Update: The Pope Is A Mensch


I don’t mean to make a profession out of commenting on the Pope, but since I put up a post about his first exhortation last week, it seems only fair to update it. In the previous post, I put forward the opinion that — notwithstanding a range of defenses from loyal Catholics, and some virulent attacks from conservative commentators — the new Big Hat Guy had been a bit unwise in his remarks. It was impossible to tell from the text whether he was attacking free markets or simply criticizing them, and given that free markets help the poor far more than Marxism, clarity is important. Well, since the Pope and I are like this, Francis immediately responded by clarifying his comments. This, I feel, is in keeping with the ancient church doctrine of Menschliness — which is to say, he did the right thing and good on him.

According to my friends at Truth Revolt, Francis responded to accusations he was a Marxist or some kind of South American Social Justice type by telling the Italian newspaper La Stampa, “Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church. I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on. The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which 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 nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.

This, in turn, means that Peggy Noonan — whose Pope column I criticized — pretty much got it right when she pointed out the Pope was not speaking as an economist.

Priests are like soldiers. I’ve never met a member of the military who cared much about taxing and spending. Their general view is that taxes should be high enough to allow a great nation to support a first-rate military to keep you safe, end of story…  Priests tend to be like that, too…  How high should taxes be? High enough for a first-rate country to help its citizens get the good things they need, end of story.

Having criticized Noonan, I (following the menschly papal path) have to give her props for “Coming Closest To Papal Intentions,” in her interpretation of the exhortation.

Mostly, I think, the story is a good reminder that you simply can’t see everything through a political or economic lens. For one thing, it makes you crabbed and angry all the time which isn’t good for you. And also, it distorts the points of view of people who are speaking from another perspective, like the Pope. If you read some of the comments under my previous post, you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, to all those who attacked me for criticizing Ayn Rand, I double checked my facts and I’m right and you’re wrong. Glad we could clear that up.



Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture