The next section of Evangelii Gaudium concerns itself with economic concerns and has been the source of some negative feedback from certain elements in today's culture and society. The Holy Father has consistently iterated since his inauguration that he finds it incomprehensible that our news media should find stories about the rise and fall of the stock market more widely publicized than stories about the starvation of millions in areas of the world gripped by famine and warfare. In this particular area of concern, Pope Francis is certainly not saying anything new as his predecessors have always expressed concern for those people in our world who do not share equitably in the world's resources. However, perhaps his words are stirring more comment because of his own lifestyle even before he was elected to the See of Rome. Upon his election, stories of his traveling to work on public transportation and of his living in a simple apartment were widespread. Since his election, much has been made of his choice of simple vesture and his used Fiat. When he traveled to Brazil for World Youth Day, television cameras followed him as he traveled from site to site in a compact car. When it became public knowledge that this pope would not live in the Papal Palace, the story was carried by every medium. Undoubtedly, the Holy Father's concerns for the poor are mirrored in his own lifestyle.
First of all, we must remember that he has lived his entire ecclesiastical life as a religious with a vow of poverty. The vow of poverty makes the distinction between poverty and destitution. Religious men and women profess a simple life style which eschews the power and control that come from wealth. Living simply does not mean living the kind of subsistence existence that comes with destitution. The Holy Father continues to live simply.
However, there is also a philosophical point made through the Scriptures, especially the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament. This philosophy would have us recognize that when one person has too much, hundreds, even thousands, have not enough. The Mediterranean World in which the Scriptures were written was populated by people who looked at the world's resources as finite. God created just so much. It was impossible for human beings to create more. In today's world, we live in a society that believes it can simply print more wealth. We fail to recognize the limits of our earth's resources. This is exemplified by our "throw away" culture. As a result our world is becoming a polluted nightmare. Even more horrifying, however, is the notion that this "throw away" culture extends to the population as well. At this time of the year, we are constantly reminded of this as we listen to Ebenezer Scrooge contend that the poor should die and decrease the surplus population.
When the Holy Father's concerns for the poor challenge this kind of thinking, there are those who label it as Marxism. How hard it is for us to remember that Marxism and Communism were born out of the plight of the poor! However, those who subscribe to the philosophy that our resources are limited are not so much Marxists as they are people who are concerned that our "throw away" culture begins to recognize the limits of our planet. Sharing the world's resources more equitably is simply an extension of that thought pattern. Every human life has value. Every person bears the dignity that comes from being a child of God. At our baptism we pledged to reject sin. The Holy Father is simply reminding us that greed, avarice, and a lack of concern for the poor are some of the more prevalent evils in our world today.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator