Pope Francis decries economic inequality and consumerism

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Just days before the U.S. celebrates the secular capitalist greed fest of Black Friday, word comes from Rome that the new Pope is none too happy about our consumerism. Pope denounces economic gap, consumerism (Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle-down’ economic theories in critique of inequality):

PopePope Francis on Tuesday sharply criticized growing economic inequality and unfettered markets in a lengthy paper outlining a populist philosophy that he says will guide his papacy as he pushes the Catholic Church to reach out more, particularly to the disenfranchised.

Using sharply worded phrases, Francis decried an “idolatry of money” and warned it would lead to “a new tyranny.” And he invoked language with particular resonance in the United States, attacking an economic theory that discourages taxation and regulation and which most affiliate with conservatives.

“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,” Francis wrote in the papal statement. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

“Meanwhile,” he added, “the excluded are still waiting.”

While Francis has raised concerns before about the growing gap between the wealthy and poor since becoming pontiff in March, his direct reference to “trickle-down” economic theory in the English translation of his 50,000-word statement was striking.

The phrase has often been used derisively to describe a popular version of conservative or Republican economic philosophy that argues that allowing the wealthy to run their businesses unencumbered by regulation or taxation bears economic benefits that lead to more jobs and income for the rest of society. Liberals and Democratic officials have rejected the theory, saying it is contradicted by economic evidence.

Note to WaPo: the overwhelming empirical evidence demonstrates that faith based supply-side "trickle down" economics is entirely disproved and discredited as an economic theory. That's the reality, not "Liberals and Democrats." As Stephen Colbert observed, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

[Pope Francis] has been the subject of fascination and attention among many Catholics, political leaders and people all over the world as he has taken a decidedly more populist approach to the papacy. He has adopted a softer tone toward gay people, eschewed lavish features of the papal lifestyle, washed the feet of convicts and repeatedly urged greater effort to lift up the world’s poor.

Francis’s focus on the subject is especially notable given dramatic changes in the world economy.

Many of the world’s richest countries are experiencing historic levels of income inequality, with the quality of the life for workers in the middle no longer improving.

And even in the developing world, there are emerging concerns about inequality and whether workers will benefit from their countries’ increasing prosperity. In China, for instance, officials have made repeated promises to tackle the country’s widening income gap.

It’s the “boldness and explicitness” of the pope’s new writing that makes it so newsworthy, said Michael Sean Winters, a fellow at Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.

There’s no way a Catholic who is a serious intellectual can ever again not address the issue of income inequality, of the structural sins of our economic system. This is so front and center,” he said Tuesday. “He’s not saying ‘I’m an economic expert.’ This is a pastor’s voice. He’s saying, ‘If we’re serious Christians, we need to be knee deep in this stuff.’ ”

Around the world, Francis’s approach has won plaudits from many but also caused anxiety among some . . .  Conservative Catholics have worried that his open tone is too unspecific and causes confusion on traditional teachings such as those against abortion and gay equality.

Hold on right there. I was raised in the Catholic Church during its "social justice" movement inspired by Pope Jon XXIII and the modernization of the Second Vatican Council. The duty of the Church is to minister to the poor, the downtrodden, and the forgotten. This was always the teachings of Jesus Christ. Matthew 25:31-46.

Yes, Catholic Church dogma has always been against abortions, but the U.S. Catholic Bishops did not singularly focus on this as a defining issue until after Roe v. Wade in 1973. Conservative Catholics, working in tandem with the conservative evangelical Christian Right, used abortion as a litmus test to politicize the U.S. Catholic Church to make it more conservative, and also to silence the reformers, whom they labeled "radical priests" for their "liberation theology." It looks as if they might have missed one in Pope Francis.

While Francis’s economic philosophy has yet to cause any major upheaval among conservatives, U.S. bishops and other prominent Catholics spoke out last year against a budget proposed by then-vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) that would have dramatically cut the safety net.

