Pope Francis spotlights social teaching with blunt calls for ethical economy

Migrant workers from Nepal take part in a Labor Day rally in Hong Kong on May 1. (AFP/Getty Images/Philippe Lopez)

(NCR Online) Catholics on the front lines of social justice struggles expressed delight at Pope Francis’ frequent references to caring for the poor, his trenchant remarks about “savage capitalism,” and his calls for government intervention to pursue the common good in the face of hostile market forces.

“Quite frankly, it brings tears to my eyes,” said Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK. “It’s been so long since one of our leaders brought the struggle of humanity front and center. It’s a relief — and a joy — to see the Gospel being preached with such clarity.”

In a May 16 audience at which he received the credentials of four ambassadors to the Holy See, Francis said:

The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started a throwaway culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies, and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules.

The pope also criticized “corruption and selfish fiscal evasion” in his remarks. Three of the four countries whose ambassadors were present are known tax havens: Antigua and Barbuda; Luxembourg; and Botswana.

The following week, the pope visited a soup kitchen run at the Vatican by the Missionaries of Charity and again spoke forcefully about modern economic conditions, condemning “a savage capitalism [that] has taught the logic of profit at all cost, of giving to get, of exploitation without looking at the persons … and we see the results in the crisis we are living!”

“It isn’t just words,” Campbell said. “People catch on quickly to window dressing. This is not window dressing.” [More]

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