Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pope Francis as conservative

As with previous comments by the Pope the media has distorted the contents of Evangelii Gaudium(EG) in order to declare that the Pope supports secular liberalism.

The reality is that EG supports conservative economic policies while condemning radical libertarianism and the welfare based exploitation of the poor developed by liberals.

When reading EG it’s important to understand how Catholics view the authority of the Pope.  The Pope, protected by the Holy Spirit, has a profoundly special authority on matters of faith and morals. That does not mean that the Pope is an expert on the proper way to achieve the moral goals the Pope espouses.

For example when Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of “…the option or love of preference for the poor…”, a feeling echoed in EG, he was expressing a moral position; we must care for the poor.  In such proclamations the Popes provide guidance in following the teachings of Christ.

Once we accept our obligation to help the poor however the Church does not teach that the Pope has any special competence in determining what worldly mechanisms will be most successful in achieving that moral good. While that does not mean that we should ignore the statements of Popes on economics, after all Pope Francis’s appeal is based on his lived solidarity with the poor which embodies his opinions with a special gravitas, it does mean that the Pope saying “economic solution A is better than economic solution B” is on par with any other well intentioned, well informed person’s opinion.

Pope Francis recognizes this in EG when he writes:

…neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems.

To understand what the Pope said it’s important to realize that EG does not change Church teaching on economics.  The Pope said 

I take for granted the different analyses which other documents of the universal magis­terium have offered

That would include Pope Leo XIII encyclical on socialism that says

For, indeed, although the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes, nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist:

The first example of liberal attempts to distort EG is their concentration on the limited comments on economics and social justice and their lack of coverage of the Popes statements condemning abortion and the persecution of religion by those who would push religion out of the public square, ie liberals.  This selectivity tries to put liberals support for the killing of 1.4 million American’s every year on par with conservatives rejection of the economic ghettoization of the poor.

But even the liberal spin on EG’s comments on economics is biased and contradicts what the Pope actually said. The most controversial point that liberals latch on to is:

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.

Liberals read this as a condemnation of conservative principles but the reality is that it is only a condemnation of the most extreme libertarian positions.  The Pope condemns a radical individualism not the actual political positions held by the vast majority of conservatives in America today.

“Trickle down” is a pejorative liberal way to smear JFK’s common sense declaration that “a rising tide lifts all boats”.  Reading all of EG clearly shows that the Pope is condemning the concept that economic growth alone with no government involvement in the economy is a workable solution for the poor.

Conservatives recognize that the government has a role in the economy; that robber baron capitalism is not good for America or Americans.  For example conservatives believe the government should deal with monopolies and condemn insider trading. Conservatives also support minimum wage laws—the dispute tends to be about where the value should be set—and the need for a safety net, as espoused by no less of a conservative than Ronald Reagan, for those in true need.

EG itself advocates a very conservative view about how to help the poor; give them the opportunity to have jobs:

This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.

Conservative policies support all of the objectives mentioned by the Pope while liberal policies have been proven to go against what the Pope recommends.

Conservatives support school vouchers to introduce competition into education and to provide the poor with quality education. Liberals support the teacher’s union’s demands for higher wages even as the inner city public schools continue to fail the poor.

Obamacare is actually reducing people’s access to healthcare even as it supposedly increases their access to healthcare insurance. Aside from those who can’t afford the drastically higher premiums under Obamacare many are losing access to healthcare because the payment rates to healthcare providers are so low under Obamacare that peoples ability to actually be treated is going down.  Conservative solutions on the other hand are designed to reduce healthcare costs, thereby improving access, and increase the freedom of Americans in regards to healthcare.

Conservatives, starting with JFK, have known that reducing the impact of government improves the economy and creates new jobs.  Liberal economic policies, now under Obama and in the past, have lead to high unemployment and wage stagnation that deny the poor opportunities.

The reality is that it is conservative policies that strive to achieve the goals the Pope cites while liberal policies merely push the poor into the economic ghetto of welfare.

Another area where conservatism supports what the Pope is calling for is that the poor cannot be excluded from society because every person has intrinsic value as a child of God:

The poor person, when loved, “is esteemed as of great value”, and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest.

Liberals continue to support a failed welfare system that provides food and circuses for the poor but which destroys their families and gives them no hope to become productive members of society; generating the very exclusion that the Pope condemns.  Liberals accept this because it increases liberal’s political power by ensuring the votes of the warehoused poor go to liberals.

Conservative policies on the other hand are designed to bring the poor into society by helping them get jobs and realize the intrinsic potential of the poor.

The Pope also shows his agreement with conservative concepts when he declares that economic growth is essential albeit not sufficient:

Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth:

In the end a reading of the EG coupled with an understanding of historic Church teaching on economic principles shows that conservative policies designed to provide a temporary safety net for the poor while giving the poor the tools they need to become part of society are in full agreement with the Popes restatement of the Church’s historic call to care for the poor.

Liberal policies that push the poor into an economic ghetto and deprive the poor of the tools necessary to unleash their native potential go directly against the Popes call for inclusion into society of the poor.

As Blessed Pope John Paul II
said “Be not afraid!” for the Pope is not on the side of American liberal’s plans to replace God with government but rather on the side of conservatives who strive to harness the potential of the poor by mainstreaming them in society.

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