Catholics are called to view the international debt crisis through the lens of Catholic social teaching. Our moral stance begins with the presumption that debts must be paid. However, this presumption can be overridden when other compelling moral and ethical concerns are at stake.
We believe that every human being is precious, created in the image of God, loved by God, and redeemed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This belief requires not only that we treat all people in ways that reflect their God-given dignity, but that we measure every policy and program by whether it enhances or diminishes human life and dignity. This principle is violated when the debt crisis contributes to suffering among the world’s poor.
Our Catholic social tradition also teaches us that care for creation, protecting the earth and the environment, is an important moral challenge. God has given us responsibility as stewards over creation.
The debt crisis can threaten the health of the environment in serious ways. Pressure to raise hard currency to make debt payments can lead poor countries to deplete natural resources by exhausting fisheries, overusing the soil, denuding the forest and polluting the waters.
When the debt situation contributes to the endless and crushing poverty suffered by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, the principle of solidarity requires that we act to relieve the crisis and its dire consequences for the world’s poorest people.
While Catholic teaching demands that we care about all our brothers and sisters, the poor and the vulnerable have a particular claim on our concern because their needs are the greatest.
This “preferential option for the poor and the vulnerable” reminds us that a key measure of all policies and programs is how they affect the “least among us.”
The sad truth about poor country debt is that it is often the weakest members of society who, through no fault of their own, pay the greatest price.