The Church will survive a bad pope

There has been some considerable gnashing of teeth among the American right after the recent release of Pope Francis's first ever papal manifesto- and it's not hard to see why:
  • "Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.... Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded."
  • "In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system."
  • "While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control."
  • "The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule."
Well no one ever said that the head of the Catholic Church also had to be an economist, after all... Sadly, we've come a long way down since the days of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI- ardent defenders of human freedom and Catholic dogma that they were.

I am not the first to note that this new pope isn't exactly an ardent defender of human freedom, and I leave it up to the inimitable Ms. Barnhardt to tear apart this particular occupier of the Holy See. Instead I want to focus on a few bigger-picture ideas that strike me as far more important.

First, never forget that, no matter what the current Vatican Church would like you to believe, the Pope is NOT God's anointed representative on Earth. He is elected by a circle of Cardinals for life, and if you're going to try to tell me that those men vote without political interest or ideology, then I've got an extremely well-priced Bermudan call option on the Brooklyn Bridge that I would love to sell to you. A good Pope is an ardent defender of what is right, in accordance with the Gospel of Christ, and supports the Church's mission to spread the Word of God to those who believe and to lead those who, like me, have doubts and questions but ultimately believe, back to the virtue and rightness of the Lord. A bad Pope is, as Ms. Barnhardt points out, a sign of weak-kneed faith and utter misunderstanding of God's Covenant with His children. Churchians will get the Pope that they deserve; Christians, whose faith in the Lord remains strong and whose filial obedience to His Word remains true, will prosper regardless.

Second, the moral, spiritual, human case for the free market transcends and supersedes any wishy-washy half-baked theories coming from an economically illiterate pontiff. To understand why the rational case for free markets is also the moral case, we have to take a detour into Scripture. (This is where I open myself to a smackdown from more intelligent and well-versed Christians like Vox and Ann Barnhardt, so I would like to make it perfectly clear that any errors or omissions here are entirely my own.)

There is a tremendously powerful passage in the Book of Genesis in which Abraham, the progenitor of the entire Jewish race, is about to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord, because he was ordered to by the Lord himself as a test of faith. Just as Abraham is about to bind his son, an angel of the Lord descends and tells him to stay his hand. And then, something incredible, magnificent, and completely unprecedented in human history happens:
And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of theLord it shall be seen.
15 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Never before in the eschatological history of any religion has an all-powerful, immortal Creator sworn to bind Himself to an eternal covenant with His creation. Any other god would be able to break this covenant at will- Zeus, Odin, Shiva, Amaterasu, and countless other gods from countless other pagan religions are all fickle and willful characters who repeatedly break similar covenants, and Koranic doctrine makes it very clear that Allah can change his mind at will about whatever he wants- but Jehovah does not.

The Lord goes farther than this. The Bible, and specifically the Old Testament, makes it perfectly clear, repeatedly, that the Lord cannot lie, for He is Truth incarnate. Because of this, He created a world and a Universe that Mankind may perceive and understand along rational lines, however poorly and dimly. And because the Lord is Truth and Reason, and because He created us in His image, we are blessed with those same gifts of reason, compassion, and mercy.

How does any of this tie into free market economics, you might well ask? It's very simple. The entire structure of Austrian economics is based on simple Truth- that Man acts, that his actions are undertaken to make his life easier, that when Man is free to act he will do so to better his life. From this fundamental truth- a truth embodied and given life by the nature of the Lord and therefore of the Lord's creation- flows the entire beautiful structure of economics that comprises the Austrian School. And you know the best part? If you read any first-principles derivation of the ABCT, you'll not encounter a mention of the Lord even once- yet there is no contradiction whatsoever in pointing out that the ABCT is true because it is derived from the mind of the Lord. It is exactly the same with game- the principles of game work because they are true, and they are true because they originated with the first Truth.

Third, what exactly about Pope Francis's words constitute a repudiation of true free-market economics? As Vox has repeatedly stated in his posts related to religion, we must never forget that Man is flawed and Fallen, and that this world is not ruled by Him above, but by the Prince of Darkness. I don't care whether you believe in Satan or not, the point is that within each of us is the capacity for endless and terrible evil- and because we are weak, flawed, fallible, and corruptible, the world is not and will never be perfect. Yet when we live our lives in accordance with the Word, humanity has shown repeatedly that we can transcend the bonds which hold us back and strive, however poorly, to be and do good. Everything that Pope Francis blames on "trickle-down economics" is nothing more than an indictment of the flawed nature of Man- and what good Christian doesn't know about that already?

Fourth, and most importantly, if you are a Christian- and I do mean a Christian, not a Churchian- and you despair of the fact that the Holy See is now ruled by a man who, by most measures, does not seem to be worthy of that office, then take solace when you remember that the Church itself shall endure. The Church has had far worse Popes than this one before- Rodrigo Borgia comes to mind- and will probably have a fair few more to come. When Christ founded His Church (leaving aside the annoying and frankly pointless scriptural debate about whether Christ actually made St. Peter the first Pope), He noted that the Church would face trial after trial, until Judgement Day, but that it would endure nonetheless. And Christ also pointed out to His followers that they would be lied to, tricked, persecuted, hated, and cast out no matter where they went or what they did- the very things that would make many question their faith, are in fact a clear affirmation of it.

I am not a Christian- I still have too many questions and not enough answers to contemplate conversion myself. I don't pretend to understand Christianity to anything more than the most superficial degree. I'm simply a man who has been blessed by an understanding, however dim and faint, of the mercy and grace of God. To those of you who question their own faith as Christians, seeing that their own shepherds are now leading them astray, I tell you this now: take heart, for your covenant is not with any human representative of God but with the Lord Himself, and His Word is immutable and eternal, no matter what an economically illiterate pontiff might have to say about it.


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