Can We Really Love Someone Through Intermediaries?

Article / Produced by TOW Project

If finance is a means of care and love, doing finance through intermediaries raises a question. Can we love someone we do not even know?

We can indeed show love for people whom we do not know. Most of us are familiar with institutions in society that enable humans to show love to each other across distance and time. For example, employees and donors of NGOs such as Oxfam, World Vision and Red Cross, to name a few, are acting out of love for needy people around the world, even though they do not actually know the persons they are loving. Indeed even the work of developing those organizations is an act of love for our fellow humans.[1] Similarly, although we do not usually think of this, savers who make bank deposits which allow borrowers to use those resources for a period of time can be acting out of love for the borrowers even if their exact identity is unknown to the savers.

Portfolio Manager Marta Norton Loves Borrowers She Never Meets (Click to Watch)

This suggests a possible tension between stewardship and love, however. It seems that larger intermediaries should allow for better stewardship because they have opportunities to borrow and lend in many markets around the world. But smaller local intermediaries with more local relationships  might be better at enabling love because they may know their customers more intimately. A big national bank might allow for more optimal stewardship and a small local bank might allow more intimate love. Our theology would urge banks and customers to consider this potential tradeoff when making decisions regarding the scale of their banks. If a bank chooses to be large, it should be with an explicit goal of excellent geographical and scale stewardship. If a bank chooses to remain small it should do so with an explicit mission to be excellent at love.[2] Depositors should consider the same tradeoffs when deciding where to do their banking.

This is consistent with Catholic doctrine as outlined in Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, (Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice Justice and Peace, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004, Reprint April 2005), Paragraph 208.

David McIlroy, “Christian Finance?”, Ethics in Brief, Vol. 16, No. 6, (Spring 2011), urges us to structure intermediaries in ways, perhaps smaller, which allow a stronger connection or “fellowship” between borrowers and savers as a way to better serve both parties.