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Gospel light on banking crisis

Banking crisisFr Tony O’Riordan SJ, Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, has been speaking out on the recent banking crisis in Ireland and abroad, and on the Irish Government’s response. There has been no shortage of opinions from economic and financial experts, but few if any have focussed on the moral implications or on what light the Gospel can shed on these unprecedented events. According to Tony O’Riordan SJ, the government acted in good faith, but its decisive response to the crisis facing the banking sector is remarkably different in quality and conviction to its response to the crisis in health and housing endured by the less well-off.

Different strokes for different folks

Tony O’Riordan SJ

The Government was faced with a very difficult situation last week, and having listened to many of the expert commentators speak about how effective this measure will be in the long-term, it seems to me that in fact nobody really knows. There are two things that appear to have influenced the Government’s decision: a sense of crisis and a consideration of the common good. So I believe that we need to allow for the fact that the Government was responding in good faith to a situation which, if ignored, could have escalated, causing  widespread pain and loss.

Yet the fact that bankers and Government apparently met throughout the night to hammer out the deal bolsters the view that the rich in society have privileged access to Government. It creates the perception that Government is not for all the people.

The decision also demonstrates that, in the face of a crisis, political will can attempt the most extraordinary measures that can even defy all the normal rules and ideologies. What angers a lot of people, especially those who are homeless, those who are suffering on health service waiting lists or housing lists, is that these situations too are very real crises, yet they do not seem to provoke the political will to do the extraordinary. The Government’s decisive response to the banking sector crisis is remarkably different in quality and conviction when compared to its response to the crisis in health and housing endured by the less well-off in society.

At a  wider level, I think the global credit crunch, highlights the failure and inadequacy of a form of capitalism that has been allowed to go seriously unchallenged for over 20 years. I think the challenge for societies and the Church is to seek to fundamentally re-order the structures of capitalism. The question here particularly for the Church is to reflect on how values of greed and competition, which are so dominant in recent years, can be converted into solidarity and consideration for the common good. Until capitalism is infused with these latter values, it will lead us into more and more crises where large sections of humanity paying the price.