Pope Francis carries his crosier after celebrating Mass in the piazza outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 4. The pontiff was making his first pilgrimage as pope to the birthplace of his papal namesake. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis lays out a blueprint for his papacy in 'Evangelii Gaudium'

ROME (RNS) Laying out a blueprint for the issues that are likely to define his papacy, Pope Francis on Tuesday (Nov. 26) issued a biting critique of capitalism, calling on world leaders to fight against poverty and for the rich to share their wealth, and urging the media to adjust its priorities.

Pope Francis carries his crosier after celebrating Mass in the piazza outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 4. The pontiff was making his first pilgrimage as pope to the birthplace of his papal namesake. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis carries his crosier after celebrating Mass in the piazza outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 4. The pontiff was making his first pilgrimage as pope to the birthplace of his papal namesake. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

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"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?" Francis asked in an 84-page "apostolic exhortation" that is widely seen as a road map for his papacy akin to a presidential State of the Union address.

"How can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving?" he asked. "Today, everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without possibilities, without any means of escape."

While Francis did not address any major new topics in the document, he expounded on some of the topics he has prioritized since becoming pope last March: poverty, inequality, justice and the role of women in the church.

His  championing of some of these issues have earned him accolades from around the world, but also raised security concerns as some of the reforms he is pushing challenge entrenched powers. Some conservative parts of the church have also questioned whether he is downplaying traditional areas of sexual morality.

Francis blasted the "idolatry of money" in the world financial system, which he called "an economy of exclusion and inequality." He also called on the church itself to work from the trenches: "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confirmed and from clinging to its own security."

Regarding women in the church, Francis reiterated that the ordination of women was "not a question open to discussion," but said woman should play a larger role in "decision-making" going forward.

The pope's inclusion of women's ordination was significant as an attempt to tamp down expectations among liberals that, after decades of conservative dominance, Francis might revolutionize the church by ordaining women. Yet, despite drawing strict boundaries, Francis nonetheless said the role of women presents the church with "profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded."

The Rev. James Martin, a fellow Jesuit and editor at large of America Magazine, said the document painted Francis' vision of the church as a "joyful community of believers completely unafraid of the modern world."

The 84-page document, "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), was significant for where it pointed its criticisms: the pontiff called for action rather than faith in the benevolence of the powerful, and instead of simply urging good will toward the needy, he said there was a need for economic regulation.

"A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders.," he said. "I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule!"

The document, which will be published in book form in English by Ignatius Press next month, is considered one of most authoritative of papal statements. Earlier this year, Francis issued his first encyclical, "Lumen Fidei" (Light of Faith), but it was largely the unfinished work of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.



  1. I totally agree! Let the Catholic Church allow an independent audit and publish he results. Let the Church establish a transparent foundation to distribute their wealth to the needy. Let us all rejoice that the Church will set the example!
    Or will Pope Francis lead the charge from the safety of the rear?

  2. I have mixed emotions about this new Pope.

    I really like the potential affect on humanity that the proposed liberal changes of direction he has proposed for the Catholic Church could bring. Far too long has this Church used their power and money to focus on imposing their doctrine on the rest of the world, instead of using the example of their obviously liberal savior Jesus as a guide for their actions.

    Also, I must admit to feeling somewhat schadenfraude (although more guilt than pleasure), about how this has to be making the conservatives in their church feel. They have developed extreme negative views of liberal ideals due in no small part to the lifetime of leadership in their Church focusing them on condemning the actions of others they call sin, instead of helping the less fortunate, which is not all their fault.

    I think this new pope can see the writing on the wall, and understands that the continued attacks on abortion, birth control and gays are not sitting well with many, especially the youth of at least those in the U.S, which has resulted in a huge decrease in the “flocks”. Unless he changed the strategy the Catholic Church has been using, this Church would have eventually faded away with those elder parishioners who are so deeply entrenched in their hate, or at least been reduced to a much smaller number of fresh haters, which I believe would have had been better for humanity.

    So therein lays my dilemma. I like the changes, as they could be good for humanity in the short run. But I am of the opinion that all religion is bad for humanity overall, no matter how much good they do, as they still promote superstitious thinking. I saw the negative affects this Church was having as an unfortunate price that humanity had to pay in order for our youth to finally realize that this religion, and all religion is based on lies. Now, because this new Pope has changed strategies, it may take even longer for humanity to see though this sham, and start living life without supernatural beliefs. I have faith….

  3. I believe this very promising new pope would be much less “falible” in his prounouncements against markets and capitalism, were he to read fellow Latin (Peruvian) economist Hernando de Soto’s seminal writings on the topic. It might surprise him to learn that there’s 2 very different kinds of capitalism–the “crony capitalism” of the wealthy, practiced by the oligarchs whose monopolies are blessed by the state and whose eternal existence is tightly woven into the legal structures and bureaucracies of these poor developing countries. And then there’s the “informal economies” and entrepreneurs where creative individuals start from nothing and through ingenuity and hard work, produce the major portion of the goods & services used by their societies, at prices the majority of the people can afford.

