In a document that officially sets the platform for his papacy, the Pope had some very interesting things to say about poverty and capitalism. You can find the document here, but I’ve included some excerpts:
Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
I’m very passionate about my views on these issues, and consequently I think it is great that the current Pope is explicitly addressing them as world problems requiring attention and solution. The position of Pope has held power for an incredible number of years, but the current Pope is really shaking things up. Whether or not they are religious, I believe people are interested by this man and the entire wold seems to be watching as he takes unprecedented actions that challenge traditions reaching back centuries. My opinion is that he should keep up the good work and use the power of his position to provoke serious discussion, and quite possibly action, about issues such as these.
Also, considering Thanksgiving is only days away, and therefore Black Friday is as well, it might be worth your time to stop for a moment and think critically about the values that form the foundations for these celebrations. The points the Pope makes are especially relevant to this time of year.
I know that I am personally so grateful for the fact that I do not currently experience marginalization or exclusion on the scale that he is speaking about here, and furthermore I am grateful for the opportunity to help those that do while I am in Washington next semester.