Pope tells banks to think beyond profit motive
Pope John Paul II has told an audience of bankers that they should be guided by the "higher values of human living", and not merely "pursuing higher profit".
He told 25 representatives from the Italian banking group Capitalia: "Your presence in society can become an instrument of true progress, offering support for valid initiatives of individuals and groups who come to you for their legitimate financial and economic needs."
"The complex world of credit calls for reflection by the Church because of the many ethical implications that regard it," he continued. "It would in fact be decidedly inadequate to limit oneself to pursuing only maximum profit; it is necessary, rather, to always refer to the higher values of human living if one wants to help the true growth and full development of the community."
The Pope quoted the Catholic economist Giuseppe Toniolo, who observed that Christian morality must be considered as "the most powerful factor in awakening economic energy in peoples and in guaranteeing its most regular and efficacious relations".
The address was a summary of ideas in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus (No. 35), where he recognised "the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well."
"When a firm makes a profit, this means that productive factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied," the encyclical reads.
"But profitability is not the only indicator of a firm's condition," it states. "It is possible for the financial accounts to be in order, and yet for the people - who make up the firm's most valuable asset - to be humiliated and their dignity offended".
"Besides being morally inadmissible, this will eventually have negative repercussions on the firm's economic efficiency. In fact, the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavoring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society."
Pope tells bankers: "be guided by high morality" (Independent Catholic News/Vatican Information Service 17/9/04)
Ethics Comes Before Profit, Pope Tells Bankers (Zenit 17/9/04)
Christian morality must be considered most powerful factor in economic relations, says Pope to bankers (Catholic News Agency 17/9/04)
Seek profit through the common good, Pope urges bankers (Catholic World News 17/9/04)
May morality, high values guide the world of banking (Vatican Information Service 17/9/04)
20 Sep 2004