Bishop Jukes at Wallakirk with Spanish Gordons


Christianity and Wealth Creation
Competition and the Values

Demanded by the Christian Gospel
Bishop John Jukes R.I.P.


In keeping with the main theme of this conference I will develop my theme by presenting some reflections upon 'competition' since this is a key element in current economic and social thinking. I cannot find much specific teaching on 'competition' in the official documents of the Catholic church so the views here expressed are largely my own.
 The English word wealth ordinarily signifies riches, large possessions, opulence, abundance etc., (cf. Concise Oxford English Dictionary etc.). The use of creation in English is not confined to the rather restrictive theological meaning of bringing into existence something out of nothing. By creation often we intend the product of human ingenuity or simply the adornment of some existing thing. The juxtaposition of Wealth and creation is I believe a relatively new usage, which has yet to settle to a universally accepted meaning. Wealth creation has about it a certain patina of respectability. It is an up-market term among economists, politic cans and even theologians. It is aimed at a reality, which does not include just vulgar riches or even involve sweat. It seems superior to the mind-dulling repetitive operations of our industrial past and eludes the accusations of being committed to Mammon, even though, sadly both are still part of the human experience. With this in mind I shall explore briefly the roots of a Catholic view of wealth Creation'.
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The Old Testament view of wealth is complex. It appears not to have been an issue for the Israelites in their earliest experience as a people. However once the Land was occupied and city dwelling established, various moral issues became the concern of the teachers and prophets. Both the blessing and dangers of wealth are stated. A difficult theological question for the ]ewes was the compounding of their convictions that wealth indicated God’s blessing upon His favoured ones coupled with the reality that among the wealthy were sinners and those who were betraying the God-given ideals of the people.
Jesus Himself proposed a radically new approach to the problem. He resolved the dichotomy between wealth seen as God’s blessing and the reality that the affluent were often clearly sinners. His solution was to remind His followers that all human affairs, including that of wealth creation and accumulation, had to be ordered in the light of the human being’s ultimate destiny in God. Thus for Issus all wealth has to be viewed in the context of the eschatological reality which each human being is to face. We will be judged at the end of our life on earth. One's eternal destiny will be determined by the quality of our duty to the Creator as expressed by the care and service exercised in respect of one’s fellow human being. This is for Issus the key to the use of wealth. Jesus offers no directions on work or wealth in themselves. He simply assumes these as part of the reality of human existence. It is the accumulation of wealth for its own sake and reliance upon wealth for happiness and fulfillment that He shows to be foolish and destructive of human dignity.

Time does not permit a review of the passages from the New Testament, which support my assertions. I believe that a study both of the church Fathers. And the medieval theologians show that this is the radical View of Wealth accumulation, which underpins the questions they raised, and sought to answer, over the consequences of the dangers to the human spirit which arise from riches and pos-
sessions. It is I believe by reason of this focus upon the dangers to the human spirit which arise from riches, that the theologians, teachers and writers of the Catholic Church had not used the term 'wealth creation’ in their presentation of the gospel insights on possessions and riches. This may explain too Why as far as I have been able to investigate, the term 'wealth creation’ is not used as such in the teaching documents emanating from the Second Vatican Council or the Holy See.


In many Ways 'wealth creation’ is a term, which states the obvious in Catholic thought applied to the human condition. The Catholic tradition (Which is of course shared with many others) is that God created this universe and placed the human race in it as its crown and completion. This initial gift of lordship over creation is found in the Genesis narrative of creation. Only after the fall does this lordship become onerous or dangerous to the human hope of eternal happiness. Even so, the lordship of mankind over creation is not removed in punishment for sin. It is from the initial understanding of the human condition that Catholic social teaching on the human condition takes its starting point. That teaching develops by reflection upon the current reality of the human condition at the time the teaching is in formation.

