The Pope on Money

Something to talk about with your family around the Thanksgiving table, if your family is anything like mine (super Catholic): Pope Francis just issued an 84-page “apostolic exhortation” about the idolatry of money and the new tyranny of unfettered capitalism. YES, PLEASE:

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…

…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.

You and my uncle and maybe my grandma can read the whole document over at the Vatican. I will just be sitting here enjoying the fact that the Pope took a swipe at trickle-down economics.

Photo: Semilla Luz

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22 Comments / Post A Comment

gyip (#4,192)

I was going to ask how much the Vatican gives to charity … Googling, according to its own financial statement in 2012, the Vatican donated $70 million to charity. Mostly Catholic websites covered that, apparently. Hmm.

deepomega (#22)

@gyip That’s kind of misleading, since in a lot of senses the church IS a charity. They are one of the largest health care providers in the US, for instance. I believe most of their money goes to schools and hospitals, which doesn’t get counted as charity donations since they operate them.

Allison (#4,509)

@deepomega As a person with a uterus/my own beliefs about end of life care etc, Catholic hospitals scare me.

deepomega (#22)

@gyip Yeah, definitely don’t go to a Catholic hospital for your pregnancy/abortion. Not sure what the church’s teachings on end of life care matter, tho, since it’s not like euthanasia is legal anywhere else? Catholics run some pretty good hospices and are pro-palliative care, IRC.

gyip (#4,192)

@deepomega Thanks for pointing that out! That occurred to me too … I just couldn’t find any more information that didn’t seem potentially pro-biased, so :|

Allison (#4,509)

@deepomega The dogma is for keeping people alive via intervention, even if that intervention is unwanted, per this article there’s been some strife involving living wills and families.

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2010/February/24/Catholic-directive-may-thwart-end-of-life-wishes.aspx

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

Perhaps the Pope in his wisdom can identify social models which have been proven in practice to deliver consistently better results than capitalism.

Meaghano (#529)

@WayDownSouth lol, love you

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@Meaghano I remember being in university and being outraged about elderly people having to eat cat food, families being bankrupted after the mother or father lost their job. It really is terrible and I have a lot of sympathy for them.

After graduation, I was loudly expressing my dismay and indignation to my office mate (who happened to have escaped from the former Soviet Union during the 70s).She asked me what system was better and I named a few. In each case, she pointed out the problems in those countries as well. This discussion helped to start the shift from bleeding heart liberal to heartless conservative.

I’m not aware of any country or economic model which works well for all of its residents. I’m therefore always curious to hear different perspectives about which systems are proven to be better than capitalism and why.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@WayDownSouth Whoa?! Offering concrete solutions instead of just complaining all day?! My, aren’t we optimistic!!

But, yes. Very good point.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@WayDownSouth I’m no economist, but I have always admired Sweden’s mix of social welfare and free market economics. I don’t know how much you already know about the Swedish model, but based on your posts here I think you could get behind it. Here’s a very brief article that outlines how they pulled their economy out of a slump in the past 30 years through common sense reforms:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-08-29/opinions/41578257_1_sweden-global-economy-world-economy

sea ermine (#122)

@Blondsak I’ve lived in a number of countries and a system I found worked very well was what is in place in Germany today (a mix of strong social programs along with free market economics, probably not widely different from the Swedish model mentioned above). There isn’t any such thing as a model that works well for all of a countries residents, but there are models that can work well for most and in my experience having a solid social safety net and good support for your citizens (which the US currently doesn’t have). I live in the US now and as much as I love it here I really really wish we took some of the social democrat policies of other countries. Keep in mind that giving back to citizens does benefit the country, people who have the security of, say, health insurance (as an example of a social program) are going to feel more free to innovate or start their own businesses or take risks that can expand the economy. Higher minimum wages keep large swaths of the economy from being dependent on social programs, which leaves more left for those who truly need it, etc.

shallowpate (#1,701)

@WayDownSouth Well, the last pope had this to say: “In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”

snowe (#4,421)

@WayDownSouth Dude, you live in Australia, right? With a strong social safety net, socialized medicine, and a minimum wage twice what it is here.

You have *no idea* what things are like here in the US, and how hard it is for some people to survive. In my state, there is no Medicaid coverage for non-disabled childless adults, no matter how poor you are. The charity hospital just shut down most of its services.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@snowe that’s very interesting. Which state is this?

If it’s helpful to learn, the medical system here is a combination of public and private. Because demand for medical services in the public hospitals far exceeds supply, the government has mandated that everyone should have private insurance as well. If you don’t, you are penalised. So Australia is both a good advertisement for socialised medicine AND a demonstration of why it doesn’t work as effectively as hoped. More details if you’d like them.

snowe (#4,421)

@WayDownSouth Alabama. And, our current governor is a doctor who turned down federal money that would have provided Medicaid coverage for up to 300,000 people. Keep in mind, we are one of the poorest and sickest states. Doctors who come to UAB from other parts of the country are shocked by the terrible health conditions here.

http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2013/10/medicaid_expansion_rejection_l.html

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

I am no longer Catholic, but I find myself growing fond of Pope Francis. I feel so conflicted about that. Pls bring back Nazi Pope so I can stop feeling dissonance, thanks Vatican.

Meaghano (#529)

@wrappedupinbooks Exaaaactly

@wrappedupinbooks Word. We need an “ex-Catholics with confusing feelings of respect for the current Pope” support group.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@wrappedupinbooks I’m a stone-cold atheist with nothing but respect for Pope Francis. But it’s not related to his religious beliefs at all. The Dalai Lama doesn’t move me to Buddhism either, you know?

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@aetataureate eh if you didn’t grow up Catholic it’s hard to really get how us former Catholics feel about the Pope. When you’re little, you’re taught that he’s the represenative of Christ on earth and has sort of a direct-dial thing going on with him (at least, that’s how it sounds to a child). For us its very hard to separate the man from Catholicism, because for all intents and purposes he IS Catholicism.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@wrappedupinbooks If Richard Dawkins retired and someone I respected took over I would also feel very overwhelmed by ambivalence.

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