Evangelii gaudium 54 and the attack on “trickle down” economics

There is a controversial paragraph in Evangelii gaudium in which the Pope seems to be attacking “trickle-down” economics.

54. 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. [En este contexto, algunos todavía defienden las teorías del «derrame», que suponen que todo crecimiento económico, favorecido por la libertad de mercado, logra provocar por sí mismo mayor equidad e inclusión social en el mundo.] 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.

What are we working with here?  Supposing this was composed in Spanish, how do we translate:

En este contexto, algunos todavía defienden las teorías del «derrame», que suponen que todo crecimiento económico, favorecido por la libertad de mercado, logra provocar por sí mismo mayor equidad e inclusión social en el mundo.

Here is what I do with it:

In this context, some still defend theories of “spill” [trickle-down economics], which suppose that all economic growth, favored by the freedom of the market, succeeds in bring about greater equity and social inclusion in the world.

My Spanish is nowhere near my Italian and Latin, but it seems to me from my searching around on the interwebs that “derrame” is precisely what is used in Spanish to describe “trickle-down” economics.

I bring this up because some have suggested to me that “derrame” or “spill” theories might mean something else.

I invite some Spanish speakers to chime in.

Also, I am watching reactions to EG 54.

One of the best is that of Samuel Gregg at National Review.  Here is part of his reaction to this paragraph:

There are several problems with this line of reasoning. First, opening up markets throughout the world has helped to reduce poverty in many developing nations. East Asia is a living testimony to that reality — a testimony routinely ignored by many Catholics in Western Europe (who tend to complain rather self-centeredly about the competition it creates for protected Western European businesses and other recipients of corporate welfare) and a reality about which I have found many Latin American Catholics simply have nothing to say.

Click to buy

Second, it has never been the argument of most of those who favor markets that economic freedom and free exchange are somehow sufficient to reduce poverty. These things are certainly indispensable (witness the failure of planned economies to solve the problem of scarcity), but they’re not enough. Among other things, stable governments that provide infrastructure, property arrangements that identify clearly who owns what, and, above all, the rule of law are just as essential. It hardly need be said that rule of law (mentioned not once in Evangelii Gaudium) is, to put it mildly, a “challenge” in most developing nations. The lack of rule of law not only ranks among the biggest obstacles to their ability to generate wealth on a sustainable basis, but also hampers their capacity to address economic issues in a just manner. Instead, what one finds is crony capitalism, rampant protectionism, and the corruption that has become a way of life in much of Africa and Latin America.

Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) hates what Gregg wrote, of course.  Their Michael Sean Winters called Gregg’s piece “a shameful and pathetic response.”  Therefore, we can suppose without hesitation that Gregg’s response is dead on right.

Another reaction which I found was that of Rush Limbaugh, who pretty much blew up yesterday.  This caught my special attention because, at his site, there is an entry entitled:

It’s Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is (Unless It’s a Deliberate Mistranslation By Leftists)

Rush said on the air:

RUSH: I was doing show prep last night, usual routine, and I ran across this — I don’t even know what it’s called, the latest papal offering, statement from Pope Francis. Now, I’m not Catholic. Up until this, I have to tell you, I was admiring the man. I thought he was going a little overboard on the common-man touch, and I thought there might have been a little bit of PR involved there. But nevertheless I was willing to cut him some slack. I mean, if he wants to portray himself as still from the streets where he came from and is not anything special, not aristocratic. If he wants to eschew the physical trappings of the Vatican, okay, cool, fine. But this that I came across last night totally befuddled me. If it weren’t for capitalism, I don’t know where the Catholic Church would be.
Now, as I mentioned before, I’m not Catholic. I admire it profoundly, and I’ve been tempted a number of times to delve deeper into it. But the pope here has now gone beyond Catholicism here, and this is pure political. I want to share with you some of this stuff.

“Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as ‘a new tyranny’ and beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church. … In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the ‘idolatry of money.'”

I gotta be very careful. I have been numerous times to the Vatican. It wouldn’t exist without tons of money. But regardless, what this is, somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. Unfettered capitalism? That doesn’t exist anywhere. Unfettered capitalism is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States. Unfettered, unregulated.

Folks, in recent weeks I have endeavored to try to make you understand how it is that people like modern-age Democrats look at small business and business at large. They do not, in the terms of small business, understand how fragile it is. Their view of business is that people who own them or run them cheat their customers, abuse their employees, hoard all the money, and have tons of it. They take it and keep it for themselves. They deny their employees a livable wage. They deny them health care. They deny them benefits. They produce products that kill and maim and sicken, or they produce products that destroy the planet, destroy the environment, or what have you.

I mean, it’s a litany. This is their view and it is why they claim that they must take it over and control it, because it’s inherently unfair that a select few capitalists rip everybody off. Rip off their employees, rip off their customers, and that’s how you have unequal incomes, and this vast gap between wealth and poverty. It’s all because of capitalism. They claim that as socialists or reformers or progressives, that they are fair and compassionate, and they will make that gap between the wealthy and the poor narrower, and they will make life more equitable, and they will engage in equality of outcomes and so forth, and wherever they’ve tried, they’ve failed.


There is a LOT more from Rush’s blast, but that gives you a sense of it.

Rush is right, of course, in the main.

I think Rush is wrong when he says that what Francis promulgated is “pure Marxism”.

