COI Gazette – 6th February 2015

Responding to the Archbishop of Dublin’s remarks, Brian Hayes MEP defends EU market economy

rian Hayes MEP speaking in the European Parliament (Photo: EP)

Brian Hayes MEP speaking in the European Parliament (Photo: EP)

Commenting to the Gazette in response to the Archbishop of Dublin’s controversial Christmas sermon criticisms of the market economy, Fine Gael’s Dublin MEP, Brian Hayes, has said that if religious figures want to challenge Europe, they should set out their alternatives.

The market economy, while varying from country to country in its precise forms, is fundamental to the European Union. The EU requires that acceding countries must be “functioning market economies” and must have, by the date of accession, “the capacity to cope with competition and market forces within the EU”, defining a functioning market economy as requiring, inter alia, “a free interplay of market forces” (Copenhagen Criteria, 1993).

In his Christmas sermon in Christ Church Cathedral, Archbishop Jackson said: “The Market, even when it is functioning, does not create a society of dignity and of welcome.” He added that the market forces “which we tend to worship every day” had brought about “an inhumanity which now lies at the heart of what it is to be human”.

The Gazette has previously reported on Dr Jackson’s sermon comments (9th & 23rd January) and, before our first report, we requested the Archbishop to expand on his remarks, but he declined to do so.

However, Senator David Norris was reported in the 23rd January Gazette as saying that the Archbishop had been “one hundred per cent right”, but the Senator is challenged over the matter in a letter in this week’s paper (page 9).
BRIAN HAYES’ COMMENTS

Mr Hayes, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, has commented to us, having studied Dr Jackson’s text, saying: “Europe’s failure to date hasn’t been around the idea of a failed market economy, but rather on a failure to integrate more, to share more and to pool our sovereignty more.”

Mr Hayes told us that the EU – and Irish – market model, the social market economy, was one that Europe had helped to deliver since the end of the Second World War and was “a fundamental restatement of European values,” adding: “Yes, it works on the basis of profit and competitiveness, but also on the basis of rights for workers and treating people with dignity.”

He stated: “Europe gives more in development aid than any other major power in the world and its free trade model is an example to those wealthy countries in Asia and Africa.”

Mr Hayes added that if religious figures wanted to challenge Europe, as was their right, “they also have a responsibility to set out what they would like to put in its place”.

PORVOO CONNECTION

The Archbishop’s market economy criticisms came not long after he had attended a Porvoo Communion Consultation on Economics and Ethics, held at the Protestant Academy in Bad Boll, southern Germany (27th-30th November), to which he referred in his sermon.

The Gazette has learned that, although the Bad Boll consultation was held in November, the
participants – at the time of our going to press – have not yet agreed its communiqué. However, we have also learned that Dr Jackson – who is Anglican Co-Chair of the Porvoo Communion itself – gave an address on the subject of ‘Biblical and Current responses to Ethical Challenges in Europe’ but, again at the time of our going to press, Dr Jackson has not agreed to give the Gazette sight of his paper, following our request on 23rd January.

However, the Gazette has heard from the Lutheran Church in Great Britain’s representative at the Bad
Boll consultation, Bishop Martin Lind, who commented to us: “We are facing a growing economic system where greed is the motor, the power that is supposed to give energy.”

He told us that among the consultation’s “most controversial and interesting” aspects were attempts to search for an alternative global economy, adding: “It was said that we ought to search for an economy beyond capitalism, beyond communism and socialism. But what is that?”

The representative of the  Church in Wales at the Bad Boll consultation, the Revd Alison Jones, told the Gazette: “No one at the consultation seemed very convinced that the Church could or would speak out and stem the tide of global capitalism, based on greed and ‘stuffocation’ (accumulation of stuff), which is today’s reality.”

She added that she did not have a background in economics, but said she felt that “particularly the excesses” of capitalism seemed “hard to justify when there are so many in deficit”.

We have further learned that a special visitor and speaker at the consultation was the theologian, Professor Ulrich Duchrow, of the University of Heidelberg, who specializes in the area of theology and economics and is a radical critic of capitalism.

Last week, Professor Duchrow told the Gazette that in his address at Bad Boll he had indicated that, just as the Bible introduces God’s presence in history by liberating slaves, so today, humanity “has to overcome capitalist civilization because it is death-bound”.

He cited climate change, the extinction of species and the way social and political disorder led to the “destruction of people” as examples of this effect.

