Speed Reads

Pope and Change

Pope Francis suggests communists are closet Christians

Pope Francis' views on economics are well known. He considers economic justice to be a core Christian tenet, saying governments should work to end the "economy of exclusion" that prevents the poor and the middle class from rising up the economic ladder, talking about casting off "the economic and social structures that enslave us," and demanding wealth redistribution.

In an interview this month with Barcelona's La Vanguardia, the Pope went a step further, arguing that capitalism needs war to survive:

We are discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system that can't hold up any more, a system that to survive, must make war, as all great empires have done. But as a third world war can't be waged, they make regional wars... they produce and sell weapons, and with this, the balance sheets of the idolatrous economies, the great world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money, are resolved... [The Economist]

Erasmus, a blogger at The Economist, suggested that in making that connection, the Pope was echoing the revolutionary Marxist theorist and onetime Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. Erasmus argued: "By positing a link between capitalism and war, he seems to be taking an ultra-radical line: one that consciously or unconsciously follows Vladimir Lenin in his diagnosis of capitalism and imperialism as the main reason why world war broke out a century ago. And there are plenty of counter-arguments one could offer. Many other ruling powers in history (from feudal warlords to secular totalitarian regimes) have had a more obvious stake in violence and confrontation than capitalism has. And thinkers like Joseph Schumpeter and Karl Popper have argued forcefully that capitalism can consolidate peace, by offering non-violent ways to satisfy human needs."

The Pope's response? He thinks communists like Lenin have stolen the church's flag:

I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel. [Reuters]

He added: "Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian.'"