Opus Dei, call your office. Pope Francis, in his first major writing since taking office, has issued a rigorous and comprehensive denunciation of Neoliberalism. Called his Apostolic Exhortation, the writing makes clear that Pope Francis regards modern capitalism and the political movement promoting it to be antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.
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”.
Pope Francis went on to specifically target Supply-side or “trickle-down” economics as being wicked. Pope Francis noted the dehumanizing or commodification of society due to the invasive and rapacious nature of modern capitalism.
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.
Economic conservative Catholics apparently have the choice of being conservatives or Catholics, but not both. So sayeth the Pope – who under the Catholic system is a rather important voice.
If you are at all stunned by reading such anti-Neoliberal jeremiads from a sitting pope, I’m right there with you. This writing is a full frontal attack on the dominant philosophy among the transnational kleptocratic elite that increasingly rule our world. I imagine Pope Francis will not be well spoken of at Davos next year.
Pope Francis even resurrected the “idolatry of money” argument, condemning the “tyranny” of markets. This is bad news for Catholics who wanted to work on Wall Street and go to heaven.