Seventeen Catholic Bishops are calling on the European Union to tackle corporate secrecy and tax dodging which deprive the world’s poorest countries of more than £100 billion a year.
The Bishops, who are from around the world and include John Arnold, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and William Kenney, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, have called for "rules to put more morality into the financial system".
"The greed of a few threatens the very survival of the most vulnerable populations",’ they said.
"To end this, new rules are urgently needed that ensure that the wealth produced, particularly from the exploitation of natural resources, is not monopolised for the sole benefit of a minority. These resources should benefit all equitably and in particular the local people who are directly impacted by the activities of production or extraction."
Nearly two thirds of global trade is conducted within multinational corporations which are supposed to pay tax on the profits they make. By dumping their costs into countries with higher taxation and shifting profits to tax havens - where they pay little or no tax - they can slash their tax bill. Adopting country-by-country reporting would make these companies break down their results for each country in which they operate and help poor nations identify and collect the taxes they are due.
The Bishops add that improved transparency would also strengthen democracy: "It is now up to the European Union to improve the international standard of transparency. The Commission has proposed a rule for financial transparency, on both a country by country and project by project basis. If implemented effectively, these measures will offer more opportunities to citizens to monitor whether extractive industries are making a fair contribution to the economy. To achieve this goal, the European Union must ensure the threshold for reporting payments by extractive companies is set at a level that is meaningful for developing countries. Exemptions should not be allowed to create loopholes."
Christian Aid’s economic justice advisor Joseph Stead backed the Bishops’ call for better regulation.
He said: ‘If developing countries are to be able to raise the revenue to pull themselves out of poverty and reduce dependency on aid they need to be able to collect the tax owed to them, including by rich corporations.
"We all have a moral responsibility to hold these companies to account and it is important that lawmakers play their part and introduce legislation which helps to end tax dodging."
In their statement the Bishops quote an extract from an overview of the Catholic Church's teachings about humanity's relationship to society; the Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, which reads: "God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus under the leadership of justice and under the company of charity, created goods should be in abundance for all in like manner."