I have written several posts regarding the Pope and his views on free markets and the state. I have based these on second-hand reports, and not the first-hand sources; shame on me.
It is time to use a first-hand source.
OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY,
AND THE LAY FAITHFUL
ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL
IN TODAY’S WORLD
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 24 November, the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and the conclusion of the Year of Faith, in the year 2013, the first of my Pontificate.
I am only extracting sections that bear directly on economic issues. I initially started to cite Biblical passages which counter the Pope’s views and support my comments, but I have decided to greatly limit this desire; Gary North has spent forty years on exactly this subject – he concludes that the Bible supports private property and free markets. Nothing I can include in this post will top Dr. North’s work.
A sneak peek that summarizes well the Pope’s view, in his own words:
I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good. We need to be convinced that charity “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)”. (Par. 205; in all cited passages, emphasis added)
This is a pretty long post. If you don’t want to read further, I will summarize: I am a person with a great amount of faith – faith that the Bible is God’s spoken word. For many in this world, even many who call themselves Christians, this is a laughable faith.
The Pope demonstrates more faith in politics and politicians than I do in God and His word. While you might suggest that my faith in the Bible is based on little direct evidence, it is clear the Pope holds his faith despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. His many comments on economic and political issues throughout this exhortation will only further affirm this conclusion.
The introduction is entitled “A joy ever new, a joy which is shared”:
The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. (Par. 2)
Consumerism: fueled by cheap credit
Covetous heart: given license by the redistributive state
A blunted conscience: perpetual war, accepted by many in the west
I find it thrilling to reread this text: “The Lord, your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives you the victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival.”
This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father: “My child, treat yourself well, according to your means… Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment. What tender paternal love echoes in these words!” (Par. 4)
After the introductory section there are several sections dedicated to the evangelizing work of the church. It is in Chapter Four where the comments regarding economic issues are found (note, I did not read all 288 sections, I am focusing on this Chapter based on the index titles). This chapter is entitled “The Social Dimension of Evangelization.”
To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world. Yet “any partial or fragmentary definition which attempts to render the reality of evangelization in all its richness, complexity and dynamism does so only at the risk of impoverishing it and even of distorting it”. I would now like to share my concerns about the social dimension of evangelization, precisely because if this dimension is not properly brought out, there is a constant risk of distorting the authentic and integral meaning of the mission of evangelization. (Par. 176)
This inseparable bond between our acceptance of the message of salvation and genuine fraternal love appears in several scriptural texts which we would do well to meditate upon, in order to appreciate all their consequences. The message is one which we often take for granted, and can repeat almost mechanically, without necessarily ensuring that it has a real effect on our lives and in our communities…. For this reason, “the service of charity is also a constituent element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being”. By her very nature the Church is missionary; she abounds in effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes. (Par.179)
I agree that there is a social dimension of evangelization; I agree that this is the work of the Church. I pray the Pope will one day agree, but he does not agree today.
Next, under a section entitled “The Church’s teaching on social questions”:
If indeed “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics”, the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”. All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world. (Par.183)
“If” indeed…. And if it were not a central responsibility of politics, is it then acceptable for the Church to “remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”? Is the state required for this fight to occur? Parishioners can’t pass the plate? Serve in food kitchens? Provide employment?
…neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems. Here I can repeat the insightful observation of Pope Paul VI: “In the face of such widely varying situations, it is difficult for us to utter a unified message and to put forward a solution which has universal validity. This is not our ambition, nor is it our mission. It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country”. (Par. 184)
There can be no monopoly of solutions for such widely varying situations; not for the Pope, not for the Church, and certainly not for the state. The task is for Christian communities at the local level.
In what follows I intend to concentrate on two great issues which strike me as fundamental at this time in history. I will treat them more fully because I believe that they will shape the future of humanity. These issues are first, the inclusion of the poor in society, and second, peace and social dialogue. (Par. 185)
Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members. (Par. 186)
The task is for the faithful: “Our faith in Christ…”
In union with God, we hear a plea
Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid. (Par. 187)
It isn’t clear if the Pope here, when using the term “community,” is referring to a community of Christians or a community in general. Either meaning is appropriate when it comes to dealing with such social issues – the best solutions will be local; given the context of his presentation, it seems appropriate to conclude that he is referring to a community of Christians.
A mere glance at the Scriptures is enough to make us see how our gracious Father wants to hear the cry of the poor: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them… so I will send you…” (Ex 3:7-8, 10). We also see how he is concerned for their needs: “When the Israelites cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up for them a deliverer” (Jg 3:15). (Par. 187)
The context and the method are important. First of all, the people cried to God out for salvation. God then sent His messenger. It is God doing the action; it is God sending a deliverer.
If we, who are God’s means of hearing the poor, turn deaf ears to this plea, we oppose the Father’s will and his plan; that poor person “might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt” (Dt 15:9). (Par. 187)
It is the faithful “who are God’s means of hearing the poor….” The faithful are called to act – they are not called to petition the state. This was not the path taken in Exodus. Did God send Moses to do His work, or did God ask Moses to help elect better politicians?
The old question always returns: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods, and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 Jn 3:17). (Par 187)
It is possible that God’s love does not abide in such a person (as it is possible that God’s love does not abide in a person without the world’s goods) – isn’t that between him and God?
Let us recall also how bluntly the apostle James speaks of the cry of the oppressed: “The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts” (5:4). (Par. 187)
Certainly fraud must be condemned. To properly condemn it, the correct fraud must first be named.
The Church has realized that the need to heed this plea is itself born of the liberating action of grace within each of us, and thus it is not a question of a mission reserved only to a few: “The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might”. (Par. 188)
In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Mk 6:37) (Par. 188)
The burden is an individual burden, or in community with other believers.
