Pope Francis never ceases to amaze. Just days after being named Time’s Person of the Year, the pontiff responded to his conservative critics, led by Rush Limbaugh, by arguing that his disapproval of “unfettered capitalism” does not make him a Marxist.
In an interview with Italian daily newspaper “La Stampa,” Pope Francis said that although “[t]he Marxist ideology is wrong,” he has met many good people who identify themselves as Marxists, so his conservative critics’ characterization of him as such is not offensive.
He went on to maintain his denunciation of the sort of unrestrained capitalism that defines America today, insisting that this position is in line with the Catholic Church’s social doctrine:
?[T]rickle-down theories? … assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger [and] nothing ever comes out for the poor.
Bringing attention to the plight of the world’s poor and criticizing the myth of trickle-down economics strike people like Limbaugh as “pure Marxism” because it insinuates that the state has a responsibility and obligation to help its poor — an unthinkable idea to most ultra-conservative Americans.
On the heels of major SNAP benefit cuts, Pope Francis reminds his opponents that more can be done to ease the suffering of the poor:
With all the food that is left over and thrown away we could feed so many. If we were able to stop wasting and start recycling food, world hunger would diminish greatly…?If we work with humanitarian organisations and are able to agree all together not to waste food, sending it instead to those who need it, we could do so much to help solve the problem of hunger in the world. I would like to repeat to humanity…: give food to those who are hungry! May the hope and tenderness of the Christmas of the Lord shake off our indifference.
“Indifference” is a perfect word to describe the official policy of the sort of conservatism people like Limbaugh subscribe to, at least where assisting the poor is concerned. To Limbaugh, expressing or showing anything other than indifference is “pure Marxism” and out of step with American capitalism, which today has only succeeded at widening the gap between rich and poor.
As the religious leader of over a billion Catholics worldwide, the current pontiff is in a unique position to persuade conservative lawmakers and pundits that a free market economy based on trickle-down theories and unregulation tends to benefit only a small minority of people, whereas everyone else must rely on table scraps. May Pope Francis finally succeed where many others have failed.