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Catholic Church Voicing Opposition to Eurozone Austerity

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It’s been slow in coming, but religious leaders are starting to speak out against the mechanisms and high social cost of austerity. One dramatic but ineffective effort was when the Archbishop of Cyprus offered to contribute all the church land in Cyprus to a rescue package. He also urged Cyprus to exit the eurozone:

Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus said his country should withdraw from the European Union as the EU will fall apart and cease to exist in the future.
“The economies of Spain, Portugal and Italy are currently in danger. And if the economy of Italy is destroyed just like our economy, the EU will not withstand,” Archbishop Chrysostomos said in an interview with Russia’s Channel One television channel.

“People who rule the European Union, and particularly those making decisions in the so-called troika, do not understand many things and it leads to the collapse of the EU. This is why I believe we [Cyprus] should withdraw from the union before the collapse takes place,” he added.

On May Day, the new pope called for less austerity and more jobs. From the New York Times via Daily Kos:

I think of how many, and not just young people, are unemployed, many times due to a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice,” the pope said. “I wish to extend an invitation to solidarity to everyone, and I would like to encourage those in public office to make every effort to give new impetus to employment.

A much starker depiction of what is at stake came today in the Telegraph, when Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote up an interview with the Archbishop of Toledo. The prelate discussed not only the severity of individual suffering, but more important, the cracks in the social order. This is a much bigger danger, and one that the Troika seems to treat far too casually. Greece has been broken on the rack and is in the process of becoming a failed state. Ireland escaped a similar fate by having a disproportionately large export sector (over 100% of GDP) which meant deflating early was tantamount to a currency devaluation. Even so, large-scale emigration has also helped reduce the level of official unemployment.

Spain is going down the Greece path, and having such a large country unravel socially and politically is likely to have bigger, if not readily foreseen, consequences. Unemployment around Toledo is 31%, 4 points over the national average, and youth unemployment is a mind-numbing 64%. Distress is widespread:

Europe’s Catholic bishops know first-hand from their Cor Unum charitable network just how desperate it has become. “We can try to mitigate the effects by giving basic help to people left totally unprotected, but we can’t create jobs,” said the Archbishop.

“We are seeing families who used to middle class needing help. This is totally new. As a matter of honour, they won’t come to us until they have exhausted everything.”…

Marisa Martinez, the volunteer director of Caritas in Toledo, said the Catholic charity is now helping 40,000 people in a province of 700,000, often with bags of food. Each family receives 12 kilos a month, mostly beans, oil, milk, and pasta. “We pass on whatever we get in donations. It is all done quietly to protect the dignity of the families. They take the food away and cook it at home,” she said.

Spanish bourgeois pride works to the government’s advantage, since people have to be willing to admit to their desperation in order to figure out how to work together to alleviate it. Even so, some commentators seem to think there’s a riptide beneath the resigned surface:

El Mundo fears a slow-fermenting ‘crisis of the regime’, with almost every institution — including the monarchy — in disrepute. It likens the mood to “pre-revolutionary” France in the late 1780s.

The Archbishop, speaking in the austere episcopal palace of Spain’s ancient capital, said the current crisis is doing far more damage than the recession in the mid-1990s when unemployment briefly spiked above 24pc. On that occasion peseta devaluations let Spain regain competitiveness and recover gradually despite austerity cuts.

This time the country seems trapped in slump. The long-term jobless rate is much higher. Unemployment benefits taper off after six months, and stop after two years. There are almost two million households where no family member has a job.

Catholic leaders are pushing for change in an effort spearheaded by the “firebrand” cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich. Criticism from the church may be harder to brush off than that of politicians.

Nevertheless, so far, the objections are carefully worded and mild in comparison to the level of distress. In advanced economies, except for pet issues like abortion, the Catholic Church has steered clear of politics. It’s not clear that mere finger wagging would do, and this Church lacks the appetite to encourage protests. But its leaders do have media access. Given that there is now a rift among Eurozone leaders as to whether it is necessary to ease up on budget-trimming and focus more on growth, they might be able to provide more visceral images and stories of the long-term costs of putting budget targets over vulnerable social orders. But orthodox economic views are so deeply entrenched that having Catholic leaders speak out is likely to be too little, too late. And sadly, they seem to be the only prominent figures who can invoke the language of morality and justice against a cruel and destructive economic calculus.

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30 comments

  1. superduperdave

    er, isn’t Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus an ORTHODOX, not a Catholic?

    1. redleg

      Does it matter? It is a locally respected moral leader who is starting to lead. Get enough religious leaders of all flavors speaking on the morality of bank bailouts and the tide turns.
      If they talk about how hardship will be rewarded in the afterlife, then nothing changes.
      This could be an indication that a tipping point is approaching.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m aware of the fact that he’s Orthodox. Please re-read the paragraph. I called him a “religious leader” not a Catholic. A headline describes the main argument of a piece, not every sentence.

  2. The Dork of Cork.

    Ireland needs some moving statues again…….

    One never knows what belief system is more absurd.

    The old moving statues meme controlled by bishops who wish to continue with a sustainable rate of extraction via a suppression of the more pagan undercurrents.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZjM83wZmWw

    Or a certain militant tendency who wish to destroy ancient belief systems and replace it with what exactly ?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH6_Kz3J_oI

    “All I need is a laser pointer”

    Sweet Jesus.

    The greatest mystery of our time is the continued belief in the eurosystem.

    “as you can see we have a offering box”

    If only the euro boys had just a offering box.
    But they don’t.
    They have a economic gun pointed to your head with tax on a declining money supply written on it.

    PS
    Looking at this from a agnostic position one cannot help but see that the Atheists take themselves far too seriously.

