By Christopher Wells
On Wednesday the Centesimus Annus Foundation awarded the “Economy and Society” International Prize to Dr Mary Hirschfeld, a professor at Villanova University, for her book, “Aquinas and the Market: Toward a Humane Economy”.
The prize is awarded to a work “which stands out for its original contribution to in depth study and implementation of the Social Doctrine of the Church, is of proven doctrinal soundness and exceptional quality, and is accessible to the general public.”
In the press release announcing the award, the Centesimus Annus Foundation said that Dr Hirschfeld’s book “offers a fascinating dialogue between the world of economics and the world of faith”.
Ahead of Wednesday’s award ceremony, Dr Hirschfeld talked with Vatican News about her work. “Basically what I ask is, ‘If I start with Aquinas’ principles about who the human person is, and what sort of world we live in, namely one that is created by God, how would I want to think about economics in light of those assumptions?’ And I work it out,” she said.
She said that what is “beautiful” about starting with St Thomas Aquinas, “is he allows me to keep a fair amount of what economists have taught us about how the markets work… His framework permits us to make sense of those insights and to use them.”
Dr Hirschfeld points out that St Thomas is beginning from “a view of the human person that’s different from the one that economists use.” For Aquinas, “the human person, the ultimate happiness of the human person lies in God. But the happiness in this life is ordered around the higher goods that make life worth living.” Those higher goods, she said, “allow us to reflect God’s goodness in this life. Then that’s the core of happiness in this life for Aquinas… And if that’s what happiness in this life is about, then material wealth is to serve those goods.”
Listen to the full interview of Dr Mary Hirschfeld with Christopher Wells:
With the “Economy and Society” prize, the Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice Foundation intends to honour works that reach out to a large audience and are the expression of a strong Christian commitment to economic and social activites. Previous winners include Spanish, Italian, French, and German works. The “Economy and Society” prize is awarded every two years on the occasion of the International Conference of the Foundation.