Have not people responded in exactly the same way to Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium today in 2013?
Such a generalization in the absence of any rational examination evades the issue, but the reality is well examined in Pope Francis and Poverty by Samuel Gregg November 26, 2013, at m.nationalreview.com/corner/365004/pope-francis-and-poverty-samuel-gregg
Samuel Gregg affirms:
“Reading the text, one does experience a profound sense of just how life-transforming belief in Christ should be.
*Evangelii Gaudium *is in many ways a beautiful document.”
There is praise of Pope Francis here, but very important problems arise which cannot just be glossed over. I quote on the serious problems identified in this Apostolic Exhortation:
- ‘To be very frank (which Francis himself is always encouraging us to be), a number of claims made by this document and some of the assumptions underlying those statements are rather questionable.
‘…the pope’s remark that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” (253). As one of the most authoritative Catholic commentators on Islam, Pope Francis’s fellow Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir (who is no knee-jerk anti-Muslim), writes in his *111 Questions on Islam *(2002), Westerners who assert that groups like the Taliban are acting in a manner contrary to the spirit of Islam “usually know little about Islam.”
- ‘My purpose, however, is to focus upon some of the many economic reflections that loom large throughout Evangelii Gaudium and which are, I’m afraid, very hard to defend. In some cases, they reflect the straw-man arguments about the economy that one encounters far too often in some Catholic circles, especially in Western Europe but also in Latin America.
‘Prominent among these is the pope’s condemnation of the “absolute autonomy of markets” (202). If, however, we follow Evangelii Gaudium’s injunction (231–233) to look at the realities of the world today, we will soon discover that there is literally no country in which markets operate with “absolute autonomy.”
- ‘Another claim made by Evangelii Gaudium that warrants scrutiny is that certain ideologies “reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control” over the economy (56). But outside the minuscule world of anarcho-capitalists (who exert zero influence upon public policy), this simply isn’t the position of those who favor free markets today (let alone past advocates like Adam Smith).
‘…we find Francis critiquing those who “continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.”
‘There are several problems with this line of reasoning. First, opening up markets throughout the world has helped to reduce poverty in many developing nations. East Asia is a living testimony to that reality — a testimony routinely ignored by many Catholics in Western Europe (who tend to complain rather self-centeredly about the competition it creates for protected Western European businesses and other recipients of corporate welfare) and a reality about which I have found many Latin American Catholics simply have nothing to say.
‘Second, it has never been the argument of most of those who favor markets that economic freedom and free exchange are somehow sufficient to reduce poverty.
‘It hardly need be said that rule of law (mentioned not once in Evangelii Gaudium) is, to put it mildly, a “challenge” in most developing nations. The lack of rule of law not only ranks among the biggest obstacles to their ability to generate wealth on a sustainable basis, but also hampers their capacity to address economic issues in a just manner. Instead, what one finds is crony capitalism, rampant protectionism, and the corruption that has become a way of life in much of Africa and Latin America.
‘Francis adds that some people today find any mention of the distribution of income to be “irksome” (203).
I don’t find discussions of wealth distribution to be bothersome at all. Catholics, other Christians, and other people of good will should, in my view, enter enthusiastically into such debates. Because it is precisely through these conversations that it can be pointed out that — as Evangelii Gaudium seems, alas, unaware — many poverty-alleviation methods that involve redistribution (such as foreign aid) are increasingly discredited. As the economist and historian of the Federal Reserve Allan Meltzer put it, one of the 20th century’s economic lessons is that “transfers, grants and redistribution did little to raise living standards in Asia, Latin America and Africa.” In other words, the standard wealth-redistribution policies that are often regarded as indispensable to poverty alleviation have failed to achieve their goals. Hence it behooves all Catholics to ask ourselves why such approaches have failed if we’re going to have a serious conversation about wealth and poverty in the modern world.’
‘And attention to particular realities about economic life is precisely what’s missing from parts of Evangelii Gaudium’s analysis of wealth and poverty. If we want “the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good” to be more than what the pope calls a “mere addendum” to the pursuit of “true and integral development” (203), then engaging more seriously the economic part of the truth that sets us free would be a good start.’
The precision and depth of Bl John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI need to be emulated.