Joint Products Penance and the Price of Leather

Consider tables 4.3 and 4.4 even more closely. They show that meat and fish production both account for a relatively large part of GNP in Peru, Denmark, Taiwan, South Africa, the Netherlands, Canada, Spain, and Chile. (Spain is a special case, for reasons we discuss later in this

Table 4.3

Twenty major meat-producing countries (as percent of GNP), 1958; number of new and replacement cardinals in 1966 (by country) appointed, 1958-1966

Table 4.3

Twenty major meat-producing countries (as percent of GNP), 1958; number of new and replacement cardinals in 1966 (by country) appointed, 1958-1966

Number of

1,000 metric

new cardinals

Country (rank)

tons/$ billions GNP

(1958-1966)

1. Uruguay

274.1*

1

2. New Zealand

236.7

0

3. Argentina

179.8

0

4. Ireland

172.4

2

5. Denmark

168.0

0

6. Taiwan

145.4

0

7. Columbia

120.6*

1

8. Brazil

111.6

1

9. Australia

107.6

0

10. Peru

82.2

1

11. South Africa

75.2

1

12. Chile

74.9*

1

13. Netherlands

57.8

1

14. France

53.7

3

15. Spain

50.3

4

16. Mexico

48.8

1

17. West Germany

45.9

3

18. Belgium

45.0

3

19. Canada

40.7

1

20. Sweden

38.3

0

TOTAL

24

Sources: Meat production: 1961 Production Yearbook, Vol. 15, Table 78B (Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 1962), 189196; GNP: Yearbook of National Accounts Statistics: 1966, Table 7A (New York: United Nations, 1967), 725-729; Annuario Pontificio per l'Anno 1966 (Citta del Vaticano: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1966), 38-89. * 1958 meat production data unavailable. Adjusted 1961 data used in calculating meat production.

Table 4.4

Twenty major fish-producing countries (as percent of GNP), 1958; number of new and replacement cardinals in 1966 (by country) appointed, 1958-1966

Table 4.4

Twenty major fish-producing countries (as percent of GNP), 1958; number of new and replacement cardinals in 1966 (by country) appointed, 1958-1966

Number of

1,000 metric

new cardinals

Country (rank)

tons/$ billions GNP

(1958-1966)

1. Peru

500.1

1

2. Norway

399.7

0

3. Iceland

207.3

0

4. Japan

187.9

1

5. Korea

141.1

0

6. Denmark

130.1

0

7. Taiwan

127.1

0

8. Thailand

98.1

0

9. Philippines

87.6

1

10. Spain

81.7

4

11. Malaysia

68.1

0

12. South Africa

67.4

1

13. Pakistan

48.1

0

14. India

37.7

0

15. Netherlands

36.7

1

16. Kenya

36.6

0

17. Ceylon (Sri Lanka)

33.9

1

18. Indonesia

33.2

0

19. Canada

32.6

1

20. Chile

31.1

1

TOTAL

12

Sources: Fish production: Yearbook of Fishery Statistics: 1965, Vol. 21, Table A1-2 (Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 1966), a6-a16; GNP: Yearbook of National Accounts Statistics: 1966, Table 7A (New York: United Nations, 1967), 725-729; Annuario Pontificio per l'Anno 1966 (Citta del Vaticano: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1966), 38-39.

chapter.) We might presume that in these countries meat- and fish-producing interests cancel out, and that the clerics of these nations were "neutral" on the rule change from an economic perspective. From wealth-maximizing logic, Spanish cardinals may also be presumed to have been neutral, but for a different reason: Catholics in Spain had eaten meat on Fridays since 1089 as a consequence of a special dispensation granted for their victory over the Moors.40 But there is another good economic reason why the Italians and the Spanish cardinals (in particular) did not resist the "no meat on Friday'' rule change: the fact that leather is a joint product in production with beef.41

In an ingenious argument recognizing the joint production of beef and leather (hides), Mark Thornton shows that the Pope's decision to lift the ban on meat would also reduce the price of leather.42 Both producers of leather goods (shoes, saddles, purses, furniture, and so on), who must buy hides as an input, and consumers of leather products benefit. Thus, Thornton suggests that the Pope's decision was good economics for leather-using and exporting regions, such as Italy and Spain, as well as for beef producers. Increased production of beef led to an increased supply of leather, which, given constant demand, reduced the price of leather as well. Thornton shows that the average annual production of bovine hides increased by 40.4 percent from 1961-1965 to 1979-1981 due to expanding beef production (both sheep and goatskin production increased as well). Along with the increased output came lower prices (about 25 percent).

In Italy, the footwear and apparel industry was highly significant— more than 6 percent in 1965 and 8.8 percent of total manufacturing in 1969. Italy's export of shoes alone produced 20 percent more revenue than the entire fishing industry. Although both Italy and Spain are beef producers, the imports of hides soared after the rule change. The Italians and the Spanish also have a comparative advantage in the creative abilities of designers and artisans for leather goods. As Thornton notes, "The Church stands to gain from such changes to the extent its members benefit from a lower price of leather and transfer a portion of their higher real incomes to the Church in the form of larger contributions.''43 While Spain had reasons for neutrality in the rule change (they were not bound by the rule), the Spanish cardinals also had economic incentives to support it. The powerful Italian branch of the College of Cardinals—a group that has had a disproportionate influence on Church policy until modern times—had the same incentives to support changing the laws of penance or at least to offer no resistance.

Naturally, the rule change is consistent with other motives. As indicated in the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council, poverty in the third world was a major concern of world bishops, especially those of the third world. Pope Paul VI probably already knew he was going to reaffirm the Church's position on birth control (Humanitae Vitae in 1968). The rule change placated the third-world cardinals and poor church members by giving them an expanded budget choice—that is, more protein source options for the hungry. Also there was an observable anomaly in the severity of punishment levied for breaking the laws of fast and abstinence. If it was a mortal sin, and in the same class as murder or rape, the relative cost of punishment in hell was the same, and marginal deterrence from sin was not obtained. Church membership would also suffer along with church wealth. This point was made by Bishop La Ravoire Morrow of India during the third session of Vatican Council II (October 1964) when he asked, "How can the men and women of our time understand that God is good if we continue to teach them that those who do not abstain on Fridays go to hell? They do not see any proportion between the Church's precepts and God's commandments. How can eating meat on Friday deserve the same punishment as committing adultery or murder? This causes the moral sense of people to become blunted and ecclesiastical authority to be despised.''44

Finally there is some evidence that the rule, in the United States at least, was being ignored.45 Like contemporary "cafeteria Catholics'' who pick and choose areas of belief such as abortion, genetic cloning, or homosexuality (see chapter 9), Catholics in the United States simply chose not to follow the rule. It is perhaps significant that meatless Fridays were ended quickly in most U.S. dioceses in spite of the suggestion of Paul VI that it might be appropriate for wealthier developed nations to maintain the meat ban.46 Thus, while many reasons may be adduced for the rule change on "meatless Fridays,'' there were economic (i.e., self-interested) considerations within the expanded College of Cardinals and those areas of the world that they oversee. According to Pope Paul VI, "The demands of various localities (make) it necessary to inculcate some special form of penitence in preference to others.''47 An examination of the relative production of meat and fish products and of the locales of leather production and use by region and country gives new meaning to the term "demands" used in Paul's papal decree. More broadly, this case points to the interesting possibility in modern interest group economics of including the discovery of motives underlying institutional change in one of the chief Christian religions in world history.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment