Listers, Pope Francis’ comments on the economy have generated a lot of attention. Political parties have been quick to judge his comments and either claim him as their own or dismiss him as a socialist/marxist. What has not happened, however, is a holistic digestion of the Holy Father’s words. The following is the excerpt from his Apostolic Exhortation that has generated so much criticism and characterization:
53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. 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? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. 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 work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
54. 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. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.1
The selected section from Evangelii Gaudium is only one part of the Pope’s comments on the economy. His Holiness went on to warn of the idolatry of money. He states, “One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies.” His Holiness also advocates a financial system that serves the workers rather than rules over them. Pope Francis also criticizes those who in return advocate a financial system that rules over workers, stating, “Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God.”
The following are a selection of political cartoon that demonstrate how Pope Francis’ comments on the economy have been represented in the media. It is not an endorsement of each cartoon.
Listers, what do you think? How are secular political cartoons portraying Pope Francis’ views on the economy? If they are a misrepresentation, where does the fault lie?