Saturday, November 30, 2013

Jesuit Roots and Franciscan Spirituality: Pope Francis Decries Current Economic Policies That Exploit the Poorest Worldwide

THE LAMB CATHOLIC WORKER, Columbus - Excerpts from the article: "Pope Francis Denounces ‘Trickle-Down’ Economics" by Aaron Blake, Washington Post / November 26

Pope Francis has released a moving teaching about evangelizing the world, written in a conversational manner, unlike other official Church teachings.  Most notable though, is his sharply worded take on the pitfalls of runaway capitalism in regards to it's impact on and treatment to the world's most vulnerable poor. In terms of the marginalized, he criticizes economic policies in no uncertain terms, in addition to greed in other forms such as consumerism.  Pray for him as he is under attack by those such as Rush Limbaugh who called him a Marxist.  As Dom Helder Camara, another prophetic archbishop from Latin America, famously observed, "When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." 

In the first lengthy writing of his papacy — also known as an "apostolic exhortation" — Francis says such economic theories naively rely on the goodness of those in charge and create a "tyranny" of the markets.

"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," the pope wrote. "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."

Here are more excerpts from our beloved Pope Francis.


52. In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its
history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields.
We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare
in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the
same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries
are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of
diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear
and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of
living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are
on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle
to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. This epochal
change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative,
quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences
and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas
of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information,
which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.

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.

No to the new idolatry of money

55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with
money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our
societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact
that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the
primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of
the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and
ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an
impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis
affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and,
above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced
to one of his needs alone: consumption

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, 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, invisible and often virtual, which
unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and
the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to
realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from
enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add
widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken
on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no
limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands
in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the
environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market,
which become the only rule.

No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection
of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision.
It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and
power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the
manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to
a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the
categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God
can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous,
since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom
from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics –
would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social
order. 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

58. A 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, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of
each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich
and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all
that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to
generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an
ethical approach which favors human beings.

No to the inequality which spawns violence

59. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But
until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is
reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and
the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal
opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find
a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society –
whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of
itself on the fringes, no political program or resources spent on law
enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee
tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a
violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the
socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to
spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand
its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and
social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has
its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has
a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil
crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of
hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of
history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful
development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.

60. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it
is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves
doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders
a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to
resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamoring for
heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and
violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious
conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and
the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in
unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an
“education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and
harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized
in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in
many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions –
whatever the political ideology of their leaders.

{Read the full text of Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium}