Much has been said about Pope Francis’ views on economics (in fact, you can read Acton’s Special Feature on this here.) In The Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, discusses how the media has skewed Francis’ remarks as endorsing redistribution and denouncing capitalism. Cardinal Dolan says this is unfortunate, given what the pope has actually said. While the pope is clear that we must be generous in all our social activity, he is not denouncing capitalism.
The church believes that prosperity and earthly blessings can be a good thing, gifts from God for our well-being and the common good. It is part of human nature to work and produce, and everyone has the natural right to economic initiative and to enjoy the fruits of their labors. But abundance is for the benefit of all people.
Free markets have lifted people from poverty, the cardinal points out. Of course, he says, far too many still live in deplorable and degrading conditions.
And so the pope, and many others, are deeply concerned about the development of a “throwaway culture,” an “economy of exclusion” and a “culture of death” that corrode human dignity and marginalize the poor.
It is in this context that the holy father’s earlier criticism of “trickle-down economics” can be properly understood. One does not have to subscribe uncritically to the notion that “a rising tide lifts all boats” to acknowledge that all people, including the poor, benefit from a general increase in the overall wealth of society.
The Catholic Church rejects socialism and any form of government control that impedes human freedom and dignity. People have a right to own property, the cardinal states, and any form of economics or politics that prevents that is not capable of sustaining human dignity.
Cardinal Dolan also emphasizes the noble work of business, “so long as those engaged in it also serve the common good, acting with a sense of generosity in addition to self-interest.”
Pope Francis is reminding us that any economic plan, in order to be just, must be based on both love and solidarity: relying on both material prosperity and a transformation of heart that is open to personal generosity.