… Today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. … I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.
By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
I came across Pope Francis’ April 2018 Prayer Intention, “For a Just Economy,” three days before “Tax Day.” However, I doubt that the Vatican purposefully scheduled this prayer intention so close to our tax day (believe me, the Vatican has bigger fish to fry than memorizing our secular calendar, despite what some Americans think or wish for).
His words around the prayer intention are not unfamiliar. Andrea Tornielli and Giamoco Galeazzi rocked the Catholic press, the business community, and social ethicists with their 2015 work, This Economy Kills: Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice. That same year, his earth-shattering encyclical Laudato Si’ contained strong words against an economy measured strictly in terms of economic growth, particularly at the expense of environmental justice and human rights (see especially #109). And his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, considered his personal manifesto, spells out, for perhaps the first time, his understanding of an “economy of exclusion” (#53).
In 2015, I participated in NETWORK Catholic Social Justice Lobby’s #TaxPayerPride campaign around Tax Day; it demonstrated citizen gratitude for the benefits of our tax system. Take a moment to consider how our income taxes help provide for:
- public education for all
- nutritious food, warm shelter, and healing medicine for those who cannot meet their own needs, in our country and abroad
- safeguards to protect our communities from the effects of natural disaster
… the examples are nearly limitless.
I recall a conversation with a friend and co-worker a few years ago. I happened to mention that, as a vowed religious, any income that I earned from a Catholic organization was income tax exempt. He wondered aloud how he could get in on this gig in order not to help subsidize the U.S. war machine!
I am sure that no one approves of every single expenditure by our local, state, and federal governments. We must vote for candidates whose budgets priorities are in line with our own. As we embrace the principle of the common good, we accept that we do have a responsibility to contribute toward the benefit of people beyond self and our immediate families. And this is why an income tax system which benefits all of us is also vital to Pope Francis’ model of a just economy.