National Public Radio did a roundup of views on what to expect from Pope Francis on economic issues. Reporter Jim Zarroli interviewed Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg and several commentators on the Catholic left. NPR host Audie Cornish introduced Zarroli’s report by observing that the new pope “comes from Argentina, where poverty and debt have long posed serious challenges. In the past, when thrust into debates about the country’s economic future, Francis had made strident comments about wealth, inequality and the markets. Now, some Catholics are hoping their new pope will play a similar role, giving voice to the poor and exerting influence on a global scale.” But Cornish cautioned that if “some say the idea that Pope Francis is some kind of economic liberal is to misread him and the church.”
Here’s the exchange between Gregg and Zarroli that wrapped up the report.
ZARROLI: But anyone who expects Francis to take an active role as a critic of capitalism is sure to be disappointed, says Samuel Gregg, research director of the Acton Institute. Gregg says even as the new pope was criticizing the IMF, he was also taking a stand against liberation theology, the leftist movement that swept some parts of the church in the 1970s and ’80s. Gregg says Francis saw the movement as tainted by Marxist ideas that were at odds with church teaching and he didn’t want the church in Argentina to become politicized.
SAMUEL GREGG: Liberation theology, at least certain strands of liberation theology, insisted that the church had to become involved in more or less revolutionary movements for justice. And his response was no, that is not the responsibility of priests. Priests are supposed to be pastors. They’re supposed to be guides. They’re supposed to offer the sacraments. They’re not politicians. They’re not revolutionaries.
ZARROLI: Gregg says the church stresses the importance of helping the poor, but it has traditionally allowed for a pretty wide range of opinions about the best way to do that. And he expects Francis to maintain a certain critical distance from political debates.
GREGG: When it comes to the economy, the focus is much more upon articulating the principles of Catholic social teaching, of Catholic ethics, rather than proposing detailed five-point plans for dealing with concrete situations because, frankly, that’s the role of laypeople rather than the clergy.
ZARROLI: But there is also no question that the new pope understands issues of poverty and development in a much more direct way than his predecessors. That could affect the emphasis, if not the essence, of church teachings. Jim Zarroli, NPR News.
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