Pope Francis to UN delegation: “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State”

Today Pope Francis addressed a delegation of the UN – which I remind you is a principle agent for promoting abortion world-wide.

Below please find the full text of Pope Francis’ address to the United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes on Friday, led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

There is some blah blah at first, but keep reading.  My emphases and comments.

NOTE: A lot of this is simply warmed up John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  There isn’t much new here, apart from the terrible wording about the State and redistribution.  But we can, for the most part, say “Ho hum!  Next?”

Mr Secretary General,Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you, Mr Secretary-General and the leading executive officers of the Agencies, Funds and Programmes of the United Nations and specialized Organizations, as you gather in Rome for the biannual meeting for strategic coordination of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board.It is significant that today’s meeting takes place shortly after the solemn canonization of my predecessors, Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. The new saints inspire us by their passionate concern for integral human development and for understanding between peoples. This concern was concretely expressed by the numeous visits of John Paul II to the Organizations headquartered in Rome and by his travels to New York, Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi and The Hague.
I thank you, Mr Secretary-General, for your cordial words of introduction. I thank all of you, who are primarily responsible for the international system, for the great efforts being made to ensure world peace, respect for human dignity, the protection of persons, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and harmonious economic and social development.The results of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in terms of education and the decrease in extreme poverty, confirm the value of the work of coordination carried out by this Chief Executives Board. At the same time, it must be kept in mind that the world’s peoples deserve and expect even greater results.  [Do they?]
An essential principle of management is the refusal to be satisfied with current results and to press forward, in the conviction that those gains are only consolidated by working to achieve even more. In the case of global political and economic organization, much more needs to be achieved, since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens. [Perhaps the true culprits in that are local governments.] Future Sustainable Development Goals must therefore be formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family, [Wasn’t it some UN thingie that suggested that the Holy See was responsible for torture by teaching against abortion?] which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development. Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the “economy of exclusion”, the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death” which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.With this in mind, I would like to remind you, as representatives of the chief agencies of global cooperation, of an incident which took place two thousand years ago and is recounted in the Gospel of Saint Luke (19:1-10). It is the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus, as a result of which Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. [Do I remember this correctly, or was Zacchaeus ready to give half of the wealth he was creating to the poor, and he did it voluntarily, on his own?  The government wasn’t doing it for him.  Right?] This same spirit should be at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity. The gaze, often silent, of that part of the human family which is cast off, left behind, ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions with immediate results, like the decision of Zacchaeus. Does this spirit of solidarity and sharing guide all our thoughts and actions?
Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have earlier unjustly refused to others. [“Share with complete freedom”.  NOT “share by government or other agency confiscation and redistribution.] The account of Jesus and Zacchaeus teaches us that above and beyond economic and social systems and theories, there will always be a need to promote generous, effective and practical openness to the needs of others. Jesus does not ask Zacchaeus to change jobs nor does he condemn his financial activity; he simply inspires him to put everything, freely yet immediately and indisputably, at the service of others.  [Again, do I remember correctly?  Was Zacchaeus already giving half his wealth to the poor before he stood face to face with the Lord? Authors are divided about what Zacchaeus is saying. As it turns out, the Greek of the dialogue in Luke 19 says in 19:8 “??????? ?? ???????? ????? ???? ??? ?????? ????, ?? ????? ??? ?????????? ??? ????? ?????? ???? ??????? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???????????? ????????? ??????????” The verbs ?????? and ????????? are both “present”, though Greek present doesn’t necessarily mean that the action is exactly contemporaneous. It could be ongoing and even have futurity. The overall context helps us makes sense of the “present”. Furthermore, even in English a statment like “I’m giving…” can mean right now or in the future. It’s messy. More important is the fact that Zacchaeus was going to do what he did voluntarily.] Consequently, I do not hesitate to state, as did my predecessors (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42-43; Centesimus Annus, 43; BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 6; 24-40), that equitable economic and social progress can only be attained by joining scientific and technical abilities with an unfailing commitment to solidarity accompanied by a generous and disinterested spirit of gratuitousness at every level. A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and [Wait for it…] by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society. [By the STATE?  When has any “State” done this effectively?  And what does “legitimate” mean?  According to laws that are passed?  And if the laws are bad laws?  And who will administrate it?]
Consequently, while encouraging you in your continuing efforts to coordinate the activity of the international agencies, which represents a service to all humanity, I urge you to work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded. Invoking divine guidance on the work of your Board, I also implore God’s special blessing for you, Mr Secretary-General, for the Presidents, Directors and Secretaries General present among us, and for all the personnel of the United Nations and the other international Agencies and Bodies, and their respective families.

Combox moderation queue is ON.

I wonder how many people are still listening to him seriously on this issue.

Also, I would like to know if anyone around him is telling him that there are alternative ways of dealing with poverty apart from merely redistributing the wealth that other people create?   Is Pope Francis talking to anyone about ideas that actually work?

I suspect other people might have the same reaction that I have when hearing/reading this stuff.  It comes across as naive, out of step with history.   Has any nation successfully dealt with poverty through redistribution?  I don’t think so.  Moreover, who would supervise this process of global redistribution? Angels? EU bureaucrats? The UN? Card. Rodriguez Maradiaga?  Card. Kasper?

Finally, and I don’t mean this to be snarky, though I realize it could come off that way, given Argentina’s track record, should anyone from Argentina tell anyone else anything about how to deal with economic issues?  A map of Argentina is in the illustrated dictionary by the entry “self-imposed economic decline”.   Bad economies don’t create wealth.  You can take every dime from every person who has them and give them to the poor, and, at the end of the day you will have greater devastation.  And the State solutions do no better.

How about talking about something other than what has be shown time and again to be disaster?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. McCall1981 says:

    I’m happy that he was strong on abortion, and even used the phrase “culture of death” for the first time.

  2. Anti-Relativist says:

    Might I humbly suggest to the Holy Father that he read “Defending the Free Market,” by The Rev. Robert Sirico? His Holiness can purchase it on Amazon, using the link that Father Z. provides and everyone wins!

    I had a troubled feeling when our Pope Emeritus resigned, and that feeling was magnified upon seeing Pope Francis appear on the loggia. I knew next to nothing about him, thus I can’t explain why the feeling existed, but it did. Despite the fact that I have wished and prayed that this feeling go away during the course of the last year it has not. There are times I applaud His Holiness, and feel a temporary comfort upon hearing or reading something he said/did. However, my initial troubled feeling remains with me most of the time – and I fear that more confusing and troubling times are ahead for us all. Please pray for me, for the Holy Father, and for Holy Mother Church.

  3. tpodonnell says:

    As the Holy Father says, he is simply repeating the words of his predecessors when he speaks of legitimate redistribution by the state. This is certainly no “Marxist” speech. And with regard to the UN’s positions on abortion and its recent attacks regarding sexual abuse, I think in very Franciscan style, he knows that “they know what the Church teaches” and doesn’t feel the need to say them by name. “The culture of death,” the “economy of exclusion” — they do know what he means!

    I think any discussion surrounding this speech needs to recognize that Pope Francis and his predecessors have all seen the UN as a noble organization seeking the betterment of all the world’s peoples. If we disagree in principle with the existence of the UN then of course we won’t approve of this speech.

    And then we need to ask ourselves: How do we “work with” the UN? Do we criticize everything it does that doesn’t align with Catholic teaching? Or do we support it in all the ways that it does align with Catholic teaching? What can we expect from Pope Francis? What would we have expected from his predecessors?

    I’ll just note that when Pope Benedict spoke to the UN in New York in 2008 he didn’t mention the culture of death, nor the protection of life from conception to natural death. His approach was much more intellectual and nuanced, with less obvious support/criticism for the UN. I think Pope Francis here is very clear as to “where we agree” and “where we disagree” … and although we can discuss with Pope Francis the role of the state in the just redistribution of goods, his economic vision is not different from that of his recent predecessors, either. Pope Benedict also only mentioned Jesus once, at the very end of his speech, so there’s certainly a beautiful witness in Pope Francis’ centering his speech around a Gospel passage! Who knows when the last time was that these leaders heard the Good News.

  4. wmeyer says:

    [By the STATE? When has any “State” done this effectively? And what does “legitimate” mean? According to laws that are passed? And if the laws are bad laws?]

    No state ever has, and none ever will. They make arbitrary evaluations, and on that basis, take from one and give to another. Subsidiarity gives the only possible hope for making any sensible approach to this. And obviously, the Feds are far removed from the scene, so are the least likely to be effective.

    Consider, for example, that the cost of living varies very greatly from state to state, as does compensation. Yet the Federal tax rates make no adjustment for that. Instead, where the cost of living is high, and compensation is higher, the “progressive” tax rates bite harder.

    Also, I find in scripture a very clear statement of our personal obligation to charity. I do not find, however, that any action by government relieves or reduces in any way that obligation.

    Finally, as to the interpretation of Pope Francis remarks, as the Church has thoroughly condemned communism and socialism, surely he cannot be suggesting that path?

  5. PA mom says:

    Father, I don’t remember a mention of Zacchaeus giving half of his wealth away before he met Jesus. [I have now had a chance to look it up. Yes. “Luke 10:8 “But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.”]
    But this talk of coerced redistribution done by Government is deeply disturbing to me.

    I strongly believe that the clergy (including the Pope!) need to stop encouraging Government to take money from people who aren’t clergy, and don’t likely have others paying for their lifestyles, and instead work harder at helping laity achieve true conversion of heart as happens to Zacchaeus. Then, the problem gets corrected.

