Wealth and Responsibility
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Issue Date:  March 11, 2005

Putting your money where your faith is

I initially resisted NCR editor Tom Roberts’ request to oversee this special section on “Wealth and Responsibility.” I’m more comfortable, I told him, with the usual NCR beat -- poverty and irresponsibility.

But it’s impossible to focus on the poor without considering the wealthy, by which I mean not just Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, but most everyone reading these words. College-educated Americans want for little. By an accident of birth, we are as rich as any people the world has ever seen. As one-fifth of the world’s population subsists on $1 or less a day, we jockey the camel aimed at the eye of the needle.

In the pages that follow, Jesuit Fr. William Bryon ( see story) offers a good place to start to think about the responsibility of wealth: “The wealth is really the Lord’s; the responsibility is clearly ours.” Catholic social teaching, Bryon reminds us, provides a framework to consider the obligations of affluence.

What do those Catholic principles look like in practice? Jeff Severns Guntzel’s portrait of the challenges faced by Catholic philanthropic endeavors provides one answer ( see story), as does Patricia Lefevere’s reporting on the good works of Oikocredit ( see story).

On the personal level, the story of Amy Domini, told by author Marc Gunther, is more than a tale of personal conversion -- though it is that. It’s also a story of how one person used her talents (the ability to generate wealth for others) in a manner that expanded the definition of the bottom line ( see story). Socially responsible investing is further explored through the work of Sr. Doris Gormley, who combines both passion and business savvy as she -- and the shareholders she represents -- work to hold the private sector accountable to the public good ( see story).

“Those whom fortune favors are admonished that they should tremble at the warnings of Jesus Christ,” John Paul II said in his 1991 encyclical, Centesimus Annus. Strong words. We’re not, by and large, a trembling people. But we are smart, hard-working and industrious. And capable of expanding the good fortune that has come our way.

-- Joe Feuerherd

National Catholic Reporter, March 11, 2005

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