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Pope challenges economics, globalisation

Bruce Duncan |  29 June 2018

Pope Francis has been relentless in his critique, indeed denunciation, of abuses in the international economy which are responsible for the Global Financial Crisis and its continuing unresolved consequences. He refers especially the growing inequality which he sees in Italy and much of Europe, destabilising governments and encouraging extreme nationalist movements.

He blames growing inequality and poverty in large part on major financial and transnational corporations and powerful special interests. These, he says, cloak their policies in an ideology that free markets will operate most efficiently with minimal regulation, thus giving little weight to moral issues of distribution or social consequences.
Francis at times speaks very strongly, in harsh terms. Before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Bergoglio had supervised the writing of the final report of The Aparecida Document following the meeting of the bishops of Latin America in May 2007. It embodied the key concerns of Bergoglio about neoliberalism, the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, increasing inequality and marginalisation of the poor, and concern about global warming and the environment. Presciently it warned about the dangers in financial speculation, including in public bonds, currencies and derivatives.
It was no wonder that Pope Francis was able to quickly to issue The Joy of the Gospel in November 2013, since it expanded on the Aparecida Document with which he was so familiar. In Joy of the Gospel, he protests against “an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills”. “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.” (JG 53). “We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf… has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money” (JG 55).
In his full encyclical, Laudato Si’ in June 2015, Francis linked concern for the environment closely with the critique of “the ideology of the market”, though he does not use the word neoliberalism. He wrote that the financial crisis had exposed the corruption at the heart of the international financial system. (LS 56). He recognised that powerful special interests were making the rules in their own self-interest without considering the social impact and resulting inequality. (LS 109). He said the world could not solve its problems without “a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.” (LS 105).
Critics of Pope Francis
Some criticise Pope Francis for his outspoken views on economic policies, saying that economics is not his business, that he is mistaken in his economic critiques, and that he should refrain from entering political debates.
Francis replies that the Church does not claim to be an expert in the technical aspects of economics but insists that economics needs a moral compass to ensure it promotes the genuine wellbeing of all human beings and increasingly of the environment.
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