“The current imperialism of money has an undeniable idolatry,” Cardinal Bergoglio told Gianni Valente in 2002

Excerpt from LaCroix, Aug 2019

The current imperialism of money has an undeniable idolatry,” Cardinal Bergoglio told Gianni Valente in 2002.

“Strangely, idolatry always goes hand in hand with gold. Where there is idolatry, God and the dignity of man, made in the image of God, disappear. Thus, the new imperialism of money suppresses work, which is the means by which man’s dignity, his creativity, a reflection of God’s creativity, is expressed. The speculative economy no longer even needs work, it does not know what to do with it. It is pursuing the idol of self-generating money. That is why it has no qualms about turning millions of workers into unemployed.” (17)

When he became pope, he repeated the same thing to the workers he met in September 2013, in Cagliari (Sardinia): “At the center of this unethical system is an idol, and the world is now idolizing this ‘silver god.’

“Money is in charge! Money is in charge! And all the things that are at his service, at the service of this idol, command. And what’s going on? To defend this idol, everyone gathers in the center and the ends fall, the elderly fall because there is no place for them in this world! Some people talk about this habit of ‘hidden euthanasia,’ not treating them, not taking them into account. ‘Yes, let’s forget it.’ And young people, who find neither work nor dignity, fall.” (18)

In parallel to this discourse on “idol” money, Francis insists on raising the subject of its negative influence. “Money corrupts! There is no other way out,” he said in a morning homily in September 2013 at Residence Sainte-Marthe. If you choose this path of money, in the end, you will be a corrupt one. Money has the seductive power to slowly lead you to perdition.” (19)

As early as 2009, in a video recorded for Argentine Caritas, he gave the example of the charity dinners he disapproved of.

“Several years ago, we attended luxurious dinners to raise funds for Caritas. Jewelry and all kinds of expensive items were auctioned off. This is a mistake,” he told them.

“This has nothing to do with Caritas. This is specific to an NGO. Either you are part of an NGO or you are part of Caritas. If you are a part of it, accept that your life will change. You will inevitably change your lifestyle. You will become friends with the poor and impoverish yourself, in the austere modesty of life.” (20)

It was a discourse that went entirely against the “theology of prosperity.” At the heart of this theological movement from Pentecostalism, “there is the conviction that God wants his faithful to live a prosperous life, that is, to be economically rich, physically healthy and individually happy,” it was summarized in La Civiltà Cattolica by the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro and the evangelical pastor Marcelo Figueroa. (21)

They point out that “if Max Weber spoke of the relationship between Protestantism and capitalism in the context of evangelical austerity, the theologians of prosperity spread the idea of wealth proportional to personal faith.” Among the examples they give is that of preacher Gloria Copeland, who says:

“You give a dollar for the love of the Gospel, and you earn 100 dollars; you give 10 dollars, and in return you will receive 1,000 dollars as a gift; you give 1,000 dollars, and in return you receive 100,000. If you give a plane, you will receive a hundred times the value of that plane. If you offer a car, you will get so many cars that you will no longer need them for the rest of your life.”

This vision of financial wealth as a sign of divine blessing and spiritual health, while poverty would be a punishment from God, strongly permeates part of American Pentecostalism, where it corresponds to the vision of the American Dream. But Catholics are not spared either.

In South Korea as in Brazil, Francis warned the bishops against the “temptation of prosperity” (22) and the “entrepreneurial ways” of the rich Churches, questioning the “functionalist ecclesial conception” which “constitutes a kind of theology of prosperity in the organization of pastoral care.” (23)

Obviously, the same is true for the United States, where the Church lives under the infusion of rich donors, themselves influenced by the theology of prosperity that pushes them to look with suspicion at these poor Hispanics, yet they form the majority of American Catholicism. And it is indeed from the United States that the attacks against Francis continue to come.

 

Notes

  1. His father was one of the few survivors of Operation Valkyrie, the failed attack on Hitler in 1944.
  2. Nello Scavo, Les ennemis du pope, Geneviève Lambert (trad.), Montrouge, Bayard, 2016, p. 336.
  3. Nicolas Senèze, “Le trésor du Vatican,” Pouvoirs, vol. 162, No. 3, 2017, pp. 63-73
  4. Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate, June 29, 2009, § 25.
  5. Michael Novak, “Tanta caritas, meno veritas,” Liberal, Aug. 5, 2009.
  6. George Weigel, “Caritas in Veritate in Gold and Red,” National Review, July 7, 2009.
  7. Quoted in Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, Pope Francis. This Killing Economy, Geneviève Lambert (translated), Montrouge, Bayard, 2015, p. 156-157.
  8. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, for a reform of the international financial and monetary system in the perspective of a public authority with universal jurisdiction, Oct. 24, 2011.
  9. Frédéric Mounier, “Le Conseil pontifical Justice et Paix sous le feu des critiques,” La Croix, Nov. 14, 2011.
  10. Evangelii gaudium, Nov. 24, 2013, § 54.
  11. Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, op. cit. p. 258.
  12. Evangelii gaudium, § 56.
  13. Nello Scavo, op. cit. p. 27
  14. James Pethokoukis “A JP Morgan Economist (in Effect) Responds to Pope Francis,” American Enterprise Institute, Dec. 2, 2013.
  15. Nello Scavo, op. cit., p. 90.
  16. Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, op. cit., p. 70.
  17. Gianni Valente, “Il volto idolatra dell’economia speculativa,” Jan. 30, 2002.
  18. Speech to the world of work, Sep. 22, 2013
  19. Homily, Sep. 20, 2013
  20. Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, op. cit., p. 39.
  21. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, “Teologia della pros- perità. Il pericolo di un “Vangelo diverso,” La Civiltà Cattolica, vol. 4034, No. 3, 2018, pp. 105-118.
  22. Address to the Bishops of Korea, Aug. 14, 2014.
  23. Address to the Bishops in charge of the Latin American Episcopal Council, July 28, 2013.
  24. Jason Horowitz, “Breitbart’s Man in Rome. A Gentle Voice in a Strident Chorus,” The New York Times, Jan. 10, 2017.
  25. Salvatore Cernuzio, “In Ciociaria l’accademia teocon che tifa Salvini : “Ma non è vero che siamo contro Papa Francesco,” La Stampa, Sep. 17, 2018
  26. Jason Horowitz, “Steve Bannon Is Done Wrecking the American Establishment. Now He Wants to Destroy Europe’s,” The New York Times, March 9, 2018.
  27. Jason Horowitz, “Italy’s Populist Parties Win Approval toForm Government,” The New York Times, May 31, 2018.
  28. Stefano Vergine and Claudia Torrisi, “The heretic in the Vatican: How Pope Francis became a hate figure for the far right,” source- material.org, 13 April 2019.
  29. Mark Townsend, “Steve Bannon’told Italy’s populist leader Pope Francis is the enemy’,” The Guardian, 13 April 2019.
  30. Jean-Claude Hollerich, “Verso le elezioni europee,” La Civiltà cattolica, quaderno 4052, 2019, pp. 105-117.
  31. Russian nationalist intellectual, influential in Vladimir Putin’s entourage
  32. Richard Engel and Kennett Werner, “Steve Bannon and U.S. ultra-conservatives take aim at Pope Francis,” NBCnews.com, April 12, 2019
  33. Frédéric Martel, Sodoma, Paris, Robert Laffont, 2019
  34. Maike Hickson, “Steve Bannon hints at making film exposing homosexuality in Vatican,” LifeSiteNews, June 24, 2019.

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