According to polling, U.S. Catholics are more supportive of government taking action to improve living standards and say the wealth gap is historically high, but are divided over the size of government and whether the nation’s biggest problem is unfairness or over-regulation of business. In 2012, Catholics voters split on whether government should take action to reduce the gap between wealthy and less well-off Americans.

Helping the poor and combating inequality have been long tenets of papal statements and classical Catholic teaching, which supports carefully regulated markets and even a government role in redistributing wealth.

In 2009, Pope Benedict wrote in a teaching called “Charity in Truth” that economics should be rethought so that it is guided not just by profits but by “an ethics which is people-centered.”

“An unregulated economy shielded from ‘influences’ of a moral character has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way,” Benedict wrote. This has “led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.”

In 2011, as the Occupy Wall Street movement was underway, the Vatican’s Justice and Peace agency called for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a central global bank. The document condemned “the idolatry of the market.”

Yet while previous popes discussed the disenfranchised, they didn’t single out the issue the way Francis has.

Experts see Francis as trying to reframe economic justice not just a matter of duty but as a way of connecting better to God.

"Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict were seen as hostile to some of contemporary Catholicism’s loudest anti-poverty voices — clergy and others who embraced liberation theology in South and Central America."

Conservative Catholics who vote Republican because of abortion, contraception and gay issues are now directly confronted by Pope Francis on the injustice of the economic foundations of Republican economic theory. Of course, Liberal Catholics who vote Democratic because of social justice issues have always been at odds with Catholic Church dogma on abortion, contraception and gays. But Pope Francis is sympathetic to their view that the Catholic Church Is Too 'Obsessed' With Abortion, Birth Control, And Gay Marriage.

You may have read earlier this month that Pope Francis Orders Survey Of Catholics On Hot-Button Social Issues:

U.S. bishops are among those the pope is asking to find out from their parishioners how they feel about abortion, same-sex marriage, divorce and birth control.

* * *

The decision is dividing some parishioners, some of whom fear the poll could be the first step in the church changing its stance on hot-button issues.

My personal view is that Pope Francis is taking the temperature of Catholics for modernization reforms that he wants to pursue. This may eventually lead to a Third Vatican Council.

5 responses to “Pope Francis decries economic inequality and consumerism

  1. Prup (aka Jim Benton)

    There is an obvious follow-through that I expect. For years, we have been arguing that the pregnancy-forcers are interested in human life “…up until birth’ that they are far more concerned about the ‘unborn’ than they are about the lives of the born.

    What happens if Pope Francis makes the same point, arguing that Catholics compelled to oppose abortion are equally morally obligated to ensure that the children that are born have an economically secure childhood, and that therefore they must, in every case, support the ‘safety net’ and work to expand it, at least as it pertains the children? (And the question is whether the Catholic ‘Reagan Democrats’ come back where they belong, or become so confused by years of pro-Republican sermons that they simply freeze and stay home.)

    People who compare Pope Francis to Pope John may be understating it. Pope John was one of the great men of the last century — and that’s from someone who had left Catholicism before Vatican II and have had not one moment of wanting to ‘turn back’ — but Pope Francis adds the unique Jesuit training to Pope John’s love of people. (Jesuits have to serve 13 years after high school — including 3 years as either a teacher or a missionary — before they are ordained.)

  2. All of which is to say how fortunate we all are, Catholics and non-Catholics both, that there never will be a Pope Thucky.

  3. Frances Perkins

    Except the rich and large corporations do not pay their income taxes because of the number of dodges, exemptions, loopholes, and income transfers to avoid taxes. And there is a ton of evidence that the transfer of tax obligation from the upper income groups to the middle class via loopholes has had more negative effects on the economy. Trickle down has been shown to be nonsense. Those poor put upon rich people. As Tevye said, may he be cursed with wealth.

  4. Frances Perkins

    Yes, Thomas Olmstead, you are one obsessed with abortion, homosexuality, and contraception. Yes, Thomas Olmstead you are more interested in rules, regulations and their enforcement, rather than concerns for the poor and needy. Yes Thomas Olmstead, you are the one happy to open new schools in the richest areas of the diocese, rather than minister to the poorest areas.