    But these later capitalists must operate in the shadows and stay small, because they lack the legitimacy to capitalize their assets and grow their businesses to a more efficient level. The good pontiff is on the wrong side of this issue–and pitifully, out of ignorance of the complete picture, that’s presented in a robust way by Dr. de Soto. It’s this second kind of capitalism that most closely approximates the kind of stewardship Jesus was talking about in his parable of the talents. I believe that sensibly regulated free markets–and even this kind of “not-entirely-free market” together have done more to lift people out of poverty than all the preaching of guilt-laden, anti-entrepreneurial ”shame the rich into giving to the poor,’ ever has–or ever will. .

  4. Dr. de Soto’s book was also informative about the history of American “land reform”. Our adverse possession laws were a kind of revolution against the land barons of the time, and a model of sorts for granting land to the poor in the other Americas.
    Pope Francis should follow his namesake and lead his Church to divest itself of its land and worldly wealth, in favor of the poor – as Jesus once prescribed to a man who went away sorrowing.

  5. First, the term “liberal” must be made clear. I suggest that many of today’s conservatives were liberals as that term was understood a half-century ago.

  6. Duane, I agree the term has changed drastically. It once did not hold the same disparaging meaning given to it by those who hold far right political views, like you.
    Based on so many of your comments on the internet (web links below) where you use this word, I am sure I use it with the same meaning as you do, although perhaps with some moderation, and without the negative connotations.
    Those of your obviously strong right side views had better hang on. Your “Liberal” religious leader is about to redirect your church 180 degrees, unless he gets “called to heaven” like J. P. I.
    Fear not though, he was chosen by your God right?. What he will do will more than likely keep the Catholic Church viable for awhile longer than it would have otherwise, given its current focus on the sexual behaviors of so many, and the reactions of youth to that focus.


  7. The last pope had problems concerning sex abuse with children concerning his clergy. You have power to do something about this decades long problem,but instead you make an economic speech where you have no administrative power- just political hot air. Why not change the past policy for decades of covering up sex crimes with children and support a moral position rather than an economic one.

  8. The tools that have been developed for financial speculation should not be used to enrich those who already have too much. Government must step in and regulate stock transactions, beginning with a robin hood tax. Just because technical means have been developed to make money which ordinary people can’t touch doesn’t give the big financial investors the right to use them to steal from pension funds and municipalities. The spectacle of lobbyists buying politicians to weaken financial regulations is disgusting. Let’s hope the legislators are shocked into conscience by the Holy Father’s words.

  9. Earold, you invested far more effort in “following my trail” than even I think worth it! Regarding Troy Patch: I used to get into heated exchanges with the liberals on the website and finally was removed. I could have protested and had Patch’s own damaging emails to win my case. That, however, would have required spending a few bucks to get a lawyer to draft a letter to them, and I didn’t think Patch worth that much. I’m a skinflint.

    Yes, I refer disparagingly to today’s liberalism. It is not the same. Judging by the legislation and other measures enacted by liberals today, it is clear that the Latin root word “libera”–referring to freedom–has absented itself from the liberal agenda today. A twenty-seven-hundred page healthcare act which nobody read before assenting to it is exquisite proof of how far contemporary liberalism has strayed from its roots.

    What turned me from liberalism was having a child and having to think about her education in a public school system that was deteriorating and desired to spread the misery–that’s what liberal government does–by bussing students from the few good ones left, our neighborhood school being one of the few. No thanks.

    In my career in that same public school system I had to fight with my superiors about spending ESAA money (a federal grant in the ’70’s) on AV equipment which we did not need and already had machines that saw no use in the course of a year. “If we don’t spend it, we’ll lose it.”

    Enough said, I believe.

  10. Mr. Gill, the pope is addressing these matters and has already disciplined two bishops who mismanaged abuse cases, all this within recent weeks. Because the Vatican is not talking loudly about sexual abuse in order to give the media something for their 6:30 broadcasts and morning shows does not mean it is doing nothing.

    I will also say that the national media has given national attention more frequently and in larger timeframes to Catholic Church sex abuse than it has to the larger problem that exists in the public school systems. There’s a reason for this: Liberals, the vast majority of “journalists,” dislike any place of religion in American society. Period. Thus, if they can take down the largest denomination (Catholicism), they will make huge strides in eradicating religion from the public square entirely. And, no, they don’t give a fig about the First Amendment.

    No quarrel here with rooting out the abusers. In fact, I don’t think any of them get what they really deserve, even if they get life sentences. I suspect most conservatives think the same way.

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