I’ve seen a lot of Pope Francis articles floating around Facebook, beautiful heart-warming ones like this, this, and this.
And then there are stories about Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.
If you’ve heard of the Exhortation it’s likely you’ve heard of Section 53-55 which boldly speak out against “the new idolatry of money”, an “economy of exclusion”, and the “globalization of indifference”.
This is not a new stance for the Catholic Church.
CCC 1910 Each human community possesses a common good which permits it to be recognized as such; it is in the political community that its most complete realization is found. It is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies.
But just because it’s been around for centuries doesn’t mean it won’t be taken out of context, ignorantly paraphrased, or aggressively attacked.
Rush Limbaugh remarks that these passages are “just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope.” (You can read more in this article from CNN which is not terrible, thank you, Robert Ellsberg)
Mark Shea, Catholic blogger for the National Catholic Register, wisely comments: “One searches the exhortation with interest for the moment in which Francis declares his atheism and denounces the Faith as the opiate of the masses”.
There is not one clear-cut and definitive Marxist theory, but apparently, according to Limbaugh, an honest critique of what can be assumed is Capitalism is enough to label the Pope as a Marxist. I say “assumed” not because I’m naive and I don’t think the Pope is talking about it, but because in all 50,000 words of his exhortation, he never uses the word “capitalism”, because it’s more than that.
Please take some time to read Mark Shea’s piece which is brilliant and rips apart FOX video game reviewer Adam Shaw’s horribly inaccurate and pretty offensive piece on the Pope. Shea’s work is thorough; he talks about what previous Popes have said about these economic issues, he discusses economics better than I ever could, he brings in great resources. Please read it (then you can put off studying for finals).
I’m not going to pretend that I understand a lot about economics, so I will quote my very intelligent friend Samme who recently graduated with a degree in Economics.
[Economics is] not the study of money but actually it comes from the Greek “oikos” which refers to how one manages household wealth within the family. Economics is the study of choices; supply and demand are not arbitrarily determined, they are composed of the choices and preferences of individuals.
What is our preference? Money, security, wellbeing? These are not inherently bad things but become dangerous when we prefer them over our brothers and sisters and Christ.
What I find most frustrating about this whole kerfluffle is how bipartisan our reactions are turning out to be. If the Pope condemns an unfair distribution of wealth he is a liberal, if he condemns the practice of abortion he is a conservative. Why do we do this?
Because, (like Jon Stewart illustrates in this clip [language]) we want things to be good or bad, black or white, Republican or Democrat because then it is easy for us to make uninformed decisions.
What is easy to forget, especially in the US which is entrenched in the two-party way, is that the Pope cannot be categorized or claimed by either party, and neither can Jesus.
We, as Catholics, as Americans, as human beings, are better than that. We have been given an intellect and a will so that we can read and learn and study and make informed decisions about things that really matter.
Pope Francis is really calling us all to think. When he kisses the man with boils we think, would I do that? When he chooses to ride the bus, politely declines earthly comforts, and sneaks out at night to serve the poor we think, would I be brave enough to do the same?
When he warns against the false security of this established “trickle-down system” we should begin to wonder who is benefitting from it. Do we think about this important political issue? Or do we smile and agree with the Pope when he kisses babies but turn away uncomfortably when he hits a little too close to home?
This Advent I’m going to continue reading up on this whole debacle, I’m going to read the entirety of Evanglii Gaudium because I’m sure there is more in there than just section 53, and I’m going to pray more for my brothers and sisters in Christ.