Professor Duchrow also said that at Bad Boll he had called on the Churches to join social movements for what he saw as “the necessary change of the economic order”, stating that “the money-oriented civilization” had changed people’s mentality into “a calculating, egocentric individualism”.

However, he added that the Churches could be spiritually revitalizing in support of a “new culture of life”. (Editorial, page 2)


 

Editorial

THE MYSTERY OF BAD BOLL

The Porvoo Communion’s Consultation on Economics and Ethics, held last November at the Protestant Academy in the southern German town of Bad Boll, is currently surrounded by some mystery (report, page 1). The Gazette has taken an interest in the meeting and several participants have indeed briefly given us their impressions. We have also followed up related, important and challenging comments by the Archbishop of Dublin in his Christmas sermon, in particular his serious criticism of market economics. However, the Archbishop, as of course is entirely his prerogative, has declined to elaborate on his comments for the Gazette and also has not granted us a copy of his address to the Bad Boll gathering itself.

Then again, it has transpired that the Bad Boll consultation’s communiqué is still being put together. However, communiqués are best issued at the actual conclusion of a meeting because otherwise much of the consultative dynamic can be lost. Participants cannot easily discuss what should be in the text.

Nonetheless, the University of Heidelberg’s Professor Ulrich Duchrow, who was a guest speaker at the Bad Boll consultation, has told us about what he said at the meeting. It turns out that he wants the international economic order reconfigured and sees capitalism in terms of death. However, he has given us some idea of what he envisages being put in the place of the current economic order. Fair play to him for that.

Professor Duchrow’s comments at Bad Boll are summarized in our page 1 report, but the Professor told us that he had not expanded on those views at Bad Boll, while indicating that they were more fully expounded in an address, entitled ‘Biblical Clues to a New Economy’, which he gave in 2012 to a conference in Bristol:

• Banks no longer allowed to create money through interest bearing credits.

• Money is provided only by democratically-controlled central banks, with an international central bank issuing a neutral reserve currency to which the national currencies are flexibly fixed, being devalued or revalued according
to changing strengths of the respective buying powers.

• Banks are democratically-organised according to subsidiarity (not nationalised). The local/regional banks are the basis. Their only task is to collect savings and to give credits from the savings. They are non-profit institutions. There is no interest for either savings or credits, only fees to cover the administration of the bank and costs for balancing out the losses of inflation, as long as this exists.

• For larger credits, the local banks feed provincial or national democratic banks.

• Stock markets cease to exist. A first necessary step is to dismantle system-relevant banks that are too big to fail.

• All present ‘casino’ instruments of the financial markets like derivatives, hedge funds, rating agencies, etc. are closed down.

• There is no longer income on capital. Income is generated from work.

• Inheritance is limited to the equivalent of €500,000; beyond that, it will be taxed at 100%.

• The present over-indebtedness of states can be overcome “by making the exorbitant wealth, gathered in the last 30 years of neoliberalism, repay the debt in various ways”: (1) by a financial transaction tax of e.g. 0.1%; (2) by an average 2% progressive tax on assets beyond €1m; (3) by a 25% tax on income on capital (as long as it exists); and (4) by increasing corporation tax Europe-wide, dismantling tax competition between the member states of the EU.

It is a bold scheme, to say the least, but the Church needs people who have ideas and are prepared to think openly and ‘outside the box’. There is no doubt that global society is extremely ill-divided, but the Church does have the capacity to bring new and good perspectives to the discussion of how the world can be a place without such extreme disparity of wealth. To do so will require challenging and even provocative statements, but it will also require a willingness to engage openly with the issues.


 

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Letters to the Editor

Alban Maginness’s comments on Troubles victims definition

INNOCENT VICTIMS UNITED welcomes comments made by the SDLP’s Justice spokesperson, Alban Maginness MLA, in his interview with the Gazette (issue, 23rd January), stating that to regard perpetrators as Troubles victims “is incompatible with the concept of being a victim”.

He also said that, while the current statutory definition is not ideal, “we have to work with what we’ve got until a better definition comes along”, and continued: “The question is how to amend it, but unlawful actions should not be regarded in the same way as actions that are within the law.”

Our organisation and member-groups have lobbied for the replacement of the current definition of victim ever since it was first introduced by Government in 2006 through the Northern Ireland Order. Our organisation’s membership and vast swathes of the Northern Ireland population and others affected by ‘The Troubles’ see the current definition as politically expedient and morally deficient.

In drafting wording for a new definition, we would view it as necessary that the following exclusions be integrated within the definition: (a) Someone who was, or ever has been, a member of a proscribed organisation; (b) Any person who was psychologically or physically injured during an act for which he or she was wholly or partly responsible, either in the preparation of that act or the perpetration of that act; (c) Any person who has been, or continues to be, involved in any unlawful terrorist related activity; and (d) Any family member/partner who seeks the legal status of ‘victim’ on the basis of unlawful activity perpetrated by a family member/partner, which resulted in that individual’s own death or injury.

We acknowledge that perpetrators and their families live among us (as has always been the case) and if such individuals require support via psychological or welfare-based services, enabling them to deal with the aftermath effects of actions they inflicted upon their fellow-neighbour, then the State has an obligation to
provide such support to them. However, we suggest that the State does not have an obligation to provide cover for such individuals to masquerade as ‘victims’, providing them with the means to de-criminalise terrorism and equate themselves with those whom they so grievously wronged.

It is essential that, on the back of Mr Maginness’s interview, those political parties which share his position that perpetrators are not ‘victims’, and his belief that the law should be amended to reflect this reality, would now come together to discuss the content of a new definition and then introduce the necessary legislation without delay.

Victims and survivors do not see the issue of changing the definition of victim as ‘political’; for them, it is an issue of morality which transcends political and religious backgrounds.
Kenny Donaldson Innocent Victims United 1 Nutfield Road Lisnaskea Co. Fermanagh BT92 0FP

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The Church, the Constitution and same-sex marriage

IN HIS well-argued letter to the Gazette on 30th January, which leads to the conclusion that clergy in the Republic may be obliged to conduct same- sex marriages, Tim Bracken has perhaps given a legal reason to vote down the impending constitutional amendment.

However, one wonders if he is correct. As matters stand, clergy are not obliged to marry anyone. A clergyman/woman can, for example, refuse to marry a couple where one party has a living spouse.

Canon 31 of the Constitution of the Church of Ireland, Regulation B, states: “Nothing in the Regulations is intended to deprive any clergyman (woman) of his (her) freedom to decline to solemnize any marriage for reasons of conscience. In such cases the clergyman (woman) shall refer the couple to the archdeacon”.

One assumes the archdeacon has the same right to decline for reasons of conscience, in which event it is presumed the matter is referred to the bishop. Should the constitutional amendment be passed, and I for one will vote against it, the same freedom to decline to solemnize any marriage will surely remain with clergy as before.

Peter T. Hanna (The Revd) Innishannon, Co. Cork

Senator Norris on the market economy

I READ with interest the Gazette’s report (16th January, page 12) that Senator David Norris calls for the abolition of Europe’s market economy and for the putting in place of a fairer regime.

What would this fairer regime be? The article does not go into details.

Will we set in place central government planning – a dirigiste economy? Would this mean direct involvement in the
operation of multi-nationals in Ireland? Perhaps even officials appointed as directors or company executives? Will there be a cap on excessive incomes? Would there also be a living minimum wage? Some even suggest that we should set the minimum wage as the salary for TDs – clearly a pipe dream, but wouldn’t it make sure that it was at least raised to a decent rate?

Will we possibly guarantee a paid job available for all who are willing to work?

Any of these would, of course, bring down with it a concerted opposition and retaliation from the EU, but it would be nice to get out of the cycle of recurrent recession.

Robert Irwin Limerick

Eucharist and ecumenism

CHRISTIAN UNITY WEEK for the majority of Irish Christians is now a non-event – unloved, unhonoured and unsung – for there has been no real progress, especially on intercommunion, even on ecumenical occasions.

In many Roman Catholic churches when Mass is celebrated before a mixed congregation at, for example, a funeral, an invitation is extended to those termed ‘Non- Catholics’ to come forward with their arms folded and receive a blessing instead of receiving
the sacrament – an invitation to the table but not to partake of the food. (How unlike the example of our Lord, whose table it is and who welcomed everyone, “even tax gathers and sinners”, into his presence.)

Those who accept the invitation and fold their arms for a blessing are unwittingly assenting in an outward and visible way to the Roman Catholic view that there is something defective, invalid in our Eucharist which might contaminate theirs. Hence,
‘Non-Catholics’, because of their erroneous teaching, cannot be offered the sacramental food.

This is a very serious matter and should be recognised as such by the leadership of our Church.

Better for Rome not to extend such an invitation or for so-called ‘Non-Catholics’ not to accept it.

Victor G. Griffin (Very Revd)
Limavady BT49


 

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