Catholic Bishops offer a Five-Point Bailout Plan

A strong statement from the head of the U.S. bishops domestic justice committee offers five conditions to guide any rescue/bailout package. In the Sept. 26 statement (it didn’t get much press; I just found it now via ZENIT), Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre (Long Island) stressed “responsibility, accountability, awareness of advantages and limitations of the market, solidarity, subsidiarity and the common good, in the search for just and effective responses to the economic turmoil, while considering its human impact and ethical dimensions.”
Murphy’s statement contains some powerful and welcome language (and should give pause to those who want to enlist the Catholic Church as an arm of the GOP). He spoke of “the scandalous search for excessive economic rewards even to the point of dangerous speculation that exacerbates the pain and losses of the more vulnerable are egregious examples of an economic ethic that places economic gain above all other values.” He said “Those who directly contributed to this crisis or profited from it should not be rewarded or escape accountability for the harm they have done.” And he invoked Catholic social teaching to argue for greater regulation and intervention when needed.
He concludes with a quote from John Paul II’s encyclical, Centesimus Annus, written to mark the 100th anniversary of Leo XIII’s great social encycical, Rerum Novarum:


Our Catholic tradition calls for a “society of work, enterprise and participation” which “is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the state to assure that the basic needs of the whole society are satisfied.”

Good for the bishops, and good guidance for an economic culture that is changing before our eyes.

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Charles Cosimano

posted September 30, 2008 at 12:01 pm

And it would put everyone in the poorhouse. Fortunately no one is going to take it seriously.

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David Gibson

posted September 30, 2008 at 12:10 pm

“It would put everyone in the poorhouse.”
How so, Charles? And couldn’t the current mess put everyone in the poorhouse anyway? (At least those who aren’t there already.)

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Mary Ann

posted September 30, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Applying these pontifications to the Bishops own behavior in the sexual abuse crisis shows a great deal of hypocrisy.
In the Denver diocese, the bishop made it very clear that there
is only one way to vote and that is for the anti-abortion candidate,
ignoring even the NCCB document on Faithful Citizenship.

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Marc Adams

posted October 1, 2008 at 12:52 am

For a slightly different take on the economic crisis from a similar faith-based perspective, check this out It’s asks the question I think might be interesting to ponder…what would Jesus do?

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Janet Baker

posted October 1, 2008 at 7:04 am

I wish they had been more specific. I wish our response would be more specific. There are a number of plans already in existence. For example, that of the Just Third Way (I own their book about ‘capital homesteading’ but have not read it, alas–go to or A ‘Catholic plan’ would seek to redistribute not just income but ownership; concentrated ownership is the cause of the problem now, of course. Unless ownership is broadened, we will have to face this same problem in future, because which of our great economic giats would not take down the entire economy if it failed, thus requiring ‘bail-outs,’ too?? There are ways to do this that economists would understand, via [in this case greatly expanded, I would think] forms of coops.
Pius XI seems to teach, he seems to say that it is essential, that no plan to achieve social justice is safe 9from being socialistic) in a society that does not observe firm moral principles, in which the Church does not teach firm moral principles hard. And therein lies the rub. Just Third Way, for example, only calls for the end of all subsidy to Planned Parenthood and their ilk, not the roll back of RoevWade, and is adament against the traditional liturgy even though the liturgical ‘development’ after the Council parallels the doctrinal laxity the group fairly targets. Other groups that might endorse a socialist-sounding redistribution plan also support a woman priesthood and gay marriage. So we are as stalemated, as paralyzed, as the two parties whose fault lines have been so well revealed in this timely debacle.
I am not an economist. I am just a pro-life sidewalk counselor who can judge how busy next Saturday will be at the local abortuary by today’s stock market slide. Something must be done to improve the lot of the average family, something not socialism nor facism–the latter being what we are presently playing at, isn’t that the call when public funds go to private interests? Something must be done so that we are owners, not owned. The poor needed housing back when this began, and they still need housing. But they were used, at that time, to line the pockets of others rather than having low-cost loans available to them.
Visit my site,
I don’t have any economic programs except my Catholics Save Wall Steet, which actually does address the demographic roots of today’s world-wide economic decline. And please pursue this topic, especially if you have economic expertise.

