A Liberationist Pope | Dr. Michel Therrien | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
Read carefully: We should see in this critique (by Pope Francis), not an embrace of socialism, or a condemnation of the market economy, but a call to adopt a different ethic for the marketplace.
Pope Francis is a Jesuit, a prelate from the southern hemisphere and, of course, we all know what that means: he is, almost by default, opposed to the market, business, and entrepreneurship. He is, no doubt, an advocate of some species of socialism. In fact, a conservative’s worst fears are now vindicated by the Pope’s recent critique of “trickle-down” economics, “the absolute autonomy of the market and financial speculation,” and the “idolatry of money” amidst a “globalization of indifference,” which is guided by an “invisible hand” we can “no longer trust.” Clearly, we are experiencing a shift in Rome’s stance toward capitalism; something is taking shape that looks analogous to the liberation theology the previous two pontiffs have exiled. With such strong sympathies toward the poor, and a striking condemnation of the market economy, will there be a place in the Church, during this pontificate, for the businessman or the wealthy?
Such have been the reactions of some to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Of particular concern has been what some perceive as a failure to distinguish between the U.S. experience of the market economy, and that of his native Argentina. Despite the legitimate reservations this pope elicits among those, such as myself, who appreciate the more nuanced teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, his remarks invite a serious and thoughtful consideration. Before I proceed any further, however, I would like to preface this essay by acknowledging that what Francis says in regard to the economic order needs future clarification.
In what follows, I would like to unpack the Pope’s remarks on the market economy in Evangelii Gaudium, and analyze them within the context of the New Evangelization to which the document is dedicated. I will argue for three points: that we can best understand the Pope’s remarks within the context of his stated purpose for the document; that he is not departing substantively from previous social teaching on the market economy, but offering a radical critique of certain moral failures prevalent in the global economy; and that he is not recommending a socialist solution to the problem of poverty.