When Pope Francis issued an “apostolic exhortation” this week, the message sparked controversy among Catholics — and Protestants, Jews, agnostics and everything in between.
That’s because message from Pope Francis denounced “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power,” among other things.
Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation was likely meant primarily as an outcry against materialism and greed — two things that almost all religions would agree don’t play role in a just society. But a number of phrases hit Wall Street almost directly.
After all, “economic power” is hardly the province of middle class folks suffering away in middle management.
Here are some choice selections from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation:
Pope Francis on the value of workers
“The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.”
Pope Francis on “the 1%”
“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”
Pope Francis on the environment
“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”
Pope Francis on free markets vs. morality
“Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace.”
Pope Francis on Layoffs
“I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.”
Strong words from a spiritual leader.
The big question, of course, is whether the words will change anyone. The very nature of profit-driven markets demands growth at all costs — and it’s unlikely those who run this system will suddenly suffer a crisis of conscience.
And as for those in the lower classes who have already felt the pain of layoffs and the Great Recession, the edict from Pope Francis is something they probably agree with already.
The apostolic exhortation could win more folks over to the Catholic church, especially those who are on the lower end of the income scale.
But as for whether it will change Wall Street, only time will tell.
More on Pope Francis
- Read the full text of the exhortation here. (Washington Post)
- The Vatican’s journey from anti-communism to anti-capitalism. (The Atlantic)
- And for the record, the pope said he prefers the challenge of a church that is “bruised hurting and dirty.” (USA Today)
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.