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Pope Francis: Liberation Theologian

Posted by M. C. on February 8, 2020

Others were traditional welfare state redistributionists. Bergoglio was among this group.

Since then, the percentage of world’s poor has been reduced to under 10%. The Bookings Institution, a Keynesian, middle-of-the-road think tank, recently announced this.

This is what the present world economy is delivering. But the Pope doesn’t see it this way. He thinks the world needs a new taxation system and a new ethic.

This week, the Pope called for international economic redistribution. I have reprinted his speech here.

https://www.garynorth.com/public/20510.cfm

Gary North

Pope Francis is a liberation theologian.

Liberation theology was popular with a hard core of far-Left Catholic priests in Latin America from the mid-1960’s until December 25, 1991. A few of them were outright Marxists. They believed in armed revolution against the state. The Pope, then Father Bergoglio, , criticized this interpretation of Christianity.

Others were traditional welfare state redistributionists. Bergoglio was among this group. With the disintegration of the Soviet economy in the late 1980’s, followed by Gorbachev’s announcement of the suicide of the USSR on December 25, 1991, liberation theology ceased to be the latest and the greatest. It became passé overnight. It began to fade.

Bergoglio was the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina in the mid-1970’s. A decade earlier, the Jesuits had been a formidable force for theological conservatism within the Catholic Church. Then, within ten years, the Jesuits moved to the left theologically and politically. They abandoned four centuries of tradition in a decade. The story of this astounding transformation is recorded in Malachi Martin’s book, The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church (1987). Martin was appalled by the change. In contrast, Garry Wills applauded it in his book, Bare Ruined Choirs: Doubt, Prophecy, and Radical Religion (1972), which I reviewed in The Wall Street Journal.

From the foundation of the Jesuits in the mid-16th century until about 1965, the Jesuit order had been militant in its defense of the papacy. Pope Paul VI (1963-78) radicalized the Jesuits. He was the most theologically liberal Pope in history. He was also the most radical in terms of his social views. Pope Francis is extending his legacy after a four-decade gap. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the most conservative Pope since Pius XII, who died in 1958. That was a gap of almost five decades. He was a staunch opponent of liberation theology. The magnitude of this change is conveyed in the new Netflix movie, The Two Popes. The dialogue is fictional, but the theological confrontation was real. To get some idea of the change, imagine Calvin Coolidge deciding that the best person to follow him as President would be Franklin Roosevelt.

THE POPE’S CALL TO ACTION

This week, the Pope called for international economic redistribution. I have reprinted his speech here.

Last June, the Vatican posted his statement on the need to care for the poor. In that statement, he did not mention the need for state action. I have posted it here. In terms of traditional Catholic views on voluntary charity, there was nothing new in the presentation from a theological standpoint. But his language and his rhetoric was clearly that of liberation theology.

We can build any number of walls and close our doors in the vain effort to feel secure in our wealth, at the expense of those left outside. It will not be that way for ever. The “day of the Lord”, as described by the prophets (cf. Am 5:18; Is 2-5; Jl 1-3), will destroy the barriers created between nations and replace the arrogance of the few with the solidarity of many. The marginalization painfully experienced by millions of persons cannot go on for long. Their cry is growing louder and embraces the entire earth. In the words of Father Primo Mazzolari: “the poor are a constant protest against our injustices; the poor are a powder keg. If it is set on fire, the world will explode”.

This statement was issued to promote the Church’s World Day of the Poor: November 17. Why his statement was published five months early, I do not know.

His latest declaration reveals his commitment to a non-Marxist, meaning non-revolutionary, form of liberation theology. It is also consistent with what is sometimes called the new social gospel, best represented in the United States by political activist Jim Wallis. I devote a department to his theology and his tax-exempt political mobilization. It is here. The Pope has a lot more followers than Jim Wallis does. But his rhetoric is the same.

Structures of sin today include repeated tax cuts for the richest people, often justified in the name of investment and development; tax havens for private and corporate profits; and, of course, the possibility of corruption by some of the world’s largest corporations, not infrequently in line with some ruling political sector.Every year hundreds of billions of dollars, which should be paid in taxes to finance health care and education, accumulate in tax haven accounts, thus preventing the possibility of dignified and sustained development for all social actors.

Impoverished people in heavily indebted countries are suffering from overwhelming tax burdens and cuts in social services as their governments pay off insensitive and unsustainable debts. In fact, public debt incurred, in not a few cases to promote and encourage a country’s economic and productive development, can become a factor that damages and harms the social fabric. When it ends up being directed towards another purpose.

THE ELIMINATION OF POVERTY

One of the most astounding facts of the last two decades is the dramatic reduction in life-threatening poverty around the world. Nothing like this has ever taken place in man’s history. It is becoming a well-known phenomenon because of the remarkable 2007 TED talk video by Swedish statistician Hans Rosling.

Since then, the percentage of world’s poor has been reduced to under 10%. The Bookings Institution, a Keynesian, middle-of-the-road think tank, recently announced this.

Looking at poverty trends worldwide, World Data Lab now estimates that on New Year’s Day 2019, just under 600 million people across the world (excluding Syria) will live in extreme poverty. By 2030, this figure is expected to fall to some 436 million.The good news is that 2019 will start with the lowest prevalence of extreme poverty ever recorded in human history—less than 8 percent. In all likelihood, this level will set the “ceiling” for a new era of even lower single-digit global poverty rates for the foreseeable future.

This is what the present world economy is delivering. But the Pope doesn’t see it this way. He thinks the world needs a new taxation system and a new ethic.

You, who have so kindly gathered here, are the world’s financial leaders and economic specialists. Together with your colleagues, you help set global tax rules, inform the global public about our economic condition, and advise the world’s governments on budgets. They know first-hand what the injustices of our current global economy are, or the injustices of individual countries.Let us work together to end these injustices. When the multilateral credit agencies advise the different nations, it is important to take into account the high concepts of fiscal justice, responsible public budgets in their indebtedness and, above all, the effective and leading promotion of the poorest in the social network. Remind them of their responsibility to provide development assistance to impoverished nations and debt relief for heavily indebted nations. Remind them of the imperative to stop man-made climate change, as all nations have promised, so that we do not destroy the foundations of our Common House.

The Pope’s mindset was formed by 1975. His worldview has not changed. His rhetoric has not changed. Meanwhile, the world is getting steadily richer. The poor are steadily getting richer.

While I don’t have a biblical passage to support the following, I recommend to Pope Francis a familiar slogan in American life: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

THE BIBLE PROMOTES CAPITALISM

For over half a century, I have been arguing that the system of property rights mandated by the commandment against theft (Exodus 20:15) and also by the Mosaic laws defending private property inevitably produce a free market society when they are widely respected by the public and defended by civil government. In turn, free market society inevitably increases per capita wealth. I have defended this position in 31 volumes of economic commentaries on the Bible. I have defended it in four volumes of detailed economic analysis.

The Pope does not believe that biblical law and biblical ethics promote a private property social order which in turn produces capitalism. The theologians in Salamanca, Spain, argued that this was the case back in the 1500’s. But the Pope either is unaware of this or does not believe what the school of Salamanca taught.

I hope that a future Pope spends his years as a priest, a bishop, and a cardinal reading and re-reading the economics books written by members of the school of Salamanca. Even better, maybe he will read my books. I can always hope. After all, I’m postmillennial.

 

 

 

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