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Pope Francis did not write the word ‘capitalism’ nor did he call capitalism “a new tyranny” in his November 24, 2013 apostolic exhortation titled, Evangelii Gaudium.  He actually calls ideologies and the oppression of persons they cause “a new tyranny.”

A PDF word search of Evangelii Gaudium reveals that the word capitalism isn’t even in the document.  American media reports have said, “Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as a new tyranny.”  The Pope references tyranny but, what he calls “a new tyranny” are the resulting oppressions of what he calls “ideologies,” not capitalism.  Therefore, the often repeated media line mentioned above does not exist in fact or by inference in Evangelii Gaudium as reported.  Actually, the line was the creation of Reuters journalist, Naomi O’Leary on November 26, 2013.

Below is the excerpt from Evangelii Gaudium where the Pope uses the term “a new tyranny.”  The words in red help to explain what the Pope means by tyranny (the use of quotations, parenthesis and bolding of words below is ours.):

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the “gap” separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This “imbalance” is the result of “ideologies” which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they” (the ideologies) reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control.  A new tyranny” is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

Note:  Above, “(the ideologies)” was inserted by the writer of this article to define what is meant by “they.”

After reading the above excerpt with assisting quotations, parenthesis and bolding, it demonstrates that the “gap” separating persons from prosperity is the “imbalance” caused by the “ideologies” that “they” (the ideologies) create; “a new tyranny” (an ideology that even rejects the fair and just regulation of the marketplace so it can continue to oppress persons with its unjust laws and rules.)  So again, what is really meant by “a new tyranny” is ideologies and the oppression of persons they cause.

For instance, the Catholic Church teaches that capitalism is a practice and that totalitarianism is an ideology (Catechism of the Catholic Church section 2425).  So, when Pope Francis uses the term “ideologies,” he speaks of things that cause imbalance; possibly organized crime, etc.  Not a practice like capitalism that is a conduit for capital and labor.  However, bad actors can use that conduit to manipulate and oppress.  The Pope wants us to be aware of these manipulations and not be fooled by their creators.

See the Church’s teaching below that is written in the context of the Seventh Commandment;  Thou shalt not steal.  You will see similarities between it and the excerpt from Evangelii Gaudium above (the use of bolding of words below is ours):

Catechism of the Catholic Church section 2425

2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.  Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.”  Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

The line, “Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as a new tyranny,” is wrong, was made up and is still reported as fact in the media. Our hope is that many in the media will recognize the true meaning of the Pope’s words and make the correction.

Catholics for America’s mission is, “To educate and encourage Catholics in the United States of America to actively support Catholic social teaching and to protect and defend those teachings in the public sphere.”

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