Can Offshore Banking Be Considered a Mortal Sin?
It's reported that Pope Benedict XVI is working on an encyclical that strongly condemns wealthy individuals who exercise the freedom to use tax havens and offshore bank accounts.The Times of London reports that the Pope will argue that tax avoidance and tax evasion is morally unjust because it supposedly prevents governments from collecting revenues to help society's least fortunate people. (One might ask whether the Pope knows of the billions in taxes that have supposedly gone to help the poor of the world, much of that from the pockets of American taxpayers?)
This is one Catholic who wishes the Pope had better economic advisors so that he might understand the beneficial role tax havens play in the world economy. Is His Holiness familiar with trusts, family foundations and hedge funds? Surely the Vatican Bank, a scene of many financial scandals, could enlighten him about globalism and its many benefits - job creation, better wages, and a rise in the standard of living.Columnist Walter Williams writes: "Pope Benedict could benefit from a bit of schooling. Tax avoidance is legal conduct whereby individuals arrange their affairs so as to reduce the amount of income that is taxable. Tax avoidance can run the gamut of legal acts, such as investing in tax-free bonds, having employer-paid health plans, making charitable gifts, quitting a job and banking in another country. Tax evasion refers to the conduct by individuals to reduce their tax obligation by illegal means. Tax evasion consists of illegal acts such as falsely claiming dependents, income underreporting and padding expenses."
Pope Benedict's second encyclical puts him squarely in company with a group known as the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, (OECD). It's a tax-free international bureaucracy headquartered in Paris and comprised of 30 high tax industrial nations that specialize in blacklisting other nations that freely choose to levy low taxes. These OECD welfare states are grasping for tax revenues to prop up their faltering socialistic schemes, and it appears the current Pope is willing to be their patsy. Perhaps he should recall what the Founder of the Church stated: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's..."
The Church certainly has not been the last word on economic matters throughout the ages. Example: According to the Council of Vienne (1311), a person who charged interest on a loan was to be punished as a heretic and was guilty of committing a mortal sin.
Property Is a Human Right
The right to own private property is implicit in the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." Those who try to distinguish between property rights and "human rights" commit a fundamental error - property rights are among the most important of all human rights. To exist and prosper, every human needs material goods.Individuals and their families cannot live without the means to support life. We all have the right to supply our needs by using what we earn and own - our "Lives, Liberties and Estates," as John Locke put it - free from the disturbance of others. I believe, as did St. Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle before him, that the natural law recognizes in every person this right to property. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, 66, 2, 118; Aristotle, Politics, Book II, c.3)
Perhaps the current Pope should check the Vatican encyclical files before he issues his next one.
What Pope John Paul Said On World Workers Day, May 1, 1991, the saintly Pope John Paul issued an encyclical entitled "Centesimus Annus," on the centenary of the encyclical "Rerum novarum" of Pope Leo XIII, in which the Church first dealt with modern economic and political rights and issues.
In his 1991 encyclical, which caused quite a stir, Pope John Paul talked of the future of a world without the godless Communism he did so much to destroy. He spoke about freedom, society and faith. His was a definitive statement of classical liberal ideas, particularly in the economic sphere. The Pope reasserted basic principles: human rights, limits on state power, the common good, moral imperatives of freedom, peace, justice, charity and the universality of truth.
But this great man, who knew firsthand the twin tyrannies of Nazi fascism and Soviet Communism, also denounced the failure of socialism, endorsed free-market principles and warned of problems inherent in a democracy bereft of morality. He praised the rule of law, productivity of individual initiative and warned of the dangers of uncaring, all powerful bureaucratic governments.
His Holiness said these things, one can assume, because he believed that for faith to flourish, free individuals must enjoy the liberty to prosper. And property and free choice are integral to that prosperity.
By choosing to join the debate concerning tax havens on the side of the radical left, Pope Benedict calls into question his economic knowledge and judgment - and leads one to wonder who his advisors on offshore matters are.
It is traditional in the Catholic Church to pray for the Holy Father at each Mass. We should all continue to do so. Amen. That's the Way It Looks from Here.