Pope’s exhortation is nothing new

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, December 5, 2013

Much has been made recently over Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” and whether or not the new pope has shifted the Catholic Church to a more liberal direction.

Recently, conservatives have balked at the Pope Francis’ teachings against the capitalist economic system. In his exhortation, Pope Francis writes, “Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” as a criticism of the capitalist system.

Pope Francis says the worship of money has become the new form of idolatry. “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.”

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While conservatives may lament what they perceive to be a movement away from conservative, free-market values, Pope Francis’ position is consistent with the church’s position over the last two millennia.

At its heart, Christianity has always been a religion for the poor. In fact, most of Jesus’ teaching concerned helping the poor and disadvantaged.

In Luke 6:20, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” In Mark 10:21, Jesus commands a disciple to give away his possessions to the poor, saying, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” In Matthew 25:40, Jesus prophesizes about the last judgment and explains to the righteous who have questioned him, saying, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

The idea of a capitalist economic system, in which each member of society pursues wealth for his own sake, clashes with Jesus’ teachings, which preach sharing individuals’ wealth with the poor.

Neither Jesus nor Pope Francis has said that their teachings be used to determine the direction of governments, but both have advocated that individuals in society take the steps to help their fellow man.

Pope Francis is not telling governments how to run their economies and build wealth; rather, he is lamenting a worldwide culture that values money over the quality of life of the poor around the world.

Conservative pundits who have said that Pope Francis is leading the Catholic faith in a liberal direction need to open their eyes to the facts.

Any similarities between Christianity and modern liberalism come from the teachings of Jesus, not from the writings of one man in Rome.