It seems to me that the key to understanding what Francis is lashing out at is influenced by his experience of Peronism.  Argentina’s economy has been a complete disaster.  That would explain a lot about Francis.

I admit that I don’t know much about Peronism, but I am reading about it.

Furthermore, I suspect that whomever Francis relied on for help in writing this section, about economics, is pretty much a statist (centralized government control over economic planning and policy). There is no lack of statists (and socialists) in the Vatican, that’s for sure.

We need to drill into Peronism, friends, and try to figure out Francis’ hermeneutic for economics.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. pledbet424 says:

    I’ve heard it said somewhere that the free market system is the worst economic system, except for all the other economic systems.
    Perfection isn’t to be obtained in this world, we just have to settle for the best we can do when it comes to our politics/economics.

  2. Evovae says:

    As usual, the devil is in the details. The Spanish “por si’ mismo” = “by itself” is important. I think the official translation’s “inevitably” is being used to render this, but the sense is wrong.

    Consider the difference:

    Official: “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.”

    Mine: “In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will by itself succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.”

    When read this way, it’s precisely Gregg’s point: Free-market-produced economic growth is by itself (“por si mismo”) insufficient.

    That said, I think Gregg’s comment that the rule of law is “not mentioned once” in EG is an overstatement. The Pope certainly does come down hard on matters of corruption, tax-evasion, and the other symptoms of crony capitalism that belie the absence of the rule of law. [You could back that with some quotes from the document.]

  3. lana says:

    Is the Pope coming down on trickle-down capitalism itself? Or on the attitude that stems from it, that we can just sit back and wait for it to work while so many poor are still suffering? It seems to me it’s the second.

  4. lana says:

    I meant to say ‘trickle-down economics’.

  5. Phil_NL says:

    I’m afraid that a church that has great trouble deciding on a hermeneutic for VII – a core-business, one would say – will find it harder still to develop anything approachin a coherent hermeneutic for economics, which is decidedly not a core business.

    And while the new exhortation seems to be more leftist-inspired then documents by previous popes, the same applies: taken literally, there’s not much in it which people should take issue with. And we’ll have infite troubles because of that – people are understandable angry on that front.

    In this particular example, “equidad e inclusión social” shows this perfectly: free markets are not in the business of promoting equality or social inclusion; no economic system is.
    Equality is a legal issue, as in equality of rights; the idea that people could be equal in terms of outcomes is a leftist fallacy, as that is impossible since much of the relevant inequality (abilities, preferences) is innate. Equality of outcomes simply doesn’t exist.
    Social justice, however defined, is similarly not part of an economic system: one can have free markets, and as much scoial justice – however defined – as one wants, provided people are willing to make the necessary donations. Economics does not enter the picture at all, unless one wants to make the state an instrument to force ‘social justice’ and do so by interfering in the economy. So there is no reason to critique free markets on that point; one could equally – and probably more justly – critize those indivuals who do not fulfill any Christian duty there may be on top of what the state already forces on top of them.

    The massive problem is, of course, that it all sounds so very left-wing. And is probably (ghost)-written by people of that persuasion.

  6. pmullane says:

    Hmmm, it seems my comment was eaten by the internet, however it was replaced by Phil_NL’s comment which was far better anyway, and with which I wholeheartedly concur.

    The text of the thing is quite right, a ‘trickle down system’ backed by a ‘free market’ does not ensure justice etc, because all systems are merely tools which can be manipulated by evil people for evil ends (remember, this Pope is from Argentina, a country that was ruined by evil people).

    God Bless Rush Limbaugh, I have a lot of time for him and he is a perceptive guy, but I fear that he (understandably) has a limited perception of the world, as he is rightly concerned with his own corner of it. The thing is, America has so many advantages and can sustain a trickle down model as it also has a functioning and (relativly) uncorrupt civil service, strong rule of law, a non-capricious implimentation of law etc. Other countries dont. The Pope is the Pope of the whole world and everyone, and so he sees thing we who are more myopic dont.

    The thing is, when you have a corrupt system, you dont (necessarily) have to change teh system, soemthimes you just have to change the corruption.

  7. Unwilling says:

    I clicked a Like on Fr. Z’s post. But it is so disappointing to be struggling to find ways the Pope might be right after all. I was having coffee with a woman this morning who has slipped away from the Church in the past couple decades. But I got her to read Screwtape Letters recently. Anyway, she raised EG. Did I think there was a danger that traditionalists might try to assassinate the Pope? I explained that traditionalists are distressed, but part of their core ideology is that the Pope is (probably) right. Even Liberals, who are more violent desecrating altars, burning the Pope in effigy, etc. would unlikely resort to assassination. But… I’m with Rush here: “It’s sad…”

  8. KingofCharity says:

    Nothing the pope said is unorthodox, heretical, or intrinsically wrong. Pope Francis is in complete harmony with subsidiarity and solidarity.
    Exhaustive and fully developed on capitalism and trickle down economics? Nope. Future exhortations, synods, encyclicals and popes will continue to elaborate and clarify how free market capitalism aligns with and departs from the Gospel of Christ. But everything he said is Catholic.

    completely, deregulated, cut-throat capitalism is not part of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith.
    Also, it is nice to see the pope apply the doctrine of subsidiarity to the papacy itself.