It is important to recall that the span of the teaching from Pope Leo XIII in Rerun Noverum, 15-5-1891 to Centesimus Annus, 2-2-1991,
of the present Pope, had as its backcloth a century of transition in many parts of the world from a rural society to one transformed by technology and the information technology revolution. It has been a hundred years of the most rapid and universal change in the material circumstances of the human condition that our race had ever experienced. Within this ever-changing scene Catholic social teaching, including reflection on economic matters expressed by the Pope, Bishops and theologians of the church, has developed as new visions and possibilities for the human race appeared. However, some basic insights endure since these are founded in the revel-
action of God’s will in Jesus Christ.

In the teaching of the Popes over the last century, the gift of the material creation of Adam and Eve is interpreted as much more then a simple gift to our first parents in which they were to enjoy an earthly paradise. The process shown in Genesis II, 18-20 of bringing the animals before Adam to name and the general license to use all things is to be understand as a gift to the Whole human race. This gift is expressed in the phrase 'the universal destination of material goods'. This teaching appeared even prior to that of Leo
 X111 in Rerum Novarum and is continued in the teaching of subsequent Popes. John XXIII in Mater et Maoist (para. 119) states:

Our predecessors have time and again insisted on the social function inherent in the right of private ownership, for its cannot be denied that in the plan of the Creator all of this World’s goods are primarily intended for the support of the whole human race.

This approach has been greatly developed by the present Pope. There is no doubt that Wealth creation comes about through human Work. Using the basic resources provided by the material creation itself, the human being not by chance but of intent applies the power of his intellect often coupled to the effort of his body too shape the things of our World, giving them value to himself and to other human beings which they did not formerly have. The present Popes in the Encyclical Letter Labored Exercens (para. 6), explores the notion of work, concluding that the primary measure of Work is man himself Who is the subject of Work. This apparently innocuous principle has profound implications for the assignment of value to any work done or any systems of organization of the Work itself or of the political arrangements regulating the society of which the Worker is a member.

In his most recent Encyclical Letter Centesimo’s Annus, Pope John
 Paul devotes a Whole chapter to the exploration of private property and the universal destination of material goods. It is the combine ion of this notion with the acceptance that man is the measure of work, by which wealth is created, that constitutes the foundation of a specific and developing body of teaching in the modern Catholic tradition which is applicable to 'Wealth creation'. This teaching first developed at a time when the human race was perceived as apparently permanently divided, and so isolated, in distinct and often hostile nation states, competing for the apparently unlimited material resources available. This perception has altered radically It has been replaced by unitary vision of the human race inhabiting a planet of very finite resources. It is this reality expressed as a vision of 'one world’, which has a major influence on modern Catholic social teaching.

For many centuries the church has asserted that it is legitimate to exercise private ownership of some material goods. This conviction derives from a number of sources. Undoubtedly the commands of the Decalogue prohibiting theft and covetousness imply private ownership. Thus one human has rights over material things, which are to be respected by all others. This set the scene for the development of the Christian tradition through many centuries respecting private or individual ownership. In the face of a number of social and political factors, for example the feudal system, and the nineteenth century developments of theories and practice of total common ownership by the state of all material goods, the church felt obliged to insist upon the essential need and advantage conveyed to human dignity and fulfillment by some personal and exclusive ownership of material goods. However, this right has never been elevated to an absolute,

Pope John Paul reminds us that:

God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone. This is the foundation of the universal destination of the eartl1's goods... But the earth does not yield its fruits without a particular human response to God's gift that is to say without work. It is through work that man, using his intelligence and exercising his freedom, succeeds in dominating the earth and making it a fitting home. In this way he makes part of the earth his own, precisely the part he has acquired through work; this is the origin of individual property. Obviously he also has the responsibility not to
 hinder others from having their own part of God’s gift; indeed he must cooperate with others so that together all can dominate the earth?

