Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” has certainly stirred up discussion among Catholics, especially conservative Catholics.
Having read Evangelii Gaudium and en route to Connecticut for the Thanksgiving holiday, The Motley Monk was listening to Rush Limbaugh and immediately concluded that el' Rushbo went too far afield when he started his monologue concerning the apostolic exhortation, stating:
You know, the pope, Pope Francis--this is astounding--has issued
an official papal proclamation, and it's sad. It's actually unbelievable.
The pope has written, in part, about the utter evils of capitalism....It's
sad because this pope makes it very clear he doesn't know what he's
talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth.
Rush then proceeded to veer way off course when he stated that the Pope's analysis was something "entirely new" emanating from the Vatican. He said:
I'm not Catholic, but I know enough to know that this would have
been unthinkable for a pope to believe or say just a few years ago.
In fact, the fundamental aspects of this particular aspect of the discussion are rooted in the writings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
To date, perhaps the best discussion of Evangelii Gaudium has emanated from the middle "fly over country"--Lincoln, Nebraska--whose Catholic bishop, the Most Reverend James D. Conley, published his thoughts in a column appearing in the National Review Online.
In that column, Bishop Conley chided conservatives, noting:
...like the Gospel that Saint Francis preached, Evangelii Gaudium
is demanding. Anyone who reads it honestly will be convicted. The
Holy Father unmasks the false rigidity, the relativism, the consumerism,
and the complacency that hampers the Christian life. Evangelii
Gaudium identifies the temptations and pitfalls of Christians, with
insight garnered from decades in leadership. Only a pastor, and a
very good one, could have written such a thing....
The personal and convicting message of Pope Francis requires us
to examine carefully the humanity of our public policy, and of our
private lives. It calls us to self-examination, and, more important,
self-denial. It calls us to temper the pursuit of our own prosperity
by our obligations to our fellow human beings.
Bishop Conley fears that conservative critics--like Rush Limbaugh (though not mentioned by name)--are reducing the richness of Evangelii Gaudium to "a sophomoric caricature" and its author to a "cartoonish socialist."
For example, Bishop Conley notes that Pope Francis critiques the belief that unregulated free markets will “inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” The Pope also criticizes those who place “crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” Bishop Conley continues:
Thoughtful Catholics, thoughtful economists, and thoughtful policymakers
know that there is no perfect economic system. They observe that
markets cannot be totally rational, or totally just. Even when markets
are self-correcting, they note, consequences for greed, undue excess,
or irrational speculation are spread among real human beings, with
real families and real dignity at stake. Most reasonable conservative
leaders recognize the value of limited government regulation, even in
mostly free markets, as essential for protecting the most vulnerable.
Bishop Conley is absolutely correct in noting that Evangelii Gaudium:
- did not reject capitalism and any particular market theory but rejected the idolatry of any economic system as a panacea; and,
- challenges people to understand and administer markets justly, with due regard for the sovereignty and solidarity of families and human dignity.
As Bishop Conley rightly argued, the message of Evangelii Gaudium is powerful precisely because it challenges Catholics to consider the actual consequences of their financial decisions. It links public policy with private lives. None of that is socialist economic policy, in general, or radical income redistribution, in particular.
In contrast to conservatives whose misreading of Evangelii Gaudium has caused them to attack document's contents, The Motley Monk suggests they consider Bishop Conley's conclusion. He notes that Pope Francis is "calling for moderation, for freedom, and above all, for virtue."
Let the discussion begin...
To read Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, click on the following link:
To read the transcript of Rush Limbaugh's monologue, click on the following link:
To read Bishop Conley's article in National Review Online, click on the following link: