February 17, 2009

Recession a time to refocus priorities

by David Masters

The current recession could be the end of ‘selfish capitalism’, according to the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor told the Times this week that economic hardship ‘may be a good thing’ if it encourages people to look to family and friends for help rather than relying on the acquisition of money.

The credit crunch signals “the end of a certain kind of selfish capitalism,” he said.

“This particular recession is a moment – a kairos – when we have to reflect as a country on what are the things that nourish the values, the virtues, we want to have.

“Capitalism needs to be underpinned with regulation and a moral purpose.”

The Cardinal recognised that times are extremely difficult for those facing unemployment, but added that losing one’s job can be a time for refocusing priorities on what ‘really matters’ in life.

“One feels very sorry for those losing their jobs but in times of recession people have to rely on friends and neighbours and families and things that really matter to them,” he said.

Murphy O’Connor criticised the bonus culture of the city that fuelled the current crisis, but pointed out that almost everyone is to blame for the situation because of Western culture’s ‘unhealthy obsession’ with money.

He said: “Everyone was cashing in. People kept borrowing as well as bankers lending. People kept shopping. I think shopping fills a void.”

Consumerism is unhealthy for the human soul, the Cardinal concluded.

“I think people did lose their way a bit. Some of it has got to do with having too much. If your worth just depends on your wealth, that is not healthy. Your worth should depend on who you are.”

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