After this brief review of 'wealth creation’ and its relationship to private ownership as it appears in Catholic teaching, I turn to a consideration of 'competition' as seen in the light of the values of the Christian gospel. I do this following the suggestion of Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis issued by Pope John Paul on the 30-12-1987 to mark twenty years from the publication by Pope Paul VI of his Encyclical Letter Populorum 
Progressio on human economic development. Pope john Paul suggests that the evils of injustice and deprivation of many in the world today should be subjected to the analysis and directives for action found in the Church’s social teaching. The Pope insists that the Church’s social doctrine is not a third way between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another. It constitutes a category of its own. It is not an ideology but rather seeks to be an accurate formulation of the results of careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence and the international order in the light of faith and the Church’s tradition. (SRS Para. 41). Some of the positions adopted by the Pope are useful starting points for our consideration of ’competition’.

 The Pope acknowledges that the experience of the present time seems to indicate that on the level of individual nations and international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. He also notes that the free market has its limitations so that prior to the logic of a fair exchange of goods and the forms of justice appropriate to it, there exists something which is due to man because he is man, by reason of his lofty dignity That something must include the possibility of survival and of making a contribution to the common good of humanity (CA 34). This establishes a priority which must illuminate and if necessary restrict the notion of the free market applied within a specific economy Thus it seems that an individual economy must be built upon a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation. Now these factors are to be encouraged to flourish and this must be the business for all including the organs of political and social duty. Neither the State nor Capital should be so in control that absolute dominance is exercised over the citizen to the damage of the free and personal nature of human work,


The Pope acknowledges that legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well? From the fact of making a profit one can deduce that productive resources have been property used and human needs satisfied. But he insists that profitability is not the only indicator of a firm's condition. It is possible for the accounting side of the business to be in order, yet the work force which is the firm’s most valuable asset might have been humiliated and their dignity offended. This is both morally wrong and fraught with adverse consequences for the firm’s economic efficiency and future. Indeed the prospects for its existence in the long-term must be regarded as very precarious.

These considerations lay a foundation for some specific comment upon competition. 'Competition' describes a complex reality in the human experience. It is associated with a great variety of human activities such as sport, human relationships, business and economics, politics etc. Essential to the notion of 'competition' is the element of striving to achieve. From this follows the consequence of out-performing any other or others who are engaged in the same pursuit. The motives of anyone engaged in competition can be varied. In one case the individual is motivated by a general desire to excel or achieve without any or much reference to the others involved. In other cases it may be that the desire simply to come first and so put down or behind one the others, is central to the competitor. In some cases 'competition' is seen as contest not with other human beings but other forces such as nature.

Since 'competition' is an element in a great variety of human activities we must be alert to the need to delineate as exactly as we can what we mean by it when referring to a particular activity under our review. Michael Novak in his The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism sees competition as one of six theological doctrines used to establish a Theology of democratic capitalism. Competition appears as the third doctrine which includes the Trinity; the Incarnation; competition; original sin; the separation of realms; caritas. Novak explores in detail each of his 'doctrines’. With regard to competition he concludes his exploration by asserting:

It seems wrong to conclude that the spirit of competition is foreign to the gospels, and that in particular, the competition for money is mankind’s most moral spiritual danger?

Some license in the use of terms must be allowed for so a creative a writer as Novak. While competition is rightly viewed as a human reality I am not able to agree that it is right to so readily describe it as a 'theological doctrine’ even taking this term very loosely Neither am I at ease with Novak’s exploration of the theological consequences or significance of competition. Some further reflection is needed. I shall try however inadequately to do this.

 As far as I can discover there is no place in the Gospels where Jesus is shown as castigating competition as such. This is consistent with His general attitude to conditions in the world into which He came. One is struck by His attitude of realism in His selection of materials for His teaching in parables: the king debating whether he had the forces to oppose another king (LK XIV 31 et seq.) the
 smart-alec steward providing for himself when caught out and facing unemployment (LK XVI, I-7); the judge Who acts under pressure of demand and importunity rather than that of justice (LK
XVIII, 1-5) etc. This realism is extended to His appreciation of His own mission as not being one of an arbiter on the material problems, which He met, in His own Palestinian experience (LK XII, 
13 et seq.)

 
We must not conclude that Jesus was opposed to or simply Withdrawn from the affairs of the World into which He came. The greater part of His life was lived as an artisan in Nazareth. He keenly observed the physical circumstances of everyday life, as May be seen by the accuracy of the details which He constructed His parables and illuminated His teaching. But He insisted that for
 Himself personally His mission was to establish a recognition of the supremacy of His Father’s will for the human race. That will required observance of a fundamental law: love of God above all else, to which must be coupled love of neighbour. Jesus saw and taught clearly how the second percept of love is at risk in human affairs when one human being seeks to dominate another. Jesus 
requires that such domination is not found among His followers
(MK X, 42-45).


Jesus did not attack the system of ownership and property obtaining in Palestine in His times. His teaching 'implies neither sanction or condemnation of economic or class differences; all that
 Jesus' wholly religious outlook completely excludes, by making love the supreme law is mutual scorn and enmity exploitation from above and hatred from below’.“ From this point of departure the Church was later able to draw concrete conclusions regarding the economic and social order. Such conclusions made it impossible for certain social institutions to persevere e.g. emperor worship, slavery etc. Jesus did not set out to construct a system of vocational morality. Yet His teaching is often sharpest against those who are Rich e.g. LK, VI, 24. However, this teaching is not directed at riches in themselves but at the thirst for power and forgetfulness of God, which their possession induces.

From these very general observations on the teaching of Jesus 
Christ we move to consider the reality of 'competition' in human economic affairs in the light of the Catholic tradition. As far as I can find, there is no modern specific teaching by the pastors of the Roman Church on the notion of competition. There is a substantial body of traditional teaching, largely of the casuistic style, on contracts, general trading and charging interest etc. This teaching is concerned with giving guidelines for individual consciences on moral problems, which can arise in the course of commercial activity. Precise directions on commercial transactions are derived from a number of principles: the duty to fulfil contracts which are based in justice; the need always to observe certain priorities in meeting human needs; the requirement of acting to serve the common good of the society of which one is part etc. Yet this teaching is also rooted in the human reality One of its favourite
 aphorisms in the sections on contracts is caveat emptor. Such a saying does not excuse deception but acknowledges the need of human diligence against deceit in commercial transactions.


Jesus Christ gave many Warnings about the dangers of wealth and of over-focusing on the world's goods. The general reason for these Warnings is to be found in the Lord’s concern that human beings can lose sight of the Creator in pursuing the goods of His creation. From this stance of the Lord I am reinforced in my conviction that there is no specific condemnation of competition as such to be found in Christ’s teaching. However, where competition involves the search for dominion over another human being or the exclusion of any individual’s duty to promote the common good, then violence is done to the values of the Christian gospel. I agree with Novak’s premise that God is not committed to equality of treatment of each human being. But this does not contradict the essentially gratuitous and loving offer by God to all human beings of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. The route to acceptance of this offer is found in service of God in and through our fellow human being. The question is thus posed for all commercial, economic and political transactions as to how that service is advanced or obstructed by competition.

To complement these considerations it seems to me necessary to assert that the enthronement of 'competition' as an absolute in human affairs, whether economic or political, is dangerous to the common good and the proper fulfillment of each human being as a child of God. This is so because to place 'competition' as an absolute in human affairs puts at risk other and prior human realities such as individual dignity and the essentially social dimension of human existence. Thus, when the term 'competition’ is used in respect of social, political and economic affairs, then the reality of what is meant by the term must be taken into account in judging the ethical status of the action proposed or the stance adopted.

