Published December 11, 2013
There’s no mention of “capital,” “capitalist,” or “capitalism” in Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel,“ despite the outpouring of criticism that the Pope is anti-capitalism.
The Pope mentions the term “free market” once, and the “invisible hand” of the market once. He did not advocate what political ideology is best for governments. Instead, the Pope cited “deeply rooted corruption found in many countries, in their governments, businesses and institutions, whatever the political ideology of their leaders.”
You can read what the Pope said here:
Command economies have brought about poverty and destruction of human lives like no other economic ideology, history shows.
But the fact that the Pope is talking about free markets might be seen as a positive, in recognition of the evil of centralized, command-control government structures that have repeatedly failed to uphold the dignity of human beings.
With his exhortation, the Pope is reminding the world once again not to let the end justify the means. Here are other points worth considering:
*Nowhere does the Pope break with Vatican principles, which reject Marxism and socialism. The principles of “subsidiarity” in Catholic doctrine rejects command economies. Here’s paragraph 1883 of the Catholic Catechism:
“Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."
Edward Morrissey at the Fiscal Times noted this too, see here:
*All Popes have warned about the idolatry of money or any other material good — just as Jesus Christ did.
*The Pope’s Evangelii Gaudium seeks to transcend political ideology by focusing on outcomes over ideological positions. How economies and governments that control them are structured to get to that outcome is the debate. The Pope is saying the central point for Catholics is to evangelize the Word of God through proclamation and service, and not “capitalism,” or “socialism,” or “utopianism” or any other ideology.
*Having had a front row seat to crony capitalism in Argentina, the Pope’s exhortation might best be read in that light. Crony capitalism is socialism by another name.
*The Catholic Catechism does talk about the “universal destination of goods” and the respect due to the right to private property and its disposition.
*The Pope says that “some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles” and that “all this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries, in their governments, businesses and institutions, whatever the political ideology of their leaders.” Again, emphasis mine: “whatever the political ideology of their leaders.”
*The Pope says: “Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"
*The Pope does say: “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.”
*The Pope continues: “The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us…The worship of the ancient golden calf..has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”
*Here’s where the Pope is warning about unfettered free markets, the hotbed of contention: “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control.”
*But the Pope is also warning against an avalanche of debt: “A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power.”
And the Pope says this: “To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”
*The Pope also says: “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality..no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.”
*He adds: “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.
Is the Pope saying here when he mentions “better distribution of income,” that all governments must do better at efficiently spending taxpayer money? And that when he mentions “an integral promotion of the poor” he is merely saying what President John F. Kennedy once said, paraphrasing, that the best form of welfare is a job?
It's worth pointing out, too, that when 9/11 happened, people ran to the government. They didn’t run to Steve Ballmer or Michael Dell or Mark Zuckerberg, as one analyst pointed out. Though the government did run to bankers like Jamie Dimon during the financial collapse.