    It was Marx who just happened to have some slight overlap in his thinking with Catholic doctrine, not vice versa. It is not the Church who has assimilated and adopted Marxism.

  9. lana says:

    The title of this thread may be more incendiary than it needs to be. Shouldn’t it be renamed ‘apparent attack’? I think the Pope is attacking _attitudes_ stemming from theories, not the theories themselves.

    pmullane – “The Pope is the Pope of the whole world and everyone, and so he sees thing we who are more myopic dont.” Amen. I heard that in China, they have had to set up safety nets in factories to catch the suicides. And you also may have read of the cries for help over the inhumane work conditions inserted in products by Chinese factory workers. We know of the factory collapse in Bangladesh, etc. etc. And these are only the news-makers.

    I recently read an article about how regional bishop conferences need to interpret these Papal statements based on their local conditions.

  10. KingofCharity says:

    Trickle down economics in and of itself is insufficient to guarantee social justice. That is what the pope is saying. Very Catholic. To assume that trickle down capitalism is sufficient to establish social/economic justice and prosperity in and of itself, turns the free market into a god. It becomes idolatry of intangible forces and principles to bring about the Kingdom of God (justice) on Earth and NOT the Will of God and the work of the Body of Christ in the world. This politically conservative view of trickle down economics ignores the Providence of God and the role that human free will plays within space-time and its impact on human affairs. God has given humans rational, free will to intervene in nature, giving them the ability to change the course of history through acts of charity and defy survival of the fittest. Rational, compassionate, charitable human free will, animated by the grace of God is what brings about justice, not trickle down forces left to their own device.
    The Pope did not say that trickle down economics are intrinsically evil. He said that to place our “trust” in them as if these unfettered market forces in and of themselves have the well-being of the human race in mind is foolish and diabolical. The Devil wants us to look to the “earth” for answers and to place our trust in creation itself. The pope is telling us that this belief is diabolical, heretical, and not part of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith that the RCC alone guards and transmits.

  11. Unwilling says:

    You’ve heard it said: You can’t rightly yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. Why? Because people will panic and try to run out all at once; some will be trampled, hurt, maybe killed. And this is when there is no fire. It is not funny. The gravity of the deed is even worse when there is.

    If there is a fire, what you should do is keep calm. Tell people you need them to leave the theatre, one row at a time, beginning with the back rows. Use your prudential judgment how to balance emergency with panic.

    “Fire!” is only a word. Saying it is neither right or wrong. It’s context.

    People who believe in free markets don’t call it “trickle down”. «Derrame» is a sneer. [Interesting. I wonder about that.]

    When should you say it?

  12. Southern Catholic says:

    “The Catholic Church, the American Catholic Church, has an annual budget of $170 billion. I think that’s more than General Electric earns every year. And the Catholic Church of America is the largest landholder in Manhattan. I mean, they have a lot of money. They raise a lot of money. They wouldn’t be able to reach out the way they do without a lot of money.”- Rush

    So Fr. Z, do you buy in to this Protestant claim of a rich church? It is shameful to see you quote Rush here. [blah blah blah]

    Tom Hoops does a good job rebuking Rush’s claims, found here: https://wdtprs.com/2013/11/evangelii-gaudium-54-and-the-attack-on-trickle-down-economics/ [?]

  13. Michael_Thoma says:

    Rush Limbaugh, not Catholic.. is he Christian? Seems more into right-wingism or conservatism, if it was a religion. So the Pope doesn’ t agree with Rush, according to Rush, the Pope is wrong. Only in the mind of a fanatic. [I guess that’s a “no” vote.]

  14. anilwang says:

    I think the key part is this “expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system…or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.”

    He seems to be referring to original sin. Trickled down by itself does not work, especially when you add globalization to the mix. It has to be balanced by a force for morality (check and balance on original sin), otherwise capitalism turns into a global oligarchy where even politicians are bought and people are exploited whenever possible. Case in point, some pharmaceutical studies are done on poorer countries such as India with low standards and low legal recourse before they’re done in countries with stricter standards…the victims of those failed studies are often abandoned. Similarly, when Western countries ban some pharmaceuticals because they’re unsafe, the excess inventory gets diverted to poorer countries. This is pure evil, but because corporations are as faceless as government bureaucracies, decisions are often made to satisfy the bottom line without any one person believing he made those decisions.

    The key question is, what does Pope Francis believe are possible candidates for the force of morality?

    Obviously Catholic Social Teaching must be a candidate. An economy driven by trickled down balanced by Catholic Social Teaching inevitably leads to the prosperity of all. But does Pope Francis believe there are other “good enough” candidates, such as the state? I’m not familiar with Pope Francis’ political views but given his past run in with the Argentinian government, I suspect that he might not be a statist.

  15. mamajen says:

    I heard a bit of what Rush said, when he was speculating as to whether people hijack the Pope’s words and insert their own. All I could think was “Boy, I wish he would read Father Z’s blog!” Such hijacking happens all the time!

    Anyway, Pope Francis is hardly being revolutionary here…I’m accustomed to hearing liberal (sounding) things from the Church whenever economics is discussed, and it wasn’t better under Benedict or JPII. It’s frustrating, but I mostly tune it out. I know that the more money my family has, the more good we can do. That some priests and bishops don’t “get” the financial stuff is a big reason our churches are falling into decay.

    Rush is Christian, but not Catholic. I don’t expect him to be a cheerleader for the pope, nor do I expect to agree with him 100% of the time.

  16. Michelle F says:

    I think we should begin by refreshing ourselves on what the Catechism has to say about economic systems.

    CCC 2424: A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable.

    CCC 2425: The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

    CCC 2429: Everyone has the right of economic initiative; everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all and to harvest the just fruits of his labor. He should seek to observe regulations issued by legitimate authority for the sake of the common good.

    CCC 2431: The responsibility of the state. “Economic activity, especially the activity of a market economy, cannot be conducted in an institutional, juridical, or political vacuum. On the contrary, it presupposes sure guarantees of individual freedom and private property, as well as a stable currency and efficient public services. Hence the principal task of the state is to guarantee this security, so that those who work and produce can enjoy the fruits of their labors and thus feel encouraged to work efficiently and honestly…. Another task of the state is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society.” [Ellipses are in the original text.]

    The Catechism contains several more sections on this topic, but what I quoted above is sufficient to demonstrate that the Holy Father’s teaching is based on the Catechism, and not on the fact he’s Argentinian, or influenced by Marxism (pro or con), or by politics.

    These sections also show why it has been possible for Marxism to make inroads into the Church even though the Church doesn’t support that either.

    We have a right to personal property, but that right does not trump another person’s right to life. God gave the Earth to all men as the means by which we are to sustain our physical lives. If my pursuit of personal wealth is harming other people’s means of sustaining their lives – for example, I’m polluting a town’s water supply – I am morally obligated to stop what I am doing. If I do not stop polluting the town’s water, then the State or some other lawful agency has the right and the obligation to make me stop in keeping with their own moral duty to protect the common good.

    It is true that most States and agencies do not work this way, they are corrupt, but that does not change the fact that this is what they are supposed to be doing.

  17. Johnno says:

    It’s all about how you say things, and unfortunately Pope Francis has provided statements that will be used by socialists to achieve their ends.

    YES – Free Market Economics doesn’t automatially mean there will be paradise on Earth. There will still be poor who are neglected due to fallen human nature and the complications of reality. The poor will always be with us.

    HOWEVER – Moving towards Socalism and Communism isn’t the answer. In fact they make everything far far worse.

    Pope Francis could’ve at least taken time to highlight that despite encouraging government to do more, he IS NOT advocating Marxism and that we should be careful to avoid the errors and horrors of the socialists and communists. Why, oh why do we continue to make these same mistakes by not openly condemning socialist and communist methods??? WHY???

  18. mddelala says:

    Dear Father Z,

    as a native spanish speaker (and a chilean, so I basically share most of argentinean’s own words) I can describe the expression “economía de derrame” as that economic system in which it’s believed that the it’s never a concern an increase of wealth of a few (namely, those who are already rich) because that wealth will somehow (thanks to the market) benefit everyone else. Then it’s better to allow the rich to become richer than to have the state messing (and crippling) with the economy. I’m not sure if this is the same as “trickle economy” or not as I don’t understand that term fully.

    Although this is already a long proven truth in economics, there’s a very important word you CAN’T miss in the spanish version: “(…) logra provocar por sí mismo mayor equidad e inclusión social en el mundo”. Those words “por sí mismo” are extremely important. It’s translated as “by itself” and it’s missing in the english translation you posted. It gives the phrase quite a different meaning: it’s not a condemnation of the “economía de derrame” but a condemnation on the belief that that kind of economy can by itself make greater justice and inclusiveness.

    As to peronism as a driving force in Francis, it can have its influence on him (I’m a chilean; the economy in my country has been stable, has had free market and has grown since 1981 also, we have little corruption (if/when you come to Chile, don’t even try to bribe a cop. You ARE going to end up in jail)… Argentina’s history is quite different: it’s basically extremely rich with all kinds of natural resources (oil, copper, gold…) but poor economic policies and protectionism along with corruption at extremely high levels have hampered it’s development). Still I don’t think you need to study peronism to understand Francis’s backgrund. I think you should study Aparecida (a Latin American conference of Bishops in wich Francis took place and was quite important).

    If you read Aparecida you will find that our Bishops claim that inequality is one of the gravest issues in Latin America. It’s also been the latest preach of our Bishops in Chile (you can read their “Carta Pastoral” if you want). Our bishops have been criticizing the large proportion of poor people and middle-class people compared to very rich people. This happens in Argentina too and was addressed in Aparecida.

    Also, at least in Latin America, you can often find a few economists that will avow for a completely free and unregulated market (this is called “capitalismo salvaje” that I understand is the same as “unfettered capitalism”). It’s not used to refer to the U.S.’s economy (at least, not in an academical setting) unless you consider it’s economy before 1929.

    Hope this is useful. Still please let me insist: if you want to understand Francis, read Aparecida. I believe that you will find the answers you are looking for there.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  19. Tamquam says:

    Having lived many years in Latin America I see where Francis is coming from. Consider that in 2001 the Argentine economy totally collapsed; hunger and even starvation was widespread. Yet Argentina’s agri-business exported food rather than sell it to the Argentinian people because they could get a better price. That experience, I am sure, embittered many against a ghastly perversion of market capitalism. My experience is that the the rich (less than 5% of the population control over 95% of the wealth) in Latin American societies do not really consider the poor to be anything more than technically human. I have seen it again and again that the Latin American rich treat the poor horribly, and regard it as a matter of no concern to do so.

    My father was an American Consul assigned to Mexico. At that time the average workman’s wages were 100 pesos a week, and a work week was six and one half days. My mother paid her maids 200 pesos a week, they worked only five and one half days and she paid the medical expenses for them and their immediate families. And if they couldn’t read and write when they came, she sat down with them and taught them, then maintained a correspondence with them for years. When this became known to La Gente Buena (the good people), the wealthy upper crust ladies were furious and there after shunned my mother as much as my father’s position would allow.

    In this regard the Pope is exactly right, you simply can’t count on the generosity of the wealthy in a robber baron culture such as he grew up in. What I witnessed in Mexico was the first half of the rich man and Lazarus parable lived out every day. I think Americans find it shocking because here most of the wealthy came out of the general population and got wealthy by their own efforts. They see the rest of society as equally as human as themselves and treat people accordingly. Per Charles Murray this is changing. Still, I don’t think that Bill Gates, were he to run over a poor man on the street, would drive away without even slowing down because that man didn’t matter (I’ve seen this). These people have not believed the Gospel, and Francis is calling them to do so.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  20. Evovae says:

    Re: Father’s suggestion of citing some quotes from the document:

    I wrote: “That said, I think Gregg’s comment that the rule of law is “not mentioned once” in EG is an overstatement. The Pope certainly does come down hard on matters of corruption, tax-evasion, and the other symptoms of crony capitalism that belie the absence of the rule of law.”


    EG #56: “56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.“[emphasis mine]

    From #60: “All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.”

    I think I’d prefer a more clear and unambiguous statement of the importance of the rule of law, but it seems to me the concern is there in the document and in such a way as can be leveraged in any political direction, not just Leftwards (cf. the tendency of Leftism to result in cabals of “well-intentioned” technocrats..who just happen to obtain a standard of living several orders of magnitude above those they allegedly serve).

    [Next question: How’s the translation?]

  21. Priam1184 says:

    Is it the Church’s mission in the world to promote economic growth and reduce poverty in the world or to save souls? If we fall too hard into the support of free market capitalism just because the liberals don’t like it, then we are making the same error that the fake social justice crowd makes. Free market capitalism may do a lot to lift people out of material poverty, but it also has many terrible soul destroying aspects to it. Ours is not to make this a perfect world but to lead souls on the path that our Lord set out for their salvation. Perfection comes with the parousia and not before.

  22. JohnnyZoom says:

    First, changing “by itself” to the imbedded “inevitably” does significantly change the meaning of the phrase in a way which takes it further away from the deposit of faith. Why that substitution was made is anyone’s guess.

    Second, I would love to have some European English readers chime in on this: “trickle down” is an American neologism coined precisely to be politically derogatory. This concept already had a perfectly good name “supply side”; one need not be a fan of it to know the term. What term would be the right one in European speakers of English? Would you use “supply side” or is there another term that my American ears might be less familiar with? I thus wonder where the translator was from.

  23. Phil_NL says:

    meh, I see the phrase “And we’ll have infite troubles because of that – people are understandable angry on that front.” ended up at the end of the wrong paragrpah in my post, completely distorting what I tried to say. It should have been added all the way at the end.

  24. Evovae says:

    The translation of those sections seems pretty straightforward–I don’t see any dropped words/phrases as with “por si’ mismo”.

    On second thought, though, the criticism is unfairly market-oriented, esp. in light of the documented inequality gaps in decidedly non-market-oriented political systems (e.g., Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, various African kleptocracies, etc.).

    But still, I very much like the comments of mddelala and Tamquam regarding the Latin American experience of “capitalism” and the “free market” versus the US experience–worlds apart, although all shoveled under the same vocabulary. I think Francis may be offering us a golden opportunity to actually clear up many of these misconceptions with people who would otherwise never even talk to us.

  25. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Btw, “equidad” isn’t “equality.” (That’s “igualdad.”) Equidad means “equity, fairness.”

  26. mike cliffson says:

    In this context, some still defend theories of “spill” [trickle-down economics], which suppose that all economic growth, favored by the freedom of the market, succeeds in bring about greater equity and social inclusion in the world.
    [En este contexto, algunos todavía defienden las teorías del «derrame», que suponen que todo crecimiento económico, favorecido por la libertad de mercado, logra provocar por sí mismo mayor equidad e inclusión social en el mundo.]
    1.Evovae and M ddala are utterly right – “inevitably” for “por si mismo” twists the meaning considerably . “In itself or of itself ” leaves implied that, human agencies as opposed to “the blind hand. , eg (my opinion) a touch ,say ,of” John Baptist’s Gospel” top , bottom and middle might be necessary as well, or instead, whatever.
    2Unwilling : beware snap judgements on translated words. Some may sneer , but the Holy Father or his aides have not coined it. Whoever first used it, you can find a fast google of decades of” derrame” (spill * OVER, not just spill as in waste – flow over would give you a better mental picture , perhaps, like a tiered fountain with water filling up first the top basin and gradually ever-bigger basins below) being used in S.America to describe what I take it is called “trickledown” stateside: even if macro-free market capitalism initially favours the wealthiest, sooner or later everyone will benefit from more money being about and circuñlating. – I’m no economist, still less a Spanish one, still less a LatinAmerican one.
    For lack of things like the “rule of law”, I would say John Baptist’s teaching see others´’ eyewitness comments above , it hasn’t being terribly brilliant yet – ( again my opinion, tho as nothing compared to the ferocious statist destruction of wealth( and the middle classes and morality ) brought about by Peronism and other later corrupt governments in Argentina , ongoing Chavismo in Venezuela)
    Argentina and peronism are separate cases, and real “worms nests ” to disentangle .My initial unbacked reaction is that this part of the document has more of an “Aparicida ” tone and context and vocabulary than a purely Argentinian one – I hope someone can disentangle the Holy father’s own slant on Aparecida by comparing documents, I fear it isn’t going to be me.
    Any more ‘inevitably’s will muddy the issue- after all it may be considered inevitable that I sin , given the old adam, but if I say “inevitable” when I do, knowing perfectly well it was me – that’s a copout .Holy mother church has given me all the means to resist temptation etc etc

