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A Pope that a Unitarian Can Love, Part Tres: the Economic Gospel

Uploaded: Dec 16, 2013
The first two editions of this trinity examined elements of Pope Francis' EVANGELII GAUDIUM -- the declaration of his papacy's emphases and direction -- looking first at its great themes, and then at the church he envisions leading. This concluding chapter looks at his views of the Church's role in the distinctly secular realm of economic policy and governance. It gives voice to a kind of Liberation Theology, which assigns a central role to the church in not only ameliorating the immediate suffering of the poor, but also acting to improve their lot in society.

Liberation Theology arose in Francis' native Latin America in the 1960s, as part of the awakening of spirit roused by the Second Vatican Council of Pope John 23rd. It was later squelched by both John Paul II and Benedict, especially by the virulently anti-communist Polish Pope who equated its tenets with Marxism. I did not find this reincarnation of the doctrine to be so; rather I would call it distinctly interventionist, at both individual and state levels.

Francis lays the groundwork for Church activism by proclaiming that it needs to participate in the social dialogue, notably as regards world peace and the plight of the poor in society. "Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society?. We know that evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man's concrete life, both personal and social." (142-3)

On the societal level, he warns against "processes of dehumanization [that "run counter to God's plan," especially at this "turning-point in history" -- of technological advances and "new and anonymous kinds of power." He issues a nearly Commandment-level rebuke to "an economy of exclusion and inequality." Exclusion is even worse than exploitation or oppression, he writes, as it robs people of their hope of any betterment to their poor conditions. He calls it the baseline cause of violence in many forms, because such a socio-economic system is unjust at its root.

He rejects trickle-down economics,per se, as the product of a "crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power, and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system." As to inequality:

"While the earnings of a minority are growing, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born ? and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules." (47-8) Specifically and pointedly, he rejects a contemporary financial system that rules, rather than serves, and speaks of a "deified market" that tends to devour everything which stands in its way.

Francis calls for an end to the abdication of economic ethics by political and business leaders. "Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order?. Financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future. Money must serve, not rule!" (48-9)

Thus, the Pope calls for regulating markets with an eye to maximizing the common good, which he distinctly does Not define as 'whatever the market decides.' He also makes it clear that his Church intends to bring its conscience to bear on politicians -- including its members, I'm sure -- who appear to forget the importance of exercising their own best ethical instincts. That's a big change, but a far cry from Marxism.

Where he comes closer to a controversial sentiment is in his views of private property and wealth sharing. In a section that discusses elimination of the structural causes of poverty and promotion of the integral development of the poor, Francis calls for solidarity among "those who recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities that come before private property. The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good." (149) The imperative of that Common Good, to Francis, consciously outranks any unfettered rights to accumulation for its own sake. Call him a class warrior, but he very clearly believes that good fortune should be shared. And the purpose of commerce is not just to make a pile, but to serve human needs.

Apropos of that sharing, he also speaks to the micro, personal level of humankind's concrete life. Early on, he notes that affluence tends to breed indifference to the plight of others, and distinguishes (mere) pleasure from (meaningful) joy in service. Joy means being "liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves." He also calls on individuals to reject the new idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. And he concludes that "we do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in our own comforts. Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide." (203-4)

The Pope is quite unspecific about the manner in which good fortune might be shared, structural obstacles removed and joy attained. Perhaps that is because life offers so many of them -- at personal, business, and state levels. He appears to be announcing his intention that his Church will be in the forefront at all three levels, trying to develop the loftier attitudes and approaches that will lead to progress against poverty.

This Pope clearly wants to lead a church that is worldly in its focus, humble in its mission of service to humankind, and vibrant in its own development, up to a point. He is clearly forgoing a chance to truly reform its worst failing, and will not realize the progress that would come in his stated purposes if he were to fully integrate women's available contributions and interests (e.g., in contraception, which I neglected to mention in blog 2). Still, I have say that I am heartened by his constancy with what I believe are truly Christ-ian principles, his clarity of purpose and his devotion to leadership by example.

It's a pretty heavenly start.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 17, 2013 at 8:38 am

Tom?s columns continually advocate for big government. This week, Tom enlists religion to further his cause. Don?t be fooled.

People like Tom have convinced themselves that the U.S. welfare state is helping reduce poverty, but the opposite is true. The $5 trillion the U.S. has spent on the ?war on poverty? has been about as successful as the $1 trillion spent on the ?war on drugs? or the $5 trillion spent on the ?war on terror.?

Big government spent billions on public housing that became crime infested cesspools that had to be torn down. Welfare policies provide incentives for people to become single parents, which contributes to crime and poverty. Big government programs displace traditional welfare support systems provided by family, churches, and local communities. The result has been fraud, abuse, and an overall increase in poverty.

Big government enslaves hard working Americans through ever increasing taxes. It rewards the politically connected businesses who feed at the public trough, who build the public housing, provide military hardware, build prisons, receive the tax credits. It gets people addicted to government handouts, encouraging them to support the expansion of the welfare state.

Big government is not accountable. You only get to vote for 3 of the 535 people in congress. The rest of them can make your life miserable and you have no recourse.

People like Tom are the worst kind of zealots because they use big government to force others to follow their version of morality based on their righteous convictions rather than logic, reason, and measurable results. By any measure, big government welfare programs have been a complete failure.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 17, 2013 at 10:15 am

I have difficulty and resistance to hearing anything good about Pope Francis. However, I do wish him a Happy Birthday! He\'s now 77. VIVA!

I\'m still waiting for Pope Francis to do anything significant re: child sex abuse by Catholic priests, nuns, and their clergy/lay cheer leaders. There are significant measures that he could take to protect all children and vulnerable adults immediately. Children have a right to thrive and to be safe from sexual predators.

Americans have a responsibility to feed and shelter the elderly and poor, provide medical care for all Americans, and it's appropriate to tax corporations to further assist fellow Americans in need. Single parents often need assistance and their children are worthy recipients. Children are not responsible for the behavior of their parents/communities. Poverty is quite real for children and families and it is socially responsible to assist in the care of citizens, despite the controversy.

Pope Francis is speaking to issues of race and class. An explosive topic in the United States/Plutonia.

The United States government and its citizens, Pope Francis, and the rest of the world will fail miserably unless ADULTS accept the responsibility for providing a safe environment for all of its citizens.

The War on Drugs is a bio/psycho/social/medical problem. It makes good sense to provide medical and other supportive services to citizens who are addicted to alcohol/drugs.

i rest my case...

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

S-P: I object, counsellor, on relevance grounds. Here's the references tally: "big government" 8, "religion" 1, "Tom" 4, Pope Zee-roh. Why do I get the impression that your comment was written in advance of my posting, which you haven't bothered to read? I understand that you want to troll these blogs, but howsabout you at least troll on-topic, mmkay?

Cholo: I agree it's a nasty, unresolved crisis for the RCC, with untold victims of the most innocent kind. FWIW, Pope Francis has recently appointed a high-level commission on the subject. Now, those gatherings can be used to make progress or defer it (like Bud Selig's 'Blue Ribbon Panel' on the A's stadium matter). It's not clear, therefore, whether he's truly committed to meaningful change or not -- time will tell.

Generally, the literature on crisis management calls for a process of 'fess-up, make changes and report back on progress -- none of which requires a commission.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 17, 2013 at 11:38 am

Pope Francis - SLIGHT OF HAND: Web Link

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, R-side/back row is not on the commission. He's serves both Benedict & Francis and is in charge of the papal households and is highly likely former Pope Benedict's lover. They live together.

The American Cardinal with the sticky white beard is no champion of children.

He has for years and years and years kept SECRET files re: priest/nun pedophiles. Only recently has he made public the names of a few. Not the hundreds that he knows of in Boston/USA.

Pope Francis, like P. Pilate is washing his hands of the matter, allowing "hidden" Catholic clergy child molesters to get away with Crimes Against Humanity by allowing the foxes to guard the hen house.

Don't let the humble Pope from Argentina fool you. He's as slick as they come.

A few good deeds does not a holy man make.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 17, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Archbishop Georg Ganswein - Pope Benedict\\\\\\\'s LOVER!

Web Link

THE BIGGEST NEWS IS THE REMOVAL OF CARDINAL RAYMOND BURKE. He\\\\\\\'s the Cardinal who likes to play dress-up and wear elegant gowns, furs, valuable jewels, 40 ft. long trains...B U S T E D! tee hee...if you wanna know more, talk to former monk/priest Richard Sipe, a world HERO! VIVA!

Burke will most likely need to be placed on medications!

I gotta go out with my boys for a walk...tee hee hee...all day!

Yours truly,

Cholo Pololo Mololo

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I?m on point.

You say the Pope is calling for ?wealth sharing? ?at both the individual and state levels.?

I agree with the Pope about wealth sharing on an individual level. We have a duty to help one another, give to charities, and give our time and talents to relieve individual suffering.

But government wealth sharing? No thank you.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I must admit that if 90% of all Vatican treasures were placed on the market/auction, the world would have multi-billions of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to share with millions upon millions of children all over planet Earth. Children deserve the BEST!

If he can't share the Vatican treasures, then he's over...kaput...a creep loser.

i rest my case...

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Cholo: only one post left in your allocation -- better make it count.

s-p: not really on-point, especially before you scrambled to find something/anything that might be so.

You appear fixated, taxman, on wealth redistribution. I noted the non-specifics of the Pope's message, however, and also that it contains many elements beyond the tax code -- ways of reining-in deified markets when they do not serve the common good, in the Pope's terms. Classic examples would include antitrust enforcement, securities fraud prosecution, consumer safety regulation, environmental protection -- the woods are full of them. And not particularly controversial, methinks. If those are your idea of Big Government, than you bet I'm in favor of them -- most folks are.

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 18, 2013 at 8:08 am

Personally, I think our Pope is doing an excellent job, and it is about time we had a Jesuit residing in Vatican City. I have had several of my non-Catholic friends tell me how much they like and respect what the Pope has done in such a short time, and the Catholic church is finally getting some decent PR from the press. I am also encouraged by the favorable PR my candidate, Governor Christie, is getting from the press, and there are similarities between Pope Francis and Governor Christie in being moderate, independent thinkers, who refuse to cow tow to the extreme right of the church/party.

Now, if I awake on Christmas morning to find a Coco Crisp Chia Pet under my tree, all of my prayers will be answered!

Merry Christmas to all.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

To the recent flagger of a post as Objectionable: FYI, a comment is not Objectionable simply because you disagree with it (otherwise, all of S-P's formulations/fulminations would be for naught). It has to something like obvious spam, or gratuitously profane, or an attack on another commenter that is out-of-bounds in any of a variety of ways, all of them serious. Posting a photo of a rat has been known to qualify (as you know).

Posting a photo of a Coco Crisp chia pet, however, is okay -- indeed, it's recommended. Web Link

Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 18, 2013 at 11:02 am

"And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24.

Posted by Looking for Uno & Dos, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Dec 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Tom references 'blog 2' and contraception. Both of which I am very interested. However, in searching this PW site it seems his previous threads/comments/ blogs 1 and 2 were apparently deleted. Why would that be? Intellectual thoughts, genuine dialogue, and exchanges are the purpose of this site. I thought so, anyway.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Hi Looking: There is text just above the headline to each current blog that reads: "View all posts by Tom Cushing." If you click on that, it will take you to a screen with my most recent 5 blogs -- and a way to access all hundred-and-however-many, in case you're a glutton for that kind of punishment.

All thoughts and dialogue are welcome.

Posted by Looking for Uno & Dos, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Dec 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Thank you for the instructions on how to see the rest of your blog. Sad that Pleasanton Weekly feels the need to delete intellectual discussions. PW and our country will never fix it's problems if groups control and limit free exchange of opinions. So is it PW or "individual readers" who control the discussions and book burnings of opinions. People who know they're right, should have no problem engaging in discussions...and not be fearful of other thoughts. PW doesn't have to 'cave' on unreasonable 'silencing'.
(we all know about some silly & tiresome individuals & comments who don't raise the level of discussion)

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Newly named Bishop for the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan DESTROYS RECORDS OF CATHOLIC PRIEST CHILD RAPISTS!.

It?s a slap in the face of Pope Francis and his publicly expressed concern for the safety of children and vulnerable adults.

Father John Doerfler will be installed: Web Link

There is the appearance that the Bishop to be has been rewarded for protecting sexually abusive Catholic priests/nuns and ignoring the expressed concern of Pope Francis; further PROOF that the word of Pope Francis to protect children is not taken seriously by Catholic clergy in the United States of America. Note: There is no outcry by elected American officials.

Fr. John Doerfler: Web Link

Once again, American children are placed in the position of being sexual slaves to RCC clergy. American families have a right to know the identities of sexual predators who prey on children.

Please inform your elected officials re: the continuous sex assault/rape on
American children by Catholic priests and nuns.

This is my last post...sorry.

Posted by Looking for Uno & Dos, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Dec 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm

SO P Weekly just removed the conversation of your 2nd blog on the Pope. Now just click on 'all posts' right over your Pope title, that is ok for those who know. Unbelievable the feeble attempt to hide what has been written in thousands of old history books, and thousands of 21st century newspapers. Truth is known, relocated or not. PW or a complainer, will they rewrite history books too. Tom's Pope 1 and Pope 2 blogs each had over 1,000 'viewers'. You would think that was PW's goal...to get site viewers. They get that then remove and tuck both just under Tom's Pope tres (3) post.

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