While flying from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, Pope Francis stirred up more comment. When asked on January 15 whether global climate change is due mostly to human activity, he stirred up more controversy about his take on economic and environmental policy. “I don’t know if it is all [man’s fault] but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature,” said the Pope. “We have, in a sense, lorded it over nature, over Sister Earth, over Mother Earth.”
“I think man has gone too far.”
His remarks remarks may pique the concerns of climate change skeptics, as well as advocates of free market capitalism. It was in an interview published last week in Italy’s La Stampa newspaper that he responded to critics who fear that he is a leftist. The Pope said "The Gospel does not condemn the wealthy, but the idolatry of wealth, the idolatry that makes people indifferent to the call of the poor." The Argentine Pope expressed incredulity that anyone thought he was “preaching a Marxist homily."
Among the Pope's critics is syndicated columnist Dennis Prager. In an op-ed, Prager wrote "The moral message of every Bible-based religion is that the root of evil is caused by poor character and poor moral choices, not by economics. The pope's tweet is from Marx, not Moses.”
In an email response to Spero News, Professor William Doyle – who teaches economics at the University of Dallas – a Catholic institution in Texas – wrote “Pope Francis's argument has little to do with Karl Marx, except for Marx's definition of ‘commodities’ which (in Marxian terms) are things that are produced for sale at a profit."
Doyle opined that Pope Francis is basing his argument on the work of Karl Polanyi, a Hungarian socialist who once taught at Columbia University and whose work became influential among political scientists, anthropologists, and sociologists. Doyle said that Polanyi advocated a global and self-regulating economy that requires that requires that “everything be produced and allocated as if they were "commodities," including what he called ‘fictitious commodities’ (Labor, Land and Money).”
There are some things that should not be allocated and produced on the basis of market prices and profits, said Doyle. Religion and morality should play a role, he said. He gave the example of human organs that should not be allocated on the basis of money prices. In addition, human beings themselves should not be bought and sold as commodities, in other words: slaves.
Some observers of the papacy see portents of a crisis of conscience among Catholics who are also political conservatives. In an article at The Week, Damon Linker wrote an article entitled ‘The Republican Party’s war with Pope Francis has finally started,’ Damon Linker wrote:
“We heard the first rumblings last fall, when the preliminary draft of a statement produced by the extraordinary Synod on the Family inspired New York Times columnist Ross Douthat to warn ominously about the possibility of a schism in the church if the Vatican loosens doctrinal strictures against divorced (and remarried) lay people receiving the sacrament of Communion.”
“While most conservative Catholics have held their tongues rather than criticize the Pope, wrote Linker, “Interestingly, the decisive provocation appears to be the pope’s forthcoming encyclical on the environment.”