LONDON – The Archbishop of York has hit out at the selfish pursuit of profit and called for a return to the pursuit of social justice and generosity as a means to building a truly wealthy nation.
Addressing the Church of England's General Synod in York on Saturday, Dr. John Sentamu said it was understandable that governments wanted to achieve economic recovery after two years of financial crisis, but stressed that recovery should be regarded as a means to an end rather than an end in itself.
Although he said wealth creation was a good thing, he said an obsession with wealth was "evil" and that society should pursue economic justice rather than solely profit.
"As governments and businesses pursue economic recovery, it is our job to keep reminding them that the purpose of that recovery is to establish the conditions for human flourishing," he said. "There is a real risk that, in focusing on the aim of economic recovery, we come to regard it as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end.
"Of course it is important, indeed essential if people are to have the means of living, that we move out of recession and into growth. But we are striving for this in order to build human worth and human dignity, in order to build community and to enable us to glorify God, not simply to rebuild balance sheets.
"If we lose sight of this, if we confuse means and ends, we shall arguably be making the same sort of mistake as led us into the financial crisis in the first place – that of seeing 'acquiring more' as an end in itself."
The Anglican archbishop said there was a need to restore prudence to public sector borrowing, saying that neither banks nor borrowers had shown any prudence in recent years.
People, he continued, should not just be consumers but rather live out their common citizenship in social action or "good work" beyond paid employment.
He advocated a shake-up of business and individual ethics, arguing that profit making was a "simple" and "stupid" objective, and calling for a return to the principles of honesty and generosity towards neighbors.
"Selfishness is not what works best," he said. "The blind pursuit of profit has to end, and our wealth and economic power must be used in the service of a greater social purpose."