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Rev. Robert Sirico: Dialogue With Pope Must Include Free Markets

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In today’s Roll Call, Acton Institute president Rev. Robert Sirico comments on Pope Francis’ September visit to the U.S. and what may be part of the dialogue when the pope is here. While the media tabulates the pontiff’s popularity on certain topics, Sirico says there are more important things to note.

Popularity ratings may be important for politicians but not for a pope believed to be the successor to St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ on earth.

His job is to preserve the truths of the Faith, not put them up for a vote.

The Church is not a democracy, whereby some polling data could alter the content of the Church’s doctrine the way McDonald’s might alter the ingredients in a Big Mac.

The polling data is sandwiched between the pope’s trip to Cuba and the U.S., and the June 2015 release of his papal encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’. The encyclical is critical of the role of markets, in their effects on both the environment and the poor. This is where Sirico raises some important questions.

How can a faithful Catholic, who also believes that freer markets make for less poverty, put together a disconnect between what the pope wants for the poor and the proven means of getting them out of poverty? No doubt these kinds of controversies have their role to play in how favorably Americans view the pope, but it does not explain the loss in his favorable ratings on the part of progressives who would cheer on his broadsides against an ‘economy that kills.’ Perhaps they have worked out that Pope Francis is, after all, a Catholic.

Of course the pope is going to speak out about the protection of the environment and the need for proper stewardship. His predecessors have done the same. And any follower of Christ must be adamant in defending the poor and voiceless. But when people begin to get the impression that matters they take seriously are ignored or superficially dismissed — or when a variety of legitimate views are not invited into the conversation about the economy and poverty — it is hard to have any meaningful dialogue.

Sirico ends his commentary with the hope that the pope’s apparent “bias against free markets” will not denounce free markets outright, but that Francis can shape his message in a way that allows for an understanding that gives:

greater meaning to life than profits and comforts; that technology can be employed to ease the plight of the poor and help to clean the environment; that the solution to poverty is creativity in and freeing of the market rather than suggesting that ‘[t]he alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.’

Isn’t it precisely the combination of a free economy, rooted in a moral culture that takes truth seriously, the rule of law, and technology that is in good part responsible for a much cleaner environment, safer births, and longer life spans?

In order to do this, Sirico points out, there must be on-going dialogue, and he welcomes that. Let’s hope the pope does as well.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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