New York City, N.Y., Dec 2, 2013 / 05:53 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis’ words in “Evangelii Gaudium” touching on economic issues have elicited a range of reactions, with one columnist emphasizing their challenge to conservatives to respond generously.
“The challenge for conservative Catholics,” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote Nov. 30, is “to spend the Francis era not in opposition but seeking integration – meaning an economic vision that remains conservative, but in the details reminds the world that our Catholic faith comes first.”
“The pope’s words…should encourage a much greater integration of Catholic and conservative ideas than we’ve seen since ‘compassionate conservatism’ collapsed, and inspire Catholics to ask more – often much more – of the Republican Party, on a range of policy issues,” he said.
In his Nov. 24 apostolic exhortation on the new evangelization, Pope Francis referred to issues of economics twice – while discerning the context in which evangelization must happen today, and while discussing the inclusion of the poor in society as one of the social dimensions of evangelization.
The Bishop of Rome rejected the “economy of exclusion,” idolatry of money, a ruling financial system, and violence-spawning inequality; he praised solidarity with the poor, mercy, the value of the poor, and a better distribution of income.
The Pope’s words were dismissed by some conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh as “pure Marxism” and “political.”
But writing at Catholic Online, Deacon Keith Fournier emphasized that “his teachings are not political – they are prophetic and pastoral,” and transcend the categories of American liberalism and conservatism.
“Neither can this apostolic exhortation be squeezed into the economic overlay which fuels much of the debate in the United States. Yet, just such an effort is being used by those with political and economic agendas, left and right,” Deacon Fournier wrote.
“Sadly, they distract the public from hearing a desperately needed corrective and beautiful message from a pastor who has been given charge of what he properly refers to as a church without frontiers.”
The deacon explained that the exhortation does not make Pope Francis a “fellow political progressive” of the American left, but neither is he defending the sort of materialistic capitalism which places capital – goods – over persons; rather, the Pope is teaching that economic issues are moral issues.
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