PEOPLE who gain a degree of power in whichever world they inhabit — whether the film industry, politics, finance, or, we must conclude, the Church — are tempted to exercise that power to mould the world to their liking, turning stones to bread. Because they believe that power is theirs by right, they feel justified in behaving as if the normal rules did not apply to them. The focus this past week has been on sexual morality and the treatment of women, as allegations have burgeoned after the Harvey Weinstein scandal concerning the behaviour of several MPs and ministers. The problem is not men but power — although most power has resided with men for so long that some have come to believe that this is the God-ordained order of things.
Another story has run this week, however, concerning the financial manoeuvrings to get around the world’s taxation laws, since the loss of tax revenue restricts a state’s ability to care for its most vulnerable citizens. To attract readership, the media outlets publishing excerpts from the so-called Paradise Papers, leaked from an off-shore investment company, have concentrated on royalty, actors, or a racing driver. But the most damage is caused by nameless individuals, trust funds, and corporations away from the public gaze, who use their financial power to bypass national tax laws to obtain an unfair advantage over competitors, and avoid their responsibility to others in the society in which they live and work.
It would be pernicious to make comparisons between different sorts of sins: sexual abuse and harassment can do harm. But it is important not to be distracted from the effects of fraud, to use an old-fashioned word, and its near relatives, which can be seen, ultimately, in the underfunding of services that keep people alive.
The inability of successive governments to close offshore loopholes could be explained simply as incompetence in the face of the vast expertise of independent tax lawyers operating on a global scale. But the reliance of political parties on wealthy donors means that they are susceptible to the charge of looking the other way when it comes to dealing with financial irregularity.
IT TAKES an effort of will to address once more the issue of a mass murder in the United States. All that might be said or written was said or written last time, and the time before. But to say nothing is to accept such incidents as normal — as, to our shame, we accept multiple murders in countries such as Somalia, where the rule of law is supposedly less strong. The gun laws in the state of Texas are relatively weak, although it has passed a law to ban gun purchases by “domestic-violence misdemeanants”, into which category fell Devin Kelley, the man who murdered 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. But gun laws have to be enforced. As US bishops have argued, a President who dismisses arguments against the possession of semi-automatic weapons must bear some responsibility for their use.