Pope Francis' Political Interference Leaves Questions

Jen Kuznicki
By Jen Kuznicki | November 29, 2013 | 1:36 PM EST

I listened to Rush Limbaugh point out, with sadness, that Pope Francis seems to have little knowledge about the goodness of capitalism.  It was the first I had heard of the Pope's recent address, Evangelii Gaudium, and as a Catholic, I have often tried to think of ways to explain how my faith complements the issue of free markets rather than social justice when it comes to governmental policy.

So, it was very difficult for me to read the translation of what the Pope said, knowing what I know about the principles of free market capitalism, and knowing that I too, consider myself a faithful Catholic, at odds with the numerous Catholics who vote for a candidate's policy of social justice, ignoring completely their stance on abortion.  In that consideration, it still would be wrong of me to encourage a vote for a candidate who is for social justice as well as against abortion, because prolonging policies of redistribution ends in tax slavery.

The translation of the Pope's address has come under scrutiny, and I too, as Rush did, wonder if this document was translated by those with certain political views, because of the unusually political and direct attack on free-market capitalism using partisan language from America's Democratic Party.

"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."

It was striking to read the attack on American Conservatism, limited government, and the notion that a "rising tide lifts all boats."  It would seem to me, that if the Pontiff had included some sort of reminder that we should honor God in our work, do all that we do the best we can to praise He that gave us our gifts, his address might seem less an excoriation of the free market and more a praise of the individual gifts given to us by God.  That omission led me to be reminded of where he comes from, Argentina, and its prevailing social justice of Peronism.

The reference to global economic and financial systems in the Pontiff's address is automatically assumed to be a boon to the political forces in America that wish to use the public trust as a mechanism to redistribute wealth.  But even accepting the notion that perhaps the address was not translated properly, the Pope still seems to directly interfere politically with Catholic officeholders.

"With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: "Not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs".55"

It has always been my belief that faith should guide those in office.  At the same time, the godly pursuit of charity should be a personal one, and perhaps that is emphasized in the quote above "one's wealth" not, 'the nation's wealth,' and that the seventh commandment was the reinforcing rule thereto.  In other words, give your money freely to those in need, but don't force others by threat of incarceration or devastation to do so because the Pope condones it. 'Government is force,' being the guiding principle, and 'Thou shalt not steal,' the Commandment.

In that vein, tell me, do Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden live in near poverty because they are correct in their social justice form of ideology?   Have they given away their mounds of money to the poor, or other people's?   I'm told Chris Christie has a social justice kind of governing style.  Is it correct to take (steal) from others to give to the poor?  I don't think so, and I believe if the Pope were directly asked that, as well as if he were introduced to the principles used in the American founding, he would agree.

I still am deeply moved by this particular Pope.  I have read more that he has said than any other, trying to get a feel for where he is coming from.  I do believe he is well-intentioned and I believe he is holy, and meek.  He has said that he struggles with being a sinner, as we all do, and it is because of his honesty that I dare to try to challenge his words.

I have Evangelical Christian friends who appreciate Pope Francis, and some who believe he is wildly liberal, in the modern American sense.  But I have always learned from them, and their reading of the Bible, as well as the preaching of their pastors.  What my friends have reminded me in the past is the passage in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "If you don't work, you don't eat."

It is one thing to see the poor as a monolithic down-trodden part of society who are devastated and always left out of the ways to better themselves, as would be in a nation that has never known freedom, and quite another to see the reality that millions of American "poor" are a thousand times better off than people considered poor in the third world.  And yet, the American "poor" are those somehow still eating and not working.

It is that reality that exposes the wrongness of economic justice as administered by Catholicism's interference in the American political system.  The doctrine should not be applied by government, but in the Church, and from our own hearts.

Because I believe the Pontiff comes from a place where government is, in nature, authoritarian, where the sovereign is the ruler and not the individual, his economic theory is at odds with the American founding.  It seems to me, that if my Pope urges me to give to those in need, I should be able to do so without my government forcing me to, and defining, for their own political purposes, who is in "need."