Kishore Jayabalan, Director of Istituto Acton in Rome, evaluates a new book on Pope Francis and the economy. The book, Papa Francesco: Questa Economia Uccide [Pope Francis: This Economy Kills], is written by two Italian journalists known for skirting the ethical standards for Vatican journalists. For that alone, Jayabalan does not hold their work in high esteem. Writing at Crisis Magazine, Jayabalan is curious as to the motives of authors Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi:
As I started reading Papa Francesco: Questa Economia Uccide, I began to wonder why two Italian journalists would set out to write a book defending the economic statements of an Argentine pope against his American conservative critics. What dog do they have in this fight? Or as the pope himself would say, who are they to judge?
Finishing the book, I still had those questions and many more, but I cannot fault the authors for attempting to ride the wave of global popularity Pope Francis is enjoying. It could have been an engaging subject if it were written with any sense of objectivity, journalistic balance, or even willingness to concede that the pope’s economics critics may have a point worth taking seriously. Alas, this is not the case.
Jayabalan says that Tornielli and Galeazzi reduce the right’s critiques regarding Pope Francis’ statement on the economy to three minimalistic means of understanding. First, the right-wing media “knows” that an Argentinean is going to be biased against free markets. Second, we all know Francis is not an economist and is bound to get things wrong, and finally, the pope talks about the poor way too much. Jayabalan’s response:
On the first two, they happen to be factually correct but draw the wrong conclusion. Pope Francis is indeed from Argentina, where the normal state of affairs is collusion between the quasi-dictatorial state and large banks and corporations and has resulted in much harm to the economy. (Incidentally, it is a gross perversion of society’s most basic institution to translate crony capitalism as familistica.) If I were from Argentina, I would think the market is rigged as well. The pope himself says in an interview with the authors, “I was not speaking from a technical point of view,” when referring to an economy that kills. I do not know anyone who thinks the pope talks “too much” about the poor; it would be better to say “not enough” or “without sufficient clarity” about issues such as abortion, divorce, and homosexuality on which the Catholic Church is often the sole voice of opposition to the secular progressive agenda.
Tornielli and Galeazzi have a clear agenda, says Jayabalan: to denounce “’the international imperialism of money’ and finance” and to use this pope to do so. Jayabalan uses the term “Manichean” to describe the work of these two journalists, which he says is meant to
highlight the deeply polemical and moralistic tone of the book. Heretical Manicheans in the third and fourth centuries A.D. saw good and evil as competing, co-equal forces in the world, rather than evil as the lack of or rejection of the good that comes from the Creator. It is unfortunate that a defense of Catholic social teaching and Pope Francis is so single-mindedly aimed at many who consider themselves faithful Catholics without seeking to engage in a constructive dialogue, especially when dialogue seems to be in such good favor with the pope himself.