It did not take long for Pope Francis to say and/or write something that once again made some people angry. This time it was political commentator/radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh who said among other "nuggets" of wisdom:
"The Pope has now gone beyond Catholicism, and this is pure political...it is very clear (the Pope) doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism, and so forth...What this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope."
Really Rush? So either the Pope has been manipulated or he is a Marxist?
Or he "doesn't know what he's talking about"?
I ask, define "pure Marxism" and "political". Second, there is not much a religious leader can say (particularly one who also happens to be a head of state) that will not "sound political" or be "political".
The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium or "The Joy of the Gospel" appears to be raising Limbaugh's blood pressure. I wonder if he read the entire thing (as he claimed) or he stopped at a certain point when he was reading this "pure Marxism". We cannot be sure.
I did read the entire document (it took a while ha ha) and in my humble opinion as a theology student it has the usual elements that one can expect from Roman Catholic theology and centuries of Western Christian thought, starting with the first paragraph:
1. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.
Well, nothing here about Marx, or Stalin, or some secret communist plot to bring back the Yugo...I guess the "problem" started here:
56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
So talking about Christ, that is fine...describing the market as 'deified', well, we just can't have that sort of talk..
Accusations have been made that this sort of language was not used by either John Paul II or Benedict XV but this is incorrect. In his opinion piece The pope as Marxist: Is Limbaugh right?, Robert correctly points out that they were also explicit in their warnings against liberal capitalism and the dictatorship of the marketplace, producing encyclicals which, for their emphasis on social justice and the "option for the poor," would surely qualify for Rush Limbaugh as the very elixir of "Marxism."
The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) website has a section called "Human Life and Dignity" that includes topics like 'Abortion' and 'Contraception', along with 'Economic Justice' and 'Enviromental Justice'. Under Economic Justice the USCCB states: The Catholic bishops of the United States believe building a just economy that works for all encompasses a wide range of issues, including food security and hunger, work and joblessness, homelessness and affordable housing, and tax credits for low-income families, as well as protecting programs that serve poor and vulnerable people throughout the federal budget.
The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.
All economic life should be shaped by moral principles. Economic choices and institutions must be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of the human person, support the family and serve the common good.
A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring.
Gustavo Gutierrez once said that theology is a matter of the stomach; our theology is very different when our stomachs are full. And as Ellsberg suggests:
Of course no one is troubled by a pope who embraces the sick and loves the poor. But when he dares to reflect on the moral and structural causes of poverty, that is a different matter. As Dom Helder Camara, another prophetic archbishop from Latin America, famously observed, "When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." Some things never change.
And of course, here we go again...