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Editorial: Root of all evil?

  • October 13, 2022

Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny deployed a recent lecture in Chicago to drive home the vital point that “pro-life” commitment does not — must not — be limited to opinion and activism around abortion and euthanasia.

There must be instead a “consistent ethic of solidarity” that makes seeking economic and environmental justice indivisible from defending the unborn and pushing back legalized medical killing.

All good. But reporting in this issue­ suggests Czerny seems swept up, too, in the Jesuitical pontificate’s passion for placing free market economics on a plinth of condemnation. It’s as if the cash nexus were the root of all evil rather than a natural system of exchange subject to fallen human frailties.

“If suppliers are willing to sell, and consumers are willing to buy, then anything can be traded, and human trafficking is just one horrible example,” the Cardinal is quoted. “Are not the indignities and mistreatment in the lives of those marginalized and oppressed by the invisible hands of the market also contrary to what we should perceive as the consistent ethic of life?”

It’s going too far to say such — let’s call it overemphasis — overturns Czerny’s overall message. Despite contrary yowls from capitalism über alles acolytes such as Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre or new Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, free markets can, sometimes do, fearfully distort the symmetry of human relations. That acknowledged, data indisputably shows free markets under the rule of law help lift the global population out of the poverty, indignity and oppression the Jesuitical pontificate repeatedly decries. More, it is curious a Christian pastor such as Cardinal Czerny would preach that the most destructive forces at work are self-evidently made of money. Mustn’t the sources of our culture of death be found at least as much in culture as in cash?

The stock market’s a spawn of Satan? It’s an argument. Capitalism cajoles us to ever more voracious greed? You could make a case if you’re willing to reach for a straw man. But the true evil that roots in our bewildered hearts is no product of capital-labour relations. It is the decades-old mantra of the meaninglessness of life itself. Denial of God-centred meaning to life, after all, fosters the delusion whereby death becomes just another consumerist “choice” in the marketplace of negation. The sins of the stock market seem bupkis compared to the “nihilism of the now” traded on in academia, the arts, literature, film, journalism and the netherworlds of legislators and political hucksters.

Surely real oppression is being led to believe the economy of existence involves only exchanging one momentary frisson for the next until the closing bell tolls. Acknowledging such as the ultimate indignity would mean true “pro-life” commitment requires rejecting such a deadly falsehood so stolidly that even a Jesuit cardinal could speak up in solidarity.

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