As a non-Catholic fan of the last two popes — one a hero, one a genius — I’ve been following with interest the controversy over the new pope’s first exhortation. Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium sparked a firestorm with its criticism of free markets and “trickle down theories,” and its apparent call for the state to take action against them. The great Rush Limbaugh confessed himself “befuddled” by the message which sounded to him like “pure Marxism,” and Breitbart’s Big Peace site had a post headlined, “Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control.” In response, Peggy Noonan wrote what I thought was one of her weaker columns defending the pope as a non-economist and saying, “I don’t think he’s saying be a leftist but something more revolutionary and fundamental: Be a saint. Be better, kinder, more serious and loving, and help create systems that reflect good, kind, loving people.” I much preferred the touchingly ferocious and loyal post from Rebecca Hamilton at Patheos, “If You’re Looking for Me, You’ll Find Me Standing With the Pope.” She lets go with both barrels at commentators on the left and right who try to tailor Catholicism to fit their political point of view:
These people have become so arrogant that they think they can talk to the Pope the way they talk to their toady political religious leaders that they’ve bought and own. Since they can’t even get an audience with the Pope, they are going directly to their cult-like following among their readers and listeners and are doing their best to get them riled up into a froth of Pope-hating.
Best of all, by my lights, was the scholarly Michael Novak’s piece “Agreeing With Pope Francis,” over at NRO. Novak points out that the original Spanish of the pope’s message is more nuanced than the English translation, and that Francis’s South American experience might have given him a different view of capitalism than he would have gotten here in the states. Novak feels that what the pope means is that capitalism alone won’t help the poor without restraints of both law and conscience.