November 30, 2013

George Weigel on ‘Evangelii Gaudium’

Filed under: Economy,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:59 am

Weigel weighed in on Friday in the Wall Street Journal (link added by me; bolds are mine):

The pope is passionately concerned about the poor, and he knows that poverty in the 21st century takes many forms. It can be found in the grinding material poverty of his native Buenos Aires, caused by decades of corruption, indifference, and the church’s failures to catechize Argentina’s economic and political leaders. But poverty can also be found in the soul-withering spiritual desert of those who measure their humanity by what they have rather than who they are, and who judge others by the same materialist yardstick. Then there is the ethical impoverishment of moral relativism, which dumbs down human aspiration, impedes common work for the common good in society, and inevitably leads to social fragmentation and personal unhappiness.

As he wrote in “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis is not a man of “political ideology.” He knows that “business is a vocation and a noble vocation,” if ordered to the common good and the empowerment of the poor. When he criticizes the social, economic or political status quo, he does so as a pastor who is “interested only in helping all those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking that is more humane, noble, and fruitful.”

Pope Francis is a revolutionary. The revolution he proposes, however, is not a matter of economic or political prescription, but a revolution in the self-understanding of the Catholic Church: a re-energizing return to the pentecostal fervor and evangelical passion from which the church was born two millennia ago, and a summons to mission that accelerates the great historical transition from institutional-maintenance Catholicism to the Church of the New Evangelization.

Those who believe that the Pope has made some kind of radical move away from capitalism properly practiced could not be more wrong.

As I wrote in my PJ Media column Wednesday evening:

I’m an unapologetic advocate of capitalism under three eminently reasonable conditions: Its players have Judeo-Christian ethical foundations; the rules of the game are fair and clearly understood; and the refs don’t play favorites. Though the second and third items have been seriously compromised in recent years, the first requirement is the most underappreciated.

The Pope has written nothing inconsistent with that fundamental outlook.



  1. First, I want to say sorry to hear about your recent loss and I hope and pray (yes, I’m not afraid to say or do it!) you and yours do well.

    Now on to the post. I don’t see it. Weigel tries really hard but from what others have quoted and posted of the Pope’s text it’s hard to come to the same conclusion as George. I mean referring to the free market as “tyranny” is pretty objectively a rejection of capitalism. He can say he’s a not a man of political ideology all he wants, but what he is spouting sure sounds like political ideology.

    I think the main flaw with the Judeo-Christian religions as practiced today, which is exposed by this latest debacle, is it’s leaders and followers misdiagnose the problem which is leading to the rabid secularism they (and you and I) are trying to fight. The problem is not capitalism (which is an economic system and not a philosophy or an all encompassing moral code ((like say socialism or Buddhism)) to begin with) and individualism when the problem is actually that so many people are taught lies about the Judeo-Christian faiths and are not told how beneficial it has been on the whole in history and thus they end up rejecting it and substituting either atheism or pseudo-religion (environmentalism, socialism, New Age crap, etc.)

    And the misdiagnosis is leading these leaders to issuing “solutions” derived from error that in the end compound and make the problem worse.

    I mean, the previous Pope made similar anti-Capitalism remarks and since the fall of Communism in the late 80′s the message from the Vatican and far too many Catholics and some Protestants seems to be that other than his rejecting God and religion as a “false sun” Marx’s ideas are basically just and right. This ignores of course that Marxism is one of the most materialistic ideas ever, as it denotes simply giving everyone material goods and resources with solving all the worlds problems.

    I mean, c’mon, being “individualistic” is bad? Okay, being indifferent and being self-centered is unquestionably bad (even if I think the term “self-centered” is a bit clunky and a bit of a misnomer, since everything both noble and ignoble has to originate from the self, I think “wrongly self-centered” is a better descriptor.) But now, you can’t be an individual and also care about people? And if you have any individualistic desires or wants, you’re “trapped” and immoral? That’s ridiculous and it’s not Catholicism, it’s collectivism. We *need* strong individuals with self worth and not some Borg Collective with a religious gloss slapped on it. Because among other things, any group effort or society is only as strong as it’s individual members.

    So the end Weigel’s write-up screams of tortured logic, mental gymnastics, and more than a fair share of mind reading.

    P.S. Weigel talks about people who think they are better because of what they have. Okay, that’s a problem but is it really that widespread? I mean, the whole “rich guy who thinks he’s better cause he’s rich” stereotype seems to me something that exists in cartoons more than reality. Yeah, there are plenty of rich liberals who think they are better than the rest of us, but they think that because they are liberal, not because they are rich. This is a trait most non-wealthy liberals share by the way. And what about the middle class and poor who think merely having lots of money is evil and therefore assume they are better than people with more simply because they have less? Why is this more prevalent form of materialism never denounced as vehemently and often as the other?

    Comment by zf — December 2, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

  2. We’re just going to have to watch the Pope over time.

    I think his arguments have validity when applied to certain capitalists, but they shouldn’t be turned into a blanket indictment of capitalism or certainly as a call for worldwide socialism.

    One of the problems (in shorthand) is that what the Pope has seen from Argentina is cronyism and corruption in a society which makes a pretense of being capitalistic, and that cronyist and corrupt societies don’t provide the opportunities for upward mobility freer societies do, and have done.

    Comment by Tom — December 2, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

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