10/13/2015 03:49 pm ET

How A Catholic Billionaire Explains Pope Francis' Suspicion Of Capitalism

"He came out of a country that was crony capitalism."

Pope Francis' criticism of unbridled capitalism has been hard for many conservative Catholics to stomach.

But Kenneth Langone, a devout Catholic billionaire and top Republican donor, has an explanation: The pope is just used to the wrong kind of capitalism -- specifically, the favoritism and opacity found in his native Argentina. 

"He came out of a country that was crony capitalism," Langone said on Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.

Langone, a successful investor and founder of Home Depot, was confident that the pontiff's encounter with the United States' brand of free-enterprise capitalism during his September visit -- not to mention the generosity of the country's wealthy citizens -- would change his perspective. 

"Remember this, he never was to America before that trip," Langone said. "When the pope saw that the restoration of [St. Patrick's Cathedral] was done through donations... He saw things he didn't see."

Langone also said he gives Francis "a pass" on his harshest remarks about capitalism, including comments made in Bolivia in July, because of the pope's "sense of hurt for poor people, sick people."

"He said we must remember what Jesus' teachings are," Langone said. "And what are they? 'When you do for others, you do for me. When you go see somebody in a prison, when you feed somebody, you were doing it for me.'"

"He's fabulous. Now if I could get him in one of my economics courses, he'd be even better," Langone went on. "But I'll take it the way it is, because you know what? Anything that makes us more sensitive to people around us that aren't as well as we are -- God bless it, because we're all going to be better off because of it. That's why I love the pope."

In addition to discussing the pope in Tuesday's interview, Langone shared his thoughts on who should be the next president. He prefers New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), but said Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) would be his second choice. Langone objected to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), saying he doesn't approve of having "three presidents from one family in 25 years."

In the last presidential election cycle, Langone had urged Christie to seek the 2012 Republican nomination, but when Christie declined, Langone instead gave his support to Mitt Romney.

Langone, who has been leading a mammoth fundraising campaign to restore St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown Manhattan, warned in 2013 that the pope's seemingly negative rhetoric about rich people was scaring away major donors.

At the time, he offered a similar theory about the roots of the pope's economic views, attributing them to "the vast difference between the pope's experience in Argentina and how we are in America."


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