Archbishop says issuing private credit is improper

We must end the blind pursuit of profit and use our wealth and economic power in the service of a greater social purpose

By Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

The blind pursuit of profit has to end, with our wealth and economic power used in the service of a greater social purpose

It began with a squeeze, then the squeeze became a crunch and the crunch became a downturn and the downturn became a crisis. A crisis of faith as the temple of Mammon on which we have all sought to build our economic prosperity was tried in the fire of truth, honesty and reality, and was revealed to have shaky foundations.

When the day of reckoning came - and there is always a day of reckoning - the winds of truth blew away the countless houses of cards.

Greed, risk-taking, the trading of false rumours and the speculation of the money markets has pulled down banks and busiĀ­nesses overnight. The economy is our servant and not the master.

In my judgment at least it should now be regarded as improper for any private person or corporation to issue new credit; as it was in the Middle Ages for any private person or corporation to mint actual money, for the two are equivalent. And so I should like, I confess, to see the banks limited in their lending power to sums equivalent to that which depositors have entrusted to them, and all new credit to be issued by some public authority.

We have all worshipped at the temple of money and we have all placed beams in our own eyes. In a headlong rush for growth we have lost sight of the moral purpose of money. We have entangled ourselves in the chains of debt, longer than those of Scrooge, or his partner, Marley, with little to show for our enslavement.

From [email protected] 24/12/08


John Sentamu was born in 1949 in a vii/age near Kampala, Uganda, the sixth of thirteen children. He read law at Makerere University, Kampala, and practised as an advocate of the High Court of Uganda. Dr Sentamu practised both Law at the Bar and at the Bench until 1974. He incurred the wrath of dictator Idi Amin because of his judicial independence and was locked up for ninety days, three weeks after his marriage. In 1974 he fled to the United Kingdom.


Archbishop Sentamu

Guardian Political Review, Issue 56, 2009