Far be it from me, a devout Catholic, to teach you your job, but, before joining the conga line of pontiffs who have criticized capitalism, might it not have been advisable to have a chat with, say, Thomas Sowell? Capitalism – to be more precise, free enterprise – did not create poverty, but has lifted untold millions of people out of it. Where, in the whole wide world, are we seeing the emergence of a “new tyranny” of “unfettered capitalism”? Certainly not in the United States, where an enthusiastic booster of smiley-faced socialism presides over a government that has been trying to assert control over a huge sector of the economy (health care), with deplorable results for the distinctly non-wealthy. And what to make of the “Great Society” (American style), which has spent enormous sums of money on welfare programs that have wound up trapping generations of families in a vicious cycle of hopeless dependency, subjecting them to increasingly destructive social pathologies and making them easy prey for the parasites who play on their desperation in order to obtain power and wealth?
Is mass starvation in North Korea the result of capitalism? How about the grinding poverty among the vast majority of people who are not members of the ruling class in Cuba? In Argentina, where Your Holiness spent many years working selflessly to draw attention to the needs of the poor, is the problem free enterprise, or is it the collusion of economic oligarchs – crony capitalists, we call them in the United States – with a long series of corrupt governments in an attempt to unfairly divide up the nation’s wealth? And the teeming poor of the Middle East clearly are not providing foot soldiers for terrorist movements out of a fanatical allegiance to the principles of Adam Smith.
I do not doubt your pity and your love for the poor, and in this you are a living admonishment to all of us who, as individuals, can do more to assist those who are less fortunate than ourselves. However, with respect, I would posit that, to single out for condemnation the one form of economic organization that has done more than any other, not only to feed and clothe the poor, but to offer so many of them the opportunity for permanently raising themselves from poverty, is a pastoral error that grows increasingly tedious in its repetition.