TORNIELLI: Some of the passages in the “Evangelii Gaudium” attracted the criticism of ultraconservatives in the USA. As a Pope, what does it feel like to be called a “Marxist”?
POPE FRANCIS: “The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”
The term "ultraconservatives in the USA" is umbrella speak for Rush Limbaugh and those who followed his lead in the right-wing media. If you would like to see Limbaugh's monologue that led to this little exchange between "golden EIB microphone" and the Chair of Peter, I have linked to a video here in a previous article.
In Limbaugh's own words: "this is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope." Pope Francis responds in his own words: "The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended."
There is it folks. Marxism is wrong. Period. Now we shouldn't be surprised about this should we? The popes have been railing against Marxism for 120 years now. Why should this one be any different. The Holy Father goes on, so as to show a little charity toward Mr. Limbaugh and gang. "I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended." He is not offended by the accusation. Why? Because he has met many good (well intentioned) people in his life who are Marxists, so he doesn't view this as an insult.
Now that's pretty gracious. I wish I could say I felt the same way when people call me a Marxist (and they do). I tend to get a little upset when they do this, because not only is it untrue (I'm not a Marxist), but as an American, the very accusation seems rather "un-American" to me -- an insult to my nationality. The pope is not burdened with the same nationality complex as I, so he doesn't take it in an offensive way. Of course you're probably wondering why anyone would call me a Marxist in the first place. I suppose they call me a Marxist for the same reason Rush Limbaugh said "this is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope."
They lack imagination, and they are uneducated on this matter.
Yep, I said it. I just called Rush Limbaugh unimaginative and uneducated -- on this issue. Here is why I said it, and I pointed this out in my previous article. I am a Distributist, and Distributism is an economic model that comes directly from papal teaching, stretching back 120 years to Pope Leo XIII papal encyclical Rerum Novarum. Multiple encyclicals have been written on the topic since then, and each one carried far more weight than Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. So, you thought Pope Francis' words were politically charged? Wait till you read what previous popes have said, with more authority and weight of official Church teaching. Here are just a few quotes...
"Hence by degrees it has come to pass that Working Men have been given over, isolated and defenseless, to the callousness of employers and the greed of unrestrained competition." -- Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, #3
"On the one side there is the party which holds the power because it holds the wealth; which has in its grasp all labor and all trade; which manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is powerfully represented in the councils of the State itself. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, sore and suffering, always ready for disturbance." -- Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, #47
"Just as the unity of human society cannot be built upon “class” conflict, so the proper ordering of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition. From this source, as from a polluted spring, have proceeded all the errors of the `individualistic’ school. This school, forgetful or ignorant of the social and moral aspects of economic activities, regarded these as completely free and immune from any intervention by public authority, for they would have in the market place and in unregulated competition a principle of self-direction more suitable for guiding them than any created intellect which might intervene. Free competition, however, though justified and quite useful within certain limits, cannot be an adequate controlling principle in economic affairs. This has been abundantly proved by the consequences that have followed from the free rein given to these dangerous individualistic ideas." -- Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, #88
"Such a society ["a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation"] is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied." -- Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #35
"It is the task of the State to provide for the defense and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces." -- Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #40
"There is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces." -- Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #42
"The Western countries… run the risk of seeing [the collapse of Communism] as a one-sided victory of their own economic system, and thereby failing to make necessary corrections in that system." -- Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #56
"Business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business: the workers, the clients, the suppliers of various elements of production, the community of reference." -- Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate #40
"In the face of unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. One also senses the urgent need to find innovative ways of implementing the principle of responsibility to protect and of giving poorer nations an effective voice in shared decision-making. This seems necessary in order to arrive at a political, juridical and economic order which can increase and give direction to international cooperation for the development of all peoples in solidarity. To manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis; to avoid any deterioration of the present crisis and the greater imbalances that would result; to bring about integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration: for all this, there is urgent need for a true world political authority." -- Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate #67
When put into the context of previous papal teaching, (teaching that has far more weighty authority I might add, because these are papal encyclicals, not mere apostolic exhortations), it would seem that Pope Francis' remarks are quite mild in comparison. This is papal teaching that goes back 120 years! Are they all Marxists? I suppose by Rush Limbaugh's criteria they might be. In which case Catholic listeners of Rush might find themselves having to choose between the "doctor of democracy" and the Vicar of Christ. Or maybe it's not that simple. Maybe Rush is actually wrong about something, and if he is, well that just changes everything.
The truth is, Rush Limbaugh is not alone, and this article is not intended to pick on him exclusively. There are many more conservative talk-radio show hosts out there, and a good number of them follow Rush's lead on stories. This is added to a plethora of print media and Internet outlets that likewise share Limbaugh's opinion on a great many things. Then of course there is the popular (and somewhat Leftist) mainstream news media. While these obviously don't agree with the "all-knowing, all-sensing, all-everything Maha Rushie," they do however share his view of Pope Francis as a liberal Marxist, but to them that's considered a positive thing. I assert here that they are all wrong. Why? Because they are talking heads in the media who have never studied papal social teaching on economics before. They've never bothered to research this, and what little investigation they might have done has been coloured by their own biases and limited world view. So I'm going to simplify matters for all of them right now, and lay it out in plain and simple English for them to absorb.
The popes are not Marxists. The popes are not socialists. The popes are not fascists. The popes are not Keynesians. The popes are not Austrians. The popes are not supply-siders. The popes are not capitalists at all. The popes are none of these things. They have no economic model they follow. Rather, they make the principles upon which economic models are built, and the only economic model built on papal teaching is distributism.
In this loose sense we could say the popes are distributists, but we should keep in mind, the popes are not economic ideologues. They leave such matters to those who can formulate such models. Distributism comes from the popes. The popes are not literally distributists. Does that make sense?
Now the word distributism does not mean "re-distribution" as is the common misconception. These are two completely different concepts. Redistribution falls into the Keynesian model of economics, and is often a key component to other economic models as well, such as socialism and Marxism. What we are talking about is taking money from one group of people and giving it to another. While virtually all forms of government engage in this to some degree, that is not what is meant by "distributism." Rather, what is meant by "distributism" is simply this. The most just economic system is one in which productive property (small business, etc.) is the most widely distributed to the most people possible. Distributism is about small family-run business. In a distributist economy, small business is the boss. It is the backbone of the economy. Distributists envision a world where the majority of commerce is exchanged through small business. It's a world were nearly any man can "become his own boss." Realising that some forms of business need to be much larger in order to function, Distributists call for the widespread creation of cooperative corporations, wherein the workers own a share (and a vote) in the management of a company. This is the core of distributism, but it doesn't stop there. There is much more in the way of trade guilds, licensing and small government based on subsidiarity. Much of this will sound foreign to conservative talk-radio in America, and that's too bad, because there are a whole lot of "conservative" things to talk about here.
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