28 May 2014, The Tablet

Financial chief quotes Francis' warning on economic inequality

The President of the International Monetary Fund cited Pope Francis yesterday when she criticised the growing gap between rich and poor.

Christine Lagarde quoted the Pope’s phrase that inequality is the “root of social evil” in a speech in London yesterday at a conference on “Inclusive Capitalism”.

“The principles of solidarity and reciprocity that bind societies together are more likely to erode in excessively unequal societies,” she said on Tuesday using terms often found in Catholic social teaching. “History also teaches us that democracy begins to fray at the edges once political battles separate the haves against the have-nots.”

Ms Lagarde, who has a doctorate from Belgium’s Catholic University at Leuven, cited research from Oxfam showing that the 85 richest people in the world – who she pointed out could fit into a London double-decker bus – control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population.

In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium the Pope criticised the “trickle down” theory of economics, which argues that the wealth of those at higher income levels filters down to those on lower incomes.

At the same conference in London, the governor of the Bank of England also used the language of Catholic social teaching to diagnose the ills of the world’s banking system and outline ways it can be made to serve the whole of society.

In his speech, Mr Carney, a Catholic, said prosperity required “not just investment in economic capital, but investment in social capital”, adding that market integrity was “essential” to fair financial capitalism.

He said business needed to be seen as a vocation, “an activity with high ethical standards” and responsibilities. Inclusive capitalism, he concluded, was a system where “individual virtue and collective prosperity can flourish”.

Mr Carney attends Mass at St Mary’s church, Hampstead, north London.

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