As the leaders of the G20 met in the luxury resort of Cannes on the French Riviera, popular outrage and protest movements were spreading across the globe.
From Occupy Wall Street to the camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, the protesters express a deep-seated anger aimed at global finance that is shared by ordinary people and certain elites alike.
Across the globe there is an implicit, inchoate sense that big business and big government have colluded at the expense of the people. Both centralised states and free markets are disembedded from society, and society is subjugated by the global market-state.
Through local vassals like the City of London Corporation, it subordinates social to commercial purpose, as Blue Labour's Maurice Glasman has argued.
And so global finance has become disconnected from ethical or social goals, while governments of both the Left and the Right have either replaced mutualist arrangements among workers with centralised, bureaucratic welfare, or outsourced the delivery of public goods to private service providers - or, indeed, both.
Collusion between big government and big business has generated a system that privatises profit, nationalises losses and socialises risk. From the very outset, the global economic turmoil was merely a symptom of a much larger moral crisis.
Thus far the expressions of anger are as diverse as the demonstrators' demands are vague. That is why the call by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for a new debate on specific action is so important.
The churches, together with other faith groups, are uniquely positioned to guide such a debate.
Religious communities do not just provide a space where righteous wrath can be channelled and directed towards concrete campaigns, as the work of London Citizens has so vividly demonstrated. They also link the growing popular discontent to fundamental moral questions that demand fresh answers.
Neither state laws nor business regulations can by themselves instil the virtuous behaviour - such as integrity, honesty, mutual trust or reciprocal respect - on which a good economy depends.
Crucially, Christianity reminds us all that global capitalism is a heresy. The problem is not so much that the high priests of global finance preach a new creed that worships false idols. Worse, the capitalist economy redefines the sacred in ways that destroy the sanctity of life and land, as the Christian socialist Karl Polanyi first argued.
By sundering material objects from moral meaning and symbolic significance, disembedded capital de-sacralises the shared reality we all inhabit and reduces everything to tradable commodities.
And by separating financial from ethical value and measuring all things according to nominal monetary worth, global finance grants abstract money quasi-sacred status.
In short, capitalism profanes the sacred and sacralises the profane - a modern radicalisation of the moneylenders who desecrated the Temple.
Against capitalist commodification, Christians and other religious believers seek to re-embed the economy in society. So, for example, Ken Costa, a Christian banker, now spearheads the new St Paul's initiative on reconnecting finance with ethics.
Beyond purely secular accounts, religious traditions link the moral foundations of the market to notions of the sacred and the practice of virtue that is open to the supernatural infusion of divine grace. Far from being utopian, such a perspective combines strict ethical and civic limits on the power of market-states with the pursuit of the common good in which all can share.
Unsurprisingly, secular commentators dismiss religious interventions in world affairs. With self-righteous glee, they point out that institutionalised religions lack moral authority and have lost their power of popular mobilisation.
Of course, protesters in tents, supported by courageous clerics like Giles Fraser, are easily ignored by bankers in pinstriped suits who pass them on their way to work. Faced with popular protest or religious critique, the trading rooms on Wall Street or in the City of London are either utterly contemptuous or just not listening.
But Rowan Williams's challenge to financiers and politicians has taken the argument onto their turf in a manner that is hard to dismiss.
Economists and other experts will contend that his three concrete proposals for financial reform are either economically ineffective or politically unrealistic. More specifically, the Archbishop's critics will say that the separation of retail from investment banking would not have prevented Northern Rock or Lehman Brothers; that the recapitalisation of banks with public money does not address excessive sovereign and corporate debt or the problem of moral hazard; that a financial transaction tax requires global implementation.
However, the three proposals can be developed and complemented by other ideas that draw on the tradition of civil economy that informs the Vatican's statement on financial reform, invoked by the Archbishop.
First of all, the formal separation of investment from retail banks needs to be supplemented by more risk- and profit-sharing arrangements between lenders and borrowers. Instead of private limited companies, banking and finance should reintroduce the legal and corporate structure of partnerships, which was used for most investment banks until Mrs Thatcher's "Big Bang" exactly 25 years ago, when de-mutualisation turned partnerships and mutuals into private limited companies.
This new legal structure has limited liability for managers and enabled banks to be listed on stock-markets, allowing them to leverage their assets - the exponential lending against their capital base that fuelled the credit bubble before the 2008 crash. Thus, the newly de-mutualised banks assumed more risk which they either did not fully understand or could not effectively control.
Short-term goals such as quarterly earning reports and annual profits replaced long-term strategy and investment. Speculative transactions took priority over relationships of trust.
As such, it is no exaggeration to suggest that de-mutualisation led to de-localisation of capital and the disconnection of finance from ethics.