…it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter. (Par. 188)
This would first require an accurate understanding of the “structural causes of poverty.”
Solidarity is a spontaneous reaction by those who recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property. (Par. 189)
Property certainly has a social function, and the only way to ensure that property is put to use in its best social function is to recognize that it must be held in private, subject to the realities of profit and loss.
The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good; (Par 189)
The best service for the common good is to leave property in the hands of the best stewards of property. The common good (actually, the best good for the most individuals) is best served by the market, where producers compete in service of consumers. Consumers are free to make choices; their choices send signals to producers who strive and compete to meet the consumers’ wishes. Any regulation or hindrance of this process reduces the “common good,” if you will.
…for this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them. (Par. 189)
What belongs to them? Was something stolen?
Changing structures without generating new convictions and attitudes will only ensure that those same structures will become, sooner or later, corrupt, oppressive and ineffectual. (par. 189)
The Pope is quite correct here – without new convictions and attitudes in the people, the politicians will continue to support the envy in the hearts of the people. This has led to corrupt, oppressive, and ineffective political structures. The role of Pope is supremely suited to influence the convictions and attitudes of people.
Sometimes it is a matter of hearing the cry of entire peoples, the poorest peoples of the earth, since “peace is founded not only on respect for human rights, but also on respect for the rights of peoples”. Sadly, even human rights can be used as a justification for an inordinate defense of individual rights or the rights of the richer peoples. (Par. 190)
Are human rights different for the poor than for the rich? On what Biblical basis? Does Christ save the poor in a different manner? The Bible makes clear that all should be judged equally (my one instance of introducing passages from the Bible):
Leviticus 19: 15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
Exodus 23: 2 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3 and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.
The Pope speaks in a language of communism:
With due respect for the autonomy and culture of every nation, we must never forget that the planet belongs to all mankind and is meant for all mankind… (Par. 190)
What about the autonomy and culture of the individual?
…the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity. (Par. 190)
Is it really necessary to demonstrate the fallacy of resources being the source of wealth? Is the condition of less development merely happenstance?
It must be reiterated that “the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others”. (Par. 190)
There is no place in the Bible from which one could draw such a conclusion. All are to be treated equally.
In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.
Seeing their poverty, hearing their cries and knowing their sufferings, we are scandalized because we know that there is enough food for everyone and that hunger is the result of a poor distribution of goods and income. (Par. 191)
Production is taken for granted; the only issue is one of distribution.
Now the Pope starts piling on – no, not just food for the poor, but prosperity:
Yet we desire even more than this; our dream soars higher. We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a “dignified sustenance” for all people, but also their “general temporal welfare and prosperity”. This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use. (Par. 192)
Free, creative, participatory labor…the Pope just described the free market, yet he believes it can be realized by force and central planning.
Fidelity to the Gospel, lest we run in vain
We incarnate the duty of hearing the cry of the poor when we are deeply moved by the suffering of others. Let us listen to what God’s word teaches us about mercy, and allow that word to resound in the life of the Church. The Gospel tells us: “Blessed are the merciful, because they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).
The apostle James teaches that our mercy to others will vindicate us on the day of God’s judgment: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy, yet mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jas 2:12-13).
“Maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8). (Par. 193)
In all cases, the action called for is individual, or to be undertaken by the Church community.
This message is so clear and direct, so simple and eloquent, that no ecclesial interpretation has the right to relativize it…. Why complicate something so simple? Conceptual tools exist to heighten contact with the realities they seek to explain, not to distance us from them. This is especially the case with those biblical exhortations which summon us so forcefully to brotherly love, to humble and generous service, to justice and mercy towards the poor. (Par. 194)
Yet the Pope complicates this. How can brotherly love manifest itself through coercion and compulsion? A good end through evil means?
When Saint Paul approached the apostles in Jerusalem to discern whether he was “running or had run in vain” (Gal 2:2), the key criterion of authenticity which they presented was that he should not forget the poor (cf. Gal 2:10). This important principle, namely that the Pauline communities should not succumb to the self-centred lifestyle of the pagans, remains timely today, when a new self-centred paganism is growing. (Par. 195)
Only this will ensure that “in every Christian community the poor feel at home. Would not this approach be the greatest and most effective presentation of the good news of the kingdom?” (Par. 199)
The call to action is for the individual or for the church community.
The economy and the distribution of income
The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. 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. (Par. 202)
To attack structural causes, one must identify structural causes. There is no absolute autonomy of markets to attack or criticize.
Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all. (Par. 203)
We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. (Par. 204)
Yet it has been this invisible hand that has allowed many of the world’s poor to live better than the kings and Popes of old. Or is this why kings and Popes wish to handicap the invisible hand?
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. (Par. 204)
Presupposing such growth – production will occur no matter the roadblocks put in its way. It is a given. Who is John Galt?
I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! (Par. 205)
An impossibility wrapped in an oxymoron inside an absurdity.
Economy, as the very word indicates, should be the art of achieving a fitting management of our common home, which is the world as a whole. Each meaningful economic decision made in one part of the world has repercussions everywhere else; consequently, no government can act without regard for shared responsibility. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find local solutions for enormous global problems which overwhelm local politics with difficulties to resolve. If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few. (Par. 206)
He is calling for one-world government.
If anyone feels offended by my words, I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology. My words are not those of a foe or an opponent. I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centred mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth. (Par. 208)
“The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes,” Thomas Paine.
I cannot help considering that the sudden retirement of Pope Benedict and the ideology of Pope Francis are connected; the reasons for this unexpected change might be found in these words.