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posted October 1, 2008 at 7:14 am

Well written piece, and very touching that you can accept the bishops guidance on ‘economic’ matters; but I’m with Mary Ann on this. The Bishops pontifications (can I use those two words side-by-side?) on this crisis is in stark contrast to their attitude on the abuse of children by their members and their complicity in covering it up.

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Joe Sikora

posted October 1, 2008 at 7:23 am

“forces of society and the state” I hope Bishop Murphy is happy with China, Cuba, North Korea and how their basic needs are met, so we can import it to this country. After all, if it weren’t for Bill Gates taking so much money, tens of thousands of Americans would not be poor. Let’s replace markets with Nancy Pelosi. Happy days are here again.

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posted October 1, 2008 at 7:23 am

Oh thank God the bishops have spoken. It seems to me that the USCCB and its committees are far more interested in advancing politically liberal solutions to any problems. I suppose it’s easier to blather on about trivia than to take positive stands on issues that directly affect the salvation of souls, such as the role of prayer in society, the re-establishment of discipline in the church, a call to renewal among the people of all Christian faiths. Individual bishops do these things, but the USCCB rarely addresses them. It’s a sad commentary when bishops yield their authority to a committee.

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Don Altabello

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:46 am

What a joke. Do you honestly believe the U.S. bishops, as a body, have enough knowledge of economic policy to competently address this crisis? Get real!

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Don Altabello

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:50 am

I wonder if Bishop Murphy is willing to hold responsible the people who pushed sub-prime mortgages to people who couldn’t afford a home? That’s at least a substantial part of this crisis. It’s also a difficult thing to say “no” to.
The idea of bishops prescribing policy initiatives on an economic bailout plan is just such a riot.

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posted October 1, 2008 at 10:11 am

The comments here display a large amount of ignorance.
The thrust of the comments is this: “Bishops should shut up. There is a scandal in the Church.”
With these comments (which every poster holds) are peoples own prideful opinions. “The Bishop says we should only vote for anti-abortion candidates.” “The Bishops are liberal” etc. etc. etc.
These are silly view points. Yes there is a scandal in the Church in the US regarding sex abuse, and yes the Bishops acted in ways that are fundamentally wrong. Yes, they should be severely criticized as a result. Yes, we need more and public repentance from them.
However (and this is difficult to understand but it is nonetheless true) these Bishops are the successors to the Apostles in the United States. The Church has been a teaching Church for 2000 years. Even Judas taught. Peter caused scandal and Peter taught… A LOT. Paul spent his years before his conversion killing Christians, and he taught. Bishops have always been flawed and human. And they have always taught. That is the way the Church has been since the beginning.
The Church’s perspective on these matters is informed by Scripture natural moral law, reason, and 2000 years of Church teaching. That is a great deal of experience. We ought to listen to the heart of the Church and hear what She has to say.
When the US Bishops contradict the Church (various national Bishops committees have) it is the duty of the whole Church to correct those errors. If the Bishops approve contraception for instance, they are to be rejected, as they contradict Catholic Tradition, which is to be held in the same reverence as Sacred Scripture (see Dei Verbum). However, here, the Bishops are not contradicting tradition. They are interpreting current events in the light of that tradition and are teaching accordingly.
Such teaching does not rise to any level of infallibility, and Catholics can, in conscience, disagree with the specifics of the bailout (or even reject the bailout entirely). This document put out by the committee does not come CLOSE to rising to the level of infallible Church teaching on matters like abortion and contraception.
However, Catholics do have a duty to listen respectfully to the teaching offered, and they should have VERY good reasons for disagreeing. The Bishops are offering a solid interpretation of Church tradition here. The posts on this site could not have been made by good Catholics of any stripe.

