Category: Vatican

isis persecutionIn today’s Crisis Magazine, Acton’s director of research Samuel Gregg calls for a a new papal encyclical: one addressing ” the on-going brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East.”

The facts about the deepening subjugation of Christians around the world hardly need repeating. Every day we read of the mistreatment of Christian guest-workers in Saudi Arabia, the violence unleashed against Christians in India by Hindu nationalists, the repression of Christians by China’s Communist regime, or the slaughter of African Christians by Muslim extremists. What is being inflicted upon Christians across the Middle East by ISIS and other Islamic terrorists is in a league of its own. It is, in a word, unspeakable.

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360_vatican_bankPope Francis hasn’t been shy about showing his disdain for capitalism and. During his recent trip to Latin America, for example, the pontiff said the the unfettered capitalism is “the dung of the devil.”

Like many others, I’ve complained that the pope is presenting a distorted, incomplete, and naive view of capitalism. But to his credit, Francis 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.”

That dialogue is welcome, though most people aren’t expecting a radical shift in Pope Francis’s views of economics. But what if they did change? What if not only the pope but also the entire Catholic Church embraced free enterprise and free markets?

It may seem unlikely, but it wasn’t that long ago the Catholic Church took the side of repressive and authoritarian regimes over religious liberty. That changed largely because of the United States showed how religious benefited Christians. As Judge John Noonan has observed, “the Declaration on Religious Freedom would not have come into existence without the American contribution and the experiment that began with Madison.”

At Mirror of Justice, Greg Sisk argues that just as the Catholic Church discovered the virtues of religious liberty, eventually the church will appreciate the charisma of democratic capitalism:
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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.