Ever since Pope Francis was elected Supreme Pontiff last March, progressives have waited, presumably with bated breath, for him to “modernize” the Catholic Church. But they’re going to have to keep waiting, it seems. On Tuesday, Francis released his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, in which he laid out his vision and hopes for the Catholic Church. I have not yet read all of it, of course, but from what I’ve skimmed thus far, it’s clear to me he’s reemphasizing and reaffirming issues that have been hallmarks of his papacy: poverty, income inequality, and the innate dignity of all people. Here are a few notable excerpts.
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.
55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.
214. Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?
The document is 84-pages long. So obviously there’s a lot more to it than four short excerpts. But perhaps one important takeaway, per The Week, is that Francis blasted the theories of “trickle-down economics” -- economic principles championed by Ronald Reagan, among others -- asserting that their successful implementation have “never been confirmed by the facts.” (Writing at NRO, Samuel Gregg raises doubts about this questionable claim here.) That being said, Francis (see above) also defended the right to life and the inherent dignity of all unborn children. This isn’t unexpected, of course, but will, perhaps, allay the fears of some conservative Catholics unhappy with his papacy thus far.
You can read the whole thing here.