Discuss the financial crisis with faith, pastor says

Nasty, partisan battles over raising the debt limit. The downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. Roller coaster stock markets with billions of dollars lost or gained daily.
This economic news dominating the headlines for the past month has left many people nervous and worried about jobs and personal finances. Many say they are disgusted with Congress, the White House and everything about Washington, D.C.
Is there a way Catholics can use their faith to gain some sort of perspective on all this? Two diocesan priests say yes.
Msgr. Edward D. Lofton, pastor of St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville, has discussed the economy with many parishioners, including a woman who was afraid of losing her Social Security because of the debt limit crisis.
He said too many seem to think the bad economy only affects other people, or they worry only about their interests.
“Most people have their retirement in the market, even the unions are in the market,” he said. “We are in this together whether we like to realize it or not and we need to work together, not separately.”
Economic turmoil too often turns into a war of words between classes, he said. Simply screaming “Tax the rich!” isn’t realistic and doesn’t reflect Gospel values.
“Pitting one group against another isn’t Catholic. To be Catholic means I have absolute concern for the poor and for everyone else. Class warfare is not a Christian attitude.
“A Christian attitude is concerned with the development of every human being to their potential,” Msgr. Lofton said. “There’s nothing wrong with wealth, but if people use wealth in an evil way it becomes sinful. Judaism saw wealth as a blessing from God that comes with responsibility.”
Debate over government spending also offers lessons about proper stewardship.
“The moral issue is the same for the government as it is for me: How do I manage what God has given me in the proper way? Do I ruin myself in debt to the point where I put my family at risk? You have to live within your means,” he said.
Catholic social teaching gives many important perspectives on the financial crisis, according to Father C. Alexander McDonald, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Columbia.
“The teachings offer the whole concept of the common good, and make concern for the poor a test of the health of our society,” he said. “We have to ask how our decisions and policies lift up the poor, how do they affect them sometimes in a negative way, and how can we help the poor.”
Church teaching can also offer perspective in a political climate where many blame the government for everything.
“Some see government as the whole problem, but the problem is bad government,” Father McDonald said. “We want a better government, and the argument is over how big that is to be. The church has engaged those questions for more than a century. It sees there is a role for government in the bettering of society and in the good ordering of society.”
Father McDonald encourages people to study issues carefully, look at them through the lens of Catholic teaching, and learn how to discuss facts and solutions without partisan bickering.
This crisis could motivate Catholics to approach the ballot box after serious consideration and prayer.
“Ultimately, in politics, we get the government we deserve,” Msgr. Lofton said. “If you’re not happy with these people, pick carefully and change them.”