Alejandro Chafuen, President of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, is hoping that newly-elected Pope Francis will be able to sort out the misunderstandings of what “social justice” means in the Church today. In today’s Forbes, Chafuen suggests that “social justice” has too often meant (especially in places like the pope’s home country of Argentina) taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
Chafuen observes that the Jesuit order, to which Pope Francis belongs, has a long intellectual history when it comes to describing what social justice should be.
I do not know if Pope Francis has studied or pondered the work of the above and other outstanding Jesuit intellectuals. Jesuits writing in recent decades have also presented economic views which have little to do with a Peronist interpretation of social justice. The recently departed James Sadowksy, SJ, of Fordham University, made important contributions to economics and opened the eyes of many libertarian thinkers to Natural Law. Chief among those influenced was the late Murray Rothbard, a co-founder of the Cato Institute and later of the Mises Institute. The recently retired James V. Schall, SJ, of Georgetown University, has also made major contributions. His, “Religion, Wealth, and Poverty,” published several decades ago by The Fraser Institute in Canada, is a classic among those who are inspired by religion and economic liberties.
Pope Francis could not have made it any more clear to the world that he wants the poor to be in the forefront of our minds. Chafuen hopes that the pope’s desire to advocate for the poor is mindful of the intellectual tradition laid out in Catholic social teaching:
Pope Francis has a chance to renew the old tradition of social justice and, in this way, move the focus from redistribution to the building of an orderly framework of society that is effective in lifting the poor. Respecting private property, promoting sound money, combating corruption, weeding out crony capitalism, protectionism, and other causes of unjust inequalities, which especially affect the poor, is a path to a truly liberated and more just society.