    It is the failure of Christians to spread genuine Christianity, even within ‘Christian’ nations which is a part of the problem. But the answer to that problem cannot be more godless Government.

  6. Imrahil says:

    There is a fine line (perhaps) between an “economy of exclusion”, which the Holy Father rightly wants to see abolished, and any number of interpretations that can be given to the word “second-class citizen”. Some people have riches while others do not.

    A sufficiently Catholic society is a society where a poor man struggling with his work might, on occasion, invite a rich friend or acquaintance for dinner, and the dinner would really taste the latter well (and I don’t mean that he courteously says so, good as that is, but that he really feels it). – If the rich can only separate themselves or (possibly philantropically, good as that is) patronize the poor, that would be an economy of exclusion, and not good. – If the poor thinks the rich are personally hurting them by possessing riches (and thus not to be invited), that is a wrong interpretation of “second-class citizen”, and not good as well.

    On legitimate redistribution (or legitimate expropriation)… maybe another time. (The distributists, anyway, say that not “economic benefits” but rather means of production should be redistributed.)

    I do think it legitimate, however, to give the rich a bigger share of expenses (and consequently a progressive income tax).

  7. acardnal says:

    As I recall, the USSR failed.

    Free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity and for a higher standard of living for everyone.

  8. LeeF says:

    preferential option for the poor – doctrine to be believed by the faithful

    how to best help the poor (which includes incentivizing them to help themselves) – prudential judgment that can legitimately be disagreed on by the faithful

    many top level food charities – highly efficient at what they do with minimal spent on overhead

    governments – highly inefficient semi-corrupt entities with maximum possible overhead and waste

  9. Ms. M-S says:

    Once more, spreading the word defaults to spreading the wealth.

  10. Ben Kenobi says:

    It is odd how the same people who condemn the Church for ignorance will extoll Francis. ;) You aren’t alone here Fr. Z. Someone should ask Francis question if America punches above her weight in financing the Church, if this is accomplished through confiscatory wealth redistribution?

  11. dans0622 says:

    I don’t have a problem with these remarks. It looks like the Pope is telling these UN people, and government officials in general, to be like Zacchaeus. In other words, they are tax collectors who have a lot of money that isn’t theirs. They should voluntarily follow Zacchaeus’ example in their own lives. As far as the redistribution notion–yes, bloated, corrupt, bureaucracies exist in many countries. But, he isn’t the first Pope to approve of the idea.

  12. Siculum says:

    You said it.

  13. Ttony says:

    “Has any nation successfully dealt with poverty through redistribution?”

    Yes. The UK.

    Death duties, for example, and the high taxes paid by high earners after the 1945 General Election (and subsequently) paid for a state which ensured that nobody would be poor in the way that people in the UK used to be poor and people in the third world are still poor any more.

    The rich are still rich, but the hereditary rich have either had to work and create new wealth, or suffer their previous wealth being redistributed.

    This is observation: not pro or con; but it has been tried and it can work. [No. I don’t buy that what you find in the UK is anywhere near like the “redistribution” of wealth that is being discussed. Any tax is a “redistribution”, to a certain extent. What Francis is talking about is something else entirely.]

  14. anilwang says:

    One things I like to point out about linking redistribution to Jesus’s teachings is this: The corporal works of mercy is based on Matthew 25:31–46. It commands each of us as individuals to do the works of mercy. Anyone that says “I voted for a redistributist political party” or “my taxes cover it” will likely be rudely surprised at judgment day.

    Redistribution of some sort is inescapably part of a just society. In a truly ideal Catholic society with no crime, all redistribution, except for “Common goods”, is voluntary. When societies break down morally and self interest becomes dominant, government involvement in redistribution becomes more important for the stability of society, but unfortunately it also reduces the amount of voluntary redistribution and causes an ever accelerating vicious circle.

    A wise leader would attempt to re-enforce the moral order at the individual level so the government can get out of redistribution as soon as it can. Unfortunately, the only leaders we seem to be getting these days either want to weaken the moral order and increase government redistribution, or get the government out of redistribution without re-enforce the moral order (thus making the poor more desperate, and encouraging more to abandon the moral order).

  15. Priam1184 says:

    What about spiritual poverty Pope Francis? That is your domain yet I hear little coming from you about that, the most important crisis of our times.

  16. anna 6 says:

    Was it too much to hope that there might be some kind of response from Pope Francis to the UN’s accusations of “violations against the international treaty against torture”, as well as the grilling it received earlier in the year in regards to sexual abuse?

    I do not intend to diminish the devastating impact of the sexual sins of some in the Church…but it was appalling that the UN blamed the Church for her teaching on human sexuality. It would have been helpful if this had been addressed in some way during the talk.

  17. Ed the Roman says:

    Hmm. His Holiness should take no instruction from me in the faith, but neither should I take instruction from him in system administration or seamanship.

    And as you rightly note, it is not as if he has lived in a country whose erconomy worked well except for oligarchs. And pace certain devout bloggers, the American economy still works really, really well for ordinary people most of the time.

  18. Maynardus says:

    “I wonder how many people are still listening to him seriously on this issue.”

    Depends of the meaning of the words “listening” and “seriously”! I have a sinking feeling that the same people who heard “who am I to judge”, seized upon it, and continue to trumpet it at every opportunity will likewise use this “redistribution” clause as a cudgel against their political and ideological opponents. B. H. Obama et al must be thanking… well, whomever they thank for such gifts… for this windfall! I doubt that a week will pass before we begin hearing him once again quoting his favorite pope…

  19. Gulielmus says:

    This has, of course, exploded all over the internet. Most seem to focus on the word “legitimate,” but I have a different question. Several headlines say the Pope is calling for a redistribution of wealth– but the translation says “economic benefits.” That implies something quite different to me, although I’m not sure it’s an improvement or not.

  20. Bosco says:

    Spectacular and pithy analysis, Father Z. I remember reading that previous Popes…Leo XIII, etc. had a word or two to say on the subject of wealth and private ownership of goods.

    With apologies to Paul Simon and Pope Leo XIII, I think it’s time to say “Just drop off the key (Pope) Lío.”

  21. excalibur says:

    Michael Savage, usually a defender of the Catholic Church, went after Francis over this …….. what shall we call it? Neo-Marxism? If someone continues making remarks like this, and allows people he appointed to the gang-of-eight, to make the remarks they make without rebuke, what are the faithful to think. Government will redistribute wealth alright, to itself.

    Anyway, Savage has, prior to this latest Papal remarks on wealth, pointed out that His Holiness comes from the ‘liberation theology’ of Latin America era. Continued prayers for Francis I.

  22. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Try rereading Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio. It is the same touching confidence in the ability of the STATE to somehow effect economic development by its own activities and redistribution of wealth. It wasn’t working in the 60s and it won’t work now, but the same European socialist curialists are still writing this stuff and economically illiterate pontiffs continue to spout it. The only good thing is that it has no real consequence because the UN thingies all agree and are going to keep doing what they do whether the Pope agrees or not.

  23. Grabski says:

    Argentina was the world’s 8th richest country in 1900 and the 4th in 1945

    Then they went whole hog on redistribution beginning with Juan and Eva Peron.

    A word was actually coined for what happened to them: Disdevelopment.

    Did he miss one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, Peronism?

  24. donadrian says:

    Luke 19: Dominum ecce dimidium bonorum meorum Domine do pauperibus. I do not see any sign of ‘iam’.

  25. mimicaterina says:

    One of the greatest causes of poverty in the developing world is the rampant corruption in those countries, lack of efficiency and transparency, the lack of rule of law. I say this as a former international civil servant with nearly two decades working in some of the poorest countries in the world. Clean up these areas, coupled with universal education and primary health services and you will see changes. Local governments must hear the voices of their own poor in a safe environment. To promote foreign investment into poor countries, some of which are endowed with natural resources, you need a transparent system in place, protection of private property rights and a peaceful transition of power especially at the national level.

  26. wolfeken says:

    After reading this, the only positive spin I can think of is:

    At least Pope Francis is devoting his time toward a completely impossible task of world Socialism, which means he has less time to prohibit traditional Latin Masses and put traditional-leaning religious superiors under house arrest.

  27. Markus says:

    When I was confirmed 50 years ago, I was told that I would have to defend my Faith.
    First my pastor, of 10 years, preaches about global warming from the pulpit and his world views come from TIME magazine and CNN, quoted during sermons. Not a US citizen but educated in the US.
    My bishop supported a catholic governor that had a 100% NARAL record and then condemns my current Catholic governor who does not support drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens.
    And now my Jesiut Pope. I guess that I didn’t realize just what I agreed to some 50 years ago…the bishop said that it would be difficult. What does one say?

  28. slainewe says:

    Father Z., I am so glad that you read the passage on Zacchaeus as I understood it all my life until, suddenly, the Pope Francis version started making the rounds in sermons. Now I am routinely smacked down for even suggesting that Zacchaeus was already giving half to the poor and returning fourfold when he accidentally defrauded someone, and that the Lord was defending him to the crowd.
    New bible translations routinely change the present tense to the future to insure the Pope Francis version is understood.

  29. By what authority am I encouraged to determine how much of the wealth of my neighbors should be taken by the State to be redistributed to my fellows in need? Is not my responsibility rather to determine how much of what the Lord has provided me I can spare to put to the purpose of allaying or reducing the needs of my fellows?

