Catholic Church: Don’t Put External Debt Before Social Debt

The Catholic Church has also been involved in the foreign debt debate. Through a document entitled “external debt and social debts”, the Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral, chaired by Bishop Jorge Lugones (Lomas de Zamora), denounces the economic order which favors financial speculation to the detriment of work and production. In the same argumentative line, he asks that priority be given to the “social debt” and affirms that in the solutions that are found to overcome the problem of the external debt, one cannot “thus mortgaging the common home – our Nation in this case – without the necessary consensus and without the establishment of emerging responsibilities”.

Emphasizing a perspective present in the declarations of the Catholic hierarchy on the matter and which also responds to the teaching of Pope Francis, the Commission recalls that “the obligations resulting from the situations created by the foreign debt cannot and must not escape the ethics on the social debt commitments that arise, precisely, from an economic order that privileged financial speculation over production and decent work”. For the Social Pastoral, there is a close link “between justice for the poor, the solution of the structural problems of the world economy and the protection of the environment”.

According to the commission in charge of social questions in the Catholic episcopate “it is necessary to correct growth models that are incapable of guaranteeing respect for the environment, the welcoming of life, the care of the family, social equity, the dignity of workers, the rights of future generations”.

The document also underlines that “in our country, the challenge of paying the public debt presents itself once again, without ceasing to pay the social debts” and endorses the words of Pope John Paul II who, already in the year 2000, asserted that “the social situation today is critical and the weight of indebtedness means that the State’s room for action is severely limited by the obligations which must be paid in the years to come”. The Polish pope then declared that “poor countries are always in a vicious circle: low incomes and slow growth limit savings and, in turn, low investment and inefficient use of savings not promote growth.

The Social Pastoral Commission affirms that Argentina is meeting again today with “the fait accompli of another extraordinary debt that conditions us and poses serious challenges» and wonders « how to prevent his recognition from condemning millions of compatriots to hunger and misery? How to do it without sacrificing economic growth, public investment and attention to the most needy” to insist again on the fact that “the social debt is the great debt of the Argentines”. In the same sense, he points out in the document that “it is not only an economic or statistical problem” because “behind the statistics there are faces and stories of suffering and the struggle to survive”. For all these reasons, he adds, what he faces is “mainly an ethical problem that affects us in our most essential dignity”.

In its argument, the commission chaired by Lugones recalls the words of Pope Francis in the sense that “in a world and in a particular region where while the profits of the few grow exponentially, those of the majority remain further and further removed from the well-being of this happy minority”. According to Jorge Bergoglio “this imbalance comes from ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation” and therefore deny “the right of control of States, responsible for ensuring the common good”.

Regarding the solutions that can be found to the problem of the foreign debt, the Social Pastoral Commission expresses its wish that “our country assumes itself as the protagonist of its own destiny to define its own cultural, civil, social and economic development, in a way to be able to build and strengthen a model that has production and work as its central axis”. And in this sense, he recalls a statement by the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace in which it was stated that “debt service cannot be satisfied at the cost of stifling the economy of a country”.

Finally, the commission headed by Bishop Lugones asks that “actions be deepened with the commitment of all political and social leaders, who are based on the ethics of solidarity, education and social giving priority to the sectoral meeting, to Argentine work, to the dignity of families and economic growth” and that the available alternatives are based on “a model based on production and the social economy, as essential conditions for an economy with a human face which, based on the repayment of the social debt, can honor its commitments with the external debt, giving priority to the protection of the most vulnerable”.

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Jerry B. Hatch