Pope Francis’ nomination as the Time Person of the Year has underlined the attention to a man frequently in the news as of late. However it was not a result of an explosive act, as the runner up Edward Snowden did, that put him there. But rather, more as a result of his very modesty. As Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine so aptly put it, “Once there was a boy so meek and modest, he was awarded a Most Humble Badge. The next day, it was taken away because he wore it.”  Pope Francis is not that boy, and at the same time, exhibits that rare quality of being able to exercise humility from the most exalted throne on earth.
His first exhortation, the Evangelii Gaudium has been ground breaking in many ways. I would like to take this opportunity to share with the readers of this blog what a good friend of mine, Michael Moore, had to write on the topic.
“You could argue that he is Teddy Roosevelt protecting capitalism from its own excesses or he is simply saying what Popes before him have said, that Jesus calls us to care for the least among us – only he is saying it in a way that people seem to be hearing differently.”  Be that as it may, whatever your opinion of him is though, there can be no doubting that “at a time when the limits of leadership are being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge.” 
The question is, are you willing to respond? Enjoy the read:
POPE FRANCIS – WHY OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM MATTERS (By Michael Moore)
Through Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis shows clarity of thought and practical leadership. Two themes of the Exhortation stand out. They are the de-emphasis of issues that divide us and the questioning of unrestricted free markets or trickle-down economics as our economic system is also known.
Issues like gay marriage and abortion are not ignored by the Pope. He describes how a throwaway culture has led many to act as though certain other people don’t exist. In doing so the Pope does not propose changing the teachings of the church. Rather he suggests that the church should be open to all. You can’t minister to people if you won’t let them into the church. And who follows an accuser instead of a giver of grace?
“Frequently we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators,” Pope Francis writes. “But the church is not a tollhouse; it is . . . a place for everyone, with all their problems.”
The Pope’s message is simple Christianity. Its clarity comes from its original content. Process reforms cannot be the centerpiece of any papacy. If one focusses only on process reforms one enters a blind alley. This can be seen in many contexts. Our daily experience shows how governments and companies are mired in a never ending loop of process reform. Many within such entities know what the problems are, yet they mistakenly think that some adjustment to ‘process’, or the addition of a new process, will solve the problems. Inevitably these measures fail and the problems continue. A fixation with process reform leads to decay and collapse.
Only a return to original human content moves civilization forward.
In questioning the wisdom of unrestricted free markets, Pope Francis gets to the core of the many problems we face in the world. He goes on to highlight the most important problem, the lack of work and jobs inherent in a trickle-down system:
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #53:
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #54:
“In this context, some people 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. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #56:
“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. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control… 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 becomes the only rule.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #204:
“We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.”
Simply put, when a person doesn’t have a job, their human capacity is restricted. They cannot express themselves because their ability to go beyond their own needs has been taken away.
The potential for good is always present in everyone but such potential has to be put to use or it will fade. Pope Francis sees how unrestricted financial speculation cuts off our potential Humanity by denying us the basic need of life; a decent job which brings food, shelter and the possibility of health and family.
To understand why Pope Francis has placed work and jobs at the center of the church, we need to know how damaging unrestricted free markets have become. Allow me to explain:
In 2008, the world’s financial system had a heart attack. To fix it many banks, companies, politicians and economists insist that only process reform is necessary. Around the world and for many years prior to 2008, the world and its markets have been deregulated. This “reform” meant taking away many of the controls and rules that prevented banks and other financial companies from betting on financial instruments called derivatives. These same banks and companies became extremely rich and powerful. It seemed that the more markets were left to themselves, the more money was made. Economists and politicians congratulated themselves and each other for they claimed that this benefited everyone across national boundaries. Yet the financial crash of 2008 proved that unrestricted markets make a terrible mess at a great cost. The approach taken since 2008 by most banks, companies, politicians and economists was to give trillions of dollars to the financial sector at zero percent interest. These ‘bailouts’ came from tax payer money. Tax payers, people, we, didn’t get bailouts. Instead we were told that it was our “reckless borrowing” and not the betting of the financial system that caused the crisis. We’re given zero percent interest when we borrow money from the banks.
As the financial crisis continues, more and more money is demanded from tax payers. This money is being used to fund the bailouts of the financial system. Our taxes are being increased as our nations bow to corporate interests. Our interests are being ignored. Politicians do not question trickle-down economics. Why would they? They sit in the bird bath as it trickles. Will we be satisfied with GDP ‘numbers’ that increase while real rates of employment and standards of living continue to decrease?
No, we cannot be satisfied with this situation.
Instead we must listen more closely to Pope Francis. If we begin to act on his views we embrace the original Catholic social content of the church. This content has been present in the church. Popes Leo XII, Pius XI, Pius XXI and John Paul II had called attention to it in the past. Yet their calls were muted as the time of their papacies drew focus elsewhere.
It is only through fighting injustice that we achieve and express our complete humanity. The most practical thing we can do to fight injustice is to give and to demand fair employment for our fellow human beings and for ourselves. If we can create employment through our actions we have done well for humanity. If we can reverse the unrestricted betting of the financial system then we have returned to original content.