Since I haven’t seen a translated transcript yet, I can’t be sure of what the Pope really said. But I can respond to how the Pope’s words are being selectively quoted and portrayed in the media. In the Guardian, for example:
“Pope Francis has called for a global economic system that puts people and not ‘an idol called money’ at its heart, drawing on the hardship of his immigrant family as he sympathised with unemployed workers in a part of Italy that has suffered greatly from the recession.”
What does an “economic system that puts people… at its heart” even mean? I sympathize with unemployed workers in Italy too, but they deserve the truth about what happened and real answers.
The Pope is more right than he knows (again, I only have the media to rely upon). Money is an idol in our system. But what makes money and idol and not simply a tool of social cooperation? The answer is debt. Tremendous, impossible debt, is treated as an economic necessity and a social good rather than an economic poison and destroyer. Italians racked up public benefits at the price of massive debts. So did the Greeks and many others. It is happening and has happened in the United States as well.
All this debt is toxic. In the free market economy, people would borrow money to invest in productivity that will reap greater rewards for everyone. A company might sell bonds, for example, to build a railway. This would allow people to move goods more cheaply, allowing the price of those goods to shrink, and providing the company with enough profit to pay off the debt at interest. But borrowing money to give people immediate consumption doesn’t build anything profitable. It just robs our children.
But none of this is revealed by the Pope even when he is talking to the victims of the process. This outcome was completely foreseeable. The church and anyone else who cared about the poor should have been screaming for nation states, provinces, and cities to cease and desist this debt-financed handout and retirement program. The damage is only going to grow worse and spread.
People who thought they could live on pensions will find they contain no money.
The very least every Christian owes future generations is to be honest about what has happened and to explain the process so that politicians are not allowed to continue or repeat this idolization of money.
I have no idea why the Pope blames “a global economic system that cared only about profit.” Profit is the wages that workers earn. It is also the incentive that allows factories to be built that employ workers in endeavors the meet real consumer needs.
The desire to make a profit isn’t idolatry; demanding free money is idolatry.