Some reflections on Pope Francis Visit to the US: Here is a piece I wrote during Pope Francis visit to the US called Pope Francis and the Paradox of Poverty and another by my colleague Kishore Jayabalan titled, The Economic Re-education of Pope Francis?
Overall I thought the visit was powerful, especially thought the world meeting of families. It was good for America to see and hear the Pope, and I wouldn’t normally say this, but it was good for Pope Francis to see America.
Let me be clear: we need to listen to the Pope more than he needs to listen to us, nevertheless since Pope Francis had never been to the US, and I think has some incorrect perceptions about America shaped by the Latin American press, it was good for him to actually visit and see it first hand, if only for a few days.
The pope has some serious and valid critiques of modern, liberal, commercial society that we need to think through. At the same time he has never really spent much time in one. It will be interesting to see how the pope addresses economics in after visiting a wealthy, commercial society that still has comparably high levels of religious participation. I am not suggesting everything is fine to be sure, and the Gospels are clear in their warnings about the dangers of wealth and the idolatry of money which we can too easily dismiss them as if they do not apply to us–which is a mistake.
My essay was not just about his visit, but more generally about the paradox between critiques of market economies and his concern for the poor and excluded. I wrote
“while the pope is a sharp critic of capitalism and industrialism, he also stresses the need to create an economy that brings about inclusion and prosperity. If we look at economic history, what generally creates inclusion for the poor and enables people to create prosperity for their own families and communities is quite clear. They are the institutions of justice like private property and clear title to land, justice in the courts for rich and poor alike, and freedom to engage in economic activity without undue burden from the state…
I would surmise if we addressed each of the institutions of freedom and justice individually — property rights, the rule of law, freedom of exchange — the pope would support them. They are forces for inclusion, protection and opportunity for the poor, all of which the Holy Father desires. But taken together these same institutions are the foundations of a free and competitive economy, which Pope Francis consistently decries.
This is the paradox of the pope’s message. He seems to want two mutually exclusive things — prosperity for the poor without a free and competitive market economy, the only system that has ever really enabled it.
You can read the entire piece here at the stream
Kishore Jayabalan who worked at the Vatican for a number of years provides some good analysis of the Pope’s visit and especially highlights the tensions between Catholicism and liberal society.
Liberalism presents difficulties for serious Christians regardless of their political preferences. Although he hasn’t put it in such terms, Pope Francis seems to recognize the problem when he berates the “globalization of indifference” or the loneliness of the “throwaway” culture. But it is a classically Christian critique that coincides with the political program of the anti-capitalist left. Indeed, it takes very little effort to see Francis, based on his own priorities, as a man of the Catholic left.
Yet, on his way to the United States from Cuba, Francis took issue with such a characterization, saying that he teaches nothing other than the social doctrine of the Church and virtually challenging journalists to say otherwise, which none had the courage to do. But the fact is that the pope has chosen to emphasize issues that are overwhelmingly more pleasing to the left than the right and none more so than capitalism. He usually blames the economic way of thinking, the profit motive and especially financial speculation for social ills. But what if this mentality is not due to economics as such, but to modern thought or liberal democracy more generally? Would progressives still have such favorable views of Francis?
The tensions between Christianity and liberalism are difficult to resolve, especially for those of us who are simply trying to lead honest, decent lives in the modern world. Partisans are just that, partial, in their positions and haven’t come to grips with the larger issues. The conflicts surely can’t be resolved by thoughtlessly condemning capitalism or conversely saying a few kind words about business. But after watching Pope Francis in the United States, I am tempted to say that he is more aware of the difficulty than he was.
You can find the entire piece here at the Acton Institute as well as a couple of other pieces by Kishore on Pope Francis: