Recently Pope Francis gave a press conference while returning to the Vatican from a trip to Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius. During his press conference he, of course, lied. What else does one do at a press conference? The lies were understandable because he was making a political statement against capitalism and against America, two of his favorite bugaboos. Yet is it ever all right for the Pope to lie? I shall leave that matter for the theologians. I do wonder, though, who is hearing the Pope’s confession these days?
His most obvious lie came when he said that his conservative critics, mainly in the United States, have criticized him for saying what he claims were “the same things” as previous conservative popes have said about capitalism. He mentioned Pope John Paul II, who is dead and cannot rebut him. Pope Francis said, “They are the same things John Paul II said. The same! I copy him.” Then he threw in something about his critics screaming, “The pope’s too communist” — the Pope, meaning him.
My vast research staff has combed John Paul II’s statements on capitalism and come up with nothing like the infantile statements that Francis regularly trots out. Francis challenges the very premises of capitalism. When John Paul II challenged capitalism it was the capitalism that took advantage of a lawless culture. He had no argument with capitalism when it is informed by a healthy culture. As the late theologian Michael Novak has written, capitalism and culture are two different things. Both capitalism and a law-abiding culture are necessary for prosperity. Novak, incidentally, is the theologian who worked with Pope John Paul II on his encyclical Centesimus Annus.
As for critics saying Pope Francis is “too communist,” I shall leap to the Pope’s defense in this dispute. He is not “too communist.” He is a standard-issue Peronist. He subscribes to the same garbage can of economic and class beliefs as Juan Perón did years ago when he bankrupted Argentina. Argentina was once a prosperous, productive country. Now it is a basket case producing greedy minds like Pope Francis, who apparently believes wealth is created by passing the collection plate. Any other way of creating wealth is utterly beyond him.
During his airborne press conference the Pope seemed to be mocking his critics in a most unpapal manner. “We have to be gentle, gentle with the people tempted by these attacks, by these things,” he said. Going on he joshed, “Because they are going through problems and we should accompany them with gentleness.”
Well, I too prescribe gentleness. Moreover, I shall be gentle with the Pope. He is obviously an economic illiterate, but what is worse he has strayed far from his supposed area of expertise, namely, spirituality and morality. He is rapidly becoming a typical blowhard politician. Perhaps he is angling for a seat at the United Nations. The priorities of his papacy would put him in the running for the Secretary-General.
According to the New York Times, “the priorities of his papacy [are]: reaching out to the poor, advocating justice for migrants and other marginalized people, and protection of the environment from capitalism run amok.” Yes, run amok. Each of these priorities is, of course, best accomplished by capitalism. In the past 25 years the number of people worldwide living in abject poverty, which is to say on a budget of $1.90 a day, has declined by two-thirds. Global GDP thanks to capitalism more than doubled between 1992 and 2017. In other words, we already are “reaching out to the poor” and “advocating justice for migrants and other marginalized people.” As for protecting the environment, America has a cleaner environment than Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, or any other impoverished country to which the Pope might travel in his fuel-guzzling airliner.
In fact, one of the world’s great achievements over the last 25 years has been the creation of wealth and the spread of it. Indeed, the world has never enjoyed such prosperity. It is about time that the Pope greet the modern world. It has problems enough in the areas where the Pope’s legitimate authority reposes. That is to say, on issues of spirituality and morality.