Evangelii Gaudium is nearly 300 pages long and I haven’t read the whole thing. Still, I skimmed much of it and read the relevant parts carefully and, as a friendly outsider, I can’t help thinking Francis spoke unwisely here. As Novak points out, democracy and capitalism, with the proper restraints, are more likely to bring people out of poverty than state-mandated systems. And given the pope’s power and influence, and the unspeakable need of so many poor in the world, it does seem Francis ought to be clear whether he is criticizing the best system we’ve got or condemning it outright. Knock the consumerism and amorality of capitalism for sure, but why even appear to give aid and comfort to the socialists who have destroyed so many lives in the name of “equality”?

Hey, the guy’s still a rookie. There’s no call to jump down his throat, but by the same token, he’s the pope, there’s no need to make weak excuses for him or reinterpret him for himself as if he were Chance in Being There. (“Francis wants to get us thinking about what we should be thinking about. He wants to invite thought. And he’s succeeding, isn’t he?” writes Noonan. Meh.)

Free markets aren’t perfect — no system that involves human beings is perfect — and Ayn Randian blather that excludes the necessity for charity and compassion or even some regulation is ultimately going to be as destructive to the cause as socialism itself. But true, honest, regulated capitalism — so desperately needed in the most desperate economies in the world — is under fire everywhere from the power-mad do-gooders of the left. In the name of the poor — which is to say, in the name of Christ — it should be boldly defended by the moral man.

The pope, who seems pretty clearly to be not only a moral but a truly good man, might want to rethink and speak more clearly.