“Money is at the service of man and man is not a slave of money”. The phrase is contained in a message signed by Msgr. Markus Büchel, Bishop of Sankt Gallen, at the request of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference - published with a view to the National Day on 1 August. “Money is not made to be increased by itself”, the prelate warns. “It is not an end in itself. If the whole of the financial world were to live for itself, it would lose its raison d’être. Those who invest for gain with no regard for the unhappiness of their neighbour are acting in a decidedly irresponsible way”.
A dangerous imbalance that must be redressed. Today, the Swiss bishops state in their message, “we’re all confronted by a financial world that apparently no man, no bank and no government manage to keep under control. Rather, it appears that we’re held in the grips of financial international markets”. Msgr. Büchel underlines that confidence in financial markets - as well as that of many European and world populations) has been “tarnished”. According to the prelate “confidence” is “a fundamental aspect of the financial realm”, but it “must repose on sound foundations”. To achieve this goal “responsible investments in natural resources” and “human rights” are needed, while today “to a large extent financial international markets conduct their own existence, distant from the needs of real economy, which is hard to control”. The prelate warns: “We must urgently find the means and the ways to redress this dangerous imbalance”.
Responsible investments. “Using the money in a responsible manner - continues Msgr. Büchel - also means not to speculate, making business in undue risk. For some time, some financial institutions created high-risk products, toxic securities, and continued to sell them well knowing that the risks remained, and sooner or later someone would have to pay the price. Let us remember the United States housing bubble that quickly developed into a global banking crisis”. That’s precisely what happened - remarked the bishop of Sankt Gallen - risks were accumulated, shown, hidden and resold. Until the bubble finally burst”. For the Swiss bishop “it’s understandable that one may desire to gain in various ways, also because money brings wealth, but well-being has its limitations. It cannot be produced indefinitely. One should not fall into the temptation to constantly live above his own means: those who do so fall into a vicious debt cycle”. And “at some point interests must be paid”. Individuals, points out the bishop, “have their share of responsibility in the use of money, and so do those who provide the money. Therefore, a bank is of no help if it grants credit to customers unable to repay the debt due to increasingly higher interest rates”. On the other hand, the prelate emphasizes, “being content with what we have - is an art that we must rediscover in our highly industrialized countries. Those who master this art will discover other riches”.
Recovering confidence. So what is, from a Christian perspective, the right attitude toward money? Thinking of those who “can only dream of well-being”, the prelate remarks, “having a Christian approach to money is to engage for an equal redistribution of economic resources. This requires political commitment, charitable activity in one’s own environment, cooperation for development. We must not fail in helping the needy, those without future prospects, the unemployed, the outcast. Especially since on the other front high salaries are reaching sky-rocketing levels, and during the ongoing economic crisis the number of millionaires has increased”. August 1, the bishops conclude in their Message, “is an appropriate occasion to reflect on the approach towards money, in order to establish solid foundations for a new form of confidence”.