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Distinguishing capitalism from market economy, leading cardinal defends Pope’s economic comments

January 10, 2014

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Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, a prominent German cardinal defended Pope Francis’s comments about the economy in his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [The Joy of the Gospel].

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who was installed as Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 2008, is a member of the advisory Council of Cardinals established by Pope Francis to assist him in the governance of the Church.

Evangelization, said Cardinal Marx, entails more than catechesis and the administration of the sacraments; it also entails the transformation of society, culture, politics, and the economy.

“The call to think beyond capitalism is not a struggle against the market economy,” he said, as he distinguished the market economy from the financial capitalism that has come to the fore since the 1990s. This financial capitalism, he said, has “led to a catastrophic crisis.”

In criticizing capitalism, he added, he criticizes an ideology that “makes capital the point of departure” and views human persons as “cost factors.” An economic vision that “reduces economic action to capitalism has chosen the morally wrong starting point.”

“To think that somewhere there are pure markets which give rise to the good through free competition is mere ideology,” he added. “Capitalism should not become the model of society” because “it does not take into account individual destinies, the weak and the poor.”

“The social doctrine of the Church,” on the other hand, offers the “spiritual foundations of a social market economy … In the global economic debate, however, these ideas have never played a real role.” Ensuring that the poor play an active role in the Church and in society, rather than simply viewing the poor as objects of charity, is part of the task of evangelization, he added.

“The future is not capitalism, but rather a world community that leaves more space to the model of responsible freedom and that does not accept that people, groups, and individuals are excluded and marginalized,” he concluded.


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Show 9 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: skall391825 - Jan. 11, 2014 12:36 PM ET USA

    Posted by: cincinnatus - Jan. 10, 2014 2:51 PM ET USA To the extent that any meaning at all can be found in the Cardinal's eurocentric armchair faux economic blather, it makes me wish he would rather do what Pope Francis asks of priests--preach the Gospel (not ideology propped up with Gospel outtakes) and make people think of Christ when they see you. Good luck! -------------------------------------------- That's hitting the nail on the head! The Left has a new Marx to provide its red meat.

  • Posted by: JimK01 - Jan. 10, 2014 9:22 PM ET USA

    I remember from my early Catholic education a book titled Communism, Capitalism and Catholicism." I don't recall the author but it was a Catholic priest or bishop I think. The gist was similar to what I think Pope Francis is saying. Both Socialism/Communism and Capitalism in their "extremes" are bad for society. Only Catholicism has the right approach as delineated by Pope Leo XIII, Cardinals Newman and Gibbons (?) of England. Forgive me if I have mis-quoted, I read this a long, long time ago.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 10, 2014 8:24 PM ET USA

    Um, has this cardinal ever heard of Liberation Theology? Turning capitalists into cruel bogey men is always the knee-jerk response I would expect from a Marxist, not a cardinal.

  • Posted by: Cincinnatus - Jan. 10, 2014 8:19 PM ET USA

    Use of the word "unfettered" to describe economic activity anywhere in the world to me betrays either a charming ignorance of economics or what Pope Francis describes as a rhetorical cheapening of crucial issues, Evangelii Gaudium, 203 (In the Spanish version it's "manoseo opportunista que las deshonra"--WOW!) Let's avoid both pitfalls in this forum.

  • Posted by: FredC - Jan. 10, 2014 7:43 PM ET USA

    We should distinguish between laissez-faire capitalism and government-limited capitalism. The success of capitalism depends on free competition. The government must ensure free competition with its anti-trust laws. Organizations that are too large to fail must be prohibited by law. People unable to work must be supported by local, personal charity. People able to work must work. The school system and training programs must be intense but general enough that people have transferable skills.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Jan. 10, 2014 4:58 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Marx is "Eurocentric"; Pope Francis' "economic perspective is limited by his experience in Argentina". Such comments make one wonder if in fact the real problem isn't with certain of their readers. Could it be that some, especially in our own country, have so parochial a socioeconomic worldview that it blinds them to realities others see clearly? That they repeat formulae and nostrums maybe once valid but now not relevant in the real world? Let's hear more from both Francis and Marx.

  • Posted by: Cincinnatus - Jan. 10, 2014 2:51 PM ET USA

    To the extent that any meaning at all can be found in the Cardinal's eurocentric armchair faux economic blather, it makes me wish he would rather do what Pope Francis asks of priests--preach the Gospel (not ideology propped up with Gospel outtakes) and make people think of Christ when they see you. Good luck!

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Jan. 10, 2014 11:32 AM ET USA

    I hope soon to find a translation of Cardinal Marx's book Das Kapital. Everything I read about it by critics who read German tells me it will NOT please Rush Limbaugh and other cheerleaders for the unfettered brand of capitalism favored in certain sectors of the American GOP. Despite rather desperate efforts by these cheerleaders to attribute Francis' words to his supposedly limited experience in Argentina, there seems to be a new wind blowing in Rome. Marx is a cardinal thanks to Pope Benedict

  • Posted by: jacquebquique5708 - Jan. 10, 2014 11:11 AM ET USA

    The "new" Marx is just one more around the new pope who "put the cart before the horse". Jesus the Christ stated that "My kingdom is not of this world". First, you put your own house in order and then transform society around you. Economics does not come first. The writings of John Paul I, the smiling pontiff, stated as such. This is now a religion of the market place. This is all "smoke and mirrors" and redistribution of wealth. The "8 advisors" do not have one iota of economic expertise.