Church Militant Interviews Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, Former Head of Vatican Bank

News: World News
by Juliana Freitag  •  •  June 4, 2019   

Man 'sanctifies his labor and the money he makes from it'

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Catholic economist and banker Ettore Gotti Tedeschi made headlines all over the world in 2012 for his turbulent resignation from the Vatican Bank (or Institute for the Works of Religion, IOR). He spoke with Church Militant about the English translation of his recently published Love God, Make Money! Principles of Divine Economics, published by Gondolin Press.
It's an accessible read that still manages to offer in-depth analysis of an economics based on virtue, a system that aspires for the common good through work subjected to the divine will. It's a book for both the amateur and the specialist, covering topics that range from the role of the Church in worldly economic failure ("I continue to think, that if priests ... would have spoken only of God in their sermons ... the current economic crisis would not have happened") to the hostile climate created by the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in Veritate (which criticized profit as an ultimate goal without any regard for the common good, and which Tedeschi feels might have contributed to the pontiff's resignation). Church Militant spoke with Tedeschi about his book.
CM: How did Italians receive the book Love God, Make Money! Principles of Divine Economics when it was published in Italy in 2014? Was it appreciated?
EGT: The title, which sounds like an oxymoron, a contradiction, paradoxically intrigued potential readers. In reality, when we love God, and strive to live in imitation of Christ, trying to give true meaning to life and to every single action, it's possible to "make money." Make it well, with benefits for the common good, and spend it well — spend it in good works.
I had an insight when choosing the title. If God desires the natural well-being of His creatures, but not all of them have the talents to achieve it, God might have predicted this well-being would result from the redistribution of the wealth of those who were capable of creating it. But in order to distribute it, wealth must first be created. Therein lies my insight: that the capacity of "making money" was provided by God as a gift He conceded to those who love Him, in order to benefit the less fortunate.
The capacity of 'making money' was provided by God as a gift He conceded to those who love Him, in order to benefit the less fortunate.
In the same way, not only man sanctifies himself through work, but he also sanctifies his labor and the money he makes from it. I believe the book has been thoroughly appreciated, as I have been invited to present it many times, and it's being still quoted in several articles and books. Then you'd have to ask my editor if he's satisfied with the number of copies sold. [Catholic father of six and editor Giovanni Zenone from Gondolin Press told Church Militant the book is "a best-seller and a long-seller." He strongly believes in the importance of approaching the theme among Catholics, because "frequently, in churches, making money is presented as a sin only expiable by giving money to the Church. This lie has worn out the faithful, now distrustful of a clergy that not only has lost the Faith but has altogether lost all shame as well."]
CM: Was the decision to launch the book in the United States by any chance based on the idea that the American Catholic public would be more receptive to your economic ideas?
EGT: American culture, as I understand it, is impregnated with a Lutheran-Calvinist spirit: thus our Catholic spirit, which has nothing to envy from the Reformed one, is encouraged to believe in its "supremacy." Our Catholic spirit doesn't separate faith-works, does not regard in any way that one is allowed to do anything and simply repent later and does not retain that anything we do is later justifiable. But it teaches that keeping a unity of life is what allows for the virtues we need to combat greed, selfishness and indifference. These vices create moral misery that generates material misery. The current economic crisis has been created precisely by these vices, and a certain modern Protestant culture indirectly helps spreading them. It creates crises of "common evil."
CM: You're one of the most vocal critics of Malthusian theories and you believe that the demographic crisis is the cause of the last great economic crisis, because economy without a solid morality, of which the foundation is the family, becomes an end, when it should be a means. What you defend is incredibly simple and should be easily understood by Catholics with a solidly formed conscience. But it seems that in Italy, in spite of its historically low birth rate, Catholics and conservatives generally still insist that the economy is the only (or the main) reason Italians don't have more than one child. Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option, pointed out that he heard many testimonies like this whilst in Italy for the tour of his book. Why is such a simplistic line of thought so predominant in Italy?
EGT: I've been studying the problem of the drop in birth rates and its impacts on the economic and financial cycles since the 80s when I worked for McKinsey [a global consultancy company], and my studies originated from a "techno-scientific" vision. I ask the readers: how is the GDP [gross domestic product] supposed to grow in a mature economy if population decreases? A thousand inconsistent answers are usually given to this question in order to deny the original problem, which is moral, because it's about rejection of life, a rejection based on hypotheses that albeit proven wrong by strong evidence, still remain very much alive, upheld by theories of people like Paul Ehrlich and Jeffrey Sachs, both so acclaimed in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
These theories hold man to be a "cancer of nature," responsible for damaging the environment, and mankind should, therefore, be numerically re-dimensioned. Curiously, it seems that even the pontiff has been convinced of this non-truth. But the created effects were the exact opposite of the expectations, and in order to compensate for a stagnant GDP in a setting of increased individual consumerism, they've created the environmental problem, as well as the new poverty and inequality issue, which they still blame on overpopulation. It's a long discourse.
The problem regarding the way of thinking of Italians who won't allow themselves more than one child is just as complex, but overall the erroneous attitude of part of the Catholic Church has a considerable weight. That Church that after the Second Vatican Council granted the so-called "responsible paternity," which was unfortunately translated, also thanks to other factors, as "an only child" plan blessed by this Church. One mustn't be rich to have children, one becomes rich by having children. I've been screaming that for 35 years!
CM: In your book Love God, Make Money, you make several mentions of the Benedictine monks, who've consolidated the foundation for work with supernatural meaning (something practically inexistent in the current economic context), and as a consequence the entire management of a community, in all of its aspects that are deeply meaningful to men. What else about the Benedictines inspired you in your economic views?
EGT: The Benedictine monasteries transformed work (until then considered a punishment, a suffering man had to endure after his fall and banishment from the earthly paradise) in real progress, giving it sense and value. In Benedictine monasteries, the genius of man is reborn, with its spark of divinity applied to necessary work. Did you know that the first treatise on mechanical engineering was written in a Benedictine monastery in the 7th century?
One mustn't be rich to have children, one becomes rich by having children. I've been screaming that for 35 years!
In Subiaco, where St. Benedict founded the first monastery, in the monastery of St. Scolastica, it's possible to have a look at the library of the first studies transcribed by the monks, and it's amazing. Faith and works are solidly tied, and together they bring about miracles.
CM: You became known worldwide for the injustices you've endured during the process of your resignation from the Institute for the Works of Religion. Lately, many Catholics have publicly expressed their will to leave the Holy Roman Catholic Church due to their desperation in face of the scandals, cover-ups and treachery from inside the Vatican. Do you have anything to say to these Catholics, since you continue to combat for the Church despite all you've been subjected to?
EGT: First of all, I am "proud" to remind people that I did not quit the presidency of the IOR. A motion of no-confidence was imposed on me by a board that had no powers to do so, and in fact they weren't able to get a new president for the next nine months; a new president was installed only after the renunciation of Pope Benedict XVI, in February 2013. I have been infamously thrown out and persecuted. If after my ousting, I managed to keep my faith and reason, it was because of a new indirect bond established with Pope Benedict, and that has always consoled me. But this isn't the time to speak of it.
To my brothers in the Faith, the confused, disappointed, scared, angry Catholics, all I have to say is that the Church that acts like this, or permits that sort of behavior, isn't the Church of Christ. I invite everyone to read Of the Five Wounds of the Holy Church by the Blessed Antonio Rosmini, which is enlightening. There are many holy priests, bishops and cardinals to turn to for some light. I am actually one to tell, because I am only a poor sinner striving for sanctification.
I used to visit Cardinal Caffarra [Dubia Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, former head of the archdiocese of Bologna, deceased in September 2017] frequently when he was still alive, and it was often emotional. At the end of our meetings I always saw the Cross of Christ everywhere — actually, the more vileness I saw, the more I saw the Cross shining. And thus I have never lost my faith. But certainly, my greatest pain is to live it in apparent disunion with Rome.
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