Pope Francis' first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, provoked heated discussion around the world for its direct criticism of political and economic systems that leave the poor behind.
His condemnation of the dangers of "unfettered capitalism" raised the hackles of conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, who said the pope "doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to capitalism and socialism and so forth" and dismissed Evangelii Gaudium as "pure Marxism."
Prominent Jesuit scholar and Boston College professor David Hollenbach weighed in on the political implications of the pope's message during a panel discussion at Georgetown University last month, reports Raw Story:
There is an enormous amount of interesting material in this document [the Evangelii Gaudium], not focused as the central spotlight of the document, but… this document deals with solidarity and its relationship to subsidiarity. I mean, in a certain way that could be written almost as a direct refutation of the recent Republican budget proposal of a year ago. It is a direct challenge to some of the fundamental arguments that are being made in the United States Congress about structures.
In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote:
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.
This message wasn't the first time that the Catholic Church has cited a moral imperative for economic reform. Hollenbach noted that in 1986, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published "Economic Justice for All," a pastoral letter which urged more consideration for the needy when making economic decisions.
“People said, ‘Oh, I really agree with the part about the Bible, but I don’t buy all that stuff they said about the market,’” he explained. “And they wrote it all off.”