Papal Economics

R. R. Reno blew it rather badly (“Francis and the Market,” ­February). He writes, “and there’s the mother of all questions, the one Francis brings to the fore: How can we include as many people as possible in the prosperity being created by the capitalist revolution sweeping the globe?”

But this is not the “mother of all questions,” and it is not the question that Evangelii Gaudium addresses. ­Indeed, the pope himself states directly, “This Exhortation is not a social document.” Instead, he refers his readers to the “Compendium” of the Church’s social doctrine. Evangelii Gaudium does not attack that powerful tool, global capitalism. Much less does he propose socialism. As to the use of these tools, the pope would probably agree with Reno’s penultimate and most of his ultimate paragraphs.

The aim of the exhortation is “to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of ­evangelization marked by this joy” of the Gospel. The first danger—the “great” danger—to this goal lies in consumerism, in the “complacent yet covetous heart.” If one has the capital and the talent, perhaps one can benefit many people by creating more wealth. But in itself, that is not the same as loving them. To build a factory employing a hundred workers is a good thing, but it does not of itself make one virtuous or merciful.

A wise priest once asked me how much more I could love if I had a lot of money (I didn’t then and don’t now). No doubt with a lot of money I could do some good (and someone who had the know-how could do much more good). But his point was that I can love. So can we all, even the man in the corner office. That’s what Pope Francis wants us to do.

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