Although I can find no specific reference in the formal teaching of the pastors of the Catholic Church on competition, there is an illuminating reference in Octogesima Anno, to the need to avoid that type of liberal ideology, which exalts individual freedom:

by withdrawing it from every limitation, by stimulating through exclusive seeking of interest and power, and by considering social solidarities as more or less automatic consequences of individual initiatives, not as an aim and a major criterion of the value of social
organisations’.5 j

It is wrong, in the View of Pope John Paul II, expressed in his address to the Mexican business community at Durango in 1990, to claim that the social teaching of the church flatly condemns an economic theory Rather the Pope insists that the church wishes to encourage critical reflection on social processes. An economic or political theory or process, which puts in jeopardy or violates the dignity of the human person, must be rejected. However, it is for the experts in society to continue the search for valid and lasting solutions for human needs that do not deflect from human nature, which is made in the image and likeness of God. Competition is an important factor to be taken into account in this regard.

Recently Peter Morgan, Director General of the Institute of Directors’ has embarked upon the composition of the credo for directors of companies. I must commend the intention of the Director in composing such a Credo for Directors. Much of what he writes makes a strong even essential demand for the search for truth and the good in discharging one's duty as a director of a company. The Credo contains then a welcome reminder of the ethical dimension in this very important role in modern society the issue of the Credo offers a useful example of how in practice the reality of competition poses questions, which are a challenge to human dignity.

Item one of the Credo has as its first point: 'A belief in free market capitalism and competition'. This is a rather absolutist statement. The question must be asked: what is the effect of this statement on directors? Does it put at risk their dedication to the ethical dimension of their roles as directors of companies? Because of this possibility it is important for directors to be reminded on a regular basis that the company whose affairs they direct has to be seen not only in the context of its own internal dynamic of Operation and success but also in the reality of the wider human society of which it is an important part. In addition directors must accept that there are basic human rights which may not be deliberately and directly impugned as a result of the operations of their company It is in the light of these principles that competition as presented in the Credo and its explanatory parts has to be evaluated with respect to its consequence for ethical issues.

It seems to me that Directors are safe in rejecting opinions, which hold that any form of competition is essentially opposed to the Christian Gospel. This I have tried to demonstrate in preceding paragraphs. The Credo’s view of competition is expanded in the statement 'we mean competition not cartels'. A cartel, understood as a union of manufacturers or traders to control production, marketing arrangements, prices, etc., has notoriously been associated with the attempt to gain and hold power over others. This is often seen as being without regard for fairness and with the intent of denying to others the prospect of exercising their own skills and insights. Such action is clearly wrong. Thus the contrasting of competition and cartels in the Code must be right,

 It is further stated in the explanation of the Code 'We know competition means winners and losers and we accept that. We believe that living with market forces makes the economy stronger’. The Code then goes on to state its stance with respect to Government intervention in business (which it rejects) yet affirms the duty of Government to establish an appropriate legislative and regulatory environment, together with sound money. It is also states that a company must accept responsibility for promoting the common good.

The juxtaposition of 'competition' and 'winners and losers’ occasions’ immediate sensitivity among those who have regard for their fellow human beings. On the one hand, it seems that attempts by state intervention to eliminate 'competition' have resulted in profoundly inefficient economies quite incapable of supplying an adequate level of life for the citizens. On the other hand, 'winners and losers' gives an image of haves and have-nots caught in a cycle of abundance and power for some, with destitution and, power-
lessens for others.

 The teaching of Pope John Paul II in Chapter IV of Centesimo Sinus, 14-5-1991, to which I have already directed your attention
(Para. 10), gives a basis for an approach which is necessary for the reversal of the inhuman effects deriving from the 'winners and losers’ factor in a free market economy This chapter is entitled private property and the universal destination of material goods’. In this phrase is gathered the teaching of the Catholic Church in the last century of the right to private property coupled with the gift by God to the whole human race of this earth for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone. From this point of departure the Pope develops his teaching on man being the measure of work; that work is with others and for others; man's principle resource in shaping this world is man himself. I have referred above to the Pope's statement: 'It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs'. Yet the Pope warns of the limitations of this approach saying:


But there are many human needs, which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied for even prior to the logic of the fairy exchange of goods and the forms of justice appropriate to it, there exists something which is due to man because he is man by reason of his lofty dignity'.


