Category: Vatican

walmartIn reply to Pope Francis’s recent criticism of free market capitalism, AEI’s Mark Perry provides a provocative response. Not only do free markets do more to reduce world poverty than the Catholic Church, says Perry, one single company—Walmart—had done more for the global poor than the Vatican:

I would argue that free market capitalism, American style, has done more to reduce world poverty than any anti-poverty efforts of the Catholic Church and the Vatican. In fact, I would even argue that just one free-market capitalist corporation – Walmart – might even do as much, or more, to alleviate poverty by providing everyday low prices and jobs for hundreds of thousands of low-income people than the anti-poverty efforts of the Catholic Church in the countries where Walmart operates (US, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, India, China, and nine African countries). In addition to reducing poverty with low-cost groceries, clothing and household goods, Walmart improves the lives of underserved individuals and communities with $1.4 billion in charitable giving every year, which is almost $4 million every day!

Let’s clarify that what Perry is referring to is material poverty. Most Christians would point out that alleviating spiritual poverty is as necessary, and even more important, than reducing material poverty. On that scale the Catholic Church would contend that it is doing a great amount of good (as I’m sure Perry would agree).

But does Perry have a point about global material poverty? Does Walmart provide more financial benefit to the global poor than the Catholic Church?

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCEPope Francis has said that he’s generally “allergic” to financial matters. Yet that hasn’t stopped him from criticizing capitalism and suggesting radical changes for a global economic order. During his recent trip to Latin America, the pontiff has been especially denunciatory, saying the unfettered pursuit of money is “the dung of the devil.”

Not surprisingly, many critics have complained that Francis is presenting a distorted, incomplete, and naive view of capitalism. To his credit, the pontiff has vowed to consider these reactions before his trip the U.S. this September. “I heard that there were some criticisms from the United States. I must begin studying these criticisms, no?” he said. “Then we shall dialogue about them.”

It’s encouraging to hear Pope Francis say he’s interested in dialogue on the topic. Naturally, since we share many of the same values and concerns, an ideal partner in such discussion would be the Acton Institute. As Acton co-founder Rev. Robert Sirico has said,

From the inception of the Acton Institute . . . we have always been concerned that economic education–a real understanding of how a market functions–will first and foremost help the most vulnerable, so we’ve done various things over the years to attempt to demonstrate or teach or model that for people.

If the pope is interested, we even have a branch in Rome—Istituto Acton—that he can visit. It’s a mere 20 minute walk from Vatican City or about 5 minutes by mini-popemobile. We’d also be willing to send him any resources he might find useful, such as our PovertyCure DVD series or Rev. Sirico’s book, Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy.

In the meantime, though, I think Pope Francis could gain a lot of insight by simply pondering these three points:

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communistcrucifixWhen leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales met with Pope Francis yesterday, he gave the pontiff a “communist crucifix”—a carving of Christ crucified on the hammer of a hammer and sickle. Clearly uncomfortable with the blasphemous gesture, Francis shook his head and is reported to have said “No está bien eso” – “This is not ok.”

This particular crucifix is a reproduction of one carved during the 1970s by Fr. Luis Espinal Camps, a Spanish Jesuit who was a missionary in Bolivia and was killed in 1980 by a right-wing paramilitary death squad. One of Espinal’s friends and fellow Jesuits said Espinal’s intent in creating the image was for the church to be in dialogue with Marxism, and that Espinal had altered his crucifix to incorporate the Communists’ most potent symbol: the hammer and sickle.

While we can’t know for sure what Espinal intended his statue to mean, Morales appears to have clearly missed the irony of portraying the symbol of communism as an instrument of death and torture.
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Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, reacts to the recent encyclical from an evangelical perspective:

The climate change issue is portrayed by the activists as being a moral issue and they put themselves forward as defenders of the oppressed and the poor around the world.  But, in fact, it is the poor, especially the extreme poor, who are the most arguably in need of increased access to what, at this point, only fossil fuels can provide.

See his full statement in the video below:

Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College, wrote an article published on Crisis Magazine‘s website today demonstrating that although the secular left has championed Laudato Si’, the text goes beyond environmental issues to show the pope’s deep commitment to family and marriage.

The secular left, of course, loves this encyclical. As I write, the farthest reaches of the left, People’s World, house organ of Communist Party USA, has two articles singing atheistic hosannas to the bishop of Rome. This has become common at People’s World. The successor to the Soviet-directed Daily Worker is a vigorous champion of this pope. There truly has never been a pope that communists have embraced like Pope Francis. Believe me, I research this, I know. …

That brings me to the reason I’m writing today. I write with encouragement to faithful Catholics who understand that the elephant in the global living room right now—especially in the West—is not carbon emissions or fossil fuels but family and marriage. And in that area, here’s the crucial point: this pope has been superb and seems to be growing steadily stronger. It is the main issue, the issue of our time, and it’s the main issue for this pope.