  27. Unwilling says:

    I ran across the following explanation of the term claimed to be in Argentinian dialect “chorrear”:
    La “teoría del chorreo” preconiza que hay que dar toda clase de privilegios y favores a los más ricos, haciéndolos aun más ricos, para que en el futuro algo de su riqueza les chorree a los más pobres.

    Is there any evidence that the posted Spanish of EG is holograph of the Pope?
    Anyway, he speaks English, and the term is famous as a slur on Reaganomics.

  28. Bea says:

    Keeping in mind that Spanish in Argentina may be slightly different from Spanish in Mexico, I would like to clarify the following words:

    Trickle: Gotear (Gota is a “drop” /to fall drop by drop=trickle)
    Spill: Desaguar (to let excess water flow out as to spill out gently from an overflow/almost a trickle)
    Spill: (to overflow to the point of flooding): Derramar (to flow out in abundance)

    So “Derramar” is quite stronger than just “spill”
    Spanish is richer in nuances than English so it uses more words, whereas in English it is confined to one word to cover many in Spanish; as seen in above example of “Spill”

    What are we working with here? Supposing this was composed in Spanish, how do we translate:

    En este contexto, algunos todavía defienden las teorías del «derrame», que suponen que todo crecimiento económico, favorecido por la libertad de mercado, logra provocar por sí mismo mayor equidad e inclusión social en el mundo.

    Here is what I do with it:

    In this context, some still defend theories of “spill” [trickle-down economics], which suppose that all economic growth, favored by the freedom of the market, succeeds in bring about greater equity and social inclusion in the world.

    This is how I would translate the above Spanish statement:
    In this context (whatever that context was that preceded this sentence), some still defend the theory of the overflow (in other words the theories that have flooded the mindset), that suppose that all economic growth, favored by the free-market, has succeeded in provoking in itself a greater equity and social inclusion in the world.

  29. Lin says:

    Interesting post! For the most part, I agree with Rush. Our system is far from perfect, but better than most. It has been my experience that conservatives give more to charity then the faux compassionate liberals. I usually tune out when priests and religious start talking economics because they often know little of which they speak and tend to ramble a lot about social justice and Mother Earth. We would be better served if priests would stick to saving our souls.

  30. yzerman123 says:

    As a Spanish-speaking economist, I find your translation much better than the official one. I don’t know how there can be such discrepancies. With respect to ‘theories of “spill” ‘, the proper economic term you could use would be “spillovers”. This is the same as trickle-down economics, basically that economic growth generates wealth for everybody, albeit unequally.

    Samuel Gregg is bang on in his assessment. The move towards capitalism in Asia has literally lifted hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty. No amount of charitable donations or development assistance from the West has ever come close to achieving these results. Obviously, one could argue that income disparities have still increased in Asia, because the rich became billionaires while starving peasants “merely” moved into the middle class. But the latter is still a heck of an accomplishment given the scale.

  31. Bea says:

    All said:
    If I remember correctly the Pope wants to return to the original teachings and to Peter.
    Do I remember correctly? Anyone?

    In this context I cannot imagine Peter dealing with economics, social inclusion, etc. , but in the bringing of Christ’s message of the Salvation of men’s souls.

    Christ said “Render,therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s ” Matt 22:21

    Are we here, rendering to Caesar the things that are God’s?
    But as I’ve been told, “maybe it’s better he concentrate on economics rather than messing with Dogma. Let him leave Dogma alone.”

  32. Bea says:

    As I posted above:

    “En este contexto, algunos todavía defienden las teorías del «derrame», que suponen que todo crecimiento económico, favorecido por la libertad de mercado, logra provocar por sí mismo mayor equidad e inclusión social en el mundo.

    This is how I would translate the above Spanish statement:
    In this context (whatever that context was that preceded this sentence), some still defend the theory of the overflow (in other words the theories that have flooded the mindset), that suppose that all economic growth, favored by the free-market, has succeeded in provoking in itself a greater equity and social inclusion in the world.”

    To clarify further: (from what I gleam from the Spanish) He (the pope) is not talking about the overflow of economics BUT of the overflow of the MINDSET that proclaims that the free-market in itself is what promotes equity and social inclusion.

