28 November, 2013

Commentary on “Evangelii Gaudium” by Pope Francis

“No to an economy of exclusion
53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

“54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

Matthew 26:11 For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always.

Mark 14:7 For the poor you have always with you: and whensoever you will, you may do them good: but me you have not always.

John 12:8 For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.

As those of you who follow my writings know It is very rare for me to write about current events. However, I am making an exception here to not try to clarify what the Pope has said but to instead give an alternative perspective to the problem in society in regards to the poor. I agree with Pope Francis that the poor are often ignored and marginalized in all systems of government and all economic models. A solution to this problem has not been found in the 2000 year history of the Church whether the Church has been in a position of direct influence of government or just a moral conscience of government.But clearly according to the teaching of Jesus we are to be a moral conscience always and teach not only charity towards the poor but demand respect for their plight in society. Surely, as Christians, we are called to be charitable to the poor and to also do what we can to influence all segments of society in the plight of the poor so that they can be given not only the excess of prosperity but also the fruit of prosperity. We must also be aware that the prophetic words of the Bible recorded by these three disciples of our Lord is the reality of how society consists and will consist for all times. So, a call to be charitable by all people whether people of faith or not is appropriate by not only the Church but also by government. No one should suffer hunger or lack of shelter  in our society regardless of the economic system in place. It has been my experience that regardless of the economic system the poor are with us and that more charity is needed towards the poor among us.

In the United States, "Trickle down economics” is a Democrat invention as it was first tried by John Kennedy, a Catholic, and it created a great economic expansion in the US. It was not tried again until it was tried by Reagan to thwart a near economic collapse caused by the Keynesian policies of the Democrat predecessors. This time it created the greatest and longest economic expansion in world history which lasted through the Clinton administration and was only ended by a return to the failed Keynesian policies of the past.

It is a fact that when people of faith prosper that more is given to the poor. Charity increases to the poor that will always be among us. Governmental economic systems historically regardless of ideology do little to help the plight of the poor but instead it is the heart of the individual that is moved to reach out to the poor among us with charity. The Church has a place to be the leader and example of charity and the teaching of our Lord and Savior tells us that we are to be there for our fellow men. May we as a Church be an example to the world and to governments in giving to the need of those who are among the poor.  Government has no neighbors but we as individuals do and  through our charity we corporeally can make a difference to the poor for there is no conscience in government equal to the conscience of the individual moved by God’s divine grace in our individual and corporeal lives. To depend on government to make a difference in the lives of the poor actually betrays the call of Christ to be charitable and loving to those who for whatever reason do not prosper in any society. There is no system of government that does or can eliminate the poor among us but we can do better with our love and charity to our fellow men.

Pope Francis is neither an economist nor a financial expert. He is a man of God and equipped to speak out against ignoring the plight of the poor. The poor will always be among us and that is not the result of any economic policy. All that the Church can do or the faithful individually is to be charitable to those who have not been as fortunate as some. For the Pope to speak out against greed and for charity is not a political statement but one of morality. Wealth is not immoral but greed and envy is immoral.

Romans 12:6-8

6 And having different gifts, according to the grace that is given us, either prophecy, to be used according to the rule of faith;
7 Or ministry, in ministering; or he that teacheth, in doctrine;
8 He that exhorteth, in exhorting; he that giveth, with simplicity; he that ruleth, with carefulness; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

I think that most Catholics  would agree wholeheartedly with Pope Francis’ call for charity and for evangelism as they are both sides to the same coin.

Proverbs 28:27

27 He that giveth to the poor, shall not want: he that despiseth his entreaty, shall suffer indigence.

Both lay and clergy do what we can to further the efforts of evangelism. There does need to be more involvement in the laity in evangelism as the clergy is already burdened with being shepherds for their flocks. The laity must become more involved in catechistical training and efforts to reach out to non-Catholics with the true Gospel message from the bark of the Church from which all men are saved from sin through the grace of the Sacraments of our Lord.

He seems very concerned about the poor of which all Christians should share that same concern. However, social engineering is not the mission of the Church and the Church can become sidetracked by such secular issues that the Church has little if any ability to change. The very efforts of the Church in the secular environment may inhibit the poor more in their struggles than helping them. What the Church can do is be an example of mercy and of generosity in continuing and increasing our charitable activities for the needy and the poor in the world. It is better to focus on what we can do rather than trying to influence the world to do better.

Proverbs 14:21

21 He that despiseth his neighbour, sinneth: but he that sheweth mercy to the poor, shall be blessed. He that believeth in the Lord, loveth mercy.

The spirit of the world is not the Spirit that inspires us as Christians and we follow a different leader. The world will never conform to the mission of the Church but the poor of the world will benefit from a increased effort of our charity. I think that the real message of Pope Francis here is that we should renew and emphasize our evangelism efforts as the way to make the world better for all people.

