BI and Catholicism

Many Catholics, including the Pope himself, have expressed support for basic income or similar ideas.

Pope calls for consideration of ‘universal basic wage’ for unprotected workers

By Vatican News - 12 April 2020
Pope Francis writes a letter to Popular Movements and community organizations on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic response, calling for the consideration of a possible “Universal Basic Wage”.

In a letter dated Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Pope Francis has called for the consideration of a Universal Basic Wage “that would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”

The letter is addressed to World Popular Movements, some of whom he recollects meeting with when in Bolivia during an Apostolic Visit in 2015 and in the Vatican the following year.

“Now, in the midst of this pandemic, I think of you in a special way and wish to express my closeness to you,” he writes.

The Pope’s message comes at a time in which the pandemic is devastating the health and lives of so many, and consequently putting millions of jobs on the line and undermining local – and world – economies. In it, he expresses encouragement and solidarity with those Movements who aim to bring change to global systems and structures that exclude a multitude of workers.

In these days of great anxiety and hardship, the Pope notes, “you are truly an invisible army, fighting in the most dangerous trenches; an army whose only weapons are solidarity, hope, and community spirit, all revitalizing at a time when no one can save themselves alone.” 

He took the opportunity to thank the Popular Movements for the work they pursue. He acknowledges that work hardly ever receives the recognition it deserves, Pope Francis notes “You do not resign yourselves to complaining: you roll up your sleeves and keep working for your families, your communities, and the common good. Your resilience helps me, challenges me, and teaches me a great deal.”

A multitude of people suffering far from the limelight

He goes on to mention all those people suffering far from the eyes of the world:

The women, “who multiply loaves of bread in soup kitchens: two onions and a package of rice make up a delicious stew for hundreds of children.” 

The sick and the elderly, “they never appear in the news,” he says, “nor do small farmers and their families who work hard to produce healthy food without destroying nature, without hoarding, without exploiting people’s needs.” 

“I want you to know that our Heavenly Father watches over you, values you, appreciates you, and supports you in your commitment,” the Pope writes.

He highlights how difficult it is for those who live in poverty and for the homeless “to stay at home.” In addition, he mentions the difficulty “for migrants, those who are deprived of freedom, and those in rehabilitation from an addiction.” 

People, life and dignity at the centre

Again, thanking the Popular Movements for being there to help them make things less difficult and less painful, the Pope expresses his hope this may prove to be a moment of change.

“My hope is that governments understand that technocratic paradigms (whether state-centred or market-driven) are not enough to address this crisis or the other great problems affecting humankind. Now more than ever, persons, communities and peoples must be put at the centre, united to heal, to care and to share,” the Pope writes.

He underscores how such a multitude of persons have been excluded from the benefits of globalization. They, he said, have been hit twice as hard from the harms produced by a society marked by the “superficial pleasures that anaesthetize so many consciences.”

“Street vendors, recyclers, carnival workers, small farmers, construction workers, seamstresses, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time … and the lockdowns are becoming unbearable. This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights,” says Pope Francis.

The three Ts

He goes on to point to the need to reflect on “life after the pandemic”. Its grave consequences are already being felt. This calls for an integral human development that is based on “the central role and initiative of the people in all their diversity, as well as on universal access to those three Ts that you defend: Trabajo (work), Techo (housing), and Tierra (land and food)."

The Pope concludes with the hope that our sleepy consciences will be shaken, giving way to a “humanist and ecological conversion that puts an end to the idolatry of money and places human life and dignity at the centre.”

“Our civilization — so competitive, so individualistic, with its frenetic rhythms of production and consumption, its extravagant luxuries, its disproportionate profits for just a few — needs to downshift, take stock, and renew itself”, he says.

Finally, Pope Francis encourages the Popular Movements to stand firm in their struggle, caring for each other as brothers and sisters. He then assures them of his prayers and blessings.

Click here for article source at Vatican News.

For Catholic Social Thought, Basic Income Gets Work, Wealth, and Family Right

by Kate Ward, in response to Economic Justice and Universal Basic Income: Ethical and Religious Perspectives

Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs

"Pope Francis’ recent support for “a universal basic wage” surprised many, but some scholars of Catholic social thought (CST) saw it coming. CST, a body of teaching on economic and political life from the leaders of the Catholic Church, judges societies by the well-being of their most vulnerable members, and encourages governments, as societies’ agents, to redistribute wealth to enable widespread flourishing. CST’s view of the nature of work also lends support to universal basic income (UBI). While Pope Francis’ comment in a speech does not carry equal authority to a century-plus of formal Church teaching, it emerges from the consistent values of that tradition.

Catholic social thought can approve of UBI on two levels: its practical impact and what we might call its internal logic. UBI can help achieve many goals sought by Catholic social thought, helping meet basic needs, supporting families’ stability, and empowering persons and local communities to improve their own circumstances. Furthermore, UBI can help us see human work and economic activity in a new and truer way, one more in line with Catholic social thought’s view of human flourishing."

Read the rest of Kate Ward's response here.

Freedom from, Freedom for: Universal Basic Income and Catholic Social Teaching

By Conor M. Kelly, in response to Economic Justice and Universal Basic Income: Ethical and Religious Perspectives

Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs

"Significantly, the Catholic theological tradition recognizes that caring for one’s family can be a form of work as well. Far from destroying the dignity of work, then, UBI can actually raise the dignity of the important work that often gets denigrated when society defines value exclusively on the basis of economic utility. The freedom from structural constraints can thus become freedom for even greater goods.

Beyond a richer vocational vision for work, UBI can also promote another “freedom for” when it provides freedom from the regnant values of utilitarian reductionism. In this case, it is freedom for leisure.

In my forthcoming book, The Fullness of Free Time (Georgetown University Press), I argue that leisure and recreation are positive theological goods. I note, however, that we are often frustrated in our pursuit of these goods by larger structural constraints, regularly leaving people resource rich and time poor, or time rich and resource poor. UBI offers a type of freedom from the constraints of this free time paradox, opening the path to the fullness of free time for more people. Insofar as this is a theological good, as Catholic social teaching has long insisted (see, for example, Mater et Magistra, nos. 248–253), expanding access to it is a morally laudable outcome."

Read the rest of Conor Kelly's response here.