Re: The Pope and His Politics, Ctd.

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Stephen: You seem to be taking Pope Francis to have meant something like the following: “We should do what we can–individually or collectively, as appropriate–to lift up the poor, and that includes protecting them from economic forces. That may require changing important aspects of our global economy. And we should not be obsessed with material gain, or encourage that obsession in others.” I have no objection to any of that. I think, though, that it is wrong to imply that free trade has immiserated the poor around the world, as his vague statement did. I also think that vague condemnations of the “economic system” for having at its heart what any economic system must have at its heart–money–are unhelpful in critiquing materalism and consumerism, obscuring as they do questions of causation, culpability, and reform. More generally, I think that people should not let the laudable instinct to read the Pope’s statements charitably become an obligation to defend everything he says. You yourself may well be immune to this temptation, but I suspect that it has played a role in some of the conservative reactions to recent statements by Pope Francis, including the reactions at NRO.

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