By contrast, partnerships ensure a tight internal control of competence and conduct because all the personal wealth of senior managers is on the line, which restrains careless lending and reckless risk-taking.
Similarly, the structure of mutuals that dominated retail banking allows financial institutions to nurture and grow relationships of trust with their customers.
Mutualised arrangements are at the heart of workers' savings banks and local, community banking that underpin the success of the civil economy model in Northern Italy and the social market economy model in Germany.
Linked to more risk- and profit-sharing arrangements is the need to combine voluntary with statutory caps on usurious interests rates, which London Citizens already champions.
Second, the recapitalisation of banks that Archbishop Rowan Williams has called for should not be limited to taxpayers' money, but should involve the conversion of debt into equity and more powers to ordinary shareholders. Closely connected with this is the imperative to introduce more employee-ownership and workers' co-decision in the financial sector.
Moreover, if banks receive public funds, then they must commit to increased investment in the real economy and higher lending to small- and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs).
For instance, the UK government's Project Merlin (which concerns bank lending to SMEs) is little more than window dressing because the big five banks make cash available for lending but fail to help SMEs to take it up - for instance, by lowering interest rates or lengthening repayment periods, or indeed both.
In fact, lending by the banking sector to non-financial companies is falling. Thus, what is required in addition to recapitalisation is the de-monopolisation of banking and finance and the re-localisation of capital.
Third, the financial transaction tax or "Robin Hood Tax" that Williams now endorses has been advocated for some time by civil society campaigners and 1000 economists from 53 countries who addressed a letter to the G20 finance ministers at their summit meeting on 14-15 April 2011 in Washington DC.
While the governments of France and Germany are in favour, the United States, the UK and Australia are opposed to the Robin Hood Tax as long as it is not adopted globally. But even the International Monetary Fund, in a study published earlier this year, argues that it can be applied unilaterally by countries.
In fact, this is already the case for various kinds of stamp taxes levied on the value of shares owned by investors.
For example, the UK charges 0.005% on the value of shares owned and listed on the London Stock Exchange - precisely where the St Paul protesters are encamped. To break the political deadlock, such a tax could in the first instance be levied on foreign currency exchange, which amounts to US$4 trillion per day.
Beyond Rowan Williams's three proposals, the Church of England and the Church Universal could propose the two other concrete reforms.
The first is to abolish the separation of global financial districts such as Wall Street or the City of London from their respective metropolis, and to subject finance to democratic accountability, as Maurice Glasman has argued. This civic renewal is linked to the idea of fostering democratic participation so that all citizens have a say in the way wealth is produced and distributed.
Based on a "renewed guild structure and a bicameral ruling institution, including a vocational chamber," businesses and other professional associations would also be given a voice in the governance of towns, cities and metropoleis, as John Milbank has suggested.
The second proposal is to promote the creation of a world public authority that builds on the Vatican's recent intervention, "Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority." Such an authority is needed at a time when the Westphalian international system of nation-states is breaking down and the global capitalist market is reinforcing the anarchy of rival, sovereign states.
To call for a word public authority cannot be taken as an argument in favour of a unitary global government that would echo Francisco Suarez's primacy of the political community over and against the mystical body of the Church.
Instead, the Pope argues for a new kind of settlement whereby both the centralised bureaucratic state and the unfettered global free-market are transformed in order to serve the genuine needs and interests of persons, communities and the environment.
More global coordination and cooperation is required in order to address worldwide issues such as capital flows and climate change.
Far from generating greater centralisation and concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the most powerful nations, a global public authority is based on the twin principles of subsidiarity and solidarity that characterize Catholic social teaching.
Since subsidiarity concerns action at the appropriate level to uphold human dignity and reciprocal relations, greater transnational political authority is fully consonant with the imperative to re-localise global finance that is increasingly abstracted from the real economy, but at the same time pervades all sectors and links them to the volatility of worldwide capital movements.
Thus, the interventions by the Vatican and Archbishop Rowan Williams provide a Catholic Christian response to the secular heresy of global capitalism and a vision for an alternative economy that reconnects the financial to the ethical.
Adrian Pabst is lecturer in politics at the University of Kent and visiting professor at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Lille. He is the co-editor, with Angus Paddison, of The Pope and Jesus of Nazareth: Christ, Scripture and the Church (SCM Press, 2009) and, with Christoph Schneider, of Encounter Between Eastern Orthodoxy and Radical Orthodoxy: Transfiguring the World Through the Word (Ashgate, 2009). He is the author of "Metaphysics: The Creation of Hierarchy" (Eerdmans, forthcoming 2012) and the editor of "The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Pope Benedict XVI's Social Encyclical and the Future of Political Economy" (Wipf & Stock, forthcoming 2011).