“The current economic crisis is of such scale that it calls for a real revolution in our society’s priorities, policies and structures”, says theologian, Gerry O’Hanlon SJ, in The Recession and God: Reading the Signs of the Times. The booklet was launched in Dublin today (Monday, 23 March 2009) by Professor Ray Kinsella of UCD.
Fr O’Hanlon, who is Acting Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, and Associate Professor of Theology at Milltown Institute, said at the launch: “Obviously, the most urgent challenge is to re-stabilise our economy. But it is essential that we also try to understand how we have come to where we are now and how we might avoid a similar situation developing in the future. Our natural preoccupation with short-term measures should not jeopardise this more long-term task.”
The author also suggests that at a fundamental level the economic crisis is due to two main factors: firstly, an excessive and uncritical adoption of the neo-liberal, unregulated free-market economic model, and secondly, a culture which favours individualism and a weak notion of what is right and wrong.
Speaking at the launch, Professor Ray Kinsella said: “The current crisis represents nothing less than a catastrophic failure of leadership in the financial, business and political arenas of our society. The common good was allowed to be crowded out by the pursuit of short term monetary and political gain.”
He went on to say: “Unless transformational change now takes place we as an economy and society will implode. We urgently need leadership that has at its core the service of the person and of the common good; we need both humility and ferocious resolve in order to deal with the situation we have allowed to develop.”
Fr O’Hanlon said that in shaping a new vision for society – one that favours the common good and solidarity with people on the margins – we should draw on all the resources at our disposal, including the wisdom available in Christian sources.
“A critical understanding of God and a relationship with Jesus Christ can give the kind of insight and energy which are significant resources at this time of crisis for civil society”, said Fr O’Hanlon. “This challenges religion and the churches to make their voices heard in an intelligible way in the public square. It challenges non-believers to be generous in opening themselves up to whatever wisdom may be available from religious sources.’
He added: “The ‘cold war’ between secularists and people of religion needs to come to an end: all people of goodwill need to be in solidarity if good is to triumph.”
Fr O’Hanlon concluded: “We need a lot more than angry moralising in response to our current crisis: we need cool, clear and radical new thinking, which will lead us in a just and sustainable direction. And Christian wisdom ought to be one of the sources that inform the national debate around these issues.”