Read the full text of Kengor’s article here.

In The Morning Sun, a Central Michigan newspaper, frequent PowerBlog contributor Bruce Walker discusses the connection between the Charleston shootings and the recent papal encyclical:

The Charleston shooting rampage is a terrible reminder that very real evil manifests itself in this world, presumably performed in the name of all that is malevolent. The sickness that devalues innocent human lives over something as arbitrary as pigmentation to the point the violent taking of those lives somehow makes sense can be only credited to something demonic, a force that would’ve most likely wrought evil outcomes even without legally purchased firearms or Confederate flags.

The real tragedy of Charleston, of course, was the loss of lives, but a (far) smaller tragedy was the lost opportunity to fully discuss Laudato Si the following day. True, much ink had been spilled and pixels disbursed about the first papal encyclical to embrace human-caused climate change as fact from the moment a previous draft was leaked earlier in the week. Analysis of the final copy, however, had to wait until later – pushed back for many journalists and thought leaders because of the Charleston massacre, as well the slog of reading such a lengthy and often tedious encyclical.

Read the full post “On Charleston and Climate Change” at The Morning Sun.

Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, recently wrote for The Federalist that the overreach by the Pope into a wide range of environmental issues plagues the text of the encyclical:

Neither the pope nor the teaching authority he exercises is required to comment on every imaginable subject discussed in the public square, whether it is air-conditioning’s environmental impact, contemporary threats to plankton, the effect of synthetic agrotoxins on birds, or how dams affect animal migration (and, yes, all four are discussed in “Laudato Si”). The same goes for Catholic bishops. They’re under no obligation as bishops to articulate an opinion—let alone formal teachings—on every conceivable public policy issue.

One reason for this is that the Catholic Church itself teaches there is considerable room for legitimate disagreement among Catholics about the vast majority of political and economic questions (the legal treatment of matters like abortion and euthanasia being two of the better-known notable exceptions). But a second reason is that the primary responsibility for addressing most social, economic, and political matters belongs, as affirmed by Vatican II in its decree on the laity “Apostolicam Actuositatem,” to lay Catholics: not popes, bishops, priests, or members of religious orders.

Read the full post “A Roundtable on Laudato Si” at The Federalist.

Fr. Michael Butler offers insight on the recent encyclical from an Orthodox Christian perspective at Acton University 2015:

It’s been a busy week for the Acton Institute, with Pope Francis’ Laudeto Si’ arriving in the middle of our biggest conference event of the year, Acton University. As a result, there is a bounty of media for Acton supporters to enjoy this week. Here’s a review, in case you missed anything.

Let’s start off with Acton University: All four evening keynote speeches are available for your viewing pleasure on our YouTube channel. I’ve embedded the address delivered last Wednesday by Gregory Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York City, in this post; be sure to check out keynotes from Samuel Gregg, Joel Salatin, and Rev. Robert A. Sirico as well. You might also check out this fine piece put together by Experience GR that looks at the Acton University experience.

We’re busy uploading almost 100 lectures from AU 2015 to our digital download store; mp3 versions of all four evening keynote addresses are available for free.

While Acton University was in full swing, Pope Francis released his encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which has created a wave of commentary not only on the state of the global environment, but also on the proper response of Christians and Roman Catholics in particular to the Pope’s assertions in the encyclical.

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Doug Bandow, member of the Advisory Board of the Acton Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, discusses the problem of politics with regard to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical.

In Calling on Government, Laudato Si Misses the Problem of Politics

by Doug Bandow

In his new encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis challenges “every person living on this planet” to adopt a new “ecological spirituality.” But his economic and policy prescriptions are more controversial than his theological convictions. Indeed, his ideas already are being deployed by political advocates. For instance, with the UN pushing a new climate agreement, Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, proclaimed that the encyclical “is going to have a major impact.”

The Pope’s commitment to the poor and our shared world is obvious and appropriate. Yet there is much in his practical arguments to criticize. When he speaks of spiritual matters his vision is clear. When he addresses policy his grasp is less sure. In practice, markets and property rights have much to offer humanity as it seeks to build a better, cleaner world.

Perhaps of even more consequence, the Pontiff ignores the flawed nature of government. He is disappointed with its present failings, but appears to assume that politics, unlike humanity, is perfectible. Thus, he hopes transferring environmental and other crises created by the flawed marketplace to the enlightened political realm will lead to the better world which we all desire.

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