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  30. Polycarpio says:

    Responding to the response to Ttony, that “Francis is talking about is something else entirely” than simply the mere redistribution by taxation in places like the UK, and the comments in the main post that Francis is proposing a “process of global redistribution.” I don’t think that interpretation is supported by the text of what Francis actually said. First of all, the key is to look at the text in Spanish, because Francis spoke in Spanish, but even if you look at the English or Italian, it’s not much different (though it’s more clear in Spanish). Francis said, and I am going to rearrange it to conform to the Spanish, that in order to have “equitable development,” you need three things in EQUAL measure: (1) “international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples;” (2) “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State;” AND the “indispensable contribution of private sector activity and civil society.” That last bit was actually translated incorrectly: “colaboración” was translated as “cooperation,” and the phrase “actividad económica privada” was translated as “the private sector;” the word “between” was added in out of nowhere and thus the entire phrase distorted. The result is that the Pope’s point that PRIVATE ECONOMIC ACTIVITY IS INDISPENSABLE to the solution got entirely left out or its meaning dulled and blunted, so that the focus seems to be on the redistribution. That’s not what he said. But I am unwilling to cede that it’s just the usual mixed messaging from the Vatican, etc. I think there’s also a problem of everyone being on a hairline trigger to want to immediately go off and react critically and assume the worst.

  31. Phil_NL says:

    When it comes to economics, politics, and especially economic policy, papal pronouncements that invite shrugs, annoyed sighs and more are par for the course.

    Also, I read on a Dutch news site His Holiness is rumoured to work on a document on climate change, so I very much doubt this procession of naive, vaguely leftist sounding texts will cease anytime soon.

    And yet it should. On this topic, the leftists will run away with the only element of papal texts they like. They already like forced redistribution, and will make much hay of this (especially when fighting Catholics who are on the right side of the political spectrum). Non-leftist will simply shrug and ignore the Holy Father on this.

    And that is bad in itself: if you have to make a habit of ignoring the Holy See on matters it has no expertise in and is often wrong about (again, economics snd politics come to mind…) it becomes easier over time to fo the same when the Pope is in fact talking about faith and morals.

    So I find cause to repeat an earlier call of mine: Please, dear bishops, abstain from involving yourself in topics you have no expertise in, no teaching role, no particular graces to support you!

  32. The Astronomer says:

    “Argentina was the world’s 8th richest country in 1900 and the 4th in 1945
    Then they went whole hog on redistribution beginning with Juan and Eva Peron.
    A word was actually coined for what happened to them: Disdevelopment.
    Did he miss one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, Peronism?”

    (touch-in-cheek) “And who are we to judge???”

  33. Henry Belton says:

    Unfortunately, few Catholics are aware of the Church’s teaching on economics. The writings of Leo XIII and Pius XII were far more blunt that Francis’. We do need to respond to the Limbaughs of the political right who are slandering the Church and the Pope; they seem to have a strict steadfast rule that one be either a Marxist or a capitalist. I’m neither – I’m a Catholic.

    The text regarding state distribution may sound a little alarming in the modern US, but it is aligned with Rerum Novarum and GK Chesterton. If the state were to redistribute property equitably and we families possessed their own means of production, we’d be (economically speaking) pretty close to a Catholic economic model (notwithstanding the dissenting opinions of the guys at the Acton institute).

  34. romanrevert says:


  35. Blas says:

    I think the problem with the Francis way of thining starts with: “much more needs to be achieved, since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens.”

    It is a real problem from a catholic perspective, that some humans do not share “the benefits of progress”? What understand Francis “benefit of progress means”? Having cable TV? A social security that pay for anticonception? Having cities with safe public transportation? Having access internet, access to facebook or tweeter? Because if our problem is having access to “benefits of the progress” probably we have not to read the Gosspel. Societies that has the better access to that goods are not catholics at all.

  36. DisturbedMary says:

    Saint Maximilian Kolbe said this about inequality, fairness and the redistribution solution:

    “When he sees the luxurious residence or the charming country house of a wealthy person, a poor workingman often asks himself: ‘Why do I not possess such wealth, too? Why is there such inequality in this world?’

    How many volumes have been written about equality among men! How much blood has been spilled for this idea! And yet, in spite of it all, we still have the rich and the poor.

    Four years ago I passed through Moscow. As the train was scheduled to stay there for a few hours, I got down from the railway car to visit the city a bit, hoping to see for myself how the slogan, so highly publicized and so widely proclaimed, of equality and the common possession of goods, was worked out in practice. But even there I found some people clad in rags, while others wore elegant clothes cut in the latest style. So not even in the Bolshevik state have they succeeded in bringing about equality.

    Let us imagine, however, that one day all the inhabitants of the world would assemble to put into effect this sharing of all goods; and that in fact each person, granted that the world is very big, received an exactly equal portion of the wealth existing on earth.

    Then what? That very evening one man might say, ‘Today I worked hard; now I am going to take a rest.’ Another might state, ‘I understand this sharing of goods very well; so let’s drink and celebrate such an extraordinary happening.’ On the other hand, another might say: “Now I am going to set to work with a will so as to reap the greatest benefit I can from what I have received.” And so, starting on the next day, the first man would have only the amount given him; the second would have less, and the third would have increased his. Then what do we do? Start redistributing the wealth all over again. . . To continue the argument, even if there were only two persons in the world, they would not succeed in maintaining absolute equality; for in the whole universe there are no two things completely identical in every respect. . . This is how it has been, how it is now and how it will always be, simply because man will never attain absolute perfection.

    In spite of all this, the human mind still desires to bring about a certain equality among men, Is there any possibility that this can happen? Yes, no doubt. Every man, whoever he is, whatever he possesses and whatever he is capable of doing, owes all this to God the Creator of the universe. Of himself man is nothing. From this point of view all of us are absolutely equal. Furthermore we all possess free will, which makes us master of all our actions. This too constitutes the basic equality of all men on earth. [Kolbe Reader, 11, 131-132]

  37. While I will keep mulling it over, the careful wording was striking, when he says, “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.”

    “Legitimate”–as opposed to all the appealing sorts of “redistribution.”

    And redistribution of what, precisely? Not wealth, but “benefits.” What does that mean?

    Let’s put this together with the other things he emphasizes: family integrity and a free response; “material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones…”

    It seems to me that policies that promote opportunity for work, an environment in which jobs are available and people can climb the ladder of success, and attain some measure of “dignity” (another word the pope used), is one “legitimate” way to “redistribute” “economic benefits.”

    I’m pretty conservative/small government on these things. But if we could see a strongly growing economy, plus a strengthened family, plus real education reform, on top of the work-focused welfare reforms that were begin in the 90s, we would actually see “economic benefits” “redistributed,” as it were, to those who are now in a bad way.

    And I’d be fine with that, and I think those who shudder at this kind of language would too.

    Now, I’m not saying this was a great way to talk about this. But I don’t think I’m doing violence to his words. Do you?

  38. James C says:

    I was just reading a 2004 book co-authored by Cardinal Ratzigner (“Without Roots”), and on page 72 Cardinal Ratzinger writes:

    “In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine, and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”

  39. rbbadger says:

    I think we need to keep in mind that conservativism is quite different in different countries. For instance in France, there are conservatives and monarchists, but they don’t necessarily hold to the idea of a limited government. France has always been profoundly dirigiste in its mode and manner of government. While Le Pen’s Front National did champion some free market ideas for a while, they are now quite protectionist. The Holy Father may come from a more socially conservative Peronist background, but as in France, Argentine conservativism may well be socially conservative and yet with quite an expansive state.

  40. Marcus de Alameda says:

    …spinning democratic socialism (rehash as liberation theology per modern Jesuits),
    I take comfort in the wisdom from the great Emeritus Pope BXVI in his recent interview about St. JP II:
    “Both in Europe and in North America, the common view was that it was about supporting the poor and that therefore it was a cause that ought to be approved outright. But that was an error. Poverty and the poor were undoubtedly addressed by Liberation Theology but from a very specific perspective,” Benedict XVI explained.


  41. Magpie says:

    The sad thing is, there never is enough charity to go around… Enough people don’t put their hands in their pockets to help the needy. They just don’t. And of those who do, it isn’t enough to do. It’s funny the difference I see, as a UK-based reader, in the attitudinal difference between the UK and the USA. It seems in the USA there is a desire among some Catholics to see there be no safety net provided by the state. The fact is, without the state (I speak here of the UK), there would be a lot more people on the street. The simple fact is, few Catholics will let a needy stranger into their home, feed the starving, or pay for medical treatment for the homeless. So, what do you do? Do you leave them in the street, dying, or does the state help them, funded by the taxes of those who can afford to give, but won’t voluntarily. I believe someone posted a document of Pope Paul VI which spoke about the legitimate re-appropriation of wealth by the state. Can’t remember the title.

  42. StJude says:

    Got home and all over social media is this…
    So glad you addressed it Father Z. I am really tired of trying to figure out a way to defend Pope Francis. I feel bad saying that.

  43. LeeF says:

    That was a very nice excerpt from St. Maximillian Kobe. There is a balance between the obligations of society to the individual, and personal responsibility, which has been lost on the left. The most vexing part of the equation though are children in such families and the high level of corruption in the developing world.

    Perhaps the Holy Father should give us a meditation on the obligations of the poor, as in being willing to work, being willing to move to where there is work when there is none on the top of some mountain, etc. Also he needs to distinguish between the desperate poverty of the third world, and the relative poverty of those in the first world, who poor though they may be live what the 3rd world poor would consider a much higher standard of living.

    Still we should all feel the tension between the amenities of our lives and the additional resources we could provide to poor if we didn’t buy them.

  44. Bea says:

    Can you imagine Peter and the apostles going to Nero and telling him to redistribute the wealth to the Roman citizens?
    I think not. People, the new Christians, took care of the poor themselves.
    If governments confiscate (tax) the money of citizens they will protect those who protect them. (pork barrel)
    If governments are the ones in charge of charity, it takes away the opportunity for the individual citizen to learn to be charitable to others.
    It’s the lazy way to let others do the charitable works that individuals should be doing. Individuals will live with being taxed and washing their conscience of helping anyone and selfishness will (and does) ensue.
    Catholic Relief Service
    Campaign for Human Development
    was supposed to take care of charity, instead they took the lazy way out and gave the hard-earned, well-meaning donations to other agencies that promoted political and personal agendas.
    Zacchaeus did this voluntarily. He did not use somebody else’s money or have the Roman government confiscate it to give to the poor. Charity came from his heart out of love for Our Lord. We will not learn charity out of love for God, if we leave the charitable works be done by self-serving governments.
    I wish The Church would get out of politics and teach us, not the politicians, to do the charitable works of Mercy .
    Too simplistic? Maybe. But God brought us simple messages that we have managed to muddle up with double speak.

  45. templariidvm says:

    Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.
    Still works for me. As Fr Z said, the local gov’t receives the money and poof! it is gone. The continent of Africa would be a much better place if we had not been pouring money into corrupt gov’ts for the last 60 years. They would have been better off if we had built more schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Look at how much money has been poured into the continent for everything from AIDS & malaria research and prevention to that given to the corrupt gov’ts. Billions have been sent there. War and poverty still plague much of the continent. Money, alone, is not even remotely the answer.

  46. Traductora says:

    First of all, I am by no means an instant defender of Pope Francis, and there are many things going on under him – not necessarily at his instigation, but certainly with his tolerance – such as the persecution of the Friars, etc. with which I disagree.

    But I think we are once again being manipulated by the media and by translators. I have been looking for the original text, but I’m not even sure of the original language. The meeting was in Rome, so I assume it was in Italian, with official translations (either by the Vatican or the UN) into the major languages.

    First of all, I would assume he was thinking of the Spanish word, repartir, which doesn’t mean “REdistribute,” but simply distribute or even share. The Italian, if that’s what he was thinking of, is similar.

    That said, I don’t see any indication that he was talking about wealth or capital or urging Obama-style “redistribution,” where everything goes to the government. The only thing I see that is in error is that he even mentioned the State. Although even then, it was sort of a last-moment inclusion, probably meant to remind governments (kleptocracies) that they were supposed to be looking out for the citizenry and not taking their cut for themselves. However, I think he does tend to be a little too statist, in the sense of trusting the state too much and according it too much power, so I think he can be faulted on this.

    But the rest of his talk, which of course is completely unreported by the media, is extremely forthright in supporting pro-life causes and, in fact, in supporting human life in general, even in the parts where he talks about environmental themes. Once I read the whole thing, my blood pressure dropped a hundred points.

  47. AvantiBev says:

    I know the Pope is addressing a global body that would dearly love to see a world government tax and redistribution controlled by these elites, so I am sure they were receptive to his message filtered through their ambitions toward us benighted souls. The UN attitude has been straight out of the excellent book by Thomas Sowell, THE VISION OF THE ANOINTED. Whether in Washington D.C. or Brussels there will always be those who conceive of themselves as the anointed ones, our “betters” who will decide FOR us and ABOUT us. So it has always been and always shall be. There indeed is nothing new under the sun.

    By the time His Holiness gets around to visiting the U.S., there will probably be precious little to redistribute. We Americans are living on borrowed bucks and borrowed time, bits of paper, mere IOU’s underwriting pyramid schemes and pie-in-the sky public pensions. And with the soul crushing regulations of this administration, trillions of dollars more in social spending and its hostile attitude to anyone exhibiting entrepreneurial spirit, it won’t be long now before we ARE the third world.

    Priests, ministers, rabbis and laity could have done a lot to fight poverty in the USA over the past 40 years if they had been willing to push back against the sexual revolution which has left us poor in spirit and so many poor fatherless children straining all our public resources. Too late now. We are nearing the tipping point if not already past it.

  48. Markus says:

    Interesting because the structure of the Church is based, somewhat, on a Democratic Socialistic system, especially the Orders such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, and even the College of Cardinals. That is the only system “they” know. Look at the statistics, globally. Socialism kills religion. Even in the near past, lay Catholic communities tried it and it failed. The Pilgrims to the US tried it and it failed. The Jesuits tried it in South America, after the conquest, and it failed.
    I just do not understand why this redistribution is such a priority for Pope Francis, especially now with other pressing problems, in the world. Attendance at Mass is down in the US (and Europe)-contributions are down-Catholic education is a wreck-“catholic” politicians are running amuck…

  49. Suburbanbanshee says:

    James C — If you were a German or someone from big chunks of Europe, you’d think of democratic socialism as the Catholic party (as opposed to Communism, National Socialism, etc.).
    This is one of those weird things about Europe that you have to keep in mind.

    Re: Zacchaeus, I always understood that he was saying, “Behold, Lord, I’m so inspired that right as of this minute I give half my stuff to the poor,” as opposed to “I have previously been giving half my stuff to the poor, please give me another assignment like you gave that rich young man.”

  50. mrshopey says:

    When you take away the right of people to give themselves and put it on the state, it is a tax. We have been doing it here with the multiplication of interests to help poor with our tax dollar, paid for by us.
    We give to the Church and pay our taxes. The Church in turn does its necessary exercise of helping the poor, widowed, etc. When the two are confused, we get the horrible mess we have now with many people upset and us, Catholics, having to be party of things contrary to our faith.
    It will only work in a Catholic Country. No, it would only work in a GOOD Catholic Country.
    Otherwise, people can say to Fr they gave, meaning to the Church, before they left work. It doesn’t work well. People need to be able to GIVE on their own because sometimes it is more, sometimes it needs to be less. But in almost all cases, the govt doesn’t need to be involved in this.
    Is this where all our vocations and sisters went? To the multiplication of govt interest groups? Let’s tell him how economical it is for the govt to do ANYTHING!

  51. gatormom says:

    This is Communism.

  52. Peter in Canberra says:

    With respect, there is more than one model of government and social organisation than the one practised and espoused in the USA. Indeed many of us from other countries consider ours more just and compassionate than yours.

  53. Joe in Canada says:

    “Benefits of progress” probably does not mean internet, cable tv, and so on: it probably means clean accessible drinking water, schooling and vaccines for children, protection of the elderly from starvation,and other such things as we take for granted.

    I wonder what a government “of the people, for the people, and by the people” would look like if all the people were like Zacchaeus. Maybe that’s what the Pope’s thinking about.

  54. Kathleen10 says:

    I don’t know, Fr. Martin Fox, it seems like an exceedingly generous interpretation, but I hope that you were right. I think Fr. Z. has it 100% on this one. The speech is totally slanted to the left, and I feel uncomfortable with the Holy Father basically promoting socialism. I agree with the post that said Pres. Obama is going to use this to continue his re-distribution march, and Americans have much to concern them about what that is going to mean in this “Year of Action”, as BO calls it.
    The Holy Father has made his priorities clear. But, there is a virtual genocide being committed by Muslims against Christians all over the world and especially in the middle east, poor young girls are being held prisoner in Nigeria and God knows what they are suffering, and the U.N. has the recent audacity to accuse the church of wrongdoing, yet here we are hearing about material possessions and getting that “wealth” and material comfort out of the hands of the wealthy into the hands of the poor. It seems like such a colossal reality mismatch.

  55. Lin says:

    I also had a troubling feeling when Pope Benedict resigned! Our progressive pastor rejoiced! I had no idea who Pope Francis was but when they announced he was a Jesuit,, the troubled feeling continued. Our progressive pastor was elated! I wish our pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, and religious would teach us our faith. If we only new our faith, the rest would follow!!! Catechesis, catechesis, catechesis! Every week, we are subjected to social justice sermons and the evils of the corporation. Much prayer and fasting is required!

  56. Gail F says:

    I thought he just meant that to help the poor requires governments using their legitimate tax/spend power or power to distribute international donations (as opposed to illegitimately seizing money and property) as well as donations and generosity from individuals. As we said when I was young: DUH.

  57. Kerry says:

    When the state takes tax money and gives it, courtesy of the Dept. of Energy to particular companies who then go out of business, because the market for solar panels is saturated, and costs are low, or their great idea for wind powered submarines just doesn’t quite fly, (to slosh the metaphor), why does the state get to take a cut? Shouldn’t the state have to pay everyone back when the bird-choppers, er, uh, windmills careen into the ground in flames? Without justice, what is the state but a band of robbers? I think Augustine said that. If I own more bullets than Father Z., does someone get to take mine away from me, and pass them out? And if so, why? This quote from Centisimus Annus hangs on my shop wall: “…fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears…”
    I’ll keep my hollow points thank you.

  58. iowapapist says:

    Two observations:
    1. Pope Francis is a Jesuit, not a Franciscan;
    2. According to Pope Pius XI “No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist”,

  59. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    St. Luke 19: 2-10:


    Which use of ‘iam’ do you have in mind: with the present as present, or with (a sense of) the future?


    I have also heard/encountered verse 8 preached/translated in a future sense, and experienced that as a novelty.

    But, o true classicists, what are the possibilities and certainties in verse 8?

    Can St. Jerome’s Latin ‘do’ and St. Luke’s Greek ‘didomi’ which it translates have a consuetudinal sense (something like ‘I am already always customarily giving’), and/or a future sense, and/or a sense indicating that he has decided and announced at this instance the intention of doing it?

    And how can or must verses 9-10 be read? What, for instance, is that ‘hodie’ translating ‘semeron’ doing and saying, there?

  60. kiwiinamerica says:

    Catholic word of the day……….S-U-B-S-D-I-A-R-I-T-Y!!

  61. vandalia says:

    Is efficiency desirable? Is the goal to pick the system that maximizes wealth? That seems awfully close to the argument proposed by those who advocate for conception and abortion.

    The Traditional teaching of the Church on these matters is clear. The “Protestant Work Ethic” is called that because it is protestant – that is, NOT Catholic. In fact, Catholic Tradition – from the time of, and before, the Council of Trent – has prohibited innovation and economic efficiency. Under the “Golden Age” of the Church in Europe, she specifically, forbade any innovation in economic matters. Artisans were specifically forbidden from working later, or working more efficiently. Commerce was regulated to extinction.

    If you want to think with the Church, and accept the Tradition of the Church, you must accept her historic teaching on the nature of the economy, and not be influenced by the “modernism” that has come out on economic matters over the last 100 years.

  62. JMody says:

    The Church used to speak clearly that the right to property was part of man’s dignity — part of being in God’s image was the urge and the desire and the RIGHT to manipulate matter, things, stuff. One of the many MANY evils that the Church used to list quite clearly as a constituent element of communism/socialism was the denial of property rights, which really amounts to theft.
    For some reason, we quit speaking clearly and consistently about these things many years ago, and although St. JP2 and B16 did mention it occasionally, it obviously didn’t undo years and years of erroneous formation in the minds of many of the faithful. It seems to me that the Holy Father Francis has spent too much time around these people and has adopted their manner of speech. High-profile, ex-magazine-publishing-clergy notwithstanding, I simply refuse to believe that the first Jesuit pope was in fact poorly formed or educated.

  63. JMody says:

    James C – that’s certainly not ALL he had to say about democratic socialism. Popes such as St Pius X and Bl Pius XI commented that socialists and communists do share, at least superficially/materially, many of the Church’s goals. But always at a price, and the price is always too high.

  64. Joe Hebert says:

    “A contribution . . . will also be made . . . by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.” This is faint praise if I ever heard it. “The state” here ranks as an “also.” “Legitimate” is indeed a significant qualifier. In Catholic Social Doctrine, the state serves a legitimate function, when it sticks to serving (not supplanting) civil society.

  65. Sword40 says:

    Seems our Holy Father has a taste for “shoe leather”. If somebody takes from another, without the consent of the other and does this with the threat of force, its called theft. This holds true even if the “taker” is the govt.

  66. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    No one else has said it so I will: Margaret Thatcher famously remarked: “The trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” Everyone, including popes, should avoid facile references to “redistribution,” whether of wealth, economic benefits, or whatever. The pope should spend his time calling for rule of law, transparency in government, property rights, strong independent judiciaries, enforcement of contract, and other prerequisites for economic growth. These are not mysteries. That’s the real justice.

  67. Geoffrey says:

    “With respect, there is more than one model of government and social organisation than the one practised and espoused in the USA. Indeed many of us from other countries consider ours more just and compassionate than yours.”

    Well said!

  68. John654 says:

    Tell me when the Holy Father says something Ex Cathedra and I’ll pay attention. Until them I’ve come to a point where I’ll just tune him out. If the government is coercing me how can I give charitably ? B16 where are you?

  69. Gratias says:

    Pope Francis is bringing Peronismo to a world stage. Google “Bergoglio Peronista” and it will be clear if you read Spanish that he was a long-time Peronista, as incredibly are the majority of Argentinians. The demagogy of Peronism, which is what Pope Francis may have in mind, destroyed Argentina and morphed into a totalitarian regime that burned many Catholic Churches (yes, really).

    Saint John Paul destroyed Soviet Communism, while Saint John 23 protected Communism during V2 so that the greatest evil in the history of mankind would be not criticized by his aggiornamento. Pope Francis is now promoting Marxist ideology at a time when it was already achieving world dominance on its own (US, France, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua). For the Catholic Church to advocate redistribution of wealth to President Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Masonic mainstream media is like bringing coals to Newcastle.

    The Papal pronouncements on redistribution, on trickle-down economics, and on homosexual judgement will not go away. They will define this pontificate. Once words are out of one’ s mouth they remain forever in the public domain.

    The lighting bolt that struck St. Peter’s Dome the day Pope Benedict XVI abdicated may have been a sign from God.

  70. av8er says:

    Woke up overseas to see Sean Hannity take on this story on AFN (Armed Forces Network). Hannity, a Catholic, makes a mess of his analysis. I thought “If I was a lukewarm catholic, I’d be p-o’d.” Donahue, the leader of the Catholic League, gave a weak-descent defense, the former Miss America gave the best points near the end.

    As always, I’m glad that there is this blog find true Catholic explanation/observation.

  71. Chrissin says:

    YIKES!! I can’t take it anymore. I read this, as well as other things from Pope Francis, and I don’t have a clue what he is talking about!! Some of those sentences don’t say anything. If I didn’t know the Pope said/wrote this, I would never guess it was other than a politician. I did get the gist of it- the poor, the poor, the poor. Governments, states, some global authority or entity must give to the poor and forgotten, and it needs to be taken from those who have too much. Urging them, not inspiring them. Also praising them! After they just beat up the Vatican claiming the sex abuse of children by priests amounts to torture. Despite the Gospel story- I didn’t sense anything truly Catholic, anything holy, anything inspiring. Is this what being Catholic means now- focus on ministering to the poor? And this imperative is not so much for the individual- it is for governments & agencies (like the UN & their subsets). I just don’t get it- very problematic.
    I agree with gatormom- This is Communism.
    And I agree with Kiwi- where is SUBSIDIARITY?
    I wish I could ho hum and yawn. I feel incredibly oppressed by this.
    And, yes, like Ant-Relativist, I wish Fr Sirica and Pope Francis would have a ‘dialogue’. (Haha)
    I am thinking of the poor horse in Animal Farm, the only truly sincere and selfless character, who worked himself to death for ‘the common good’. Needlessly.

  72. Priam1184 says:

    @Phil_NL: That is the impression I’m getting too, that some pronouncement on climate change is coming out. With all of the real and social ills of our contemporary world that are stampeding that same world toward the gates of Hell the things that concern the Vatican establishment absolutely baffle me. Lampedusa and climate change. When will they wake up?

  73. Amateur Scholastic says:

    Ttony: the imposition of inheritance taxes in the UK was a dreadful thing. It destroyed the independent middle class: the people who had time to think, and write books, and act charitably, and be magistrates, and get involved in local and national government, all the while being beholden to nothing but their conscience. These were the people who had the education, the ability and the independence to question things, and the time to do something about it. Most of the great Catholic authors of the L19C and E20C were from this social group. They were a very difficult group to control and bully, which is why the state was so keen to destroy them.

    The tax didn’t touch the super rich (apart from some aristocrats, who were already a minority of the ‘rich’ by the mid 20C), who could, and can, find ways to avoid it.

    The imposition of inheritance tax was Marxist, through and through. It is a wicked, wicked tax.

    (For those who don’t know, any estate is taxed on death at 40%, with a starting point of GBP 350k (about USD 550k). That is about the value of a small two-bed townhouse in London, or a medium-sized family home elsewhere in the country. Also, any gifts made by the deceased seven years before death are counted as part of the estate. Many middle-class families have to sell their family home in order to pay it.)

  74. incredulous says:

    Having done volunteer work in Southern Africa immediately after the Rhodesian war ended, I worked with many well educated Marxists from Zimbabwe. They repeated the marxist tripe over and over again that “if you have two pair of shoes and your neighbor has none, then you are a criminal.” I despise Marxism with a passion. The root of Marxism and redistributionism is simply this: “they want your stuff.”

    Why doesn’t the Pope or any of these liberation theologists ever refer to the Decalogue? “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

    You shall not covet your neighbor’s bank account, wages, house, car, shoes, health insurance, his balanced budget, etc. If using the proven lethal, murderous, unthinking, easily corrupted force of government to take away somebody’s wages or property is not the ultimate manifestation of covetousness, then what is it?

  75. Hugh says:

    templariidvm @ 5.32 pm, thanks – you’ve given me the chance to share my own pithy take on that saying which reflects the excellent observations in your post :

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
    Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
    Get the government off the back of the fishing industry and he and his mates will have a lucrative fishing export business up and running in about six months.

  76. robtbrown says:


    1. No matter what the economic system is, there are still moral lines that cannot be crossed. For example, slavery was of great economic advantage to the Old South. And, as we all learned by the time we were out of high school, it was dying out until the 1793 appearance of Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin.

    2. I know of no Catholic teaching that refers to the Protestant Work Ethic. The Church’s objection has usually been based on the error of the Absolute Right to Property.

    3. It is no secret that when the Church addresses economic issues, darkness falls. That is because it is usually based on a zero sum understanding of wealth–no one acquires wealth without it being taken from someone else.

    4. And so it wasn’t until JPII’s Centesimus Annus that the poverty found in certain nations was blamed on lack of Production, rather than Distribution.

  77. robtbrown says:

    James C says:

    I was just reading a 2004 book co-authored by Cardinal Ratzigner (“Without Roots”), and on page 72 Cardinal Ratzinger writes:

    “In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine, and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”

    What he fails to mention is that the growth of Democratic Socialism in Europe the past 70 years has only been possible because one nation has been willing to foot the bill to keep the peace. Even in its own sphere, it’s no secret that Western Europe was little else than a bystander during the Bosnian War.

    Further, the improvement in production of goods, which includes the practice of medicine, has happened because of technology, which comes from a nation without democratic socialism.

  78. The Masked Chicken says:

    This might be hard, but I have to say it. Pope Francis is quite wrong in his analysis of Luke 19. [I agree that he is not quite on base with his use of Luke, but not for the reason you bring up below.] I went back and checked the original Greek, just be sure. The verbs used, didomi = I give, as well as the follow-up verb, apodidomi = I restore, are both in the present, active, indicative forms – I give and I restore, respectively. This is reinforced later, when Jesus says, “since he is also a son of Abraham,” where, eimi = is, is the present, active, indicative form of the verb, to be. This strange use of the future tense, the so-called, future-present, is found nowhere else in Scripture except in this passage. This is an almost sure sign that the translation has been altered for teaching purposes.

    There was no conversion of Zaccheus. [ummm… no, not quite. The Greek “present” isn’t quite strictly a present in this passage.] He already was converted. Venerator Sti Lot is correct, above, that the sense is entirely of a present tense encounter. Zaccheus is already a son of Abraham, but the people around him refuse to admit it because he is a tax collector. Jesus never said that one could not be a tax collector, as long as one were honest, which Zaccheus was. That was the message Jesus was trying to make and it would have gone a long way if the Pope had made the same message: that corrupt governments must clean up their act and have true solicitude for the poor. The word for poor used in Luke 19, by the way, does not lend itself to the notion of wealth re-distribution, since the word used is ptochos, which has the sense of being truly destitute, not merely the working poor, which would be penes. Ptochos is used in the Beatitudes in Mt. 5, so this use in Luke 19 harkens back to that, further reinforcing why Zaccheus is a son of Abraham – because he has care for the destitute. Wealth re-distribution is between the rich and the poor, not the destitute. It is easy for countries to move money around so that it is better distributed, but what if you have no pockets to even hold the money?

    I cannot comment on the economic aspects of the talk, except to say that DisturbedMary’s quotation of St. Maximilian Kolbe echoes some things that St. Augustine also said about distributing money equally. It can’t be done because this assumes all needs are equal.

    I will end by saying that even some Protestants realize the mistake in the use of Zaccheus as a conversion story. Here is, in part, what Dr. Jim Somerville, a Baptist, had to say about Luke 19:8 (I am indebted to him for clarifying the verb tense, since Thayer is unclear on the subject):

    “Usually, I trust the New Revised Standard Version. It’s a very faithful translation of the original languages of the Bible. And although I appreciate the Message—Eugene Peterson’s lively paraphrase—it is a paraphrase, not a translation. He is trying to bring those ancient words to life in fresh and interesting ways and sometimes he seems to try a little too hard, pushing the limits of his poetic license. But he is not only a poet, he is also a scholar. He works from the original languages—Hebrew and Greek—and in this case he seems to be willing to see what everyone else chooses to ignore:

    These verbs are in the present tense. [I don’t think it is quite so simple as that here, but I am adding this on my phone on a plane.]

    Zacchaeus doesn’t say, “I will give half my money to the poor,” he says, “I [do, already] give half my money to the poor.” And he doesn’t say, “If I cheat anyone, I will pay them back four times over,” he implies that this is his custom: “If I cheat anyone I pay them back four times over.” The first verb is didomi, in the present, active, indicative form. It means “I give.” The second verb is apodidomi, and it is also in the present, active, indicative form. It means, “I give back.” It’s as clear as can be. But the translators of this passage want so much for it to be a conversion story, in which Zacchaeus encounters Jesus and becomes a changed man, that they have converted the verbs, changed them from the present to the future tense. And even the ones who don’t have created a special, hybrid category for the verbs in this verse: they call them “future-present,” as if Zacchaeus were saying, “From this moment on I give half my money to the poor.” In his big two-volume commentary on Luke Joseph Fitzmyer says, “The present tense didomi is to be taken as expressive of customary action. There is no need to understand it as a futurist present.”[ii] And David Lose has pointed out that the only example of the so-called “future-present” in the entire New Testament is this one in Luke 19:8, leading him to suspect that some scholars are letting the traditional reading of this story affect their translation, instead of letting the translation affect their reading.[iii]”

    You can read his entire discussion, here:


    The Chicken

  79. Kathleen10 says:

    Without wishing to be prickly, I am detecting a sense of criticism toward Americans in comments here. There are comments that state or insinuate that Americans “don’t want to care for our poor” as well as the UK, or that some country has a more “just and compassionate” economic policy than the US does. I take issue with that, and ask that we all refrain from taking crack shots at other countries here. We’ve all got ammunition for it, but in the spirit of being visitors to a Catholic blog, we ought really restrain ourselves. As an offering for consideration, let me just say, the generosity of the American people to our own people and most definitely to countries and people of other lands is obvious and historic. We are taxed at an unbelievable rate in the US, much of what we earn goes to provide care for millions in our country already. On top of that, Americans give very generously to agencies that provide additional supports and help. We take care of our poor, and our poor enjoy a standard of living the poor of other countries would envy. Without much trouble one obtains shelter, food, cash, and few Americans do not have items such as televisions, cell phones, etc., including our “poor”. There is also a huge amount of fraud in this area, with millions taking advantage of the giveaway system we currently employ, that has no work incentive at all. Millions would rather take advantage of that then have to expend the effort to be trained and find employment.

  80. Vecchio di Londra says:

    I’m just imagining the audience of UN Representatives. This is the 1% social elite of their country, favoured and allocated their diplomatic posting by their relatives and political cronies at home. They get their extremely well-heeled living, lavish expenses and vast pensions from the taxpayers, not only of their own countries but (if they are from developing countries) from the poor, struggling, low-pensioned taxpayers of western countries passed on as ‘international aid’. Then someone stands up and tells them solemnly that there must be more redistribution of wealth. To them, that doesn’t mean they should go out and give away their income to beggars; it means they should increase pressure on western countries to give more aid – which can then be siphoned off for Mercedes ministerial cars and private villas, and bank accounts in Switzerland and Andorra.

    It must make them giggle a bit – the ones with a sense of humour, anyway. Particularly if they know that there is no personal tax system in the Vatican State, whose representative is addressing them.

  81. Pastor Bonus says:

    Emphasis perhaps on what constitutes a ‘legitimate’ redistribution of economic benefits by the state. This is surely, like most political and economic questions a matter of prudential judgement and therefore not a correct area for definition by the magisterium. In other words Catholics may legitimately differ on what constitutes ‘legitianfe’ in this area.

  82. Tamquam says:

    The closest I have seen to a successful and equitable redistribution of wealth by the State is the Interstate Highway system in the US. It is, I think, the exception that proves the rule: State managed confiscation and redistribution is always and everywhere a disaster.

    In contrast, there was a time when the US boasted a network of 600 Catholic hospitals which provided services to all comers regardless of their ability to pay. It was entirely funded by charitable donations and their own receipts. It is gone, now, alas, and I don’t really know why.

  83. Magpie says:

    Amateur scholastic: in the UK, death duty of 40% is applied to the amount over the threshold of £325,000, NOT to the entire estate. Big difference.

  84. Joe in Canada says:

    Just because Marxists say something doesn’t make the something bad. St John the Baptist said “if you have 2 shirts, give one to the poor”; St John Chrysostom said “Not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth, but theirs.”

  85. bookworm says:

    “slavery was of great economic advantage to the Old South. And, as we all learned by the time we were out of high school, it was dying out until the 1793 appearance of Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin.”

    I would say that the Pill did for abortion what the cotton gin did for slavery. It might seem counterintuitive in both cases — one would think that a device which decreased the labor intensity of cotton processing would mean LESS demand for slaves; likewise, one would think that a relatively easy/reliable method of preventing pregnancy would decrease demand for abortion. Instead they did just the opposite. The cotton gin made cotton growing more lucrative, thereby increasing demand for slaves, and ultimately, demand for the expansion of slavery into new territories. The Pill, meanwhile, made possible the sexual revolution and a way of life in which the ability to have sex without having children was expected, and made people more willing to consider abortion when contraception failed.

    Because of the cotton gin and the rise of King Cotton, Southerners (and not a few Northerners as well) went from merely accepting slavery as a necessary evil that would, hopefully, someday go away to promoting it as a good thing — just as, because of the Pill, abortion has gone from being a “necessary evil” tolerated for really hard cases to “safe, legal and rare” to being celebrated as a great thing.

