VATICAN - Pope encourages the growth of cooperatives as an economic model that serves the common good [AN]

Cooperatives are “enterprises based on the principle of solidarity and social relations,” that act as “the lever that raises and develops the weakest part of local communities and civil society,” and provide “new welfare solutions” that support, facilitate and even encourage family life, because even though money is “the dung of the devil,” if it is well managed, “it can be used to promote the common good.”


"For the Holy Father, the cooperative movement “is not only something positive and vital, but it is also something prophetic” and must “invent new forms of cooperation.” "

This is really brilliant stuff. We have to live in a way that we are accountable to each other and the common good. The unrestrained capitalism that has made us greedy and fat so to speak has very little mechanism of accountability. The Amish could be somewhat of role models for us in that way.

IIRC, Obama proposed co-ops as the best healthcare providers. (I think Blue Cross was first set up that way.) Eventually it was shown not to work in the U.S.

The cooperative experiment has already been tried in America. When the Pilgrims set up their colony in 1620 they decided to have community gardens and have all food and supplies in common. They starved. So they scrapped that idea and went to every family providing for itself. Then they flourished.

A good idea. But people are going to want to buy I-phones at their co-op, and Apple is not set up as a cooperative.

OTOH, the Pope is also encouraging religious orders to study finance. Here I believe he’s being more realistic in today’s world. Almost all countries have some kind of financial structure that relies on capital, assets, and debt. Many charities and churches do as well.

Gene Roddenberry said once that he invented “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Next Generation” to give mankind “hope” which seemed lacking at the time. [Stay with me here]

Mankind at this stage had abandoned war on Earth and to other citizens of the Universe, spread the lessons of what we had learned and accomplished. Life on Earth had become compassionate, and able to overcome differences and work for the greater good.

There are examples of peoples on Earth right now who have been able to embrace some of the systems and tools of humanity. Think of the Swiss, think of countries who are prosperous who do have free education and great healthcare such as the Danes.

What the Holy Father calls for is not impossible, yet we cannot progress until we look at ourselves as a culture and admit what is wrong. Greed, pride, and fear hold us back. Unless we are to able, as a civilization to face and overcome these false ideals, and follow the examples that ARE out there, including the real ideals of Christ, it is only a matter of time before the doomsday clock hits midnight, and most everyone on this rock clocks out.

Personally, I don’t have enough confidence that we will ever get off Earth, that we will maturate as a species. We are in puberty as a civilization and like an alcoholic that has to bottom out before changing his ways, I am skeptical that we will make it, but that is in God’s hands and ours through prayer and example. God is there, but will enough commit to him, or continue with this free will craps shoot?

The Pope explains…

“The fifth encouragement might surprise you! It takes money to do all these things,” said the pope. “You must invest, and invest well! . . .] With good determination, put together good means to achieve good works. . . .] As Basil of Caesarea, a Father of the Church in the fourth century, said, quoted by St Francis of Assisi, ‘money is the dung of the devil’. When money becomes an idol, it rules man’s choices. It then ruins and condemns him. It makes him a serf. Money in the service of life can be managed in the proper way by a cooperative, but only if it is a real and true cooperative, when capital does not rule over people but people rule over capital.”

It has to be a true cooperative with a fundamental attitude of charity. It can’t work for those who retain the need to find personal benefit in their charity efforts.

Right. And as recent catastrophes have shown, people are generous when it’s needed the most. In the Chicago area last weekend, for example, the news media managed to raise funds for eight nuns to fix the heating in their building which feeds 200-300 homeless every day. AFAIK, the archdiocese didn’t give them a dime.

I mean part of the attitude that sustains the divide within the capitalist system is that ‘the haves’ justify themselves by giving their crumbs to the ‘have nots’ when needed. Pope Francis is trying to encourage a system where jobs especially for the young, are more highly valued than the attainment of capital which will supply the golden crumbs. I’m all for that. People are going to paint it as a socialist agenda but it isn’t. It’s more a reflection of classic tribal systems that the you see working successfully based on familial type bonds such as the Amish, Jewish and some healthy indigenous cultures.

True that, but as someone has pointed out, inevitably someone inside those cultures is going to demand products or services outside of it, unless they live on an island somewhere, totally independent of the world.

It’s difficult for me to fully comprehend the Pope’s message here. Is he talking worldwide or primarily for such countries, such as Argentina, Italy, or Greece, whose failed economies led to defaults, with no other option but to go co-op (or bartering) for at least a while? Would he condemn Germany, for example, with their strong economy for “bailing” out Greece? For, in the long run, that may really hurt Greece.

