What is the worst problem in the world today? Might it be war, starvation, genocide, sectarian violence, murder, slaughter of babies in the womb? Any of these would be a rational answer. But when Pope Francis was asked this question recently, he replied, “Youth unemployment.”
His encyclical is about economics, and it reveals a disturbing ignorance ..
Thank God, so to speak, that his teaching authority is limited to faith and morals, because in matters of economics, he is wide of the mark.
His encyclical, titled “Joy of the Gospel,” attacks free-market capitalism because it takes too long for the poor to get rich. “They are still waiting,” the pope wrote. Without capitalism, which rewards hard work and sacrifice, they will wait forever. No economic system in history has alleviated more poverty, generated more opportunity and helped more formerly poor people become rich than capitalism. The essence of capitalism goes to the core of Catholic teaching: the personal freedom of every person. Capitalism is freedom to risk, freedom to work, freedom to save, freedom to retain the fruits of one’s labors, freedom to own property and freedom to give to charity.
The problem with modern capitalism — a problem that escaped the scrutiny of His Holiness — is not too much freedom, but too little. The regulation of free markets by governments, the control of the private means of production by government bureaucrats, and the unholy alliances between governments, banks and industry have raised production costs, stifled competition, established barriers to entry into markets, raised taxes, devalued savings and priced many poor out of the labor force. The pope would do well to pray for those who have used government to steal freedom so as to satisfy their lust for power, and for those who have bowed to government so as to become rich from governmental benefits and not by the fruits of their own labors.
The pope seems to prefer common ownership of the means of production, which is Marxist, or private ownership and government control, which is fascist, or government ownership and government control, which is socialist. All of those failed systems lead to ashes, not wealth. Pope Francis must know this. He must also know that when Europe was in turmoil in 1931, his predecessor Pius XI wrote in one of his encyclicals: “[N]o one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist.”
The Church does not teach just for today, but for the life of man on Earth. That’s why the essence of the Papacy is not contemporary problem solving, but preservation of truth and continuity of tradition. For this reason, Popes do not lightly contradict their predecessors. If it was sacred then, it is sacred now.
What shall we do about the Pope and economics? We should pray for his faith and understanding and for a return to orthodoxy. That means Holy Mother Church under the Vicar of Christ — saving souls, not pocketbooks.