Is there a Catholic approach to money?
The short answer is yes, it’s a God-given tool for us to use at the service of true human freedom and friendship.
Fr Tony Percy and Cathy Harris, take us through it from their different perspectives. Fr Tony is a priest of the Canberra-Goulburn archdiocese and author of the book Entrepreneurship in the Catholic Tradition. Cathy is the co-founder of Harris Farm Markets, business and equal opportunity leader, and mother of five.
Fr Tony: Money is a wonderful thing. It helps us to get the basic necessities of life such as housing, food and education. It is the main modern-day means of exchange and if you look a bit deeper it ultimately is for enabling communion between people.
For instance when you invite a person to your house for a meal, you are usually inviting them to not only have a meal but also to grow your friendship. Now that can’t take place unless you have money.
Of course money can be a means of division but that’s only because we pervert it with sinful attitudes. We have to look at created things sensibly and realise that their origin comes from God. Therefore we should always thank the Creator for them and use them responsibly.
In the classic text on money, 1 Timothy 6:10, it says that ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” An excessive love of money is damaging. It leads to our enslavement.
The Church’s teaching is that we have a right to private property; we have a right to goods including money. And the Church makes a really important distinction between the possession of something and the use of it. We have to own things as if everyone else owned them; we have to use them as if they are for everyone, with a generous spirit.
Cathy Harris: Money is an essential ingredient of life and its sustainability. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with money. One of the nice things about having money is that you can help people who are less fortunate than you are in ways that can really make a difference.
Lots of wealthy people are philanthropists. But when you’ve been brought up as a Catholic, giving is not just about giving money. It’s about true sacrifice and love.
It’s seeing those amazing nuns who go and look after poor people in India communities for absolutely no reward whatsoever, they just give out of the generosity and love of their heart. But it’s important that projects like those are financially sustainable as well.
Growing up in a Catholic family it was all about love, charity, giving back, and not being wasteful…
you’re surrounded by a sense of giving. It’s just the culture of the Catholic Church that you’re surrounded by the whole time.
My own kids saw [growing up with our family business] that it’s how you treat people, with equity and fairness, which is so important, not simply making money.
This article is excerpted from the 2016 issue of Frankly Magazine