“As was to be expected,” writes a leading Catholic cleric, the recent papal bombshell document, which “lashes out at social injustice raised to an international level, was bound to find mixed reactions.” He elaborates: “Accusations have came swiftly from the capitalist sector that the ideology [of the new papal document] is Marxist.”
The cleric is Óscar A. Romero, writing in 1967 in defense of Pope Paul VI’s «Populorum Progressio.» Paul’s encyclical drew the right’s ire, in part, because it declared that “unbridled” capitalism “paves the way for a particular type of tyranny” of international finance, and because it expressed doubts about free market systems that “present profit as the chief spur to economic progress, free competition as the guiding norm of economics, and private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right, having no limits nor concomitant social obligations.” «Populorum Progressio,» 26. (Pope Benedict wrote that «Populorum Progressio» “deserves to be considered ‘the «Rerum Novarum» of the present age’, shedding light upon humanity's journey towards unity.” «Caritas In Veritate,» 8. «Populorum Progressio,» Benedict wrote, “illuminated the great theme of the development of peoples with the splendour of truth and the gentle light of Christ's charity.” Id.)
The same criticisms that were lobbed against «Populorum Progressio» have been made about the Apostolic Exhortation «Evangelii Gaudium» because Pope Francis makes the same points that Pope Paul did. Most controversially, Pope Francis questions Christians who assume that “trickle-down theories” will right existing economic imbalances, and he condemns the “new tyranny” of global finance, institutional corruption and international debt. «Evangelii Gaudium,» 54, 56. These passages have been causing peoples heads to explode, as apparently some Catholic thinkers are not familiar with the social magisterium of the 20th Century Popes. These arguments were not even new when Paul VI made them in 1967. After all, it was 1931 when Pius XI declared that, “not only is wealth concentrated in our times but an immense power and despotic economic dictatorship is consolidated in the hands of a few ... This dictatorship is being most forcibly exercised by those who, since they hold the money and completely control it, control credit also and rule the lending of money.” This “dictatorship,” Pius wrote, “is the fruit that the unlimited freedom of struggle among competitors has of its own nature produced, and which lets only the strongest survive” (i.e., the free market system). «Quadragesimo Anno,» 105, 107.
Therefore, before you conclude that Pope Francis is a Marxist, take a deep breath. The words that Fr. Romero wrote 46 years ago apply with equal force today: “the truth is that our wonderful encyclical is neither Marxist nor capitalist. It is neither leftist nor rightist, just on the side of the suffering, of the materially and culturally hungry, on the side of the poor and the weak, on the side of the Gospel.”
Repeat to yourself: the Pope is not a Marxist. Now, go say three Hail Mary’s.