“How is it not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it’s news when the market loses two points?”
Pope Francis is making international news again this week, criticizing the global economic system, attacking “idolatry of money,” and pleading with politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education, and healthcare.”
The Catholic Church has been criticized itself over the years for a number of issues, and it’s worship of wealth is one of the top points of critique. Reports circulated last fall that the Catholic Church spent $170 Billion in fiscal year 2012 through charities it owns or subsidiaries of the Vatican .
Put into perspective, only 16 US companies had revenues over $170 Billion. Apple had $157 Billion in revenues.
The Church is also the largest charitable organization in the U.S. Its main group, Catholic Charities USA, along with its subsidiaries, reportedly has a paid staff of more than 65,000 and serves more than 10 million people. The Economist says CCUSA distributed nearly $5 Billion in aid to the poor in 2010. On the negative side, the Catholic Church has paid out around $3.3 billion in settlements regarding molestation of children.
Another black eye was delivered to the Church a few weeks ago, when “Bishop Bling Bling” (Franz-Peter Tebartz van Elst) was suspended as the Bishop of Limburg, for having spent $42 Million on the renovation of his residential complex.
As for the impact of the Pope’s message, about 1 in 7 people on the planet self-identify as Catholic (Catholic world population is 1.2 billion.) So the Pope’s message does carry tremendous influence, even for those who are not Catholic.
This week the Pope released his 84 page apostolic exhortation, and calls unfettered capitalism “tyranny.” He urges the rich to share their wealth. “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.” Francis wrote in the document issued Tuesday.
“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote.
The 76-year old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the global financial system and warns that unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence. “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems,” he wrote.
Denying this was simple populism, he called for action”beyond a simple welfare mentality,” and added “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”
The Pope has recently made headlines by embracing and kissing an extremely disfigured man, as well as saying the Church needs to “stop” being “obsessed” with gays, birth control, and abortion. As for the issue of gays, the Pope said, “who am I to judge?”