Many of us have alternately had a good laugh or got our dander up thanks to Limbaugh’s ludicrous assertion that Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation (n.b.: not encyclical; there is a difference) exposed the Pope as a “Marxist [sic]”. One of the sillier aspects of the whole charade (setting aside the biggest whopper—that Limbaugh relied upon a Washington Post article as his source (when is the last time he did that, I wonder?)—was El Rushbo’s claim that what Francis had written constituted a break with Benedict XVI and John Paul II. I haven’t had the good fortune yet to have read any of JPII’s social encyclicals, but I have read Benedict’s Caritatis in Veritate. So let us see what sort of things Francis’s predecessor had to say.
The truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development. (§18)
Note what Benedict says here: “development” is a lie if it does not include everyone; it is a lie if it is focused exclusively upon economic development. It is a falsehood in these cases: a masquerade.
I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world’s economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity: “Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.”
(§25; emphasis in original; quoting Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes §63)
In short, Benedict says what the Church has always said: namely, that the “source, focus, and aim” of economies must be the human person, and not just one or two or a dozen plutocrats or fat-cat corporations, but all people. Pope Francis doesn’t say anything more radical than that, and neither of them have said anything novel.
Now, let us contrast—just for giggles—an example of the modern economy: NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. This was supposed to be the treaty that guaranteed “free trade” among North American nations. What do you suppose that might look like? Personally, I would be inclined to suppose it would be something nice and short: “No tariffs or other governmental restrictions or fees upon trade amongst us,” perhaps. Instead, NAFTA started life as twelve volumes of regulations. How on earth can any bureaucrat look you in the eye and say with a straight face that it takes twelve volumes of rules to implement free trade?? The fact of the matter, of course, is that NAFTA is a mess of rules designed to protect corporations from actual competition and to allow governments to get their cut under certain terms. In short, it has nothing to do with free trade at all. How then, we may ask, may we say that man is the “source, focus, and aim” of NAFTA (which, by the way, Limbaugh supported)?
But Limbaugh says that Francis is a Marxist.
Whatever, dude. Your credibility just cratered permanently.
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