  86. Tom in NY says:

    In discussion of Luke ch. 19:
    Latin do, reddo, facta est line up in the same tenses as their Greek originals. In verse 19:5, γαρ lines up with nam in my Vatican.va Vulgate. In Goodwin and Gluck, Greek Grammar sec. 1253, “The present often expresses a customary or repeated action in present time.”
    Now, does Luke want to indicate that Zaccheus changed his ways? After all, Zaccheus was a contract tax collector, agent of Imperial Rome. Perhaps he used soldiers to help him in his work in making a profit above the quota which he had bid. Perhaps we could slavishly translate v. 9, “Today salvation was unto this house….”. If Luke and Jerome wanted to use the imperfect, it was available to them.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  87. Sue in soCal says:

    Rather than gripe on a blog site, I wrote the Holy Father instead. My letter below. I hope it is not too long to post.
    His Holiness, Pope Francis PP.
    00120 Via del Pellegrino
    Citta del Vaticano

    Dear Holy Father,

    You said in your recent address to the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination,
    “A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.”

    My question is what does “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State” mean? Besides the confusion among the faithful, many will consider this legitimizing socialist-style redistribution of wealth, where the state seizes earnings and property from those who have and gives what is, in effect, a small part back to those who don’t have while growing more bureaucracies and crony capitalist connections. And how does this “legitimate redistribution” conform to Church teaching of the right to own property and free will? In your example of Zaccheus, Zaccheus gives half of his income to the poor and promises four times the restitution to those he has cheated OF HIS OWN FREE WILL. How is this an example of the state “giving” to the poor?

    Government is the most expensive and least efficient means to deliver anything, whether it be benefits or services. Human experience and history has taught us that growing government bigger results in fewer freedoms, less economic vigor, and the diminishing of religious liberty. I think you need to be clear in what you mean when you make such statements instead of using vague generalities because the wolf is always at the door waiting for an opening and he will certainly run with this.

    You are in my prayers daily, Holy Father.

    Together with you in Christ,


  88. Jim Dorchak says:

    I am still waiting for the Pope to speak out about sin, salvation. confession, and how to keep souls out of hell, you know things not of this world!

    Does anyone know when we will be hearing about these issues? I am sure he has some good stuff on these issues?

    I would think that since the Pope is in the Soul business that this is what he should be talking about but I may be wrong? Also I have already heard that Jesus loves me, that I should (and do) love him, that I should love my neighbor. I have been hearing only about the former since about 1970.

  89. Kathleen:

    It may be my interpretation of the pope’s remarks are “generous,” but I’m focusing on what he actually said, rather than on what may or may not be in his head or heart. And what he referred to, notably, was redistribution of “economic benefits.” That strikes me as very deliberate wording, and a deliberate avoidance of the more familiar, “…of wealth.”

    In any case, if I can satisfy the pope’s call for the state to assist in redistributing “economic benefits,” while being true to small government principles, that solves any problem of conscience for me.

  90. Patti Day says:

    Sue In southern Cal: Hope you added your phone number.

  91. Lori Pieper says:

    For those who are saying that Zacchaeus didn’t undergo a conversion – exactly what are you going to do with vv. 9-10: “Today salvation has come to this house . . . For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost”? If Zacchaeus was not saved, then who was? And from what? Who was lost? In other words, how could this not be a conversion story?

    I really don’t buy Dr. Somerville’s lame explanation that it was just the healing of a big misunderstanding, that people just didn’t recognize what a great guy Zacchaeus was. (This sounds almost like the famous explanation of the miracle of the loaves and fishes: “Jesus taught them to share!”)

    As for the mystery of the verb tenses, perhaps there is a solution somewhere in the original Aramaic or Hebrew that lies behind the passage. But this mystery should not lead us to reject the story’s obvious meaning. We have to take Jesus’ statement that Zacchaeus was a lost sheep seriously.

  92. slainewe says:

    @Lori Pieper

    A man can be generous and ethical and still be lost if he does it for himself and not Christ. I still see the passage as a conversion story: “salvation” being Jesus Himself come to perfect the actions of Zacchaeus.

  93. BLB Oregon says:

    I think we have to remember that there are places where “free” markets mean the freedom to put workers over a barrel and essentially make them the slaves of the employer. There are people out there who are skewing the balance between capital and labor in ways that are not fair. Communism, by taking away the ability for someone owning capital to claim some of the rewards of an economic venture, is unjust. Capitalism of the sort that rewards the persons venturing capital all out of proportion to those who ventured the work is also unjust. The just situation balances the rewards to each. Likewise, the prophets reminded Israel that justice does not allow the poor, the widowed, and the stranger to go without. Justice requires that those with something see to the needs of those who lack necessities. Those who have good economic fortune do have a responsibility before God to see to those who are less fortunate. This is what we believe. Our job is to make sure the words of the prophets are not twisted beyond that into the opposite injustice.

  94. Magpie says:

    Lori Pieper: Agreed. I always thought it was a conversion story too, not a misunderstanding about this all-round great guy.

  95. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Maybe there is a slightly different way to look at it than seeing a major conversion on the part of Zacchaeus. Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham, for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.” He is not saying that Zacchaeus was a particularly egregious sinner; he is saying that he is just like everyone else in the crowd, a son of Abraham, their common claim to God’s favor. Jesus has said that his mission is to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” So he is telling the crowd that they have been wrong to ostracize Zacchaeus as a tax collector because he is one of them in the most important way and so has received the salvation that is also being offered to them. They (and we) all need conversion and we all need to avoid deciding who else is eligible.

    The problem with the Pharisees and many others was that they didn’t think they needed conversion and salvation. Jesus is saying that even those who are living a virtuous life, as Zacchaeus was trying to do, are still in need of the saving grace that Jesus brings because it is qualitatively different from what was available under the Law and the Covenant of Moses.

  96. tioedong says:

    Father, the west reads this and thinks: Socialism and let the middle class pay for folks not willing to work.
    But in the third world, this makes sense. Our politicians here in the Philippines take bribes to let illegal loggers and miners destroy the environment, and then accept bribes from green organizations to push global warming agenda and from the US to insist the problem is population control and no abortion for poor people. And yes, the Pope mentioned this in his speech, but it didn’t get noticed in the US press.
    Here in the Philippines, most of the oligarchy are “good catholics”…and are eager to get photo ops to prove it.
    Ironically, it is the Protestants who teach basic honesty and morality, and they are getting more and more converts among the growing middle class because of this.

  97. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Jim Dorchak: Pope Francis talks about Confession, the devil, and saving souls all the time. If you find vatican.va hard to navigate, consult “The Daily Francis” at JimmyAkin.org or the Curt Jester.

    Of course the news media don’t report that part. Would you expect them to?

  98. Like Bishop Fulton Sheen once said: ‘by professionalizing charity, and you remove the true act and meaning of charity.’

  99. BLB Oregon says:

    “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not be so thorough that you reap the field to its very edge, nor shall you glean the stray ears of grain. Likewise, you shall not pick your vineyard bare, nor gather up the grapes that have fallen. These things you shall leave for the poor and the alien. I, the LORD, am your God.” Lev. 19:9-10

    When we speak of charity, let us not forget that to see to the needs of the poor is not largess, but justice. Those who are blessed with capital may not expect before Heaven that every seed their wealth brings forth “belongs” to them. That is not in the plain meaning of the Holy Scriptures anywhere. Personal property, yes. Personal property with no responsibility to see to those who are in need, no. Employers who have more than their employees, yes. Employers who shortchange in the wages they pay, no. Will Heaven not listen to the outcry against the person who gets fat while his or her workers barely scrape by? Heaven will not be deaf. Charity, then, is to be seen as the just debt of gratitude required from those who are fortunate. Nowhere is it said that there may not be rich people, but everywhere are the rich warned that there will be retribution against the greedy.

    That is not to say that there is no limit what the law can justly extract from those who have worked hard and been fortunate. It is to say that making some contribution to see to the needs of others is not optional, something to be done when the whim to be generous hits. “Charity” is not response to a request by righteousness, but a demand of righteousness, that is what I mean.

    I would not bother to point this out, but I have been surprised how often fellow Catholics do not get this point. How it can be missed by someone who reads the Bible or the social justice encyclicals, I do not know, but the point is sometimes missed.

  100. ordinary means says:

    Sorry you are 6 months late to the party Ann Barnhardt called it in November. I hope we are mature enough to read her position without having a nutty. This is not my position as I am not that informed but I did remember reading it and was sadly not surprised by the headline.
    This entry was posted in Uncategorized on November 28, ARSH 2013 by Ann Barnhardt.
    False premise #3: Pope Francis is politically conservative or completely non-political.
    TRUE premise: Pope Francis is a Peronist-Fascist which is a particular subset of Marxism in South America that believes that the state should control the economy and redistribute wealth.
    Being that he is not terribly intelligent, he does not understand or have figured out that all political agitation for state-driven, forced coercion of “redistribution of wealth” has NOTHING to do with helping the poor and EVERYTHING to do with consolidating wealth and power among a cadre of oligarchs precisely by creating and then looting a massive underclass. Lenin called these people who actually believe that Marxism genuinely cares about the poor, “useful idiots”. Trapped by his own misguided belief that the poor are somehow INTRINSICALLY SPIRITUALLY SUPERIOR, when he sees the inevitable results of Marxism, namely the proliferation and spread of material poverty throughout a culture, he reconciles it in his own mind by canonizing the underclass and telling himself that they are spiritually “better off” for being materially poor. This is not a malevolent position, but it is a deeply stupid position.

