In Evangelii Gaudium, the first major text of his papacy, Pope Francis has denounced market-based capitalism in a powerful and almost revolutionary reversal of the church’s usual views. Not only does he condemn financial inequality and the overall “the idolatry of money,” but he also skewers the idea of “trickle-down tactics” and expresses both regret and contempt that “an economy of exclusion” has been left to flourish around the globe.
You can view the full text on the Vatican’s official website, but here are some of the most amazing excerpts.
On The Wage/Income Gap
Channeling, perhaps, the 99 percent, Pope Francis blasted the inequalities of modern society so often ignored by the wealthy. “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few,” he wrote.
As for supporting the less fortunate, “We have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences.”
On Willful Ignorance
The Pope had absolutely no time for those who excuse and justify the current market, and in bold, straightforward terms, he took them to task for failing to see what he claims is right before their eyes. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which [they believe will] succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” he wrote. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
Meanwhile, he adds, “The excluded are still waiting.”
Calling on a religious example, the Pope expressed anger that today’s society has learned nothing from the Bible. “The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.” As for currency itself, “we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies,” to our detriment.
On Socioeconomic Privilege
“The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.” Furthermore, he warns, “Until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence.”
On Ethical Responsibilities
“Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision,” he wrote. “It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative.” He encourages the general population to re-define their values and rail against injustice, inaction and ignorance.
On The Nature of The Global Economy
The Pope had a number of things to say about the state of the world in 2013, which he thinks is under “a new tyranny” made possible by “the globalization of indifference.” For example:
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”
“Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.”
“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”
Overall, says the Pope, “It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity.” But he cautions us as not to turn our eyes away from the destructive nature of our currency economy. Only through recognition and counteraction can we turn the tides of our terrible system, and it’s up to our political leaders to make sweeping but necessary changes.
“Money must serve, not rule!” Pope Francis declares.
It remains to be seen whether the rest of the world will listen.