1 John 3:17

17 He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him?

To know Christ is to know love which is woefully lacking in the world and only the Church can fill this need for love in Christ. We can make a difference by being an example to the world and that "shining city on a hill that cannot be hid".

Forgive me Holy Father

God bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Well written....thank you.

  3. I commented here http://ncronline.org/news/theology/evangelii-gaudium-amounts-francis-i-have-dream-speech#comment-1142472728 . I see you are a former Protestant. I am thinking about becoming one because I cannot, in good conscience, support this pope who calls us who are pro-life as "obsessed" with non important matters. What Protestant denomination would you recommend? I have thought about the Southern Baptists but their creepy teachings on evolution/science is a bit of a turn off. Yet, I prefer to be in their company than in company of an abortion condoning pope.

  4. It appears as if the Church is entering into some of its more difficult times. This is not the first time that the Church has been attacked from within and is not the first time that the Church has had bad and even evil Popes. The Church needs people like you and I even more although we will be persecuted and attacked for our orthodoxy. I am reminded of the faith of St. Peter when He was asked after Jesus colloquy at Capernaum if he would leave also. In answering our Lord He said "to whom shall we go". This is still Christ's own enduring Church and I refuse to give in to false teachers and the heterodox but will instead remain a voice of reason and of orthodoxy. God bless!

    In Christ
    Fr. Joseph

  5. The Apostolic Exhortation was doctrinally totally orthodox, had a great pro-life statement, and was absolutely on the money about our world. What's the danger? How is this a bad pope? How is one word out of this pope heterodox or even close? I mean maybe I am missing something.

  6. Dear Father
    Thanks for your article. I came here because I read your post in the NCR. In your NCR post you talked about Pope Francis' "call to embrace communism and socialism." I don't really think the paragraphs you quote support socialism. I don't see him saying anything different about modern economies than what the church has said since Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum. In that document Pope Leo warned about the evil the excesses of capitalism were causing. But at the same time he cautioned against the even greater evils which would result if societies embraced socialism as the solution. The pope's predictions were so accurate it was like he was looking ahead 100 years to Eastern Europe after the wall came down. He was literally prophetic like Paul VI in Humanae vitae.

    Even though I grew up supporting the Reagan revolution I am still open to criticisms from my pope on what is excessive in our capitalist model. I agree with you that it is the responsibility of every Christian to personally care for the poor. But we also have a responsibility to try to instantiate Christian principles in our laws. Child labor laws would be a good example. Also we try to do this whenever we go to the March for Life in DC or attend a protest supporting traditional marriage. I can't accept that "government" has no responsibility in this area. I agree a government can abuse power. But a government is really operating under the principles it's people allow. We may never be successful, but we should at least try to be the conscience of our government in issues of human life, family life, sexuality, and yes, economics.

    If you've never read Rerum Novarum, I really recommend it. I especially liked his critique of socialism, the principle of subsidiarity, mutual responsibilities of labor and capital, and the obligation to work toward the common good. I was challenged by his summary of the evils of liberal capitalism and the obligation to pay a just wage. It's on the Vatican web site. God bless you and thanks for your work. Happy Advent!

  7. I cannot thank you enough for sending me the information about Pope Leo XIII writing called "Rerum Novarum". This was a great treatise with sound teaching. This is the kind of instruction I would expect from a man of God and especially from the Pope. I could find nothing in his writing that was not sound teaching and as you noted prophetic of the endorsement of the greater evil of socialism as the solution. Truly socialism is the greater evil. and an attack on the dignity of man.

  8. I would grant that socialism might be a greater evil in so far as it considers that the goal is a purely earthly and purely economic and it seeks to place the individual at the complete mercy of a vision of some purely historical outcome including the pervasive use of false propaganda. But I think the need for consumers to keep the wheels of the free market have resulted in persons using pervasive false propaganda to condition humans to accept purely earthly values as if the economic situation were all that mattered. That socialism attains its goals through the action of those individuals we have given power to in the government, while capitalism attains its goals through the action of those people who have been given power through accumulating wealth, makes me think there is very little difference in terms of human dignity. But thank you father for making me think about this. I much prefer people who don't think exactly like I do. I stand a better chance of learning.

  9. People usually are not given power by accumulated wealth but instead earn their wealth by hard work and sacrifice. The freedom of the person to rise above their state in life must be protected for a society that is vibrant and alive with opportunity through hard work that satisfies the soul rather than a socialist system that allows a person to prosper solely on appealing to others of power and influence to have favor on them. God bless!

    In Christ
    Fr. Joseph

  10. I would add that previous popes have spoken about the moral dangers of unbridled capitalism (usually in the same document in which they criticized communism) but that the American secular press, not to mention homilies in many American Catholic churches, ignored those statements. Once the press characterized Francis as a supposed "rebel", they were sure to play up his statements about this more so than they have for past popes.