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Loretta Williams

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:18 am

Bishop, I agree with you. The problem is that much of what you have said is true but not in the common language of the people reading it. In addition, there are people like myself that believe that some of those loan that have failed were not only irresponsible but cruel. Lending people money at 12% interest because they were poor was outright greed. A rich person could get twice as much money for 6%percent and less.
The sad part is that it will be those same people that pay the taxes for this bail out and they will still be in the whole. If the problem is that the failed mortgages put us in this bind. Pay off the mortgages reduce the interest and then everyone will recieve the bail out. They complain about social welfare. Well, what about corporate welfare. How many years do you think this country could take care of it’s poor and needy on 700 Billion dollars. Give the people of this country a break. The working poor is going to pay for this bail out. What do they get for it. Security of their pensions that was put into the hands of these unscrupulous speculators. I pray that Congress takes into account the needs of the people and not those of multimillionaires who will also profit from this bail out and credit will become obsolete for the common man.

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Don Altabello

posted October 1, 2008 at 10:23 am

“The Church’s perspective on these matters is informed by Scripture natural moral law, reason, and 2000 years of Church teaching. That is a great deal of experience. We ought to listen to the heart of the Church and hear what She has to say.”
Cathguy–with all due respect, what the bishops are proffering here is a prime example of clericalism. I think the previous commentators ought to stop bringing up the clerical abuse crisis every time they disagree with something the bishops say. That’s why I didn’t bring it up. That said, the idea that a bishop is going to give competent analysis about the specifics of a bailout plan is ridiculous. It’s right down insulting and stupid to think that a bunch of bureaucrats with job protection in the USCCB have any business doing this. Those clowns are not “the heart of the Church.” What this is about is politics–and this sort of clericalist notion that the clergy has and ought to run and give advice as to the solutions for every aspect of the human experience. Apostolic succession does not demand that.
As a conservative Catholic, it would be much appreciated if sometimes folks could step outside their rigid apologetics perspective to actually call a spade a spade when it comes from the clergy.
In fact–they should SHUT UP!!! On this issue, that is.

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posted October 1, 2008 at 11:06 am

I agree that
“Those who directly contributed to this crisis or profited from it should not be rewarded or escape accountability for the harm they have done.”

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posted October 1, 2008 at 12:14 pm

The Bishops are merely applying Church Teachings and moral guidance to the problem. Just as there are just wars and just strikes by unions, there are moral obligations for those in business. Unfortunately, today, the morals of our society are going downhill fast – thanks to the secular progressives in this country.
As for voting, the issues that are intrinsiclly evil still trump those of social justice, although I don’t know what that has to do with the financial crisis at hand. The democrats are knee deep in responsibility for the cause of this crisis (CRA for example) and the republicans should have yelled louder and forced some reform even after the dems continually blocked such efforts. Of course, moral businessmen would not have given in to organizations like ACORN and that part of this crisis cannot be legislated. Unlike Governor Palin who refused to go along to get along when she saw corruption and did something about it, the folks in congress did not. However, I prefer a work out not a bail out. In the meantime, my retirement portfolio is going down and since I am in retirement, I can only hang on and pray.

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posted October 1, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Whether one has a clerical or moral issue with the US bishops (and there are plenty of grounds especially for the latter), the principles should be considered on their own merits. You will find them to be sound.

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B Olenick

posted October 1, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Couple of comments.
1. Fix your own house before providing advice to someone else.
2. Just as wrong on the bail out issue as on handling the illegal emigration issue. The probem is not the United States! It is the evil governments/countries not providing adequate job opportunities to their citizens causing them to seek a living elsewhere. The bishops should take their pointed hats and regal earthly robes and march in unison protest in those countries not providing education, training, and job opportunities for their citizens. If all the world-wide bishops united and protested to ensure countries’ responsibilities toward their citizens were accomplished many world problems would be eliminated.

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posted October 1, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Loretta, you seem to hold a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. What basis do you have for believing that the working poor will pay for this? What percentage of taxes do the working poor pay? And how much do you believe they have invested in our markets? The people who are truly getting worked in this deal are not the poor who live day-to-day; not the ditch diggers or grape pickers; not the ones who wage workers struggle to pay the rent with the job cleaning floors. No, the ones who will get worked are the middle class: the ones who are tied in some way to the financial markets, the ones with the 401k’s and the IRA’s, the ones who pay a considerable amount of taxes relative to their income.
The fact is that the ones who are guilty here are not only those on “Wall Street” who profited from the generation of this crisis through the sale of risky securities, but also those who did take out the risky mortgages with ballooning payments. Those who knew that a small bump in their financial health could put their house in jeopardy.
And this is not to say that there were crooks selling mortgages to those they knew could not repay. But come on! Whatever happened to personal responsibility here! We as a country are in this mess because we are addicted to consumption. Just take a look at the national savings rate – we are no better as a people than the over-leveraged Wall Street firms that we are quick to point a finger at.
I say amen to the bishops for thoughtful consideration of the current crisis. I look at the statement as not only a sweeping guide for those in power, but also a call to take a closer look at our own actions and behavior (“responsibility, accountability, awareness of advantages and limitations of the market, solidarity, subsidiarity and the common good”). Peace.

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David A. Bliss

posted October 1, 2008 at 5:23 pm

This statement is fine, but I really wish the Bishops would do much more to take care of their own house. From things I’ve read and heard, some Catholic seminaries are rife with an underground or overtly open and militant gay and feminist culture. Orthodox seminarians are persecuted while more politically correct or even heretical teachings abound. And sometimes one has to look hard on our Catholic campuses of higher education to find anything Catholic. These conditions in our seminaries and on our campuses have been going on for years and I really, really wish the Bishops would concentrate on these things before they have any more synods on Iraq or issue further statements on the government’s business.

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Joe T

posted October 2, 2008 at 9:56 am

Yes, the Bishops are correct “Greed, bad!”. Thanks for sharing!
I suspect that defaulted mortgages is only one small piece of this economic boondoggle.
Once upon a time in this country there was a clear distinction between investment banks (banks that could take depositors’ money and invest it in stocks and bonds) and commerical banks (invested depositors’ money in business loans and, yes, mortgages). Up until the past twenty years, commerical banks had to be strictly monitored and their investments had to follow strict guidelines. The division between commercial and investement banking was put into place after the Great Depression to prevent banks from taking savings and checking accounts and gambling with them in the stock market. Investment banks were allowed to do that and people who put their money into such banks knew the risks they were taking.
Today banks can do both. I suspect (can’t prove it) that much of the bailout has to do with bailing out investment banks from bad investments and the commerical bank bailout due to risky mortgages is probably just a small piece of the problem it is estimated that about $100-200B could cover all mortgages at risk of default). In other words, it’s the excuse for the bailout, not the real reason.
The real reason for the bailout and the real money behind it is more likely to bail out bad investments by the commerical banks. Just before the bailout was proposed, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley which had investment bank status applied to gain commerical bank status (9/28/08). I assume they did that to get in the correct line for the bailout. Henry Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary who proposed the bailout, was the former COO of Goldman-Sachs.
Yes, Bishops, greed is bad. But when it comes to financial decisions, remember it was the Bishops who decided that sweeping the priest scandal under the rug was the intelligent fiscal thing to do. How did that work out for you?
We faithful will absolutely listen to you when you speak on moral matters. We will absolutely agree with you when you declare greed to be bad. We did manage to read somewhere that the love of money was the root of all evil. We got that part! (Though it never hurts to hear it again) When it comes to financial issues, I hope you forgive us if we are bit more skeptical about your pronouncements.

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posted October 2, 2008 at 2:53 pm

B Olenick has stated what I have been saying for years. It is not the neighboring country responsibility it is the home country that needs to improve education and job training.
Feed a man you feed him once. Teach a man to fish you feed him for life.

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Daniel Kingsley

posted October 3, 2008 at 12:03 pm

I believe that there’s a wisdom to be found in this statement of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. The people of this country should not be asked to foot a bailout, rescue plan, whatever you want to call it without appropriate checks, balances, and most important oversight. As previous commentators have mentioned, accelerated deregulation got us into this mess in the first place. The people’s representatives—Congress—will be playing a fine game of Russian Roulette if they don’t proceed with caution with the people’s money, e.g. the Treasury. $ 700 billion is alot to ask for, especially for a government that engages heavily in deficit spending. It is likely that future taxpayers will be paying for it, along with our $ 11 trillion debt.

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Michael McManus

posted October 4, 2008 at 11:33 pm

When i read the article i nearly fell out of my chair laughing, As Moraly the Bishops dont have a leg to stand on, To offer views on any thing, For a start if they had followed Christs teaching from the bible there would have never been any abuse scandal,

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