Posts tagged with: Pope Francis

Yesterday, Pope Francis hosted a private audience in his Apostolic Palace for a few hundred international entrepreneurs and business leaders. The members of the International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC) had gathered inside the Vatican’s walls for two days of meetings for the “noble purpose of reflecting on the role of business persons as agents of economic and social inclusion.”

Pope Francis, not always an affirming supporter of free market capitalism, focused on some of his usual challenging caveats to business persons. While business is certainly noble and its success is a vital part of the promoting economic growth for the common good, fallen man should nevertheless be constantly wary of his weaknesses for material idolatry (especially money), selfishness (not showing solidarity), and unguarded concern for acts of corruption (intentional deceit), the latter of which Francis said was “the worst of social plagues.”

This holds true for “all human activity”, the pope reassured those present, and not just business activity. It is an anthropological-spiritual discipline that we must keep on the forefront of our daily decision making. In this way, we sharpen our prudence and hone our focus when treading uphill individual paths to holiness and salvation. By way of constant prayer and deep spiritual discernment, man can more likely make the best moral choices, even in the most cut-throat and difficult business situations.

But sometimes this is risky for the seeker and promoter of virtue.

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Pope Francis addresses UNIAPAC Christian entrepreneurs and business executives at a private audience on November 17, 2016.

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The following article is the Acton Institute’s English translation from the Italian “Il Papa e la condanna dei soldi. Parla Padre Robert Sirico” written by  Matteo Matzuzzi and published in the Rome-based daily Il Foglio on November 8.  Readers should note that there is no official English translation of Pope Francis’ November 5 address to leaders of lay movements gathering inside the Vatican. The original speech in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese can be found here.


“It certainly would be absurd to criminalize money if one’s sincere concern is the well-being of the poor. Lamenting the struggle of the poor is not the end goal of moral compassion. Ameliorating their concern is. And at least at the material level, this requires the production of wealth,” said Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the American think tank, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which aims to promote a free, virtuous and humane society.

Rev. Sirico shared his views with the Italian daily ll Foglio following the Pope’s long speech delivered last Saturday before an audience of charismatic lay movement leaders who had come to the Vatican for their third world gathering. During the audience, Pope Francis relaunched his accusation that money is “an idol that rules instead of serves, which tyrannizes and terrorizes humanity.”

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Pope Francis regularly speaks to leaders of cultural and social change during specially arranged private audiences inside the Vatican.

It is money, continued the Holy Father, “that rules with the whip of fear, inequality, economic, social, cultural and military violence. [It] generates ever more violence in a seemingly unending downward spiral. There is a basic [form of] terrorism stemming from the global control of money on earth and which threatens all of humanity.”

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Did Pope Francis just publicly endorse Communism? Recent comments have prompted many to suggest he has. During an interview with Eugenio Scalfari, they had the following exchange:

[Scalfari:] You told me some time ago that the precept, “Love your neighbour as thyself” had to change, given the dark times that we are going through, and become “more than thyself.” So you yearn for a society where equality dominates. This, as you know, is the programme of Marxist socialism and then of communism. Are you therefore thinking of a Marxist type of society?
[Francis:] “It it has been said many times and my response has always been that, if anything, it is the communists who think like Christians. Christ spoke of a society where the poor, the weak and the marginalized have the right to decide. Not demagogues, not Barabbas, but the people, the poor, whether they have faith in a transcendent God or not. It is they who must help to achieve equality and freedom” (emphasis added)

Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, suggests that there’s something else going on. In a recent article for The Stream, he begins: “Marxists, Marxist ideas and Marxist regimes have brought death and destruction to millions. Yet according to Pope Francis, “if anything, the communists think like Christians.” What’s going on here?” He goes on to note that though some have accused the Pope of “Marxist sympathies,” that is simply not true: (more…)

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Pope Francis meets students from Jesuit schools at an audience in the Paul VI Hall.

We all (probably) want to reduce poverty, but how do we actually go about doing that? Pope Francis has been extremely vocal about this problem, but many have taken issue with his suggested solutions.When describing modern capitalism, he’s used phrases like “globalización de la indiferencia” and “cultura del descarte” or a globalization of indifference and a throwaway culture. Beyond soundbites and one-liners, many are trying to get at the exact meaning of the Pope’s statements on economics and poverty.

During a recent trip to Buenos Aires, Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, spoke to La Nacion’s Ramiro Pellet Lastra about these issues. Gregg states that the Pope’s very populist language when discussing economics and poverty suggests that he does not appear to have a clear understanding of how markets actually function. Like Pope Francis, Gregg sees the common good as very important but argues that this is compatible with free markets. In fact when you dispense with free markets and economic freedom in the name of the common good, as did Communist systems, it leads to even greater poverty. (more…)

But was anyone listening?

That’s my question after attending the 2015 Nobel-prize-winning economist‘s talk last night in Rome at the Vatican-sponsored Cortile dei gentili (Court of Gentiles).

Like the other speakers, Deaton voiced his concerns about income inequality. Unlike the others, however, he said much of it is caused by crony capitalism, a term whose meaning seems to have been lost on the Italian interpreter and hence the audience. She described it as “a type of capitalism” and “negative capitalism” but never really made the connection to politics, which is unfortunate given the high number of Italian politicians in attendance.

Deaton added that countries become rich by escaping poverty, not by impoverishing others, that technological progress has undoubtedly made us richer, and that the world has greatly benefited from globalization even though too many people are still left behind. Government interference through taxes, regulation and corruption does more harm than good. The major problems with globalization are therefore political, not economic.

There were also a number of Italian cardinals and bishops in attendance. Here’s hoping that some of them relay Deaton’s clear-as-day message to Pope Francis, who really ought to be saying, “Crony capitalism kills!” instead of blaming the market economy in general. It is an obvious distinction to economists. In Italy, no one seems to know the difference.

“[W]hen the center of the global economy is the god of money,” Pope Francis stated recently in an interview, “[t]errorism grows.” Curious about the Pope’s somewhat economistic explanation for Islamist terrorism, Samuel Gregg asks, “do factors such as economic poverty and greed really function as major causes of Islamist terrorism?” He recently wrote an article for the Stream examining this.

The available research on this question, Gregg points out, suggests not. As he summarizes:

In short, terrorists generally aren’t economically poor or from impoverished backgrounds. Moreover, if poverty or absence of economic opportunity drove people to immolate themselves and innocent bystanders, drive trucks into large crowds, slit priests’ throats, execute nuns or axe Jews to death, you’d expect similar events to occur regularly in places such as China’s rural impoverished Eastern regions, large swathes of India or downtown Detroit for several decades. But they aren’t.

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Angel of Mercy and Lady JusticeIn a new essay for the Catholic World Report, Samuel Gregg discusses why it’s dangerous to to overemphasize any one facet of Christian teaching at the expense of a different teaching. No matter what is overemphasized, this will distort the Gospel. The focus of this essay is “mercy” and how mercy leads “to the ultimate source of justice–the God who is love–and thus prevents justice from collapsing into something quite anti-human.”

Gregg describes the three ways mercy can be distorted: as sentimentalism, as injustice, and as mediocrity. When describing mercy as injustice, Gregg warns that “it quickly undermines any coherent conception of justice.”

Back in 1980, John Paul warned in Dives in Misericordia that “In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness” (DM 14). If that sounds tough-minded, that’s because it is. Remember, however, that the Jesus Christ who embodies mercy isn’t the equivalent of a divine stuffed animal. Whenever the Scriptures portray Christ offering mercy to sinners, his forgiveness is always laced with a gentle but clear reminder of the moral law and the expectation that the sinful acts will be discontinued.

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