In his speech for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, marked for New Year’s Day, Time’s most recently elected “Person of the Year” decried the “widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs.” Pope Francis, it is obvious, is hammering the same theme that he sounded a few weeks ago when he called upon the world to reject “trickle-down economics,” “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” for “such an economy,” he informed us, “kills.”
The left is thrilled by this Pope’s remarks. As a traditional, practicing Roman Catholic Christian and lover of liberty, I decidedly am not.
While Pope Francis is correct to admonish us to condemn murderous economies, what he is describing doesn’t exist. Furthermore, we must grasp that he articulates not the cardinal tenet of Christian charity, but an ideology of welfare-state socialism.
Contrary to what many a contemporary cleric would have us think, Jesus never once—never ever—spoke about the need for His disciples to “narrow the gap” in “income” and “wealth” between “the rich” and “the poor.” He never once deplored “inequality,” for He came not in the service of an ideology of Equality, but in the service of saving humanity from its sins. The only “economy” in which Jesus ever expressed an interest is the economy of salvation.
Of course, this does not mean that Christians should be indifferent to the world’s affairs generally, and “economies” that “kill” in particular. What it most certainly does mean is that if it is the latter that our discipleship calls upon us to resist, then it is on just those economies, those “systems,” that we must set our sights.
And “the free market” ain’t one of them.
At a minimum, within “capitalist” orders, standards of living for all have risen to an extent that even the nobility of earlier times never could have imagined. The poor has nowhere been better served than in such societies. At the same time, it is economies of the kind on behalf of which the Pope advocates—particularly those within which there exists an obsession with promoting greater material “equality”—that have eventuated in greater rates of suffering and death.
“Capitalism” is indeed deserving of its share of criticism. But socialism is deserving of a significantly larger share.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.