  101. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think that the conceptual difficulty here lies the fact that what the Pope and others are talking about is not charity. It is the concept of justice. In this country the working poor includes not just people earning minimum wage, currently pegged in my state at $7.25/hr but also those earning less than $12.00/hr, which translates to a gross pay of $480/wk. The rule of thumb for budgeting for housing is a week’s salary. The average rent for an apartment here is $862 or almost double this. Add to this the average cost of groceries at about $111/week plus $159/mo for electricity and gas service and you have $455/mo to cover everything beyond basic human needs. To have a job requires a means to contact an employer or to be contacted by the employer – this requires telephone service which is about $60/mo (Vonage and the other internet services aren’t an option since they require DSL, fiber optic to cable internet service which is about $49/mo). This brings the available amount down to $395/mo. Transportation costs to get to work using a monthly transit pass come to $91/mo, leaving $304. We haven’t yet addressed the cost of clothing, buying or maintaing them (the average load costs $1.25 to wash and probably between $1.00 and $1.25 to dry at a laundromat or the machines in the apartment complex’s basement). A family of four probably does an average of 5-6 loads of wash per week or a cost of $13.50 per week or another $54/mo. So that bring available money for other needs (healthcare, savings for emergencies to give two examples) to $254 for the month.

    Assuming both parents are working at the same pay grade the second parent’s salary is largely dedicated to the cost of child care.

    An increase in wages for the lowest earning workers is not charity, it’s justice. If that calls for those at the top earning a little less I’m not aggrieved.

  102. incredulous says:

    @Joe, name me a good Marxist. Demonstrate a good Marxist implementation. I’ll give you one near and dear to my heart. Robert Mugabe is a well educated man in the finest Catholic tradition. He was born to two devout Roman Catholic parents. He studied under Marists and …. Jesuits and was taken under the wing of an Irish priest. It was said that Mugabe would implement “Marxism with Compassion” according to his Catholic underpinnings.

    Let’s just say I agree with the many commentators here that the Catholic Church has a very poor understanding of economics and in fact Mugabe’s economic system produced the absurdity of a trillion dollar note that was worth about $0.50 when the worthless currency was abandoned and replaced with the USD in 2009. Given that in 1986, three years after independence, the black marked traded $1 USD for $10 zim dollars, that’s an incredible testimony to the ridiculous absurdity of Marxism as a political and financial system.

    One could laugh at it and mock it all day long if it weren’t so murderous and caused so much pain and suffering to the people of Zimbabwe. Probably having your 13 year old daughter raped in front of you by some 40 year old “freedom fighter veteran” before having your ears or limbs cut off is what that murderous regime did on a good day. Opening fire with live ammunition on protesting college students was soup de jur too. (I thought only the racists whites in South Africa did that to blacks. The leftist news didn’t tell me that a murderous, North Korean backed black Marxist/Catholic trained regime was firing live ammo on black college kids.)

    Rome should study to death the impact IT had on the devastation in Zimbabwe and modernize it’s view of economics and which systems provide the greatest good for the greatest number. Only a lunatic or a liar would claim that Marxism works. With all the money and the universities that are Catholic to fully study this, one would think that economic TRUTH would be apparent and promoted by the Pope.

  103. slainewe says:

    Absit invidia says:
    “Like Bishop Fulton Sheen once said: ‘by professionalizing charity, and you remove the true act and meaning of charity.’”

    This is the essential point missing from this discussion: taxation is not almsgiving, and it is almsgiving, not taxation, that “covers a multitude of sins.”

    How can a nation that has legalized all the sins that cry out to God for justice escape His wrath without charity?

  104. wmeyer says:

    Among the many other problems with redistribution of wealth is the reality that as a “solution” is is a shibboleth. There are not sufficient monies in the hands of the relatively few “rich” to eliminate poverty among the innumerable poor.

    As has been said above, spreading capitalism offers a greater hope for the industrious to raise themselves out of poverty. And the STATE (witness now the last 50+ years in the US) has ably demonstrated that it can and will take from everyone above the poverty line while accomplishing no reduction to poverty whatever.

  105. ordinary means says:

    Pope Francis’ comments don’t seem in keeping with the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity. The level of centralization required to redistribute wealth would seem to be the antithetical to the very idea.

  106. Lori Pieper says:

    Well, Zacchaeus pretty much admits he’s defrauded people (very frequent with tax collectors in those days – it was apparently an easy source of rakeoff income). I suppose the new interpretation might work if he’s talking about a recent conversion he’s had – “I have now started giving away half my income and making amends to the people I’ve defrauded. . . ” But there’s still a lot we’re not being told. For, it’s pretty clear from Luke says that Jesus has gone with Zacchaeus to his house by the time they’re having this part of the conversation (he “received” Jesus and people were saying “he’s gone to a sinner’s house”) so perhaps we can assume they’re alone for a while, then Zacchaeus comes out and makes his pronouncement, and Jesus says “today salvation has come to this house.” At least this is how I’ve always imagined it. So what did they say to each other when they’re alone? Or were the people there for all of it?

  107. BLB Oregon says:

    Our Holy Father is from South America, and he speaks to over a billion Catholics, including Catholics who live in countries where the treatment of the poor is substantially different than in some other countries. The injustices being tolerated, even by Catholics, because the law has not made the injustice literally criminal surely differ in kind and degree from one country and one particular political climate to another, just as they do from one Catholic to another. The Pope can speak out to us against abortion without implying materialism is OK, and vice versa. Just so, the Pope cannot issue an address to the UN that both covers all of the injustices that deserve mention, let alone one that makes the distinction how each country needs to improve the justice of its economic situation.

  108. Pingback: PopeWatch: Zacchaeus | The American Catholic

  109. The Masked Chicken says:

    Fr Z., I will go back and study the Zaccheus passage further. With regards to the section: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham, for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost,” the sense is a little complex, in that it communicates several things, at once. This passage could be rearranged as follows: “Because this man too is a son of Abraham, today salvation has come to this house, for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.” This seems to be a statement of inclusion in the salvation process, not merely a statement of conversion. Christ came to save, first of all, the Jews. All were considered lost until they, even remotely, came to know and follow him. Zaccheus, by virtue of being a tax collector was seen as an enemy of the Jews, at least politically, so it would have been unclear to some that he had a right to be included in the salvation of the Jews.

    This is not to exclude the possibility of Zaccheus being converted at the sight of Jesus, although no other passage in Scripture of which I am aware indicates that people were converted merely at the sight of Jesus, but only after some sort of encounter with his message. This would imply, if this is a conversion story, that Zaccheus became aware of Jesus outside of the current scene and converted before he met him, or that Jesus had been preaching while he walked and Zaccheus, being in the crowd, was either converted by that preaching or was on the threshold of conversion and the personal interest of Jesus pushed him over the edge. The sequence of events seems to be:

    1. Jesus enters Jericho.

    2. Zaccheus wants to see Jesus, but is too small, so climbs a sycamore tree.

    3. Jesus comes to the tree and looking up tells Zaccheus (this is a supernatural sign, for Jesus calls him, by name) that he must stay at his house.

    4. Zaccheus comes down and receives him and they go to Zaccheus’s house (no mention of a meal).

    5. People begin to murmur that Jesus was visiting at the home of a sinner.

    6. Zaccheus stands his ground (literally, stands) and makes the case (not yo the crowd, but to Jesus, who, unlike the crowd, is his true judge) that he does not, at least now, if not also in the past, behave in a sinful way. Here is where the time sense is a little fuzzy, because it could indicate future intent, but are there any other future intentions of action after a person’s conversion mentioned in any other Gospel encounter with Jesus? One might argue in the Garden of Gethsemene, where the disciples intended to stay awake, but did not. This future intention to pay back people seems like a unique scene in the Gospels, so if it is a conversion story, it contains unique elements.

    7. Jesus says that salvation has come to this house, today. This can be, as an aside, be take in a literal sense, since Jesus is Salvation. It could, also mean that, having put his trust in Jesus, Zacchrus is saved. This does follow the pattern of many other conversion stories in the Gospels, especially where the conversion is not obvious, like the woman with the hemorrhage of blood, when Jesus tells the crowd the her faith has made her whole (including spiritually).

    8. Jesus says that salvation has come to this house, “since he is a son of Abraham.” No mention is made of any other relatives.

    9. Jesus says that he came to seek and save the lost, without specifying who those are nor how he will do it.

    10. It is interesting, also, that Jesus, immediately, launches into the parable of the talents:

    Luk 19:10
    For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.

    Luk 19:11
    As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.

    The two topics might not be related, except in conversational order, however.

    I will think more on this, but any help you can give with the verb tenses would be helpful. I know that both the Greek language and culture of that time had a different relationship to time than we do in the West, today, but I don’t know how much context has an influence on the sense of verbal time. The use, in this case, doesn’t seem to match any special cases that I can find, but, then, I am not a linguist or koine Greek scholar, so, even if no one else is interested, I would love to sharpen my understanding.

    The Chicken

  110. The Masked Chicken says:

    Just to get a sense of where the Church a Fathers come down on this passage, here is a link to the, Catena Aurea:


    Ambrose , as I read him, takes Zaccheus to already be paying, in the present tense. Almost of of the Fathers see this as a conversion story.

    The Chicken

  111. Blas says:

    Gerard Plourde I understand the situation of your neighbors , but now think to mines. 50% of the family heads of my country has an income equivalent to US$ 254. SO according to Francis your neighbors should pay more taxes to hepl mines. That is the problem with this illusion of the redistribution of the benefits of progress.

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