Continuing this line of thought, the Pope excludes the absolute predominance of capital, the possession of the means of production and of the land, in contrast to the free and personal nature of human work:

What is proposed, as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be state capitalism but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation? Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the
Forces of society and by the state, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied’.

Pope John Paul acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. But profit is not to be taken as the only indicator of a firm's condition. A business is a Community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a participating group at the service of the whole of society Finally the Pope insists, with particular reference to the international scene, that capitalism should not be seen as the only model of economic organizations


By examining part of the Credo for the Institute of Directors on competition' I have tried to explore what are the theological applications of this factor. It may be that the 'losers and gainers’ approach is to be seen as a restricted view of the matter. It may be that a better phrase to describe 'competition' in human commercial and economic activity is 'free work, enterprise and participation In this way what is put aside is the notion of assault or attack upon other human beings. Yet at the same time there is preserved the reality that 'competition' is an inevitable consequence of the human condition since we humans are not in complete control of our world or ourselves. The search for doing things in a better way; the constant inventive capacity of the human spirit; the fulfilment
 of the Genesis command to occupy and use this earth indicate that
 the human race is destined by God's gift to man. Rather than
 describing this dynamic reality as 'competition' it is best summarized in phrase of 'enterprise and participation’.

 A factor that must always be kept in mind in considering matters that touch upon the fundamentals of the human Condi ion is that of sin. It is Catholic teaching that Christ has overcome the disaster of sin in our first parents and in each member of the human race, yet all (except Christ and the Blessed Virgin) are touched by sin. The consequences of overweening self-love and thereby exclusion of God and our neighbor which is at the heart of sin, are manifest in our world. Hence the need for laws and codes which remind us of our dignity and that of others. Competition, then, can offer the opportunity for sin or service of others. While sin is always rooted in personal choice to offend God, nonetheless this aberration in the human experience can be taken into the structures of society and become part of economic and social systems. Thus 'competition' from which these things flow must be subjected to the spirit of the Gospel, and so transformed into an opportunity for service.

 It seems that there is no escaping the conviction that competition is an essential ingredient for the successful functioning of modern economic systems. Indeed, it is no doubt held by some that it is necessary for a successful worldwide system of economic and political progress. At this level there are many voices, which raise doubts on such a principles. These doubts turn for evidence to the ecological problems, which are currently confronting a number of countries and are said to threaten the world environment to the extent that the future of the human species is at risk. To the unbridled consequences of untrammeled competition Pope John Paul in the letter Solicitude Reid Socialism presents the need for solidarity’. This term indicates the universal brotherhood of mankind under God by which the individuals and communities who are in need must be the active concern of all human beings. This concern is especially urgent and pressing upon those individuals and communities who have an abundance of the goods of this earth.
 

Solidarity then is the practical application of the principle enshrined in the title of the fourth chapter of Centesimo’s Annul: private property and the universal destination of material goods’ to which reference has been made earlier in this paper. Unless the gospel values, which are proclaimed by the Catholic Church in Limón with many other human beings of goods Will, are applied to Wealth creation and the political and economic systems which are associated with this essential human activity then human beings, human communities and the human race itself are at risk to dangers which not only would destroy human dignity but also human existence on this planet.

Notes
Pope John Paul II, Centesimal Annus, para. 31. 
Centesimus Annas, para. 35.
Novak, Michael, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, (Znd edition), London: IEA
Health and Welfare Unit, 1991, pp. 344-349.
Schnackenburg, R., Moral Teaching of the New Testament, p. 123.
Pope Paul VI, Octogesima Anno, 14-5-1971, N.26.
Centesimus Annus, para. 34.
Centesimus Annus, para. 35.
Centesimus Annus, para. 35.