Royal Commission.
It recognised the relevance of finance and its problems, and pointed a way forward.
“In order to liberate every realm of human activity from the moral disorder that so often afflicts it, the Church recognises among her primary duties the responsibility to call everyone, with humble certainty, to clear ethical principles,” the document said.
It referenced Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ on the importance of economics and politics in the dialogue towards the service of human life.
It came down hard against deception, inequality and exploitation – as it should.
But importantly, the document did not assert that money was of no moral purpose nor that banking and financial systems were inherently corrupted, as many often say.
Those who say this – as virtuous as they may be – misunderstand the modern economy, especially money creation, and are an unhelpful voice towards real human development.
“The integral development of every person, of every human community, and of all people, is the ultimate horizon of the common good that the Church, as the ‘universal sacrament of salvation’, seeks to advance,” the recent document said.
The document affirmed the moral positivity of any human endeavour (including money), so long as it “is lived within the horizon of an adequate ethics that respects human dignity and is directed to the common good”.
This is a common ground between Catholics and big banks – the narrow path between the prickly bush of greed and the wilted shrub of human underdevelopment.
However, actually walking that path will be the true challenge; I read somewhere it can get as narrow as the eye of a needle.