As an economist familiar with church diocesan finance, I take Archbishop Justin Welby’s strictures on the crisis of British capitalism seriously ( “Welby urges reform to avoid crisis in capitalism”, September 8).

The Prosperity and Justice commission needs to add in other critical assumptions from Christian teaching: property, poverty, the poor.

In St Aquinas’s reflections on the problem of property, the community of goods is rooted in natural law with no distinction of possession, requiring responsibility by all to provide for the needs of others.

This contrasts with the view that the common good is served if everyone has rights over their own property. Such a situation leads to incentives to work and the careful use of goods.

Modern theology has to handle pay and bonuses in tax and benefits systems. The key becomes “transfers” (between rich and poor), not alms, with distinctions between wealth and income.

One problem for the archbishop and church commissioners will be how to protect the shortfalls in income of the poorest dioceses, while meeting clergy pension payments, bishops’ ministry and cathedral costs, and mission and growth support. The investment fund of about £8bn aims to generate a total return averaging inflation of the retail price index plus 5 per cent a year over the long term. The issue is ensuring fairness, given the Church of England’s historic wealth, in the face of a severe squeeze on incomes of the poorest parishes, while carrying the risk of investment returns being weaker than targets.

Phillip Rice
Former member of the General Synod, London E9, UK

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