Moral paragon and ethical authority Rush Limbaugh is wagging a finger at Pope Francis for his essay calling on church leaders and lay persons to use their faith to empower efforts to help the poor and needy.
Just imagine a spiritual leader going off like that.
“Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) has ticked off Limbaugh, a conservative entertainer with lots of airtime to fill. No doubt his talk-show producers saw the pope’s 224-page statement as something of a blessing during a slow season for news. They could turn out an indignant script faster than a Christmas wishlist.
I did not read every word of the document. Of course, neither did Limbaugh. Much of the message asks the leaders and members of the Roman Catholic Church to look around them and acknowledge the economic conditions that grip so many people. Pope Francis challenges the faithful to rethink how their parishes and community organizations might better help others.
The pope wants his readers to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality:
“Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.”
Such prose certainly grabbed the attention of Limbaugh’s topic-fodder minions. The pope was preaching “pure Marxism,” Limbaugh faithfully repeated. Rush must have dropped his bacon-clad maple bar and eggnog latte a couple of paragraphs farther down in the papal missive:
“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 naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Well, maybe the pope did get a bit cheeky as the U.S. economy was in the throes of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzies: “In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances.”
Limbaugh might have lost a few of his ardent listeners to the pope’s truth speaking in light of bursting economic bubbles that did not discriminate by political ideology. The pope counseled his followers to say no to a financial system that rules rather than serves. Amen.
Rush and I both got something out of Pope Francis’ treatise. And we are each, in our own way, grateful.