Is the Pope a Marxist?

Compassion versus ideology

It is clear that Pope Francis is a man on a mission. He has a vision of the Church going out to the margins, to the most vulnerable, to the poorest of the poor, writes Neil Ormerod in Eureka Street.

The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only in the geographical sense but also to go to the existential peripheries: those of the mysteries of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and of religious indifference, of thought, of all misery.

This vision is now joined to a stinging critique of our globalised economy which promotes a 'new tyranny' of unfettered capitalism and an attack on the 'idolatry of money.' While such language has not been uncommon, buried in the riches of Catholic social teaching, this pope has made it up front and centre stage of his message.

This prominence is not going unnoticed. Conservative commentators are starting to speak out against Pope Francis. The shock-jock broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, in a show entitled 'It's Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It's a Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists)' has labelled the Pope's recent exhortation pure Marxism:

This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope. Unfettered capitalism? That doesn't exist anywhere. Unfettered capitalism is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States.

More recently an editor of Fox News website, Adam Shaw, who doubled as a movie reviewer for the Catholic News Service, was sacked from CNS after vociferous criticism of Francis, identifying him as the 'Catholic Obama.'

While American Catholic neoconservatives, such as Michael Novak and George Weigel, felt more comfortable with John Paul II's role in the collapse of communism and his acceptance of a positive role for the free market, and with Benedict's shift away from social justice issues to return to an earlier piety, Francis' renewed emphasis on the place of social justice in the life of the Church, and his criticisms of the free market are causing concern. However Francis' vision is driven by his experience of poverty in the barrios of Buenos Aries and the failure of the 'free market' to lift the poor out of their poverty in Argentina.

This disquiet from the neoconservatives will be even greater given the role of the Vatican in the recent World Trade Organisation [WTO] trade negotiations in Bali. Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, made an intervention which one seasoned observer described as unprecedented in the specificity of its claims. 

FULL STORY Is the Pope a Marxist?

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