    The second video is far more Monty Python in my view.

    1. another

      “Looking at this from a agnostic position one cannot help but see that the Atheists take themselves far too seriously.”

      But you can’t be certain.

    2. Boomer

      Greetings from Roaring Water Bay, Dork. You hear that Namawinelake has shut the blog ? The insiders look like winning again!

  3. The Dork of Cork.

    “I’m Derek Walsh ,regional officer of atheist Ireland.
    We are setting up regional groups all over the country and I will be delighted to set one up in Ballspittle”

    Would you ever fuck off Derek.

    Leave people & especially old people alone to their beliefs please.

    If you are Atheist you don’t need fecking regional groups……

    Sure some dark Catholic groups are deeply involved in the Eurosystem but others less so.

    The catholic church on a local level at least gets the fact you need a money supply if you are to get any long term money out of the system.

    The euro boys don’t seem to understand that simple concept.

    They are puritans not unlike the above atheist / extreme socialist groups who think only of taxing wealth and not a positve money supply.

  4. DakotabornKansan

    “One of the falsest of proverbs is that you must lie on the bed that you have made. The experience of life shows that people are constantly doing things which must lead to disaster, and yet by some chance manage to evade the result of their folly.” ― W. Somerset Maugham

    1. banger

      Nice quote–yes, and the point is that life is almost infinitely mysterious–what we are convinced by all the “facts” is true is in fact shadows on the wall of the cave. We have to be ready for that. In the meantime we must tell stories about what we think we know.

  5. banger

    As an ex-Catholic I am always suspicious of the Church but right now I am hopeful this Pope will move the Church away from the darkness it has been flirting with for decades. The obsession with trivial doctrinal issues, the defense of orthodoxy and certainty and the obsession with sex to perhaps rediscover the Gospels and what those teachings imply about how we ought to live. If the Church could convince people who live to shop (as most Christians do) and that material wealth does not equal virtue, in fact, quite the opposite then that would be cool. Just that notion would radically transform the world. Or, just as radical, maybe think about turning the other cheek instead of always, always, choosing war as the solution to all problems–particularly true of American Christians who prefer the OT to the Gospels–I guess because it’s bigger.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Thats Pope Francis as in Francis Xavier. Don’t hold out hope for any one in the Catholic Church. John Paul II and Ratzinger picked the Cardinals for 40 years from a mold. The current Pope was elected so swiftly because he fit all the check marks including ethnic without being too ethnic.

      1. Larry Barber

        No, as in Francis of Assisi. He has been quite clear which Francis he named his papacy after.

    1. ScottS

      The Church is now in the business of removing fig leaves? A bit like Nixon going to China.

  6. washunate

    “This is why I believe we [Cyprus] should withdraw from the union before the collapse takes place”

    That strikes me as a big story – openly discussing that 1) collapse is coming, and 2) the proper preparation is withdrawal not just from the eurozone, but from the EU itself.

  7. Aussie F

    Some of it’s simply fear of the inevitable, working class resistance to the assault on social rights. The rentiers clearly don’t care about the consequences of their policies, but the clergy are rather attached to their palaces, privileges, tax free status and sexual rights over minors.

    None of these comfortable and traditional arrangements are likely to survive under a social revolution. They can see it disappearing into the proverbial dustbin of history, and they don’t like it.

  8. omnipheasant

    I agree with Aussie. When the Marxist left was stronger throughout Europe the Church sought to weaken it strength by supporting Catholic unions that only reluctantly engaged in strikes and other forms of necessary militance. Now they are getting ahead of the game.

  9. HotFlash

    I wonder if the marketing guys at the Vatican are looking at the great business that Islam is doing these days and saying, “Hey, we could be doing that!”

    Cynical me.

  10. Hal Roberts

    You can bet the Church tithing has seen a drastic drop, it takes money to take care of all those assets. God works in mysterious ways.

  11. John Glover

    Both John Paul II and Benedict issued encyclicals (or whatever they’re called) urging economic justice. Unfortunately, they seem to get lost in all the other doctrinal BS Church leaders want to focus on.

    A lot of this is the press’s fault, of course. We see over and over how anyone who challenges the establishment pro-austerity orthodoxy is either ignored or vilified. And as far as religious issues are concerned, the press is much more interested in pursuing the prurient interest (hence the focus on the contraception controversy) than the economic justice side of doctrine. Church leaders fall into because they are much more likely to make headlines that way than condemning the excesses of capitalism.

    1. Hal Roberts

      The excess of Capitalism brought things to a screeching halt to handed the investors their hats to eat, it’s the on going socialist ( Centrist ) bail out that is allowing this drawn out rape of the world. Then when accountability comes around the rapist ( well connected) run out the back door without getting touched. No system will work without accountability to the rightful losers. Don’t blame Capitalism for what’s going on is Not Capitalism. Capitalism doles out losers every day regardless of their size.

        1. Hal Roberts

          Capitalism has it’s avenues for failed business it’s called Bankruptcy, anything more than that is not Capitalism. The welfare Bail outs is nothing more than welfare for the top 10% in the world invested in Wall St. the retirees and corporations are loving it. They are hording all the wealth.

  12. The Dork of Cork.

    “I’m Derek Walsh ,regional officer of atheist Ireland.
    We are setting up regional groups all over the country and I will be delighted to set one up in Ballspittle”

    Would you ever fuck off Derek.

    Leave people & especially old people alone to their beliefs please.

    If you are Atheist you don’t need fecking regional groups……

    Sure some dark Catholic groups are deeply involved in the Eurosystem but others less so.

    The catholic church on a local level at least gets the fact you need a money supply if you are to get any long term money out of the system.

    The euro boys don’t seem to understand that simple concept.

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