The pope “from the ends of the Earth,” as he described himself from the central loggia of St. Peter’s on the evening of his election on March 13, is a reformer who, as he made clear in “Evangelii Gaudium,” will measure authentic Catholic reform by the criterion of mission-effectiveness. Thus the Franciscan reform of the Roman Curia will not be undertaken for whatever modest satisfactions may be derived from moving slots around on an organizational flowchart, but to ensure that the Catholic Church’s central administration serves the evangelical mission of all the members of the church.
He is a man of broad culture, well-read theologically but more given to literary references and illustrations than to scholarly theological citations in his preaching and catechesis. Thus one of his recent daily Mass sermons praised Robert Hugh Benson’s early 20th-century apocalyptic novel, “Lord of the World,” for raising important cautions against dictatorial utopianism, or what the pope called “adolescent progressivism.”
The pope is passionately concerned about the poor, and he knows that poverty in the 21st century takes many forms. It can be found in the grinding material poverty of his native Buenos Aires, caused by decades of corruption, indifference, and the church’s failures to catechize Argentina’s economic and political leaders. But poverty can also be found in the soul-withering spiritual desert of those who measure their humanity by what they have rather than who they are, and who judge others by the same materialist yardstick. Then there is the ethical impoverishment of moral relativism, which dumbs down human aspiration, impedes common work for the common good in society, and inevitably leads to social fragmentation and personal unhappiness.
As he wrote in “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis is not a man of “political ideology.” He knows that “business is a vocation and a noble vocation,” if ordered to the common good and the empowerment of the poor. When he criticizes the social, economic or political status quo, he does so as a pastor who is “interested only in helping all those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking that is more humane, noble, and fruitful.”
And, if you will, a greater man:
“Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as ‘a new tyranny’ and beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church. … In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the ‘idolatry of money.’”
Folks, in recent weeks I have endeavored to try to make you understand how it is that people like modern-age Democrats look at small business and business at large. They do not, in the terms of small business, understand how fragile it is. Their view of business is that people who own them or run them cheat their customers, abuse their employees, hoard all the money, and have tons of it. They take it and keep it for themselves. They deny their employees a livable wage. They deny them health care. They deny them benefits. They produce products that kill and maim and sicken, or they produce products that destroy the planet, destroy the environment, or what have you.
I mean, it’s a litany. This is their view and it is why they claim that they must take it over and control it, because it’s inherently unfair that a select few capitalists rip everybody off. Rip off their employees, rip off their customers, and that’s how you have unequal incomes, and this vast gap between wealth and poverty. It’s all because of capitalism. They claim that as socialists or reformers or progressives, that they are fair and compassionate, and they will make that gap between the wealthy and the poor narrower, and they will make life more equitable, and they will engage in equality of outcomes and so forth, and wherever they’ve tried, they’ve failed.
Wherever socialists have gained power, they have done nothing but spread poverty. They cannot and do not produce wealth. They do not understand it. All they can do is destroy it. They are not compassionate; they coerce. And to hear the pope regurgitating this stuff, I was profoundly disappointed. The idolatry of money, urging “politicians to ‘attack the structural causes of inequality’ and strive to provide work, health care and education to all citizens.”
What has been happening in this country the past five years? Exactly what this man claims to want. We have a president who has attacked the structural causes of inequality, and what’s he done? He’s raised taxes on the producers and the achievers for the express purpose of redistributing it. All he’s done is create massive debt. He has destroyed jobs. There are 91.5 million Americans not working in America today, 91.5 million not working. All the while the president, 19 or 20 times, says that he’s doing nothing but focusing on creating jobs, but he can’t. No government can create jobs, not in the private sector. All they can do is hamper job creation.
The pope “also called on rich people to share their wealth.” We were just talking about the charitable donations and contributions that existed in this country, and they are profound. The United States is near the top of the list in the world of charitable countries, but even with all the charity, and it is tremendous, it cannot compete with capitalism in elevating people out of poverty. There is nothing the world has ever devised that has elevated more people out of poverty than capitalism.