Pope Francis rides into town

Pope Francis rides into town Religion in the News

Right-wing attacks on Pope Francis’ redistributive economics have drawn responses from the likes of John Gehring and Michael Sean Winters that His Holiness is saying nothing different from what his predecessors have been saying ever since Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII’s famous critique of capitalism. And there are the quotes from John Paul II and Benedict XVI to prove it.

Nevertheless, I think the right-wingers are on to something. Not that I’d go so far as George Weigel notoriously did when he wrote that “those with advanced degrees in Vaticanology could easily go through the text of [Benedict's encyclical] Caritas in Veritate, highlighting those passages that are obviously Benedictine with a gold marker and those that reflect current Justice and Peace default positions with a red marker.”

But how much emphasis a leader gives to a cause makes a difference. Just because a presidential candidate has a position paper on every issue under the sun doesn’t mean that every issue is equally important to her. And just because John Paul and Benedict supported government welfare programs, didn’t make social justice the central business of their papacies.

So yes, the right is right to see Pope Francis as a serious adversary. His critique of capitalism is not a once-in-an-encyclical thing. He really means it.

Categories: Ethics

Beliefs:

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

10 Comments

  1. True, Pope Francis honestly DOES mean it when he’s preaching his strong criticisms against income inequality.

    But Francis doesn’t preach ANY strong criticisms against legalized gay marriage at all. In fact, Francis supports the gay marriage activists.

    I’m going to say it out loud: the Catholic Cardinals flat-out picked the WRONG Pope this time. American Catholicism will soon pay the price for it.

    • Lynne Newington

      You’re right there; he does and can speak honestly about income inequality from St Peter’s chair, but the difference he didn’t make on anything as ecclesiastical authority during his time in Argentina, until demoracy was installed that is……prior to that, the higher echelons of the church didn’t go with out anything per se being supported by the regime of the day…..even to saving their own lives….
      Now in my book; that inequality.

    • Lynne Newington

      Before we start talking about new changes within the church today, we need to bring them to account for the bastardization of the past…..and if they didn’t choose Francis, who else would be there?
      John Paull 11 had already stacked the cards, hand picking those with the same mentality as his own to take his place as it was with Bergoglio; maybe even to the extent of flagellation to bring the body to subjection……

  2. Doc Anthony – “American Catholicism will soon pay the price for it.” You mean like losing a large portion of the Church’s membership? If so, too late, I fear. JK

  3. I’m not sure where you are coming from about Benedict and St. John Paull II supporting government welfare programs. They did not. They supported subsidiarity. St. John Paul II in Centesimus Annus, paragraph five, section 48: By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the social assistance state leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbors to those in need.

    I also disagree that the right has anything to fear from Francis. He has criticized “crony capitalism” and called for “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State” — the same things Leo XIII, Pius XI, Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Benedict have said.

  4. Not only has this Pope said anything different from other Popes, he is saying nothing different from what Jesus himself said. If the Pope truly means it, and I believe he does, then the Church itself should follow his, and Jesus himself, lead and get to the business of truly looking out for the poor, sick etc. But, greed knows no bounds and doesn’t even recognize class, so while most Catholics are complaining about what the Pope, and Jesus, said their complaints fly directly in the face of the words of Jesus and their actions show their greed for what it is. If there is a judgement then these complainers shall be judged for their words and actions, as we all will be. Thanks church hypocrites for forcing myself and many others out of the church with your hateful words and inaction. Yes, I know that there are always those who are not “true” believers in the church but when church leadership are the ones that are promoting and advocating this hateful attitude then it is time to leave the church for I cannot stand the bigotry and hate. Do I believe? I’m unsure on that count, but either way the church has left me not me leaving the church! Sad.

    • Lynne Newington

      Don’t allow them to rob you of your faith Kevin, it’s bigger than the insititutional church; Christ would prefer you believe that than join the hypocrites snake oil salesmen, beginning at the top.

  5. It is very unfortunate that those from the Reformed tradition, the tradition to which I belong, do not follow Pope Francis’ example of criticizing Capitalism even if their criticisms would be different. It is as if we live in denial of the obvious. A system that tells its followers that they only need to exercise self-interest in the market place and the rest will be taken care of should merit criticism on principle alone from any conservative branch of Christianity. Perhaps our silence is because we are enjoying too much the fringe benefits of other people’s greed.

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