Any economic system, most importantly, must reward those who contribute according to their level of contributions. You can’t have a system where everyone is treated equally, yet people contribute at differing levels.

But I do agree that a “throw away culture” is damaging to society when the chances of regaining employment is uncertain.

There does need to be some thought given in creating balance between the charitable and natural aspects of the globalized West. This is the point where Church and State meet in society.

The point where the natural world, with it’s survivalist inclinations, meets the supernatural, with it’s charity, is a tough spot. The two have always been opposite. Newtons Law of Motion comes to mind everytime one attempts to influence the other. Every influential push from one, recieves an equal influential push from the other…

In the same way, enlightenment is opposite of religiousness. Always at odds… :shrug:

I do not know what he is thinking ,obviously ,but based on what he is saying ,he sounds practical to me to begin with.
Well yes , no option is heartwrenching and it gives the person no sense of freedom whatsoever. His words sound encouraging and challenging.
I am.not reading condemnation here but hope and inclusion .
There are many types of cooperatives ,it is unnecessary to think of agricultural only or cooperative model only .
I believe to begin with he is encouraging people who neither have , want nor can eat their “Apple” no matter the “dressing.”…
Can you envision cases or situation cooperatives might bring some hope and provide for person living there at least partially ? What do you think ?
Very good idea all in all for me. I haven t stopped reading about them.

So does “common good” eliminate the need for salaries since everyone chips in and shares?

No , but I would get into cases to explain it. Neither socialist nor expert but here I go…
Jobs are scarse or part time in some areas . Cooperatives give people a chance to contribute and benefit from what they produce on a small scale aside their jobs. It helps.
My parents have utility( internet) cooperative. It is much cheaper. It helps.
One of my brothers works in a cooperative bank , a very solid one across Latin America. He earns a salary.So it provides jobs.
We have SanCor , for dairy products , highly competitive in the market.
Many persons have been left out of the system ,elderly with meagre retirement , by joining efforts they may have a way out.
I am not reading the macro , I am just receiving the alternative as a viable one. This is getting tougher here.

Hedonism and greed are always going to be a scourge in our efforts to create healthy systems at all levels of human life but as we are aware in our own lives, accountability is an enormous aid to taming our base nature. Look at some of the ugly idols of capitalism in the exorbitant salaries of CEO’s and unwarranted payouts and benefits they draw when they step down. Who are these people accountable to? Nothing about their attitudes and goals reflects the good of the people these companies are serving. They esteem goals rather than values. The cooperative model makes a much more tangible connection between the players and therefore a natural source of accountability.

I think Pope Francis has a really clear sociological imagination and he really wants us to see what he is seeing as the path forward in a catholic way. I say catholic with a small c to mean that without having to destroy our unique cultures in doing so… we are capable of having a universality in economic structures around the world.

No. We are INcapable of having a “universality of economic structures around the world.” A universality of economic structures presumes a universality of government and a universality of law. It also presumes a universality of opinion among a universality of people. Those things simply do not exist.Such utopianism is beneath Christian dignity because it presumes that the Kingdom of God is of this world; an economic or governmental or legal construct. Absurdity! This kind of utopianism always ends in tragedy (e.g., Soviet Communism, Nazi Fascism, the Reign of Terror, the Killing Fields – the list goes on and on and on infinitum). I am reminded of the incident in the Gospel of Matthew where the mother of James and John insists that Jesus command her sons to sit at the right and left hand of Christ. She thinks that the right and left are a place of privilege, presuming incorrectly that the Kingdom of God is to be a political kingdom. Jesus replies that such a thing is ignorance: “You don’t know what you’re asking for.” And, in saying this, he points towards the bitter cup that must be drunk to its bitter end, and that those who are on His right and left will be arranged by His Father. We see that arrangement at the crucifixion when Jesus is nailed to the cross along with robbers “one on His right and the other on His left.” The Way of the Cross is the only path that we can faithfully trod. We will never live in a perfect world until the Judgement. The only thing that can be counted on as being universal in humankind is our damnable attraction to sin. There never will be a universality of economic structures around the world.

Jacques Maritain spoke of replacing the wage system with a system where workers would instead share in the profit of the company they work for, such as becoming share holders. Wouldn’t this make more economic sense and result in better distribution of wealth? That way they would be owners, nor mere employees, would have a direct interest in the success of their company, and would work harder.

I’m not sure if cooperatives can work because some people just don’t want to share.

Seems all it takes is one deviant who can “prove” any economic system not to work. Just my observation.

And FWIW, the terms capitalist, socialist, Marxist, Fascist, liberal, conservative, etc. mean very little to me. In all my graduate studies in business at a Benedictine University, I never encountered them. Only terms such as “monetarists” and the like.

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