Here it is Christmas time and we are still ticked off at the current Pope. But God will forgive us because this is not an objection to what the Pope has (or can) claim to be as an infallible pronouncement on Catholic Church dogma. It is about providing for our readers some balance that was sorely missing in Pope Francis’ recent exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
This is important background information for Republican leadership to understand because of their stated intent of outreach to Catholics. This effort may help establish what buttons to push so to speak . . . to talk the talk.
We might have let the mater lie because there have been some very effective critiques of the Pope’s comments, many somewhat inhibited, but nevertheless reassuring in their own way as regards what the Pope did and did not say. But then came the rather grating comment issued by the Pope as a response to the critiques, which by the way he invited.
Some might find it comforting and definitive to hear that the Pope has indicated he is not a Marxist. At least the nominal history of the Church is that it does not like socialism either, which he did not clarify about himself. That he has “met many Marxists in my life who are good people” is a rather strange construction. What was his purpose in saying it? Hasn’t it supposedly always been about “hate the sin love the sinner” but with the corollary to avoid acting on harmful proclivities or imposing them? Marxism is a political ideology that promotes envy, promotes imposition and tramples on religious freedom .
Two of the five chapters in Evangelii Gaudium (chapters two and four) were rather infused with the Pope’s selected economic precepts from other Popes along with his embellishments. The other three chapters seem more connected to the general theme of “evangelization” at least they were not off into the weeds on matters he says were not his purpose.
So while the exhortation is said not to be a document on economic systems, that only adds to the consternation surrounding it — why infuse it in significant amounts with comments that are perceived to lean heavily on one economic system, however other worldly the accusations, thus subverting the stated purpose? The Pope could not claim it was his first rodeo. He already had plenty of warning as to how the secular media treats his remarks — whatever facilitates their agenda is what gets made prominent, while giving short shrift, at best, to anything that does not fit their narrative.
Might we suggest that the increased adulation he has received is not because the masses have read Evangelii Guadium, it is because of the extent and what the primarily secular liberal press has reported about it and what they like about him. Among the likes is what they see as his championing of the leftest economic view. Regretably his ignorance of economic systems, or bias, feeds resentments, economic misunderstandings, and aggravates popular heresies like socialism and liberation theology that other popes have decried (we are told himself included).
Economics is the study of the distribution of scarce resources. Structures of maximum economic freedom are fundamental to achieving economic development and diffusion of resources in service to the poor. The Pope owed the poor of the world more care in his exhortation than the narrow resentful economic tripe he presented or allowed to be promulgated, imprecise translation or not.
In the context of the imbalance he set forth in Evangelii Gaudium, the straw man argument as regards an economic system, the unfettered capitalism seen nowhere on earth, we offer in three parts a format of reliance on quotes interspersed with our comments. It is not unlike the general style used by Pope Francis although we promise readers it is much shorter. We include alternative papal quotes and those of others critiquing Pope Francis’s comments along with our own. It may seem disjointed, but frankly, in spite of the chapter organization, we found much of Gaudium to be a rather disjointed free association exercise by the new Pope, intended to get his peeves out as quickly as possible.
For this series we reviewed two of the encyclicals frequently quoted over the years by various Pope’s on economic matters, Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno. The accusation that the full text has more to offer then our selections is valid, but that is also true as a fault critique of Francis’s selected quotes and those of his liberal apologists. But our purpose is to provide some of what is missing not repeat ground he has already covered.
Part 1 of our series deals with the Encyclical Rerum Novarum. That document has 64 sections ( twenty-five some pages total, a couple paragraphs to each section). It expounds on the fundamental natural right of private property; that economic classes are not evil in themselves; emphasizes that justice in economic matters is not primarily a government function other that to make sure that laws pertain to all classes; that economic justice is something to be pursued as a Christian duty but that primarily it should come from negotiations between voluntary associations capital (owners or management) and labor (unions). Much guidance is given that the foundation of such organizations be laid in religion.
We quote it extensively because it was seminal. The later Quadragesimo Anno incorporated it, insisting on its principles but arguably tried to split the baby in favor of more government intervention of the sort we have now in the US, the extent of which in our humble judgement is to the detriment of the poor. Although a 19th century document Rerum is entirely relevant and fundamentally clearer than any other Papal economic related document we have read.
The last part of this series will deal with statements in Evangelii Gaudium, incorporate links and some trenchant quotes we have come across in response to the Pope’s stilted exhortation. This series will be posted to its own page with notice provided, rather than set forth here in our day to day commentary. Fear not. We promise to make the commentary readable and hopefully a useful reference. R Mall