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Home Uncategorized Is the Pope a Communist?

Is the Pope a Communist?

Angela Nagle
At the height of the economic crisis, the appearance of the modestly dressed and humble Pope Francis seemed a statement in itself. His relatively non-judgmental approach to homosexuality surprised conservatives and perplexed liberals. His criticisms of capitalism soon after had the Christian world talking again, with many commentators on the left grudgingly welcoming his comments while some figures on the right, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh, were less than impressed. In an apostolic exhortation, the pope condemned “ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation”. He called on the world’s leaders to reform the financial system with “an ethical approach, which favours human beings”. Bloomberg Business Week ran the headline “Pope Francis says he’s not a Marxist. Others aren’t so sure.” In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, the pontiff criticised “trickle-down” economics and the global financial system, and accused the rich of theft. The debate that followed revealed a great deal about the presuppositions embedded in contemporary thought. Undoubtedly Pope Francis is making arguments which have some similarities to those of other figures like Thomas Piketty, also condemned as a Marxist revolutionary (along with Barack Obama) by some hysterical voices of the American right, but his attitude to the poor comes from a long Christian tradition and it is easy to see why this would sit comfortably alongside a call for more redistributive taxation. Pope Francis is also the inheritor of a romantic anti-capitalism and an anti-materialism that descends from Francis of Assisi, after whom he is named, through to Rousseau and William Blake. In conflating the views of Pope Francis with those of Marx, a vision based on a return to nature, simplicity, traditional values, a desire to turn back the clock, and a morality based on the veneration of poverty is mistaken for one that promised to propel mankind forward through a material revolution in production. A worldview based on exalting poverty is being mistaken for its moral opposite; a vision that plotted to consign pitiful categories such as “the poor” to the dustbin of history through the harnessing and politicising of collective material self-interest. You don’t have to dig deep into Marx to find this fundamental difference clearly explained. From the Communist Manifesto: “Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a Socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the State? Has it not…

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