Of the many things Pope Francis dislikes — his Popemobile, Vatican politicking, seagulls that attack his peace doves — the one that perhaps rankles him most is the world economy.
Francis is no friend of the Austrian School of economics, and he again returned to that message on Monday. It’s not only that he thinks a capitalist model that concentrates wealth at the very top and endows its financier class with fortunes is a bad idea. It’s that he thinks its downright abhorrent.
“It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences,” he said Monday in comments that were among his sharpest on the subject. “It is important that ethics once again play its due part in the world of finance” and that markets “serve the interests of people and the common good of humanity.”
Francis especially disdains speculation in agricultural commodities. It is “a scandal which seriously compromises access to food on the part of the poorest members of our human family,” he said.
Francis has earned a reputation for iconoclasm on a number of fronts. He broached an unprecedented prayer session this month between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He dumped his bullet-proof Popemobile: “I cannot greet people and tell them I love them from inside a sardine can even if it is crystal.” He called a random Argentine woman to mull matters of divorce and Communion. On homosexuality, he has asked, “Who am I to judge?”
While condemning rapacious global businessmen who have done the world’s economy wrong, he is doing the same thing among the clergy. First, he accepted the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst — the Bishop of Bling — who plowed an astonishing $43 million into his posh pad in Limburg, Germany. Then he replaced the scandal-ridden Vatican Bank’s supervisory body with fresh faces. And now, the clash between what Francis describes as “a poor church for the poor” and church extravagance has shifted to a controversial cardinal named Tarcisio Bertone.
The drama, like that which consumed the Bishop of Bling, involves accommodations.