Pope critiques growing inequality

One of the more interesting aspects of the Catholic Church’s involvement in civic life is that it cannot be comfortably placed anywhere along the left-right political spectrum (at least in an American context).

Just days ago, I posted about Pope Benedict’s widely-reported comments on same-sex marriage that riled liberals and heartened some conservatives. Yesterday, the Pope offered some words on economic matters that might make some conservatives uncomfortable and perhaps excite some on the left. From Reuters:


Pope Benedict said in his New Year's message on Tuesday he hoped 2013 would be a year of peace and that the world was under threat from unbridled capitalism, terrorism and criminality.

The 85-year-old pope rang in the new year with a mass for about 10,000 people in St Peter's Basilica on the day the Roman Catholic Church marks its World Day of Peace with initiatives around the world.

According to the Vatican’s website, he said, specifically:

Although the world is sadly marked by “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism,” as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that “the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift.

This is hardly the first time Pope Benedict has critiqued free-market economies. In 2009, he called for a new global political entity to oversee the growing gulf between the rich and the poor.

Michael J. O’Loughlin

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
michael iwanowicz
4 years 10 months ago
The Pope speaks and writes from a perspective that is a discerning moment in public affairs distinct from an ideological moment .. deacon mike
michael iwanowicz
4 years 10 months ago
This is the uniqueness of the church - directing commentary that prescinds from politics.
john andrechak
4 years 10 months ago
what I want for the Church is to oppose inequality, rampant capitalism, etal in proportion to its opposition to gay marriage. So the Diocese in Maine could spend the reported 3/4 million, send DVDs out to each member, appoint parish captions to visit each household as it did in opposing gay marriage int.
Alexander Lim
4 years 10 months ago
While I agree with your comment about oppostion to inequality - this being a rather thorny issue for both Church and State - I cannot see the Pope speaking against Capitalism - the opposite of which would be Socialism. The erstwhile Communist countries have seen the failure of this experiment - and they're becoming more capiltalistic than we are. In fact, America is now headed into Socialism, remain in denial if you must, but "redistribution" of wealth is on its way ! I don't believe that the Church would deem this as an appropiate action. Shockingly though, there was a report some two years ago, about a priest, who, during his homily, suggested that parishioners who are in dire need, can shop-lift BUT only from places the likes of Walmart and not from Mom and Pop stores, Furthermore, he added that they should take only what are necessary and not be "greedy". This has bothered me to this day. (The priest must have been a Jesuit ?). Educated by the Dominicans, it has been ingrained in us that "the means never justify the end". What has been suppressed by the liberal mainstream media, both print and broadcast, are anecdotal and evidence-based random acts of kindness and of course, the charitable contributions by some very wealthy individuals. Sadly though, inequality between the genders, as it applies to wages for one, still exists in our society. The Pope criticized inequality, but to his credit (keen perception re political implications), fittingly offered no solutions, lest drawing the ire of both politicians and religious alike.
john andrechak
4 years 10 months ago
redistribution has occurred, over the past forty years massive wealth has been transfered from the middle class, concentrated in the hands of one to two percent of the nation. Using union busting measures, unmitigated globalization, deregulation, "it is only class war when we fight back" as far as the Church and capitalism, the hierarchy has as a class always sided with wealth and power; "socialism" please, Obama is a center right; the GOP are just crazy and/or shills for the 1%
Michael Starks
4 years 10 months ago
The Pope didn't discuss what was both good and about inequality, which would have been a critique, like a book review. He criticized inequality.
Patrick Veale
4 years 10 months ago
While the growing economic inequality is obvious to everyone, it would be more important for the Pope to begin his emancipatory journey with a critique of the inequality of power in the hierarchical Church. This obvious inequality makes it impossible for the Church to speak to economic inequality in the city of woman/man. That's where Jesus started out.
James Murrray
4 years 10 months ago
I really want to like the guy but the inconsistencies regarding Church inequality are so glaring that it makes looking at the Pope's pronouncements as churlish criticism. The guy's right in his comments but hard to take seriously with his own human rights failure. Does he read comments such as these?


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago speaks Nov. 13 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Cardinal Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life could be helpful as the church grapples with issues like migration, health care and even taxes, some bishops say.
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 17, 2017
Giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany in April 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
“What we need to do is just continue to live out the challenge of ‘Laudato Si’,’ which is to examine our relationship with the earth, with God and with each other to see how we can become better stewards of this gift of the earth.”
Kevin ClarkeNovember 17, 2017
Hipsters love the authentic, the craft and the obscure—which is exactly why Catholicism, in its practices and its aesthetic, is perfectly suited for them.
Zac DavisNovember 17, 2017
In response to a query from America, Steve Bannon said, “The daily examen has become a tool for me to lead a better, more fulfilled life.”
James T. KeaneNovember 17, 2017