Does the left have its pope?
Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 9/25/15
Pope Francis has just become only the fourth pope in history to visit the United States and he has made quite the stir.
Full disclosure, I am a fan of the papacy even though I am not Catholic. I believe that the pope has enormous influence in the world and I always wish for that influence to be used to elevate our human lot.
I feel a special connection to this pope, having been standing on a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square in Rome on the evening he was elected and presented to the world.
For all of that, I am coming to have my concerns about him. He is sounding to me more like the product of a leftist, populist, Perónist Argentina than the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world – including nearly 70 million Americans. His statements on capitalism particularly rankle.
Contrary to many expectations, he soft-pedaled during his address to a joint session of Congress, speaking only in rather benign generalities. On poverty, the pope said,
“I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope.”
No disagreement here. But does that hope come in the form of statist wealth redistribution or does it come in the form of creating more wealth through free-market opportunity? Standing before Congress, His Holiness didn’t say.
But speaking on poverty in other venues he has been more outspokenly anti-capitalist. In a 2013 apostolic exhortation called, Evangelii Gaudium, the pope said,
“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.”
That may be true in any number of corrupt nations – including the Argentina in which Pope Francis came of age. But free-market competition in the United States has done more in two and a third centuries to lift masses of people out of poverty than all of the best efforts of the Catholic Church going back 2,000 years.
Far from foreclosing “any means of escape” from poverty, it can be argued that capitalism has proved to be the only means of escape. We see time and again that as societies become more statist, poverty increases. For an exhibit to that effect, I offer the pope’s native country. Prior to the leftism ushered in by Juan Perón in 1947, per capita income in Argentina ranked near the top among countries in the world. Seventy years later, Argentina now ranks 63rd.
So please Holy Father, spare us the predictable left wing canon. Instead, be the beacon of light that you are uniquely qualified to be. Re-evangelize Europe. Speak forcefully on the sanctity of life. Take dictators and tyrants to task. Be a champion for marriage and family.
But please, don’t be a garden variety leftist. It’s unbecoming to your good office. And we have plenty of them anyway.