For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
So said St Paul in his first letter to Timothy, and human history is loaded with evidence confirming this view. Latterly, I say, money has been replaced in part by Theory. Pope Francis thinks Inequality. Which, he said, is the “fruit of the law of competitiveness that means strongest survive over the weak” which is the “logic of exploitation” and “waste”.
Or so he said in Italian to a group in Milan, his words translated by Vatican Insider. There is thus the very real danger here and elsewhere of missing nuances and even of incorrect wordings. So let’s tread carefully.
It is necessary, if we really want to solve problems and not get lost in sophistry, to get to the root of all evil which is inequity. To do this there are some priority decisions to be made: renouncing the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and acting first on the structural causes of inequity.
Obviously, or at least I hope obviously, you cannot push the “strongest survive over the weak” metaphor too far. Neither “inequality.” If there were absolute equality, where the weak and strong are as one, there would be no Pope and no right or wrong ideas. Neither could there be politicians in charge to renounce absolute autonomy of markets or of anything else.
Incidentally, we musn’t form a USA-centric view of the Pope’s words. Here, for instance, the markets are very much tied to government, the executives of one are the executives of the other. Market leaders assist (if I may be allowed the euphemism) the government in fashioning laws and regulations to their mutual benefit.
The Pope is interested in the kind of inequality that causes some of the world to go hungry. “[T]he number one concern must be for the actual person, how many people lack food on a daily basis and have stopped thinking about life, about family and social relationships, just fighting to survive?” And here comes the kicker:
“Despite the proliferation of different organizations and the international community on nutrition, the ‘paradox’ of John Paul II still stands.” There is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat” while “at the same time the excessive consumption and waste of food and the use of it for other means is there before our eyes.”
Despite? Is that the right word? But he’s right about waste. The amount of food we toss out would have scandalized our ancestors. My maternal grandfather was fond of saying, and of enforcing, “Take what you want, but eat what you take.”
In a different venue (also translated), Pope Francis said that humans should think of themselves as lords but not masters of creation. This strikes me as accurate. In charge but restrained by natural law. The danger to those who slaver or fume over the Pope’s environmental words lies in thinking our environmental policy must consist in jumping from wanton disregard to unthinking worship. We dearly love a false dichotomy.
A Christian who does not protect Creation, who does not let it grow, is a Christian who does not care about the work of God, that work that was born from the love of God for us. And this is the first response to the first creation: protect creation, make it grow.
And from the Milan speech (with choppy translation grammar):
The earth is entrusted to us so it may be a mother to us, capable of sustaining each one of us. Once, I heard a beautiful thing: the earth is not a legacy that we have received from our parents rather it is on loan to us from our children, so that we safeguard it, nurture it and carry it forward for them. The earth is generous will never leave those who custody it lacking. The earth, which is the mother for all, demands our respect and non-violence or worse the arrogance the masters. We have to pass it on to our children improved, guarded, because it was a loan that they have given to us.
You have to read your own (right or left) political desires into this to have any policy of consequence flow from it. No definite directives can be implied from the Pope’s words. One cannot, for instance, argue that thus a carbon tax must follow. Neither can you say (which nobody does say) you can do whatever you want.
But many think or hope they can “leverage” the Pope to further their politics. Even now “eco-ambassadors” are flowing in great numbers to Rome to have a photo-op (secular blessing) because they are sure the Pope’s upcoming encyclical can be used by them as a bludgeon. They want in on what they are sure will be a good thing. We’ll see.