12/21/2013 09:45 am ET Updated Feb 20, 2014

Pope Makes Great Change

Much has been made about recent comments of Pope Francis. It has been reported that Pope Francis observed that the Church was talking too much about sexual sins. The Church was too focused on abortion, birth control pills, and homosexuality. The Church needed to "soft pedal" those issues and focus on larger and more important questions.

Those comments brought forth the claim by one of the Bishops in Rome that "you could never talk too much about those issues" and the new Pope stepped up and removed that Bishop from his place of authority. The Church has talked too much about sexual sins and has put too much guilt and negativity on to those issues. Perhaps if the Church had been less rigid, dogmatic, and judgmental on the sexual pressures in the human person, there might have been less priestly misconduct on sexual assaults.

But Pope Francis is making a major and important change of focus for Christian people. For centuries the Christian community has focused on the sins of individuals. There has been the conviction that if we were to convert all the individuals, if we could change the individual, then society would be changed. If we could get all the pieces of the puzzle changed, then the big picture of the puzzle would be different. The Beatitudes seem to speak directly to individuals. The Judgment scene of the separation of sheep and goats speaks to individual acts of feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, caring for those in prison on an individual basis. The Seven Deadly Sins seem to be entirely individual sins.

But Pope Francis in his remarks about capitalism is changing the focus. There needs to be more focus on the big picture. The big picture is the fact that there are systems, institutions, structures, organizations, that do evil that individuals cannot change by their individual actions. Pope Francis talked about the negative power of capitalism. The economic system of capitalism has within it the power of doing harm that even the best individual cannot change. Capitalism is based on competition. That means that my group wants to defeat your group. That competition becomes very fierce and very destructive. Our companies wants to eliminate the competition. That elimination brings harm to others. Capitalism generates a selfishness that is concern for our profit. Board of Directors who want one percent more profit a year may close hundreds of outlets and bring untold pain and problems for thousands. Capitalism fosters greed. The economic system of capitalism may have many wonderful, kind, loving people working within it, but the structure and system has the power to produce negative consequences.

Robert McAfee Brown once called them social sins. "People find themselves trapped in structures that, despite all individual intentions of good will, persist in doing things that actually work against the common good. People find themselves beholden to social structures that are engines of evil, systems of organizing life and experiences that hurt rather than heal -- hence "systemic" evil." No more blatant example is the extermination of six million Jews in Germany.

There continues to be the need to speak to individuals and seek their change, but it is great to see Pope Francis calling for the examination of these larger "systemic" evils of which Capitalism is one.