  33. PA mom says:

    Let me throw Hobby Lobby out there as an example.
    To me, they are a wonderful example of a truly conservative Christian functioning business. They pay $14/hour, clearly more than either the Government or “the market” requires. They are closed on Sundays so that their employees can rest. They have good benefits.
    They are doing it out of their own free will (conservative), a sharing with others of their good fortune (Christian). As much as the liberals sneer at the conservative stances this company takes due to its Christian owners, all of them would rather be employed by these considerate, generous people than by the board of McDonald’s.
    A genuine conversion has clearly taken place in their hearts, of the kind which may not be able to take place in a company simply owned and run to provide the highest pay back to shareholders. I don’t really know if there is an economic title for it, but Christian business it really seems to me.
    I think the Pope would approve of this company and the many others which are run similarly.

    [Indeed. Free markets are not, in themselves, enough. And I don’t know any free markets who think they are. We also need, I think, religiously grounded morals and values.]

  34. Priam1184 says:

    This is a response to Father’s response to PA mom: I don’t know Father. I’ve met quite a few free marketeers who seem to have the same sort of a world full of free markets and free trade millennial world view that committed Communists have in another direction. And in truth the directions really aren’t all that different, because the both end up completely excluding God from his own Creation. We need more than ‘religiously grounded’ morals and values too, don’t we? If the Catholic Church is the deposit of Truth and Faith left by our Lord in this world after his Ascension, then we would need the triumph of the Catholic Church, wouldn’t we? That is the problem that comes from the whole ‘religious freedom’ argument: in what religion are our morals and values going to be grounded? It makes a difference.

  35. StJude says:

    I want to thank you all for your insightful comments.
    Tamquam..very interesting and it reminded me that the whole world is not America and Francis’s life experience is not the USA or even Europe.

    and the translations.. really interesting.

  36. tizzidale says:

    I just find it telling that in a document of 50,000 words, we [“We”?] are entirely focused on the portions that attack the sacred cow of economic liberalism. What about the challenge to bring Christ to the world? To be Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, bearers of the Gospel? [Okay… what about it? This sort of “What about” beginning usually leads to a dead end.] I suppose we all think we [Who on earth are you talking about?] have that in the bag, and we’d rather pick nits [Again with the “we”?] with the Pope over language and the great benefits of capitalism. Meanwhile, our materialistic culture is abandoning God and godly contemplation at an alarming rate. Even here in the “Christ-haunted” South, more and more youth and young-adults are leaving their faith – seeing no benefit in life in Christ. But we circle the wagons and defend the free-market. [Good grief.]

    Perhaps the Pope sees something we can’t see yet. As the culture become more secularized and further away from Christ, the “free-market” will thrive. It simply will. It is the “winner” in the best-economic-model contest. And it’s invested the $10 it won and turned it into $15 – and yet . . . the entire culture is leaving Christ and as it loses its moral compass, the call for society to come to Christ becomes even more and more important.

    [I saw that you were complaining on Google+ that you comment was in the moderation queue. For the record, every first comment of newly registered participants goes into the queue. However, given your demonstrated presumption of bad will on my part, and your willingness to spread it around, I will confirm your presumption by flagging you for constant moderation. Have a beautiful, grace-filled day! o{]:¬) ]

  37. Gratias says:

    Trickle-down does not have an equivalent in Spanish. In this context derrame does mean supply side economics. In Spanish supply side would be translated Economía de la oferta y la demanda, a bit too long.

    If you read Spanish there is an interesting summary of EG here:


    As in Vatican II, there is no mention of Communism, the main anti-Catholic ideology of the last century. Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega must sleep happy. Same for the Argentine Peronistas, of which Bergoglio was one (Google Bergoglio Peronista). They really have spread poverty and ruin. American capitalism has spread Liberty and wealth throughout the world.

  38. AA Cunningham says:

    The “free market” is a myth. Show me a market that operates without government rules and boundaries. The more excessive the government intrusion, the less “free” the market is.

    I suggest people spend time digesting Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek for a better understanding of economics in general and the “free market” specifically.

  39. RuralCatholic says:

    It’s stressful enough having a president whose every speech is modified and redefined by the press to make it more palatable to those who can still think in this country…but now we must wait and have everything the pope says interpreted, redefined and made more palatable, as well. Blame my age, but I was raised to expect people to mean what they say and what they say is if not clearly defined, at least understandable without the necessity of a media specialist or spin doctor or interpreter. I guess some of us aren’t dumbed down enough yet…oops, I meant we’re too dumb to be able to grasp all the subtle distinctions and nuances. I’m too old for all this folderol. Jesus was so clear and easy to understand. [?] Ironically, I feel Jesus is and His message is being lost in all this bombast.

  40. Bea says:

    I found “Teoria del derrame” as an economic theory (trickle down economic theory) on this Spanish website:


    It’s a pyramid type theory that rich economists are given every opportunity for growth so that they will spend and uphold the economy and this “trickles down” (se derrama/floods down) the pyramid to the middle classes and from the middle classes to the poor, so that everyone benefits from this “growth” theory.

    “In this context” he is referring to paragraph #53, where greed takes over and people are seen as expendable if they do not fit into the economic picture and this breeds coldness of heart. Humans are looked upon only as “consumers” and if they do not “consume” they, too, are expendable. He mentions how heartbreaking that a poor homeless woman dying of cold in the streets does not make the news as a 2 point drop in the market does.

  41. Random Friar says:

    Others have pointed out the major problem with “por sí mismo”. The closest literal translation to Latin would be “per se ipsum”. How you get “inevitably” is beyond me.

    “Derramar” as a verb, btw, is also used commonly in prayer, “Derrama, Señor tu gracia…” would be closest to “Pour forth, Lord, your grace…”

  42. ALL: A quick note to tell you how impressed I have been with the quality of the conversation here.
    There are some useful comments here.

    My compliments.

  43. Supertradmum says:

    The fact that all the Popes of the last 150 years have condemned socialism is a fact ignored by the vast majority of the Catholics with whom I have briefly discussed this document. That some Catholics want a government to do what each one of us should be doing, that is, giving to charities and personally being involved in charity is a serious aberration of the Teaching of the Church back to Pius IX.

    That this discussion includes both sensitivity to the horrible poverty in Latin America (I think of the Garbage Dump People who live off the refuse of the rich) and the problem with confusing a capitalist solution with a socialist one is excellent.

    One other problem I see in my area is the Politics of Envy, which should be addressed by clergy. That is, those who are lower or middle, middle-class frequently fall into hatred of the rich, which is just another prejudice. The Politics of Envy has been stoked by the Obama administration.

    May I add one more point? The Papal view is not that of the American Dream, a dream which has failed miserably because Americans have forgotten Who is behind prosperity-not themselves, but God, Divine Providence. Too many Americans read Francis in light of the American Dream, which has denied the value of suffering and created discontent among those who feel cheated. Only a foundation in Catholicism, which accepts financial suffering as not an intrinsic good, but one which can lead to holiness can change the Politics of Envy.

    We need a lot more discussion on the Papal exhortation and we need to be able to look at the world, and not just the States for solutions. But, socialism, communism and unbridled capitalism are not the answers.

    Evangelii Gaudium could be read alongside of Nostis et Nobiscum, Quod Apostolici Muneris, Graves de Communi Re, Notre Charge Apostolique,Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, Mater et Magistra, (the first encyclical I ever read), Centesimus Annus, Deus Caritas Est and other documents from past popes.

  44. frjim4321 says:

    Before getting to carried away with anything Rush Limbaugh or any of his ilk say about anything, it’s important to remember that talk radio exists for one purpose and one purpose only which is to sell advertisements. These people speak with absolutely no moral authority. They are maximally effective when they are most divisive and polarizing because that allows them to deliver a large but specialized demographic to advertisers. Limbaugh listeners are stratified by racial, economic, age, and political characteristics. As Rosalyn Carter observed, the principal characteristic of Limbaugh is “He makes us comfortable with our prejudices,” while being careful (for the most part) to avoid being blatantly prejudiced. It’s a great formula and it works.

    Ironically what seems to work in talk radio’s favor is in fact the demographic that it serves: comfortable older whites with a lot of leisure during weekday afternoons.

    I find it interesting, though, that right-edge media personalities have had success undermining aspects of Catholic teaching related to economic justice, including not only Limbaugh’s diatribe on the recent papal pronouncement but also Hannity and his turning a bedrock principal of contemporary Catholic teaching (Social Justice) into a dirty word. As a nominal Catholic he is probably more culpable than Limbaugh, who as far I as can see is not affiliated with any denomination. Maybe there is a church somewhere that encourages multiple serial marriages, in which case Limbaugh would fit in quite well.

  45. Faith says:

    I think this offers a good Catholic response to Rush. http://www.catholicvote.org/rush-vs-pope-7-quotes-answered/

  46. AnneG says:

    Thanks, Fr Z. Excellent discussion in the combox, until somebody started slandering and calling names.
    Peronismo really is a blight on Argentina. A combination of cronyism, corruption, avarice, envy with a thin coating of “populism” that keeps these crooks in business. Every 20 years or so the economy crashes. As I read some parts of EG I had forgotten that, even though I vowed to read Pope Francis first in Spanish. I’m still inclined to think that informed laity may be better authorities in their area of expertise when they are well-catechised than translators in Rome with whatever small world view they have.
    I constantly remind people that the whole world is not American, does not have the same problems, culture or government. I am encourage that Pope Francis does condemn corruption, something that I’ve waited years for any Latin American cleric anywhere to do. Wish he’d do it more, then do it to the Mexican bishops and a few Americans as well.

  47. samwise says:

    Let’s debunk the accusation against Francis’ “Marxism”/Socialism per Leo XIII’s Quod Apostolici Muneris (on Socialism)

    Leo XIII identifies socialists in three ways:
    1) opposed to private property
    2) against marriage between 1 man and 1 woman
    3) advocate unconditional equality

    Surely Francis does not fall into the first two categories. If if asked point blank, he would give the same answer of the source of human dignity as Leo XIII “made in God’s image and likeness” So no, he is neither a marxist nor a free-market capitalist [You defined Marxism. How is “free-market capitalist” defined?]

  48. samwise says:

    Good point Fr. Z,

    Since Peronism has been mentioned several times, I default to that (state intervention in small & big business) for Bergoglio. Otherwise, I’m not aware of church docs that outline capitalism except maybe “Centesimus Annus”?

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