Pope Francis: Anti-Capitalism and Radical Environmentalism In the Vatican

Another  first-rate piece of research by David Horowitz:

  • Became the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church in 2013
  • Calls on America to welcome illegal immigrants fleeing persecution in their homelands
  • Characterizes capitalism as an economic system “where the powerful feed upon the powerless,” and which leads inevitably to “the greedy exploitation of environmental resources”
  • Asserts that the “inequality” inherent in capitalist economies constitutes “the root of social ills” and “eventually engenders … violence”
  • Believes that “the bulk of global warming” is due to “the great concentration of greenhouse gases” generated by “human action”
  • Opposes the death penalty and life-in-prison

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1969. He later served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998-2013, a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church of Argentina from 2001-13, and President of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina from 2005-11. On March 13, 2013, Bergoglio became Pope Francis, the Catholic Church's 266th pontiff. From that platform, he has been outspoken on a number of social and political issues. For instance, immigration:
In July 2013, Francis urged compassion for the many thousands of Muslim migrants from Tunisia and Libya who, fleeing the violence in their respective homelands, were boarding unstable, overcrowded boats and attempting to reach the island of Lampedusa—Italy's southernmost territory—across the Mediterranean Sea. In light of the many deaths and drownings that occurred whenever these vessels capsized, Francis impugned Europeans for having “lost a sense of brotherly responsibility” to these “brothers and sisters of ours.”

In July 2014, when scores of thousands of Central American minors were migrating illegally into the southern United States, Francis decried the situation as a “humanitarian emergency” which required, “as a first urgent measure,” that “these children be welcomed and protected”—at American taxpayer expense. Moreover, he characterized America's treatment of illegal immigrants generally as “racist and xenophobic.”

In January 2015, Francis told reporters that, as “a beautiful gesture of brotherhood and support for immigrants,” he hoped to someday ceremoniously “enter the United States from the border with Mexico.”

During his September 2015 visit to the United States, Francis referred to illegal immigrants as “pilgrims,” saying: “I ask you to excuse me if in some way I am pleading my own case. The Church in the United States knows like few others the hopes present in the hearts of these ‘pilgrims.’ ... Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart. I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church.”

In November 2013, Francis released the first major document of his papacy—a 67-page Apostilic Exhortation titled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), which characterized capitalism as an economic system where “exclusion and inequality” are ubiquitous; “where the powerful feed upon the powerless”; where “idolotry” that worships “the god of money” leads inevitably to “the greedy exploitation of environmental resources”; and where it is customary to “plunder nature [in order] to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption” and “unbridled consumerism” that is “inherent” in free-market systems. In addition, Francis:
asserted that “the culture of prosperity deadens us”;
depicted capitalism as a system “which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits,” thereby rendering “whatever is fragile, like the environment,” utterly “defenseless before the interests of a deified market”;
scorned the “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”;
maintained that such theories were based on “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system”; and
warned that “such an economy kills.”

By Francis's reckoning, the “inequality” inherent in capitalist economies constitutes “the root of social ills” and “eventually engenders …violence.” “Until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed,” he contends, “it will be impossible to eliminate violence."

“The problems of the poor,” says Francis, must be “radically resolved” by: (a) “rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation,” (b) “attacking the structural causes of inequality,” and (c) rejecting “the conservative ideal of individualism,” which “is undermining the common good.” What is needed, he explains, is a “radical new financial and economic system” designed to “avoid human inequality and ecological devastation.” Because “we can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the ‘invisible hand’ of the market,” genuine “growth in justice” requires not merely economic growth, but also “a better distribution of income” and a “legitimate redistribution” of wealth.

In a June 2014 interview, Francis said: “We are discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system that can’t hold up any more, a system that to survive, must make war, as all great empires have done. But as a third world war can’t be waged, they make regional wars … they produce and sell weapons, and with this, the balance sheets of the idolatrous economies, the great world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money, are resolved …”

Francis took up these themes again in a July 2015 speech in Bolivia, saying:

"Colonialism, old and new, which reduces the poor to mere suppliers of raw materials and cheap labor, generates violence, poverty, forced migration, and all the evils that we can see. This led to inequity and violence that no police, military or intelligence services can stop. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. We say 'no' to an economy of exclusion and inequity where money dominates instead of serving. This economy kills. This economy is exclusionary. This plan destroys Mother Earth."

In the same speech, Francis quoted a fourth-century bishop in describing the unfettered pursuit of money as “the dung of the devil.” He said he supported activist efforts to obtain “so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three 'Ls': land, lodging and labour.” Denouncing a system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature,” Francis added: “Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change.” He also decried “the new colonialism” which “takes on different faces” such as “the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.”

The pope's speech in Bolivia was preceded by lengthy remarks from the country's Marxist quasi-dictator, Evo Morales, who wore a jacket adorned with the face of the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara. At one point, Morales presented the pope with a gift: a carved wooden hammer-and-sickle cross bearing the figure of a crucified Christ. When Francis was later asked whether he felt troubled in any way by the gift, he replied that he intended to keep it, saying: “I understand this work. For me it wasn't an offense.”

The pope's words prompted the author and scholar Dennis Prager to write: “In terms of evil committed, what is the difference between the hammer-and-sickle and the swastika? Would the pope receive, let alone keep, a fascist, racist or Nazi sculpture with a crucified Christ on it? Of course not. Yet the hammer-and-sickle represents more human suffering than all of them combined. The number of people enslaved and murdered under the hammer-and-sickle dwarfs the number of people enslaved and murdered by any other doctrine in history.”

In June 2015, Francis released the first-ever papal encyclical devoted entirely to environmental issues. Lamenting that industrial pollution was causing great damage to “our oppressed and devastated earth,” he claimedthat “plenty of scientific studies” had already attributed “the bulk of global warming” to “the great concentration of greenhouse gases” generated by “human action.” “If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us,” wrote Francis. As a remedy, the pope proposed an increased reliance on “renewable energy sources” such as wind and solar: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels—especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas—needs to be progressively replaced without delay.”Moreover, he exhorted the wealthy to take “urgent action” to “change [their] lifestyles” and their reckless “consumption” patterns.

The pope's encyclical also framed environmental concerns as legitimate justifications for a massive, compensatory redistribution of wealth from prosperous, industrialized countries to poorer ones:

“The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future. The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.”

Strongly opposed to the death penalty, Francis says “it is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples' lives from an unjust aggressor.” He also urges “all Christians and people of good will” to “struggle ... to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty.” “And this,” the pope adds, “I connect with life imprisonment. Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty.” By Francis's calculus, maximum-security prisons represent a form of torture, since their “principal characteristic is none other than external isolation” which can trigger “psychic and physical sufferings such as paranoia, anxiety, depression and weight loss and significantly increase the chance of suicide.”

In May 2015, Francis and the Vatican invited Gustavo Gutierrez, the father of the pro-Marxist liberation theology movement which previouspopes had rejected, to speak to the press about ministering to the poor. In addition, Gutierrez was asked to write an article in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. In light of these developments, Gutierrez happily speculated that Pope Francis seemed to be opening the Vatican's door to supporters of liberation theology. According to philosophy professor Jack Kerwick: “The closest Francis has come to criticizing communism is when he articulated a heavily qualified criticism” of what he called liberation theology's “Marxist interpretation of reality,” which the pope described as a “limitation” on a system of thought that otherwise had numerous “positive aspects.”

In the fall of 2014, Francis played a role in facilitating the re-establishmentof diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. According to a statement issued by the Vatican, the pope at that time wrote a personal letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and a separate letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro, inviting both leaders to try to “resolve humanitarian questions of common interest.”

During the course of his papacy, Francis has taken pains to issue positive portrayals of Islam. For instance, in late 2014—at a time when Islamic State and other Muslim militants were torturing and killing massive numbers of Christians in Nigeria, Indonesia, Somalia, Libya, Central African Republic, Uganda, Lebanon, Kenya, Pakistan, Sudan, and Iraq—he spoke positively of the Islamic faith:
“Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence.”
“[O]ur respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Pope Francis favors the establishment of an independent Palestinian state adjacent to Israel. In May 2014, for instance, the Associated Press reportedthat Francis had “delivered a powerful boost of support to the Palestinians during a Holy Land pilgrimage ..., repeatedly backing their statehood aspirations, praying solemnly at Israel’s controversial separation barrier, and calling the stalemate in peace efforts ‘unacceptable.’” Moreover, the pope had pointedly called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a "man of peace." And the Vatican, in its official program, referred to Abbas as the president of the "state of Palestine."

On June 26, 2015, the Vatican signed a treaty with the "State of Palestine," in hopes that its legal recognition of the state "may in some way be a stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties." The signatories were Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher, who issued the foregoing statement, and his Palestinian counterpart, Riad al-Malki. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon lamented that the treaty ignored "the historic rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and to the places holy to Judaism in Jerusalem."

In a September 2015 interview, Pope Francis identified economic inequality as the root cause of the refugee crisis that was engulfing Europe with hundreds of thousands of Muslims from oppressive, war-torn regions of the Middle East and North Africa. Said Francis:

"These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because underneath that is the cause; and the cause is a bad and unjust socioeconomic system, in everything, in the world—speaking of the environmental problem—in the socioeconomic society, in politics, the person always has to be in the center. That is the dominant economic system nowadays, it has removed the person from the center, placing the god money in its place, the idol of fashion. There are statistics, I don’t remember precisely, (I might have this wrong), but that 17% of the world’s population has 80% of the wealth."

That same month, Pope Francis issued a broad appeal to Europe’s Catholics, calling on “every” parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary to take in one refugee family—of whom the vast majority were Muslims from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. By contrast, never during his papacy had Francis issued a similar call toprotect the vast numbers of Christians who were being persecuted in Muslim lands.

Also in September 2015, the Vatican reiterated its support for the nuclear deal that the U.S. and several negotiating partners had recently struck with the government of Iran. (For details of that deal, click here and here.) The Vatican's Secretary for Relations with the States, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said that the Vatican "values positively" the nuclear accord because "it considers that the way to resolve disputes and difficulties should always be that of dialogue and negotiation." In a September 2015 speech to the United Nations, Pope Francis himself praised the deal as “proof of political goodwill” and voiced his hope that the agreement would be “lasting and efficacious.”

When Pope Francis visited Cuba in September 2015, he met with that nation's president (Raul Castro) as well as many priests, churchgoers, seminarians, children, and sick people. But he did not meet with Cuba's dissidents, who, as the Washington Post reports, "have fought tirelessly for democracy and human rights, and who continue to suffer regular beatings and arrests."

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