Bernardo M. Villegas
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St. Josemaria on the Economy (Part 1)

          As the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Opus Dei by St. Josemaria Escriva  was celebrated on October 2, 2018, I reflected on what he wrote and taught about the economy. Let me point out first that strictly speaking, he never touched on specific economic issues or theories.  As a priest, he always avoided getting involved in economic theorizing and the formulation of economic policy, which he considered more proper to the freedom and autonomy of the lay people.  He always made it clear that  the economy has a secular character and is not a religious or church issue.  In the book Christ Is Passing By, he wrote: “Personally I have never been convinced that the ordinary activities of men should carry a placard or sectarian label.  Although I respect the opposite opinion, I feel that using such a label involves a risk of using the holy name of our faith in vain.  And there is evidence of the label ‘Catholic” being used to justify activities and behavior which sometimes are not even decently human.”

         For this reason, he insisted that to spread a specific economic doctrine or point of view is not part of the ends of Opus Dei, since as he said in Conversations (64): “Opus Dei has no power, and wants no power, over any temporal activity.  All it wants is to spread a Gospel message, to all men who live in the world that God wants them to love Him and serve Him by, with and through their secular activities.  It follows that the members of Opus Dei, who are ordinary Christians, work wherever and however they like.  The only thing the Work does is to help them spiritually, so that they can always act with a Christian conscience.” As regards economic doctrines, one can find members of Opus in the entire spectrum from so-called left to right, as long as the solutions they propose are consistent with the common denominator of all Catholics, i.e. the Social Doctrine of the Church.  This means, for example, that a faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei cannot be a marxist cause Marxism, being based on atheistic materialism, is intrinsically opposed to the doctrine of the Church.

         In the writings of St. Josemaria, one will find views on economic matters that are completely consistent with the teachings of the Church.  For example, he never had a negative view of economic matters and much less of the human work necessary in the production of goods or services for the economy.  He appreciated all decent human work which, way before the encyclical Laboren Exercens (On Human Work) by St. John Paul II, he already considered as sanctifying and sanctifiable.  In Friends of God (17), he wrote: “Consider too that, by doing your daily work well and responsibly, not only will you be supporting yourselves financially, you will also be contributing in a very direct way to the development of society.  You will be relieving the burdens of others and maintaining countless welfare projects, both local and international, on behalf of less-privileged individuals and countries.”  Already contained in these words of advice to people involved in economic activities are the seeds of what we now call social entrepreneurship and impact investing through which a business, considered as a community of persons, is promoting the good of one another and of the entire society.

         Along these lines, in Christ Is Passing By (47), St. Josemaria emphasized the greatness of the creative potency that God has placed in the hands of man: “Work, all work, bears witness to the dignity of man, to his dominion over creation.  It is an opportunity to develop one’s personality.  It is a bond of union with others, the way to support one’s family, a means of helping in the improvement of the society in which we live and in the progress of all humanity.”  Again in Friends of God (49), “We have no right to forget that each of us is a worker, one among many, on this plantation where He has placed us to cooperate in the task of providing food for others.  This is our place, here within the boundaries of this plantation.  Here is where we have to toil away each day with Jesus, helping Him in His work of redemption.” (To be continued)